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Group pitches plan for Mesa Del Sol Project

Plans for site development of a new economy in Albuquerque were laid out for the UNM community Monday during a meeting at the Rodey Theater.

The meeting, which was sponsored by UNM's School of Architecture and Planning, featured speakers from the New Mexico State Land Office, Zircle Laser Power, the James Corp. and the University of Pennsylvania.

The speakers outlined the different aspects of the Mesa del Sol project, which is 12,400 acres of undeveloped land south of the Albuquerque International Sunport. The Mesa del Sol project is expected to generate revenue for the University and other New Mexico public schools from land development.

State Land Commissioner Ray Powell said the mission of the project is to optimize revenues and ensure something special for future generations.

"We want to get away from compromising the land," Powell said.

Harry Welkin, a representative of the State Land Office, said when people think of Mesa del Sol, they tend to think only of its concert venue. He said the amphitheater is part of the project, but only seven acres of land leased to Bernalillo County.

Welkin said the project area is in the southeastern part of Albuquerque, surrounded by the Albuquerque International Sunport, Interstate 25, Kirtland Air Force Base and Isleta Pueblo.

"It's a pretty unique parcel of land," he said.

Welkin said a trust fund of $8 billion will be set up to give money to the University and public schools so no additional taxes will be paid to support education.

He said 1,500 acres of land will open up for an employment district and bring in a higher quality work force for economic development because it will attract large businesses to the area.

Welkin said the project will capitalize on regional assets, such as the UNM Science and Technology Park, Sandia National Labs and the airport, in addition to New Mexico's abundant, bilingual work force, which he said New Mexico has failed to take advantage of.

"We have not capitalized on our intellectual bilingual ability," he said. "We even run from it."

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Welkins said New Mexico's trade standing with Latin American countries, such as Mexico, is near the bottom despite the large bilingual population, but the Mesa del Sol project will help keep the bilingual work force in Albuquerque.

Gary Hack, a professor from the University of Pennsylvania, said the project is an important piece of Albuquerque's future because 13,000 acres of land is scarcely available anywhere in the United States with potential for such a high level of development.

Hack said the project will create a sustainable community that will balance recreational and urban development needs, but in order for success, the project will have to attract more than 3,000 students from around New Mexico.

"What would it take to keep them here?" Hack asked. "They are seeking a different kind of community that has colleagues, coffee shops and connections."

Tom Brennon, founder of Zircle Laser Power, said he wants to move his business to Mesa del Sol because of the opportunities it represents.

"It's a frontier, it has manufacturing, and it has technology," he said, alluding to businesses already established in New Mexico, such as Intel and Motorola.

Brennon said he's interested in "hardcore" technology, such as power for communication satellites and fiber optics - not "dot com" ventures. He said he believes New Mexico and the Mesa del Sol project will allow him to generate a wireless solution for global communications.

Howard Mock, chief executive officer of the James Corporation, said the will to move forward will make the project a success for New Mexico.

Mock said the plan will benefit workers all over the state by attracting large manufacturing corporations, citing Intel as an example.

"I really do believe that if we don't take this opportunity, what future opportunity will we have?" he asked.

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