Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

3-7 Good News on Economic Development Front

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- We finally have some good news on two major economic development initiatives that appeared in serious danger with the new administration of Gov. Susana Martinez.
The Senate unanimously passed legislation to tighten rules concerning film tax rebates and to collect information necessary to assess whether the program is working to New Mexico's benefit.
The measure does not address the size of the rebate or put a cap on the amount the state pays out. To do so without knowing the data would be a disservice to both the state and the film industry, senators determined.
The future of Senate Bill 44 is a complete unknown since both the House and governor have completely different ideas. But it does deliver the message that one body of the Legislature has made a firm decision.
The Senate's decision seems reasonable and it marks one of the few times in which that body has been in unanimous agreement on any major issue.
The other good news concerns the spaceport. And it is two-fold. First, Gov. Martinez has appointed a spaceport director with seemingly outstanding qualifications, and second, some Virgin Galactic flights will carry scientists performing experiements..
Christine Anderson, the new spaceport director has 30 years experience in space technology with the Air Force, mostly at Kirtland Air Force Base.
She was the founding director of the Air Force Space Vehicles Directorate. She headed the Space technology Directorate. And she was director of the Military Satellite Communications program.
Anderson says she looks forward to ensuring the spaceport is developed into an economic engine that can drive development and job creation in New Mexico. Her appointment may be an indication that Gov. Martinez is more excited about the spaceport than she has appeared to be.
This column has reported misgivings about whether our new governor wants to junk any programs with former Gov. Bill Richardson's footprint on them.
Let's hope Anderson's appointment is an indication that Martinez is deciding her best course of action is to lead both programs in bold new directions with an even bigger footprint than Richardson's.
The other piece of good news is that the Southwest Research Institute has inked a deal with Virgin Galactic for numerous research flights.
In some cases, all six passengers will be researchers working together in an "out-of-seat" micro-gravity environment. Evidently Virgin Galactic isn't as tacky as airlines are about passengers leaving their seats.
According to the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, the scientific community is beginning to realize it can put people and payloads into space at a much lower cost and achieve better results than with old-style automated experiments.
So as we said in another column recently, the suborbital space market is not just for well-heeled tourists to take joy rides. It soon will be a means for routine field work in scientific research.
Still another good sign is President Barack Obama's decision several months ago that NASA will concentrate on deep space exploration while the near-earth market will be left to commercial interests.
With the appointment of Anderson as director of the spaceport, the possibilities increase for New Mexico to get a lion's share of that business through the contacts she has made during the past 30 years.
From all indications, Virgin Galactic, the Spaceport's anchor tenant appears to be sticking firmly with its agreement to fly out of New Mexico despite some discouraging words from our governor.
The only cloud on that horizon is some information just received that no copy of the 20-year lease agreement signed by Richard Branson has ever been produced for any government agency to review.
Fortunately Virgin Galactic officials still are making very supportive statements about New Mexico's Spaceport America and still appear to be the loyal partner they have been since the beginning.
MON, 3-7-11

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)

We'll be in PHX with grandkids for a few weeks. Back April 4. Will have computer and cell: 505-699-9982.


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