Local officials are looking forward to economic benefits from a fully operational city, minus inhabitants, outside of Hobbs, N.M., for testing innovative technologies.
Lea County, N.M., will soon be home to a modern day ghost town, complete with cutting-edge technology.
Called the Center for Innovation, Testing and Evaluation (CITE), the facility will be located just outside of Hobbs, N.M. Researchers will be able to test the latest innovations in the fields of green energy, intelligent transportation systems, homeland security and next-generation wireless technology within the ghost city’s infrastructure.
Pegasus Global Holdings, an international technology development firm, will construct the uninhabited city. The development will eventually span approximately 20 square miles and incorporate urban, suburban and rural environments. The city will feature all the structures and amenities found in a medium-sized American municipality, except the people.
“The idea for the center was born out of our own company’s challenges in trying to test new and emerging technologies beyond the confines of a sterile environment,” said Robert H. Brumley, Pegasus Global’s CEO, in a statement.
“The center will allow private companies, not-for-profits, educational institutions and government agencies to test in a unique facility with real-world infrastructure, allowing them to better understand the cost and potential limitations of new technologies, prior to introduction,” he added.
The estimated $1 billion project will break ground on June 30. The land CITE will be built on is being purchased by Pegasus from a cattle rancher, but other portions of the site are controlled both by Hobbs and Lea County.
Hobbs Mayor Sam Cobb told Government Technology that his city’s role in the project is to try and remove barriers to development and help enhance economic development opportunities.
The city won’t be involved in the actual research and development occurring at CITE, but instead will help facilitate some of the land transfers, and ultimately will gain some revenue when CITE hooks up to existing water and sewer infrastructure Hobbs controls near the construction site.
Ultimately, however, the city and county must work together to get CITE off the ground. Cobb explained that the future entrance to CITE is located on the northern boundary of an industrial park the city owns. He said Hobbs will dedicate that to Lea County and the county will likely enter into a lease agreement with Pegasus for use of the land.
The complex itself will be owned by Pegasus and will exist as a deeded property — just like a normal business or residence.
Lea County Manager Mike Gallagher told Government Technology that he expects measurable economic growth in the area as CITE is developed, primarily due to the creation of 3,500 indirect or temporary jobs, mostly in the construction sector. The project should result in a total of 350 permanent positions.
Cobb agreed there will be an economic impact, and said that by adding highly educated people who have extensive technology or academic backgrounds to the community, it should result in a variety of gains, including philanthropy and community service.
“As [CITE] brings in R&D projects, we’ll be bringing in companies and potential governments from all over the world, and their money will be brought into our area and redistributed into the populace,” Cobb said. “So we think it’s going to be a great project for us to diversify the economy and really give us some opportunities to enhance quality of life.”
Gallagher thinks the project will enhance the county’s goal of becoming a hotbed for applied research and development. He explained that prior to the CITE opportunity, the county contracted with a company to interview researchers at various institutions and laboratories to identify technologies that could potentially be brought to the area and commercialized.
Ironically the CITE project should now accomplish exactly what the county was looking for.
“That’s where real economic development and job growth is created — by having those different platform technologies developed in your area, along with those high-paying professional jobs,” Gallagher said.
In addition, under a memorandum of understanding between Pegasus and New Mexico, a voucher program will be developed so that local businesses in the state can use a portion of the facility.
“A lot of those details haven’t been worked out yet, but given that [CITE] is in Lea County, I think any local or regional researchers or firms that want to test platform technologies will have access to that site,” Gallagher said.
Image (above): An artist's rendering of the Center for Innovation, Testing and Evaluation. Courtesy of Pegasus Global Holdings.