June 24, 2008

Tech Center Giant Coup For City, State

Rio Rancho has got to be the envy of cities nationwide with the announcement last week that computer giant Hewlett Packard will open a technical support center here that could eventually employ 1,300 people -- with an annual payroll of $50 million to $60 million.

Plant closings and layoffs are more the norm right now, as the nation struggles against a recession brought on by the subprime mortgage crisis and skyrocketing oil prices.

And then there is Rio Rancho, landing a choice employer that intends to hire several hundred people immediately. Hewlett Packard hopes to open its center by next summer, and reach full employment by 2012.

The new tech center couldn't come at a better time -- or to a better place:

The timing is excellent, given the slowdown in construction employment and Intel's recent layoff of some 1,000 workers. Hewlett Packard wouldn't say what salaries it will offer, but the company does expect to rely on the local work force to fill jobs.

The location, within the 160-acre business district along King Boulevard and Paseo del Volcan, adds another face card to the deck that is being laid out in the district. More companies can be expected to follow suit, as momentum grows in the new downtown. Hewlett Packard undoubtedly saw value in the higher education campus planned nearby.

A deal like this doesn't fall out of the sky, of course. The state deserves credit for dangling incentives worth $28 million to $40 million in front of Palo Alto, Calif.-based Hewlett Packard. The bulk of those incentives -- $20 million to $30 million -- will come from the high-wage jobs tax credit program, which the state offers to qualifying employers for a fouryear period. An additional $8 million to $10 million will come via job training initiatives.

Gov. Bill Richardson plans to ask legislators for $12 million in capital outlay funding to help offset infrastructure costs as well. Hewlett Packard would pay a penalty fee if it pulled out of New Mexico early.

City Manager Jim Payne credited the nonprofit Rio Rancho Economic Development Corp. with helping city and state officials make the deal with Hewlett Packard. Hats off to everyone involved in this win for Rio Rancho.

(c) 2008 Albuquerque Journal. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.