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Socorro Company Expanding With Help From Tech

SOCORRO, N.M. July 14, 2015 – Gov. Susana Martinez and Economic Development Cabinet Secretary Jon Barela on Monday afternoon hailed the technological partnership between the state and New Mexico Tech as part of a planned expansion of a Socorro company that will create 25 new “high-paying” jobs.

A good-sized crowd of state and local government officials, university staff and students and company representatives gathered at New Mexico Tech’s Workman Center for the announcement of a planned expansion at Solaro Energy Inc.

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Tech student Alexander Wirth (left) talks to Dr. Daniel Lopez and Governor Susana Martinez, with fellow Techie Ian Jones.

Photo by Valerie Kimble/New Mexico Tech

Solaro Energy, which in 2012 relocated to the City of Socorro’s Industrial Park from its original home in Southern California, specializes in solar-powered energy products for both residential and commercial use, including a very thin, heat-reflecting insulation jointly developed by New Mexico Tech and the company.

Citing several other technological spin-offs involving New Mexico universities, the Governor made a case for the state’s growing business-friendly environment, including an improved regulatory environment and a 22 percent reduction in the state’s business tax.

“We’re proud of that,” she said. “We want to make sure New Mexico thrives.”

Mayor Ravi Bhasker echoed the Governor’s comments and her assistance to the business company. It was Bhasker who gave Solaro officials a “VIP tour” that resulted in the company’s choice of the industrial park as the site for their facility.

The expansion at Solaro is its fourth in a short period of time, noted the Governor, adding that the project will add another 20,000-square-foot building to an existing trio of buildings at 1404 Enterprise Rd.

Entrepreneurship and business growth, however, also require capital. According to the Governor, Solaro Energy will receive $250,000 for its expansion efforts from $50 million in the state’s “closing fund.”

“These funds are indispensable to attract new business and grow the ones we already have,” she said.

Gov. Martinez also recognized the leadership of House Speaker Don Tripp of Socorro for his “moving-forward attitude and his ability to bring people along.”

Tripp drew cheers from the audience when, in lauding the importance of technology transfer, called New Mexico Tech “the No. 1 university in New Mexico.” The room erupted when Dennis Grubb, president of Solaro Energy, said that in his opinion, the university was the best in the nation.

The cheers from the hometown audience followed Tech President Dr. Daniel H. López, who offered his own thanks, and noted that the Governor’s visit to campus was her fourth.

“Governor, you’ve been an inspiration to the university and to the state,” he said, also acknowledging the role of Secretary Barela in other economic development projects spinning off of New Mexico Tech. “We’re proud to be a part of this community.”

The design team was one of three comprised of students in the Mechanical Engineering and Materials Engineering departments at Tech.

One of those students is Alexander Wirth, set to graduate from Tech this fall, who serves as project manager for Solaro’s insulation manufacturing initiative.

“The initial project has concluded,” he said. “Now we’re working on getting the equipment to manufacture the insulation.”

He identified the project as EFX Spectra, an ultra-thin attic insulation developed at Tech in a collaborative effort involving 13 students in the two engineering departments. The project addresses the shortfalls of traditional methods of insulation while introducing new materials compatible with current manufacturing methods with a focus on effects and safety.

“I’m an inventor, I’m not an engineer,” said Grubb in acknowledging the contributions of the Tech students.

When Grubb decided to move his company from California to a more business-friendly state, he had five from which to choose, he said. “I found New Mexico to be the No. 1 state friendly to manufacturing.”

Grubb worked with the New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership, a not-for-profit federal-funded entity, and utilizing funds earmarked for small-business assistance to help pay for training.

“Manufacturing efforts allow us to be competitive with other countries,” Grubb said, adding that Solaro products will change the way buildings are built. “Manufacturing is what made America great,” he said.

– NMT –

By Valerie Kimble/New Mexico Tech