General Atomics setting up shop at Lobo Rainforest

By Kevin Robinson-Avila / Journal Staff Writer/Albuquerque Journal

General Atomics, a global engineering firm and defense contractor, is taking over the last 1,000-square-foot office space available in the new Lobo Rainforest building at the Innovate ABQ research and development hub Downtown.

The company expects to move in this month, with an official opening in November. It marks the first physical presence in Albuquerque for San Diego-based General Atomics, which employs 8,000 people at 65 facilities in the U.S. and other countries.

The company, which created the Predator and Reaper drones used by the military, is billed as one of the largest engineering defense contractors in San Diego. It’s involved in design and engineering of products and components for everything from nuclear power plants and aviation to advanced electronic systems and laser technologies.

Albuquerque’s emerging innovation district attracted the company, which is seeking to expand its markets and develop new technologies, said General Atomics spokeswoman Karen Johnson.

“We recognize that Innovate ABQ is centered in a community that fosters collaboration and interaction between business, academia and community,” Johnson said in an email to the Journal. “The shared goal of developing ideas that evolve into real-world solutions to complex problems is highly complementary to General Atomics’ own rich history in research, scientific innovation and technology transformation.”

General Atomics did not say how many people would be staffing the office, but Rainforest officials expect at least three.

Being at the Lobo Rainforest facility gives General Atomics direct access to staff from the University of New Mexico, Sandia National Laboratories, and the Air Force Research Laboratory who are working to move new technologies to market. Those entities are all collaborating at the Rainforest building.

“The new office will provide us with an important local base of support to strengthen existing relationships and foster new opportunities for collaboration within the community,” Johnson said. “We’re particularly excited to reach out and further engage in the work being done to develop critical technologies in the fields of directed energy and future electric weapon systems.”

Landing a global engineering behemoth like General Atomics is something of a coup for Innovate ABQ, said UNM Chief Economic Development Officer Lisa Kuuttila.

“It’s especially important for Albuquerque, because we don’t have that many large corporations here,” Kuuttila said. “That we can attract a company like General Atomics shows we’re doing the right thing.”

The company approached UNM in May about a Lobo Rainforest space, and the university worked with developers to rearrange tenant layout to accommodate them, said UNM Director of Real Estate Tom Neal. With General Atomics’ arrival, the building’s ground floor is now fully occupied.

“They have a presence all over the country,” Neal said. “It’s a great catch for our market, because there’s a lot of growth potential for defense industries here.”

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