“Let the future begin,” Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Galactic, said Friday.
Branson and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the space company plans to relocate 100 employees to Spaceport America as it begins to ramp up operations for commercial flights.
Mayor Ken Miyagishima was among dignitaries who attended a news conference at the State Capitol Building, in Santa Fe.
The move for employees, and their families, will begin immediately and continue through the summer. It is anticipated most, if not all, of the employees will live in Las Cruces.
Branson also said development and testing has advanced sufficiently to move the spaceline staff and space vehicles to their commercial operations headquarters at Spaceport America.
“New Mexico delivered on its promise to build a world-first and world-class spaceport,” Branson said. “Today, I could not be more excited to announce that in return, we are now ready to bring New Mexico a world-first, world-class spaceline. Virgin Galactic is coming home to New Mexico, where together we will open space to change the world for good.”
The employees moving to New Mexico will bring Virgin Galactic’s staff at Spaceport America to approximately 150. Branson said more jobs will follow as operations progress into commercial service in the coming year.
Gov. Lujan Grisham said the company’s decision to move forward in bringing additional jobs to New Mexico reaffirms the state’s decision to invest in Spaceport America. The aerospace industry is growing faster than the rest of the economy and has been identified by the governor as a target industry for economic development.
“Virgin Galactic's announcement today is an incredibly exciting development for both our state's economic future and the future of aerospace in general,” Gov. Lujan Grisham said. “With these workers here and with these plans firmly in place, I’m certain New Mexico will serve as the launchpad for the rapid industry growth we've been expecting for so many years. Today marks the beginning of the next chapter of aerospace in New Mexico.”
State Economic Development Cabinet Secretary Alicia J. Keyes said the company will be relocating engineers, mechanics, safety technicians, operations, maintenance and hospitality staff and pilots to New Mexico in the coming months.
“These are competitively paid jobs,” Keyes said. “These employees will be moving here, bringing their families and investing in the community. We are targeting the aerospace industry and its growth and maturation in New Mexico.”
Future Virgin Galactic paying passengers will be headquartered in Las Cruces as they train during their four-day experience, which will culminate in their own adventure to the edge of space. Virgin Galactic has said more than 600 enthusiastic civilian astronauts have each paid $250,000, and their adventures into space will include a brief period of weightlessness and a dramatic opportunity to see Earth’s curvature from space.
“Today’s announcement heightens the excitement felt throughout Las Cruces as we welcome our new neighbors from Virgin Galactic, and eagerly await ‘launch day,’” said Rochelle Miller-Hernandez, Interim Executive Director of Visit Las Cruces.
Public tours of Spaceport America already depart from Visit Las Cruces offices, at 211 N. Main St. As Virgin Galactic and other Spaceport America tenants ramp up operations, Las Cruces’ economy will experience increased tourism, as well as impacts on local businesses from staff who will be in the community for short- and long-term stays.
Virgin Galactic Chief Executive Officer George Whitesides said, “We are deeply grateful to the citizens and leadership of New Mexico for having the vision to create a better future for their children and all of humanity.”