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Hobbs in the Running for Site of Scientific Testing Town

A $1 billion scientific testing town could be coming to a town near you. Alanna Quillen reports.
HOBBS, NM -- Imagine a city, with buildings, businesses and roads.

But only one thing would be missing - people. It would be a ghost town of sorts, but all in the name of science.

That might be coming to a town near you, like Hobbs.

"It's an exciting project, and everybody in the community is very excited about it," said Hobbs mayor, Sam Cobb.

That project is a $1 billion scientific testing town called the Center for Innovation, Testing and Evaluation or CITE.

Cobb has lived here since the 2nd grade, and he said he's more than excited to bring a town like this to his town, especially after the choices were narrow.

"The town they're modeling it after is a town in South Carolina," Cobb said.

And this mock town will mimic old and new growth and infrastructure, feeling like a city of 35,000 people.

"As emerging technologies come out of our various public and private laboratories, it's going to give them a place to go and test those technologies, in terms of new power, opportunities in utilizing various types of solar, wind, bio-fuels," Cobb said. "And see if it has the ability to commercialize and take it into the marketplace."

Various commercial technologies will be developed and tested - everything from renewable energy intelligent traffic systems, next-generation wireless networks and cyber security systems. A six mile interstate - with two dead ends - will even be built to test unmanned vehicles.

"Just about anything you can think of that's not of a destructive nature will be tested in that particular city," said Lisa Hardison, president and CEO of the Lea County Economic Development Corporation. She has followed this project closely and says all the bases will be covered in this mock city.

"It will have a city portion, a rural portion, it will have an agribusiness portion and an industrial portion to the city," she said.

And directly underneath that city is where the scientific laboratories will be.

"That's where the people will be," Hardison said. "Actually underneath that city. So, it really creates a unique environment to where the scientists will have complete control over what's above and what's going on, and protect them at the same time."

Hardison says CITE was born to give small to mid-size companies a place to test their products.

"Because typically all the testing had been done in federal labs, and sometimes it's difficult for a smaller company to be able to enter that environment," she said.

Pegasus Global, the company behind the project., has developed it since July 2009.

"Pegasus Group reviewed the evaluation and determined that the best two cities for the location of the project would be either Las Cruces or Hobbs," Cobb said.

The company thought New Mexico was the best place to build this town.

"Because the project is substantially large in the terms of acrage it's required," Cobb said.

And it is large - about 20 square miles total. That's almost the size of Manhattan Island. If it comes to Hobbs, it would be built about 12 miles west towards Carlsbad.

Robert Brumley, CITE senior managing director, told Big 2 News that after months of finalizing the two cities were narrowed down from a choice of 16.

"Somewhere along the line, we thought, there's billions of dollars of research and development that's being conducted by the federal and research companies," he said. "And a lot of that's just left on the table because people can't get it out of the labs to turn it into working prototypes, and one of the barriers is a test and evaluation facility."

The close proximity of research schools in both areas is also a factor in the decision.

"Hobbs was chosen because we've demonstrated  the ability to be diverse in economic development," said Cobb.

CITE will come to a decision in the next couple of weeks on where they want to build this scientific testing town. Brumley said they plan to break ground on June 30.

Tune in Monday on Big 2 News at 10 to see how the city and Lea County officials, and residents feel a project like this would impact Hobbs.

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