ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It has sat empty for six years, a symbol of Albuquerque’s sluggish economy. Now, the city-built 82-acre business park at Gibson and Girard by the Sunport may finally be getting a tenant.

Albuquerque city councilors have given California-based aviation company, Universal Hydrogen, the green light and money to build a manufacturing facility next to the Sunport. The goal is to create a one-of-a-kind hydrogen hub and transition off of fossil fuels. “What it means for Albuquerque and New Mexico is that we play a role in this transition to a greener future,” Sunport Innovation and Commercial Development Manager Manny Manriquez said.

The Albuquerque plant will create kits for airplanes that allow them to store and use hydrogen as fuel. The facility will be built on 50 acres of the Aviation Center of Excellence site where past projects have gone to die. That includes the satellite company deal that was supposed to lead to a bustling campus and ‘The Landing,’ which was going to be a ten-acre strip for retail and aerospace businesses. 

However, leaders with Sunport said they’re confident in this project. “This is going to come to fruition. We’re thrilled to have them at the ACE property. They’re going to be an anchor tenant there, and they’ll really help us to better define what we want to see in terms of the future of the development not only on the ACE but on other properties we have here at the Sunport,” said Manriquez. 

The project could create more than 500 jobs for New Mexicans with salaries averaging $71,000. Universal Hydrogen Cofounder Jon Gordan shared, “These are very highly-skilled jobs. It’s a lot of work with composites, with advanced metals; we really need top engineers, and we really need a lot of them.”

Universal Hydrogen is getting $10 million in economic development funds from the state and another $2 million from the city. The next step will be developing a site plan while the property gets prepped.

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Manriquez said, “Once they break ground of that facility, they’ll start to build from the ground up. They’ll go vertical, and they’ll build the manufacturing center as well as several other support spaces and office space, etcetera.”

Sunport officials said they’re in talks with a few other high-tech companies about occupying the rest of the ACE property.