LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (KRQE) – Los Alamos National Lab is having a record spending year with New Mexico small businesses and they say it’s having a great impact on the state’s economy — even leading to an expansion. Small businesses in the state are getting an extra boost, thanks to LANL’s spending in 2020.

“We had a record year and just completed at the end of September 2020,” said Thom Mason, Director of Los Alamos National Laboratory. “We awarded over $413 million in contracts to New Mexico small businesses. They’re really an essential part of how we get our job done.”

That’s an increase of a whopping 43% from the year before. Since the country relied even more on the lab during the pandemic, they kept going — needing help for everything from supplies to software.

“Because of our national security missions, we’re considered a mission-essential function, both for the federal government and at the state level,” said Mason. “We’re a big, complex organization, we have almost 13,000 employees and we require all kinds of skills and equipment in order to get that job done.”

Many of the lab’s employees live primarily in Northern New Mexico in five counties: Los Alamos, Rio Arriba, Santa Fe, Bernalillo, and Sandoval. The lab says those employees spread out means much-needed funds going into local economies, as well as the state economy.

“Their paychecks go into those communities, they pay taxes, they buy homes, they shop for groceries,” said Mason. “The fact that we’ve been able to maintain employment has helped mitigate some of the impacts to the economy, associated with the pandemic.”

The success has been so great, that now, the lab is expanding to the 28,000-square foot Firestone building in Santa Fe. It will be home to teleworking-hybrid employees, scientific meetings, and even post-pandemic events. It will also be home to the Dorothy McKibbin Conference Center, named after one of the first secretaries who worked there, back when it was only known as “Project Y.”

“The laboratory has been growing over the last several years, we’ve been hiring over a thousand people a year and that’s going to continue,” said Mason. “Certainly this year, we’re very busy and we need space to accomodate them.”

The move to Santa Fe is the first in more than 50 years for the lab. It started in the Santa Fe area during the Manhattan Project.

“It made sense to look in the surrounding communities for space we could lease and we found a terrific property in Santa Fe on Guadalupe Street, right in the heart of downtown,” said Mason. “It’s kind of a return to our roots. The lab really got started at 109 East Palace during the war.”

At least 75 employees will be based at the new location. With a year of success underway, Los Alamos National Lab says this next venture is a good sign of what’s to come.

“Once things get back to normal and we’re post-pandemic, it’ll be great for hosting community events and scientific meetings, and of course, that brings people into the downtown, eating at the restaurants and staying at the hotels,” said Mason. “Our Guadalupe Street facility is returning to Santa Fe after many decades of absence and will become a front door for the lab.”

LANL has signed a 10-year lease with the building. An opening date has not yete been announced.