A city in New Mexico is to be developed that will have no residents, but provide a place for researchers to test new technologies.
The billion-dollar city will be developed in Lea Country near Hobbs to help researchers test everything from intelligent traffic systems and next-generation wireless networks to automated washing machines and self-flushing toilets.
Pegasus Holdings and its New Mexico subsidiary, CITE Development, said Hobbs and Lea County beat Las Cruces for the Centre for Innovation, Technology and Testing. The CITE project is being billed as a first-of-its kind smart city, or ghost town of sorts, that will be developed on about 15 square miles west of Hobbs.
The point of the town is to enable researchers to test new technologies on existing infrastructure without interfering in everyday life. While some researchers will be testing smart technologies on old grids, others might be using the streets to test self-driving cars.
Hobbs mayor Sam Cobb said the unique research facility that looks like an empty city would be a key for diversifying the economy of the nearby community, which after the oil bust of the 1980s saw bumper stickers asking the last person to leave to turn out the lights.
"It brings so many great opportunities and puts us on a world stage," Cobb said.
Bob Brumley, senior managing director of Pegasus Holdings, said the town would be modelled after the real city of Rock Hill, South Carolina, complete with highways, houses and commercial buildings, old and new. No-one will live there, although they could as houses will include all the necessities, like appliances and plumbing.
"The only thing we won't be doing is destructive testing, blowing things up - I hope," said Brumley.
Not far from the Texas border, Hobbs has seen new growth in recent years but local leaders have been pushing to expand the area's reputation to include economic development ventures beyond the staple of oil and gas.
The investors developing CITE were looking for open spaces. Brumley said his group scoured the country for potential sites, "but we kept coming back to New Mexico. New Mexico is unique in so many ways".
One big plus for New Mexico was its government research centres like White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico and Los Alamos and Sandia national labs.
Governor Susana Martinez joined officials in announcing final site selection for the project, which she hailed as "one of the most unique and innovative" economic development projects the state had seen.
She noted that no tax breaks were given for the development. "The only thing they have asked for is guidance," she said.
The project is expected to create 350 permanent jobs and about 3,500 indirect jobs in its design, development, construction and operational phases.