When we asked most of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s approximately 12,000 employees to telework from home last year at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, I honestly did not know how this switch would affect our workforce long-term.

Today, about 51 percent of our employees continue to telework to protect themselves and our communities, but that doesn’t mean the laboratory is slowing down. In fact, with nearly 80 percent of our employees vaccinated, more people are returning to work on-site, and our overall presence in Northern New Mexico is growing faster than ever.

Many of you reading this have probably already heard that Los Alamos will soon open two offices in Santa Fe to help accommodate our growth and changes in the region. The move will benefit many of our employees who live outside of Los Alamos, and it will be a hub for the laboratory’s educational partnerships, workforce development initiatives, government affairs and technology-transfer programs.

The move also highlights our commitment to support the laboratory’s growth with the necessary infrastructure.

In addition to the two new locations in Santa Fe, we are building new office buildings and parking structures in Los Alamos, and updating facilities to accommodate our growth. In fact, we have 10 years’ worth of construction at the laboratory that we intend to do. More work for subcontractors and more job opportunities for New Mexicans to support the growth result in economic benefits for Northern New Mexico’s communities.

Not only do Los Alamos employees need office space, they also need housing. We are on track to hire 1,200 new employees this year, who are expected to live in the same communities our current employees do: Española (18 percent), Santa Fe (26 percent), Los Alamos (42 percent), Taos (2 percent) and Albuquerque (7 percent). The fact that 58 percent of our employees live beyond Los Alamos further underscores how the laboratory is an important community presence throughout Northern New Mexico.

To prepare for this continued growth, we are holding conversations with all local entities interested in residential development. We’ve discussed the growth we already have experienced and what we anticipate. This dialogue is important because the need for housing — rental, single family and even RV parks — is evident. Through these conversations, we’ve been able to provide statistics and facts that give potential developers the confidence they need when deciding whether to invest in new residential development opportunities. We are looking forward to continuing these conversations.

The laboratory’s future workforce will be diverse, spanning the spectrum of our scientific and operational activities, from national security and high-performance computing to renewable energy, climate change, and environmental and biological science. The work we do supports our global community, and our community right here in New Mexico. For example, over the past year, our scientists and staff members have helped the state’s public health agencies understand, track and stem the spread of COVID-19.

Los Alamos is committed to supporting New Mexico’s cities and counties because as they get stronger, so do we. We value being active in our communities and lending a hand when needed — such as donating food, school supplies, blood and time to local organizations. And the laboratory is expanding its efforts to support K-12 and higher education students and institutions through scholarship and employee tuition reimbursement programs.

I am proud to be a part of this beautiful state, and part of an organization that is committed to partnering with local communities to ensure our people and our region thrive.

Kelly Beierschmitt is deputy director for operations at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

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