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Why Is a 'Ghost Town' Being Built in the Middle of New Mexico?


"People can go there and experiment without restrictions."

This artist rendering provided by the Center for Innovation, Testing and Evaluation shows the $1 billion scientific ghost town near Hobbs, N.M. (Image: AP/Center for Innovation, Testing and Evaluation)

It may be hard to believe, but the latest ghost city isn't being constructed in China (where such a thing is common) or anywhere overseas for that matter. It's going up right here in the United Sates -- in the middle of New Mexico.

There, a brand new, fully-functional modern town devoid of people is being built with the sole purpose of being a tech test bed.

(Related: See pictures of the creepy Chinese ghost malls)

BBC reports the tech company Pegasus Global Holdings is spending $1 billion in Lea County, New Mexico, to construct a town that will test a wide range of new gadgets and systems:

Anything from smart grids and next-generation wireless networks to self-flushing toilets could be tested in the new town.

"The only thing we won't be doing is destructive testing, blowing things up -- I hope," said Robert Brumley from Pegasus.



Last year, Brumley told Popular Mechanics the site could also be used to test items like driverless vehicles. Here he explains the benefit of having all the infrastructure in place but no people around:

Driverless trucks controlled over a wireless network could make freight more efficient, for example, and the upgraded communications systems required could help rural communities along the highway get better broadband access. Some companies are already developing the technology, but testing unmanned trucks on real highways would endanger human drivers, and tinkering with telecommunications could disrupt regular service. But inside the unpopulated city, there's no problem. "There'd be nobody to interfere with," Brumley says.

Mayor of Hobbs Sam Cobb confirmed to The Associated Press that the southeastern New Mexico community was selected prior to a news conference Tuesday with Gov. Susana Martinez and the investors developing the Center for Innovation, Technology and Testing, or CITE.

Pegasus Holdings and its New Mexico subsidiary, CITE Development, had announced last month that the list of potential sites had been narrowed to two. Hobbs beat out a location near Las Cruces.

Developers were looking for open spaces. Another plus was the proximity to federal research facilities like White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico and Los Alamos and Sandia national labs.

MSN has more on the town:

Although a fully operational city with no people sounds a little like the setup for a dystopian sci-fi novel, Pegasus CEO Robert Brumley says the center is modeled after Disney World: "Most of the maintenance of the facility is done underground, and aboveground is the amusement park." In some ways, the center would be like a playground for scientists and innovators. Brumley envisions it as a place where people developing new technologies could run large-scale experiments in real-world conditions that — for practical, financial, bureaucratic or safety reasons — they wouldn't be able to do elsewhere. "People can go there and experiment without restrictions," he says.

Gov. 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 has seen. She noted that no tax breaks were given for the development. "The only thing they have asked for is guidance," she said.

Brumley said plans are to break ground on the town by June 30. The initial development cost is estimated at $400 million, although Brumley estimates the overall investment in the project to top $1 billion.

The project is expected to create 350 permanent jobs and about 3,500 indirect jobs in its design, development, construction and ongoing operational phases.

Update: The Blaze contacted Brumley to find out more about how this project was funded. He told us it was funded all through private investors. He said government dollars were specifically not chosen to help fund the project as they wanted the site to be "based on free market principals." He also explained how testing sites such as this are hard for private companies to come by when they have an innovative idea, as they are usually owned by the government or universities. He said they have had to go outside of the country, like Korea or Iceland, before to test ideas. With this new site, he said there would be no favoritism on who could test there whether it be small businesses, government agencies or universities. Part of how the site will generate revenue when it's complete is charging access fees to use its facility. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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