July 6, 2012. Retrieved online July 11, 2012 from Alta LeCompte, Las Cruces Bulletin
Engineer, cheerleader, Las Crucen
As construction moves toward completion at Spaceport America in Sierra County, project manager Wayne Savage sees the venture as “a game changer for New Mexico.”
“In looking back, I think the thing that really excites me is the potential for local economic growth,” he said. “My forecast is that within three years people will be flying every week from Spaceport America, creating 300 to 500 jobs for local people.”
A realistic outlook for 15 years into the future would be 1,500 to 2,000 new jobs, Savage said.
He said last year more than 30 subcontracts were awarded to local companies for spaceport work, “and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”
Economic development, however, is not what Savage set out to accomplish in 2007 when he started badgering anyone who would listen to give him the job overseeing design and construction of the first commercial spaceport.
“I thought it would be the most exciting project of my career,” he said.
“I’m not a space geek. I never wanted to be an astronaut, but I knew a good project when I saw it.”
Savage lobbies for a job
After being away since 1980, he was hoping to “return home and do something good for New Mexico.”
In 2007, Savage was working in Utah as a project manager for Air Liquide when Doña Ana County passed a tax to help support the proposed facility.
He said he picked up the phone and called Rick Homans – the economic development secretary under then-Gov. Bill Richardson – and executive director of the state’s spaceport authority.
“I said I want to come home – this is a great opportunity for New Mexico,” he said.
Homans was not hiring.
Savage then called the acting program manager, contractor Mike Holston of Procurement Solutions.
Holston was not hiring.
The persistent Savage called the design firm, AECOM, a technological services and management conglomerate, and landed a job as a senior program manager in charge of scheduling for Spaceport America.
“There were literally dozens of responsibilities that literally all needed to go forward at the same time,” he said. “The organization was very fluid and growing, and a lot of contract resources were required. We were basically taking ranch land and building a small city.”
Start with a computer chip
Savage met his future wife, Teresa at Las Cruces High School in 1975. They worked together on musicals. He was stage manager for the drama department and she played in the orchestra.
He left the area in 1980 because there were few opportunities for a newly minted New Mexico State University industrial engineering graduate.
During his years at NMSU, he had studied engineering, statistics, optimization and simulation. He even took a cost accounting class from his father, Allan Savage.
The educational package Wayne Savage put together for himself equipped him to understand not just engineering components, but systems, and to look at both their output and financial outcomes.
He wanted to be involved with high-level technology and gravitated to the semi-conductor industry, where he played a role in the planning and development of manufacturing facilities for the industry. His career included stints with Intel, Honeywell and Hitachi in Dallas.
“My wife and I talked many times about moving back to Las Cruces,” he said. “Dallas was a good place for the kids to grow up, but it has a serious lack of mountains.”
Savage has nailed his dream job in the shadow of his beloved mountains. As the project has grown, he has gotten more involved with the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce, the Mesilla Valley Economic Development Alliance and the Arrowhead Research Center at NMSU. “It is rewarding to work with people who have a larger sense of involvement with communities,”he said.
Read the Las Cruces Bulletin article