LANL Director Thom Mason
Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Thom Mason focused his recent keynote address at the 2018 Regional Economic Development Initiative REDI Conference on the importance of area small businesses – and emphasized his intention to increase LANL’s support.
“LANL is already consistently among the best performing across all the national laboratories in percentage of procurement from regional small businesses,” Mason told the crowd gathered Dec. 4 at Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino. “But we’ll be doubling the preference we give to Northern New Mexico small businesses for small business contracting.”
There also will be an additional 5 percent incentive for the Triad Pueblo Business Alliance, comprised of Acoma Sky City, Tsay Corp and San Ildefonso Services, he said.
“We will be developing a small business council to get input from current and future subcontractors,” Mason said. And we will be launching a small business training program on working with the Laboratory, based on a similar successful program developed by Texas A&M University system.”
LANL small business procurement in fiscal 2018 totaled $442.9 million … more than 60 percent of that went to New Mexican businesses, he said.
The Lab employs 12,099 people, with approximately 2,000 more employed by subcontractors.
“The Laboratory is an integral part of the business community in Northern New Mexico,” Mason told the crowd. “We’re facing many of the same challenges you are around growing a network of local suppliers and partners and recruiting a skilled workforce.”
He said that Triad, the new management contractor, and its partners share a commitment to public service and community engagement. The impact of the Lab on regional economy is significant in that the Lab’s FY2018 budget is $2.66 billion.
“We’re committed to creating a thriving local economy that benefits the Lab and the region as a whole,” Mason said.
In addressing LANL’s plan to implement workforce development programs, Mason said the intention is to partner with higher education to identify the needs of the Lab and the region. The plan also is to work with K-12 partners to inspire and develop a STEM-focused talent pool.
“Hiring skilled employees is an issue we’re all facing,” Mason said. “The Lab is set to hire around 1,000 people a year for the next few years and not just scientists. We want to hire local. We’re working with our higher education partners to identify the needs of the Lab and the region, and then make sure there’s a clear education path to those jobs, including those in trade professions, where there’s substantial demand.”
One area the Lab is exploring is an internship program with higher education partners and local businesses, he said. Support will continue for education through the LANL Foundation. Support will continue as well through the Los Alamos Employees Scholarship Fund, which this year gave scholarships to 142 students across the region totaling $712,950.
The Lab also is looking at further ways to support teachers, especially attraction and retention, he said.
“We don’t have all the answers, and we are committed to listening to and partnering with people across the region and state, and events such as this are a great way to start doing that,” Mason said. “By helping small businesses, expanding the local workforce, and drawing clear paths to projected vacancies, we’re confident the Laboratory can play an integral part in building a stronger and more diverse economy in the region in the future.”
Prior to joining Battelle, Mason worked at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) for 19 years, including 10 years as laboratory director. During his time in Oak Ridge, he was active in the community serving as chair of the Oak Ridge Public Schools Education Foundation as well as Innovation Valley, the Knoxville-Oak Ridge area regional economic development organization. He moved to ORNL from the University of Toronto where he was a faculty member in the Department of Physics and previously worked as a senior scientist at Risø National Laboratory and a Postdoc at AT&T Bell Laboratories.
For the past 30 years, he has been involved in the design and construction of scientific instrumentation and facilities and the application of nuclear, computing, and materials sciences to solve important challenges in energy and national security. Mason has a Ph.D. in Experimental Condensed Matter Physics from McMaster University and a BSc in Physics from Dalhousie University.