Fifty local small business owners and managers met with the new head of the Los Alamos National Laboratory Small Business Office, Chris Fresquez, and staff from the LANL Community Programs Office Thursday during a Business Breakfast at UNM-LA.
The Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce hosted the event, which was a roundtable discussion to foster communication between local businesses and LANL staff.
“My vision is to use my expertise to bridge the gap between small businesses and lab staff,” Fresquez said.
Fresquez wants to work with the technical staff before they have a purchase request and help them connect with small businesses that can meet their needs.
He pointed to LANL’s Northern New Mexico Preference Program, designed to strengthen regional business enterprises, stimulate greater regional employment and infrastructure, increase the business tax base in Northern New Mexico and reduce regional dependence on the federal government, as one resource that is in place to insure LANL supports local businesses.
The group representing local businesses and organizations gathered for this meeting was very diverse, ranging from non-profits like the United Way and Junior Achievement to local realtors, retail owners, service providers and restaurateurs.
“I see a strong support for the technical end, but retail outlets need awareness,” said Ruby Alexander, owner of Ruby’s Bagel Café. “How about a ‘LANL Supports Local’ campaign to show the lab’s support for local businesses?” she suggested.
“It’s not as though we’re not friends,” Dave Fox of CB FOX Department Store pointed out. “On the personal level, we’re good. Can we morph that into something a little more official?”
Local Realtors James Chrobocinski and Kendra Henning pointed to the quality of life issues inherent in supporting local businesses and how they affect LANL recruitment and retention.
A number of attendees lamented the closing of Otowi Station Bookstore and pointed out how the rise of Internet commerce has negatively impacted local small business.
Henning suggested that business owners embrace technology and see it as an opportunity, for example, perhaps using an electronic bulletin board to make LANL employees aware of local businesses.
Johnny Martinez of the LANL Community Programs Office assured the group that his office is committed to regional economic development and to diversifying the local economy.
He expressed the desire to continue the dialogue in future meetings.
“We are your advocates and our biggest challenge is the same as yours, its right across the bridge,” Martinez said.