Leaders Hope to Shape Economic Development

Special to ladailpost.com
Each month a group of about 20 current and emerging leaders gather to enhance their leadership skills by learning more about challenges and opportunities facing our community through the Leadership Los Alamos program.

The most recent session, led by MICHELINE DEVAURS and MIKE WISMER, focused on economic development, where participants hoped to gain an understanding at both the state and local levels.

Discussions and presentations focused on the vision for the future, the planning efforts underway and how to contribute to shaping future economic development for Los Alamos. Critical to the success of economic development is that communities must view economic development in a broader context and consider the effects of globalization and the role leadership will play in moving forward.

Today’s challenge for the group was to achieve consensus in guiding principles for economic development in Los Alamos by developing high-level policy statements, presenting those ideas to administration and then monitoring the outcome over time. Any principles or precepts that guide an organization through its life in all circumstances, irrespective of changes in its goals, strategies, type of work, or changes in management were to be considered. Some ideas that originated from the group included business diversification, competition, sustainability, growth opportunity and impact on community.

The first in a panel of experts from within New Mexico was Steve Gonzales, Team Leader representing Jon Barela, NM Economic Development Secretary who shared some of the changes happening at the state level to fit new economic development priorities. Some targets that were identified include promotion of resurgence of energy (oil/gas, solar, wind, uranium) production, regulatory reform, leveraging relationships with LANL and universities, bringing manufacturing to New Mexico and the success of Spaceport America.

Future efforts in legislature provide mechanisms for keeping technology and tech commercialization in New Mexico, eliminating GRT for qualifying businesses, $10M Job Training Incentive Program (JTIP) and infrastructure development to name a few.

The next panel consisted of Monica Albeita, Director of the Regional Economic Development Initiative, Laura Gonzales, Acting Administrative Services Director and John Jones, IT Project Manager from Los Alamos County to share local initiatives on broadband and its impact on economic development.

Statistics provided evidence of the need for broadband; data traffic growth, anticipated video on demand increases as well as internet and video projections. A plethora of next generation services outlined utility smart meters, security, telecommuting and entertainment as well as more efficient on-line educational opportunities and telemedicine resources more readily capable through a fiber-optic network infrastructure.

The growth in new businesses directly related to broadband initiatives across the nation ranged from 19-36%. Albeita provided an overview of REDI-Net’s “middle-mile” fiber network project which is bringing fiber optics and connectivity to five pueblos and three counties throughout northern New Mexico, where high-speed broadband was identified as the number one economic development priority. Gonzales shared the Community Broadband Network (CBN), or “last-mile” project with the enthusiastic group, who learned that the Fiber-to-the-Premise (FTTP) project would be designed to provide 1Gbps to every home and business in LA County, including White Rock.

Richard Marquez from the Director’s Office at LANL considered the involvement of community and compared growth to development by introducing the opportunity for youth to advance.

The relationships built by giving, education thru LANL foundation help to inspire economic development. Marquez noted that infrastructure is vital for business growth. His parting comment really hit home with the group ~ “People remember a kindness forever!”

A panel of small business owners shared their insights into opening up and managing a business in Los Alamos. Ruby Alexander, owner of Ruby K’s, described her process from concept to teaching the youth of Los Alamos work ethics and responsibility. David Jolly, Manager of Metzger’s, offered lessons learned through the recent Los Conchas fire and running a hardware business in a rural town. Steve Watts of the Los Alamos Co-op banked on opening a co-op in a “lunch town” away from the center of business and is currently enjoying a 10% increase in the projected earnings.

One key to the success of each of these businesses is that they treat their staff as they would like to be treated and hire for quality vs. quantity and attitude over aptitude.

Denise Lane and Kendra Henning can attest to the fact that real estate in LA is a real challenge. The push here was to get more involved in the community by attending council meetings, volunteering, supporting local businesses (see http://www.the350project.net) and maintaining our homes rather than adding to the obsolete real estate currently evident around town.

Denny Erickson, Chair of the White Rock Implementation Plan Group, posed the question, “How do we attract youth and young adults?” Statistics show that Los Alamos is an aging community, partly due to the unavailability of affordable housing. His sage advice is to leave things better than how you found them.

Harry Burgess, Los Alamos County Administrator, engaged the group in a session titled, “What is Economic Development?” Comparing traditional ideas to new considerations enlightened the leaders by providing a broader perspective on a pragmatic view of economic development.

Burgess presented the Trinity Site Revitalization Project, which responds to a community survey’s number one request by residents who felt it is required to attract young families. Due to budget cuts and reductions in program and staff at the LA Public Schools, this project would generate revenue for the schools starting at $350K. The benefits the County might realize with this increased retail growth space are self-sufficiency, quality of life amenities and increased revenues. Participation was encouraged by attending public meetings and submitting comments on-line at www.trinitysite.info.

Ultimately the Leadership Los Alamos – Class of 2012 defined the top five guiding principles for economic development; the County should review the process of and streamline business development opportunities, education in LA should be conducive to all levels of learning, commitment to the economic development process, building positive and constructive business relationships including those complementary to LANL and finally, investment in broadband.


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