Leadership Los Alamos Contemplates Local Economy

Los Alamos County Councilor Rick Reiss chairs the December Leadership Los Alamos session focusing on economic development. Photo by Martha Katko

David Sutton Owner of KRSN presents his group’s proposition to Councilor Rick Reiss’s challenge during the December LLA session. Photo by Martha Katko

 

By NANCY COOMBS
LLA Co-chair

Leadership Los Alamos Class of 2015-2016 met in December for an overview of Economic Development in our community. Chaired by County Councilor Rick Reiss, the goal of the session was to impart to the class members an understanding of economic drivers and factors that influence the local economy with a focus on the history of our local economic development, a vision for the future, and the roles that leadership and forethought play in moving the community. 

To help the group realize how the county is cultivating economic development, Los Alamos County Economic Vitality Director Greg Fisher and Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation Executive Director Patrick Sullivan both addressed what is happening now and some goals for the future.

Los Alamos Police Chief Dino Sgambellone listens to a speaker at the December LLA session. Photo by Martha Katko

Fisher outlined the key policies of the county’s Economic Vitality Strategic Plan:

  • Support and retain LANL as the area’s best wealth-producing employer;
  • Diversify the economic base;
  • Increase quality of life opportunities; and
  • Increase the availability of housing in the county, both affordable and market rate.

Smith’s Marketplace is a fine example of economic growth in which the county played an integral role. This has both immediate and long-term economic impact including a $30 million construction investment, which utilized many local subcontractors and services, and has provided more than 140 new full time jobs for $6-8 million in new wages. The new Smith’s Marketplace has helped to increase local retail spending by 20 percent per person. Their total annual sales at $70 million have exceeded projections.

On the other hand, the county continues to see a decline in the 19-25 year old population and severe retail leakage.

“At the end of 2014, Los Alamos demanded $529 million in retail goods and services, but $393 million in retail sales … was satisfied in other locations or on the Internet, producing a retail sales leakage rate of 72.6 percent, meaning 3/4 of all Los Alamos retail spending is out-of-county,” Fisher said.

Sullivan provided an overview of the Los Alamos Commerce & Development Corporation or LACDC. It is a private not-for-profit organization that works to drive economic progress by providing services to businesses and  developing  activities to both enhance quality of life for residents and encourage tourism thus increasing financial revenues to businesses. The Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce, Los Alamos MainStreet and the Los Alamos Meeting & Visitor Bureau are all programs of the LACDC.

He also discussed the recent branding initiative and possibilities provided by Los Alamos recent designation as a National Historical Park.

A couple of other segments of the day included short presentations by both class members and community business owners or founders discussing some of the challenges and satisfactions of operating a small business in Los Alamos.

At the end of the day County Manager Harry Burgess talked about many of these concepts from the perspective of government, what the county can and cannot do and how citizens can and should become involved to help shape the community.

The highlight activity of the day was a challenge by Councilor Reiss: “What Would You Do?” Reiss challenged the class, divided into four separate groups, to consider some of the issues currently facing the Los Alamos County Council. If you have a set amount of money for Capital Improvement Projects (CIP), how do you determine/balance need versus want versus projected economic development? Each group had to decide (1) if they would propose a General Obligation (GO) Bond and (2) which CIP projects would be funded. A GO Bond would bring the funding available for CIPs to $25 million, but a tax increase involves selling the public of its validity. Without GO Bond money the available funds drop to $12 million.

It was mentioned with amusement that Reiss was asking the groups to do his homework. Each group had a very different solution and overall it appeared that each participant gained a greater awareness of the difficulty in making decisions that affect the whole community.

The session took place at Fire Station #3 in White Rock, and during a break the class had an opportunity to tour the county’s newest fire station and learn about the various firetrucks, including the state-of-the-art hazmat truck.

Leadership Los Alamos will meet Jan. 22 at the Teen Center for a session about Youth: to increase knowledge and understanding of resources and programs supporting and impacting the youth of Los Alamos. Participants will explore existing services, programs and resources related to youth and be challenged to identify how they and others can help strengthen our community’s ability to nurture youth.

Leadership Los Alamos was founded to identify current and emerging leaders in the Los Alamos community, enhance their leadership skills, and deepen their knowledge of the challenges and opportunities facing our area. The class of 2015-2016 will learn about both the inner and the outer workings of community organizations, cultural aspects, youth, education, local government, economic development and environmental issues.

Laura Loy of UNM-LA sits in the hot seat during a tour at Fire Station 3. Photo by Martha Katko

Leadership Los Alamos participants tour Fire Station 3 during the December session. Photo by Martha Katko

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