MainStreet Center Releases Findings of Economic Impact on New Mexico

Los Alamos MainStreet Executive Director Suzette Fox with National President/CEO Patrice Frey at the Chamber in downtown Los Alamos. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost


The New Mexico Economic Development Department’s New Mexico MainStreet program hosted a visit by Patrice Frey, President and CEO of the National MainStreet Center.

Frey took time during her visit to tour downtown Los Alamos and meet with Los Alamos MainStreet and local officials to discuss economic impact of the New Mexico MainStreet program on 27 accredited downtown programs, of which Los Alamos is one. 

The national program has contracted with PlaceEconomics to perform a comprehensive analysis of the impact on the state economy of New Mexico MainStreet’s 28 years of providing technical assistance to help revitalize and sustain New Mexico communities.

Under contract to the Center, PlaceEconomics is analyzing the economic impacts of the New Mexico MainStreet program. The study examines the long-term, on-the-ground performance statistics of the local MainStreet programs and how the local programs’ achievements add up to statewide MainStreet success.

The study addresses the central question, “how well does the New Mexico MainStreet program leverage economic performance in the participating communities?” Measures of the New Mexico’s return on investment include building rehabilitations, new construction, new businesses, new jobs, volunteer hours, and the tax revenues that result from the new economic activity.

Key findings from the study include:

  • Since the beginning of the program, for every $1 the State of New Mexico invested in the MainStreet program, MainStreet districts have seen private sector investment of $21.89 in building rehabilitation and $22.55 in new construction.
  • Since the start of the most recent recession, the State of New Mexico has had a net reduction in employment in three of the last six years. In contrast, New Mexico MainStreet districts have had net growth in jobs every year over the same period.
  • Since the beginning of the program in 1986 through July of 2013 New Mexico MainStreet communities have seen a gain of 3,200 net new businesses and nearly 11,300 net new jobs.
  • In spite of the recession, in the last six years 157 buildings have been purchased in MainStreet districts for a total of more than $22 million.
  • Nationwide between 2007 and 2011, for every 100 businesses that opened, 103 closed. Over that same period in New Mexico MainStreet districts, for every 100 businesses that opened, only 37 closed.
  • Conservatively, an additional $5.1 million each year is going to local governments through property taxes on the investment in rehabilitation and new construction by the private sector in MainStreet districts.
  • Capital Outlay projects are having a major catalytic effect on those downtowns. Impacts reported as a result of these projects have been:
o   100% reported individual building improvements and new businesses opening
o   82% reported higher attendance at events
o   73% reported reduced vacancy levels
o   64% reported increased pedestrian traffic
  • New Mexico is well known for arts, outdoor recreation and great food. New businesses on MainStreet are responding to that reputation. Of the most recent new businesses in New Mexico MainStreet communities:
o   26% are restaurants, cafes, bars and brewpubs
o   13% are arts related
o   13% are recreation, sports and personal health (spas, exercise studios, etc.)
  • Even though restaurants are a high risk/high failure rate business, there were twice as many new restaurants opened than closed in the last year in MainStreet districts.
  • When asked, “where are the gathering places downtowns?” Art Galleries were the most common place identified, even more than coffee shops.

The full report will be published in February 2014 and released at New Mexico MainStreet’s winter leadership network meeting, Feb. 5-7, in Santa Fe. A summary slide presentation is available from the New Mexico MainStreet website at

The MainStreet program of the National Historic Preservation Trust accredits Los Alamos MainStreet, which is operated under the Los Alamos Commerce & Development Corporation

New Mexico MainStreet (NMMS) is a grassroots economic development program of the New Mexico Economic Development Department. The program was created by the Legislature in 1984 to assist communities in revitalizing their traditional commercial districts. The first local program affiliates were selected in 1985. Currently NMMS works with 27 local MainStreet programs throughout New Mexico to create an economically viable business environment while preserving local cultural and historic resources.