Smith’s Marketplace is the “Rising Tide That Lifts All Boats”

By ANDREA CUNNINGHAM
Los Alamos County Council Candidate

I have been reading the letters to the editor and comments regarding the Smith’s Marketplace with great interest and appreciate both the concerns that have been raised and the excitement generated by the new store.

Like so many, I have spent a good part of the last decade working with the County, the Schools, the community and more than one developer to help bring this project here. During that same period (and a decade before that) I made the trip to Zafarano Drive and points south, at least once a week—young, unhappy children in tow—to find all of the staples for my family, leaving most of my tax dollars, my gas money, my time, a large carbon footprint and my patience outside of Los Alamos. They call it retail leakage and, to date, 85 cents of every dollar earned in Los Alamos, leaves Los Alamos.

We are blessed to have so many excellent small businesses, which inspire fierce loyalty from their customers. Smith’s Marketplace is truly the “rising tide [that] lifts all boats.” It’s a phrase echoed by two of our own—Dave Fox of CB FOX and Dave Jolly of Metzger’s—both enthusiastic supporters of the Marketplace. They know that the consumers who find what they need at the new Smith’s Marketplace are more likely to stay on the hill and patronize Los Alamos’ local small businesses.

The new Smith’s offers a greater supply of items, fresh choices and goods previously unavailable in town while providing a beautiful entrance to the town. (Everyone remember the decaying Quonset huts on that site?) I recently took my list for a family of five, including everything I normally get in Santa Fe. At Smiths, I was able to buy those items that I would have purchased at Target, Office Depot and Party City. However, it speaks volumes that they didn’t carry the Heirloom tomatoes I get at the Co-Op or the dog food from Pet Pangea.

I realize that the history and facts regarding this project may not be known or remembered since it has been 10 years in the making. This store and the project itself is an example of private investment (Smith’s) into the community on land owned by the County/Schools. They invested close to $30 million to build the store, yet they also pay approximately $500,000 land rent per year to LAPS for the next 75 years. They have contributed $250,000 in Earn and Learn to the schools and allow school booster organizations to gain 5 percent on the sale of gift cards. The LAHS band boosters is one such organization. The parents can load their cards for groceries and the organization receives the money.

The land was transferred from the DOE in 2004 expressly for the purpose of economic development and revenue for the County/Schools. We are the last in a dying breed of communities getting a stipend from DOE to support the school system. The worth of our $8 million grows smaller each year due to increasing costs and we do not know how long we can count on receiving it. Increased revenues from rent, increased GRT income and alternative methods of funding will support our schools and keep great programs like the arts, music and sports.

At the end of the day, it is our entire community who benefits most from a greater selection and quality of items available in Los Alamos. The increased income for the schools, the increase in GRT income that is generated, the investment in our infrastructure and reinvestment of local dollars is critical to our long term health. That is a great win-win!

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