Council gets business development update

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By Jennifer Garcia

Economic development has been in the spotlight the past few years. Not only is the county interested in bringing businesses to the Atomic City, but so is the Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corp.

During Tuesday night’s county council meeting, LACDC Director Kevin Holsapple and Business Development Director Patrick Sullivan, gave council a presentation on the LACDC Business Development contract.

Los Alamos National Bank Chairman and CEO Bill Enloe was also present and spoke to council as well.

The business development contact process began in June 2008 when the LACDC responded to a county RFP.

In September 2008, the current contract was awarded in the amount of $320,000 (an increase from $164,000 in prior contracts due to the addition of the proactive recruitment initiative).

According to a slideshow, the contract funds approximately 2.1 FTEs plus associated expenses; $105,000 of the contract amount is reserved for cost reimbursement only; $60,000 is reserved for consultant expenses related to proactive recruitment activity; $25,000 is reserved for expenses related to Main Street promotion activities; $20,000 is reserved for county directed projects.

The scope of work for the contact is as follows:

• Pursue expansion, recruitment and start-up of existing and new businesses,

• Provide ongoing communication with local businesses concerning barriers and opportunities to doing businesses,

• Act as an advocate to local businesses and as a liaison to various LANL organizations,

• Support Downtown Plan implementation,

• Facilitate workforce development programs,

• Conduct MainStreet events and fulfill reporting requirements,

• Maintain statistics on county demographics and available commercial space,

• Additional research and analysis.

The presentation also showed councilors what sort of business development results have been yielded from the FY2006-2009 business development contract.

They included:

• 101 clients served,

• 100 jobs created and retained by clients,

• 30 client expansions/new businesses,

• More than 225 firms contacted this fiscal year,

• 14 firms visited this fiscal year,

• Locate In Los Alamos.com and collateral material development,

• Maintain community profile and serve as clearing house for local market information and referrals.

Sullivan said two trips were made, one to Washington, D.C., and one to Southern California, during which LACDC members spoke to companies about the possibility of bringing their businesses to Los Alamos.

“We’re actively working with those companies that are interested, as well,” Sullivan said.

Some of the businesses being looked at include: technology based, aerospace and production businesses, as well as higher education.

Making the town of Los Alamos attractive to new businesses, however, has proved to be a problem.

“What can we do to make Los Alamos more attractive?” Councilor Vincent Chiravalle asked.

“We need more availability and we need to learn more about retail and cultural amenities,” Sullivan replied.

Holsapple said that housing and the “whole package” need to be worked on, as well.

Enloe, however, had a slightly different view on what would make Los Alamos better.

“The lack of retail and cultural entertainment opportunities (are a problem),” he said. “Retail doesn’t make a community.”

He went on to say that Los Alamos has some serious challenges, including land, labor and facilities.

“We’ve been able to offset that a lot with synergies,” he said.

He also explained that housing in Los Alamos is a problem.

“If there’s not enough housing, it affects our ability to attract and retain workers. We always have to work toward opportunities outside of the lab. We want to be able to offer a high level of activity for people. They have to have jobs to spend money. You can’t choose one to be successful, you have to do all of them: Retain, recruit, offer good opportunities … you have to offer them all to be competitive,” Enloe said.

Following the presentation, Sullivan told councilors that a quarterly activity report is submitted and regular communication with Assistant County Administrator Anthony Mortillaro takes place in an effort to coordinate and discuss status and progress.

“We meet with Tony twice a month,” Sullivan said.

Though they meet with Mortillaro on a regular basis, County Councilor Ralph Phelps was concerned that there are no council members on the LACDC Board.

“No one from council is on the board. I struggle with that … the county doesn’t have an economic developer on the staff to interact with the LACDC,” Sullivan said.

Holsapple reassured Phelps and the rest of council the LACDC wants to keep strong connections with the county.

“We keep a close relationship with the county through Tony,” he said.

Holsapple’s statement, however, did not convince Councilor Sharon Stover.

“I think it’s important to have someone from the county on the board, even as an ex-officio. Even just that communication would help,” she said.

No council action was taken on this agenda item, as it was a presentation and update for council.