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Local business people shared bottom-line concerns with U.S. Sen. Tom Udall during a Chamber Coffee event at Fuller Lodge Tuesday.
“More than anything, I just want to hear from everybody,” Udall said. “We’re very; very interested in the small business situation here. One of the things we want to do is get money into the hands of community banks.”
The banking and mortgage loan crisis that has plagued the nation for the last three years has led to stiffer regulations.
CEO Bill Enloe of Los Alamos National Bank told Udall that those regulations are making things difficult for community banks — especially banks in rural communities.
“The new regulations were imposed in part to limit risks to banks, but the effect on community banks is that it makes it difficult to raise capital — if you’re shrinking capital you’re shrinking loans,” Enloe said.
He also said new regulations limit concentrations of credit in any one industry or region. In the Southwest most banks are already over those limits. The net effect, he said, is for banks to stop giving loans.
“What’s the fix?” Udall asked.
Enloe suggested that it’s unreasonable to expect these stringent new regulations be enacted overnight. They should be phased in over a five-year period, he said.
Denise Lane has been a business woman in Los Alamos for 25 years. She said the ability for consumers to secure loans has not improved either.
“I can tell you that across the board I have never seen so much dissatisfaction from people trying to secure loans.”
Bernadette Vadurro operates a training company out of Santa Fe. She said she has spent the last 15 years lobbying Los Alamos National Laboratory unsuccessfully for a contract.
She offered a three-part solution to help small business get their foot in the door:
• LANL should host an annual “meet and greet” for businesses
• LANL should create a preferred registered vendors list for contracts below $100,000
• LANL should provide greater transparency regarding the components of its larger contracts
“Right now you feel you are scaling the wall at LANL,” Vadurro said.
LANL’s Community Programs Director Kurt Steinhaus briefed Udall on LANS’ community investment accomplishments during the last four years. LANS’ community commitment plan targets community giving, education and economic development.
“Since 2006, LANS employee giving has increased by 230 percent,” he said. “Student math scores in Española show three years of steady improvement and Northern New Mexico’s economy is seeing more than an $8.8 million return on a $2.3 million LANS investment.”
Steinhaus attributed the math score increase to increasing teacher capacity and monitoring their classrooms and providing training. As part of LANS’ investment, 58 Northern New Mexico teachers have earned master’s degrees in math and science teaching, he said.
From LANS’ initial $2.3 million investment between 2006 and 2008, the return of more than $8.8 million to the Northern New Mexico economy includes 39 new jobs with $79,000 average salaries, six jobs retained with $66,000 average salaries and $5.4 million in business capital funding attracted to the area, according to results compiled by Research and Polling out of Albuquerque.
Through Northern New Mexico Connect, LANS assisted some 20 entrepreneurs in 2006-2008 and 90 entrepreneurs in 2009.
Through its small business assistance program, LANS has assisted 233 New Mexico businesses since 2007. LANL and Sandia National Laboratories combined impacts in 2007 and 2008 include 525 jobs created or retained and $1.30 returned to New Mexico for every $1 in tax credits to the labs, Steinhaus said.
County Administrator Tony Mortillaro also attended Tuesday’s Chamber Coffee and spoke with Udall.
“We need to come together as a region…to advocate for LANL to keep LANL here because we recognize how important LANL is to our future. It’s a $2 billion economic engine,” Mortillaro said. “One of our other goals is (to improve) quality of life, we hear that a lot in surveys. We’re getting closer to that end with the Trinity Development Project.”
Mortillaro credited the dedication of the county council with finally getting the long talked about project off the ground. He also spoke of the need for affordable housing.
Chamber Executive Director Kevin Holsapple said 45-46 percent of LANL employees commute from elsewhere.
Afterward, Udall met with a several Chamber business members before taking a windshield tour of the clean-up efforts at LANL’s Technical Area 21.
Carol A. Clark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org