LACDC contract gets council OK

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By Jennifer Garcia

Based on a decision made by county council last night, it would seem that the county is interested in having the Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation continue to provide economic development services.

Councilors voted 7-0 in favor of approving an agreement with the LACDC, to provide economic development services in an amount not to exceed $319,970 including gross receipts tax and authorize the county administrator to enter into a renewal contract with LACDC in a form acceptable to the county attorney.

Assistant County Administrator Anthony Mortillaro gave council a brief presentation prior to a discussion about the agenda item.

Mortillaro told council that the motion being presented to them was a request to renew the LACDC contract for one year.

“The contract was entered into in 2008 and was a one-year contract with two renewals. This would be considered the first renewal,” he said.

He also told council that the subcommittee met at least three times to discuss services and the contract.

In addition, Mortillaro said the county met with two members of the LACDC Board.

“The subcommittee recommended that minor amendments in kiosk oversight and maintenance be made to the contract and that the contract be renewed,” Mortillaro said. “The LACDC suggested an increase to $30,000 for the curb appeal and beautification program. The subcommittee also requested that the quarterly activity report be revised,” he continued.

Mortillaro also said the subcommittee suggested that one to two council members be appointed to the economic development team. “That will allow us to get some input from council before we come to you,” he explained.

Following Mortillaro’s presentation, Councilor Sharon Stover commented on the contract and the subcommittee’s work.

“We now have a good understanding and have set the ground work … there’s no reason to not renew the contract. There are a lot of strengths council found that we can build on,” she said.

Councilor Ralph Phelps said he was probing the degree of leadership the county is providing.

“The most important thing to think about is the proper degree of county leadership, that will bring businesses into town,” he commented.

Curious about the structure of the board and the LACDC, Council Vice Chair Mike Wismer asked Mortillaro to explain how the board came to fruition.

Mortillaro said he was not the best person to answer the question and deferred to Business Development Director Patrick Sullivan.

Sullivan explained that when a participation agreement between the county and the LACDC was reached on the LA Research Park, the county nominated two members to sit on the board.

“People are nominated, then people vote,” Sullivan said.

Wismer pressed Sullivan, asking what it would take to change the LACDC’s focus, if the planning stage were to lead them and the board in a different direction.

“Our board would look at it to see if the goals of the RFP are in line with our goals. The ability to change is governed by our board,” Sullivan said.

Councilor Vincent Chiravalle was enthusiastic about renewing the contract and pointed out that more non-LANL jobs are needed in Los Alamos.

“This is the contract that will help do that,” he said. He did, however, condemn any council interference in the dealings of the LACDC Board.

“The LACDC is a private company and we shouldn’t meddle. Private companies function best when left alone. Even if we get one job out of this, it’s worthwhile for our county,” he commented.

Though she agreed that the county needs to grow economically, Councilor Nona Bowman also pointed out the need for the county to be more appealing. In addition, she wanted to know how more non-LANL jobs would be created.

“The plan needs to be more action oriented,” she said. “We need to make ourselves more attractive to companies who want to move here.”

Council Chair Michael Wheeler concurred with Bowman.

“The appearance of our community is a reflection of what we believe and where we come from. If our community looks downtrodden, and it does in some areas, it’s a reflection of what we think of our community,” he said. “We need to demonstrate that Los Alamos is a valuable town.”