Moving Los Alamos forward

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By The Staff

I share the disappointment of most that the route to the full development of the Trinity Site remains uncertain. Some blame Boyer, some the county and council, but all of us need to look a little deeper.

There have been changes in Los Alamos over the past 15 years that have taken their toll. Better roads to Española and Santa Fe and inexpensive and regularly scheduled public transportation have made it faster and easier to shop outside Los Alamos.

Those improvements also have made it easier for Los Alamos National Laboratory employees to commute to Los Alamos. The county’s effort to bring in new high tech business has had only limited success in taking up the LANL slack.

It is surprising to many of us that the great things about Los Alamos including good schools, Bandelier, Valles Grande, our ski area, good hiking trails, safety and culture are not enough to attract more people to want to live here and invest in our community.

We are told that we are too small to attract Target, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and others as their investment criteria stipulate a larger population.

The county or council cannot force businesses to invest here just because our medium income is higher than any other town in New Mexico. Nevertheless, I think we can realize what we hope for the Trinity Site if we put more focus where it is needed, which is not necessarily on the site itself.

Community appearance

In spite of the efforts of the County Council in the last seven years to improve the downtown, there are still blighted areas on Trinity and Central that hinder our county’s ability to market our community to scientists and engineers who would bring their families to live in our town and provide revenue to the county budget. Neighborhood attractiveness makes people want to buy a home in our community, which includes both White Rock and Hill homes.

Our town has a beautiful setting and needs to enhance its beauty and not detract from it by the neglect in residential areas that is all too evident. We must realize that we who live here learn to look past what visitors stare at.

Recently the Los Alamos Community Development Corporation hired a consulting firm to come unannounced into our community and give their first impressions. Their conclusion was the same as mine; appearance is really important and there’s lots of room for improvement. If you want examples of small cities that pursued community attractiveness to lead people to invest and live in their community, go to Bend, Ore. or Aiken, S.C.


The other absolute is more high tech R & D business in Los Alamos, and I mean a lot more. Our goal should be to grow at least half as many jobs over the next two decades as LANL now provides. County government, in my opinion, needs to become more proactive to realize this goal. Land and space must be found for these businesses at a cost that a start-up business can afford. The necessary land and buildings should be set forth in a research park setting like Entrada and not stuck away in small corners. One new option might be Technical Area 21 on DP Road that will be transferred to the county after clean up. Then there is Technical Area 18 in White Rock.

Also we must know the businesses to go after. Manufacturing has never been competitive in Los Alamos owing to transportation and a limited labor pool. The businesses that have succeeded here and stayed here are the research and development companies. That is what we need to go after much more aggressively. So my belief is that the county’s effort must become much stronger and more purposeful than it has been. The business and county leadership must move its focus beyond primarily keeping our shopping space occupied and do much more to promote an attractive R & D climate.

Boosting R & D for Los Alamos County is an exciting activity and my belief is that many more of us could become involved. Too many talented retiree scientists and engineers are just hoping or waiting for something scientifically interesting to come to them.

There is a bright future out there for Los Alamos including more local shopping opportunities, but the future we want will not just walk in our door. Private sector research might become our dominant activity as it is for example in the Research Triangle Park in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, N.C. community, which has been dramatically transformed by just what I am advocating. Each of us might want to ask whether we are pursuing the most exciting activity open to us, me included.