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At the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Smith’s Marketplace at the Trinity Site, Smith’s Food and Drug Vice President of Corporate Development, Steve Sorensen, reflected on what it took to reach this point.
“I had been trying to figure out how many years Smith’s had been working on this, trying to get this store off the ground, and I quit at about 15 years, but I think it’s probably gone on longer than that. So we appreciate the endurance,” Sorensen said.
Sorensen thanked the Trinity Site Revitalization Project Advisory Committee, quipping that “I felt at times kind of like a dart board with all the darts that were being flung at me” at their meetings.
All the speakers at the ceremony seemed to breathe a collective sigh of relief at this landmark achievement, as did some well-wishers who could present only in spirit. Council Chair Geoff Rodgers delivered remarks by former Senator Pete Domenici, who sponsored the legislation for transferring Department of Energy lands such as the Trinity Site back to local communities. Domenici wrote:
“This is doing it on your own. My 81-year-old brain is not as good as it was when I used to regularly urge the councilors to move ahead and do projects that evidenced either entrepreneurship or matters of the community and not the laboratory.
“How many times did I push you to move ahead with this site and project? I used to tell you that the more you could make Los Alamos function as a community, a city, a county, the better off you would be. I was your Dutch uncle more times than once, and how proud I am that you have defeated this big hurdle with your tenant.”
Rodgers noted that he was on the receiving end of those “Dutch uncle” talks more than once.
“I served on the council a decade ago, and went to many meetings where invariably somebody would pose the question, ‘What is the lab going to do to help?’ This project shows that we can say with confidence that we are ready to help ourselves,” Rodgers said.
“People sometimes question me when I say that Los Alamos is growing. I don’t mean that we’re getting bigger or that we’re gaining population. What I mean is that we’re growing into a community that accepts full responsibility for our own future, and this project shows that.”
Rodger’s also commended Smith’s for its role in making the Trinity Site development a reality.
“Smith’s has shown itself to be an excellent corporate citizen and a steadfast partner. They stayed with this project through two failed attempts by other developers, and then eventually took on the project themselves. We owe them a debt of thanks for believing in the community, for staying with it this long and for investing what will be millions of dollars here.”
The “moms” of Los Alamos were among those recognized by LAPS Superintendent Gene Schmidt.
“The Trinity Place would not have been possible had it not been for the moms and the kids storming a school board meeting about six years ago. Imagine a room full of moms and children. The children are whooping and hollering, the moms are waving signs and making sounds, all of them to convince the board of the importance of investing in the Trinity Place.
“One of the best lines that were uttered that night is, ‘We don’t need to drive to Santa Fe to buy diapers. We ought to be able to buy them here in our own town.’
“At the time, the superintendent described that event as a circus. Who would have thought that circus would bring us to this moment today?”
Schmidt praised the development for bringing shopping, employment and a long-term revenue stream for the school district and the county.
Sorensen and Smith’s President Mark Tuffin both remarked on the landmark nature of the enterprise.“This is going to be a state-of-the-art store for us. It is the first one like this in the entire Smith’s enterprise–not just New Mexico but the seven states that we service,” Tuffin said.
“It represents for us a $28 million dollar investment in Los Alamos, so it’s a significant investment on the part of our company, but one that we feel confident will pay dividends over time.”
“With the design of the store and the layout we’ve had architects, construction people, merchandising people, operations people that have been down here and tried to get to know your community better, and do a store that’s suited and fitted to your community,” Sorensen said. “And I think it’s above and beyond. It will be one of the neatest stores in the Kroger chain and I’m confident that you’ll be happy with it.”
Los Alamos Public Schools Assets Manager and former school board President Joni Ahlers delivered remarks from current board president Jim Hall, who could not be at the event.
“The school board is proud to be a participant in this unique partnership of county, schools and Smith’s. It’s visible proof that when we work together as a community, good things can happen…This significant investment in shopping is about making our quality of life better.”
Scott Randall, executive director of the Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation, looked at what the Trinity Site development portends for the future.
“This is Kroger’s first such store within the state and a major coup for our community. It represents not only a major financial commitment from a leading national retailer, but in doing so, Kroger makes the conscious decision to commit to this untapped retail environment that has long existed within our community,” Randall said.
“I’m quite hopeful, in fact, quite confident that more stores are going to be following in their footsteps very, very soon.”
For more on Randall’s efforts to bring additional business investment to Los Alamos, read Thursday’s Los Alamos Monitor.
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