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Business/Economy

  • Hiring strong, unemployment down in February

    WASHINGTON (AP) — A burst of hiring in February underscored the resilience and confidence of U.S. businesses, which are adding workers at the fastest pace in 17 years. Yet the strong job gains did little to raise wages last month.
    The unemployment rate fell to 5.5 percent from 5.7 percent, the government said Friday. But the rate declined mainly because some people out of work stopped looking for jobs and were no longer counted as unemployed.
    The average hourly wage rose just 3 cents to $24.78 an hour. Average hourly pay has now risen just 2 percent over the past 12 months, barely ahead of inflation.
    Still, over that time, 3.3 million more Americans have gotten jobs. More jobs and lower gas prices have led many consumers to step up spending. That’s boosting the economy, offsetting sluggish growth overseas and giving employers the confidence to hire.
    Most economists have forecast that the economy will grow about 3 percent this year, supporting about 250,000 job gains a month. Those increases should raise pay this year, they say.

  • CEO: Oil will remain cheap

    NEW YORK (AP) — Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson expects the price of oil to remain low over the next two years because of ample global supplies and relatively weak economic growth.
    “People kinda need to settle in for a while,” Tillerson said at the company’s annual investor conference in New York.
    In a presentation to investors outlining its business plans through 2017, Exxon assumes a price of $55 a barrel for global crude. That’s $5 below where Brent crude, the most important global benchmark, traded on Wednesday. It’s about half of what Brent averaged between 2011 and the middle of last year.
    The price of oil plunged in the second half of 2014 when it became apparent that production was outpacing global demand. U.S. production was particularly robust, with the increase of 1.5 million barrels per day being the third largest on record, according to a report from BP. Meanwhile, weakening economic conditions in China, Japan and Europe slowed the growth in oil demand.
    BP CEO Bob Dudley made remarks similar to Tillerson’s in a recent call with investors. The CEOs comments reflect an increasingly common industry view that new sources of oil around the globe, relatively slow growth in demand, and large amounts of crude in storage will keep a lid on prices for the foreseeable future.

  • Saga offers pet house calls

    For residents of Los Alamos who are elderly or sick and have pets that are, well, elderly or sick, there is a veterinary choice in town for the furry friends.
    Vikki Saga is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and has noticed a need for veterinary house calls. VikkiVetCare is a mobile business Saga founded and opened in early February.
    Mobile vet care is becoming a growing trend in many communities. Saga works with people and animals in Los Alamos, White Rock and the outlying areas to Santa Fe and Albuquerque.
    Saga has worked as a veterinarian in Santa Fe and in Los Alamos. “Lots of people would come by my house, mostly neighbors, and ask for help or advice,” Saga said, who received a DVM degree in Canada.
    There are advantages to house calls. The service offers convenience and less stress for veterinary care because it takes place in an individual’s home. Most cats and older dogs have trouble with car rides.
    Also, the convenience extends over weekends and holidays, when clinics are closed or the emergency animal hospital is difficult to get to.

  • Casias wants to bring float tanks to local market in the near future

    Life’s stresses can weigh people down, as can chronic pain, fatigue and other ailments.
    Carlos Casias is a Los Alamos entrepreneur who will be opening Float Los Alamos in 2015 and he hopes to help local remedy those problems.
    Casias’ float studio will have at least two float tanks.
    A float tank is a light- and sound-free environment where a person can float atop a solution of about 10 inches of natural Epsom salt.
    While reducing external stimuli, the benefits of a zero-gravity environment can reducing muscle tension, joint pain and discomfort.
    Casias’s business, which is still in the planning stages, will make it possible for people to experience floating in a safe and clean environment.
    Casias had several ideas for businesses that he would like to bring to Los Alamos, but decided to go with the float tank idea because he personally loves the physical and psychological benefits of the overall experience.
    “I started floating in Albuquerque. Once you float, you just want to float all the time,” Casias said.
    He has been working with Ted Lopez at the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos Small Business and Development Center to develop his business plan and market analysis projections needed to raise startup funds and secure a loan.

  • Beer co-op gets its license

    After a six-month process, the Los Alamos Beer Coop (LABC) announced Tuesday that it has received its brewer’s license from the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department, officially making Los Alamos’ first and only brewery and just the fourth cooperative-owned brewery in the United States.
    

The LABC’s brewery will be called “Bathtub Row Brewing” — a reference to the city’s historic Bathtub Row, named during the Manhattan Project era since the buildings on that street were the only ones that contained bathtubs.
    

“The state licensing employees were incredibly helpful with guidance and advice for streamlining the process, so we are very grateful for their assistance in helping us navigate everything,” said LABC board member Amy Engle. “People are beginning to understand the benefits of the cooperative model, and that is very exciting. We are also the first brewery in Los Alamos and the first co-op brewery in New Mexico, so we are very excited about finally putting our small town on the craft beer map.”
    
In the past few years, LABC aggressively recruited individual investors to help fund the venture, which now has 420 members. The LABC hopes to gain another 80 members by its opening, which the group anticipates will be sometime this spring.

  • LA store staying in business

    Despite the woes of RadioShack, local franchisee Bill Cabral said he’s not going anywhere.
    Cabral, who has operated the local RadioShack store at its current location on Central Ave. for more than 10 years, said his store won’t be affected by the current sell-off of stores around the country.
    “We have no plans of shutting down,” Cabral said. “We have a number of companies trying to get us to buy from them. We have other resources to buy merchandise.”
    Last week, RadioShack announced it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and had plans to sell between 1,500 and 2,400 company-owned stores nationwide.
    That sell-off won’t necessarily affect franchisees like Cabral, however.
    As for locally, Cabral said everything should operate at near-normal capacity, although he said it was unknown how long the RadioShack designation would be sustained.
    The only problem he envisioned, he said, might be getting some of the smaller electronic components the store carries, but he’s “working on other methods of getting supplies from other suppliers.”

  • Big Anniversary

    Cheryl Sowder, left, is presented with a certificate for the 35th anniversary of the opening of The Finishing Touch, which is located at Central Park Square.

  • New spot gives kids a play area, parents a break

    There is a new place in Los Alamos where children can play and parents can take a break.
    Los Alamos Atomic Play is a new indoor playground for children 10 and under.
    Along with providing a safe recreational environment that is protected from outdoor elements, the business provides the space for private birthday, seasonal and holiday parties.
    Owner Barbara Kaldi was inspired to start an indoor playground while living in Orlando, Florida. There was a facility that had indoor bounce houses.
    After moving to Los Alamos in August 2013, she observed that there was not a place like the one she saw in Florida.
    “There was nothing like that for kids so I figured I would do it myself,” Kaldi said.
    Kaldi is the mother of two boys, Simon, 4, and 15-month-old Alexander. “They are my little helpers,” she said.
    Her husband Nicholas Marshall, works at the Los Alamos Laboratory.
    Kaldi has yet to schedule a grand opening and the business is still in its infancy, having opened at its current location — 1650 Trinity Dr. — Jan. 16.
    She has had a regular stream of customers so far.
    “It is a good place for kids to interact and something out of the routine,” Kaldi said. “The toys aren’t yours so it is fun and different.”

  • Biodidact has a scientific mission

    Prisca Tiasse won $500 at the Los Alamos Venture Accelerator’s Elevator Pitch Competition earlier this year.
    After winning the “First-Timer” award, she has continued to raise funds for her business.
    Her business, Biodidact, offers hands-on workshops that teach biotechnology concepts.
    The day after Tiasse won the award, she showed how fun it is to get creative with science with her “Extract your Own DNA” workshop at this year’s ScienceFest. Judging by the dozens of kids and parents who swarmed her booth, Tiasse had one of the most popular exhibits at the festival.
    “I was overwhelmed and very surprised at how many people were interested in my DNA extraction booth. It was non-stop,” Tiasse said. Everyone who came to her ScienceFest booth got to make a necklace with tiny vials of their own DNA.
    The activity was so popular that she gave an encore event earlier this month at the Diamond Mix Co-Work Space in the Pueblo Complex. The DNA Extraction workshops were free events to help raise money for Tiasse’s Kickstarter campaign, which will raise money for pipettes, laboratory equipment and arts and crafts equipment for students.

    A community lab for everyone

  • Unquarked wineries a perfect grouping

    Three New Mexico wineries have combined efforts to become “Unquarked.”
    The winery serves vino from Black’s Smuggler winery, Anasazi Fields and Vivác winery.
    All three wineries have the collective attitude of bringing their wineries from smaller New Mexico communities to reach out to a larger audience and expand business.
    In fall 2013, The Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation called out to wineries across the state for interest in becoming part of joint tasting rooms.
    “These wineries are from smaller, remote locations,” said Jim Fish, owner of Anasazi Fields, which operates out of Placitas. “It is an opportunity to bring wine to a larger, untapped market.”
    The owner of Unquarked is Tony Black, CEO and president of Black’s Smuggler Winery in Bosque. He said since the soft opening on Nov. 24, business has been positive and the customer base has been substantial.
    “We already have regular customers,” said Veronica Black-Stepp, manager and Black’s sister. She moved from Albuquerque in November to help with the business venture.
    In addition to a large selection of wines, Unquarked serves food catered from local businesses such as Pajarito Brewpub and Manhattan Project.