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Columns

  • The quest for perfection

    New Mexico businesses that want help becoming more efficient frequently call on the New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership — a nonprofit agency of the U.S. Commerce Department that helps small and mid-sized U.S. businesses create and preserve jobs, become more profitable and save time and money. In New Mexico, where most businesses are small, MEP services are used by doctors’ offices, machine shops, small farms and agricultural operations, and businesses that serve the oil and gas industry.
    MEP uses multiple techniques to help businesses increase profits by standardizing production and administration to provide continuous improvement that eliminates waste and strives for perfection.
    Lean manufacturing theory recognizes that there will always be some degree of product variation but it seeks to minimize aberrations that result in added expenses when products must be discarded or returned to the production line for repair or reassembly. Motorola, in its drive toward perfection in 1986, introduced an idea called Six Sigma based on the letter in the Greek alphabet used to measure mathematical variations from a standard. Motorola aspired to refine its manufacturing process to a sigma rating of six, meaning that 99.99966 percent of its products would have zero defects.

  • More loan availability for non-profits

    Mark Medley was working with a business consultant to recover from identity theft when he heard about Accion New Mexico – Arizona – Colorado.
     What Medley learned while trying to repair his credit prompted him to start a nonprofit — ID Theft Resolutions — to help others protect themselves from identity thieves and to rebound as quickly and completely as possible if their efforts fail.
    Medley got a loan from Accion to help him get the nonprofit going after obtaining his designation as a 501c(3) nonprofit. Accion offers loans as small as $200 and as large as $300,000 to people who might otherwise be turned down by lenders because they are a startup or have credit problems.
    Medley qualified in both cases: His credit score was destroyed by identity theft and his nonprofit was the equivalent of a startup.

    A first for Accion
    The loan to Medley is Accion’s first to a nonprofit, according to Lynn Trojahn, Accion’s vice president of advancement.
    “We decided to include nonprofit lending in our toolbox, as the entrepreneurs who create nonprofits are as visionary, tenacious, committed and often as underfunded as for-profit startups,” she said.

  • Spectacular, ornacular, vernacular

     Why is a mouse when it spins?  Well, why not?
     That’s a “koan,” a nonsensical question given to a Buddhist student to help teach them the art of meditation and contemplation.  For me, it was just a great question to ask during an interview and then watch to see how long it took for the candidate to start breathing again.
      In high school, I always did well in math and I took equal pride in my inability to do well in my language classes (or should I say I dint do good).  I recall reading that the great mathematicians throughout history were usually terrible at language.  And at some point in my not-so-accurate education, I was told that people are either left-brained or right-brained (which by the way isn’t true), and that the left-brain controlled mathematics and language.
     And so the theory was that if you were good at math, you didn’t have any “brain room” for language.   I was subsequently told that I was “left brained,” which made perfect sense to my parents who often remarked that I was not in my right mind.
     But as I’ve gotten older (I’m still waiting for the getting wiser part), I’ve found language to be a truly amazing area of study.  The sheer volume of words out there leaves one nonplussed.

  • Tips for buying pet toys

    Tennis balls, Frisbees, rawhides, and Kongs. Dog toys line the shelves of multiple aisles at pet stores. With all of the choices, which toys should or shouldn’t you buy for man’s best friend?
    Dr. Mark Stickney, Clinical Associate Professor and Director of General Surgery Services at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, said that when first giving your dog toys, buy a variety of toys to see what the animal prefers.
     “They are going to have a toy preference the same way that children have toy preferences,” he said. “Once you determine their favorites, you can adjust your selection and your budget accordingly for the toys that entertain your pet.”
    To help guide your purchases, Stickney said it’s important to make sure the toy is made of nontoxic material and the appropriate size toy for the animal. A five-pound Yorkie, for example, will not be able to use an extra-large Kong toy made for a Rotweiller. Kong toys, he added, are one of his favorite brands because it keeps the pets busy by challenging them to get a treat out of the small hole of the toy.

  • GOP works to attract Hispanic vote

    SANTA FE – OK, so here’s the latest national plan to woo Hispanics into the GOP. Showcasing Latino top officials such as Govs. Susana Martinez and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio didn’t help much in the 2012 elections.
    So the latest plan is to create a super-PAC. Republicans are good at those. The idea isn’t to buy Hispanic votes. Hispanics are too honorable for that. It’s for buying congressional votes. That is usually pretty easy.
    The biggest fear of moderate Republican members of Congress is getting “primaried” by the tea party and other right wing organizations. It happened in 2010 and 2012 and lists of Republicans who might stray from the fold already are being made for the 2014 GOP primary elections.
    The new super-PAC, to be called Republicans for Immigration Reform, is intended to begin repairing the political damage left by years of anti-illegal immigrant rhetoric.
    The organizers are former George W. Bush Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and Washington lawyer Charlie Spies. Ironically, Spies was a co-founder of the pro-Mitt Romney super-PAC Restore our Future, which aired ads during this year’s GOP presidential primaries accusing some of Romney’s rivals of being too liberal on immigration.

  • State keeps struggling with disappointment

    SANTA FE – New Mexico’s once-famed Spaceport America, the only purpose-built spaceport in the world, has lost its luster. No longer does it have two of the planet’s best pitchmen, Sir Richardson Branson and Gov. Bill Richardson, promoting it.
    Richardson is gone and Branson is entertaining offers from other states and nations. The United Arab Emirates has purchased a big chunk of Virgin Galactic and has an agreement to build a spaceport in that country.
    Meanwhile New Mexico has a new governor who began her term saying private money should finance the remainder of the spaceport and now has warmed to the point she is saying she would like to take a space ride and she will sign any future appropriations the Legislature passes.
    But Gov. Susana Martinez is not out promoting our spaceport to aerospace companies around the nation and world. The only proposal she really has put a hip into is an effort to deny driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.
    Martinez has gone all out with that effort, including spending PAC money and getting involved in legislative races. She says it will make us safer but it certainly doesn’t attract jobs or improve our lagging economy.

  • Udall right in middle of filibuster reform

    Reform of the U.S. Senate’s infamous filibuster rule could well be the first order of business when the nation’s 113th Congress convenes on the third day of the new year, 2013.
    At least that is what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has been saying and it should be welcome news to New Mexico’s Democratic Sen. Tom Udall, a leading proponent of filibuster reform.
    Almost two years ago, on Jan. 5, 2011, Udall went to the Senate floor with a series of proposals to alter that chamber’s antiquated rules of procedure, including the filibuster.
    “Here in the Senate,” he said, “open, honest debate has been replaced with secret backroom deals and partisan gridlock…up-or-down votes, sometimes even debate on important issues, have been unreasonably delayed or blocked entirely at the whim of a single senator.”
    Udall’s proposed reforms two years ago were co-sponsored by Udall, Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) but they came to naught after Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) shook hands in a “gentlemen’s agreement” that Senate Republicans would not abuse the filibuster.

  • A small glimmer of hope

    A little bitty glimmer of light exists somewhere in the dark tunnel of the New Mexico economy. The tiny flicker is in construction, of all sectors. This word comes from economist Alison Felix of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
    Felix tracks New Mexico from the KC Fed’s Denver office. She came to Albuquerque the day after the election as part of the occasional KC Fed economic outlook and update road show. The star was Felix’s overall boss, Esther George, KC Fed president and CEO since October 2011.
    Back in the tunnel, our economic situation remains ugly with a 1.3 percent drop in wage jobs from September 2011 to September 2012. That performance ranked 49th nationally with West Virginia taking Mississippi’s role and finishing last. Nationally, wage jobs grew 1.4 percent in the year from the second quarter of 2011 to 2012, Felix said.
    For real personal income growth, we place 48th with a 0.4 percent increase for the period. The anemic increase puts New Mexico’s personal income over the prerecession level of 2008.
    Felix discussed the entire state. See http://www.kc.frb.org/publicat/speeches/2012-Felix-NMEconForum-11-07.pdf.

  • Last-minute ways to trim your taxes

    From now until New Year’s is probably when you have the least amount of time to spare on mundane financial bookkeeping tasks. But if you can dedicate a few minutes to review your benefits and tax paperwork, you might be able to shave hundreds – or even thousands – of dollars off your 2012 taxes.
    Here are a few suggestions:
    If you haven’t already maxed out on contributions, ask your employer if you can make a catch-up contribution to your 401(k), 403(b) or 457 plan before year’s end. Most people can contribute up to $17,000 in 2012 (a $500 increase over 2011), plus an additional $5,500 if they’re over 50.
    If you contribute on a pretax basis, your taxable income is reduced, which in turn lowers your taxes. At a minimum, if your employer offers matching contributions (essentially, free money), be sure to contribute at least enough to take full advantage of the match.

  • Saving grand old ladies

    Every community has old buildings that deserve some TLC, and those of us who value historic preservation hope somebody will come along and restore these grand old ladies.

    It happens, just often enough to give us hope. Jim Harris and his properties around the Lovington town square come to mind. So does the Sierra Grande Lodge in T or C.

    But I wouldn’t have given the Murray Hotel in Silver City much of a chance. Its size alone would have been daunting – a concrete hulk five stories high and a block long with 100 rooms. And if that didn’t discourage a redeveloper, its condition would have.

    Debbie Seibel, former manager of Silver City’s Main Street project, used to give tours of the Murray to outside experts.

    For years, it had harbored pigeons, strays and vagrants. You had to look hard to see its original charm. At one point, the city contemplated tearing it down, but found that the structure was so sturdy, imploding it would damage surrounding buildings.

    A local Realtor said in 2000, “Nobody is going to ride into town on a white horse and save us on this building.”