Co-op Market: A Symbol For Economic Progress

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By Carol A. Clark

More than 700 households in Los Alamos and White Rock have invested financially in the soon-to-open Los Alamos Cooperative Market – a project that former County Administrator Tony Mortillaro calls “a symbol of economic development made more significant because it’s all funded through local investment.”
As of Wednesday, the co-op has raised $1,018,610 from local member loans and local member investment certificates.
“From my perspective, what has made this a very special project for the community is that it’s all local investment and locally owned,” Mortillaro said during a Wednesday afternoon tour of the new 7,000 square foot natural food store. “It’s nice to have your large corporate investors but at the end of the day it’s your local investors who are loyal and committed to this community.
“A recent example is 3M – executives at their headquarters decided the Los Alamos operation was no longer viable so they pulled out. Rick Reiss and Sam Gardner are local
developers who have taken all the risk in this food co-op project and hundreds of community members have supported the projects through financial investments and volunteer hours. This is really the first true economic development project in Los Alamos for a very long time.”
Mortillaro began working on development of the county’s 18-acre property site at Entrada Park several years ago in his role as assistant county administrator.
“Rick and Sam took six of the acres and did what we all agreed to in the plan,” Mortillaro said.
Reiss said the Holiday Inn Express, also built at Entrada, has generated “a huge GRT (gross receipts tax) for the community and continues to generate GRT and lodgers tax as well.”
The co-op expects to provide 14 full time and 14 part time local jobs, equating to more than $500,000 in wages.
Local builder Stan Primak, known for his “green” initiatives has joined in the co-op market effort as the project comes down the homestretch.
 “Stan is on board to assist with project completion – even he is investing his time,” Reiss said.
The store will include a deli, fresh local and organic produce, meat, fish, bulk, frozen food and a health and wellness department.
The utilities are turned on and the installation of sinks and other equipment is underway, Reiss said. All of the painting of the walls and staining of the floors is complete and consists of low Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which refers to organic chemical compounds that have significant vapor pressures that can affect the environment and human health, he said.
Community work crews are being organized to tackle cabinet installation, interior design and landscaping projects. Counters, shopping carts and other equipment have arrived, as have the chairs and tables for inside and outside dining. The co-op will serve hot soups, sandwiches and other items.
The co-op is scheduled to open for business in late February.
For information, visit www.losalamos.coop. See a slideshow of photos depicting the progress on the building at lamonitor.com.