Coalition selects executive director

-A A +A
By Arin McKenna

The Regional Coalition of LANL Communities board voted unanimously on Thursday to approve a $140,000 contract with JLH Media LLC for executive director services. 

JLH has provided strategic planning and marketing for a number of organizations and businesses, including the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, The Southwestern Association for Indian Arts and the New Mexico Museum Foundation. 

Jennifer Hobson founded JLH Media in 2011. Hobson spent three years as deputy cabinet secretary at the New Mexico Tourism Department. Prior to that Hobson was director of the Santa Fe office of a Los Angeles-based PR firm, whose accounts included both the New Mexico tourism and film departments and the Santa Fe Convention and Visitors Bureau.

JLH’s Account Executive Jenifer Padilla will also be part of the team. Padilla previously owned her own PR firm, handling accounts for Cornerstones Community Partnerships, Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi and Española Valley Humane Society. Padilla also served as director of marketing and public relations at The Lensic Performing Arts Center and as assistant director of marketing and public relations at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.

JLH has contracted independent management consulting professional Darien Cabral to serve as executive director, while the media firm will handle information dissemination. 

Cabral has served as senior strategist/partner with the Idea Group and Cota Holding as well as special project consultant with the New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership. He has also served as director for the Small Business Development Center at Northern New Mexico Community College, Coffee Kids and the Indian Arts and Crafts Association.

Cabral was a principal founder of the New Mexico Community Development Loan Fund, the first community-based lending organization in the State with current lending capacity of over $20 million. He has raised millions of dollars of private equity and debt capital for several enterprises, as well as millions of dollars of grant funding for economic development initiatives. Cabral was also a development consultant in the former Soviet Union with the Soros Foundation. He has a master’s degree in International Management from the Thunderbird School of Global Management and studied business in Japan on a fellowship program.

Even prior to the board’s confirmation, Cabral began “getting my feet wet quickly here and learning a lot.” 

Cabral has already met with the coalition’s vice-chair, Española Mayor Alice Lucero and board member Alfredo Montoya, Rio Arriba County Commissioner, as well as the Regional Development Corporation Executive Director Kathy Keith and the economic development directors for both Santa Fe and Rio Arriba counties.

Cabral also met with former Executive Director DeAnza Sapien to discuss what the coalition has accomplished to date. 

Cabral envisions an expansion of the coalition’s focus. 

“The focus has been on additional funding, both for the laboratory and for the cleanup, and I think less on economic development, workforce and those issues that are coming to the fore now,” Cabral said. 

“We’re certainly going to not neglect the funding for the laboratory, but other areas that are really important are economic development and how the laboratory interfaces with the communities in economic development. 

“It’s always a crucial time for the lab and Northern New Mexico, but now–particularly, with the funding changes, with the privatization of the management of the lab–I think Northern New Mexico is facing some big issues here and they need to be addressed.

“And this organization, I think, probably has access like no other public body because it represents the local governments. So we can really be a vehicle to communicate with the laboratory.”

Cabral sees diversification as a key component for the success of the LANL communities.

“Contactors, organizations, individuals that are working for the laboratory really need to look at leveraging their lab work and diversifying, and there are a lot of things that are going to happen around that,” Cabral said. 

Cabral plans to speak to members of the coalition to get their ideas for moving forward. For example, Santa Fe County stressed the need for broadband in order to attract businesses and consultants who could benefit from the presence of Los Alamos National Laboratory and have the infrastructure to reach national markets. 

After one-on-one meetings with members and lab officials, Cabral would like to schedule a strategic planning session to confirm the direction the organization wants to move in and develop measurable goals and outcomes for the path forward. 

One of the things that have jumped out at Cabral was the lack of communication. 

“It’s kind of amazing how the different agencies: economic development agencies, government agencies and lab people–and even within the lab–they don’t talk to each other. They’re working on the same things or similar things, and they could benefit from each other’s work. It’s like they’re not communicating. 

“So I’m hoping that the coalition can start to serve as a liaison to bring people together, and that everyone benefits.”