Lab security training facility seen as shot in the arm for local economy

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Agencies queue up while local businesses hope new training center will bolster their bottom lines

By Garrison Wells

The new training facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory could have a significant economic impact on the area.

The $8.8 million facility, which will be completed by August of 2011, already has its first event set for September of 2011, officials say.

Law enforcement and businesses contacted by the Monitor say they are looking forward to the facility’s completion, both for the impact to economy and for the advanced training.

“Our department would love it,” said Lt. Tim Gonterman of the Albuquerque Police Department. “Having facilities available for training can be nothing but good.”

The New Mexico State Patrol also would love to be able to take part in training at the facility, said Lt. Eric Garcia, public information officer.

“That offers an excellent type of advanced training,” Garcia said. “We always look forward to working with facilities across the state, not just for tactical, but also for field officers.”

Patterned after a highly successful facility at Y12 National Security Complex in Tennessee, the Los Alamos facility will be used to train not only lab security forces, but the military as well as state and federal law enforcement.

Already, the lab unquestionably is a local economic driver. The training facility could pump more money into the economy, experts and officials said, and not just from construction.

“Any multi-million dollar construction project at LANL would certainly have a positive effect on the local-regional economy, and there’s a good likelihood that bringing in people to train in the facility would have some positive economic effect as well,” said Kevin Roark, LANL spokesman.

The facility the Los Alamos structure is being groomed after at Y12 is used primarily for training security forces, said Courtney Henry, spokeswoman for WSI Oak Ridge.

Training law enforcement and military is “not a weekly type thing,” she said.

“The primary mission is to train the security officers protecting the Oak Ridge facilities. Having this state-of-the-art facility took our training to the highest level.”

A key benefit of the Y12 facility is that it allows training 24 hours a day without disrupting business at the lab, Henry said.

“The capability to move those walls to create another scenario means you’re not disrupting operations at other buildings,” she said.

Training for vehicle response can also be handled at the facility.

Force-on-force training gets good reviews.

“It’s the best training you can do,” Gonterman said. “It beats the heck out of square range training or anything else because you have interactive targets and they’re shooting back at you, which gives you obvious stress into your training.”

The Los Alamos Police Department believes the facility will enhance its existing relationship with the lab.

“There’s limitless opportunity there for us,” said Police Chief Wayne Torpy. “They share training expertise with us and we help them, it’s already a good relationship.”

For local businesses, the draw of the facility could be a boon to local businesses.

“It’s a very positive development,” said Kevin Holsapple, executive director of the Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corp. “It’s the kind-of thing that you wonder, could there be more opportunities like that for the lab to take a role, in particular if that role leads to people coming here from other places to take training, things like that.”

For local businesses, it’s a bottom-line measurement.

“We like it  because it means we are going to have more people stay with us,” said Jose Villalobos, front desk manager at Comfort Inn in Los Alamos.

Melissa Paternoster, owner of Blue Window Bistro, agreed business could see more revenue.

“I think it’s obviously going to be great for the local economy,” she said. “Any time you get an influx of new people it does a lot for a small town.”