• Economic development update

    An economic development update completed in November gives more details on the economic health of the county.
    • Housing remains a major obstacle to growth and attracting new residents. Housing, commercial and land prices have dropped but are still not competitive with Santa Fe.
    • Job growth is expected to continue, particularly in environmental work, service jobs and healthcare/elder care jobs. Affordable housing is needed to convert those workers to residents.
    • The update lists some promising economic trends in 2013, including record enrollment and completions at UNM-LA and growing airline passenger counts (600-700/month). LANL assigned a $20 million local environmental contract and announced four new projects starting in 2015-17. Two of those projects are environmental, making the economic impact uncertain.
    • Gross Receipts Tax (GRT) revenue has been more productive in 2014 than in 2013.
    • The new Smith’s Marketplace created approximately 200 new jobs with $6-8 million in new wages. Annual sales are up from $35-45 million to a projected $65-90 million.
    • LANL is projecting $250 million or more in growth for 2015.

  • Hotel developers shying away from Los Alamos

    The development of a full-service hotel with meeting space in the downtown area remains a high priority for economic development in Los Alamos County.
    Although the county is willing to contribute Local Economic Development Act (LEDA) funds to such a project, other factors are causing hotel developers to step back.
    Site options remain the major stumbling block, with only two suitable options in the downtown area.
    “The cost of demolition and reconstruction on the Hilltop House site is prohibitive for such a small site. It’s only 1.8 acres,” said Los Alamos County Economic Vitality Administrator Greg Fisher. “The only other plausible site is the Los Alamos Inn property, and that is quite expensive.”
    “The land economics in downtown Los Alamos doesn’t yet match up with market demand except in a few cases, such as high quality office space.”
    Los Alamos National Bank owns the Hilltop House property. According to LANB President Steve Wells, there has been quite a bit of interest in the property, some from investors who want to continue operating a hotel on the site and from others who would use it for other purposes.

  • Second act of Black Friday in full swing

    NEW YORK (AP) — Stores are welcoming a second wave of shoppers in what has become a two-day kickoff to the holiday shopping season.
    The big question: How much the Thanksgiving shopping will hurt Black Friday, which is relinquishing its status as the frenzied start of the holiday shopping season?
    The crowds were thin early Friday morning in parts of the country, but traffic is expected to pick up throughout the day.
    One positive sign: Toys R Us and Target executives told The Associated Press shoppers seem to be buying more than just the doorbusters and filling their carts with other items not on sale. That seems to show that lower gas prices and an improving job picture are making shoppers more confident about opening their wallets.
    Bridget McNabb of Kansas City, Kansas, stopped at a mostly empty suburban Target around 5:30 a.m. Friday after a solid day of holiday cooking. “I started the dishwasher and came in,” she said.
    Her goal was a coffee pot for her niece. But first, the 55-year-old — who said she was “old enough to know better” than to be out so early — stopped at the electronics department.
    She was only momentarily disappointed after a store worker told her the $119 TV her husband wanted had sold out the night before.

  • Business Spotlight: Dunbar spins magic with stained glass windows

    There has been long admiration of stained glass windows in churches, businesses and even private residences. Spin Dunbar is the owner of Dunbar Stained Glass and has been commissioned stained glass structures for private homes, public buildings and churches since 1972. He has resided in the Santa Fe area since the mid-1980s.
    His work has been on view from coast to coast and many places in northern New Mexico, including work in Fuller Lodge, the Masonic Lodge in Santa Fe, Southern Methodist University in Taos, Holy Cross Church in Santa Cruz, Masonic Lodge of Holy Faith in Galisteo and the home of “Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin in Santa Fe.
    He has also did restoration for several churches, such as Church of the Holy Faith in Santa Fe, Señora Nuestra in Galisteo made some windows for the St. Francis Basilica Cathedral.
    He works with architects, homeowners and church committees to achieve designs that work best with their needs, budgets and environment. He works with clients to create one-of-a-kind designs.
    All of the work is structurally designed to hold the weight of the glass over time without any distortion, which is expected to last many decades.

  • Smith's, union reach accord

    The Kroger Co. Smith’s Division announced on Friday that it had reached an agreement with United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1564, which represents Smith’s workers throughout New Mexico.
    According to UFCW Local 1564 President Greg Frazier, 86 percent of Smith’s associates across the state ratified the four-year contract.
    “The members and I feel that we got something that was fair,” Frazier said.
    “We’d always like something more, of course, but that’s negotiations.”
    According to Frazier, the key issues resolved to the union’s satisfactions were wages, insurance and some improvements regarding vacation and holiday pay for workers hired after 2005.
    Frazier would not go into specifics, but he did answer questions regarding some of the main points of contention during negotiations.
    “Our biggest issue, besides insurance, was making improvements for those employees hired after ’05,” Frazier said.
    The union had previously made concessions regarding pay and benefits for workers hired after 2005 (73 percent of Smith’s workforce) in order to help Smith’s compete with Walmart.

  • Smith’s, union come to terms

    The Kroger Co. Smith’s Division associates working at stores in New Mexico have ratified a new labor agreement with UFCW Local 1564, according to a Smith’s press release.
    “We are pleased to reach an agreement that is good for our associates. This agreement provides wage increases, affordable health care and invests in our associates’ pension fund to support their retirement,” said Jay Cummins, Smith’s president. “I want to thank our associates for supporting the agreements and for the excellent service they provide to our customers every day.”
    The contracts cover 2,200 associates working in 25 stores in New Mexico including the new Smith’s Marketplace in Los Alamos.
    Kroger employs more than 375,000 associates who serve customers in 2,638 supermarkets and multi-department stores in 34 states.

  • Sullivan named LACDC head

    The Board of Directors of the Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation (LACDC) announced Monday the hiring of Patrick Sullivan as the Executive Director of LACDC effective Nov. 10.
    “The board conducted an exhaustive and thorough nationwide search and chose a solid, local candidate to be the Director,” said Board Member Katherine Chartrand who led the search committee, “Patrick stood out in a strong field because he knows the community and LACDC, and knows how the organization can be effective.”
    The search committee ran a unique search effort that allowed for in-depth discussion between the candidates and a wide range of stakeholders.
    “I want to thank Katharine Chartrand for leading the search committee and running such an inclusive, and effective process. Getting input from community members and LACDC staff was extremely valuable,” said Bill Wadt, President of the LACDC Board of Directors.

  • Business Spotlight: Graphic designer inspired by world travel, nature

    When Brenda Fleming was in Paris, she was studying the cuneiform writings from ancient Mesopotamia. Later she visited the Louvre and discovered an exhibit on Mesopotamia.
    While strolling through the city, she came across a Russian Orthodox Church and L’ Orangerie museum, where Monet’s lily pad paintings fill the entire wall, floor to ceiling, of the gallery.
    At the time Fleming was studying foreign languages at New Mexico State University. She didn’t know at the time that she would go on to own a graphic design firm, but she says her world travel was her biggest inspiration for her career.
    “In Paris, everywhere you look there are historical and well designed buildings,” Fleming said. “I loved taking in all these elements that make things stand out and be beautiful.”
    When businesses hire her to make logos, websites and other printed material, she draws upon her travel experiences, seeing designs from around the world, to come up with her best ideas. She said, “I love learning other cultures and seeing what resonates with other people.”
    She is also inspired by nature, especially the colors, sunsets and textures in the New Mexico desert.

  • Cooperative celebration

    The Los Alamos Co-op Market will be celebrating National Co-op Month this weekend by discounting cooperative products, showcasing local co-ops and offering cooperative activities for the community Saturday and Sunday.
    The co-op will have the following activities for all ages:
    Discounts on items by cooperative businesses — building the cooperative business economy
    • Sampling baked goods, holiday dishes and other items from the co-op deli
    • Bouncy House donated by Little Forest Playschool (a co-op) from 11 a.m.- 2 p.m. both days
    • Scavenger hunts for all ages Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
    Chair massages on Saturday by Michelle Harkey (9 a.m.-noon) and Greg Barthell (1-4 p.m.)
    • The Los Alamos Co-op Market can be found at two locations: 95 Entrada Dr. and inside Fusion Multisport on Central across from CB Fox. The celebration will be located at the Entrada Drive location. Check the website losalamos.coop, or call 695-1579 for more information.

  • Hill Diner to be auctioned off

    The Hill Diner, located in the 1300 block of Trinity Drive, will be heading to the auction block at noon Oct. 15 on the steps of the Justice Center in Los Alamos.
    According to a legal advertisement in last week’s ’s Los Alamos Monitor, the sale is the result of a stipulated judgment from the First Judicial District Court in the County of Los Alamos in a case between Los Alamos National Bank and former Hill Diner owner Denise Lane and others.
    In her Sept. 4 ruling, Judge Sarah Singleton ruled a special master to conduct the sale.
    In July of last year, LANB filed suit against Chamisa Place, LLC, Hill Diner Inc., Denise A. Lane, Michael A. Lane, Lori M. Novak, the State of New Mexico Department of Labor, Workforce Solutions, Los Alamos County, the New Mexico Department of Taxation and Revenue and the Internal Revenue Service.
    Also named in the suit were the trusts of Jennifer Shea Samora, Jacob Michael Smith and Caitlin Amelia Smith.
    According to the legal ad, LANB is owed $991,344.83 plus additional costs and attorney fees.
    In addition, there is also lien on the property, located in the 1300 block of Trinity Drive, for $28,193.02, as of Aug. 14.
    Lane closed the Hill Diner in late 2012 and bought and started up the Dixie Girl.