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2 October 13, 2012
LOCALS 2012: ENTERPRISE
Valencia County News-Bulletin
VACANT BUILDINGS and weeds, signs of blight and abandonment, are common along Belen’s Main Street. Belen’s economic development director says the city’s three freeway exits could lead to better times.
Mike Bush-News-Bulletin photos
Hoping for a bright business future
incorporated area. “I’m optimistic,” said Ralph L. Mims, the village’s economic development manager. For a number of reasons, the effects of the recession have been less severe in Los Lunas than other areas in the county, and the village is still managing to attract new businesses, mostly “smaller, mom and pop” operations, Mims said. One big advantage is Los Lunas’ proximity to Albuquerque. Some businesses don’t want to be in the heart of the metropolitan area, but near it. At the same time, Los Lunas is buffered from urban sprawl by Isleta Pueblo and maintains a friendly, small-town feeling — the best of both worlds. Home prices and taxes in Los Lunas are lower than in Albuquerque, a fact that prospective businesses obviously find attractive. While the same might be true in Belen, Bosque Farms and Peralta, Los Lunas also has another advantage: “a lot of vacant land — with the infrastructure already in place,” Mims said. The village experienced a 47.5 percent population growth from 2000 to 2010, the second-fastest growing community in the state. Branding is important to Los Lunas, Mims said, pointing to a sign painted on a meeting room wall, “Small community, Big possibilities.” That, along with the economic development slogan, “A community that works,” tells the story. “I work for the village of Los Lunas, but I also want to promote Valencia County as a whole,” Mims said. “That’s very important for development.” One thing Los Lunas seems to do well is facilitate opportunities to businesses offered by the state: • High Wage Tax Credit: A company can take a credit equal to 10 percent of the combined value of salaries and benefits for new jobs that pay at least $28,000 annually. The tax credit, which can be taken for four years, cannot exceed $12,000 per year per job. • Manufacturers Investment Tax Credit: A manufacturer can take a 5 percent credit of the value of equipment and other property used. Credit can be taken against taxes owed up to 85 percent, and any remaining balance can be carried forward. The catch? The company has to add at least one new job. • Local Economic Development Act: Open to municipalities and counties, which can use up to 5 percent of general funds on hand, buildings and infrastructure for a business that qualifies as economic development — usually one that brings new money into a community. • Job Training Incentive Program: Companies are reimbursed for a portion of new-job training. Half of a participating company’s revenue must come from out-of-state sales, but exceptions are built in for so-called green industries. Reimbursement can amount to up to 75 percent of a wage for up to six months. • Industrial Revenue Bonds: Municipalities or the county can also issue industrial revenue bonds to finance economic development. Businesses benefitting from the bonds must arrange for a buyer and submit a letter of credit from a bond house or bank. IRBs can be issued for up to 30 years. Los Lunas emphasizes that health care facilities are eligible for the bonds. The village is also preparing a set of local incentives to attract new businesses: • Deferring impact fees for large manufacturing, industrial and health-related business that import wealth to Los Lunas. • Deferring or even eliminating hookup fees for water and sewer lines for the same large enterprises that create a certain number of jobs. • Reducing building fees based on the discretion of the village council. • Paying a portion of landscaping costs, with certain conditions. One negative for development in Los Lunas is that unlike Belen, the village has few vacant buildings that businesses can move right into. “They have to build from the ground up,” Mims said. Another, which the village hopes to rectify, is that it has but one interchange on Interstate 25. Still, Los Lunas is primed for growth, he said. Mims’ rosy outlook is shared by other Valencia County movers and shakers. Andy Gomez, a Los Lunas real estate broker and the immediate past-president of the Valencia County Chamber of Commerce, said he is “absolutely” optimistic regarding the future. “I wouldn’t get up in the morning if I wasn’t going to be optimistic and positive,” Gomez said. He is, however, just as quick to concede that times are tough, but quickly added, “All the more reason for hard work. Whether we’re in a recession or not, when I get up in the morning, it’s the same thing: I work at it.” As far as programs aimed specifically at improving the county’s economic business climate, Gomez pointed to the chamber’s regular monthly membership meetings. Taken together, the meetings are one of the strongest tools available to assist local businesses, he said. They bring people together and allow them to make contacts, to network and to learn about each other’s commercial enterprises. They also give business owners an opportunity to talk about their own companies, what has worked and what hasn’t. “That, hopefully, will assist in the growth and improvement of one another’s businesses,” he said. In addition to one-on-one communication at the meetings, business owners can address the group at large, a captive and receptive audience. The theme of September’s meeting was “Marketing Your Business,” in which several marketing experts were invited to speak. “You can’t be successful without marketing your business,” Gomez said. The Valencia County Chamber of Commerce also provides its members with free email blasts twice monthly “to promote anything that might be going on in their businesses.” Gomez said he can’t predict precisely when New Mexico will have gained back the 53,000 lost jobs or when the hard times will end, but he is confident that will happen. “The present is good,” he said. “The future is bright.” previous administration’s efforts to improve infrastructure. “The city has turned around,” Espinoza said. “We really have everything in order for growth.” Still, she acknowledged, Belen’s business community remains “a little pensive, maybe even a little discouraged at times.” Steven Tomita, Belen’s new economic development director, recently represented the city at a meeting of the Mid-Region Council of Governments. He described the council as “a big tool in working together with other local governments.” Another valuable resource, he said, is the National Association of Industrial and Office Parks, which meets monthly. September was the first time he attended as a representative of Belen; previously, he was there as a consultant. “They’re always looking at what’s going on in areas such as legislation that could impact retail or industrial development,” he said. He also expects to attend gatherings sponsored by the American Planning Association to “see how other communities deal with development issues, how cities manage their growth.” One of the city’s main attributes and something that drew him to Belen, Tomita said, is it’s unique and superior transportation infrastructure. He cited the three freeway interchanges, the rail yard, the Rail Runner station and the Belen Alexander Municipal Airport, to say nothing of the close proximity to Albuquerque’s Sunport. The road to growth and prosperity, however, won’t necessarily be smooth, he said. It’s easier when traveled as a group, a mutual effort that includes the chamber of commerce and the nonprofit Greater Belen Economic Development Corp. Often the city’s role is simply to act as a facilitator. “If someone comes in looking for land or buildings, for example, we guide them to the EDC or chamber,” Tomita said. “We also may be able to provide some economic support if a business entity is planning some kind of expansion. Of course we have to consider what we get back, our return on that investment.” The city owns land that it might offer on favorable terms. There are also buildings available. “We keep inventories so we can let businesses and developers know what’s available,” Tomita said. All of Belen’s elected officials have high hopes for what Tomita can bring to the city. But at the same time, Belen’s Economic Development chief must also wear the hat of director of planning and zoning, usually a full-time position.
TRACTOR SUPPLY CO. and Hacienda, a home improvement center, are major retailers in Bosque Farms.
By Mike Bush
News-Bulletin Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org The boarded-up buildings and fields of weeds lining Belen’s Main Street tell the story better than mere words ever could. For some years now, hard times have been knocking at the door in many parts of Valencia County. The same could be said about much of New Mexico. Last year, the state’s economy grew by a little less than 1 percent, hardly a sign of a robust recovery from what many people call “the Great Recession.” During the economic downturn that began in 2007 and officially ended in 2009, the state lost 53,000 jobs, only 3,000 of which have been recovered. While not the hardest-hit area, Valencia County was nonetheless severely impacted and the local unemployment rate remains stubbornly higher than the state’s as a whole. In July, of New Mexico’s 33 counties, Valencia — the sixth largest with 77,070 residents — had the seventh highest unemployment rate, 8.7 percent, according to the state Department of Workforce Solutions. Luna County, at 16.6 percent, had the highest. The unemployment rate in Bernalillo County was 7.6 percent, a little above the state average of 7.4 percent. For those who have found work, the average hourly wage in Valencia County is $13.98, a rather lowly figure that compares to $19.53 statewide. The average annual pay in the county is $29,068, compared to $40,612 in New Mexico as a whole. The county is part of the Albuquerque Metropolitan Statistical Area. The median household income in Valencia County is $40,552, compared to $47,405 in Bernalillo County, a difference of $6,853. But things may be looking up. Several local business leaders and government officials say that they expect slow, but continued improvement in the county and state economies in the coming months and years, a theme echoed by many economists. In August, Jim Rounds, a keynote speakers at the New Mexico Municipal League’s 55th annual conference in Las Cruces, told the gathering exactly that. The senior economist with Elliot D. Pollack and Co., of Scottsdale, Ariz., made a big impression on Belen City Counselor Wayne Gallegos, who came away convinced that better times are just over the horizon. Economics is an imperfect science, with widespread disagreement among experts as to what the future may bring. Not everyone foresees steady progress; some even predict a virtual economic Armageddon, especially when the economy is viewed from a global perspective. Unfortunately, comprehensive programs that involve local governments and local businesses that seek mutual paths over the rough economic landscape are few and far between. There also seems to be little coordination among various business groups and between some businesses and elected officials. Most joint programs involve the state government on one hand and a business or local government on the other.
In Bosque Farms, Mayor Robert Knowlton said there isn’t much a small, rural municipality can do to attract new business and jobs. “In some ways, our hands are tied,” Knowlton said. In 2005, the village of Bosque Farms formed an Economic Development Committee, which Knowlton chaired, to look for ways to attract new businesses and help existing ones. The panel consisted of local business owners and residents, but the biggest boost has come from the state, the Department of Economic Development’s Certified Community Initiative. As a CCI participant, Bosque Farms would be eligible for new businesses brought into the state by the New Mexico Partnership, about
Ten miles to the south, Rhona Baca Espinoza, executive director of the Greater Belen Chamber of Commerce, seems just as optimistic. Locally, she said, Belen has “taken a positive step forward.” She cited the city council’s willingness to deal with such emotional issues as nuisance abatement and more obvious problems such as vacant buildings on Main Street. She also credited the
One bright spot in an otherwise gloomy picture is the village of Los Lunas, the county seat and largest
half of which are aimed at rural areas. But the village hasn’t been able to partake, primarily because it doesn’t have any large tracts of land available for development, and many CCI opportunities are for large retail stores. “It wasn’t a good fit for Bosque Farms,” said Knowlton, who was elected mayor in March, but who served on the village council for eight years and was also on the planning and zoning commission for four. Unfortunately, he added, some of the large land owners on the outskirts of town don’t seem to have much interest in bringing development into Bosque Farms. “They’ve put up ‘For Sale’ signs; that’s about the extent of it,” he said. CCI did give Bosque Farms a grant of about $4,000 or $5,000 a year to help with economic development. “That helped us pay a consultant to design and build a quality website,” Knowlton said. “You need a good Web presence with good demographics to sell the community. It wasn’t a lot of money, but it was money we didn’t have to pull out of our budget.” The village’s website tells visitors that “Bosque Farms, in the heart of beautiful New Mexico, is the ideal place for businesses and families to call home. (It has a) prosperous commercial district with plenty of opportunities for growth, suburban and agricultural living areas (and a) relaxed rural setting near the vibrant urban life of Albuquerque.” The invitation is accompanied by a calendar-quality photograph of a tree-lined pasture with horses grazing serenely under a vivid rainbow. “It’s all here,” the site continues. “Learn more about our progressive, friendly village and everything it has to offer your business and family … Welcome!” Knowlton said he is encouraged by the arrival last winter of the Tractor Supply Co., which “came to town after checking out our website.” The store was the chain’s first in central New Mexico. “One worry is that you end up playing one business off of another,” Knowlton said. “Some of the same items sold at Tractor Supply are sold by Hacienda, our big home improvement company. But when you look at our gross receipts, they’re up a little, partly because of Tractor Supply coming to town.” The village also used the CCI money to hire a consultant for advice, but he informed village officials that “there wasn’t much we could do, especially with a recession going on,” Knowlton said. But the village is hoping to take advantage of one bit of his advice. “He told us was we needed to get Bosque Farms on the map. Think of Corrales Arts & Crafts or the Bernalillo Wine Festival,” he said. It is unfortunate, Knowlton said, that the state Economic Development Department recently revised the Certified Community Initiative and participants are required to re-apply. “Now, to get one of the grants, you have to hire a full-time economic development person,” he said. “Small towns like Bosque Farms can’t afford that. Some CCI towns have dropped out of the program. We’re trying to lure businesses, but we’re not developers.” Knowlton is also trying to get lawmakers to change a statute that restricts communities from offering
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Valencia County News-Bulletin
from PAGE 2
LOCALS 2012: ENTERPRISE
October 13, 2012 3
Hope: Long reaching effects on federal level will impact the local economy
and real estate firms to design and develop new economies. Many of the economic base jobs would be struck by sequestration, and their related service jobs would follow. For two reasons — sequestering is but one — Lautman sees little hope for the state’s economy for the next 10 years of so. He predicted a one-two punch, so to speak, first an attack by sharks and then another, slower assault by piranhas. The shark attack has already begun, he said. Over the years, New Mexico’s congressional delegation has been “hauling off way more than our share,” Lautman said. “The military-industrial complex here has been built at the expense of other states. And now they’re saying, ‘It’s time to get this stuff back from New Mexico.’” He said this “taking” probably began “the moment Jeff Bingaman announced his retirement.” In this admittedly gloomy scenario, the private corporations that run the national laboratories have already begun taking major federal programs and jobs away from New Mexico, shifting them to their home states and cities. Albuquerque is likely to be especially hard hit, he said, with “sharks biting off big chunks of existing jobs. We don’t have anyone to protect us now. It’s going to be ugly.” It could happen very quickly. Enter the piranhas, a metaphor for sequestration, little nibblers that by law would be spread out over several years until 2021. If left unchanged, agencies such as the Agriculture Department would take relatively small hits — compared with the big bites of the sharks — of 15 percent to 20 percent in across-the-board cuts. Communities, businesses, programs and other recipients of federal grants would also suffer, because those grants represent discretionary spending, a prime target for federal budget cutters, he said. While this might seem
incentives to retail businesses, including those that might come from out side New Mexico. Incentives on services is allowed, but not retail establishments, he said. “When Tractor Supply came to town, they asked if we could offer incentives and were disappointed when they found out we couldn’t,” he said. Meanwhile, retailers such as Trader Joe’s and Sprouts have told Bosque Farms officials the village doesn’t have the population density to support their stores. Knowlton said he hopes Tractor Supply Co. will act as a magnet to attract other stores. “We need a good anchor store, an incentive for other businesses to move here,” he said.
Much like Bosque Farms, neighboring Peralta is limited in the scope and number of steps it can take to bolster economic development. One of the town’s main weaknesses is that any commercial development is limited to a two-mile stretch along N.M. 47, said Peralta Town Clerk Julie Pluemer. Nonetheless, she is buoyed by a wealth of affordable property along the commercial thoroughfare and today’s low real estate prices, two good signs for future growth. And once a major reconstruction and revamping project for N.M. 47 is completed — currently in the design phase — the area will be even more attractive. Pluemer said she is most excited by the new leadership in the county, including Greg Martin, Los Lunas’ new administrator, and Valencia County Manager Bruce Swingle. She expects the new ideas they bring to the table will be good for the county as a whole. Martin is spearheading a drive for monthly meetings of highlevel local officials to communicate and share ideas, something that can only be good for everyone involved, Pluemer says.
Mike Bush-News-Bulletin photo
RETAIL BUSINESS is thriving in much of Los Lunas. Lowe’s, right, and The Home Depot, in the distance, are two examples of relative newcomers to the village.
Locally, it seems, the outlook — while perhaps not rosy — is generally optimistic. But the predictions don’t take into account the long reaching effects of several potentially threatening situations beyond the control of anyone in Valencia County or New Mexico: • How will Europe ultimately deal with Greece and other struggling Eurozone countries? • How will the United States and other major industrial nations deal with spiraling debt, public and private? • What happens if there is a war with Iran? • And perhaps more immediately and most ominously, what will happen on Jan. 1, when massive budget cuts and tax increases — called sequestration — are set to take effect? While many economists, public officials and business leaders agree that the economic picture in New Mexico is bright, just about everyone is holding a collective breath over sequestration, an enormous cloud looming over the entire U.S. economy.
908 S. Main Street Belen, New Mexico
Sequestration was written into the Budget Control Act of 2011. Many observers speak openly of it sending the nation willy-nilly over a “fiscal cliff.” At this point, no one can say with any certainty how the government — Congress and the Obama administration — will deal with sequestration, $1.2 trillion in across-the-board spending cuts and tax increases that will begin automatically with the new year. The cuts — if left alone — would include an 8.4 percent reduction in most affected non-defense discretionary programs in 2013. Additionally, certain Department of Defense programs would face a 7.5 percent cut. And spending on mandatory entitlements (except Medicare) would decrease by 8 percent; Medicare by 2 percent. The total budgetary impact for 2013 would be nearly $500 billion. From 2014 to 2021 the projected cuts are structured differently, but the impact would likely be just as significant. The trickle-down effect, coupled with an already weak national economy, could have catastrophic consequences on local
governments and businesses. Many economists say such cuts could easily plunge the economy into another recession. In August, the Congressional Budget Office warned that if the government does not act to avert sequestration, the nation’s economy would plummet almost immediately into a recession of about 2.9 percent of GDP. That would drive the unemployment rate back above 9 percent. The agency’s latest forecast is considerably more ominous than the one presented in January, which warned of a “mild” recession with the economy shrinking a mere 1.3 percent. “We estimate that New Mexico would lose 20,000 jobs permanently, and that’s a conservative figure,” said Lee A. Reynis of the University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research. Economic developer Mark Lautman, a co-founder of the Community Economics Lab, goes even further. He said job losses in New Mexico could wind up totalling 50,000. Federal jobs in New Mexico fall into the category of “economic base” jobs, those that bring money into the state and
help create additional jobs. New Mexico has a big federal employment base: Department of the Interior, Department of Energy, Department of Defense. These tens of thousands of jobs are provided and paid for by all U.S. taxpayers, so New Mexico is reaping a big benefit. Economists say that each base job provides for an additional one and a half service sector jobs. For every 100,000 people who live in a metropolitan area, which includes Valencia County, nearly 50,000 jobs are needed. Of those, 15,000 are economic base jobs; the remaining 35,000 are found in the service sector. Other examples of economic base jobs are found in the commercial film industry and the Spaceport, in which outsiders come to New Mexico to work, hire others and, of course, spend money, which in turn leads to the creation of additional jobs. “That’s why we offer economic incentives to them, but not others, because there’s a payback,” said Lautman, president of Lautman Economic Architecture, an Albuquerquebased consulting firm that works with states, communities
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4 October 13, 2012
LOCALS 2012: ENTERPRISE
Valencia County News-Bulletin
Building a community one track at a time
By Brent ruffner
News-Bulletin Staff Writer email@example.com
Belen Picture this: a metal steampowered machine rumbling across the Rio Grande Valley for the first time and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway building Harvey Houses across the state to accommodate everyone from passengers to railroaders. In 1880, the railway completed its first line through Valencia County from Albuquerque and it was the start of Belen becoming part of the transcontinental main line. By 1907, the Belen cut-off, which linked Amarillo to Belen, was completed. The move propelled Belen into a major railroad center in the state and gave the town the nickname “The Hub City.” More than 100 years later, the railway is still going strong under the renamed BNSF Railway Company. BNSF averages more than 100 freight trains a day that come through Belen and travel to places such as New York and Chicago. The Belen rail yard is one of four major corridors in the state of New Mexico, employing about 450 people. The locomotives, which could weigh upwards of 250,000 pounds, haul everything from grain and automobiles to chemicals and metals. According to BNSF, each year, the railway hauls enough lumber to build 500,000 homes, enough asphalt to lay a singlelane road four times around the equator and enough coiled steel to lay the unrolled coils endto-end 12 times between New York City and Seattle. The railway, which has a total payroll of $87 million, moves more than three million carloads of freight in the state each year. Last year, BNSF added five miles of double-track rail to allow north and southbound
Brent Ruffner-News-Bulletin photos
AS MANY AS 100 trains each day could pass through the area during peak season. In 1907, the Belen cut-off, was completed. The move propelled Belen into a major railroad center in the state and gave the town the nickname “The Hub City.”
DAVID RENTERIA, left, a retired mechanical general foreman with BNSF, sits with a group of former coworkers. Renteria was responsible for making sure the flow of trains went smoothly. Others pictured are Raymond Sanchez, Dennis Morgan and Michael Jacques.
traffic through Abo Canyon, southeast of Belen. The move helped eliminate a major bottleneck so traffic could continuously flow through the area. The company also announced it would be the first “user” in what is now called the Rancho Cielo Industrial Hub, a 6,000acre site in Belen that is expected to house a facility complete with industrial spurs where it would likely serve specific manufacturers to be able to transport certain products. Construction dates for the BNSF project have not been announced. But Joe Faust, a spokesman for BNSF, said the rail company aims not only to serve big-time companies, but also concentrate efforts on the municipalities employees work and live in. BNSF is integrated with the community on a number of levels, including donating time and money to the city and its residents. “We are very concerned about the community and the citizens in areas where we operate,” Faust said. “We
believe in having employees who are involved in the community where they work and live.” Faust said BNSF aims to hire people who play active roles in their communities and who are “good corporate citizens,” who have their ears toward the pulse of the community. David Renteria is one of those employees. Renteria, a Rio Communities resident, retired in 2011 from BNSF as a mechanical general foreman at the Belen yard and was instrumental in ensuring that trains came and went without a problem. During recent years with the company, Renteria was a local spokesman for BNSF at local functions and has been a past president at the Greater Belen Chamber of Commerce. He worked at the railroad for more than 40 years. Renteria oversaw a yard that continues to be a major inspection and fueling facility on the transcontinental line between Chicago and Los Angeles. Some say Belen is a major hub
because of the good terrain in the area. As one of the top three employers in Belen, BNSF has withstood recessions and depressions and is still a strong industrial player in both Valencia County and the state of New Mexico. “It’s important for the community,” Renteria said. Dennis Morgan, a retiree who worked in the mechanical department at BNSF, echoed the former foreman’s sentiments. He said the tax base is “pretty doggone good” for the area. “I think the railroad built Belen,” Morgan said. “Some politicians don’t want to admit it, but without the railroad, Belen wouldn’t be here.” Local experts say a single train can haul as much as 300 semi-trucks and is essential for those who need to haul agricultural and industrial products. Renteria said in 2008, the Belen yard averaged 88 trains a day and used 645,000 gallons of fuel for trains that had to make pit stops at the BNSF
station. Those stops weren’t always smooth. Renteria said problems could range from locomotive engine failure to derailments to a trailer leaning on one side or another. Crews would have to scurry around and switch out certain cars to get the train traffic moving again. “A lot can go wrong in five to 10 minutes,” Renteria said. “There are a lot of potential problems.” Another railroader compared Renteria to an air traffic controller who must keep services running continuously 24 hours a day, seven days a week. On average, 450 locomotives are serviced and inspected in Belen everyday in a process that takes just a little more than a half an hour on each inspection. BNSF is second only to the U.S. Navy in diesel fuel consumption, according to Renteria. Gas must be piped in from El Paso to supplement Belen’s fuel demands. Renteria said that task wasn’t always easy with only a certain
amount of space to operate. Communication is the most important element with workers on different shifts. During peak season, companies such as UPS expect to have packages delivered on time. “We (had) contracts,” Morgan said. “Every hour that we were late, we had to pay them.” Still, Renteria said the BNSF Railway Company strives to keep its community ties. For instance, the company donated $100,000 that went toward a fire truck for the city of Belen, and in 2010, the company gave $2,500 to help cleanup Anna Becker Park. Statewide, the company donates $50,000 per year for various causes, according to Renteria. Renteria, who is currently on the Greater Belen Chamber of Commerce board of directors, said BNSF will continue to be a partner in the community. “Residents in this community should be proud to be involved with one of the top 10 companies in the country,” says Renteria.
from PAGE 3
Hope: ‘Tough on small communities’
which is why Tea Party conservatives oppose it so adamantly — mostly the hiring of thousands of home health care providers and other service sector workers. That could offset some of the job loss the state is currently experiencing. “The state will make out great for three years,” Lautman concluded, “then the costs shift to the states and the states get crushed.” Most local officials declined to comment on the spectre of sequestration or other global factors threatening the local economy, saying they don’t know enough about the issues. But Belen’s economic development chief, Steven Tomita — while conceding that he can’t predict just how great the potential impacts will ultimately prove to be — said big changes are likely in store. “Every city, every state, is going to have to look at its (historic) ability to rely on federal funds,” he said. “That’s going to be the big question. “I have no clue how big an impact there will be, but it’s going to be big challenge requiring a change in viewpoint, a change in attitude.” Cities such as Belen will be compelled to focus on attracting private investment. “We’re going to have to be more aggressive,” he said. “There will be big changes in how we look at things.” And in Bosque Farms, Knowlton said he hopes that those economists who predict slow and steady growth are correct. While he doesn’t expect any drastic changes, he said another recession “would be very, very tough on small communities.”
pretty daunting, Lautman said, by itself it’s not the end of the world. However, given the current political climate in which smaller government is held up as the ideal, additional sequestrations could follow, he cautioned. “Downsizing is a massive change from the paradigm we’ve all grown up with,” he said, adding that he foresees a “grave, long-term risk for our economic base sector.” Should the government — a lame-duck Congress and potentially a lame-duck president — later this year allow sequestration to proceed, expect dire consequences, said Lautman, who is sometimes introduced at conferences as “the Dr. Kevorkian of economic development.” Lautman said he finds it hard to imagine Congress tackling the problem. Still, he added, he is holding out hope that the nation’s lawmakers will come to their senses and act to stave off disaster. “As soon as sequester was approved, I thought, this is going to kill us,” he said. “I think New Mexico is in for a pretty rough decade ahead. If they don’t fix this, we’re going over a cliff. It could be horrendous, another recession for sure.” The “one bright spot” on the horizon, he continued, is how New Mexico chooses to deal with that provision of the Affordable Care Act concerned with the expansion of Medicaid. The first three years of expansion would be largely paid for by the federal government —
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Valencia County News-Bulletin
LOCALS 2012: ENTERPRISE
October 13, 2012 5
Emergency care lacking, but not caring doctors
By Mike StearnS
News-Bulletin Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
When Dr. Karen Phillips walked into the exam room nearly 10 years ago, she was flabbergasted by what she saw. Her patient had a growth on her foot that was the size of an orange and apparently malignant. Phillips explained that patient had not been to the doctor sooner because she did not have insurance and was afraid of not being able to pay. From Bosque Farms to Belen, health care providers are trying to meet the needs of residents who are disadvantaged by several circumstances. Almost two issues were universally heard from doctors and administrators in the county. The first was the absolute need for a hospital in the county. The second, that patients delay seeking medical attention because they feel that they can’t afford it. “There is no doubt that we need emergency care in Valencia County and it is kind of a disgrace that we don’t have it,” said Phillips, a doctor at First Choice Community Health in Los Lunas. Phillips’ patient was lucky. She was able to get the growth removed, and a series of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, aftercare and rehabilitation were all part of her recovery. Phillips estimates that it was at a cost of $300,000 to $400,000. Had the growth been caught on the onset, it would have just been about $300 to fix the issue. “We, as a society, pay for that,” said Phillips, who has practiced medicine in Valencia County for many years. “It is a train-wreck waiting to happen,” she said. “The people just really need the care. The ability to pay for it has really been an issue.” Care ranges from individual doctors, small clinics and two urgent care units to take care of the medical needs of county residents. But the goal of nearly all medical professionals is the same — to provide the best care they can and stand in the gap to help in the face of a lack of emergency care facilities. Tiffanie Mauricio, office manager of Los Lunas Quickcare, explained that this clinic specializes in walk-in care. Most of the doctors in private practice have a full patient load. Quickcare takes walk-ins and has hours extended to 7 p.m. each week night and the office is open on Saturdays and Sundays. “We are a non-emergency walk-in clinic,” said Mauricio. “There is really no where else to go after 5 p.m. The owner, Linda Chaves, decided that it would be beneficial to the residents of the county to be open extended hours.” Like Dr. Phillips, Mauricio noted that they see emergency room-type cases from time to time. “We come across situations all the time where patients come in and need a deeper level of care,” Mauricio said. “There are numerous times when a patient should go to the emergency room. We are in desperate need of a hospital.” The clinic sees varying types of medical situations, but is always ready to see patients. “Sometimes at the doctor’s office, you can’t always just walk-in. If you call and can’t get in for two weeks, then here you can walk in the same day,” said Mauricio. “ I think there are a lot of pluses for a place like ours to be here.” Dr. Roland Sanchez has been at Family Medical Practice in Belen for 35 years. The office has a large number of patients that are regularly seen by the staff. They also take walk-in patients and have lab and x-ray services on the premises. His son, Dr. Aldofo Sanchez, has joined the staff in the last year. Sanchez noted that one of the joys of working in a small com-
Mike Stearns-News-Bulletin photos
FIRST CHOICE physician Karen Phillips completes and examination of Elizabeth Flores, a medical assistant at the Los Lunas walk-in care clinic.
DR. ADOLFO SANCHEZ gives Casey Stambaugh a clean bill of health at the Family Medical Practice in Belen. Sanchez joined the practice with his father, Dr. Roland Sanchez, more than a year ago and likes practicing medicine in a family setting.
munity is the tight-knit relationship he and the staff have with the patients. “My home phone number is in the white pages. We have seen people in our homes,” Sanchez said. “Most come within the daytime. But our answering service is 24 hours a day. We do many minor emergencies right here.” Sanchez explained that in his 35 years of practice, he has given stitches, performed minor surgery and worked on several cases that might have been emergency care. He also said that being a single proprietor lets him makes decisions that other clinics might not be able to make. “We are more flexible as a sole-proprietor to see the poor, than other clinics,” said Sanchez. “Sometimes the restrictions are such that it is a box that people get put into. You can make a quicker decision on treatment, even as charity, when it is family-owned.” Of the financial issues for patients, Sanchez felt the ratio of people who will take care of their health with regular visits is about the same anywhere. “That is a mix of insurance and personality. I am sure that the mixture is the same whether you go to the Albuquerque Heights, Los Angeles or New York City,” the veteran physician said. “Some people will want to use the system only when an acute emergency hits. Then there will be some who will be very meticulous about their health care, whether they have insurance or not.” Sanchez said that he enjoys being intertwined in the community. “I enjoy doing a rural practice,” he said. “I grew up with them and they feel much more empowered to talk about their inner fears. It opens up a dialog.” Aldofo agreed with his father. He said he chose a profession that’s “very rewarding” and enjoys “the connection with people.” “We shop with them, we play sports with them, we see them at the grocery store and we see them at church,” said the younger Sanchez. The only urgent care-designated clinics in the county are the Presbyterian clinics in Los Lunas and Belen. The Belen clinic is the larger of the two facilities. “We are trying to fulfill that need of stabilizing patients and making sure that have some sort of emergency services,” said Manuel Pino, the director of practice operations for Presbyterian. He explained that urgent care is a level below emergency care and sometimes acts as a step between for patients. “Pretty much anything can walk through the door,” he said of cases seen at the urgent care clinic. “We can see the whole spectrum and we then stabilize, if we can’t treat it here. “As a resident myself, it is always nice to know that you have a place to go for emer-
“There is no doubt that we need emergency care in Valencia County and it is kind of a disgrace that we don’t have it.”
KAREN PHILLIPS, M.D. First Choice Community Health
gency needs,” he said. Pino added that over the last 18 months, the clinic has brought on five new health care professionals, three in Belen and two in Los Lunas. “That tells me that there is a demand for them. We are trying to make sure that we can be the supply for that demand,” he said of his clinic and other facilities that are growing. The new First Choice Community Health Clinic in Los Lunas has doubled the ability to see patients. They operate on a sliding-scale for patients who are not insured.
Phillips, who has moved from First Choice in Belen to Los Lunas, explained the philosophy behind an expanded health care clinic. “The whole model of a patient-centered medical home is what we are trying to do,” she said. “Hopefully, it provides a team, a physician-led team, where you have levels of care. We are kind of trying to develop one-stop shopping for the patient, so they can have access to numerous services in a way that is patient-friendly.” She also noted that the county is understaffed with doctors and needs emergency care. “Heavens, no,” she responded to whether the number of doctors was adequate. “Valencia County is very much underserved (with doctors). This end of the county is better off than
the Belen end.” The new facility will help with dental care and better equipment in addition to the expanded space. “We are trying to consider where we are going with patient-centered medical care. Hopefully with some sort of universal coverage,” she added. “People need to be able to get primary care at a time that is good for them, not wait until they are really, really sick.” Whether working in a clinic or private practice, all of the medical providers agreed that it is crucial to have regular visits to a doctor for preventative care and that cost should not deter someone from seeking medical attention. Wellness visits are better than acute situation visits, was the general consensus.
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6 October 13, 2012
LOCALS 2012: ENTERPRISE
Valencia County News-Bulletin
Deborah Fox-News-Bulletin photos
MUCH LIKE OTHER family-owned businesses, Mike and Mary Merrell, founders of Ambercare, invest in the community simply because they love their community. Among the many local projects they have contributed to, Ambercare will be 90 percent employee owned within the next decade. They support charities such as Alzheimer’s Association of New Mexico and Relay for Life,
The business of giving back
JOE AND THERESA TRUJILLO, owners of Fat Sat’s Bar & Grill in Belen, enjoy the patio with their grandchildren, 3-year-old Joaquin and 3-month-old Andres Trujillo. The Trujillos see giving back to the community, whether through Relay for Life, college scholarships or Future Farmers of America, as an opportunity to meet new people within the community.
By DeBorah Fox
News-Bulletin Staff Writer email@example.com
In business, the bottom line is profit. For most private industries, it’s the most important priority. It’s an important factor for staying in business, which makes it all the more amazing that so many small, familyowned businesses in Valencia County generously support the community through financial donations, material goods and their own personal time. One business, Ambercare, a home health care and hospice company headquartered in Belen, even aims to be 90 percent employee owned in the next decade. Every employee is a shareholder as soon as they start working for the company. Mike and Mary Merrell, founders of Ambercare, also support many community events, including the Alzheimer’s Association of New Mexico and Relay for Life, where they are a major sponsor, as well as have their own team. This year, they donated the handbags for the silent purse auction. Family owned businesses, such as Fat Sat’s Bar and Grill in Belen and RAKS Building Supplies in Los Lunas, also support Relay for Life and have teams. “It’s awesome to see those small businesses step up and support community events like Relay for Life,” said Karin Trujillo, co-chairperson for the Los Lunas Relay for Life event. Regardless of the competitive commercial climate, these businesses find ways to extract money or materials out of their own businesses when the community asks for help. “When we do something for the community, we get new faces in here that have never been here before,” said Theresa Trujillo, co-owner of Fat Sat’s Bar and Grill. “We like to let people know Fat Sat’s isn’t a bar, per se, but a family restaurant,” said her husband, Joe Trujillo. The family businesses in the county see giving back to the community as an investment for their own children and grandchildren, as well as the community at large. “We feel like anything that we spend in our community, financially or time-wise, or pay somebody to show up at something, that’s all such an investment, because we love our community,” said Mary Merrell, CEO of Ambercare. “I think that the people here have a real, genuine sense of community.” What motivates them is simple. “It’s a good way to grow community,” said Kenneth Trujillo, co-owner of RAKS Building Supplies in Los Lunas. His business partner, Richard Tabet, said they had a lot of
KENNETH TRUJILLO, left, and Richard Tabet, right, own RAKS Building Supplies in Los Lunas with their wives, Ana Trujillo and Sue Tabet. The community has shown a lot of loyalty during their 26 years in business, and they have always believed in giving support in return.
support from the community when they first started the business. “So, when we started making money, we were able to help the community in return,” Tabet said. RAKS has helped local 4-H clubs, the Valencia County Fair, the Valencia County Community Expo, the Boys and Girls Ranch and El Ranchito de los Niños. They particularly like to help Valencia County youth, Tabet said. But it’s not all pure altruism. Local philanthropy is also good advertisement, they all said. When RAKS has donated supplies or sponsored events, it has put the RAKS name in people’s minds, Tabet said. They price their merchandise to be competitive, and just hope people will at least come to them for an estimate on the supplies they need, he said. “In the 26 years we’ve been in business, we’ve gotten a lot of loyal customers,” he said. RAKS is a big supporter of the schools, donating when they can to various programs and events, such as Renaissance and Partners in Education, concert bands as well as community traditions, such as the annual matanza. “Without RAKS’ support, I don’t think the matanza would be the scale that it is today,” said Yvonne Sanchez, president of the Hispano Chamber of Commerce. “RAKS got involved the second year, they actually had a team, and then the third year is when they started off as title sponsor.” Whatever was needed, supplies to fence different areas or build a stage, RAKS helped, she said. “They really stepped in
not only financially, but with employees going out there and helping, too,” Sanchez said. RAKS and Fat Sat’s also support the YAFL and other athletic programs. For the Fat Sat’s owners, giving back to the community is a win-win situation. “We love for people to come in with their kids, relax and not be stressed,” Theresa said. “This is a family-oriented restaurant.” Feeding the Belen High School football team before the first game of the season has become a tradition since they opened four years ago. “We had 80 boys here a couple of weeks,” Theresa said. They love meeting the new people that each event brings to the restaurant, she said. Fat Sat’s has also supported the annual matanza, the Belen Chamber of Commerce golf tournament and cancer research. This year they donated paintings and held a silent auction to raise money for the Valencia County American Cancer Society. “We had a great turn-out,” Theresa said. “People love doing stuff like that. They just love to come over here and support the community.” The Trujillos have helped raise money for many school programs, cheerleaders and special education. They used to sell turkey legs every Friday night at the Belen High School home games, then gave all the profits to the athletic fund. They have also let others use their gas station for car washes to raise money. The Ambercare Foundation helps people in the community with temporary medical service
care and some financial aid. The company makes a special effort to honor Valencia County armed services veterans, with ceremonies and special speakers, as well as a pin of gratitude for their uniform. They hold breast cancer awareness campaigns, job fairs and health fairs, such as “Beauty and the Breast” through the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Even the employees come together to pool resources for families at Thanksgiving and Christmas, or assist a community member they’ve heard is
in need. For the past six years, the Merrells also endow the University of New MexicoValencia Campus with scholarships for people who want to go into health care, and they pay the educational costs for Ambercare LPNs who wish to become registered nurses. “This year, we gave 16 $1,000 scholarships,” said Mike Merrell, Ambercare’s director of business development. “They can go to a two-year school, a four-year school or a trade school. We just want them to better themselves so they can
get a job.” Preference is given to returning students since it is harder for them to find funding. “We actually had a recipient of the Ambercare Scholarship who was in the first graduating RN class at UNM-VC, and now she works for us,” said Mary. “So, it’s kind of nice. It went full circle. We like to grow our own nurses here in Valencia County and not make them have to drive.” The Ambercare Foundation was set up to raise money for people who fall into the gap between the well off and those who receive a lot of public assistance. It helps home-bound people needing some temporary medical assistance who would otherwise have to enter a rehabilitation facility or move in with relatives. It allows them to stay at home. The foundation has paid for rent, house payments, utility bills, special dietary foods, even wheelchair ramps. “We’ve assisted with the Valencia County Senior Coalition and with the United Methodist men at the First United Methodist Church here in Belen, to assist them build some ramps with the funding for the lumber,” Mary said. The Merrells had funded these types of services themselves for several years, but it got to be too much, so they thought it was important to start a foundation so everyone in the community could benefit and anyone in the community could contribute. “Because, we’re really a very home-town kind of foundation,” Mary said.
Valencia County News-Bulletin
LOCALS 2012: ENTERPRISE
October 13, 2012 7
LIVE WORK LOS LUNAS is a support system for home-based businesses that provides success through a number of tools, including partnering up with a business coach, attending informational meetings, networking with other small business owners and advertising on a city-sponsored website.
Living and working in Los Lunas
By ABigAil R. ORtiz
News-Bulletin Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Los Lunas One Los Lunas program aims to hold small business owners’ hands through the growing pains they face in the beginning years as a homebased business. Live Work Los Lunas, sponsored by the village of Los Lunas, helps business owners get to a point where their business is successful. “Our job is to make you successful once you’re in the program,” said Ralph L. Mims, the village’s economic development manager. The program is a support system that helps home-based businesses become successful by receiving advice from a business coach, attending informational meetings, networking with other small business owners and advertising on a city-sponsored website. With the economic downturn, individuals are searching for ways to make money on their own from home, since technological advances have made it easy to do so. “There are a lot of people that are looking to start a business out of their home,” said Christina Ainsworth, the village’s director of community development. Those without employment are needing to reinvent themselves and choose to do so by establishing a home-based business, Mims said. “A lot of people that go into a home-based business, they are either laid off, had a career change or they just like to work from their home instead of going into a traditional job,” he said.
to attend a public hearing to have an office in their home, but now residents can receive their business license without doing so, Ainsworth said.
Throughout its two years in existence, the free program has assisted about 10 Valencia County home-based businesses and about two residents who were tinkering with the idea of starting up a business. Although its received interest from entrepreneurs, the program has struggled to maintain committed, motivated residents to start a home-based business. “We’ve got a great program here that’s dying to be tried,” Carpenter said. Business owners must be committed, serious and devoted to focusing on their business to succeed, Mims said. “Any time you start any endeavor, you’re going to have stress — its frightening, you’re going to take a risk and you have to get beyond that. A lot of people can’t get beyond that,” Mims said. Shirley F. Bailey, owner of Procurement Strategies, said the information she’s learned from attending LWLL meetings, open to the public, has been immensely useful in her own business. For more information about Live Work Los Lunas, visit the program’s website at www. liveworkloslunasnm.org, or contact Ralph L. Mims at 8395654.
Abigail R. Ortiz-News-Bulletin photos
RALPH L. MIMS, village of Los Lunas economic development manager, left, and Christina Ainsworth, the village’s community development director, right, work collaboratively in assisting small business owners in overcoming growing pains they face their first year as home-based businesses. The village of Los Lunas sponsors the Live Work Los Lunas program.
es, setting up a website, financial literacy, marketing and avoiding first-year pitfalls. Participants can advertise their business on the program’s website, which helps get the word out to the community about home-based businesses and their services. The program also connects businesses to existing resources available in Valencia County, such as the Small Business Development Center at the University of New Mexico-Valencia Campus.
Offering a lending hand
Live Work Los Lunas aids business owners through multiple stages of growth, including those who are starting up and those with existing businesses, Ainsworth said. It even offers volunteer opportunities, for those who have a thriving business, to mentor a small business owner. “We’re at least filling some of the gaps for small business owners operating out of their home,” Ainsworth said. “They don’t have anyone to go to and they’re kind of out there by themselves and often they really don’t know where to go or what to do to get assistance.” The program allows business owners to network with other business owners in Valencia County at monthly meetings, where attendees listen to speakers who offer advice affecting home-based businesses. In meetings, speakers offer advice, such as funding sourc-
For the first time business owner, LWLL provides a business development program consisting of a business coach and small business booklet on top of the other services provided. The business coach, Ken Carpenter, aids existing and beginning business owners avoid some of the mine fields they can find themselves in financially during the first couple of years. The Los Lunas business owner, who has also taught financial courses, created the 40-page document called “Owners Manual for Small Businesses” given to those who are starting up. In the book, business owners work through 10 activities, alongside Carpenter, to get started on the right foot. “Along the way, they are learning everything from, ‘Am I really well suited to run
and own a company?’ ‘Do I have a clear vision of what my company and business would do?’ and ‘Is there a market for that product or service?’ all the way up to how to write a business plan,” Carpenter said. The first-year business owners guide is set up to help businesses get up and running for long-term success. The statistics for small businesses' long-term success are alarming, Carpenter said. “Generally, 90 percent of them will fail within five years,” he said. This failure can be due to business owners going into business for the wrong reasons, not being well prepared for the challenges, an underdeveloped business idea or plan, success outpacing their capacity or that operating a business was harder than expected. “Our idea is let’s work with these people and get knee cap to knee cap with you, walking you through the process,” Carpenter said. To participate in the business development program, applicants must be serious about starting a business, have a viable idea for a business and time to develop the business, Ainsworth said.
ment. “What they found was that the fastest growing sector of the economy is the homebased worker at this point,” Ainsworth said. The village of Los Lunas partnered with CEL to offer this program to Valencia County residents.
“We’re the only ones (in the state), apparently, that were willing to do it,” Ainsworth said. To make this program a good option for residents, the village amended its ordinances to make it easier for individuals to work from home. Before, residents were made
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8 October 13, 2012
LOCALS 2012: ENTERPRISE
Valencia County News-Bulletin
Jason W. Brooks-News-Bulletin photo
CHERI RECKERS of Jarales sets up a display at the Belen Art League Gallery on Becker Avenue. For an artist to begin selling their work, local galleries are still crucial, she says.
Selling art involves getting your name known
By Jason W. Brooks
News-Bulletin Staff Writer jbrooks @news-bulletin.com Since Susan Brooke spends many of her waking hours working on her art, she’s not what one would call a hobbyist. “Art is my obsession — what I dearly love,” said Brooke. “I’d rather be surrounded by beautiful things than have a brand new car.” While the love of art is what keeps many artists hard at work in the studio, there are many aspects to getting art sold, and a lot of work on that side as well. For artists who are investing enough time and money to produce sellable work, especially full-time artists, an entire realm of tasks must be completed, some on a regular basis, in order to get products to consumers. “The main three questions I ask are: ‘Is it good,’ ‘Where is it going to go (mantle, hallway, lobby, etc.),’ and, ‘Will it sell?’” said Brooke. The Rio Communities resident is one of several Valencia County artists who derive much or most of their income by selling their own art. The business of art has become a complex one in the Internet age, with tons of new co-ops and one-man operations now on the playing field. “The supply far exceeds the demand, and mass reproductions can be made cheaply,” said Jim Anderson, an El Cerro painter. “There are hundreds of thousands of oil paintings available on eBay, and many are made in China.” A Google search for the phrase “How to sell art on eBay” garners 91,000,000 results. But despite the explosion in the number of ways customers can find the art they like, painting local subjects and getting known in local galleries are still valuable ingredients in getting work sold. Local arts and crafts shows are venues where beginning artists can display and/or sell small samples, and galleries seem to be excellent contacts. Art shows allow many artists to combine resources and be seen by collectors and the general public under one roof. There are two kinds of art shows: general ones, where any artist who completes the entry process is admitted; and juried shows, where only selected, judged, quality work is accepted. Judy Chicago, the internationally known feminist artist, writer and Belen resident, said not much has changed in terms of the importance of local galleries — which may be a wake-up call to some young artists. “Having a website allows an artist to promote their work more widely,” said Chicago. “Which is a good thing, as long as they don’t fantasize that they will make lots of money via Internet sales. Most art still gets sold through galleries.” Fiber artist Cheri Reckers, of Jarales, creates many wearable and fiber-art items, and recently came across an opportunity to show her work in Japan. While she insists quality photographs and Internet social networking are important components of becoming known, those are merely tools to arrange for in-person meetings and events. “I’m very tactile — I’d rather be in the studio than at a computer,” said Reckers. “The Internet makes it easier to do things, like research shows and figure out which ones to apply for. But you need to know your market, too. Competitions and awards can really validate the work.” Reckers said artists, especially young ones and beginners, can’t take negative feedback personally. “You have to have a thick skin,” she said. “Don’t expect everyone to like your work.” Reckers recommends artists enlist the help of places such as the Small Business Development Center at the University of New Mexico-Valencia Campus in composing a business plan. Anderson said customers of handmade art will buy sightunseen, having never laid eyes on the artwork. He purchased an expensive laser printer and does his own framing to reduce the outsourcing costs on his paintings, but he still values the importance of networking across the Southwest. “Selling art in New Mexico is tough,” he said. “That’s why I try to paint things that are local, like dancers, rodeo scenes, or cottonwoods or the Sandias.” Brooke said it’s important for an artist to establish themselves with a particular reputation, both for quality work and for unique patterns, style and type of art. “You can’t go from abstract to impressionist and keep jumping around,” said Brooke. “People want to know your work. Your name is associated with a particular style.” Pricing is another component of getting art sold, as galleries and Internet sales both will take a cut. Chicago points out that
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Valencia County News-Bulletin
LOCALS 2012: ENTERPRISE
October 13, 2012 9
Jason W. Brooks-News-Bulletin photos
JIM ANDERSON of El Cerro analyzes a painting that is in progress. Anderson said he “cuts out the middle man” and reduces his costs with a giant laser printer and by doing his own framing.
SUSAN BROOKE of Rio Communities works on a painting at her home studio. Brooke said supplies and other costs might mean an artist will have to “eat a lot of canned spinach” and live within their means in order to make art full-time.
CHERI RECKERS, of Jarales, makes a lot of wearable art, and paints as well. She said high-quality digital images of an artist’s work are a critical element of promotion.
from PAGE 8
Art: Local artists say they have to be their own publicists, accountant and more
Reckers. “But one of my best bets has been local galleries. I still believe in that.” The investment for full-time artists is significant, both financially and in time commitment. “You might have to have part-time jobs, and eat a lot of canned spinach,” said Brooke, whose studio is filled with Southwestern motif items. “I wish more artists were dedicated to their craft. It’s a tough economy, but as long as a few things can still sell, I’m going to stay with it.” Brooke says local artists have to be their own publicists, contacting newspapers and other publications and getting their work on display in heavily traveled places, such as restaurants and financial institutions. Artists also have to wear a number of other hats. “There’s a business licenses, and you have to keep impeccable records and have a reportable income,” said Brooke. “You’re a creator, a shipper, and, in some ways, an accountant and a lawyer, too.” Brooke said it’s unethical to undercut a gallery, or sell work privately for significantly less than the sale price at a gallery, knowing the gallery will take about half of the profit. It’s important to collect the names and addresses of regular art collectors, she said, and to have quality business cards. Many artists, including Reckers, enjoy traveling, so it’s common for artists to head to distant parts of the country, or around the world, to promote their work. “If you don’t act on an opportunity, you know what happens — nothing,” said Reckers. “If you follow through on an opportunity, anything is possible.”
local galleries are still trying to turn a profit as well. “Many young artists don’t realize that galleries take 50 to 60 percent of the sale price in exchange for offering artists’ work to their client base,” she said. Reckers values the local gallery route. “There are a lot more ways to market art than there used to be,” said
Jason W. Brooks-News-Bulletin photo
JIM ANDERSON of El Cerro works on a painting. The back house on his property is a well-lit classroom that he uses as an art studio.
10 October 13, 2012
LOCALS 2012: ENTERPRISE
Valencia County News-Bulletin
CHARLES AND JOANNA MONTOYA are the proud owners of AC Disposal. They are standing next to one of the roll off containers Charles made himself when the company began expanding. The company was named the Small Business Development Center Star Client for Valencia County in 2011.
Julia M. Dendinger-News-Bulletin photos
EVEN THE MINOR upset over an ant bite can’t keep Nathan Montoya, 3, from wanting to go to work with his dad, Charles Montoya, owner and operator of AC Disposal.
Small businesses, great rewards
By Julia M. DenDinger
News-Bulletin Staff Writer email@example.com
New Mexico Water Service Company...
Providing high-quality, professional water and wastewater services to customers in Valencia County since 2002.
What does it take to be successful in business? It takes a willingness to take a chance, serve with a smile, be versatile and never say die. All across Valencia County are businesses that range from small family-owned enterprises to international manufacturers that have one thing in common — they are here and have no plans to leave.
Picking up on business
AC Disposal Services was started in Belen in 1992 by Asiano Montoya. His son, Charles, and his wife, JoAnna, now run the company Charles says his dad started by accident. His uncle was doing construction clean up, and when the Albuquerque lumber company Asiano was working for closed down, his brother asked him to come work with him. Before they could start working together, Charles said his uncle was injured. “The company called and asked my dad if he could come do it, since my uncle was hurt,” Charles said. Asiano started with a truck with a high sided bed. Tired of having to throw the debris out by hand, he eventually converted into a “dump” bed. That “do-it-yourself” willingness was something Charles picked up and ran with when he and JoAnna officially took over AC Disposal in 2006. Charles took over the business with the one modified truck and 15 roll-off containers. With construction booming, he and JoAnna knew they were going to have to expand to keep up with demand. So they decided to put $10,000 on a credit card and buy enough metal to make more containers. As a certified welder, Charles was able to replicate the units so closely to the professionally made ones that it was hard to tell the different, JoAnna said. “That was kind of scarey — the debt,” Charles said. The young couple had a plan, but it was a risky one. When JoAnna finished nursing school, Charles was going to quit his job in construction and go full throttle on the disposal business. The day she graduated was indeed the day he quit.
The construction business continued to bring in plenty of business, but they knew the company needed to diversify. So, two years ago, they decided to add residential trash pick up. “It was something we really had to think about. The carts are $65 each and you can be sitting on $80,000 to $90,000 in carts pretty quick,” Charles said. “They knew us in construction, but residential ... nobody knew us.” Knowing they had to get the name of AC Disposal out there among residents, Charles and JoAnna engaged in a little guerrilla marketing. They had some cheap door hangers printed up and began walking neighborhoods. “Then when we got some customers, we asked them if they would go door-to-door with the hangers,” Charles said. “We would give them $100 or free service.” It worked. The company now serves 300 households in the county, thanks to the willingness of loyal customers to spread the word. “One guy did enough of the hangers to get a year free,” Charles said with a laugh. The Montoyas say they listen to customers and try to provide the services they want, such as large item pick ups and recycling. The pick up service has been more successful than the recycling, Charles says frankly. “We tried recycling for a year. You have to do it for at least that long to know if it’s really going to work or not,” he said. “We didn’t have that great of a response.” Out of their 300 customers, Charles estimated less than a dozen participated regularly. And there was the issue of whether customers know what materials can be recycled and which have to go in the trash anyway. “We did cardboard and people think cardboard is cardboard. But things like cereal boxes, with the waxy coating, can’t be recycled,” he said. “For us, it just didn’t work.” Last year, the company upgraded to 5,000 professionally printed mass mailers to try to grow their business. Charles says they are on the verge of another big expansion, but are waiting to see which way the wind blows on the county’s attempt to contract with one solid waste hauler for the entire county. “We know, if that happens, there will be a month or two where we will take a hit,” he said. “But after that, we have a plan to come back up and go forward.” n See Businesses, Page 11
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Valencia County News-Bulletin
LOCALS 2012: ENTERPRISE
October 13, 2012 11
Julia M. Dendinger-News-Bulletin photos MARTIN SISNEROS, owner of Belen-based Sisneros Bros., points out the sealed duct work his company made for a sugar processUSING A FLAT-EDGED tool, Nate Darrough makes sure a campaign sign is firmly attached to its stiff backing during a busy afternoon at ing plant in South America. Sisneros and other local manufacturthe Graphic Arts Station. Company owner Bruce Prater says his main focus is providing local businesses and customers with a quality ers have formed a training alliance to help others start businesses. product, all while shopping locally for materials as much as possible.
from PAGE 10
Businesses: Staying open and profitable has a lot to do with customer service
high-impact vehicle wraps, Prater says the company has expanded the line into full color booklets and menus, upping the product line across the board. And with increased product offerings, came a need for an increased staff. When the business started, it was Prater and one other employee. Now it’s him and five others, “and we still can’t keep up,” he said. “We are going fast and furious to meet the demand.” And most of that demand is coming from inside Valencia County, something Prater appreciates. He is all about shopping and selling local. “I do some jobs through an ad agency in Albuquerque for Rich Ford’s banners, but that’s mostly from the business relationships I’ve built,” he said. “That’s been my real concentration — more about local shopping. And I can say, we offer better pricing than Albuquerque. We are able to have an uptown product at a small town price so people don’t need to go shopping in Albuquerque. “We try to provide services that allow that. I get all my supplies locally if I can. I only go to Albuquerque if I have to.” tomers, vendors and possibly even investors. While the national narrative has been that manufacturing is dieing and business in America is in decline, Sisneros believes there’s nothing further from the truth. “We have to stop saying ‘I can’t,’ and start saying ‘I can.’ We learned that in grammar school,” he said. The opportunities are endless, if people are willing to think outside the box and view the glass as half full. Sisneros Brothers has its blueprints and technical drawings reproduced in Albuquerque. While the company could send an employee on a run north to get copies of plans, Sisneros says a local enterprising young man has filled the need. “He started a one-man courier business. So we use him to drop off plans and parts,” he said. “He could have said, ‘Oh poor me, I lost my job.’ But he didn’t. As we keep meeting to talk about what businesses need, someone out there will say, ‘Why can’t I provide that?’” Small Business Development Center Director Wayne Abraham and Business Advisor David Carlberg. “Most success goes back to a drive and passion to succeed,” Abraham said. “These businesses open because of a need for either the product line or service. They stay in business by listening to their customers. “And sometimes you need to change if that’s what your customers want. And being able to change quickly, that is the small business advantage.” Carlberg says as the country deals with the lingering, hard economic times, some of the most likely beneficiaries of down times are small businesses. “And that is because of their ability to register immediate changes in the market place,” Carlberg said. “If they understand what is happening in their industry, small business owners have a lot easier time making changes than large corporations. “SBDC is the biggest supporter of small businesses,” he said. “They are going to carry the (United States) and Valencia County in 2013 and 2014. The just have to stay aware.”
Charles and JoAnna attribute a big part of their success to providing excellent customer service. “My sister is the one who answers the phones and she knows almost everybody by name,” Charles said. “If you don’t have good customer service, you are not going to make it.” As the business expanded, the couple found they could no longer operate out of their spare bedroom. The office is now located in a house in Jarales belonging to Charles’ grandmother. When 3:30 p.m. rolls around and the kids get off the school bus, they start winding down their day. “It really is a family-owned business,” JoAnna says, as her daughter, Emma, fusses in the next room. Three-year-old Nathan walks into the office, sporting tiny leather work gloves and a pintsized AC Disposal shirt, the spitting image of his father. “He is my Mini Me,” Charles says. “He wants to do this.”
Specializing in everything
In an ideal location on Main Street in Los Lunas, Bruce Prater says one of the biggest factors of his success as the owner and operator of the Graphic Arts Station is having a varied line of products and by not specializing in one area. “But it’s a two-edged sword. We don’t specialize in one thing so we try to specialize in everything,” Prater says. The business opened originally in Belen in 2007, as an expansion of the Belen Print Shop, in what was a former gas station on West Reinken. From there, Prater moved to a large warehouse on Don Felipe Road, but found the location lacking for walk-in clients since it was a bit off the beaten path. Now his Los Lunas location, which opened in midFebruary, offers a good mix of walk-in customers and orders from his fellow local business owners. “The location has really been the edge I was looking for,” Prater said. Instead of relying strictly on businesses, he was able to even out his cash flow since walk-in customers pay upon receipt, where as a business might take up to 30 days to pay a bill. Even with the prime Main Street location, Prater says he still relies a lot on word-ofmouth to draw in customers. “That’s been working well because we have some new products that no one else has down here,” he said. One is a sublimation process that turns a solid into a gas that adheres to polyester. “It allows us to do full color on anything from poker chips to apparel.” Mostly known for signs and banners, as well as full color,
USING A TECHNOLOGY that didn’t exist five years ago, Enrique Fierro at Sisneros Brothers finishes a piece of duct work on a plasma welder. Owner Martin Sisneros says the company has plenty of work, both nationally and internationally, to stay busy.
A passion to succeed
And that’s the kind of passion and innovation that will enable established and new small businesses to stay alive in the future, according to
The land of opportunity
When Abenicio Sisneros started his company in 1993, the world was a different place. Major manufacturers were located in major cities such as Chicago and Detroit. But things have changed, says his son, Martin, now the owner of Sisneros Brothers Manufacturing. “It’s a world economy now,” Martin Sisneros said. “Now you are finding manufacturing in places where land is cheap and the people are trainable.” Places like Belen. “The driving force for most manufacturers’ locations is where are the people who are, if not already trained, able to get trained,” Sisneros said. “They are looking for places that have the best apprenticeship programs or training schools. There are real opportunities for communities like Belen. We have plenty of land, our rail spur, I-25 and plenty of young people. The only thing missing is the ability to train them.” After meeting with other local manufacturers — companies such as Sud Chemie, United Acrylic, Cemco and New Mexico Travertine, Sisneros said the owners came to a conclusion. There were plenty of opportunities for work and businesses capable of spanning the globe right here in Valencia County. Someone just had to reach out and grab hold. “We wanted to figure out how to excite the community about the opportunities out there,” Sisneros said.
One opportunity Sisneros sees sounds very simplistic at first, but is an integral part of local manufacturers’ operations — crates. “When you say crates, people think big wooden boxes. It’s rather simple, but it’s not,” he said. “We need crates built to international specs, so we are buying them out of Albuquerque. It’s a bit more than nailing some wood together, but I bet a contractor that can make custom cabinets or build a house can make these. And Sisneros Brothers isn’t the only company that needs them.” In order for entrepreneurs to take advantage of the business and job opportunities Sisneros and the other manufacturers see, first people need to be trained. “The biggest challenge is getting trained employees, not a lack of work or lack of capital,” he said. “One local company said they have 25 open positions. But no one has the skills to fill them.” So instead of waiting on someone to “save” them, Sisneros and the other businessmen have decided to embark on their own training program. By partnering with local schools, current employees and opening the training up to the community at large, they hope to start building the skilled labor force they need for their businesses to survive. “We started something like this four or five years ago; we had the curriculum approved, classes four nights a week. But we were better manufacturers than trainers,” he said. While the program ended, Sisneros says it’s time to start
it up again. Not only will this collaboration of local manufacturers offer training, Sisneros said, but connections to cus-
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LOCALS 2012: ENTERPRISE
Valencia County News-Bulletin
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