Ryn Herrmann/Courtesy photo
BY LINDA HULL
Rotary Club of Los Alamos
“The job has changed a lot,” mused Ryn Herrmann, as she reflected upon her three years as Director of the Chamber of Commerce during a zoom meeting Tuesday with the Rotary Club of Los Alamos. Few could have foreseen the disruption caused by the pandemic in the personal and professional lives of those who own local businesses.
Herrmann explained that the Chamber is the membership program of the Los Alamos Commerce Development Corporation, a private, nonprofit entity that operates the Research Park across from Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Small Business Center downtown. It oversees MainStreet, which “works to improve the vitality of downtown,” project Y, a coworking space in Central Park Square, and the visitors’ centers in Los Alamos and White Rock.
The Chamber, which has over 300 business and organization members, traditionally focuses on three areas of business support to its members: visibility, advocacy, and resources. This includes ribbon-cutting, among Herrmann’s favorite Chamber responsibilities, for new and re-opening businesses and those celebrating anniversaries; seeking resolution for issues that affect local businesses; providing guidance and materials for business development and enhancement; and serving as a resource for financial assistance. A great deal of Chamber time is now spent on writing letters to support grant applications, answering questions, and “helping businesses overcome obstacles.”
With the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, many Chamber activities have been curtailed, and its role now is significantly communication-based. Herrmann is now collaborating and exchanging resources with executives from the New Mexico Chamber of Commerce. Funding for small businesses statewide is a focus during this year’s 60-day Legislative Session.
When asked about the status of businesses in our community, Herrmann replied that “about a dozen” have closed. As witnessed nationally as well, “restaurants are really struggling.” With so many people working from home now and perhaps permanently, she is concerned that local restaurants will experience a decrease in the lunchtime crowds that were once common before the pandemic. She encouraged residents to “think about supporting small businesses here before clicking on Amazon.” She hoped residents would buy Chamber Checks, which are essentially gift certificates that can be used at any of the businesses that are Chamber members. The popularity of these checks has risen significantly over the last 10 months. In fact, recently “we sold more in one day than in one year.”
Herrmann, who describes herself as a “people person,” says she misses being around people and is experiencing a great deal of “screen fatigue.” When asked about Los Alamos after the pandemic, she responded, “We will be better. People will always want to live here.”
Herrmann is originally from Spokane, Washington and has an undergraduate degree in business from Gonzaga University. Before serving as the Los Alamos County Chamber of Commerce Director, she was Communications Director and Creative District Curator for Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation. Herrmann has served as the Chairperson for the Los Alamos Lodger’s Tax Advisory Board and is the Past President of the Bradbury Science Museum Association. She has been a Girl Scout leader for over 10 years and is a 2016 graduate of Leadership Los Alamos.
The Rotary Club of Los Alamos, through its Club Foundation, is a 501(c)3 non-profit and one of over 34,000 clubs worldwide. Rotary, which now has 1.5 million members, was founded in 1905; the local Club was chartered in 1966. Rotary areas of focus include promoting peace; fighting disease; providing clean water, sanitation, and hygiene; supporting education; saving mothers and children; growing economies; and protecting the environment.
To learn more about the Rotary Club of Los Alamos and its charitable service, please contact: Laura Gonzales, president, 699-5880 or Skip King, membership chair, 662-8832.