BY MELANEE HAND
Democratic Candidate for
Los Alamos County Council
I read Lisa Shin’s letter to the editor on October 30 questioning my support for small businesses. My family and my husband’s family have been in various small business endeavors for decades. How anyone can derive that I don’t support nor promote small business is a mystery to me. I have a first-hand (no pun intended) current understanding of the issues that small businesses are facing today in addition to understanding longer term issues for small businesses in Los Alamos County. My master’s degree is all about business performance, and I spent many years working with dozens of subcontractors who supported LANL.
I don’t know how someone can refer to one Los Alamos County situation when the final outcome is not yet known and question that County Council candidates that were part of majority decisions don’t support businesses in Los Alamos. In general, Councilors sift through tremendous amounts of information and data to make decisions. Information that the public reads can be twisted in various perspectives depending on the source, and motive, and is not always the most accurate. The information that Councilors receive most likely has a higher degree of factual reliability.
Below is an excerpt of my speech at the Chamber of Commerce Forum on October 20. You can hear more from me and all the candidates by listening to the PAC 8 video released through the Los Alamos Reporter a week ago.
I’m Melanee Hand and I was appointed to County Council about 10 months ago. I hope that citizens will view my experience as an asset to continue my work as a Councilor. Not just my Council experience, but my experience working at my husband’s small manufacturing business since January (Jona Manufacturing). These are different times with new or exacerbated issues, and I have personally experienced the challenges of the workforce, recruitment, and retention that businesses are facing today. Being the spouse of a business owner, I was impacted by long term challenges to maintain a stable and successful business during economic downturns that started 15 years ago. I gained a broader perspective of dozens of businesses supporting the Lab through my 15 years of subcontractor performance oversight too.
Since January when I was appointed, I have been busy performing County Council activities, receiving public input, working with about 8 assigned Committees, Task Forces, and County Boards. All the hours that I have invested during this time helped me to better understand some complex issues facing the County. I have also learned how much the County is already progressing in many of the areas where citizens express needs. It isn’t that citizen input has fallen on deaf ears. I believe that many of the needs we are still discussing have been progressing through planning and implementation stages at different rates. It is a slow process that we only notice here and there when we are watching it day to day….
Los Alamos County efforts coordinate between the County Economic Development Department, LACDC, Chamber of Commerce, Mainstreet, and the UNM Small Business Development Center to help attract, retain, and build businesses of the future. I want to support all these organizations and their people who work so hard for our town’s success. I will turn to these experts to help me make sound decisions, because although I have some experience, it is our teamwork that keeps us successful.
The County currently has several processes and organizations to incentivize businesses and commercial development:
1. NM State level forwards leads to regional and local entities,
2. LAC seeks out businesses and developers,
3. Businesses and developers approach Los Alamos County
Some of the programs that the County offers include a set of comprehensive programs utilizing local, regional, state and federal funding and assistance resources that support and incentivize investment in new and existing businesses in Los Alamos County, such as the Local Economic Development Act (LEDA), American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), and Metropolitan Redevelopment Area (MRA). The County recently announced the MRA development happening in White Rock to the east of the Smiths grocery store. The economic development department recently provided a poster that shows 27 new businesses that are here since 2021 or 2022, or will be here soon, so the unfortunate loss of some businesses moving or closing their doors in the last few years is turning around as we speak.
The County revised the Comprehensive Plan mixed use zones to allow a combination of small shops with residential. The concept is moving toward implementation with several developers already. Developers describe these mixed-use developments as providing convenience services to tenants of the properties, which can hopefully increase business success and profitability. The County can offer incentives through trading property to attract new businesses that we desperately need for the success of the town’s goals and vision. The County can purchase blocks of property to reinvest and improve infrastructure to offer refurbished properties to attract developers to build here. The County can also update codes that are known to attract developers, such as height allowances on buildings.
I support all these methods for incentivizing development. I would rely on new ideas and trend analysis to determine how we adjust to meet new needs.