BY ALLAN SAENZ
Owner of SALA EVENT CENTER
and Los Alamos Network (LANET)
As a lifelong resident of Los Alamos and the owner of two local businesses, SALA Event Center and Los Alamos Network (LANET), I am both proud and humbled to address you today. Our endeavors were recently acknowledged by the community through the Chamber of Commerce, with SALA receiving the award for Best New Business of the Year 2023, a testament to the resilience, innovation, and tireless work of our team.
SALA, once the beloved Reel Deal theater, was brought back to life in December 2022 after being vacant for two years. With this space, we aim to not only provide a new age cinema experience but also foster community engagement by offering it as a versatile rental space.
It would be remiss not to acknowledge the integral role LANET played in SALA’s establishment. LANET, providing robust internet services to Los Alamos, White Rock, and Sierra Los Pinos for 25 years, enabled SALA’s financial independence. We are grateful to our clients who continue to support a local business, their investment being returned directly into our community.
Despite our recent recognition, we understand and empathize with the countless businesses in our community that operate without awards or accolades. Their dedication and resilience deserve acknowledgment. They, too, navigate the arduous process of sustaining a business in Los Alamos, often dealing with sleepless nights, stress, employee shortages, and other financial strains.
There’s an old adage by Robert Kiyosaki that rings true – “The hardest part of business is minding your own.” This sentiment is echoed by Michael E. Gerber who said, “A small business is an amazing way to serve and leave an impact on the world you live in.” These quotes embody the trials and rewards of running a small business.
Small businesses not only fuel our local economy but also enrich our community identity. A 2020 Small Business Economic Impact Study showed that for every dollar spent at a small business, 67 cents stayed in the local community. This demonstrates the critical role local businesses play in fostering economic vitality and sustainability.
The Council’s strategic goal, Economic Vitality, indeed aims to encourage retention and growth of businesses and revitalize the downtown areas. However, this vision is yet to manifest tangibly. In the 2022 National Community Survey, 73% of Los Alamos residents identified enhancing local business support as the top priority for the next five years. Alarmingly, 52% rated the vibrancy of our downtown area as poor.
Los Alamos needs more than housing – it needs a thriving business landscape to ensure its vibrancy and appeal. This requires more than just community patronage; it demands proactive county action to remove barriers, catalyze investment, and support our businesses actively.
By adopting a community-centric mentality and prioritizing long-term prosperity over short-term fixes, we can ensure a sustainable future for our businesses and community alike. We must remember that our town serves not only its residents but also thousands of tourists who visit our three national parks, ski hill, and historical landmarks.
The reinvigoration of the Reel Deal theater into SALA is more than just a business venture. It is our pledge to this town’s legacy and a promise to our future generations. We stand as an emblem of perseverance and innovation, a testament that Los Alamos can become a vibrant hub of business and community life.
In conclusion, the struggle of running a business is real but so are the rewards. Let’s strive to support, uplift, and invest in our local businesses, ensuring that Los Alamos continues to be a place of history, community, and opportunity for all.