Dec 7, 2007

Valley Has No Plan For Lab Layoffs

Rio Grande Sun

http://www.riograndesun.com/jump/front-jump-4.asp

By Stephen Babcock
SUN Staff Writer

Millions of dollars, numerous initiatives and a dozen years after Los Alamos National Laboratory's last big round of layoffs, the Española Valley remains without a definitive plan to soften the effects of what could be a major round of layoffs at the nuclear weapons facility.

The announcement that the Lab plans to cut between 500 and 750 jobs in the near future not only left area employees worried about their jobs, it served as a reminder to area planners that the Valley will need to increase jobs to keep the area from slipping into further economic woes.
Lab Director Michael Anastasio delivered more bad news Monday night at a public meeting in Pojoaque. He said the three-phase plan to cut up to 750 jobs has been accepted by the federal government.

In the plan's first phase, employees have until Thursday (12/6) to take a severance package being offered by the Lab, Anastasio said.
He said there were already about 300 employees who volunteered to take the package by the end of the day Monday.
After this phase, the Lab will reevaluate if anymore layoffs are necessary. Anastasio said the Lab isn't making cuts based on hard numbers, but rather on uncertainty about how Congress will fund Northern New Mexico's largest employer in the future.
The Lab has already downsized by 800 employees in the last year, and has struggled to absorb inflation, costs from the Lab's management contract with Bechtel and low employee turnover.
"The 750 (job cuts) doesn't have anything to do with the budget this year," Anastasio said.

Many Groups
In response to the last round of layoffs in 1995, the Lab created the Regional Development Corporation that released about $10 million throughout Northern New Mexico, Corporation Director Ed Burckle said.

Two years ago, the Valley was the recipient of another $2 million grant from the W.H. Kellogg Foundation that was used for an initiative to promote entrepreneurship in the region. This initiative is known as the Empowering Business Spirit Initiative, and aims to network small businesses and entrepreneurs around the region.

These are just two of several programs in the Valley that target economic development.

The city of Española alone boasts five different economic development organizations whose mission is to find solutions to the lack of jobs in the Valley. The people behind all of these entities seem to know the one thing that is not necessary at this point.

"Over the years I've seen my share of economic development studies, and I'd venture to say the majority of them are sitting on somebody's shelf," County Commissioner Alfredo Montoya said, who as a member of the Commission is developing the County's comprehensive plan.
Smaller efforts to stimulate economic growth have also been developed.

These include a Lab-sponsored networking partnership with Tsay Corporation in Ohkay Owingeh to help it compete for federal Energy Department contracts, and another Lab-sponsored networking initiative called Northern New Mexico Connect designed to link entrepreneurs with businesses around the region.

But how to organize an economy that isn't as reliant on the Lab is still under discussion, in the planning stages or under consideration, officials interviewed for this story said.

Despite all the initiativies and collaborations, Española businessman Richard Cook said he hasn't seen much help for the Valley.

"I think most of it is just talk," he said of the Lab's contribution to development. "I haven't seen any indication of them doing very much down here."

Cook said the layoffs would devastate the economy, especially because of the area’s inability to attract new businesses.

"I don't see any hope of those businesses coming at least for the next couple years," he said.

City Plans
In recent years, the city has had five major chances to attract businesses that could provide jobs but those ventures have failed due to varying degrees of political mishandling and businesses' decisions. Nevertheless, Española has continued to do a few things that would help attract businesses.

Mayor Joseph Maestas asked the state legislature earlier this year to direct gross receipts tax money generated by the Lab to the city for economic development projects. But Maestas said last week that he has been told that money is out of the question for Española.

The city also has on its books an act that allows it to create incentives to attract businesses, City Councillor and Economic Development Chairwoman Danielle Duran said. Some examples of these measures include providing land or bonds to businesses, but providing those incentives has never been explored, Duran said.

"We need to decide what we're willing to do with that act," she said. "Nobody's ever really discussed it before."

But city government isn't the only voice within the city.

There's also Miro Kovacevich, a business specialist for Wells Fargo Bank.
Kovacevich is heading up this year's Española Electric Light Parade, and is planning to bring a children's theater to the vacant El Rio Theater.

He also has a grand vision.

Kovacevich said the only way to produce change is to focus on developing a single project.

For Española, his vision is for a solar energy research institute centered around Northern New Mexico College that would produce energy storage devices.

With an abundance of sun and the regional focus on clean energy, he said the Valley is in prime position to jump ahead of the curve.

"It's a relatively tall order, but we don't have another alternative," he said. "Big solar is the alternative to big nuclear."

Meanwhile, Rio Arriba County has been looking to locate some type of business on its newly-acquired 176 acres of former federal land in Alcalde. Commissioner Elias Coriz has said some type of light industry will be key for that area, but no firm plans are in place.

The County has also devoted a portion of its Comprehensive Plan for the next 30 years to economic development. Some of the goals laid out in a draft of the plan include promoting and supporting agricultural-based businesses and establishing a multi-agency investment partnership to bring broadband and other telecommunications to all parts of Rio Arriba County.

But while the County and city are coming out with ideas, these entities haven't necessarily run them by each other.

Burckle said the splintered nature of the different groups has hampered an actual outcome.

"I think that's one of the challenges is that we need to be more integrated in our approach," he said.

Local groups will get another chance to make something happen. When the layoffs were announced in late November, the Corporation and other regional players announced that they got a $200,000 grant from Los Alamos County to develop a regional economic plan.

The focus will be on immediate results, Burckle said. Whether there is enough time for another plan is the question.

"If I don't have a job and someone at Los Alamos doesn't have a job, then they're not going to spend as much money at Wal-Mart, either," Duran said.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

No surprise here. Espanola city government excels at incompetence and corruption.

Pinky and The Brain said...

Regarding the comment just rejected:

Please send information about why this is relevant and true before I can allow a comment like that.

Anonymous said...

Just like Mikey: "we have no plans for a RIF."

Anonymous said...

12/7/07 6:03 AM: No surprise here. Espanola city government excels at incompetence and corruption.

Sounds like the Lab, doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

No plans ..duh, If it was not for LANL, the northern part of the State, would be in deep poverty, and with the up-coming layoff's will sink deeper.....

Anonymous said...

No plans, what could they do? they have managed to run off any company that wants to do business their. All due to corrupt politics...but the folkes just keep allowing this to go on??

Anonymous said...

Come on - it says there have been multiple attempts. Maybe the problem deals more with the cultural aspects and the fact that the lab has always been easy, good money

Anonymous said...

"No plans ..duh, If it was not for LANL, the northern part of the State, would be in deep poverty, and with the up-coming layoff's will sink deeper."...
12/7/07 9:19 AM

Yea right. The sun and the planets revolve around Los Alamos...NOT!

Anonymous said...

"wants to do business their. All due to corrupt politics...but the folkes just keep allowing this to go on??
12/7/07 9:22 AM"

You used poor grammar. It's "there" not "their." You must be ignorant, thus your opinion can't be taken seriously. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

"wants to do business their. All due to corrupt politics...but the folkes just keep allowing this to go on??
12/7/07 9:22 AM"

You used poor grammar. It's "there" not "their." You must be ignorant, thus your opinion can't be taken seriously. Sorry.

Gussie Fink-Nottle said...

Let's try to be a little more tolerant of our illiterate colleagues, 11:45 and 11:45.

Plus, you double-clicked on the submit button.

Git'er done.

-Gus

Anonymous said...

If you give millions in development money to crooks and con-men they will steal it. Does that really come as a big surprise to anyone?

Anonymous said...

Gus,
I'm stutterer. That's why it showed up twice. Sorry. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

Yea right. The sun and the planets revolve around Los Alamos...NOT!

12/7/07 11:38 AM

You are correct in that staement, but incorrect in the fact that Northern NM does revolve around Los Alamos. It is undeniable.

Anonymous said...

"You are correct in that staement, but incorrect in the fact that Northern NM does revolve around Los Alamos. It is undeniable."
--12/7/07 5:20 PM

It's not that northern New Mexico revolves around Los Alamos, it's that its elected representatives can't seem to pull their heads out of Los Alamos' ass!

Anonymous said...

Good grief, it looks like Espanola will need to be bought off again if this RIF is to ever take place. Plan on seeing a few million more wasted out of the LANL operating budget to spread the cash around and buy-out the local community politicos.

For those leaving LANL, I have a great plan on keeping the gravy train going for a little longer. Start up a local community group, say "Peace Coalition for Northern New Mexico Development". Then petition LANL and DOE to get a huge grant, write a few lame articles, and then sit back and enjoy the good life.

Same thing happened right after the '95 RIF. Of course, it helps if you have some good connections to the corrupt politicos who live around these parts.

Anonymous said...

12/7/07 7:04 PM

Yeah, and less could be said for Norther NM ( ie the Valley). How many times have businesses tried to locate there, and the corruption, greed, and laziness of the culteure rallied to prevent it.

Northern NM would much worse off without the influx of federal monies over the past 60+ years. Maybe you bear a chip on your shoulder, but accept the reality.

Personally, I think the politicians should just take the apporach, much like with the mortgage crisis, they made their own bed - let them lie in it

Anonymous said...

Valley Has No Plan For Lab Layoffs?

The valley has no plans for much of anything. It's part of the quaint mañana culture that makes Northern New Mexico such a special place.

Anonymous said...

It seems appropriate here to call peoples attention to what seems to be a forgotten similar situation that occurred in the early 1990s due to the end of the cold war. If you recall, there were downsizings in the military in terms of Air Force base closures that occurred. When this happened, many small towns that had grown up to be "base towns" were severely impacted by the closures. Even now, you can go to some of them and see how depressed the areas are. Look at the base that currently contains the Rome Lab - Rome is a shell of what it once was. The bottom line is that there is a historical precedent for changing times causing areas to be largely decimated economically. If it happens to Northern NM, it isn't unique - it has happened before. I don't believe this is a pleasant situation (I worked at LANL and hate seeing it happen around there, and I have family around one of the old shut down AFBs and hated seeing it there). Unfortunately, times and situations change. What is happening at LANL and in Northern NM, regardless of the bluster and cries of injustice on here, is far from unique. Shit happens.

Anonymous said...

"The 750 (job cuts) doesn't have anything to do with the budget this year," Anastasio said.

Wasn't this a point of some discussion earlier?

Anonymous said...

At least Espanola has an idea about needing to bring more light industry into the area even if they can't figure out how to do it. And some are more supportive of various types of education at NNM. Contrary to some of the above posts there are good kids with supportive parents in the Valley trying to get an education.

Los Alamos doesn't have any plans either, execpt to continue down the path of adding more shopping and more housing.

UNM-LA certainly is not gearing up to provide more educational opportunities. They are still stuck with the notion of providing AA degreed people for LANL.

What's really pathetic is that none of them will accept that this is the tip of the ice berg.

Anonymous said...

No, what is pathetic is how many attempts people related to Los Alamos have tried to do to help out the people of the valley, yet there is just a blind hated.

Seems like the stupidity to crown stupidity.

(Another attepmt not mentioned in the article was Motorolla)

Stupid Stupid residents of the valley

Anonymous said...

How much help to Valley residents has been based upon "you have to change to be like us"? Of course they hate people and don't want to work with people who dis them.

Anonymous said...

Isn't Rio Arriba county the drug capital of New Mexico?

Anonymous said...

So we should just let them flush their lives down the toilet? What do you suppose the rate of alcoholism is in Los Alamos County?

Anonymous said...

12/9/07 12:06 AM

How much help is really available. You are having problems, but going for help laels you as a problem - keep your q? Think not.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to hold my tounge. There is very little positive comments to be said for the valley. There are many good people living there, many of these people have more character than most. Regardless, the crime rate per capital is incredibly high. Something needs to be done. The bigotry to the hand that feeds them does not help.

Anonymous said...

12/9/07 10:53 AM

Well said.