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Silver City-Grant County Chamber of Commerce members at luncheon hear from one another

By Mary Alice Murphy

Most of those at the monthly Silver City-Grant County Chamber of Commerce luncheon introduced themselves with a comment about their jobs and connections in the community and some with annoucements. Later in the meeting everyone had a chance to express concerns, frustrations and opportunities.

Cynthia Martinez, Small Business Development Center director, announced the July Economic Development Course and a workshop on Aug. 12 on how to register to be a vendor with the federal government. The same workshop will be held Aug. 13 in Deming.

Dalila Bradshaw of Hidalgo Medical Services announced that Jump Into Summer 2014 would be held this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Gough Park.

Joel Schram of AmBank said he had attended his first rodeo the previous evening.

Mike Trujillo, AmBank president, said the bank just rolled out a new consumer loan model.

Cecilia Bell, Fort Bayard Historic Preservation Society president, said the organization would have a float and a booth at the Fourth of July celebration. "Fort Bayard is for everyone," she said, as she told a heartwarming story about the big smile she received from a handicapped child, who couldn't speak. "We also worked with Barbara McKee at Stout Elementary, for her fourth-grade class to write letters to Sen. Howie Morales and Congressman Steve Pearce telling why they believe Fort Bayard should be saved." She also announced the Fort Bayard birthday in August and Fort Bayard Days in September.

George Julian Dworin, Silver City Arts and Cultural District manager, said the promotion of 101 Things to Do in Grant County "has developed legs. A woman asked for copies to put in her wedding invitations to those coming from out of town. The Health Council and its Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition has taken the idea and created 101 Things for Youth to Do in Grant County, to keep them busy during the summer. I'm proud to be part of this effort."

"We continue to reach out to media," Dworin said. "We have two writers coming to town. One is a pet-friendly writer, who will bring Jack, a bulldog."

Bruce Ashburn, representing PNM, said the statewide grant award process had been completed, and awardees should be notified before June 30.

Vickie Nelson, southern New Mexico advertising representative for New Mexico magazine, said the magazine won for the second year in a row, the Best State/Regional magazine in the West. "We are working on the September issue, which will be about southwest New Mexico. We have special deals on advertising."

Scott Terry, chamber president, said he wanted to get ideas from those in the room. "We had 34 people at our customer service workshop yesterday, which benefited those who attended. We are trying to get a human resource workshop in the future. We will continue to have such workshops for the businesses. We have applications for floats and booths for the Fourth of July. The Gold Star mothers will be the parade marshals. The fireworks planned are better than ever, with larger ones."

"On July 1, the new website will be live," Terry continued. "You will be able to pay for lunch or renew your membership dues online. We are striving to be a community partner. We want to hear your vision on the chamber and for Grant County and Silver City. We want to be the spokesman for the town."

He said he received an email from Bradshaw that her teenage son wants to leave Silver City, because it is not a friendly town for teenagers. "We have to find ways to fix that. Her story is one we hear quite often."

"My son loves the area," Bradshaw said, "but he left for the summer. He says it's beautiful here and the people are nice, but he sees pregnant girls and kids on drugs. He wants to take a girl to the movie, but is not comfortable driving to Deming. There are no jobs for teenagers, because they are competing with adults for the minimum wage jobs. My concern is that you find a lot of Silver City is swayed toward seniors and retirement. We are the highest county in the state for teen illegal use of prescription drugs. If we want college kids to stay and contribute to the economy, what are the things that we're willing to be open to? There is no outlet for middle families with kids."

Terry said he is proud of what the university and Silco are doing to provide movie theaters.

A participant said that teenagers wouldn't get on board with the 101 Things for Youth to Do.

Trent Petty, Silver School Board president, said for every loss of 20 students, the district loses about a quarter of a million dollars. "We have a $28 million budget, with 87 percent of it being paychecks, which do come back into the community. But that doesn't leave much for buildings, and we still have to have an algebra teacher, for example, whether we have 10 students or 20 in the class. We came out about even this year, because money-wise the state bumped up every school this year."

Cynthia Bettison, WNMU Museum director, said she did her research here in the area and came back because when she saw the museum in 1981, she knew she would come back and fix it. "We're still fixing it. Don't forget the GO (general obligation) bond in November. People come in and say there is nothing to do at night. I encourage businesses to look at their business hours. We need places where people can go downtown to eat that don't close at 9 p.m. I'm pleased Cynthia Martinez is the SBDC director. We need more small businesses. I look to the chamber to help me as a business."

Terry said businesses need to be open when tourists come, and "they travel on holidays. When other businesses don't stay open it affects your businesses. Three of our major resources are down—Lake Roberts is a pond, tourists can't get to Mogollon and the Catwalk is being repaired."

Bettison said the Green Chamber is doing Buy Local Campaigns, "and you, do, too. We need flash mobs to support small businesses."

Ashburn said people need to get involved in fixing the problems. "My kids were not into the outdoors. We in the community had a chance to pass a bill that would have improved the area, with a movie theater and a fixed up golf course. Everyone who was against it, and yes, it had issues, has done nothing. No one is stepping up to do it again. Dr. Shepard, Brett Kasten and James Marshall were crucified over it."

Terry said bringing in new businesses seems to be a problem to some. "Yes, an Applebee's may steal your best employees, but it forces the locals to be more competitive. We have to make sure we recruit in town and from outside. If we have the resources, it won't just be local, it will be a regional draw for 75 miles around."

Bettison said the Town Council, of which she is mayor pro tem, is doing everything it can to redistribute the gross receipts taxes to put more into improving roads.

Martinez said she thinks of infrastructure. The $7.5 million that was put into Santa Teresa, which was a sleepy little town, made it the only 24-hour open border crossing in the state. "What's going to happen to Silver City? We can be a destination, because of our uniqueness and the area. We need to be prepared. Encourage your legislators and talk about Lake Roberts being a pond, not being able to get to Mogollon and the Catwalk not being there."

Dworin said he didn't like hearing so much negative. "Our assets are better than Deming's. I invite you to volunteer at the Visitor Center. Visitors are starting to come again. There's a lot to tell them. We have two wonderful museums; the Little Toad has brought energy, youth and vitality to downtown; Sabrina's bakery—she believes in Silver City and the downtown; and the Gowns and More has brought people to town. In the terms of youth, a movie theater will help get that solved."

"I have a tremendous amount of belief in Silver City," Dworin continued. "When the community pulls together, we can do wonderful things. I'm encouraged. I believe in the work of the chamber and I think you're on the right track. Scott and I talk often about whom to bring in. I will attend the Outdoor Industry Expo in Salt Lake City. We're perfect for that industry. The Carter House has opened as a hostel. It grew out of the Continental Divide Trail Gateway Community. Bring in a tent maker, for example. I feel positive on what is and we can fill what isn't."

Lori Ford, Community Access Television of Silver City and KOOT 88.1 FM said she believes Silver City hasn't decided what it wants to be. "Tourism isn't just people coming in. It's all tied together, with restaurants and hotels and shops. It's not just tourist attractions. "

Jason Allison of Wells Fargo Bank said he has been promoting paintball, but neither the city nor the county will give space for the activity.

Petty, Chamber board member, said the topic still comes up in the board meetings. "We at the school were just talking about sports. The superintendent points out that getting athletes involved in other community activities would benefit them and the community. I would like to see street dances at least once a month."

The conversation between the Chamber and its members would continue. Terry said he wanted input.

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