Don’t Blame the Governor, Local Government and Business Leaders Own the Economic Recovery Alamogordo Town News Special Report A Microcosm of the Nation on Jobs Creation

The economy within Alamogordo, Otero County and New Mexico was damaged by the COVID-19 crisis in 2020 and into the beginning months of 2021. Productivity plunged, new business development, licensing, and recruitment all but stopped and unemployment spiked. Mandated shutdowns, social distancing, and altered consumption patterns has resulted in many businesses adjusting work hours, some closing permanently and several laying off workers, modifying working conditions to include more automation and less need for employees.

Do not blame the governor and those outside of Alamogordo the issue of the thousands of square feet of vacant and not rented retail space began in Alamogordo long before Covid-19. Self-reflection and holding local political leaders accountable are where solutions begin. We can blame the Democrats; Democrats blame the Republicans, but the fact is the ownership of local jobs and education issues and the solutions to each can only come from within Alamogordo and Otero County. Help in the form of Federal Grants and State Grants can assist but first the local political and business machine must own up to creating a roadmap, accept responsibility for past sins, quit blaming others and remedy the issue with a collaborative, solutions driven resolution towards jobs growth and long-term economic prosperity. Call center recruitment is a 20th Century solution that is a failed path to jobs growth. Tourism, specialty retail, arts, culture and fitness that takes advantage of the local features of nature are the key to local prosperity.

Just look at the expanded self-check checkout lines at Lowes Grocery Store, Albertsons, Walmart, and McDonalds. Jobs are not being lost locally due to immigrants taking low wage jobs, jobs are being lost due to automation, a business community that is not adapting to changing retail trends and political leadership that must collaborate with small business owners via incentives, tax rebates, and state and federal block grants.

For Alamogordo and Southern New Mexico to move forward and replace lost jobs and incomes, the region needs small business entrepreneurs to fill the void with business startups of businesses that can capitalize on the local resources, tourism, fitness, arts and culture.

During the economic downturn a decade ago, the business startup rate fell and never fully recovered, which contributed to a slow recovery. Alamogordo had its business peak during the 70’s and has had a slow drain and a lack of consensus among the political leadership and the business community to end the economic drain.

The business community also suffers in recruiting due to the downward spiral of the public school system in rankings. In the 1960’s Alamogordo ranked in the top 10 school systems in the US in achievement pay and rankings. Today Alamogordo High ranks in the bottom 1/3 of US High Schools, no longer offers most vocational educational training programs of the 60’s and 70’s and the poverty rate among students is at a record high. The high school is feeling additional pressure and a loss of students and community support due to the proliferation of religious based private educational institutions that pull students from the public system, offer inconsistent curriculums and compete thus lowering even more the pull of funds available to the public education system and further depressing jobs recruitment of large corporate jobs into the area.

The startup rate of small business growth has trended downward since the 1980s. That is troubling because startups play crucial roles in the local economy and the sales tax base that funds local services. Small business entrepreneurs create the most net new jobs in most communities and Alamogordo would not be unique. They are a key source of innovation because new products and services offerings are often pioneered by new companies. And they challenge dominant firms, which helps to restrain prices and expand consumer choices as witnessed locally by the growth of Walmart and the closure of so many small businesses to include more recently several at the local mall such as Penny’s etc.

This Alamogordo Town News spotlight suggests that state and local policymakers should slash regulatory barriers to startup businesses. The state of New Mexico State should repeal certificate of need requirements, liberalize occupational licensing and restaurant alcohol licensing, liberalize licensing requirements of ex-felons and quick start the business licensing of legalized marijuana and hemp businesses.

The Alamogordo city and county government should collaborate on reducing small business owner property tax rates and provide sales tax holidays to small business owners to encourage business growth, sales, and entrepreneurship. The city should implement online permitting and licensing application for new businesses and make a commitment to turn licenses within 5 business days of application. The cities of Southern New Mexico should also liberalize zoning rules for home‐​based businesses and encourage their growth and that of food trucks and locally crafted arts, crafts, and food items.

US trends that are trickling into New Mexico, Ortero County and Alamogordo.

In recent years in the United States, entrepreneurship and business growth and adaptability have trended downward. An indicator of this is the decline in the startup rate for employer businesses, as calculated from the Census Bureau’s “business dynamics” data.

During the economic downturn that began in 2008 and we clawed out of by 2010, the startup rate for new businesses fell below the shutdown rate for several years. Alamogordo was not immune to that trends and the bounce back has never materialized in Alamogordo’s retail sector as witnessed by the many empty retail storefronts on 10th Street, the New York Avenue District and on the White Sands inner city corridor.

The new business startup rate has not fully recovered from the decline, which is one reason why it has taken many years for the unemployment rate to fall to its pre‐​recession low and is now spiked during Covid with questions of its rebound.  Political leaders and struggling business recruitment like to point blame for unemployment on liberal unemployment compensation, closures mandated by the governor and deflect responsibility locally for the lack of incentivizing business development and lack of commitment to small business entrepreneurship incubation.

Per the CATO Institute, business permitting, and licensing is a challenge for startups in the restaurant industry, which is the largest industry for new businesses aside from professional services. There are about 650,000 restaurants in the United States and about half are not part of chains. Restaurants employ more than 12 million people. In 2020, the industry was hit hard by the pandemic and government‐​mandated shutdowns. A September 2020 survey found that more than 100,000 restaurants may close permanently.

State fees for alcohol licenses range from about $100 to more than $6,000. But there are 18 states that impose on‐​premises license caps, which limit the number of licenses for each municipality generally based on per capita formulas. Such caps create shortages — often severe shortages — with the result that licenses sell on the secondary market for vastly inflated prices, often hundreds of thousands of dollars. The restrictions on hard alcohol licenses are typically more severe than restrictions for beer and wine licenses. In big cities, full liquor licenses can cost up to $250,000 in California, $750,000 in Florida, $400,000 in Indiana, $320,000 in Montana, and $975,000 in New Mexico. If Alamogordo wants to get serious about catering to tourism and creating real jobs it needs to work with the state assembly and the governor on a process to better procure liquor licenses for Southern New Mexico at a more affordable rate. Further collaboration in efforts begin with the City Commission addressing the concerns of liquor license costs and the few numbers available to Southern New Mexico via the assembly and via the state Liquor Control Board. A resolution of concern is a first step and needs to be taken by the mayor and the city commission.

The complexity of permitting, licensing, and zoning rules, and the discretion it gives to officials, makes it a breeding ground for corruption in many municipalities. Corruption is exacerbated by artificial caps that limit the supply of valuable permits and licenses and by slow bureaucracies that incentivize businesses to bribe officials in order to speed approvals.

Corruption favors incumbent and politically connected and existing businesses at the expense of new and independent businesses. One expert noted on marijuana licenses that “A statewide cap tends to benefit well‐​connected and well‐​capitalized applicants such as large publicly traded companies while excluding smaller entrepreneurs and resulting in less choice and availability in the marketplace.” The lessons from alcohol licensing and the abuse seen needs to be noted as the regulations around marijuana are being debated at the state and local levels.

The 2020 pandemic caused the shutdown of many businesses and threw millions of people out of work nationwide and thousands in southern New Mexico. As the economy rebuilds in 2021, it needs startup new businesses especially in services, tourism, fitness and the arts to create jobs and pursue new post‐​pandemic opportunities.

Startup businesses in the arts, fitness and tourist related realms add value to Alamogordo and Southern New Mexico as well as the state and nation.

To speed economic recovery and support long‐​term growth, governments should remove regulatory barriers to startups.

State and local governments should review all occupational licensing rules and regulations and repeal those that fail cost‐​benefit tests. States should accept licenses issued by other states, explore whether licenses can be replaced by private certification, and reduce the costs and time requirements for needed licenses. States and local governments should repeal most licensing boards as they are detrimental to new business growth. The state and local governments should repeal laws around licensing of ex-felons and encourage them to gain full professional employment rather than punitive long term punishment post incarceration.

Bureaucratic processes should be much faster and more transparent, and most licensing should be done online, automated with status updates available online for transparency reasons. It makes no sense that entrepreneurs burn through cash for months on end waiting for government approvals before they can open their businesses. There is no excuse in small towns and cities in New Mexico nor anywhere in the US that business licenses should take more than two weeks to be executed given the real time data that is in front of everyone via the interconnected web of the internet we live in today.

Sources:

“Business Dynamics Statistics,” U.S. Census Bureau, www.census.gov/programs-surveys/bds.html “Federal Policies in Response to Declining Entrepreneurship,” Congressional Budget Office, December 29, 2020. The CBO estimates are based on data from “Business Dynamics Statistics.” The CATO Institute, Elizabeth Weber Handwerker, Peter B. Meyer, Joseph Piacentini, Michael Schultz, and Leo Sveikauskas, “Employment Recovery in the Wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Monthly Labor Review, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, December 2020. And see Opportunity Insights Economic Tracker, https://tracktherecovery.org

History of Alamogordo New Mexico, White Sands Proving Ground and the Missiles that blew up in Alamogordo and Juarez, Mexico

Alamogordo has a vast history and was a city of significant and strategic importance to the US Military establishment in the 1940’s through the 1970’s. During that time some would say that was the peak of Alamogordo. It was the center of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Following Hitler’s fall in 1945, the United States brought 177 German rocket scientists and technicians to White Sands Testing Range under Operation Paperclip. Some would say this “Operation Paperclip” is what put Alamogordo on the world map and brought about a period of peak prosperity. From the 1940’s to the 1970’s Alamogordo was a prosperous city with a lively nightlife full of nightclubs, cultural arts, live theater, and a robust retail environment. The school system at that time was ranked in the top 10 in the nation and it paid its teachers better than almost any school system in the country. Science, education and prosperity reigned on the city of Alamogordo and it loved its relationship with the scientist and the military. However, there was temporary fear in the air due to an incident in 1947. But a little history before we get there…

 Following Hitler’s fall in 1945, the United States brought 177 German rocket scientists and technicians to White Sands Testing Range under Operation Paperclip. White Sands Missile Range is the largest overland military test range in the United States, occupying some 3,200 square miles of southern New Mexico. With more than 80 years’ experience in rocket and weapons system test and development, it has earned the title “Birthplace of America’s Missile and Space Activity.”

First known as White Sands Proving Ground (renamed White Sands Missile Range in 1958), this installation was established on July 9, 1945, as the place to test rocket technology emerging from World War II.

The first atomic bomb (code named Trinity) was test detonated at Trinity Site near the northern boundary of the range on 16 July 1945, seven days after the White Sands Proving Ground was established.

After the conclusion of World War II, 100 long-range German V-2 rockets that were captured by U.S. military troops were brought to White Sand Proving Ground. Of these, 67 were test-fired between 1946 and 1951 from the White Sands V-2 Launching Site. (This was followed by the testing of American rockets, which continues to this day, along with testing other technologies.)

A launch complex, now known as Launch Complex 33, was built in the desert sand dunes six miles east of the post. It featured a concrete blockhouse with 10-foot-thick walls and a 27- foot-thick roof. A WAC Corporal launch tower was also erected. A year later, a gantry was added.

The first rockets crafted by Americans to blast off from the launch complex, the nation’s first large-scale launch facility, were WAC Corporals. Built by the fledging Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the 16-foot, 660- pound rockets were designed to carry a 25-pound weather package to an altitude of 20 miles. Since the WAC Corporal was under-powered, JPL engineers used a solid-fueled rocket booster dubbed “Tiny Tim” to get the rocket out of its launch tower and up to speed. The booster generated 50,000 pounds of thrust for a half second. By the time, the WAC Corporal was out of the 100-foot tower it was going almost 275 mph. During a series of tests in 1945 and 1946, the WAC Corporal was phenomenally successful, ultimately attaining an altitude of 43 miles. However, there were incidents. Documents in the New Mexico Museum of Space History archives detail the classified project, and how the military also sent 300 railroad boxcars crammed with V-2 parts into southern New Mexico and as the Germans began building the United States Army’s rocket program many early launches either blew up on the pad or crashed on base.

After multiple successful tests one with over 100 Newspaper reporters present and news around the world floating of US gaining in rocket research a series of crashes occurred. The first crashed May 15, 1947 in the city of Alamogordo. The crash occurred on the site of what is now New Mexico State University and the Space Hall of Fame.

After the May 15 disaster, the May 22 Alamogordo News reported “the people of Alamogordo got a thrill and incipiently a scare as some sort of body flew over the town in erratic flight and exploded at least once before dropping to earth.”

The book “We Develop Missiles, Not Air!” by Mattson and Martyn Tagg, (Air Combat Command, USAF/Cultural Resources Publication No. 2/June 1995) said the launch took place at 4:08 p.m. from Launch Complex 33. The liquid fuel was programmed to burn for 63.6 seconds and thrust the 9,827-pound rocket to 4,696 feet per second or 3,202 mph, attaining 76 miles in altitude. However, technicians noted “steering was a trouble from liftoff,” and “We Develop Missiles, Not Air!” said the V-2 “began tumbling end over end through the atmosphere. The pressure broke the missile apart.” Pieces fell near 13th Street and Cuba Avenue, and along the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks.

The Alamogordo News reported residents “got into cars and hastened to the vicinity” of the crash above Indian Wells Road, about 35 miles from LC 33. Citizens also “guarded a portion of the apparatus the rocket was carrying” that had plummeted down to First Street.

Bob Callaway, a high school freshman in 1947, said in a 1995 NMMSH oral history that he and a friend were tossing a ball at Michigan Avenue and 15th Street when the power lines “started shaking violently. About that time, we got the sound wave from the explosion of the V-2.” Callaway and four friends rushed to the scene in a truck and watched personnel load wreckage onto a trailer. He said security permitted them to take non-hazardous material, and they carted off a “bonanza” of wiring and steel tanks. They used the wires to build model airplanes, and the tanks to make “portable welding units,” he said.

Callaway knew of one person who found cameras. That night “OSI started knocking on doors, and believe it or not, by midnight had recovered all five cameras,” Callaway said.

An Army release stated the payload was benign: “scientific equipment” for the Naval Research Laboratory, “two spectrographs and four 16mm gunsight aiming point cameras a cosmic ray count recorder camera and two other aircraft cameras.” Also aboard was “a quantity of rye seed, which will be tested for effect on fertility of exposure to the upper atmosphere.”

An international incident nearly occurred when the V-2 plowed into a cemetery south of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

The El Paso Times reported the incident:

V-2 Rocket, Off Course, Falls Near Juarez May 30, 1947

El Paso and Juarez were rocked Thursday night when a runaway German V-2 rocket fired from the White Sands Proving Ground in New Mexico crashed and exploded on top of a rocky knoll three and a half miles south of the Juarez business district.

The giant missile burst in a desolate area of jagged hill, gullies and bondock.

No one was injured.

Lt. Col. Harold R. Turner, White Sands commanding officer, said failure of the rocket’s German-made gyroscope caused it to swerve from its set northerly course.

He said there was an error in judgment on the part of the safety control department in not shutting off the rocket motors as soon as it was determined the missile had swerved off course.

The violent blast, which shook virtually every building in both El Paso and Juarez, startled citizens of the two cities, who swamped newspaper offices, police headquarters and radio stations with anxious telephone inquiries.

The missile, of the type which terrorized wartime England, landed about a half-mile south of Tepeyac Cemetery.

CRATER 50 FEET

WIDE, 24 FEET DEEP

The terrific impact of the rocket, which contained only telemetering equipment, scooped out a perfectly rounded crater, about 50 feet in diameter and 24 feet deep. Only a few scraps of metal were around the crater when nearby residents reached the scene.

Army authorities form White Sands and Fort Bliss rushed to the spot as soon as they learned of the rocket’s fall and expressed to Mexican officials their regret at the rocket falling on Mexican soil.

Colonel Turner said the missile was fired at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. He said the rocket reached an altitude of 40 miles and was in flight five minutes.

He said the V-2 was being used to test certain component parts in American-made rockets.

Colonel Turner explained that the explosion actually was concussion caused by the force of the four and a half ton V-2 ramming the earth at 12 miles per minute.

The alcohol and liquid oxygen with which the rocket is fueled would only burn and would not explode, the colonel explained.

Mexican soldiers were ordered in the rater to mount guard. They were stationed on the rim, aiding American Military policemen to keep sight-seers and souvenir hunters from the area.

The site is half a mile from Buena Vista airport, where 13 planes were shaken by the blast, and a mile and a half from an oil plant. Many Juarez citizens at first believed the oil plant had exploded.

Wild rumors circulated in El Paso before cause of the blast was ascertained. One man said a “box car full of dynamite” had exploded in South El Paso, devastating the section, while another was certain “an underground gasoline storage dump” had blown up.

Many El Pasoans spotted the rocket’s vapor trail after the missile was fired at White Sands, about 500 airline miles north of El Paso, and a few minutes later heard a terrific explosion and smoke rising in the direction of Juarez.

Lt. Col. John Carroll, former R.O.T.C. commander of El Paso schools was just leaving Fort Bliss when he saw both the vapor trail and the blast.

SAW ROCKET FLIGHT,

WATCHED CRASH

Morris J. Boretz, who was en route to Southwestern General Hospital to visit his daughter, said he was at Brown street and Rim Road when he saw the rocket leaving White Sands and saw the crash south of the Rio Grand, looking like a miniature atomic bomb explosion.

Others who saw the spectacle were R.E. Nelson, 5801 Auburn street; Frank Moltans of the Times circulation staff; Wencis Tovar, 3703 Pera Street; Mrs. S.C. Cox, 3660 Douglas Street.

Lt. Col. George F. Pindar, commanding officer, First Guided Missile Battalion, White Sands, made the first official investigation into the rocket crash. He sped to the scene at about 8 p.m.under orders of Major Gen. John L. Homer, Fort Bliss commander.

Colonel Pindar was in El Paso at the time of the firing. He said he watched the rocket rise with a long tail of flame. Then the rocket appeared to hesitate and almost fade from view. Colonel Pindar looked away for a moment and when he next looked at the rocket it was moving overhead at a high rate of speed, traveling south toward El Paso. A moment later he heard the explosion that rocked the city.

Meanwhile Thursday night an emergency squad of eight Fort Bliss soldiers were searching the western slope of Mount Franklin for evidence of a second explosion reported seen by General Homer.

He told Colonel Pindar that he Saw a smaller explosion just prior to the Juarez blast several miles over the crest of Mount Franklin on the west side. Colonel Pindar said it was possible that a portion of the rocket had sheared off and dropped on Mont Franklin.

SHOCK FELT IN ANTHONY, FABENS

Detective W.D. White of El Paso Police Department, another eyewitness to the explosion, was at the corner of Mesa Avenue and Ninth Street looking in the direction of Juarez when the rocket landed.

“Flames shot into the air like a mushroom,” White said. “It looked just like a haystack on fire.”

Victor Robinson, 3907 Fort Boulevard said, “I saw the rocket go right over our house. It looked like it was going to land in the middle of town.”

Three windows were broken in Fire Chief Joe Boone’s office by the concussion. An electric clock in the Sheriff’s was stopped at exactly 7:32 p.m. by the shock.

Sheriff’s Deputy William Stoddard reported that the shock was felt as far west as Anthon, N.M. and south to Fabens.

The May 29 disaster was never listed in “the official White Sands firing summary,” What occurred with the second crash was it launched from LC 33, the rocket was supposed to fly north, but instead turned south. “The missile ultimately arced over El Paso and landed” (impacted) south of Juarez near a cemetery. “A few hours after the wayward missile landed (impacted), the U.S. Army showed up and found that enterprising Mexicans were selling any old piece of scrap metal they could find and claiming it was V-2 debris. The United States ultimately apologized to Mexico for the incident and paid for all damages incurred.

Subsequently, V-2 launches resumed in July 1947 after safety procedures had been developed to prevent the rockets from endangering civilian populations again.

Article Sources: Wikipedia, White Sands Military Archives, Department of Defense Records, University of New Mexico, US Space Hall of Fame, Alamogordo Town News, El Paso Times, Oral Accounts of Bob Calloway per the Space Hall of Fame and the Alamogordo Daily News.