Top six business stories of 2019

Posted 12/31/19

While the business world at large might have been focused on international trade wars and trade deals, locally Taos had its own ups and downs for companies.

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Top six business stories of 2019

Posted

While the business world at large might have been focused on international trade wars and trade deals, locally Taos had its own ups and downs for companies.

Taos family-owned Friday Motors sold to Colorado dealership

Staff report

Friday Motors signed a deal in May to sell the long-time Chevy dealership to Town and Country Auto Center of Colorado, according to general manager Debbie Friday Jagers.

The Friday family had owned and operated it - the one remaining new-vehicle dealership in Taos - for nearly 50 years. Town and Country owns Ford, Chrysler and GM dealerships in Alamosa and Salida, Colorado, as well as a used vehicle operation in Monte Vista, Colorado.

Larry and Judi Friday purchased Miller's Autoland, located where the Hotel Don Fernando is now, in 1971. The couple's three daughters - Debbie, Mary and Elizabeth - graduated from Taos High School, and the Fridays supported Tiger Sports, many local school projects and community programs.

When they decided to sell the business, the Fridays said in a press release, "we were certain we had to find a way to continue the local presence of a franchised dealership to provide sales and service to our loyal customers, and to provide jobs for our dedicated employees."

Town and Country currently has about 135 employees, including the 20 from Friday Motors.

Landmark Taos consignment store bids farewell after 14 years

By Doug Cantwell

dcantwell@taosnews.com

The largest and most visible Taos consignment store, Pieces, left the building on Paseo del Pueblo Sur in late September. "I have German stubbornness in me," said owner Becky Holsinger, who opened the store in 2006. "But the last several winters have been hard. Business just tanked for six months of the year and didn't get back to normal speed during the summer."

Holsinger originally leased just the middle third of the building but expanded over the years to occupy the entire 15,000-square-foot facility. She had over 7,000 consigners and displayed more than 50,000 pieces at any given time, of which about 45,000 changed hands during an average year.

Other factors tilted Holsinger toward calling it quits. "We've had seven break-ins since last October," said Holsinger. "Sure, I have an alarm system and added more security cameras, but it doesn't seem to deter them. We've had serious shoplifting issues here as well."

Taos Air expands air service

By Jesse Moya

jmoya@taosnews.com

In a partnership with Taos Ski Valley and the town of Taos, Taos Air began their service of flying passengers between Taos and Texas in 2018. In 2019, the service expanded their flights to include California, bringing more visitors and gross receipts tax to the Taos area. Utilizing the new crosswinds runway at the Taos Regional Airport, Taos Air brings passengers to and from their destinations three days per week with a one-way ticket starting at $125.

The chartered airline had a minor setback in the summer of 2019 when summer flights were cancelled. But for winter, the service was expanded to include round-trip flights to two California cities - San Diego and Los Angeles.

$100K prize, national exposure have HIVE project buzzing

By Doug Cantwell

dcantwell@taosnews.com

Little Taos, New Mexico, beat out competition from several big cities to bring home a $100,000 grant that will jump-start a program that aims to give their residents high-tech computer skills for better jobs. Their winning pitch attracted corporate and foundation attention as well. "Way more important than the money was the exposure," said Nina Gonzales, who heads the HIVE project.

The Hub of Internet-based Vocations and Education (HIVE) prevailed over nine other finalists at the Minds That Move Us conference in Miami Aug. 6-8 in a nationwide competition that sought out innovative educational solutions.

HIVE will provide training and credentials that allow young, old, disabled and disadvantaged to acquire an internet-based job or start an internet-based small business that lets them "live local ... work global." It will offer adult-education and college-credit courses that lead to online vocations that can be done from anywhere.

HIVE will also serve as an incubator for launching an internet-based business or take an existing business to the next level by tapping into the global marketplace, according to the organizers. It will provide computer training, digital marketing skills and entrepreneurial support.

Gonzales credited HIVE's success largely to support from partners: the Taos Community Foundation, the town of Taos, Kit Carson Electric Cooperative and Internet, the LOR Foundation, TaosWorks, FatPipe and the Northern Area Local Workforce Development Board.

How will battery storage help Taos' all-solar energy future?

By Doug Cantwell

dcantwell@taosnews.com

Kit Carson Electric Cooperative announced plans to build its first battery storage facilities as part of two new solar projects it's developing at Taos Mesa and Angel Fire.

According to CEO Luis Reyes, battery storage will benefit KCEC members in three primary ways. "It will ensure reliable energy for our members, increase our resiliency as a grid and also provide backup," he said.

With energy markets getting more and more complex, KCEC will be able to sell power into the marketplace when its batteries are not being used. "This way, we can support other utilities - like Public Service of New Mexico, for example - and make some money for our members as well," Reyes said.

Reyes noted that battery storage will also allow KCEC to optimize its grid, which he believes is becoming unique among small rural co-ops nationwide. "We're creating a distributed energy resource model," he said, "which means we have a bunch of solar arrays located across our territory that supply power to homes, schools and businesses that are close by."

Keeping power generation close to the point of consumption reduces the many cost and risk factors inherent in distribution systems. The battery storage and scattered solar arrays take the electric cooperative a few steps closer to its overall goal of producing 100 percent of its daytime power needs from solar for its 23,000 customers by 2022.

Taos Spa and Tennis Club goes solar - but keeps it local

By Doug Cantwell

dcantwell@taosnews.com

It took owners Pam and Ray Guyer a year and a half to realize their vision of making Taos Spa and Tennis Club a solar-powered facility, but they agree it was worth it, in spite of some roadblocks and detours. "For me personally, the environmental aspect was my number-one motivation," said Pam. "It was the best feeling to be able to do something positive in light of what's been going on."

Early on, the Guyers found financing the project to be a struggle. "We started with the big nationwide banks," said Ray, "but none of them would accept the arrays as collateral on the loan." Locally owned Centinel Bank was at first skeptical, but Charlie McGarity at PPC Solar, the Guyers' contractor, interceded to smooth the way and bring the two parties to the table.

McGarity also applied for a grant on the Guyers' behalf from the USDA's REAP program, which reimburses small businesses for 25 percent of the cost of a renewable energy installation once the project has been up and running for one month. On the downside, McGarity noted that the federal tax credit for installing a renewable system is scheduled to end in the next three years.

The two arrays, which provide 115 kilowatts of capacity, are tied into the grid and will offload surplus power to Kit Carson Electric Cooperative during peak production hours and draw power from the grid when the sun goes down or clouds get in the way. The account will get trued up every April to reconcile ingoing with outgoing flows and determine who owes what to whom.

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