FRI: New Mexico COVID Cases Trending Down, ‘Buy Local' Push Picks Up Steam Amid Shutdown, + More

Nov 27, 2020

‘Buy Local' Push Picks Up Steam In New Mexico Amid Shutdown - By Pilar Martinez Albuquerque Journal

Jenny Gonzales, owner of Los Ranchos' Culture Club Salon, said she has seen firsthand this year how local businesses are able to lift one another up — even during the current state-mandated shutdown of nonessential businesses.

"I definitely have felt like this closure has given small businesses the opportunity to connect with one another," she told the Albuquerque Journal. "There's been a lot of trends online as far as sharing and reposting other small businesses and also doing collaborative projects."

With salon business on hold, Gonzales jumped in on her own collaborative project by curating holiday gift baskets filled with local goods.

She chose products like coffee beans from Slow Burn Coffee and flowers from Bagel's Florals because she has seen those businesses also do positive community-oriented work like hosting pop-up markets or creating lists for mutual aid projects.

"We just wanted to give the people of Albuquerque and local people the opportunity to offer that support back to us," she said.

The state's two-week "reset," announced Nov. 13, closes nonessential businesses to in-person shopping, among other restrictions. It runs through Nov. 30.

The push to buy local has taken on a sense of urgency this year, between the ongoing pandemic and the fast-approaching holiday season.

In New Mexico, government initiatives, community-based outreach and local shops have all stepped up their messaging and marketing to drive business to small, independent retailers in an attempt to support and even save those businesses.

"What we've seen is like so many businesses have made creative and really ingenious changes to their business models this year," said Synthia Jaramillo, director of Albuquerque's Economic Development Department.

However, the timing of the statewide shutdown orders has added some hurdles for businesses and markets that traditionally rely on in-person shopping.

Janice Smith, who owns the Laughing Spirits Gallery in Old Town, said in normal years she would be getting her booth ready for the annual Rio Grande Arts and Crafts Festival. Now, she is preparing for a virtual version of the event.

Smith said the pandemic forced her to adapt to online selling rather than traveling the country to various art shows.

"There's small business everywhere," she said. "We've had to adapt so, you know, we need people to adapt with us."

While e-commerce is one of the few ways small retailers are allowed to operate under New Mexico's current state-mandated shutdown, not all local businesses have an online presence.

Jaramillo said many small businesses are also turning to the city for help and guidance to meet a variety of challenges.

"We have received a higher volume of calls from small businesses who are looking for resources, whether it be access to grants, access to capital, but also, we're seeing businesses reach out to us to help them with maybe connecting them to an e-commerce platform," she said.

This need for support has resulted in a handful of online resources created by state and city economic development departments and tourism-based organizations like Visit Albuquerque. Those resources range from advice to businesses on operating during a shutdown to lists for consumers looking for local shops to support.

Even trends on social media have cropped up with city-centric accounts like ABQtodo encouraging their followers to create posts promoting their favorite local business.

"I feel like with the second shutdown we've actually just gotten a lot of words of encouragement from our clients and from our community of followers online," Gonzales said.

At the state level, Saturday is a tax-free holiday for New Mexico small businesses with fewer than 10 employees, said Charlie Moore, spokesman for the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue department.
Moore said the holiday was created as a way to incentivize New Mexicans to shop locally, but the program has yet to gain traction with small business owners, some of whom may be unaware of it.

Meanwhile, New Mexico's small business owners have done what they can to encourage the shop local trend.

When Kelli Hulslander, owner of Your Other Closet consignment shop, read about businesses offering discounts for shopping locally in a national consignment organization newsletter, she knew immediately she wanted to bring the idea home to Albuquerque.

Hulslander said she wanted to lend a helping hand to her fellow small business owners by rewarding customers for shopping locally. She set up her own version of the program, and now offers customers a $5 discount for bringing a receipt from a local business.

"We just said 'Hey, we want to support anybody who's got a small business right now,'" she said.

Hulslander said programs like hers can create a "ripple effect" of businesses encouraging their customers to shop locally, which in turn supports the small business community as a whole.

"If I do business with somebody, I want to make sure that they're going to be there in the future," she said.

Hulslander said she tries her best to direct her customers to other local businesses whenever she can, even if that means pointing a customer to another consignment shop if she doesn't carry the right item.

Hulslander said this results in a network of small businesses referring other small businesses and customers to locally owned shops, which creates an almost small town environment.

"It kind of feels like (a) small Main Street, support each other kind of thing, so it's nice," she said. "I enjoy it. I find it to be very supportive and warm."

New Mexico's Daily Count Of COVID-19 Cases Trending Down - Associated Press

New Mexico's daily count of confirmed COVID-19 cases has been trending down from the record highs reported earlier this month.

State health officials on Thursday reported an additional 1,708 cases, bringing the statewide total to just under 89,800 since the pandemic began. The death toll stands at 1,469.

Hospitalizations remain high, with 880 people being treated around the state.

New Mexico has some of the strictest public health restrictions in place, including capacity limits at grocery stores and other businesses deemed essential. Many other businesses are closed, face masks are mandatory, gatherings of more than five people are prohibited and there's no indication when schools will be able to bring students back to the classroom.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is expected to announce whether any changes will be made Monday, when the current public health order is scheduled to expire.

Audit: Supervisor Stole Thousands From Bernalillo County Jail InmatesAlbuquerque Journal, KUNM

Investigators with the New Mexico state auditor’s office are accusing a former supervisor at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center of stealing over $15,000 from inmate accounts.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that Kate Aldrich, the county jail’s former Fiscal Programs supervisor, is the accused party, despite only being referred to by the initials “K.A.” in the investigation’s report.

Aldrich is accused of stealing from the detention center’s Inmate Trust account, which is used by those who are jailed to purchase commissary items and make phone calls.

An employee since 1993, the Journal reports Aldrich was placed on administrative leave early last year and later retired.

The paper was unable to reach Aldrich for comment on the accusations.

A spokesperson for MDC said that the money has since been returned to the affected account.
An investigation by the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office is ongoing.

Some Snow Expected As Next Storm Moves Over New Mexico - Associated Press

Forecasters with the National Weather Service in New Mexico say a storm is expected to cross over the state Friday through Saturday morning and could effect some post-holiday travel.

The upper-level low pressure system will bring with it snow and strong winds for some areas. However, forecasters are warning the drought-stricken state not to expect too much moisture out of the system.

About half of the state is dealing with exceptional drought — the highest designation under which fire danger increases and large rivers run dry. That marks a significant change even since the previous week.
Pointing to data from past winter seasons and climate models, forecasters say precipitation in central and northern New Mexico during December, January and February will most likely range from slightly below to below climatological averages.

Snowfall data from previous weak to moderate La Niña events also suggest that snowfall will range from slightly below to below average, with the northern quarter of the state favored with the best chances for a near-average winter.

Temperatures for the coming months are expected to be above average.

U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo To Serve Third 1-year Term - Associated Press

U.S. poet laureate Joy Harjo will serve a third, one-year term and has launched an online project that celebrates Native American poets around the country.

Her reappointment was announced last week by the Library of Congress, and her new term begins in September.

Harjo, a former resident of New Mexico, was the first Native American to be named poet laureate. Previous laureates include Tracy K. Smith, Natasha Tretheway and Robert Pinsky, the only other laureate in recent years to serve three terms.

Harjo's project is called "Living Nations, Living Words." It features a digital map of 47 contemporary writers, including Harjo, Louise Erdrich and Natalie Diaz. The map links to audio recordings of the writers reading and discussing an original poem.