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Study: Neighboring counties lose money due to LANL

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – A study conducted by University of New Mexico researchers found that Los Alamos National Laboratory has a negative economic impact on nearby communities, despite employing many people in the area.

Of the seven counties included in the study, governments in six of them were found to be losing money due to LANL’s impact, with the exception of Los Alamos. Those counties include Santa Fe, Rio Arriba, Sandoval, San Miguel, Taos and Mora.

The study, conducted by UNM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, found Los Alamos County gained $13 million from economic activity created by the lab, while all other counties lost an average of $1.25 million.

Santa Fe and Rio Arriba counties, home to 40% of the Lab’s employees, had the largest losses, at more than $2 million.

In a Friday presentation of the findings to the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities, Bureau Director Jeff Mitchell said his team calculated how much revenue LANL employees produce for an area versus what it costs a local government to provide services for them.

The study, Mitchell said, found that LANL and its employees tend to spend their money in only a few places.

Thirty-eight percent of the Lab’s spending actually goes to Bernalillo County, with another 42% staying within Los Alamos County, according to the study.

“Bernalillo County … has a great deal of procurements, but represents a very small portion of LANL employees,” Mitchell told the coalition.

The study found that higher-income employees tended to spend less money locally and that much of those wages are spent outside their rural communities.

Leo Marquez, a representative on the coalition from Rio Arriba, said he was concerned about the findings and noted that the lab rarely brings development to areas in northern New Mexico.

“You don’t see any talk of development in Rio Arriba County,” he said.

Los Alamos County Councilor David Izraelvitz said he felt the study was incomplete and needed additional numbers for more accurate information.

Officials from LANL, who contracted the study, sought to have the information on economic losses to counties removed from its original presentation, according to the Rio Grande SUN.

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