Española was spotlighted in a national discussion Tuesday when its mayor discussed its economic challenges compounded by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are seeing a long-term shift away from small businesses to large businesses,” Mayor Javier Sánchez said during the “Listening to America” forum. “And that’s going to impact us in ways that we can’t even recognize at the time.”
Hosted by The Hill, a website devoted to national politics,
the forum brought together an array of local and state government officials to discuss the unique characteristics and problems in their communities, whether they’re big cities or rural towns.
Sánchez noted a large share of purchases made in Española come at chain outlets such as Walmart, Lowe’s Home Improvement, McDonald’s and Taco Bell. That shift in spending is proving harmful to small stores, which are at the heart of the local economy, he said.
Sánchez, a Republican, appeared alongside New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, a Democrat, to contrast a large city and small town, as well as party politics.
One thing the two agreed on was that small businesses are the backbone of local economies.
Sánchez said that while national chain stores are grabbing the lion’s share of Española’s dollars, he doesn’t want that to become the long-term model.
“We have to prepare and continue entrepreneurship as a road to recovery,” Sánchez said. “We have to funnel as much money to small businesses so we can pull ourselves up by the bootstraps.”
He said mom-and-pop businesses are getting slammed by state-imposed restrictions in the pandemic.
A hair salon doesn’t know one week to the next whether it will be open or shut down or will go out of business, he said.
“And yet they’re the ones who don’t have a voice that larger businesses and corporations have,” Sánchez said. “What we hear are the daily stories and the struggles of people hurting economically.”
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham was on the list of speakers Tuesday but canceled because she was scheduled to appear at the same time of her State of the State address.
“There was some scheduling confusion,” Nora Meyers Sackett, the governor’s spokeswoman, wrote in an email. “We were sent the wrong date originally, and the amended date and time was a time the governor was not available. Our team sent the organizers her regrets.”
During the forum, Sánchez also talked about his town’s battle against alcohol and drug addiction. He said he considered working to create a drug and alcohol clinic downtown but learned it wasn’t feasible due to the lack of medical and social workers in the area.
More of those personnel must be established in the city if the addiction problems are to improve, Sánchez said.
At the same time, many children are getting lost in the social services system, he said. And some children who are doing remote learning are falling behind and could lose a year of education, reducing their earning potential, he said.
“We can’t afford that in our community, and it’s getting harder,” Sánchez said.