By Marty Mayfield
As we look back on 2013 the changes to the Raton business climate were dramatic and far-reaching with closures, sales and buyouts. Key personal changes also affected Raton in dramatic ways.
Change started early in the year with the closure of City Market on January 1st. Others closing their doors included Petals and Comcast, which closed its office in Raton. Comcast still continues to maintain a presence with its cable technicians. The Spur Lounge and the White House Saloon both sold their liquor licenses and closed their doors. The Crystal and Pappas Sweet Shop also sold their liquor licenses but remained open with a beer and wine license.
Another of the more dramatic closures came when the Raton Range closed its doors. The paper had been in publication in various forms for over 100 years. The twice a week paper was replaced by a weekly named the Raton Comet which is partnered with the Sangre De Christo Chronicle that covers other parts of Colfax County, mainly Cimarron and the Mareno Valley.
The Corner Shop joined the businesses on historic First Street helping Raton MainStreet’s efforts to revitalize the downtown area.
Coal bed methane operations continued on the Vermejo Park Ranch under the name of Atlas Resources Partners. The operations were sold by El Paso Energy last year and reformed as EP Energy and soon after that EP Energy sold the operations to Atlas, which became the official owners on August 1st of this year.
The Del Norte Pharmacy was purchased by The Medicine Shop and operations consolidated at the Medicine Shop home in the Dona Anna shopping center, while leaving the Home Medical business in operation in its original home in the Mira Monte shopping center. Adams Conoco was sold to Alta Fuels, bringing a new business face to Raton.
Changes in the Raton school system included a new superintendent with Dr. Neil Turhune and high school principal Eric Fredell. Other changes at the high school included Brock Walton retiring as head football coach and Zack Romero leaving as volleyball coach. New school board members were seated as controversy there forced changes.
Raton city government in turmoil finally saw a calming influence when city manager Pete Kampfer left and was replaced by retired school superintendent Butch McGowen. McGowen has been charged with getting the city’s financial house in order. McGowen’s arrival has brought stability to city government while Raton Public Service has seen the resignation of general manager David Mitchell.
There is no doubt 2013 was a year of change for Raton and changes will continue as 2014 rolls around. The business climate in Raton will have to adapt and change as business owners who are reaching retirement age contemplate closing their doors as there are no heirs to continue the business operations and selling the business is financially impractical and unfeasible due to expensive regulatory compliance. Business leaders will have to rethink business in general and come to the realization that Raton is becoming a tourist destination and moving away from an industrial business climate.
They will have to build on the positive aspects of business like the Whittington Center and its many visitors each year. Build the on the positives like fishing at Lake Maloya and other are fishing holes in the area. Day trips out of Raton to Capulin or Ute Park and the Mareno Valley or the Enchanted Circle.
City government will continue looking at creative ways to finance unfunded mandates such as closing the city landfill and trucking solid waste to another landfill. Raton city government will be challenged with the seating a mostly new city commission after municipal elections in March. After the last couple of years of turmoil it could be hard to find candidates to run for the city commission especially under the threat of a recall election by a watchdog group should they not be pleased with the commission’s performance.
City government receives about 75% of its income from gross receipts. A declining population also means a declining gross receipts tax base, thus reduced revenues for the city to work with. The new commission will be challenged to be creative with the city budget. Will they have to cut more city services or will they be able to at least keep things on a even keel.
Change and challenges abound for Raton in 2014. While there have been several negatives Raton can recover and build a positive business climate. That climate may look totally different than it does now but with positive and cooperative work it can happen.