Carrie Hamblen, Las Cruces Green Chamber
LAS CRUCES – This past Saturday marked the two-year anniversary of the designation of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks (OMDP) National Monument. On May 21, 2014, President Obama used his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate four areas within Doña Ana County as a National Monument, protecting cultural and historical sites, wildlife, important plant ecosystems, and more for generations to come. Since that designation, our fair city has been recognized in a number of national publications, listed as one of the top 10 best places to visit by Lonely Planet, and been host to a number of conferences because of a National Monument in our backyard. And every opportunity I have in my position as CEO/President of the Las Cruces Green Chamber to talk about Las Cruces and OMDP, I welcome with great enthusiasm.
On May 10, I was invited by the Small Business Majority to Washington D.C. to participate in their Small Business Summit. My task was to moderate a panel, connecting small businesses to the benefits of protected public lands. Approximately 100 of the 150 attendees at the Summit sat in the audience to hear stories about Las Cruces and Butte, Montana, understand the challenges the outdoor industry is facing, and learn about the methodology that goes into studying economic opportunities of national monuments.
The panel featured Courtney McKee, co-owner of Headframe Spirits and Headframe Distillers in Butte, Montana; Clinton Solaga from BBC Research; and Jessica Wahl from the Outdoor Industry Association.
According to the Public Lands Foundation, the first public lands were created in 1781 when New York agreed to surrender to the federal government its claim to four unsettled territories extending westward to the Mississippi River. The other colonies followed New York’s lead and by 1802, all territory west of the colonies, from the Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi River, became public domain lands owned by the federal government.
From 1890 to 1945, over 200 million acres of the original public domain lands were transferred from General Land Office administration to other federal land management agencies for use in their designated programs.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) continues to manage the subsurface mineral estate of federal lands managed by other federal agencies. BLM manages over 260 million acres of federal land, primarily in the eleven western states and Alaska. These lands contain the largest, most diverse and scientifically important body of cultural resources managed by any federal agency.
The OMDP National Monument is one of those important places managed by the BLM and was a major part of the discussion in Washington DC.
As the panel moderator, my job was to set the tone of the discussion and then invite each of the panelists to speak. Clinton Saloga shared the methodology and approaches to conducting the research on the latest study for the Small Business Authority, “Economic Impacts of Obama Administration National Monuments.” Jessica Wahl shared with the audience the importance of protected public spaces, like national monuments and parks, have on the outdoor industry. She is referring to businesses that specialize in rafting, camping, rock climbing and the like. And Courtney McKee talked about her hometown of Butte, Montana and the origins of her Spirits and Distilling business.
The way Courtney talked about her hometown, sharing her personal stories, the beauty of Butte, and the reasons why she gives back so much to her community reminds me of so many of the local business owners in Las Cruces. She spoke so warmly about the value of her employees and the importance of giving them the tools they needed to represent her business with the utmost professionalism and care. The stories she told of the different copper mines with names that her company uses to identify her various spirits conveyed a sense of place and value. She loves Butte, Montana and it shows.
The co-branding of the local history in Butte with the Headframe Spirits is exactly what several businesses in Las Cruces are doing with OMDP. In addition to the OMDP Coffee Blend at Beck’s Coffee, the OMDP Cocktail at Azul Lounge, OMDP Ceramic platters made by Kate Mott, and the OMDP Bread Pudding by the Green Chile Paddy wagon are just a few examples of local businesses embracing our National Monument.
Additionally, the commitment our local business owners have to their employees and the community is also very much like Courtney’s business in Butte. Matter of fact, after meeting so many small business owners while at the Summit in Washington D.C., I learned that there are core beliefs that all small business owners have: determination, vision, family, giving back to the community, wanting to make a decent living, and the desire to fulfill their dreams.
When we share our sense of place, either it be the actual location of our business, our place in the community, the importance of landmarks around us, or the role our family and employees play in our business, we really are doing what small business owners are doing across the country. And by doing so, we are creating a unified voice that small, locally-owned businesses give back to our community in more ways than do national chains, hands down.
As consumers, when we support our locally owned businesses, we are contributing to that shared sense of place, making our community the place for our residents to thrive and our visitors to enjoy.