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Rural New Mexico community hit hard by 2022 wildfire opens new business center

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Roz Brown

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(New Mexico News Connection) A small New Mexico community working to get back on its feet following a devastating wildfire has opened a new rural business center.

Two years ago, Las Vegas and its surrounding areas were hit hard by the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire, the largest wildfire in state history. Now, the newly opened Rural Minority Business Center is using a federal rural grant along with money from the City of Albuquerque to provide resources designed to support new and existing businesses.

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Gabriela Marques, director of the center, explained the need urgent need to provide help.

"The community has just been at a loss," Marques observed. "Not just the physical loss of material and furniture and buildings, but then also your emotional state, so the community is really looking for infusion of excitement but also infusion of support."

The Las Vegas center began operations this week using a grant of $183,000 from the Minority Business Development Agency. The City of Albuquerque also provided $20,000 to get the center up and running. The 2022 wildfire hurt businesses and forced Las Vegas to rebuild water treatment facilities contaminated by debris.

Marques pointed out businesses of all different sizes and backgrounds can get help through the center, including those without a storefront who operate online. Services might include a business license, training materials for new employees, webinars and other necessities.

"They do not need to be a minority," Marques noted. "They can be a true startup that's just looking for some support. For example, to create a logo, business card design, if you're looking for support of creating a new website; everything is free of charge."

At the center, located at 366 Luna Drive, Marques added she hopes to secure additional funding to keep the center operating far into the future.