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Aztec HUB needs full-time staff, better programming after first year, officials say
550 Brewing sees profits at the end of a 'successful' year, owners say
FARMINGTON — Aztec’s 550 Brewing will mark its first year in business at the Aztec HUB this week. The brewery opened on Dec. 27, 2016 at 119 S. Church St, owner Mike Paschall said.
“For us, the HUB has worked really great. We’ve had a good first year,” Paschall said on Dec. 20, adding “what we’re using it for is to get the taproom going and make sure it’s a cash flow of a business before we try to grow it larger at another location.”
550 Brewing is the first tenant for the Aztec HUB, a business incubator and business center funded by the City of Aztec and operated by the city in partnership with the Aztec Chamber of Commerce, San Juan College Enterprise Center and Four Corners Economic Development, according to the HUB’s marketing plan. The city purchased the building on Nov. 28.
Aztec Mayor Sally Burbridge said the HUB began after the city started looking at purchasing a downtown building that could be rented to small businesses. Grant funding was available to begin a rural incubator project and business mentorship program with San Juan College, and “the idea kept evolving,” Burbridge said.
The HUB functions as a business center and business incubator. 550 Brewing occupies part of the building, while other rooms are dedicated to partner organizations, like the Aztec Chamber of Commerce, and space for members, including private and large conference rooms. The hub also offers services, like the use of printers and copy machines, and support through entrepreneur groups, training and classes, according to the marketing plan.
Burbridge said though aspects of the HUB have been successful over the course of its inaugural year, “we definitely need to continue improving our offerings.”
“We need to focus on getting better at the programming that we offer, and we have to change how we staff the HUB,” Burbridge said on Dec. 20, adding that the HUB “had a part-time staff person, and we relied on some other entities to help provide staffing, and so far, it’s just not provided the stability and consistency that we need at that facility.”
Burbridge said the city commission approved funds on Nov. 28 to buy the HUB building and to hire a full-time HUB staffer, though the hiring process has yet to begin.
Aztec City Commissioner Katee McClure said though the brewery is doing well, the business center part of the HUB has fallen to the wayside.
“I don’t think (the HUB as a whole is) working that well at all. It needs to be reinvented,” McClure said on Dec. 20. “The one business that is working well there is 550 Brewing, but we were going to get together and talk about how to make the whole thing more successful, because there is a room in there with high-tech electronics for people to have meetings, and there is the ability for people to join (as HUB members) and come use the office services — the phone, the fax, the copy machine — stuff like that. That hasn’t been marketed well as of yet, but that’s definitely on the plate for the future now.”
Though she said she voted against recent funding request because “the city didn’t have the money," McClure said a business incubator is an effective way for business owners to “get their feet wet without breaking the bank and see if idea will fly,” and that services offered by a business center can be “crucial” for a new business.
Aztec City Commissioner Sheri Rogers said though the HUB has done well in its first year, “it could be better ... (but) we have to do something to try to help our local economy."
“One of the most persistent questions I get is ‘How can we diversify our economy? What can we do to help supplement oil and gas if it’s not going to come back?’” Rogers said. “I don’t think we can just sit back and not do anything and just hope something happens. I think we have to give people the tools and opportunity to invent something, develop something. Maybe they’ve had an idea for a business and they just don’t know how to go about it. The responsible thing is try to help those people be successful and hopefully contribute to our local economy.”
Micah Fiske, Paschall's daughter and a 550 Brewing business partner, said the HUB "has been a blessing for" the brewery, which has four paid employees and four "volunteers-slash-owners." Fiske said the HUB "gave us the push we needed" to get started, and the brewery is closing its first year with hopes of expanding and moving into a larger location in Aztec, Paschall said.
"We're hoping to stay successful for another year or two and build a clientele so that we can support a larger building and being in a larger space," Paschall said. "We've done pretty well — we're not ordering Ferraris for the employees yet, but we have cash flowing in the first year, ... so we feel pretty fortunate that we've been that successful."
Bloomfield resident Dan Galvan opened an antique shop, Fun & Rustic Antiques, in June at the corner of West Chaco Street and Main Street in Aztec. He plans to stay at his downtown location for some two years to see if his business plan works and to “see if I can get rid of some of this stuff.”
“I think Aztec’s got potential,” Galvan said at his shop on Dec. 19. “It’s got the architecture, it’s got the ruins that are thousands of years old, so that gives it a lot of history. The buildings are Victorian from a hundred years ago, and I think it attracts good creative energy, and you can have tons more creative people come in, kind of like a little Durango. That’s kind of how I see it.”
Megan Petersen covers business and education for The Daily Times. Reach her at 505-564-4621 or firstname.lastname@example.org.