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Website offers links to dozens of participating businesses

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FARMINGTON — State economic development officials have launched an online campaign called "Buy for Tomorrow Today" that is designed to help small businesses survive through the coronavirus pandemic shutdown.

The campaign includes a website, buynmlocal.com, that provides links to participating business. Customers can then support those businesses by ordering gift cards, buying online gift certificates, placing merchandise orders or ordering food for delivery or pickup.

Read more: New Mexico restaurant group offering financial help to laid-off workers

The campaign is a collaborative effort between the department and the businesses taking part, said Bruce Krasnow, spokesman for the New Mexico Economic Development Department, which launched the campaign.

"We're doing everything we can to help these businesses," he said. "This is just a piece of the puzzle."

Business owners seemed to respond to the campaign quickly. The website was launched April 1 with just a handful of participating businesses, but Krasnow reported that 65 businesses had signed up for a listing by the end of that day. That put the campaign well on its way to achieving its goal of recruiting approximately 100 participating businesses.

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The businesses are divided into such categories as retail, manufacturing, restaurants and service. Shoppers can search the listings by region to find a business near them.

"We know New Mexicans have loyalty to local businesses, and those businesses need our support now more than ever," Economic Development Secretary Alicia Keyes stated in the press release. "We hope this website becomes one of many tools that can help businesses through this crisis."

TJ's Diner at 119 E. Main St. in downtown Farmington became the first San Juan County business to sign up for the campaign, followed quickly Robbins Heating & Air Conditioning Inc.

TJ's owner Nathan Hill said he heard about the campaign through a meeting of local merchants and indicated he thought the campaign probably would help retail businesses more than restaurants.

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But he welcomes any help he can get these days, even if his participation in the program leads only to a marginal increase in business.

"We're operating at 25 percent of the normal revenue we operate at," he said.

Hill said TJ's, one of the longest-operating and best-established businesses in Farmington, has been struggling all year — first with the onset of the Complete Streets construction that severely limited access to his business. But he said that challenge was minor compared to what the coronavirus shutdown has done to his traffic.

The restaurant has adapted by focusing on its take-out business, which slowly has been growing after the initial shock of the shutdown, Hill said.

"When this all came about, my initial thought was really to close my doors," he said. "This is just too much. We have a real loyal clientele that trades with us. But our dine-in experience is just better than our take-out food. We serve the same food in boxes that we serve in the diner, but it's just not as good. It's not as piping hot."

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Nevertheless, Hill seems determined to ride out the storm.

"We're there every day, supplying our customers and doing what we do," he said.

Merchants interested in registering their business for the campaign can do so through the "List Your Business" link on the "Buy for Tomorrow Today" website. Visitors to the site can conduct a transaction online.

Krasnow said his department has been offering assistance to businesses that weren't set up to conduct online sales, educating them on how to set up a PayPal account, for instance. He believes the campaign has a lot to offer New Mexico merchants, and he encouraged them to take a flexible attitude toward how they conduct business as the shutdown lingers.

"If they need help, they should reach out to us," he said. "We have people who can help them put their brand out there. Hopefully, we can all get through this together."

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Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/216TU0e

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