By Mary Alice Murphy
The October 5, 2017 monthly meeting of the Silver City-Grant County Chamber of Commerce featured awards from the PNM Foundation and a speaker on information technology.
Bruce Ashburn, chamber board president and employee of PNM, presented five $10,000 Century of Service awards, honoring the 100 years of PNM serving New Mexico.
Ashburn said the money for the awards "does not come out of your rates. This year, we are offering one $100,000 grant, one $50,000 grant and 60 for $10,000 each. All in Grant County are the smaller amount."
He noted that each group that was awarded had to do work to apply, "so I commend you. If you don't apply, you don't get the award."
The first award went to Loren and Barbara Nelson of Imagination Library of Grant County.
"Imagination Library registers children beginning at birth to age 5 years," Loren Nelson said. "We mail an age-appropriate book to each child each month up to the age of 5. This month, we mailed close to 1,300 books. We have registered 80 percent of the eligible children in the county. We are approaching having sent out 90,000 books since we founded the program here."
Imagination Library is part of the Dolly Parton Foundation. "The foundation asked us to expand our program in New Mexico. Sierra, Eddy, Los Alamos and Socorro counties are the newest counties of the 14 counties covered in the state. Each month, about 7,200 books are going out to young children. Thank you for this grant, which will cover the cost of books and some operating expenses."
The next award went to the Southwest Center for Health Innovation. Miriam Kellerman accepted the grant. "We are a public health entity, with the goal of increasing the amount and quality of our local health care work force. We support the Junior High to High School summer academies, all the way through to medical practitioners' rotations and residencies. Health care providers are lacking in the nation and especially in rural areas. Providers are aging. The support we get goes into programs and scholarships. We also take the MCATs (the test given to students wishing to enter the medical field) into schools."
Emily Schilling of the Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments accepted the award to create a virtual business incubator. "Because of the vast distances in our four counties, it is hard for the Small Business Development Center or small business owners to travel. We will provide life training for businesses online."
Susan Wilger accepted the National Center for Frontier Communities award. "We have been based in Silver City for 20 years, as a non-profit resource group since 2008. We support non-profits with curbside consults, workshops and learning circles. Find us at www.frontierus.org. It's difficult for non-profits to survive. This funding will allow us to offer workshops in the spring."
Michael Metcalf of the Western New Mexico University Expressive Arts Department, along with Bailey Pagels, accepted an award to fund a series of lectures on economic development. She said: "Our larger hope is to create a makers' space, as part of our collaboration with the University of New Mexico's Architecture professor Tim Castillo."
Metcalf carried the idea and said: "Silver City has a strong and educated retiree contingent. We want to integrate us all together. Younger students don't know how to use their hands. We will have four lectures over the next two years, looking at broadening what it takes to grow community and how to develop creative commerce."
Steve Chiang spoke about small business information technology in Grant County and about "life on the rural information highway."
He explained the term IT, or information technology, is a marriage of information and technology. "The oldest IT was probably petrographs, later came paper and the printing press. Today's pace of technology change is unprecedented. Google has a new phone that will translate for you. IT is not just for big corporations. The common denominators of IT are computers, telephony, internet and support (or lack of it)."
"Support for IT here is pretty poor," Chiang said. "Computers include the hardware software and, too often, the malware. You should NOT spend more than $600 on a system. The common weaknesses of less expensive systems are slow disk drives. They may have large capacity, but they are slow.
"The software days of shrink wrapped disks are numbered," he continued. "Microsoft 365 is Office and Windows together. Now, in the age of software as SAAS, software as a service, you may soon find Office 365 and Adobe software only online."
The problem with SAAS in Grant County is that the arrangement makes the implicit assumption that everyone has fast internet, "which we don't."
If a person buys the Microsoft software on disks, it has a life of five+five—the first five years, Microsoft will do enhancements, the next five they will release security updates, but nothing new.
He noted the malware, as mentioned at first, is becoming more and more of a problem. Ransomware is a newer malware tool that encrypts files and then asks for money to unencrypt them. "Microsoft did send out a patch for its outdated XP system."
Chiang recommended that people stick with Windows 7 and not upgrade to Windows 10. He also recommended that those with Microsoft Office versions 2010 and 2013, not upgrade to 2016 or 365. "Don't update. It takes hours to update."
"Malware slows down systems, and is especially acute at start up," he said. "Personally, I don't use most of these, because I have no time on my computer."
Kaspersky CCleaner has been put on the federal agency blacklist because it is in Russia. "Almost every computer has CCleaner on it, but you don't use it."
"Telephony is also part of most small businesses," Chiang said. "Almost all small businesses overpay on telephone services. I do not recommend VOIP (voice over internet protocol), but if you want it, it costs no more than $30 a month. Google Hangout gives the capability for enhanced phone services and it's free."
He showed a map of where internet is available in the U.S. "Almost everyone in Grant County can get some internet, but the download speeds are not fast. You have a choice of CenturyLink, Comcast and WNM Communications for landline connections. For over air, you have Hughes and WiPower. For cellular services, providers are AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, all of which are over the air and 4G LTE. Comcast offers the fastest internet service in Grant County, with speeds up to 150 Mbps."
Chiang said IT support for small businesses in Grant County is practically non-existent. "We have less than 10 in the county, and some that are off the book."
"Be extremely cautious on who you use to handle your IT," Chiang said. "The IT person will have full access to your confidential materials."
Chiang's business is TechserviceondemandLLC, at www.techserviceondemand.com . "My services include: IT solution provider; emergency services; and I'm usually onsite within 24 hours of your first call."
He partners with Dell, Cisco, Microsoft, Refurbish, Netgear, HP Enterprise, and Webroot, among others.
Grant County Commissioner Harry Browne asked what to do about slow speeds.
"We don't have a lot of competition," Chiang said. "We have to rely on WNM Communications or Comcast. Or you may be able to bring in faster speeds from a neighboring business, if you ask to share."
An attendee asked if Chiang acts as a liaison with Comcast. "There are FCC programs that fund broadband loops."
Chiang said Comcast is "not terribly responsive and very expensive."
During community announcements, Town Manager Alex Brown said the town is talking about getting funding for a broadband loop through USDA.
Realtor Ruth Seawolf said she is lucky in that she has WNM Communications fiber optics. "WNM cost a cost for putting in fiber optics throughout Silver City and the cost was $16 million."
SWNMCOG executive director Priscilla Lucero asked for support to represent the regional water project.
Scott Terry, Chamber president, said PNM comes and gives out grants. "There will be one or two people who say something positive."
Ashburn quoted: "Coming together is the beginning; staying together is progress; and working together is success."
[Editor's Note: Steve Chiang brought my five-year-old iMac back to life, so he can also do magic with Apple machines.]