By AARON ROGERS
Daily Press Correspondent
Grant County’s only rental car service will no longer be available after this week. According to an email to the Daily Press, Enterprise Rent-A-Car has decided to close its Silver City location this month.
“After much discussion and hope that demand would return, we made the difficult decision to permanently close the Silver City Enterprise location,” Lisa Martini, spokesperson for Enterprise, wrote Thursday. “The location was initially closed temporarily last year, when we closed or consolidated many of our rental locations early on in the pandemic. We reopened the Silver City location in an effort to accommodate the customers previously served out of there, primarily from the university and those surrounding businesses. However, we have not seen that demand come back to the extent we’d hoped to sustain the business.”
Enterprise’s decision to close has caught many in the community off guard, but a number of businesspeople and the Silver City Grant County Chamber of Commerce have actively been involved in trying to get Enterprise to reconsider and stay open, at least until some suitable alternatives could be found.
“We’d love to have them here. There’s still a big need for what they offer,” said Steven Chavira, the Chamber’s executive director.
“It is unfortunate when any company in our community discontinues providing their service,” said Chelsea Hotchkiss, who is president of Insurance First in Silver City and also operates a shuttle service to and from the Grant County Airport. “It’s even more so losing a high-demand service that supports tourism and provides transportation, especially [for] those that utilized it for long-distance medical travel.”
The void soon to be left by Enterprise does create opportunities, however.
Her company, “Air Shuttle, will be announcing a schedule to help assist this time of community need,” she said, “though Grant County and the surrounding area will definitely need more companies in these areas to fill this gap.”
During a presentation to county commissioners last week, Advanced Air President Levi Stockton, whose airline serves the county airport, announced that his company was working to lure a California luxury rental car company to Grant County.
“We’re hopeful that we can get them to locate a few cars here, and then they would have a location in Santa Fe, which would allow for one-ways, or drop-offs and pickups in Santa Fe and here,” Stockton told the commission, emphasizing that discussions were preliminary. “No promises.”
The Chamber remains hopeful that another company may come in and fill the gap left by Enterprise’s impending departure.
“There is a need for what they offer, and we’re hoping someone will come in and fill it,” Chavira said. “There are other companies that we’ve talked to.”
An option that has taken root in other places, mainly larger cities, are burgeoning app-based rental car gig companies like Turo, which allow car owners to rent out their vehicles on a short-term basis. Right now, Turo only shows one three-wheel convertible roadster available for rent in the area — in Deming.
Other gig-economy companies that offer ride-sharing and delivery services, like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash, have had mixed success in this community.
Even the folks at Enterprise seem to recognize that losing their services puts Grant County in a difficult position, and it seems they are leaving options open for returning here someday.
“While for now, the closest rental location is in Las Cruces, we will continue to evaluate the demand and always remain open to new opportunities,” said Marini in closing her email. Until that day comes, maybe there is a window of opportunity for other services to come in and fill the void.
Aaron Rogers may be reached at [email protected]
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