With money from the half-cent sales tax Lastleaf Printing owner Mo Valdez plans to double production.
The man behind gig posters for big names such as Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Paul McCartney, Alabama Shakes and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals is the latest to receive money from Pueblo’s half-cent sales tax, which is reserved for businesses that create primary jobs.
Pueblo silk screen print maker and PULP cover artist Mo Valdez of Last Leaf Printing was approved $25,000 via a unanimous city council vote in December to grow his business by three employees.
The Pueblo Economic Development Corporation is responsible for recruiting companies with primary jobs and advising city council on how much money should be spent from the half-cent sales tax, but city council has the ultimate say in authorizing tax dollars to grow the economy.
“I’m very excited about this project. You might not know it, but the quality of Mo’s work is the best in the country – and possibly the world,” said Pueblo County Economic Development Director Chris Markuson. “There are only a few businesses like his in the US that do what he does.”
Valdez’s print shop fits the main criteria of the half-cent ordinance — which made it a prime candidate for the funds.
“Over 95 percent of Lastleaf’s revenue comes from outside Pueblo County – from clients across the globe,” Markuson said. “He also doesn’t directly compete with any business in Pueblo County.”
Valdez has been in the silk screening business for seven years. Since his beginning, he has created posters for artists, venues, musicians and events across the country and around the world. His posters have turned up as far as Milan, China, the Netherlands and the Philippines. He also does a lot of local work. The Haunted Windchimes, for example. You might have caught his work at events such as the UMS music festival in Denver and exhibitions at the El Pueblo Museum.
“It’s a reminder to small businesses that they are equally vital to our economy as large businesses.” – Chris Markuson, Pueblo County Economic Development Director
Two of his biggest clients right now are well-known comic company Marvel and Upper Deck, which specializes in sports memorabilia.
When PEDCO first approached Valdez, he said he skeptical because the half-cent sales tax doesn’t have a reputation of supporting small business.
Typically, news around the half-cent sales tax involves larger manufacturing companies from outside of Pueblo, but Markuson said this is a good example that primary jobs – jobs that create goods sold outside of where they are manufactured – and the creative industry can exist together.
“It’s a reminder to small businesses that they are equally vital to our economy as large businesses,” Markuson said. “This project shows that creative industry can also be primary industry. It’s not really about what you sell, it’s about where your customers are, and whether your business model improves the economic condition of the community by bringing dollars from somewhere else into Pueblo.”
Revived micro brewery Walter’s Brewery received $150,000 from the half-cent money in 2014, and Solar Roast received $100,000 in 2010. But Lastleaf was by far the smallest business PEDCO has worked with for half-cent money. It’s a one-man shop.
Valdez is pretty confident with the partnership now.
“It’s pretty cool that they’re at least attempting to help small business,” Valdez said.
He plans to first buy a new press with the money. With that, he said he’ll be able to double his work output which will allow for the three new hires by 2025 the agreement requires. The first hire will be an office manager to help keep up with more production.