USPS and CCCU- last update, hopefully

Those who waded through the saga described in my last post will recall that 1) I was advised by CCCU to close my checking account because I lost some checks  2) I opened a new account but after a month the new checks hadn’t come 3) CCCU contacted the Deluxe (check) company and was told that the checks must have been lost in the mail 4) CCCU closed THAT checking account and opened a new one for me and 5) I had to contact all 14 of the utilities, credit cards etc that I have payments deducted for to advise them that the payments would now come from a THIRD checking account.

I imagine you can guess what happened next. The day after I finished all the letters, calls and visits changing the account number for the second time (North Valley Bank insisted on an original letter) , the checks showed up for the second  account, now closed. According to the package, the checks were mailed from Lancaster, CA on March 13. It took FIVE WEEKS AND ONE DAY  for a small package to arrive here from Lancaster.  In the meantime I had tried to research the lost-mail stats fro the USPS and found- not surprisingly- that there are no clear figures. The consensus seems to be that the loss rate is between 2% and 5% for the USPS and a QUICK survey of what’s available on the loss rate of UPS and Fed Ex seems to indicate that customer satisfaction is far higher with UPS than with Fed Ex but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.  A graph published by Fed Ex gives their loss rate as .55% for what that’s worth. 

I was curious to know how long it would take me to hear from CCCU since the very helpful and talented staff there are skilled at calming customers and I really wanted someone from management to give Deluxe a reality check on their delivery times.  This morning a nice person named Jolene (“like the Dolly Parton song”) called and we agreed that if this NEXT order of checks doesn’t get here in two weeks, I should call her and she will call Deluxe. I’ll settle for that. I will also mention that the envelope in which Deluxe mails its checks ( with the box flattened but you’d have to be an idiot not to figure out that the “Important Documents Enclosed” are checks) in a plastic envelope that says “tamper-proof” but which can easily be cut open so should really read ‘tamper-evident”.

I hope this is the end of it.  

I will add just  one thing more. Of all the entities I have had to deal with during this mess, the EASIEST one was Suddenlink, the WORST one was PG&E. Happy Spring!

Newest Economic Index Shows Leap in Manufacturing

Dr. Eschker and his hardworking crew at HSU have added another dimension to their Humboldt Economic Index; a specific tracking of the manufacturing sector.  That sector, which will likely generate the sought-after high-paying jobs so badly needed to stabilize our Humboldt economy, increased its index by over 30% in the past year. This is huge and shows a very positive development even though not associated with an increase in employment. Enjoy the Index here and many thanks to those who worked  on it and the sponsors.

“Plan for the Best, Prepare for the Worst”- Lessons from Loleta

The apparent closure of the Loleta Bakery raises questions that a lot of us may not have thought about since we took our first business classes. Whether we were schooled at Stanford or by the SBDC, the one principle that applies to all businesses is that you need to have a successorship plan. It doesn’t have to be a long document but it should make clear what happens  if one of the partners or family members becomes incapacitated or has to leave the business. It’s a standard part of any business plan. and no lender will release funds without one.  One or even two illnesses shouldn’t shut down a business.

The chaos and confusion around the bakery’s closing leads me to conclude that there WAS no business plan.  Since it’s impossible to get financing without a business plan I have to conclude further that the owners were wealthy enough to open the business without third-party financing, and without a plan. Now 20 people are out of work and facing an uncertain future.

Loleta is not the only town to be invaded by outlanders with more money than sense. When they start businesses that thrive, it’s called investment. When they screw up, they cause a lot of grief to a lot of people. Here’s wishing the very best for the employees and the people of Loleta .

The other local closure, Big Louie’s in Eureka, has been free of the drama seen in Loleta. Harold Lawrence has been an exemplary corporate citizen, supportive of community causes and youth sports. I wish him the best, and really hope the franchise will reopen. Meanwhile, when you open your business, think ahead to the time when you may be incapacitated or worse. Your family and your employees deserve better than to be left drifting.  A lot better.

 

February Economic Index-Good News, Bad News

Dr. Erick Escher and his talented crew at HSU have published the Humboldt Economic Index for February and the indicators are certainly mixed, although that’s not unusual in a small market like ours. Homes sales declined by 40% since last month (and are 35% lower than last year at this time) yet the median price of homes sold rose from $247K to $280K. This would apparently mean that higher-end homes are moving faster. Also, look for gas prices to rise further in March.  Anyway, enjoy the Index. It’s always fascinating.

Let’s send a shout out also to the sponsors of the Index: the California  State Employees Credit Union,  Coast Central Credit Union, Umpqua Bank, RREDC and Redwood Capital Bank.

 

Dunkin’ Donuts Wants You

In its relentless march toward world domination, Dunkin Donuts has announced the franchises are available in Eureka, Crescent City and 40 other locales in NoCal.  Follow this link  for more info,  and good luck!

 

Rosepond Aquatics is For Sale

Our friend Doug Rose has reminded us that he is selling his pond-and-water lilies business in McKinleyville and he’s listing it at only $7K. That’s an awfully cheap price to get into a an enterprise with lots of growth potential.  I’ll let Doug tell the rest of the story:

“Seasonal (March-August) pond plant business available in McKinleyville. Established 12 years with good client base and assumable land lease with room for expansion.  Facilities are fully developed with 10×12′ greenhouse, automated watering system, sheltered potting area with weed cloth covering all growing areas. Inventory includes 160 mother plant varieties of hardy water lilies with complete history, growing characteristics and graphic displays for every plant. Business consists of wholesale, retail and internet. Must sell by July 4th.  $7000 is walkaway price. ” His phone is (707) 839-0588, his cell is (707) 616-0111 and the website is right here. There’s also a video on You Tube

and his email is drose@rosepond.com. (Sorry, I’m having problems with links again but the link to the website is good.)  If you haven’t met Doug, he’s an amazing person.

Good luck in your new business!

The Timber Heritage Association-Sleeping Giant in Samoa

Speeder train at aSamoa

Speeder train at at Samoa

The last time I went to one of the Humboldt Bay Harbor Working Group’s monthly   community forums I noted how downspirited everyone was after listening to an hour of “no”.  No, the east-west train doesn’t pencil out. No, there isn’t enough identified freight to make it work. No, no, no. Yesterday’s meeting was completely different. The Timber Heritage Association reminded us that there are FEASIBLE projects to bring more jobs and more tourists, and everyone left in a good mood. There ‘s a lot of work ahead, but as someone said, there’s a light at the end of this tunnel.

(In view of the NCJ column by Marcy Burstiner regarding Brown Act violations, let me clarify that the meetings I attend on the fourth Wednesday of each month are the HBHWG’s PUBLIC forums and are not an inter-agency advisory committee subject to the Brown Act.  I do not attend the AHHA , don’t intend to , don’t know if anything will come of it.  The monthly forums are strictly informational, usually worth attending and represent a lot of hard work by Susanna Munzell and her committee. Glad we got that straightened out.)

Back to the THA which since 1977 has worked hard for a railroad museum and a round-the -Bay tourist train,  and is shortly starting its summer schedule of speeder rides (if you haven’t been on one, speeders are crew cars that look kind of like a caboose.) They run from the Samoa Cookhouse on a short run, only 20 minutes or so but by God, it’s a train ride. Your kids will love it and so will you. The speeder rides are in Samoa four times a year, in Old Town Eureka twice, in Fortuna for the Apple Harvest Days and and have recently started runs in Loleta (check the schedules on the website.)  The steam train rides at Ft Humboldt are all done by THA volunteers during the summer months. By now it should be clear that the THA is a major refuge for train nuts (like me) and they have rolling stock scattered around the county until a real museum can be organized. If you have never ventured down the road behind the Cookhouse, go check it out. They have several train cars right there, all of which are worthy of preservation.

Pete Johnston, who delivered the excellent presentation, pointed out that the Skunk is the major tourist attraction in Mendocino now and if we had a train museum and an opportunity for a train ride, that would be enough to get tourists to stop HERE, rather than shooting past us to Bend or other places with train-related attractions. Did you know the Samoa roundhouse is one of only four on the entire West Coast? That the THA is sustained by 6000 hours of volunteer labor a year?  That’s dedication and one day it will benefit the entire county.

So go ride the speeders and support the THA. I’ve donated before but never joined up but I have now, just wrote them a check for $25 and if I can do it , you can, and should.  They have a couple of fundraisers coming up and last year the Salmon, Oysters Ales and Rails BBQ in August was completely sold out (500 tickets.) Trains have been a big part of Humboldt County history and if the THA has its way they will be a part of its future, as well. .

 

Safeway For Sale

You may have heard by now that the second largest grocery chain in the country (after Kroger) is in talks with a potential buyer. The announcements have been coy about the identity of the potential buyer but speculation has centered on Cerberus Capital Management, a private equity firm that bought 600 Albertson’s stores in 2006, and pared the lot down to 200 over the next seven years.

Safeway, headquartered in Pleasanton, is the fifth-largest employer in the East Bay and currently owns 1400 stores.  It has already divested itself of 213 stores in Western Canada and is in the process of unloading 72 Dominick’s stores in Chicagoland, apparently getting itself in shape for a sale.  Safeway is being closed-mouthed about negotiations as would be expected. The United Food and Commercial Workers, which represent Safeway employees, are posting updates on their website, as available.  Cerberus was involved in a similar takeover of the Albertson’s chain  in 2006 which , according to the Union, “did not go well”. If any stores are closed, you would expect them to be stores in low-income areas or historically unprofitable stores. Considering the long distances between the  North Coast stores (Crescent City, McKinleyville, Arcata, Eureka and Fortuna, with Eureka already converted one store to a VA Clinic) one would think the remaining stores were safe, but who knows?

Traditional grocery stores have come under intense pressure from competitors such as WalMart, Dollar General and on the other end of the spectrum, Whole Foods. Kroger’s reported a 3% growth for the first three quarters of 2013 while Safeway showed less than 2%.  Whole Foods reported 5%, which if you’ve shopped in their stores explains their nickname,  “Whole Paycheck”.

Let’s hope that things go smoothly and well for our friends and neighbors who work for Safeway. Change happens but hopefully this will be positive change.  

 

 

 

Some Interesting Numbers for Redwood Coast Businesspeople

Here’s some food for thought. You might see a few surprises.

UNEMPLOYMENT RATE IN HUMBOLDT COUNTY(January): 7.9%

UNEMPLOYMENT RATE IN SAN FRANCISCO: 4.8%

UNEMPLOYMENT RATE IN MEXICO: 4.76% (December 2013)  (Time Magazine) Yes, Mexico

SHASTA COUNTY MEDIAN HOME PRICE JAN 2014: $180K  (DataQuick)

HUMBOLDT COUNTY MEDIAN HOME PRICE JAN 2014: $247K (HAR)

CREEPYIEST CREDIT CARD: Capitol One, which according to the LA Times, recently sent its cardholders a contract renewal authorizing the com[any to contact its cardholders by any means including visits to home and workplace, and gives permission to “modify or suppress Caller ID and similar services  and identify ourselves on these services in any manner we choose.” 

MINIMUM WAGE PROPOSED by LA lawmakers for employees in large hotels: $15.37/hour.

APPLE Computer now has more stores in Shanghai than in San Francisco. (Economist)

CHINA’S $3.3 TRILLION consumer economy is about 8% of the total, and is likely soon to overtake Japan as the world’s second-biggest consumer. Half of the world’s new shopping malls are being built in China. (Economist).

MOST CONGESTED HIGHWAY IN CALIFORNIA: I-5 in LA County. “In 2012 alone, vehicles spent an extra 6.6 MILLION hours on the road, due to heavy traffic.” (LAT).

PERCENTAGE OF AMERICANS WHO BELIEVE THE SUN GOES AROUND THE EARTH: 26% (National Science Foundation).