Election Notes October 2014

I don’t profess to be a “Famous Humboldt blogger” like our friend  Fred.  (Fred has a good sense of humor.) And I have to confess that I haven’t been as involved in politics as I normally am, due to family and health issues, but elections are important and I’ll put my two cents in. I think most of you know that I’m a nonvoting member of the HCDCC, and a lifelong Democrat.  

Eureka City Council- this is the easiest call. Natalie Arroyo and Kim Bergel are like a breath of fresh air compared to their undistinguished opponents, about whom the less said the better.  Give these two women a shot. You won’t regret it.

Fair Wage (Prop R)- I just accosted John Forrest, the owner of Hole-in-the -Wall, down at the store. I had not visited my favorite sandwich place in some weeks because I was so irritated at his apparent callousness in remarks reported by the Times-Standard. Then on Saturday, while I was struggling with my groceries in the Winco parking lot and the rain was starting to fall,  one of the HITW employees saw me and helped me.  Now I’m a regular again because of his STAFF. Mr Forrest is a genial guy but no one patronizes HITW because of him, it’s because of the STAFF. I hope the Fair Wage initiative passes. Yes, I know prices will rise. As an old lady on a fixed income, I’ll manage and so will others. There has been more ugliness and hypocrisy around this issue than any I can remember and it has been dismaying to behold.

No GMOs (Prop P)- If the family farmers who bring us the Farmers’ Markets and enhance our quality of life so much are for it, then I’m for it. ‘Nuff said.

FInally, the public safety measures, County Measure Z and Eureka Measure Q, are certainly worthy of your support.  Thanks to ALL the candidates and campaign workers for giving your time.  

Cheers! Wine tasting now permitted at Farmers’ Markets

A new law just signed by Governor Brown (AB 2486) and effective immediately allows wine and cider tasting at Farmers’ Markets under the following conditions:

-The wineries (or cideries) must grow ALL the fruit in their product

-Only one winery can hold tastings on a given day

-Each Farmers’ Market can determine whether to hold testings

-The tasting area must be cordoned off

-Samples are limited to 3 ounces of wine or cider per adult customer.

The bill, which was authored by Assemblyman Mark Levine, D-San Rafael, passed both houses UNANIMOUSLY.

The delightfully  named Portia  Bramble of the North Coast Growers’ Association  reported that Winnett Vineyards from Willow Creek would be  a likely participant at the Arcata Farmers’ Market,  at least by  next season.   This is one story which does not seem to have a downside. 

 

 

 

 

Humboldt Economic Index for June 2014

The hardworking crew at HSU has published its Index , which shows a sharp drop in housing sales, down 12.4% since last month. Most indicators were down or flat although Retail held steady.  Unemployment rates: National 6.3 (May figures), California 7.6, Humboldt unchanged at 7.1. Many thanks to Dr. Eschker and his researchers.  

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.

“The Best of the North Coast” Redux

It’s that time of year again.  I just now noticed that the Times-Standard always posts it’s “Best” list on April Fool’s Day. Good move.

This year’s list didn’t have any major gaffes like last years (darn) which proclaimed the STILL unfinished Holiday Inn on Broadway in Eureka as one of the winners.  There were a few surprises. Porter Street BBQ won over Humboldt Smoke House, which surprised me, and I thought the Banana Hut was an excellent choice for Best Business Lunch- good food and you can walk to it from anywhere downtown. I don’t agree that Ramone’s is the best bakery although they’re certainly among the most expensive. I’m a Cherry Blossom fan, myself.

Hole-in-the-Wall, the Hunan in Henderson Center, Brick & Fire, and Bob’s Footlong’s (Fortuna) all got their props. Happy Donuts, next to the new VA office, won for Best Donuts, but they really should have won for “Best Cheap Lunch”.  They have a platter with three spring rolls with dipping sauce for $4.99 and if you don’t like cilantro you can call the night before and they’ll make you a cilantro-less version and set it aside for you. The donuts are pretty good, too.

I DO find it hard to believe that Shamus T Bone’s steaks beat out the AA’s. That will bear investigating.

But the prize for “Most Ironic” choice is The Works as favorite source for CD’s/Records/Tapes.  The beloved store has lost much of its business since the move to larger quarters on “C” Street and is in a precarious situation. So go down there and BUY something if you want your favorite to survive. Support ALL our local  businesses with your wallets, not just your admiration. Admiration don’t pay the bills.

No foolin’. 

The Winter of Our Discontent-Trains to Vancouver, NVB is Sold and the Chinese are Coming, and Coming and Coming

Well, here we are in late January, freezing to death, looking at a drought and coming off a lousy crab season. There IS good news- getting to someplace even colder is now easier.

TRAIN SERVICE BETWEEN EUGENE AND VANCOUVER, B.C.- it’s begun, and it’s a ten to twelve-hour trip with inconvenient departures although the website states in several places that the schedules are to be adjusted in the near future. The new Cascades line overlaps in places with the Coast Starlight, so don’t get them confused while reading the schedules.The State of Oregon bought the two trains with stimulus money and each carries 286 passengers, bicycle storage, outlets, wi-fi etc. The trains were built by Talgo, the US subsidiary of a Spanish company. The multinationals seem to have more faith in US rail than do the Neanderthals running Amtrak. Look at what Siemens is doing in Sacramento: building something like 30 locomotives of which two will end up on the West Coast (and creating thousands of good jobs). I hope to take this train over the summer but as you all know getting to Eugene from here involves either a four-hour drive and finding a place to stash your car OR a tortuous three-bus ride from Arcata to Redding then hooking up with the Starlight to Eugene. The best train seems to be the one that leaves Eugene at 2pm because it’s ALL TRAIN, no long bus rides.  It’s a 10 hour ride, all the amenities are promised, including a lounge car, and the fare is as low as $73.  Ticket sales are healthy and the State of Oregon did two smart things with this $38M purchase: they bought rolling stock designed to handle the higher speeds if/when high-speed rail becomes an option and they planned ahead of time for increased demand in 2017 when service increases between Seattle and Tacoma. Check out their website- even the food menus look good.  The North Coast Journal (Dec 12, 2013) did an excellent summary of the hassles involved in trying to get to Portland from here. Every little bit helps. And if you go all the way to Vancouver, don’t forget your passport (or birth certificate and photo I.D.) 

NORTH VALLEY BANK PURCHASED BY TRI COUNTIES: Effective in mid-2014, some of us will be sending our mortgage payments to Chico-based Tri Counties Bank, a merger that will result in a combined workforce of 1100 employees, and a network of banks stretching from Crescent City to Bakersfield.  With $3.5B in assets, $3.1B in deposits,  $2.2B in gross loans, and 80 branch offices, the new Tri Counties Bank will be the 26th largest in the State. The banks have issued the usual disclaimers about how this change will be painless to customers.

CHINESE TOURISM TO U.S. TO TRIPLE BY 2020: As I prepared to enter the China Buffet in Eureka, a group of Chinese diners emerged and zeroed right in on me. (They always do- I must look helpful.) None of them including their driver spoke much more English than I do Chinese, but they knew what they wanted. “Redwood Park”, they kept saying. “Redwood Park”.  Their van was labelled “Joy Tours:” but it was getting dark and I couldn’t figure out whether they would get more joy going south to Humboldt Redwoods State Park, or north to the National Park so I pointed them north, figuring they’d get a kick out of Paul Bunyan at Trees of Mystery. The next day I called Tony Smithers at the HCCVB and asked him about Joy Tours. He was aware of them but apparently the bureau has not specific outreach to Asian visitors.

I suspect that will be changing in the future. 1.5M mainland Chinese visited the US in 2012 and their numbers are expected to reach 5.7M by 2020. California is the most popular destination, followed by New York.  Relaxed visa restriction and rising household income are fueling the growth. The LA Times reports that Chines tourism to LA rose 21% in last year and that “Chinese tourists are the second biggest-spending foreign visitors to the U.S. – just behind Indians and ahead of Australians, Brazilians and Japanese- with a average budget of $4400 not including airfare.”  Meanwhile, U.S. hotels are not well-equipped for Chinese visitors, especially in terms of Mandarin-speaking staff and Chinese dietary needs. The Chinese tend to stay longer than other tourists (42 nights average) and 36% are here for conventions or business meetings. Talk about a bonanza being dropped in our laps! Gung Hay Fat Choi, everyone. And a Happy Year of the Horse.

REMINDER: Next Friday, January 31 is the deadline for applying for the Fisherman’s Terminal restaurant opportunity, details in our last week’s issue. 

 

 

 

 

What We Have to Be Grateful For on the Redwood Coast- a sampler

Counting your blessings on Thanksgiving Day, on the Redwood Coast, is an overwhelming job, which is why I am not trying to be inclusive. Here are just a few items which have come to my attention lately, for which we should give thanks.

First, we should give thanks and remembrance to the three loggers who died on the weekend of October 19-20. It doesn’t seem to me that enough attention was paid to these incidents and we can never give enough emphasis to the dangers of logging.

Let’s also, on the verge of the Christmas holiday, remember the 25 or 30 of our friends and neighbors who have lost their jobs due to the closure of Ray’s Food Place in Eureka. I never saw more than two or three customers in the place and I don’t know how they kept it  open as long as they did, but it’s gone now. If you know any of those employees, show a little more kindness than usual.

Let’s be grateful for the farsighted educators of Ferndale High School for purchasing a 3-D  printer for their engineering class. The friendly staff has advised that Mr. Michael Baggot, 786-5900, can be contacted for a possible appointment to observe the machine. ‘Way to go, Ferndale!

Let’s also be grateful for community groups like the Humboldt Area Saltwater Anglers (HASA) who devote many hours to the welfare of our precious Bay. Here is a link to their newsletter, which is a great one. It will take a minute or two to load, but is worth the wait. What a pleasure to see our friends Ben Doane and Pat Higgins and thanks to Casey Allen for keeping me on the mailing list.

Not local but still neat: did you know that there is a movement afoot to install chargers for electric and hybrid vehicles all along Route 66? There’s a festival coming up in Kingman, AZ to commemorate the Mother Road going green.

We can be grateful that despite what seems like an all-out effort by Amtrak to stifle our passenger trains, the Surfliner and the San Joaquin have more riders than ever.  

And finally, not local but I bet he’d love the Redwood Coast, movie star Kirk Douglas, who has survived blacklisting, bad movie roles, strokes and God knows what else, has just published his TENTH novel at the age of 94. Long may he wave, and I hope I have his ambition at his age. Have a great holiday and don’t forget to count your blessings. 

 

 

“Catfish” Lessons for Redwood Coast Business, Port of Oakland big plans and HumBay Tourism Center

CATFISH-If any of you have not seen “Catfish”, either the movie or the TV series which just finished its second season on MTV, you’re missing out on a phenomenon.  I waste more time than I care to admit watching junk TV (“Pawn Stars”, anyone?) but “Catfish” is in a class by itself. The whole franchise got started when Nev Shulman, a young, good-looking and seemingly intelligent New Yorker formed an online friendship via Facebook with a young girl in the Midwest who appeared to be a phenomenal graphic artist. (I don’t usually use the word “intelligent” and “Facebook” together, but bear with me here.)  Certain things didn’t add up, so he decided to investigate the situation with the help of his filmmaker brothers and discovered that the girl’s mother had done the artwork and that he had been “catfished”, a term which has entered the language now and which normally refers to a person who has been taken in by someone who hides his/her true identity on Facebook. The motive could be money, spite, whatever but Shulman got so many emails after the film “Catfish” started being shown that it became clear there was ample material for the series, which is heading into its third season.

     It would be easy to dismiss the various victims as just plain stupid, and some of them are. However, some are quite sophisticated and wary of situations that seem too good to be true. There are infinite variations on the plot (using a model’s photo in lieu of your own, creating a fantasy identity etc) but after you watch long enough , some eternal verities emerge, some of which Redwood Coast Businesspeople should keep in mind in your marketing campaigns. Take these to the bank:

1.  People believe what they want to believe.  You know that old gag, “Who ya gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?” Most people are totally capable of ignoring reality when convenient.

2. Hope invariably trumps common sense. You didn’t show up for our long-postponed meeting because at the last minute you were carjacked? That one was actually used in one episode.

3. Nobody likes to be lied to. When the truth finally sinks in,  when the gorgeous girl is finally revealed to be a hundred pounds heavier that her photo, or a different sex than what was advertised, the reactions are always the same.  ANGER! Some of the couples work it through but the vast majority, when they finally figure it out, are disgusted with themselves AND the perp and terminate all contact immediately. They’re ashamed, embarrassed etc.

     What are the implications for sales and marketing? Simply put, a little light-hearted kidding (like the Joe Isuzu campaign) can be great, but making indefensible statements or claims will always come back to haunt you. Come to think of it,  this applies to politics too.

PORT OF OAKLAND TO EXPAND- along with the Panama Canal. In this account, from the Capital Weekly, Greg Lucas does an excellent job of laying out complexities facing the eleven California harbors, including our own.  Food for thought for our local rail supporters.

HUMBOLDT BAY TOURISM CENTER- Has been open since May down at 2nd and G in Eureka and I have referred at least 18 people there just to look at the beautiful job they’ve done with the building. If it were a bar, it would be one of our most elegant. The space is in zones for taste, planning activities etc. and I’ll let their own website tell the story. It’s a beautiful facility, staffed by pleasant people, but what I had hoped for was to be able to give an account of the impact it had over the past season. It turns out that’s impossible. According to the management there they have NO DATA on how many visitors they’ve had, how many tours or activities have been booked through, how many lodging bookings- nothing. They are just now- at the nadir of the tourist season- starting to keep some records which they will certainly need when their two-year contract with the HCCVB is reviewed or renewed.

Anyway, check them out for a relaxing break from hectic Holiday shopping. They don’t have any parking, which is a hassle,  but I’ve always been able to find something within a couple of blocks. We’ll revisit them here next summer when they have a whole year under their belts. And wish them well. We need all the help we can get.

GO-Biz Forum Packs Wharfinger

        A crowd of 70 entrepreneurs, hopefuls and civic officials gathered yesterday at the ungodly hour of 8:30am to hear about Governor Jerry Brown’s GO-Biz program which was initiated in 2011 as ”a single point of contact for economic development and job creation efforts”. Their excellent website sets forth some of the success GO-Biz has already had in retaining and/or luring back businesses who were planning to move out of state. GO-Biz administers the state Innovation Hub (iHub) program which includes 12 regional innovation clusters which bring together government, academia and businesses through innovation incubators. The North Coast, it would seem,  is a logical place for such an incubator.

       The  speakers included Louis Stewart, who spends his time on the road promoting the program, and  Professor Steve Karp, who heads HSU’s Sponsored Programs Foundation.  This foundation runs as many as 300 projects, grants and contracts concurrently ranging from studies on bats and bees, hydrogen -fueled cars, and the discovery of 100 new species of fungi in Guyana. They employ around 300 students and 500 staff and faculty in cutting-edge research.  Third was Sergio  Herrera from the Humboldt Bay Tourism Center, which we’ll be examining in detail in a future post.

      Then there were the entrepreneurs themselves, first Milia Lando and Rosa Dixon, the founders of Natural Decadence, a gluten, nut, and dairy-free bakery.  (They didn’t give samples but the pictures of the chocolate pies had people drooling). After only two years in business they have recently inked a deal with Whole Foods which will give them distribution in 130 stores on the West Coast and In Hawaii. They have been using the commercial kitchen at Redwood Acres but are on their way to the national Anaheim Food Show and a national launch. They have a great story too, the business having its roots in their struggle to cope with food allergies, theirs and their children’s. Their future is so bright they should have been wearing shades, but that would have detracted from their excellent and heartfelt presentation.

      Last on the program was Greg Dale, Southwest ops Manager for Coast Seafood, a frequent and enthusiastic advocate for our shellfish industry. They used to say of Maria Tallchief, the ballerina, that she could make you feel that there was nothing as worthwhile as being a dancer.  Greg can make you feel that there’s no higher calling than wrangling oysters. He reports that the permitting process- which involves seven agencies- is still onerous and efforts are being made to fashion a Model Permit Process involving  pre-permitting, in conjunction with Morro Bay and Tomales Bay. Much luck to them.  He reports that the demand for shellfish is so great that there is a $200M shortfall.  How great to have a product that is sold before you take it out of the Bay. We need more of those.

      GO-Biz is an important program and the civic leaders who attended included Eureka Mayor Frank Jager and the entire City Council, and Supervisor Mark Lovelace, who came by before the BOS meeting, as well as many others. You will doubtless be hearing more about an iHub for the North Coast. Pay attention. This could be a great step toward strengthening and diversifying our one-crop economy.