HOUSING PRICES: The December Humboldt Economic Index published a couple of weeks ago showed a dip in County housing prices that would be pretty scary if it continues, but it probably won’t. Median home prices in Humboldt fell from $264K to $234K, but not to worry. Dr. Erick Eschker of the HSU Economics Department advises that the figures should be read as a four-month moving average and provided an additional graph that shows the dramatic shift since 2006 and the slow upswing we are now experiencing. The Index of Home Sales is 24.3% higher than at this time last year, which is nice.
FILM/TV INCENTIVES : The Economist (Jan 17) reports that Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles has appointed Tom Sherak, “an old industry hand” to lobby in Sacramento for the city’s interests in luring the industry back to LA. Film and TV production in California has been decimated by the grander film subsidies and incentives offered by other states. New Mexico and Louisiana have been particularly aggressive, and California was particularly late in realizing that they needed to get into the incentive game also. Mr Sherak may find this a difficult year in which to persuade the legislators of the urgency, with so many other unfunded needs. Humboldt County, by the way, is doing well, even in the rain. Cassandra Hesseltine, our Humboldt-DelNorte Film Commissioner, reports that filming locally has become a year-round activity in the last couple of years, not limited to the “good weather”. She says the right now crews are in town filming a print ad and a reality show, about which she didn’t want to say too much but it wounds like a well-known hairy creature from Willow Creek is involved. Let’s wish Mr Sherak well in his new job. Film is definitely one of our strengths.
HOMELESSNESS DOWN, NOT UP: Considering all the focus on homelessness lately, I am amazed that so little attention has been paid to Daniel Mintz’ excellent piece in the Mad River Union which gives some good solid numbers to think about (Eureka’s homeless count was 1100 in 2011, 650 now). This is a problem which will never be solved without clarity on the extent of the problem. Sadly, 37 homeless students were identified in the Northern Humboldt Area.
HUMBOLDT BAY HARBOR WORKING GROUP: Maybe it was the rain, but the Group’s meeting on Wednesday was the most downbeat I have attended. Three speakers discussed short-sea shipping and were refreshingly honest. Most of our lumber goes to LA, and we can’t even fill a barge from up here. The labor doesn’t pencil out either. The Harbor Commission study on the East-West rail initiative was definitely putting a damper on the proceedings as without East-West, or even with it, it appears that at present we just don’t have enough cargo to make it short-sea shipping worthwhile, and a Walmart center in Gerber won’t do it either. I personally feel that the old North-South rail route is a much better idea and could not only move freight but revitalize the tourist and rental car businesses, but what do I know?
Happy Lunar New Year! See you next week.