September Humboldt Economic Index

Dr. Eschker and his dedicated group have published their Economic Index for September.    They found that in September Hospitality, Lumber, Employment , and manufacturing orders  were up, while Home Sales, Retail, unemployment claims, building permits and “help wanted” advertising were down.

Dinner with Dogs??

Do you love dogs?  Sure.

Do you love OPD (Other Peoples’ Dogs)?  Uh, not so much.  

Well, as of January 1, California restaurants with patio spaces will be allowed to serve dogs right along with their owners, assuming the owners are human. This “change” will probably affect Humboldt less than more urban regions  because plenty of local eateries are already allowing dogs. The rules are that the patios must have separate entrances so that the doggies don’t enter the restaurant itself and they continue to be banned from food preparation areas. The new rule does NOT mandate that dogs must be allowed on patios; that’s up to the proprietors.  Nor does it change any of the rules on bona fide service animals. 

I’m a dog owner who does not envision taking my dog to a restaurant in this lifetime. For one thing, she’d eat everything in sight.  For another, she’d never be able to share space with one of those cute fuzzy little dogs that look and sound exactly like her squeak-toys. The other question is, do I want to share a table with someone else’s dog?  When MY dog drools  on the table, it’s cute. When YOUR dog does it, it’s disgusting.

I’m all in favor of consumer choice, so when I pass by a patio cafe where chows are chowing down in favor of a human-only environment, that’s a valid choice. I wonder how the majority of Humboldt diners will react to their new dining companions.

July 2014 Economic Index Shows Most Sectors Declining

The Humboldt Economic Index.  produced by Dr. Erick Eschker and his team at the Economics Department of HSU, does not show a pretty picture this month.  The leading indicators are, shall we say, mixed.

Lumber is up, but Hospitality, Retail and Home Sales were down in July, as were building permits and help-wanted advertising.  On the positive side, manufacturing orders are up  slightly and UI claims are down. The national jobless rate declined to 6.1 percent in June while the unemployment rate was 7.2, virtually the same as the State as a whole.

Here’s what you’ve been waiting for: gas prices. “Both California and the Northern California region have seen 8% decreases in their average gas prices this month, while Eureka’s average price stayed at $4.25 in June.”  Enjoy the report, and our continued thanks to the HSU team.

Alibaba’s Mega IPO; The Analects of Jack

PART ONE: Imagine there were a company that offered on-line shopping, business-to-business sales, online payments, wholesale trade and cloud computing- in other words a combination of eBay and Amazon that is actually bigger than eBay and Amazon combined.  Welcome to Alibaba.

Started by a schoolteacher named Jack Ma on his kitchen table in Hangzhou in 1999,  the company, now based in Hong Kong,  is about to launch what may be the biggest initial public offering in history, one which could easily surpass Facebook’s fumbled IPO of $16B in 2012. Why will be the biggest  beneficiary? Yahoo, which owns 24% of Alibaba and will probably use the infusion of cash from the IPO to continue its buying spree of smaller tech companies. To give you an idea of the scale,  Alibaba processes  $248B in retail sales yearly.  Here’s a description from the Mercury News:

‘”Nearly 8% of all Chinese online shopping goes through Alibaba sites; on Singles Day last year, a popular holiday in China for online shopping, the site processed $5.8B in in purchases. By comparison, eBay’s total sales on its online marketplace for all of 2013 were $6.8B.”

Alibaba is also moving into mobile commerce in a big way, investing in American companies like  Mountain View -based Tango Me and in Lyft, the San Francisco -based ride sharing  app,  while attempting to consolidate its position amidst its nearest rivals, Baidu and TenCant, which is already rolling out its own IPO. (Google and eBay have departed the China market).  Alibaba’s  IPO was scheduled for August 8 (eighth day, eighth month- the Chinese like “8”s) but may be delayed due to last-minute glitches involving SEC approval of some of their subs which are based in the Cayman Islands.  Ma, who is worth over $8B, has stepped down as CEO but remains as Chair of the 21.000 employee firm and is devoting his time to a charitable trust. 

It’s a global economy for sure, and becoming more so every day.  Wonder how long it will be before we start seeing Singles’ Day promotions? That ‘s too good an idea to skip.

PART TWO: The Analects of Jack. The early history of Alibaba is set forth in a documentary and a book (Alibaba, by Liu and Avery, 2009) which describes how at one time in the early days, Ma was  literally kidnapped and held hostage in a Malibu mansion at gunpoint until he talked his captor into going into business with him).  Ma only got into college on his third entrance exam but his English major has definitely been put to good use in the following phrases which were compiled by American City Business Journals from various interviews and an appearance on Charley Rose that I’m sorry I missed. Here’s a sampling.

Why he likes small businesses and tries to help them through Alibaba: “I’ve seen people make a fortune by catching shrimps, but I’ve never seen anyone make a fortune by catching sharks and whales. It’s like Forrest Gump.”

On putting customers first:  “It’s customers No, 1, employees, two, and shareholders, three.  It’s the customer who pay us the money, it’s the employees who drive the vision,  and it’s the shareholders who when the financial crisis comes, these people ran away. My customers and my people stayed.”

On technology:  “I know nothing about technology.  I use the computer to browse the Internet and receive email. That’s it.”

On developing a business:  “If you want to be a great company, think about what social problem you could solve.”

 On money and Alibaba’s large cash reserves:  “When you try to solve problems with money, that is when your real problems start. A company’s assets are like a country’s armed forces.You cannot use it lightly, but if you ever need to mobilize it, you must win.”

END

 

 

 

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. 

 

 

 

 

Separation Anxiety- California and Scotland?

A Silicon Valley one-percenter is proposing to split the state six ways. Guess which part will end up with all the money?  It ain’t us.

Meanwhile, on September 18th, a referendum in Scotland will determine whether Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom or goes independent. The similarities between the Scottish situation and the putative State of Jefferson are interesting to compare.

MONEY: Scotland is a rich country due to the North Sea oil reserves. They can leave the Brits  behind and still survive economically.  (Scotland can already afford to educate its university students for FREE.) A State of Jefferson on the other hand will end up as the Appalachia of the  West. Other than tourism and weed, which will be selling for pennies after legalization, what do we have? Oysters. Good oysters, but still…Every candidate for office in Humboldt County in the last twenty years has run on a platform of bringing jobs to the county. Where are those jobs? I must have missed something.

HISTORY: The Scots were an independent people until 300 years ago with their own culture and language. ( To this day the average American has about as much chance of understanding a Scot speaking what is now is considered the Scottish dialect as he would have understanding someone from Newfoundland.) 300 years ago there were no “white” people in “Jefferson”. The State of Jefferson would have the highest proportion of Native Americans of any area in the State. Separating from California would not enhance their economic situation one bit. If it would, tell me how.  Yes, they would carry more clout locally because everyone else will be broker. But will their situation really improve? Will anyones? 

POLITICS: The Scots have long been more “socialist” than the rest of the UK. Within recent memory they were still sending a Communist or two to Parliament every year, usually from Glasgow. The factories and tenements of Glasgow were the inspirations for Karl Marx’s Capital. Glasgow is the only place where I ever had a cabbie return a tip because good Marxists don’t believe in tipping. The Scot’s desire to be free of “imperialist state” of the UK has deep roots and may well carry the day. Politics in “Jefferson” is more chaotic. With a 20% participation in the recent elections, it seems clear that most Jeffersonians (is that what they call themselves?) are not participating in politics because they’re  hopeless or too stoned. This paves the way for the Tea Party or other fringe groups to fill the vacuum. Not a pretty sight.  

Anyway, September 18th should be interesting. If the Scots opt for independence will they be part of NATO?  Will they adopt the Euro? What will happen to the North Sea oil, in which the Norwegians also have an interest? It’s been a long time since our states changed boundaries. In November, will the divide-and conquer strategy of the SV plutocrats win out over the welfare of the rest of us? Stay tuned.  And for God’s sake register to vote. 

Food News:That Caribbean Place; Big Louie’s reborn as Marcelli’s

This is my third post about “The Caribbean Picnic”,  on Henderson where the GoGo Bistro used to be.  I finally made it in there yesterday. It’s a PUERTO RICAN restaurant with CUBAN food also.  The two main offerings are Cuban sandwiches (ham, pork, usually pickles) and a Puerto Rican sampler, both $9.  I’ve eaten a lot of Cuban sandwiches, having family in Florida, and this was not only better than average, it’s HUGE, easily two meals for the  average person. They also have a selection of pretzels, not the little brittle kind but serious big puffy ones. The staff is welcoming and helpful and I will definitely be back. Any of you who visit this place, please share your opinions with us.

On another note,  Marcelli’s Pizzaria  (their spelling) had a soft opening a few days ago and  folks were streaming in for lunch at what used to be Big Louie’s. They don’t have a website yet but they’re open 7 days and the menu looks a lot like the old BL one. You can call them at 497-6374 for eat-in, takeout, delivery or take’n’bake. So much to be grateful for! Please share your reviews with us. Bon appetit. 

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.  

More good food news: HSH open for dinner

I just found out yesterday that the Humboldt Smokehouse (which is fabulous if you haven’t tried it) is now open for dinner Monday thru Saturday. I predict they will put Porter Street out of business within a year. Love those burnt ends!  Menu and hours are at the link. 

Graduation Day- “Reach for the Stars”

Saturday the 14th was my cousin’s kid’s graduation day from UC Santa Barbara. I wasn’t expecting much aside from heat and chaos so I was pleasantly surprised that the graduation speaker actually had something to say that was memorable.

His name is Jose Hernandez and he was born in French Camp. If you’ve ever known anyone from French Camp, you know it is a migrant labor settlement. He spoke of following his parents as they moved from job to job picking  strawberries, lettuce, whatever. Finally a teacher took an interest in the family and convinced the parents to settle near Stockton so that the kids could get a real education.

One night in 1972, the family watch Gene Cernan walk on the moon. Jose told his father, “That’s what I want to do”.   His father told him that he could do it but he needed to make himself a roadmap to follow. “And don’t skip any of the steps.”

Jose graduated from high school in Stockton although he had not learned English until he was twelve. He earned a BSEE from the University of the Pacific and then an MS from UC Santa Barbara. He joined the Johnson Space Center and held a number of assignments while applying for the astronaut program. He applied again, was rejected again.  NASA let it be known they would like their personnel to know some Russian (for space station work). He learned Russian.  He pursued every avenue they suggested. Finally,  after TWELVE TIMES,  he was accepted into the 2004 astronaut class and on August 28, 2009 he achieved his dream: two weeks on the Space Shuttle Discovery. He sent the first tweet from space in Spanish.

 Since then he has run for Congress, unsuccessfully. Clearly we haven’t heard the last from him.  His “Reach for the Stars” foundation encourages kids to explore careers in space.  The gloom and doom which was underlying the ceremony due to the recent murders in Isla Vista could have taken over, but didn’t have a chance after Jose finished speaking. It was a good day, and he didn’t skip any of the steps.

FOOTNOTE: The road from the Bay Area up here is an AWFUL ROAD which seems to get worse every year. I kept thinking how much it would be to be riding a bus or a nice relaxing TRAIN. Talk about reaching for the stars!