“The Urge” Is Here

Today’s the debut of “The Urge”.

Will it cause us all to splurge?

Will new ad revenues emerge?

Or will the editors sing a dirge?

All the papers want to merge.

RED ink is a paper’s scourge.

Let’s all hope that this new “Urge” 

Will bring the Times back from the verge. 

 Good luck, guys!

 

   

The Consumers’ Guide to Summer 2014- Bring Money

-To no one’s surprise, the courts have approved the merger of American and USAir, which creates the world’s largest airline. Meanwhile, United, our sole air carrier thru their sub, United Express,  was the ONLY major air carrier to lose money this past quarter. To add to UAL’s problems, two of the runways at SFO will be unavailable this summer, leading to lots and lots of delays and consumer unhappiness for the unprepared.

What to do, what to do? Driving to Redding won’t help.  They only offer three flights a day to the beleagered SFO, again thru United Express. Driving to Medford gives you access to Horizon, SkyWest, United Express and Allegeant which offer nonstops to Portland, Seattle, LAX, Denver, Salt Lake City and , seasonally to Las Vegas. Lots more choices, but a four-hour drive, which more and more people are doing from what I hear. Then there’s Sacramento, which offers many choices including direct flights to Mexico. Don’t forget your gas will cost $4.50 according to some predictions. Bargains will be hard to come by so be sure to share with us if you find any.

- According  to The Economist  China will overtake the US as the world’s biggest economy later this year, partly as a result of their relaxing the one-baby rule. Does this bother you?  I see it as an enormous opportunity for Americans in the baby businesses -baby clothes, cribs etc. Their disposable income is rising so fast that the cheap COSCO stuff sold at KMart won’t be good enough for them. Humboldt County has never had a garment industry to speak of but wouldn’t it be nice if someone figured out how to make baby or children’s clothes our of that nice soft hemp cloth?  Someone local?

-Greg Gehr an FOB -Friend of the Blog- shared a link to Titan TV as an alternative to whatever comes out in this week’s URGE. I was pretty impressed especially as it gives more info, like is the show new or a repeat. Definitely useful. Thanks, Greg!

-Another FOB shared this about Northern Redwood Federal Credit Union, an institution I have not dealt with but considering my recent travails with Coast Central I just might look into them. Their Visa Classic Credit Card offers a 1% cash back applied as a credit to your savings account. They’re at 1270 Giuntoli Lane in Arcata and the phone is 800-822-5903. Jenna Cardoza is their Operations Officer and you might want to check them out.

- Finally just a peek into the future. The Eureka Fair Wage initiative is felt by its backers to be a sure shot for qualifying for the ballot in November and you’ll be hearing plenty about it  before them because it is already a bone of contention between the two 4th District Supervisorial contenders, Kerrigan in favor and Bass against. This is an enormous issue for Eureka so pay attention!  There should be some lively debate and it may well affect YOUR pocketbook.

See you later. Gonna be a busy summer!

A New Chapter for St Joe’s

(Factoids of the week: The busiest airport on the  planet is no longer O’Hare, it’s DUBAI.  And those cute little “baby carrots” at the market are actually big honkin’ carrots that have been carved by machinery down to their cute little “baby” shapes. )

But there’s also good news. More than 200 service employees  of St Joseph Hospital will now be represented by a union, the National Union of Health Care Workers. For the region’s flagship care provider, this is an excellent opportunity to retool their personnel policies. Of course, now they’ll have help.

Everyone who has had dealings with St Joe’s, and that includes most of us, has noticed how superior the staff is to the structure under which they must work. The staff, especially the nurses, are fabulous,  the hierarchy, not so much. An increased union presence is the best thing that could happen to St Joe’s.  Employees who can bargain collectively without having to beg management for each incremental improvement will, after the dust settles, be better able to provide excellent care. When management is forced to pay more, the  usual approach is to empower the employees and streamline procedures. Everybody wins.

Some of you who don’t know me may wonder how a person who is pro-business can also be pro-labor. Believe me, it’s easy. During my years at the NLRB I saw time and again the benefits of unionization. The employees can speak up without fear of retaliation and management gets to deal with a single Union rep instead of hundreds of disgruntled employees. It’s a win-win. There are many people in the County who are fearful and ignorant of unions since the demise of Big Lumber. With the nurses’ victory in 2001 plus this new bargaining unit, and the growing national revulsion toward minimum-wage jobs that do not provide a living, perhaps the tide is starting to turn.  We can only hope.

 

Ripping Off A Farmers’ Market? Jail Is Too Good For This Guy

Like most of us, I don’t like crooks. Especially crooks who rip off the deserving. Rip off Larry Ellison? I don’t like it but I’m not going to lose sleep over it. But ripping off a farmers’ market? How low can you get? Really.

Well, it took an elected official to demonstrate how low. A Glendale city councilman is headed to jail for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the local farmers’ market over a number of years. Thank God they caught him but this is one of those cases that makes you start wondering if our justice system hasn’t overly restricted itself.  In the words of Gilbert and Sullivan-actually Gilbert-

“My object all sublime I shall achieve in time: to make the punishment fit the crime..”

I don’t know what punishment would fit this crime (a diet of rotten vegetables? ) but your submssions are welcome. We read about scumbags all the time but I know folks who sell at our farmers’ markets and I know how hard they work. Sorry for bending your ear, but this one really got to me.

 

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL RECORD STORE!

I went into The Works yesterday to get the new Pharrell CD and to see if they could order me an old Fred Neil album that I must have lent to someone and found that they’re not taking new orders! Darren (who works with Bandon , the owner who bought the business from Larry Glass) said that business has been so bad lately that The Works is definitely in jeopardy. The move to “C” Street gave them a bigger space for performances and readings but they lost a lot of the foot traffic they had over on “F” Street.

You know the story.  A dollar you spend at Target or another chain or ITunes or Amazon leaves the county; a dollar you spend in a local business is recirculated locally. Plus I don’t know another place in Eureka that will take special orders;  if anything happens to The Works, where will I go when I want to replace my CD of Donald Fagan’s New York Rock and Soul Review (Mike McDonald, Phoebe Snow, Boz Scaggs etc) that is wearing out I’ve played it so much? Or some wonderful old vinyl records? Clearly this is a quality of life issue, and anyone who is familiar with (for example) Amazon and their practices knows that’s not the answer. No, the answer is to support our local businesses much as we support our local farmers. So whenever there’s a break in the rain, go down and do some shopping at The Works, 210 “C” Street in Old Town or order over their phone which is 442-8121. 

I’ll see you down there. Oh, and they’ll have the Pharrell CD next week. 

 

A February Potpourri- No, Not That Kind of Pot

I thought that flu shot was supposed to save me from the shivers, shakes and runny nose that has kept me inside all week, but I guess that was a different strain. This week you’re getting some stories from near and far that Redwood Coast businesses, citizens and consumers may find of interest.

3-D PRINTING HITS REDDING:  Both Shasta High School and Enterprise High School have purchased and deployed MakerBot Replicator2 machines at $2300 each and students are experimenting with them right now. We know they’re being used in biotech and and architectural design but I just saw a statement that they’re being used in the CULINARY field but it didn’t explain how.  Well, you could design a heckova wedding cake with one of these things, and at $2300 they’re definitely affordable.  Shasta High is using them to make team souvenirs, for starters.

TONIGHT SHOW LEAVING BURBANK: and taking 160 well-paying jobs with it. About three years ago, we were having lots of exposure on the show because apparently one of the producers fell in love with Humboldt.  Remember Tom Green and the guy in Old Town swinging the firepot around? Green named Duane Flatmo the Most Interesting Person in California.  I don’t think Jimmy Fallon is going to show us that kind of love. Hopefully Jimmy Kimmel can be lured up here and shown the light.

JANUARY HUMBOLDT ECONOMIC INDEX: From those wonderful people at HSU, shows the median home price creeping back up again, from last month’s $234K to $247K, and home sales the strongest since July 2005. Our county unemployment rate is currently 7.9%, California’s is 8.3% and national is down to 6.7%. Here’s the complete update and I’m going back to bed to watch Pawn Stars. Stay warm and dry. It’s apparently going to be a dreadful weekend.

 

“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.

What Eureka Needs- an Early Christmas List for Entrepreneurs

     Since it seems that every day I go past another shuttered business, we obviously have retail and office space to spare. Why not seize the situation as an opportunity to fill those spaces with businesses we actually NEED in town and to encourage entrepreneurs to meet those needs? Okay, here’s my  list.

A GOOD KOSHER DELI  Those healthy delis at Co-Op and ENF don’t count. Not enough cholesterol. A warm, juicy, greasy pastrami san with a latke or two can rejuvenate your soul for a week.  The pastrami Reuben at Hole-in-the- Wall is close, but where’s the chicken liver? The  matzoh ball soup? We await our deliverance.

MORE PARKING  IN HENDERSON CENTER  The situation is just on the edge of being too crowded and if the Henderson Center Market Place or anything else ever comes to roost in the old Robert’s space or along Henderson Street, the tipping point will have been reached. The demise of the Go Go Bistro, a nice little lunch spot with an unusual  menu,is truly sad, and I wouldn’t  be surprised if parking was one of the contributing factors. By the way,  it was reported in the media that Esmeralda’s restaurant on Grotto was the target of an arson attack. If so, the firebugs must have had pretty poor aim.  The morning after, Esmeralda’s was open for lunch with nary a scratch but the building NEXT to it, further  toward “G” was boarded up and as of today was sporting a “For Sale” sign. Parking’s pretty good on that block, by the way.

A RELIABLE SHUTTLE BETWEEN EUREKA AND REDDING enabling travelers to bypass our ill-located and unreliable airport. The first person to do this legally will make some money.  There are already wildcat outfits going after this market. Check Craig’s List. And how about a shuttle to Eugene? You can pick up the AMTRAK there.

HUMBOLDT-MADE YOGURT from local cows. Not that frozen stuff, real yogurt. 

TAKEOUT CHICKEN With the departure of KFC (the closest now is in Fortuna) and the fact that its sort-of replacement, Church’s, is execrable, we are left with Winco which is meh and COSTCO which is a whole different thing, being rotisserie vs. fried. When you go for takeout chicken you don’t want healthy, although El Pollo Loco is delicious and I’d be a regular if someone opened one here. Anyone? I’d be a regular at Chic-Fil-A too if they ever made it up here, even with their weird management and policies (closed on Sundays.)

GYROS  Having to drive to Valley West to the Kebab Cafe is just wrong. At one time  Simon was talking about opening in Eureka.  Hurry, Simon! and finally

KOREAN FOOD  Since that place near the Arcata Safeway closed, there is nothing. How can we have an Ethiopean restaurant in Eureka but no Korean?  Bad show.

     So come on, entrepreneurs, here are your pockets of opportunity.  I imagine you folks can think of some more felt needs around town. Let’s hear from you!

 

3-D Printing Comes to Eureka

3-D at Times Printing

3-D at Times Printing

    Just a few weeks ago, I would have thought that 3-D printing was just a crazy idea with no relevance to the Redwood Coast. I was wrong.  Right here, right now, right down on Third Street at Times Printing, they have a display of objects (see picture) created on their THREE printers. The future is definitely here, and for once it’s not bypassing Humboldt County.

     In point of fact, the Times-Standard online edition has carried three articles since May about online printing which I missed because I only read the print version.  Not any more! I’ve learned my lesson. I became intrigued with the concept from a couple of articles in The Economist and had been calling local fabricators who either didn’t know what I was talking about or didn’t return my calls. Then last week at the GO-Biz seminar, Councilperson Marian Brady brought up the subject and when I followed up with her, kindly referred me to

Lane Strope

Lane Strope

Times Printing, where Lane Strope interrupted his busy day to talk with me.

     There are several different methods now in use for accomplishing 3-D printing and I can’t explain it better than the Economist did. The process begins “with software that takes a series of digital slices through a computer model of an object. The shape of each slice is used selectively to harden a layer of light-sensitive liquid, usually with ultraviolet light, to form the required shape. After each layer had been made, the build tray lowers by a fraction, another layer of liquid is added and the process is repeated until the object is complete.”  It’s easier to show than to explain so here is a video  from the Times of London. ( There are several more on You Tube) but as long as you’re on You Tube you may want to look at some other examples.  “Eureka” is a manufacturer and the Times is THAT Times, not ours.

      The implications of this technology are immense and varied, although there are a few skeptics, including Terry Gou, the boss of Foxconn, the world’s largest maker of electronic goods, which makes many of Apple’s products in China, who is so convinced that 3-D is just a gimmick that he has promised to start spelling his name backward if he is wrong. He’s a brave man. While it is true that 3-D, or as it is sometimes called, additive manufacturing, cannot produce thousands of parts at low cost like conventional methods, when combined with conventional manufacturing  it can break new ground. RedEye, in Minnesota, is printing parts for the 3-D printers produced by RedEye’s parent, Stratasys , which along with 3D Systems in South Carolina are the market leaders in 3-D  printing. 

      How is it being used? Healthcare for one. 3D has printed millions of hearing-aid shells from scans of patients’ ear canals. Align Technology of San Jose has printed 17M sets of molds and clear plastic braces which are replacing metal braces for straightening teeth. Prostheses is another area with great promise.   Optomec, in Albuquerque, is developing ways to print electronics directly onto mobile handsets and printing LED lighting onto wallpaper. Soon you will no longer send away fro a replacement part but have a file emailed to you and do the fabrication yourself. Now that some of the early patents have expired, and manufacturers are developing methods which use a greater variety of materials the price of some printers has fallen to less than $1K. Or, you can send the work out.  Companies like Shapeways in New York, Sculpteo in France and and Materialise in Belgium can print objects on demand from digitalized plans.

     Recently, a large Chinese manufacturer was setting up a production line and realized they were missing some parts that should have been ordered from an injection-molding company. The Economist again: “Faced with weeks of delay it looked at 3-D printing the bits instead. Sculpteo had the first batch of 5,000 parts on their way to China within Days.  It is yet another example of how 3-D printing is not competing with conventional manufacturing techniques, but is instead complementing and hybridising with them to make new things possible. When 3-D printing can come to the rescue of mass manufacturing, its place in the factory of the future is assured.”  And Mr. Gou/Uog  will have to order some new monogrammed sheets. 

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.