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.  

“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!



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.

Some Interesting Numbers for Redwood Coast Businesspeople

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



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



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).


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. 



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. 

What Can the RCEA Do For Your Redwood Coast Business?

Looking for ways to control energy costs? Cut down waste? Conserve resources? You have an ally in your struggle and you may not even know it.  Meet the Redwood Coast Energy Authority.  Their excellent website contains more information than we can squeeze in here,  but their amazing array of services may make them your business’s new best friend.

The Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA) is a Joint Powers Authority whose members include the County, the  Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District and the cities of Arcata, Blue Lake, Eureka, Ferndale, Fortuna, Rio Dell and Trinidad. Their purpose is “to develop and implement sustainable energy initiatives that reduce energy demand, increase energy efficiency, and advance the use of clean, efficient and renewable resources available in the region.”  Who pays for it?  California utility customers and the program is administered by PG&E and the state Public Utilities Commission. Lots of players, but all you need to do to get started is submit their online application or visit their new local office at 633 3rd Street in Eureka, or call them at 269-1700. Here are some of the services they offer:

-Replacing  your old light bulbs with LED or compact fluorescent lights, and replacing your old neon “OPEN” sign with a more efficient LED model.

-Assessing your business’s lighting, refrigeration, process equipment, heating and ventilating systems and other energy-saving opportunities at your business.  They will even generate a report with available incentives,  recommendations and a financial summary.

-They can hook you up with start-to-finish project management, incentives paid directly to contractors, assistance with zero-interest financing of your utility bill, negotiated discounts with qualified contractors, and more. Did I mention that all these services are FREE or at REDUCED COST?

You can get started by visiting the office at 633 Third Street in Eureka, by calling them at (707) 269-1700 or by submitting this form by email or snailmail. Be sure to save the form to your computer before you fill it out.  Their email address is

The RCEA is involved in many other projects including developing a Comprehensive Action Plan for Energy for the county, also available on the website. They are coordinating the North Coast Plug-in Electrical Vehicle Project  to promote and develop greater use of “PEV”‘s in the area, in which there is enormous interest  (checked gas prices lately?) and are working with the HSU Schatz Energy Research Center, GHD and PG&E to this end. They have also received a $1.75M grant from the State to be used for a biomass power system on the Blue Lake Rancheria,  energy upgrades throughout the Mad River Valley and infrastructure for those PEV’s (charging stations)!

These projects will have enormous impact on our lives and how we do business. Take advantage of these programs and get involved. You’ll be glad you did.

NCEPD- Honoring the success stories of people with disabilities

I just attended an event that more of you should go to- the annual recognition luncheon of Northwest Committee for the Employment of People with Disabilities, or NCEPD. As an old Rehab counselor and former member of the Committee, I’ve attended quite a few of these and they are truly amazing events. You hear stories of courage, stories of generosity, stories of ingenious problem solving, a glimpse into a world people without disabilities rarely think about.  Our friend Bob Van Fleet used to refer to the non-disabled folks as CRABs- Currently Regarded as Able Bodied. It only takes one car collision, motorcycle crash or work accident to turn a CRAB into a person with a disability and of course many people are disabled from birth.  Giving these folks a chance to be self-sufficient is one of the best things an employer can do, for themselves and for the community. Thus, both the employee and employer are honored.

I hadn’t been in a couple of  years and was pleased to find that Reaching for Independence , a parents’ group in Fortuna which was just getting started when I left, has become a multi-service agency. If you’re not familiar with the rehab agencies and their programs, be aware you can locate a suitable candidate for your vacancy and get tax credits and FREE job coaching which which continues during the entire term of employment. The clients range from folks who do best at repetitive tasks to geniuses who happen to use wheelchairs. Or medications for seizure disorders. Or clocks that TELL you the time. Or screen readers for visually impaired people so that they, too, can waste time on Facebook as well as attend distance learning classes at schools and colleges. I should mention that both CR and HSU have many services for people with disabilities, who by most counts comprise about ten per cent of the population.

Services for those of us who are older? Not a problem. After all, you have two choices in life- you can become disabled or you can die young. I know which I’m picking.

I met a gentleman who is retiring from HSU after 38 years. Could have sat out the whole time on Social Security, but  chose to work. The Department of Rehabilitation is not a perfect agency but they DO turn people with disabilities into taxpayers. We should  all support them.

Another agency worthy of your support is Tri-County Independent Living, which is having its seventh annual disabilities expo on Friday from 10am to 3pm in the Vickers Building at Redwood Acres, where many of the local organizations offering choices to people with disabilities will be present, including HTA which will be bringing a bus to demonstrate their accommodations and services.  Admission is free.  Finally, the next day, Saturday, the Humboldt County Library is holding a Reading Fair to familiarize low-vision and blind patrons with a range of equipment to help with reading. The library has a loan closet which offers an opportunity to try equipment before making expensive purchases.  The Fair is from 1pm to 3pm Saturday. Show up! You just might learn something.

One thing I learned in my time at Rehab is that people with disabilities appreciate having a job, because it’s hard for them to get one. The next time someone from DOR, EDD, HCOE or any of the other agencies that work with people with disabilities approaches you, please consider giving people with disabilities a chance. You won’t be sorry.


HSU Grad Playing Key Role in Battle Against Styrofoam

Can a startup headed by two twenty-somethings rid the Earth of styrofoam? It just may be happening.

Sue Van Hook, who earned Bachelor’s degrees in Botany and French and a Master’s degree in Biology from HSU,  has retired from teaching at prestigious Skidmore College and is now the Chief Mycologist at Ecovative Design, LLC. which employs about sixty people in Green Island, New York. Ian Frazier, in the May 20 edition of The New Yorker,  recounts in his article the six-year history of the company, which has attracted international attention by developing  an all-natural substitute for plastic made from tissue found in mushrooms.  It is suitable for containers and packaging now made from Styrofoam. “Ecovative’s eventual goal is to displace plastics all over the world.”

Ecovative’s founders, Gavin McIntyre and Eben Bayer, are graduates of Rensselaer Tech’s Inventors’ Studio and its Incubator program.  They were already talking about starting a company and had won a $20,000 prize for environmental entrepreneurship from Oxford when Van Hook read about them in a local paper and called them. Skidmore became a backer of the project along with Rensselaer and Van Hook’s students became part of the effort to find a suitable growing medium and technique to produce an “artificial plastic”.

The hazards of real plastic are pretty evident by this time. Landfills, beaches and highways   are littered with Styrofoam which once was used primarily for building insulation but now, unhappily, is everywhere. Much of the trash gyre in the Pacific Ocean is styrofoam, also called “foamed polystyrene”.  As Frazier notes, “Foamed polystyrene breaks down extremely slowly, in timespans no one is sure of, and a major chemical it breaks down to is styrene, listed as a carcinogen in the 2011 toxicology report issued by the National Institutes of Health.”  The toll on wildlife has been well-established.  Mayor Bloomberg has proposed a ban on the commercial use of Styrofoam containers in NYC.

The materials produced by Ecovative will biodegrade in about a month, with no carcinogens. I highly recommend the article, along with the rest of the May 20 “Innovators issue”, and I’m sorry I can’t reprint the whole thing for you, but it’s copyrighted. You can buy it online, visit the library or just buy a subscription.  I’ve been reading The New Yorker since I was a kid and it just keeps getting better.

So why don’t we have a county-wide ban on  Styrofoam?  Could your business find a way to succeed without foamed polystyrene? And wouldn’t Sue Van Hook have been a better choice as a graduation speaker than a phonied-up impersonator of Alexander von Humboldt, who never set foot in California?? What do you think?

Plan It Green 2012- the Adaptation Conference


You’ve probably seen these posters around town but may not have realized that there are folks right here in our community and elsewhere on the North Coast who are actively engaged in addressing the critical issues of climate change, the exhaustion of resources such as cheap oil,and the economic uncertainties in Europe, Asia and the Middle East,  all of which will affect our planet and the world in which our children will grow up.

These local activists will team with others from near (Mendocino) and far (there will be live webcasts with Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature, and with Rob Hopkins, author of The Transition Handbook-from oil dependence to local resilience) to discuss their research and findings on the development of strategies and technologies that will build resiliency into our future.  In-person guests include Richard Heinberg, , leading national energy expert, Senior Fellow at the Post-Carbon Institute and the author of ten books including The End of Growth.

You can hear from these world-class experts and exchange ideas with many others at this year’s Plan It Green conference, the most ambitious yet. The symposiums and webcasts begin the evening of Thursday, July 19 and continue all the next day at Humboldt State. On Saturday the action moves to the Arcata Community Center, with the Annual Trade Show where over 40 exhibitors  are expected with information, goods and services related to home energy systems, building trades, transportation, food production and home furnishings and products PLUS the “Wheels of Change” auto mall featuring a variety of alternative-fuel, hybrid and electric vehicles.  The Saturday events are free and open to the public, the Conference has a TOP price of $49 which includes lunch and a 2GB thumb-drive containing the Community Resilient Toolkit, including a 120-page workbook and extensive digital resources.

There will be much more going on than we have space here so for more information and tickets visit the website                             This is important. Don’t miss it!