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.
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.”
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.
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!
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.
Here’s some food for thought. You might see a few surprises.
UNEMPLOYMENT RATE IN HUMBOLDT COUNTY(January): 7.9%
UNEMPLOYMENT RATE IN SAN FRANCISCO: 4.8%
UNEMPLOYMENT RATE IN MEXICO: 4.76% (December 2013) (Time Magazine) Yes, Mexico!
SHASTA COUNTY MEDIAN HOME PRICE JAN 2014: $180K (DataQuick)
HUMBOLDT COUNTY MEDIAN HOME PRICE JAN 2014: $247K (HAR)
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).
PERCENTAGE OF AMERICANS WHO BELIEVE THE SUN GOES AROUND THE EARTH: 26% (National Science Foundation).
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.
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
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.
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 email@example.com.
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.
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.