Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bako Bits: Death by a thousand cuts in a terrible economy, and a tribute to the warriors from the 'Greatest Generation'

* ... GLASS HALF FULL: It takes the heart of an optimist to see blue sky in the midst of this recession, with its daily drumbeat of bad news across virtually all sectors of the economy. Continuing job losses, rising foreclosures and the specter of a double-dip recession are not exactly a recipe for optimism, even if the DOW did rally and settle above 10,000. But that's just me, which is why I admire those folks who always seems to see blue skies in the middle of a thunderstorm. One of those is Wayne Kress, principal at CB Richard Ellis here in Bakersfield, who has started a blog about industrial real estate that is worth a read. (check it out here) Wayne is a graduate of Cal Berkeley, married to longtime residential Realtor Leslie Walters, and one of the more knowledgeable folks when it comes to commercial real estate. Naturally optimistic, he thinks we're cycling out of this doomsday cycle and will emerge just fine. And speaking of optimism, I ran into Shai Gordon, formerly one of the owners of the popular bar and restaurant Cafe Med over off Stockdale Highway, who is also working in the commercial sector. Shai left Cafe Med about four years ago and now works for Western Realty Advisors. After catching up on things he advised me to "be more optimistic." I'll try. Promise.

 * ... LIVING WITH PAY CUTS: I was thinking about the budget difficulties over at Cal State Bakersfield while reading a story in the New York Times about how pay cuts have become so much a part of the economic landscape. The story (read the full report here) follows the emotional roller coaster of an ExpressJet pilot who took a 50 percent pay cut but is thankful to still have work. Many companies  locally, including The Californian, have instituted across-the-board pay cuts to deal with the lingering effects of the recession. And of course we have the county furloughs and other cutbacks that have simply become a way of life. These kinds of moves were unthinkable a few years ago, but then who expected to see an economy like we are dealing with today? An excerpt from The Times story:

 " In recent decades, layoffs were the standard procedure for shrinking labor costs. Reducing the wages of those who remained on the job was considered demoralizing and risky: the best workers would jump to another employer. But now pay cuts, sometimes the result of downgrades in rank or shortened workweeks, are occurring more frequently than at any time since the Great Depression."

 * ... FINDING WAYS TO SAVE: If there's a common theme these days, it's that we are all finding ways to cut back: canceling vacations, putting off major purchases and keeping our cars longer. Every penny counts, and I am amazed at how we are all dealing with it in different ways. I was saddened to hear that Riley Parker, a private investigator and owner of Parker and Associates, dropped his membership in the downtown  Rotary Club as one way to save a few bucks. Riley has taken on some significant investigative projects out of town, and continuing Rotary was simply not practical. In addition, his wife Jane fractured her elbow in a nasty fall and the recovery means Riley had to hire an employee to replace her-an unbudgeted expense that just made things worse. Keep Jane in your thoughts as she recovers from the spill.. On another topic Riley passed on this email that I wanted to share. It speaks for itself:

"Some time ago you folks ran a great little story on a retired Marine aviator named Don 'Slim' Harris. Slim is one of my neighbors and one of the most delightful gentlemen that I have ever known. I knew that his poker group of retired Marines, all having served from WWII through Vietnam, were coming today for a quick game. Most of them retired from the old Marine Air Station El Toro or Camp Pendleton and still live in Orange County. There were 10 of these old timers seated at the table ... their lowest rank at retirement was Lt. Colonel and a couple of them were as high as two-star general.... all part of that 'greatest generation' and I left with a sense that I had just been a part of something so special and honorable that it is difficult for the rest of us to understand."

. * ... BUSINESS EXPO 2009: Don't forget about the 19th annual Bakersfield Business Expo set for Tuesday, October 27, over at the Rabobank Convention Center. Admission is $5 and it runs from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. This is a Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce sponsored event and always a good place to network and find ways to grow your business. Need tickets? Call the Chamber at 661-327-4421.

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