Saturday, March 28, 2009

Cioppino feed: West Rotary's night out

West Rotary's Cioppino feed is one of my favorite charity fund raisers of the year(second only to the Southern Sierra Council Boy Scouts sporting clays shoot out at Five Dogs shooting range). The setting: Monsignor Leddy Hall at Garces Memorial High School, a huge tent next to the building with silent auction items, a beautiful spring evening, and just about anyone you would want to see. Jim and Beverly Camp, Steve and Pat Lloyd were there, Pat and Terri Collins, John and Karen Wells, Sue and Herb Benham, Bruce Jay, Bryan and Teresa Fahsbender and of course a cast of dozens of west Rotarians: David Gay, Brad Henderson, Rick Kreiser, Mike Rubiy and on and on. The steamed clams, salad and cioppino fish stew were superb, and all to benefit three local charities: The Children's Miracle Network of Bakersfield Memorial Hospital, The Ronald McDonald House and the Boys and Girls Club. In the picture, Rogers Brandon, Monsignor Braun and Geoff King have some fun.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Wendy Wayne: a tribute to a beautiful life

Make sure you pick up this Saturday's Californian and check out BakersfieldLife magazine. On the cover is our own Wendy Wayne, the community activist, proud mother of two boys, wife to Gene Tackett and a woman who puts us all to shame with her selflessness and good deeds. Full disclosure: I have a hand in producing the magazine, and when the cover picture of Wendy was pitched, I at first recoiled, believing that showing post chemotherapy Wendy may offend some. Yet when I showed the photo to my wife Dianne, she disagreed. "I see strength," she told me. "I see a woman who is comfortable and confident and strong. I see what is best in Wendy." Others in the office, particularly women, agreed. Almost everyone had a loved one touched by cancer, and it reminded them of their battles and the strength of character it takes to fight this disease. So there she is, Wendy is all her beauty and strength. Freelance writer Lisa Kimble did a wonderful job interviewing Wendy. We hope you enjoy it. (click on the picture to enlarge it)

McCarthy's week on the hill: all about energy

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) shares his thoughts on the week in Washington. In his words:

"I am heading back to the district for a number of exciting district events including the unveiling of the Oil Worker’s Monument in Taft and then traveling to a wind farm in Tehachapi to announce a new piece of legislation that will provide a long-term extension of tax incentives for renewable energy.

"The week started with a hearing in the Financial Services Committee with Treasury Secretary Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke talking about their roles in the AIG bonuses, as well as Treasury’s plan to buy up toxic assets from banks. Tough questions were asked, but I think some remain unanswered, and for that reason, I joined the entire Financial Services Committee in approving a resolution for the whole House to vote on that would require Treasury to provide Congress with information about its actions related to AIG and the bonuses. I appreciate that the Secretary’s new toxic asset plan involves bringing private capital into this market, but am concerned that the specific proposal is not a true public-private, 50-50, partnership, and therefore leaves taxpayers more on the hook.

"As we continue to debate a budget filled with spending and borrowing that nears $4 trillion, one of the most significant concerns is how it addresses our energy needs. This budget pits energy sources against each other instead of harnessing the power of existing supplies, incentivizing the potential of renewables, and maximizing new technologies.

"It is very telling that as I travel throughout the district this Friday, we see an energy corridor that serves as a model for our energy policy. There is no magic answer to our energy challenges, which is why we must be committed to developing all types of energy for our nation. I will be traveling from the oil-rich area of West Kern County to the Tehachapi Mountains where wind energy is abundant. If you continue onward you head toward Mojave, Lancaster, or Ridgecrest, which are abundant in solar and geothermal.

"The legislation that I have introduced extends the production tax credit for renewable energy like wind to 2020. This would provide a decade of stability, so that we can grow the investment, jobs and renewable energy that will power our future."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A sick economy, a healthy baby and an optimistic spirit

Received a nice email yesterday from Paul Pavletich, the former Dewar's Candy marketing manager who has since returned to his family business (Premier Lighting). Paul got in touch to commiserate about the miserable economy and the layoffs at The Californian. "I wanted you to know we are doing the same things in our business that you have had to do in yours," Paul wrote. He went on to talk about cross training his electricians to work the showroom and providing "white glove" service by sending sales people to the homes of customers to oversee the installation of lighting fixtures. I found comfort when Paul added: "I guess what I am trying to say is, good companies have to become great ones or they will go away." I hadn't seen Paul in a while so I asked him to send me a few pictures of his daughter, Lincoln, of whom he is understandably proud. Posted here.

Tomorrow's news this second: my relationship with Lance

In what seems like a nanosecond Twitter has gone from a funky nerd tool to a powerful application for businesses and marketers. If you don't yet understand or use Twitter, you need to get with it, because it is changing the rules. At its core, Twitter is a social networking and micro-blogging service that enables its users to send and read other users' updates, commonly known as tweets. These tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 bytes in length that are displayed on the user's profile page and delivered to other users who have signed up to receive them. Consider my experience, for example. I "follow" Lance Armstrong's tweets, which allowed me to keep up with Lance during both the Tour of Australia and Tour of California. He talked about his race day, who won and he would often post pictures. I learned of his crash and injury when he sent a tweet himself, within an hour after the crash, and he followed it up with this picture. So by the time I saw this on the TV news, and read about it in the newspapers, not only was I fully informed, but I had heard it from the actual "source" himself, Lance. It renders all media - radio, TV, blogs, websites, newspapers - irrelevant. I also now follow certain tweets of financial experts, who direct me to deep pockets of market and financial analysis. This too has rendered my normal sources of this content - financial websites, the Wall Street Journal etc - less important. Technology changes and defines, and Twitter is doing it in a nanosecond.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Obama gives stimulus to gun stores: booming sales

Chatted with my old friend Gene Thome over at Bear Mountain Sports today and he is one businessman who is not complaining about the economy. After stuttering to find the right words, Gene was literally gushing about how busy he has been, selling handguns, AR-15 assault rifles, ammunition, gun safes, shotguns, just about anything you can think of. The reason: fear that President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder will not only reinstate the ban on assault rifles, but include other weapons as well. "He (Holder)said as much a few days ago," Gene told me. "I can't keep stuff in the store. I'm up at night on the internet trying to find handguns to order." Gene is a longtime businessman and hunting and shooting advocate who obeys the laws and believes in protecting the Second Amendment. For some gun-loving humor, check out the video TV ad on his website (click here to view). Business is so good Gene is hold a "customer appreciation sale" this weekend at his store, located south of Highway 58 on Weedpatch Highway.

Goodbye Cali and Welcome Nevada!

Got to admire the aggressiveness (and chutzpah as my wife would say) of these out of state communities who seize upon our state budget woes to try to lure California businesses away. Received an email this morning from Bob Cooper, economic development manager for the city of Henderson, Nevada, asking me to consider moving our company to his fair city, which he boasts has:

* No corporate income tax
* No personal income tax
* Affordable workers' compensation rates
* Affordable Class A and Class B office space
* Ranked in MONEY magazine as one of the 100 best places to live in America
* Fifteen miles south of Las Vegas
* Business friendly climate

Bob says he is going be in SoCal at the end of the month and would like to meet. Let's see Bob: yes our state is a mess, yes our legislature is dysfunctional and it's true our taxes are way too high ... but, I think we'll stay put.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Downsizing and getting the finger in a bad economy

It was a long day at The Californian today where we experienced our second round of layoffs in the past four months. It’s a given that the economy is bad, and news of layoffs are almost commonplace these days. Consultants tell us to call it a “reduction in force,” but it’s a layoff to those who leave the building with a cardboard box holding their personal belongings. They are disruptive and painful, but a necessary tool for companies that confront the simple fact that when expenses exceed revenue, you lose money. Mature industries, like newspapers, are particularly vulnerable in this economy. The real culprit is not people abandoning us for the internet, but rather a heavy fisted economy that has our advertisers reeling. Newspapers have always been an economic barometer of sorts: when people stop buying cars and new homes and shopping at Home Depot to spruce up the nest, advertisers curtail their spending and we have a bad day. If Realtors get a cold, we get the flu. None of this of course is any comfort to the people who lose their jobs, who often have families and mortgages and bills to pay. And I can’t really blame the former employee who spotted me on the street today and gave me the angry finger. So going forward? I spotted this bit of advice on a media blog and thought it relevant:

“The first step in managing uncertainty is to admit its influence. In the context of business, particularly in a mature industry, this means preparing for a wide range of outcomes, including the very real possibility that revenue will shrink, not grow. Chaos can be traumatic for the unimaginative, but abandoning the center of gravity can be a lifesaver.”

Monday, March 23, 2009

Can a wine tasting signal better economic times ahead?

So here's some good news: The turnout for the Henrietta Weill Child Guidance Center's charity wine tasting was so bad last year that they almost decided not to do it again. But Foundation president Shai Gordon had other ideas and decided to give it another go. And thank goodness he did. The Third Annual Wine Tasting (held last Friday) drew a robust turnout of 90 wine lovers, more than twice last year's turnout. One of the wines featured was Sextant Wines (see their website here), owned and operated by Bakersfield residents Craig and Nancy Stoller. Could this be a harbinger of better economic times to come? Let's hope so. Glenn Hammett and his daughter Clarice, fresh back from a stint in the Peace Corps in Africa, are shown in the photo.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Don't mess with me: I'm from Bakersfield

Was on Facebook today when I spotted this "community' devoted to kids who left town for college (check out the full list here). It's an amusing compilation of things that kids miss about home, and of course it was created wholly on Facebook through the power of social networking, which should never be underestimated. Facebook and like sites allow people to connect and share experiences, and the mainstream media should take notice that these are powerful tools that can be used to build community. Newspapers and media companies that define the world by what their finite reporting staffs can produce - or continue under the illusion that they set the agenda - ignore these communities at their own peril. Now back to the "list," here's a few things our kids miss about home:

* Luigi's
* Smiley face cookies from Smith's
* Zingo's
* The solid walls of fog
* The tumbleweeds, roadkill and vast expanses of oil derricks
* The Kern County Fair (the single grossest fair on the planet and we love it
* Sequoia Sandwiches
* The Fox Theater
* All the 99 Cent stores
* The ghetto ass mall rates at Valley Plaza
* Seeing a 4-door sedan with 9 people in it on a regular basis
* The mysterious cars always parked at the bridge at Round Mtn. Road and China Grade Loop

You get the picture. They do miss us. Photo courtesy of the Facebook group.

Looking for a recession proof business? Bail bonds

Random thoughts on a Sunday: Am I the only one who has noticed an explosion of bail bond advertising on local TV? One of two things are happening: either local TV is aggressively slashing their rates to attract business or your neighbor and mine is ending up in the slammer for brandishing their Glock at a downtown bar. The commercials always start the same way: a concerned (and attractive) woman in a beautiful home gets "the call" that hubby is behind bars, and the wonderful and deeply concerned folks at the local bail bond joint step in to the rescue. I Googled "Bakersfield bail bonds" and it indicated 55,000 searches! Yikes. Not sure if I have been in another market where bail bondsmen are mainstream advertising.