Joe Lorenz of Chevron, bringing Chris Thornberg, PhD,
a cup of coffee before the lecture
by the founding principal of Beacon Economics
at the Economic Summit conference Tuesday
Business and civic leaders gathered at the Richmond Civic Auditorium Tuesday, September 14, 2010, to hear Chris Thornberg, PhD, of Beacon Economics, talk about past, present and future for Richmond area businesses. Billed as the first annual Economic Summit, the event was run by the Richmond Chamber of Commerce and co-sponsored by numerous big businesses. Thornberg told the attentive audience that the tax rate is lower now than it has been since World War II, while federal spending has continued at an alarming rate. Thornberg's talk was accompanied by a multitude of charts and graphs called economic indicators, shown on a big screen behind him, available on the web site of Beacon Economics.
Bruce Kaplan of the Point Richmond Music
Festival, on the horn to his friends.
Bruce Kaplan got there early. "This is the first time in my life I have been first for anything," he said. "Besides being a musician, I'm a business person. I do consulting. I'm always looking for new business opportunities. Richmond is my new home. I've been here for a year and a half, going to city council meetings."
Theresa Karr, California Apartment Association;
Virginia Finlay, Planning Commissioner and City
council candidate; Woody Tausend, Richmond Rescue Mission
Each participant had paid $50 to the Richmond Chamber of Commerce for the day event, to hear Thornberg and also to be able to speak their minds to civic leaders who might be able to help them in return for their business license fees and other taxes. Everyone had on their mind networking with someone who might be able to cross their palms with silver, or at least help them find a new client. Improvement of the communication infrastructure and the necessity of collaboration were at the top of the list of big business concerns--businesses like The Mechanics Bank.
Dr. Bruce Harter, Superintendent of the West
Contra Costa Unified School District
A delicious breakfast was served by Hotel Marriott, and lunch was provided by The Boilerhouse, all included in the entrance fee. Ordinary large and small business people had a chance to meet bank presidents, spokespeople for major corporations, and candidates for public office alike, in a social setting conducive to conversation, if not to actual business deals. The conference had a long list of illustrious sponsors, including Walmart, Chevron, Mechanics Bank, Kaiser Permanente, Wells Fargo, AT&T, Sims Metal, Courtyard by Marriott, BoilerHouse Restaurant, City of Richmond, Richmond Convention and Visitors' Bureau, Kaiser School of Allied Health Sciences, The Bay Area News Group/West County Times, Watson, Hoffe & Haass, Attorneys.
Jorge Espinosa of Courtyard Marriott, making a breakfast omelette
Numerous candidates for public office were present, including mayoral candidates Nat Bates, and John Ziezenhenne.
Josh Genser, Atty; and John Ziesenhenne,
M. A. Hays Insurance, candidate for Mayor of Richmond
Attny David Vincent, Masquers Theatre; and
Corey Lawrence, Cushman and Wakefield
Attorney Josh Genser is followed into breakfast
by Bay Area News Group John Strohmeier
This is the water bottle souvenir from Chevron.
Leah Clark, Finance Department;
and Richard R. Lee, "Sidewalks" television show
Cecily McMahan, City television station manager.
She says she has been in the TV business
for 40 years and wants to see what the next 40 will bring.
Bates appears to be challenging the non-partisan status of the mayor's race with his yard signs proclaiming his Democratic party membership. This is possibly in response to Mayor McLaughlin's widely publicized Green Party membership. In contradiction of the usual intense attempt to remain non-partisan, which requires concealing party membership, McLaughlin's status as achieving the highest office of any Green Party candidate was widely publicized in the newspapers after the last election. Bates is a longtime Richmond city councilman and former Alameda County parole officer. Ziezenhenne is a former Richmond city councilman and a partner in M.A. Hays insurance company. Mayor Gayle McLaughlin left a message in the conference packet, saying she had gone to Spain to meet with the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation to learn about worker-owned cooperatives.
Congressional candidate Rick Tubbs (r) listening to
Chris Thornberg (l) before the lecture
Republican Rick Tubbs came to hear Chris Thornberg too. Tubbs, a Lieutenant Colonel In the US Airforce, is running against incumbent Congressman George Miller for the 7th Congressional District seat in Congress.
"The (federal) deficit is most important," Tubbs told the Point Richmond Voice. "We have to cut spending and grow jobs. Government gets in the way of growing jobs out of laziness. It's a waste of taxpayer dollars to go back and forth."
Tubbs is a big believer in cutting spending of the Federal government—"smartly," he says. Tubbs grew up on welfare. A 21-year veteran, he is still active in the U.S. Airforce reserves. He's a C17 pilot at Travis AFB and a United Airlines pilot as well. He said he will probably retire from the military if he wins the election. He will be too busy to do his reserve duty. Tubbs said he had "a lot of time in the air thinking about the best way to make a good life for my kids."
McKinley Williams, president of Contra Costa College, San Pablo, greets Dr. Thornberg.
McKinley Williams told the crowd, "We're feeling the
recession at the college. We've had to cut back on
classes. We are taking time to discuss our economic
future and ways to boost the economy in
the local area. We want to provide a forum for
local businesses to showcase their companies.
Dr. Chris Thornberg lecturing about economics.
He makes a very dry subject seem interesting.
"Richmond got in touch with us and asked if we would
help out." His report is titled "Richmond on the Rise."
He told the Point Richmond Voice that he has
an office in El Segundo, CA.
He talked about the "Trends and the Bends."
"The trends are the long road of growth.
The bends are the ups and downs of the economy."
"Richmond has a fascinating past...growth
is slower than Livermore but
faster than Concord."
"In Richmond 20 percent of the residents do not have a high school degree. However, 34 percent have a post-secondary degree. The median income is $55,000. l There has been 26 percent growth (in the economy) since 1999. Forty three percent of the population are between 45 and 64 years old."
"Richmond has had a solid pace of growth,
including long term job growth with the interruption
of the current downturn (in the economy)."
"The development of a retail core is going to be
very important for development here."
Most of the rest of his speech was about nationwide trends in the U.S. economy. It was accompanied by numerous charts and graphs shown on the big screen behind him, in the very entertaining style of contemporary computer sales presentations at conferences like those for Apple and the print industry in San Francisco. After the hard-hitting economics lecture, the partipants for the morning plenary session came on stage to discuss business problems they thought the city could help them solve.
l to r, Oliver Mading, Galaxy Desserts; Mark Swanson,
Harbor Plastics; Chris Shadix, Bel Aire Displays; and
Vern Whitmore, Globe Newspapers, in morning
plenary session. Chris Shadix spoke first.
Oliver Mading, Galaxy Desserts, 200 employees
3. "Overall we have had a good experience with the city..the availability of labor and business, the friendly environment. Measure T was a problem. We want to grow and not have surprises. There are three or four residential units near our plant. What kind of zoning is that? What were they thinking when they were zoning? Measure T was the effort of the city to get more funding by imposing more taxes on big business."
Oliver Mading, Galaxy Desserts
7. "Mark has a choice. Uncertainty in the marketplace is the enemy of capitalism. Our relationship with the people next door is not so burdensome that we would move away, but we should have known about the problems in advance. The city should get the small things right. Business friendly means the roads are safe and aren't stinky."
9. "Oprah has chosen our croissants because ours have 34 percent butter compared to 18 percent butter in other people's croissants. We are staying ahead of the curve in the marketplace."
Mark Swanson, Harbor Plastics, 90 employees
2. He said he looked for housing in Richmond for his employees. "Richmond is a great location."
4. "Our workers have lives that are challenging. Environmental issues affect our employees. If employees can't get to work because of illness in the family or safety in the street (it's a problem). The whole community must support an environment that must support them."
"All new hires come through a temp agency, because of the federal government requirement of citizenship status. It costs us 15 percent more to do that." If someone applies with him, he refers them to a temp agency to go through the hiring process.
Mark Swanson, Harbor Plastics
6. "With operations with China, Richmond and Phoenix, Arizona, we are comparing relative costs to make (manufacture) things. Our jobs are balanced on a razors edge, a razor-thin margin (of profit). The jobs we maintain in Richmond are at a six percent cost disadvantage compared to Phoenix. Health care, real estate, property taxes and electricity (all cost more here in Richmond) Some companies are willing to pull our work from us and send it to China for a 1.7 percent cost increase. (If they increase the price of their product 1.7 percent, they will lose that customer, who says he is going to send the job order to China.)
Swanson said that when he increased the price of the product 1.7 percent to cover the cost of the increase in business license fees, he literally saw the orders disappear off his computer screen.
Chris Shadix, Bel Aire Displays, 65 employees
1. "The I 80 corridor has been a challenge because most employees lived in Oakland and worked in Emeryville when (our business was located) there." He recommends helping people relocate.
Chris Shadix, Bel Aire Displays 2
5. "High speed internet access is important. It's an infrastructure issue. Our dealing with the city is a joy. We get call backs immediately. There is reponsiveness and the personal touch."
8. "We are always looking at cost competitiveness with our competitors in other parts of the country. The cost of facilities and electricity is more, so we have to be more creative." They spend $30,000 to $40,000 a month on power. They are competitive in Richmond where they weren't (where they were located) before.
Vern Whitmore, Globe Newspapers, a good listener