Happy fog! In San Francisco last week I watched a local news story about businesses trying to survive the pandemic, supply chain challenges, hiring and retaining employees, inflation, costs outrageous real estate, wildfires and sea level rise fueled by climate disruption. I would add the changing demographics of a large number of owners who are about to retire and who do not yet have a solid exit plan. They reported that some large companies are leaving the state. Small businesses – like most of ours on the North Coast – are holding up.
This state of affairs seems disastrous. It’s serious. To sweeten the news, here’s a little riff on the lemonade extraction from that moment in history.
There are tremendous business opportunities along the Redwood Coast. And there are people exploring regenerative economic strategies right under our noses. A group of volunteers from Lake, Mendocino, Humboldt, Del Norte and adjacent tribal lands look forward to bringing you some of these stories and solutions at the Redwood Coast Area Economic Summit in the fall of 2022.
Given all of the opportunities below (and more): what could seasoned business owners and bright minds in our region do with a few months or years to launch or revamp operations? Could we allow innovators to test new ideas in business model competitions before putting them online? Could we launch main street investors or targeted loan funds to help our entrepreneurs start or grow? Could we convince our counties and cities to set aside incentives and low-barrier financing for retired business owners willing to sell to local employees who want to keep viable locally-owned businesses? Is municipal broadband an option in some areas for those who want something different from the big monopoly internet service providers?
Here are some of the value chains that will arrive over the next fifteen years. Do you own — or want to start — a business that could participate?
Which installation, engineering, construction, and internet-based companies should be gearing up to take advantage of the landing of the transpacific fiber optic internet cable?
Could companies in mechanical and electrical engineering, welding, transportation and logistics, project management and wind farm maintenance start up or retool, and prepare for procurement to take advantage of the huge Humboldt Bay offshore wind project worth a megamillion dollar?
In addition to construction, maintenance, engineering and other necessary contractors, who will prepare their fertilizer or pet food manufacturing business to capture Nordic Aquafarms fish farming by-products in new lines of products?
Are you a sustainable forestry expert, engineer or building products manufacturer, commercial warehouse or factory owner, or builder? The CalForest WRX Alliance is looking for hardwood contractors and experts. Are you ready to protect forest health and the high fire risk brush and kindling in our forests? What would it take to get your business ready to process or manufacture that biomass into sturdy, affordable building materials?
Are you a tourism or retail business owner keeping tabs on the complete transformation of Crescent City’s waterfront park as an attraction for residents and tourists?
Have you always wanted to start or expand your child care business to help us bridge our huge gap between need and availability? Is Humboldt County Federal ARPA Funding for Child Care Businesses Right for You?
Are you in fishing, restaurants or retail grocery? Did you know that most of our local fish is exported and most of the fish purchased for local consumption is imported? how ridiculous is that? What could the new Eureka and Fort Bragg Fishermans’ Dockside Markets do for your bottom line by directly connecting buyers and sellers, keeping catches and profits local?
Speaking of oceans and marine life: are you aware of the blue economy projects of the Noyo Ocean Collective to help overhaul municipal seawater intake and discharge infrastructure to support aquariums, l aquaculture and advanced research?
Are you a small farmer or a food manufacturer? Have you heard of the food hub and food nodes coming to the area, bringing together services and bringing long-needed freezer and refrigeration space to help you stage and market your products at a affordable price ?
We can go beyond new profit opportunities. I like to remind people that the word economy comes from the ancient Greek “oikonomos”, merging the terms “management” and “house”. Are you keeping an eye on ongoing regeneration and cooperation to support and protect the people, resources and ecosystems of our region?
Our region launched its first new worker co-ops in 40 years this year, keeping ownership, governance and profits in the hands of the people who provide the products and services. Do you know how to start a co-op or sell your business to your employees to help this trend grow?
We are very fortunate to have many community-minded commercial lenders. However, we only have a few scattered accredited (wealthy) or angel investors, which creates a capital gap for some innovative or fast-growing entrepreneurs. I look forward to taking home the lessons learned since joining Angels of Main Street, a national group of main street investors that helps ordinary people with regular incomes learn how to invest their money directly in Main Street businesses.
Have you kept an eye out for the ingenuity and flourishing of businesses on Native American tribal lands? The Klamath River Promise Neighborhoods “Cradle to Career” transformative educational initiatives have just been launched in the lands of the Yurok Tribe and Del Norte County. Tolowa Dee’Ni Nation and Yurok Tribe food sovereignty and home garden programs to eradicate long-standing food deserts. Yurok cultural and ecotourism ventures, from building traditional canoes and taking tours of the Klamath River to returning Prey-go-neesh (the California condor). The Wiyot Tribe’s Dishgamu Humboldt Community Land Trust initiative, combining workforce development and green building with back-to-the-land and cultural sovereignty strategies that are gaining national attention. How the Karuk and Yurok Tribes finally broke through and led state and federal governments to recognize that cultural fire management, including prescribed burns, is and always has been effective. And never forget the nationally acclaimed Blue Lake Rancheria Low Carbon Community Microgrid Project.
Our economy is changing. Some of the challenges we face are beyond our control: gas prices, supply chain blocks, global climate change. Yet we can still grasp and direct some of the changes to come in a way that aligns with our values and allows us to thrive.
We, your neighbors, look forward to welcoming you to the Redwood Coast Area Economic Summit this fall to reflect on how we will manage our homes and resources together in this time of crisis and opportunity. Join us for an economical lemonade at https://bit.ly/GrowingForward2022.
Leila Roberts is Director of the North Coast Small Business Development Center, an organization dedicated to helping our local businesses start, grow and thrive. Learn more, sign up for a course or apply for individual business advice at www.northcoastsbdc.org.