Pacific Coast Business Times Proudly serving Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties 2017-02-24T23:18:10Z https://www.pacbiztimes.com/feed/atom/ Henry Dubroff <![CDATA[Our view: Ventura-Santa Barbara rail study a good start]]> https://www.pacbiztimes.com/?p=31523 2017-02-24T23:18:10Z 2017-02-24T23:18:10Z Read More →]]> Words of wisdom attributed to Chinese sage Lao Tsu hold that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Perhaps the journey to improve rail transportation between Santa Barbara and Ventura begins with a single grant.

That’s at least the promise of a $50,000 award from the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments to study ways to move more people by rail between Ventura and the South Coast.

So far, efforts to improve rail service by retiming existing trains to accommodate morning and evening commuters have run into roadblocks.

• Amtrak doesn’t want to add a new train for fear of diluting the profits from its existing service.

• Metro Link has been reluctant to extend its popular Ventura-Burbank-LA service to Santa Barbara County.

• Union Pacific has been unwilling to give up times for its freight trains.

• There is evidence to suggest a commuter rail line would be profitable but in-depth studies to prove the case have not been done. Pricing and the willingness of local governments or businesses to subsidize fares remain unknowns.

• Alternatives do exist, including incentives for carpooling and expanding commuter bus service between Ventura and Santa Barbara. However, traffic delays that plague auto commuters are a problem for both buses and carpools.

The bottom line is that increased rail service would enhance the viability of living in Ventura and working in Santa Barbara and vice versa. It would fit in well with the auto-light lifestyle of millennials and our Wi-Fi connected workstyle.

It’s too soon to tell if big things will come from this very small SBCAG grant. But we appreciate the persistence of elected officials, business interests and the Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce in trying to put together a better rail solution for the region.

CLOSING DIABLO CANYON

In San Luis Obispo County, a lot of attention is being given to the potential closing of PG&E’s Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant. On Feb, 22, for example, Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham, a Republican from Templeton, introduced legislation to study the re-use of the Diablo’s desalination plant as a source of fresh water for the region.

We’re also pleased to see that the city of Santa Maria and the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce are increasingly being included as key stakeholders in that process.
Santa Maria is not just part of PG&E territory; it is the home to perhaps 20 percent of the Diablo Canyon workforce.

And as the workforce swells to accommodate an influx of workers to decommission the plant, many of them will find that the Santa Maria area is the best available option for affordable rental housing.

The Santa Maria Valley also offers a third opportunity: a potential site for businesses that might well employ the skilled workers who will be looking for jobs as operations wind down.

As active participants in the post-Diablo Canyon planning process, we think a joint North Santa Barbara County-San Luis Obispo County effort on jobs, housing and economic development is essential.

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Guest commentary <![CDATA[Requests for proposals overlook value of face-to-face communication]]> https://www.pacbiztimes.com/?p=31520 2017-02-24T23:13:42Z 2017-02-24T23:13:42Z Read More →]]>

Scott Harris

I’ve been in business for more than 30 years and in that time I’ve hired quite a few people. But in all that time, not once, did I hire a person based strictly on their resume and certainly I’ve never hired anyone without having met them first. In every instance, I felt it was important, even critical, to meet the people in person before deciding. It’s also very important to have a strong and mighty cover letter or an outstanding reference. And that goes for everyone else I’ve ever met who has had hiring responsibilities.

I met my wife almost 40 years ago and married her 37 years ago. This was in the days before personal computers, before the Internet and certainly before online dating.

However, had online dating been available, I feel fairly confident that I would not have proposed to a woman based on her online profile.

I share this with you because two to three times per month, my firm is asked to respond to an RFP (request for proposal), or an RFQ (request for quote). Frequently, these proposals are sent out blind and with the sometimes exception of a joint Q&A conference call (with all RFP recipients participating).

Not only is there not an allowance for a true one-on-one discussion between the purchasing entity and the vendor/supplier/partner, they are often specifically forbidden.

Why would an entity (public or private) want to hire someone to provide a service based strictly on a paper exchange? No meeting to get a sense of how well the personalities might work together? No meeting to see if the potential supplier can add value to the search process? In truth, nothing except what almost always comes down to price.

Over the years, I have watched company after company hire a marketing firm based strictly on an RFP, only meeting the key players after the decision has been made. And while it works out sometimes, it fails a high percentage of the time.

And so, I have two questions. First, why would anyone who is looking to hire a service based company want to do so without first having met, interviewed, interrogated, challenged and perhaps, most important, listened to the candidates.

And second, why does anyone in the service industry respond to RFPs or RFQs? Do you want to lower your prices as far as you think you can go? Do you want to then work for someone who thinks so little of the service you’re offering that they couldn’t be bothered — or weren’t allowed — to spend time with you before making the decision?

I was recently in a meeting with a new client and they need a new website, something we suggested and they hadn’t talked about. We’ve worked with them for about six months and have invested time in getting to know their business and to run a couple of successful campaigns. At the same time, the CEO and his marketing team have invested time in teaching us about their company, their competitors and their industry.

The CEO then let us know that the board is insisting on an RFP, with price accounting for 50 percent of the total points in the ranking system.

My partner looked across the table and asked them to not include us in the process. She responded, “You know us, we know you. You know our work and our commitment to you. You also know we are not the ‘cheapest’ and that we won’t win the RFP.” He seemed flustered and said, “But we’ve invested so much in you, we would hate to not work with you on this project.” My partner responded with “We feel exactly the same way.” He’s going back to his board to try and kill the price-based RFP, so we’ll see what happens. But it was a good line to draw in the sand.

So, to be clear, I wouldn’t marry someone based on an online profile, I wouldn’t hire an employee based exclusively on a resume and I will never again respond to an RFP that restricts communication.

• Scott Harris is the founder and president of Mustang Marketing in Thousand Oaks.

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Joshua Molina <![CDATA[Rules allowing higher density help housing projects pencil out]]> https://www.pacbiztimes.com/?p=31517 2017-02-24T23:05:01Z 2017-02-24T23:05:01Z

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Marissa Nall http://www.pacbiztimes.com <![CDATA[Tri-county foundations face uncertainty]]> https://www.pacbiztimes.com/?p=31515 2017-02-24T22:41:38Z 2017-02-24T22:41:38Z

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Joshua Molina <![CDATA[Navy’s Wounded Warriors compete in Port Hueneme]]> https://www.pacbiztimes.com/?p=31512 2017-02-24T22:08:45Z 2017-02-24T22:08:45Z

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Alex Kacik http://www.pacbiztimes.com <![CDATA[Angel investors weigh person making pitch]]> https://www.pacbiztimes.com/?p=31510 2017-02-24T21:45:34Z 2017-02-24T21:45:34Z

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Henry Dubroff <![CDATA[Dubroff: Stormy weather, surging stocks plug one county’s fiscal pothole]]> https://www.pacbiztimes.com/?p=31507 2017-02-24T20:20:13Z 2017-02-24T20:20:13Z Read More →]]> Henry Dubroff

Henry Dubroff

The weather and the election of Donald Trump don’t appear to have much in common.

But the rainstorms that struck over President’s Day weekend and the Trump bump in the stock market have had a big impact on the fiscal fortunes of Santa Barbara County.

Hopefully, the powers that be will take advantage of a couple of breaks to fix a broken pension system and get expenses in line with revenue.

First, the weather. As has been widely reported, the rainstorms of Feb. 18-20 triggered a 30-foot rise in the level of Lake Cachuma, raising it to around 40 percent of capacity. That puts Cachuma at roughly 80,000 acre feet of water with prospects of ending the year at 100,000 acre feet or more by the end of the season.

The value of that water is hard to calculate because the cost of an average acre foot is relatively low compared to the “marginal” cost of buying an additional acre foot in a drought year. But the rain that’s filled Cachuma — and is helping to fill Lake Casitas and other reservoirs in the region — represents tens of millions of dollars in value to taxpayers. If the lake actually fills to its 193,000 acre feet of capacity this year or next, that value would be even higher.

Yes, there are costs. As television news constantly reminds us, there is mud and debris to clean up, highways to reopen and toppled trees to remove. The Oroville Dam spillway catastrophe is a stark reminder that extreme weather can bring about extreme risk.

But the value of full reservoirs to agriculture, tourism, restaurants, property values and the overall economy is widespread — and some of that value flows downhill into the county’s coffers.

Second is the Trump effect on global stock markets. Just a few months ago, Santa Barbara County released another dismal report on the shape of its $2.5 billion pension fund.

For yet another year the plan failed to reach its benchmark of a 7 per cent gain, after that benchmark was lowered from 8.16 percent to 7 percent in recent years. And Santa Barbara is just one of a handful of California counties whose pension costs exceed 10 percent of the county’s budget; it totaled around 13 percent this fiscal year and by some calculations those costs are headed from around $10 million to $40 million in the coming years.

But the Trump effect on the stock market has reversed the fortunes for endowments holding large equity holdings.  If my calculations are correct and if the gains hold through the end of the June 30 budget year, then Santa Barbara County will have exceeded its benchmark and succeeded in topping the fund’s all time high of just over $2.55 billion set in 2015. The county’s bond holdings will likely decline in value as interest rates have risen but the rise in stocks should more than offset the impact on fixed income investment.

A 10 percent rise in the county’s pension fund is not out of the question and that would roughly place the fund at $2.8 billion at the end of the year, putting a dent in its unfunded liabilities.

However the gap is still huge. After underperforming last year, the fund had just over 71 percent of the assets it needed to fulfill all of its obligations as of June 30, 2016, down from 78 percent a year earlier.

California’s left-leaning politicians may dream of independence. But they can’t liberate themselves from the vagaries of U.S. financial markets — or the unanticipated appearance of an atmospheric river over much of the Pacific Coast.

• Reach Editor Henry Dubroff at hdubroff@pacbiztimes.com.

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