If you can’t stomach true life horror stories, than it’s no surprise if you aren’t familiar with the “Federal Reserve Bank’s Snapshot of Humboldt.” North Coast Journal Editor Thaddeus Greenson somehow wrapped his brain around the Tower of Terror-like report (always knew he was one sick puppy) to provide insight into the the Humboldt economy. But there are parts of Greenson’s article which still give us cause to fear the darkness falling over Humboldt.
The Fed’s “Snapshot of Humboldt” is not all doom, though there is plenty of gloom. While our health care sector enjoyed a relative boom of growth from 2007 to 2013, the average salary of those we rely upon for quality care also fell by $3000. The thought of manically overworked and underpaid nurses vengefully wielding syringes after realizing how far their salaries lag behind their counterparts throughout California is terrifying. What’s worse is that those same salaries are generally far beyond the yearly income for the average Humboldt resident. The good news is that should you prefer sticking a needle in your eye to dealing with the harsh financial realities suffered by many of our neighbors, you’re sure to find someone happy to oblige you down at old St. Joe’s.
In such troubling times, it is comforting to know our government uses their time and (taxpayer) funds to prioritize critical economic concerns over less important matters, like a facelift for the south entry of Eureka. Oh, wait. Well then, what about the officials our government has charged with the economic stewardship of our county’s future?
Our economy is saved!
It is Ms. Jaqueline Debets’ job as County of Humboldt Economic Development Coordinator to usher in a golden age of sustainable growth. Or at least help reduce wait times at the welfare office. This has yet to happen, as you may have guessed from the slew of empty storefronts dotting the course of 101. It’s a good thing the Board of Supervisors has held Ms. Debets’ department accountable for a seeming lack of progress, right?
Wrong. A quick review of Supervisor meeting agendas shows that from May 13, 2014 to Jan. 13, 2015, Ms. Debets did not make any reports – as in zero – about our faltering economy. Notably, The Workforce Investment Board did make several appearances at Supervisor meetings to appoint or reappoint members to their own board. In short, while our county has shown little progress in non-government job creation, Ms. Debets’ department has been busy securing jobs for themselves.
Counties throughout the state offer many incentives designed to lure new business. Humboldt offers practically none. But our government has not been completely lax, in all fairness. In January 2012, Debets proudly announced the Workforce Investment Board’s Targets of Opportunity as comprising 42 percent of private sector jobs. If you’re keeping track, that means that less than half of private businesses were viewed as targets which could possibly receive assistance. Such efforts have recently given rise to Eureka’s own Bikini Brews, a Starbucks-Hooters hybrid sure to appeal to that wide demographic which just has to ogle young women and scratch their caffeine itch all before 8 a.m.
But what has the Economic Division of Humboldt county not accomplished? Creating an economy that doesn’t force young families to grow pot to supplement income from their “real” jobs. An environment that attracts businesses which improve our community, and the work force needed to support them. An environment which doesn’t force our youth, and increasingly even long-time residents, to leave the county in search of greener financial pastures. It is time that our elected and appointed officials start doing their duty. Our government must take steps to rectify past inaction and address the underlying issues that contribute to our faltering economy. If they do not, we are all in for one hell of a waking nightmare.