Everybody’s business

Changing channels
In a twist from its usual practice of gobbling up radio stations, Clear Channel Communications is now selling off its Chico holdings.

Dino Corbin, who manages KIWI 1340, KPAY 1290, KHSL 103.5, KMXI 95.1 and Radio Mexico, said a deal had been struck to sell the stations to Deer Creek Broadcasting for an undisclosed amount.

This will be the only holding for the San Francisco-based group of investors, whom Corbin described as “pretty cool people.”

He also praised Clear Channel and said it was the corporation’s allowing locals money and freedom to rebuild the stations that made them “very desirable as a commodity.” He figures Clear Channel wanted to turn a profit in Chico and focus on its larger markets.

“We’re probably a victim of our own success,” Corbin joked. “It’s a good thing.”

When Terry Unsworth of Aero Union learned the Chico company’s livelihood was being threatened by the government, he did what comes naturally to an aircraft industry CEO: He got on a plane.

The company holds millions of dollars’ worth of government contracts, and Unsworth has been flying back and forth to Washington, D.C., to lobby for the reinstatement of contracts relating to 13 fire-fighting air tankers.

“We have a tremendous amount of congressional support and a tremendous amount of local support,” Unsworth said at a May 27 meeting of the Chico Economic Planning Corporation (CEPCO). On June 1, the Chamber of Commerce unveiled a “Green ribbon Air Tanker Support Program.”

On April 27, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a report saying that, due to concerns over structural failures in air tankers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the Department of Forestry, should set up a system to make sure proper maintenance is being done. A couple of weeks later, worried about liability and admitting aircraft was not its area of expertise, the USDA cancelled its contracts with all 33 fire-fighting air tankers in the United States.

Aero Union is out $6 million and had to lay off 100 people—half of its work force. And the move comes at the start of what is predicted to be an especially bad fire season in the West, with experts agreeing that helicopters and crop-duster-type planes are no match for the types of fires more easily quenched by tankers.

Even though the NTSB and Federal Aviation Administration are confident Aero Union can do the job safely, “as they did not ground the aircraft, they cannot switch them back on again,” Unsworth said.

Unsworth said he is 85 to 90 percent confident that at least the P3s will be back in the air by mid-June. Aero Union’s other planes, DC4s and P2s, could be back by the end of the fire season. Once the contracts are restored, he said, “We would bring the 50 temporary layoffs back straightaway.”

Bank buyout
When Umpqua Bank bought out Humboldt Bank (which previously swallowed up Red Bluff-based Tehama Bank) in March, it was to be expected that some people would be squeezed out.

Eureka employees took the hardest hit, with more than 100 of the 150 layoffs taking place at the Humboldt Bank offices there.

In Chico, two positions will be eliminated, said Pat Rusnak, chief financial officer for Humboldt Bancorp. One of the employees affected is a management trainee, and the other is a general banking officer. The layoffs will take place over the next 12 months. “Going through a bank transition isn’t like shutting down a lumber mill,” Rusnak said. “We’re giving a lot of notice.”