Everybody’s business

Bank buddies
I had the opportunity last Friday to talk with two heads of Umpqua Bank, the Oregon-based company that in March 2004 acquired what used to be Tehama and Humboldt banks.

Ray Davis, the bank’s president/CEO, and Bill Fike, the new head of its California operations, were really down-to-earth. Right away, I was on a first-name basis with a guy (Davis) whose salary is $762,000 a year.

Davis said that no matter how big Umpqua gets (it’s a $4.6 billion company with 90-plus branches), “we’ll remain a community bank.”

That means having local employees make decisions, from whether to reverse an overdraft charge to which mortgages to OK. Also, the bank’s nearly 1,500 employees are paid to spend 40 hours a yearworking for nonprofits.

“Sometimes companies get too big and they lose focus on where they came from and what their business is all about,” Davis said. “This is a bank for everybody.”

Umpqua also refers to each branch as a “store,” and soon the Chico Umpqua stores will have coffee bars and Internet kiosks to, as Fike put it, “create a second home” for customers.

Fike said Umpqua wants people to “enjoy going to the bank.”

Crabb scuttles off
I have to get all my crab jokes in, because Charlie Crabb, dean of Chico State’s College of Agriculture, has announced he will retire. He’ll wait until summer 2006 so his leaving won’t put the university in a pinch.

I ran into Crabb at Smokin’ Mo’s, which is appropriate because after he retires he’s moving back to San Luis Obispo County, where the restaurant was founded. His wife runs the Farm Bureau in SLO, and the long-distance relationship was a bummer, even with Crabb getting a pilot’s license so he could travel more freely.

Crabb is a great guy and, dare I say it, my favorite dean. The university will be hard-pressed to replace him.

In his six years on the job, he’s kept the department and University Farm strong, managed and leveraged grant dollars and overseen some outstanding research work by professors and students.

Priceless my eye
My husband likes to have a little fun with folks like the ones who left a message on our answering machine saying the “Andrews” family had won a fabulous prize: a $1,000 shopping spree or a free hotel stay.

I, the skeptic, fought it all the way, but I lost, and a man and his huge, Canadian electronic air-cleaning unit wasted a trip up from Yuba City.

I have nothing against the company, other than the presentation took twice as long as the promised 20 minutes and I question some of the “statistics” the fellow was told to use.

One was that the increasing breast cancer rate “is all involved with the air pollution.” Also, that negative ions “make you feel better about yourself.”

You know, he said, looking at my 7-month-old who was trying to sleep over the din of the Saviair 5000, “a baby crawling on the floor inhales equal to four cigarettes a day.” I’m thinking if that’s true I might as well get the baby started on Camel nonfilters now so he gets used to it.

He also showed us a black lung, an enlarged dust mite and a vial of dust that our bodies “consume in one week.”

Finally, we were able to find out once and for all that our family’s health isn’t worth $3,000. (Or even the $1,500 the unit goes for on eBay.)

And the shopping spree? Predictably: low-quality, high shipping.