Working it

On the heels of its contract to create jobs for the welfare-to-work crowd, the Butte County Economic Development Corporation has unveiled a plan called Vision 2005 to bring companies to town that would provide higher-paying jobs.

In what it hopes will be a public-private partnership, Butte EDC unveiled a three-year plan to raise $300,000, half from local businesses and half from commitments by cities and the county. The money would be spent on getting businesses to relocate to Butte County and encouraging those here to expand.

These aren’t your average, low-paying call center or retail jobs, either: The 1,200 new jobs the team would be looking to land would pay in the range of $30,000 to $38,000 a year. Bob Linscheid, the economic-development guru of Upstate California, said likely targets would include manufacturing and information management companies.

Right off the bat, Jolene Francis of Tehama Bank, who is on the board of Butte EDC, whipped out one of those huge checks, made out in the amount of $5,000 and signifying the first contribution. Contractor Howard Slater, another board member and chairman of the Chico Economic Planning Corporation, also pledged a donation from his business, Slater & Sons. “It brings together funding from the private sector and the public sector,” he said. Slater said recruiting and retaining employers is even more crucial now, tallying the “literally thousands of jobs that we’ve lost” as Fleetwood, Feather River Wood & Glass, Mike’s Mobile Windshield and others closed in recent years.

At the press conference, I made a reference to the economic-development people marketing Butte County as a place for employers to find “cheap” labor—a practice that I think could make it look like our town is selling itself short to companies eager to pay as little as possible for smart, skilled workers. Turns out the pitch is “affordable labor,” and Linscheid clarified later, “The market is lower here, so naturally the wages would be lower than they would in the urban areas.” No argument here. Linscheid said he would never recruit companies “that are willing to create that type of an atmosphere. … We tout the skill level of our people rather than what they’re willing to work for.” In retrospect, “cheap” was a poor choice of words, but I was referring to when a company comes to town amid much hype and ends up paying $8 or $9 a hour, not these new, better jobs in the $30K range. Those I would dig.

Curiouser and curiouser…

Something in the public record caught my eye this week, but I have yet to learn its full significance.

Someone has filed a fictitious business name statement with the county, for a business called Midest USA, Inc. Midest is the name of the German parent company of C.O.R.P., which ran Mountain Impact, the military surplus store near the airport until the company went bankrupt a couple of months ago.

Shelly Seidenglanz of the Oroville Industrial Park, who filed the statement, was caught off guard by my call and politely declined comment. It will be interesting to see how it all unfolds.

The Seidenglanz name is well-known in business circles, as Shelly Seidenglanz’ father, Steve Seidenglanz of Paradise, has contributed heavily to Republican political campaigns and has amassed several businesses, ranging from a paintball course to a military museum to Surplus City, an Oroville business that sells—of all things—military surplus items.