Fry guys

The folks over at Pommes Frites, on Broadway, have been giving away free French fries on Wednesday evenings and are a little surprised they haven’t had more takers, because the fries are pretty darned good.

So, if you’re hungry for fries, the deal is going down between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. Co-owner Marc Weisberg said business is good during the day, but they want to boost nighttime sales. “We figure if they try the product, people will like it,” he said.

Issues over easy

The state of area schools was the topic at the Oct. 12 “Eggs and Issues” event hosted by the Chico Chamber of Commerce. It was quite a prestigious cast of characters, with four school chiefs giving presentations and taking on questions: Jerry McGuire, superintendent of the Butte County Office of Education; Scott Brown, superintendent of the Chico Unified School District; Sandra Acebo, superintendent/president at Butte College; and Manuel Esteban, president of Chico State University.

Some of the issues faces by the schools were the same, like always-slim state funding. Others were completely opposite. For example, the CUSD is suffering from a 500-student drop in enrollment, while Chico State has more students than it’s supposed to have. Butte College, too, is “bursting at the seams,” said Acebo, with programs parked in portables and little help from the state. “The buildings that we’re working in are literally falling apart,” she said, mentioning thoughts of going for a bond measure.

Esteban said whenever something new gets built, parking or green space has to go. He said the university has “to reduce [enrollment now].”

Several members of the business-minded audience, hoping for well-trained employees in manufacturing and other industries, asked the leaders—Brown in particular—why the K-12 system isn’t doing more in the way of vocational education, which is perceived as job training for students who don’t go on to college.

Brown acknowledged that teaching trades is an issue, but said there’s not much money spent in those areas these days, in part because “in my vision, those activities are going to shift more to a computer-assisted [approach].”

But what do they really think?

The Chico Outreach Program’s report—in which city-funded economic developers interview businesses about how policymakers and agencies can help them—is out, and since there won’t be a big presentation this year, here’s a brief summary of what they found.

Most employers—85 percent—enjoy doing business in Chico and praised the sense of community, quality of life and quality workforce. “Weaknesses” were identified as traffic, taxes and lack of shipping/air transportation.

The manufacturing industry cited a particular beef with minimum wage laws, OSHA regulations and taxes, permits, regulations and overtime laws. Forty-seven percent of businesses—a 17-percent increase over last year—said they had trouble recruiting quality employees, blaming lack of skills and "labor pool work ethic," but the survey analysts speculated the problem may really be in the way the businesses are recruiting. Several recommendations were made, particularly in improving the airport and in encouraging schools to offer technical and manufacturing training.