If they build it…

Mark Maybee, who teaches in Chico State University’s Construction Management Department, called me last week, understandably proud of students’ strong showing at a competition held Feb. 5-8 in Reno.

Four teams of students competed, each assisted by faculty coaches, at the 14th Annual Associated Schools of Construction’s project management competitions. Now, I had already heard that, of all the majors at Chico State, it’s construction management grads who draw the highest average starting salary. So it’s no wonder the industry has set up a combination contest and career fair where they can show their stuff.

Five hundred students from 23 schools competed in several divisions, with a Chico team taking first place in “residential building projects,” in which students had to estimate the cost and time schedule as well as plan the construction of a three-story apartment building and garage. The team, which was coached by Professor Lori Dixon with Maybee as assistant, included: Kevin Hunewill, Cheryl Gregor, Ryan Hill, Eugene Lacio, Bryant Rumbaugh and Mike Wozniak. Their plan was judged by the builders of the real-life project: Morley Builders of Santa Monica.

Chico State teams also took two second-place awards.

Picture this

Some photo-minded business folks have an image enclave going at 1354 Longfellow Ave. in Chico. Al Shnayer, after pleas from his friends in the professional and amateur photography community, opened up The Photolab about a month ago. Besides regular color photos, he’ll develop slides, black-and-white film and unusual-format work—right there; no sending it out of town.

Meanwhile, in the same building, Gary Quiring has teamed up with Valerie Bivens, who used to work at Chico Film Works, for a digital imaging business where clients can have treasured photos scanned and restored. Quiring said an exciting recent project involved scanning prints from the collection of Chico historian John Nopel.

Credit due?

Sometimes the governor really gets my goat. We get all these press releases from his office, and it seems like nothing bad that happens is his fault (energy crisis) and everything good has Gray Davis written all over it. (For example, the governor’s school performance awards, as if he opened his personal wallet rather than the taxpayers'.)

I’ll tell you one thing: If I were raking in the big bucks as the governor’s communication guy, I hope I wouldn’t misspell “unveils” in the headline of the press release.

Anyway, “Governor Davis’ $79 million investment in the future of agriculture,” also known as the “Buy California” program, will market the state’s agricultural products and thus boost the economy, and I have no beef with that. I wrote about it last July, when it wasn’t just Davis but the ag industry and the state Legislature making this thing happen. Rep. Gary Condit, D-Modesto, even found time to sponsor a farm bill that would add $12 million to the cause.

The California Department of Agriculture’s own Web site says only $5 million is coming from the state; the rest is federal government and industry dollars.

The initiative includes $60 million for promoting ag products (in supermarkets, the media, schools and such), $12 million for research and $7 million in grants for specialty crop growers. It includes an impressive array of topics, to say the least. Sustainable agriculture is in there, as are food safety and more of those Agricultural Research Initiative (ARI) grants that have been matched with projects at Chico State.

I hope it works.