Archive for December, 2009

One small company that literally saved my life every year at the Business Report was Boulder's Officiency Inc., run by the the organizing superwoman K.J. McCorry.

Officiency is a company that helps your business increase your productivity and efficiency by not only helping you clean yourself out of the stacks of paper, useless files and whatever else you're clogging up your work environment with, but K.J. will help you set up simple and effective systems to actually keep you organized.

Now I confess, I have this problem of thinking nearly every piece of paper, including newspaper and magazine articles, that crosses my desk is of the utmost importance — and that one day I surely will need it. With K.J.'s help at the end of each year, at least I had very handy desktop files to move things I wanted to read later,  and eventually be reminded that it should "not" move into the filing cabinet where I would never see it again.

At the end of each year, my business partner and I would call in K.J., and she'd roll the huge recycling bin directly into our offices and start the process of tossing out paper, old newspapers and files that held materials dating back several years. K.J. also can help you organized your online files, including e-mail, since those gets as packed these days as paper files.

Officiency now has a line of online reports available for purchase including: Become an Effective Email Manager, Using Time Management Tools Effectively and Getting Tasks Done. There's also some free reports, including How to Organize Your Computer Documents and online chapters from K.J.'s book, "Organize Your Work Day In No Time."

Several new reports are planned for 2010.

I was thinking of K.J. because these days I'm working from my home office, having sold our ownership in the Business Report. And with a burst of end-of-year energy, I've begun attacking my home office, spending nearly two days just shredding old bank and financial statements, as well as digging through files I've been saving for years. K.J. would be proud.

You can read K.J.'s reports, but if you really want to catch the Office Cleanup Spirit, I highly recommend giving K.J. a call and hiring her to help you dig out. Yes, it can be a bit painful at first … it might take a half or even full day out of your workweek if your office was as cluttered as mine. But I promise you it will feel so much better when it's all done, and you once again see the top of your desk.

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Bart's
Everything is on sale at Bart's CD Cellar in downtown Boulder, including the store's large collection of vinyl in its second floor room. 

I joined a crowd of bargain and holiday gift hunters at Bart's CD Cellar, which put up "store closing" signs this week after its out-of-town owners told staff it was shutting down the long-time Boulder business. The original owners sold the store in 2006 to Value Music Concepts, based in Marietta, Ga.

Retailers come and go in Boulder, but Bart's attracted many customers for its large upstairs collection of vinyl, both used and new. With Christmas just around the corner, sales were brisk as the store slashed prices 40 to 50 percent off all of its remaining inventory.

Surrounding the bins of CDs and vinyl are walls full of pop culture memorabilia — everything from Beatles lunch boxes to Rock Legends bobbleheads to Star Wars characters. T-shirts, posters, games and movies filled out the offerings.

Clearly another victim of the digital download times, customer after customer gave their thanks to Bart's employees and asked how long the store would remain open. "Mid-January" was the only answer staffers could give.

Bart's closing will leave Boulder with just a few choices for buying and trading in used music — the packed basement location of Albums on the Hill on 13th Street and the small Beat Book Store on the west end of Pearl Street. For collectors on the search, that means more searching at garage sales and local thrift shops.

In this age of iPods, Zunes and other MP3 players, music sales are increasingly moving online, with Apple iTunes and Amazon leading the way on online sales. 

According to one report, global sales of "legal" digital music, at about $3.7 billion in 2008, still only accounts for about 20 percent of global recorded music sales. The problem with coming up for "total" sales is that many believe some 95 percent of all downloads were illegal. 

As one friend asked my, why do you want to listen to vinyl anyway? And as a very small collector (I met one guy at a yard sale this summer who said he more than 60,000 vinyl albums at home),

it's not really just about sound quality. 

Just finding an unscratched vinyl album– perhaps to replace one I originally owned — is a huge part of the attraction. Then there's reading the liner notes and the act of actually cueing up the needle on the turntable. If the album does have a few scratches, a few hisses and crackles aren't that much of a distraction. The quality and art of the album cover counts for collectors, too.

Somehow vinyl is making a comeback with sales of turntables on the rise. Many artists are now recording on vinyl for a deeper, fuller sound. 

On my trip to Bart's I bought "Shaved Fish," a controversial album by John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band. And I found a good used Cuban music CD in the International section. 

As shoppers pack up the remaining bargains at Bart's, there's only one important question: What's happening to the three pinball machines? 


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Cows4cars

Page One Ad in the Farmer & Rancher Exchange, published in Spearfish, N.D. 


An enterprising car dealership in South Dakota has come up with a program even more fitting than Cash for Clunkers for its farm customers — "Cows for Cars!"

It's a real program, advertised in the Farmer & Rancher Exchange newspaper, and promoted on Page One. 

And you have to give credit to some creative thinkers at the dealership that sells Jeep, Ford, Chrysler, Dodge and Mercury. "Hoof on it for all the details on this udderly great promo!" the ad reads.

And why not? A good steer or heifer is just as good as cash in the agricultural setting of rural America, and as the ad reads, "Bring in your cows and we'll work out a trade on a new or pre-owned vehicle." 

No cows? Scott Peterson Motors says come on in anyway, "We'll trade for just about anything." And what the heck, you get to "Shoot the bull with our salesmen," and make a deal.

I like to read the local papers when I'm traveling, and during a recent pheasant hunt up to South Dakota, this ad jumped right out at me. I don't really know how many cows were traded in … but I'm sure it got the local residents thinking about making a deal if nothing else.







 

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Numbers,
I’ve found in years of watching local business trends, seldom tell the whole
story.

And
when it comes to the loss of jobs and the toll and heartaches on the unemployed
and their families, officials in both Workforce Boulder County and the
University of Colorado Business Research division agree that statistics alone
can be deceiving.

With
the holiday season here, the annual economic forecasts are just around the
corner with more pontifications – and numbers — than pre-season college
football.

This
summer, I wrote about the expression that’s more contagious among forecasters
than H1N1 – the “jobless” recovery. It worried me then, and it worries me now.

A
recovery without jobs offers little holiday cheer, for example, to my neighbor
who just lost her job after 10 years at Sun Microsystems, or to the thousands
like her in Colorado who are close to exhausting unemployment benefits.

Boulder
County’s latest unemployment figure from September seemed hopeful at 5.5
percent, under the state’s 7 percent and several notches below the U.S. rate of
9.8 percent.

Adding
to fresh optimism that business might be picking up here, the number of local
job openings increased to about 1,148 in the July to September period, said Tom
Miller, director of Boulder County Workforce Center offices. That’s up from 766
in the same period in 2008.

But
Miller acknowledges the lower unemployment figure can be misleading. “I thought
it was too low,” he said.

Gary
Horvath, managing director of CU’s Business Research Division, knows well how
revisions to statistics often tell a different story. In down economies, the
numbers usually come back down, too, he said. The latest numbers won’t be
revised until March.

Experts
say the same thing about U.S. unemployment number. People whose benefits have
run out just quit coming to workforce centers. Hours and pay of many full-time
employees were cut back, and self-employed workers don’t get counted at all as
they lose clients but cannot file for unemployment.

One
Fed official estimated in August that the “real” unemployment rate was near 16
percent. The government actually calculates a broader number, called the U-6, a
number of “labor underutilization.” In September, it was at 17 percent, the
highest it has been since the data started in 1994.

Local
job seekers I know remain wary of a real pickup in new local jobs. That’s
because they know from experience how many people they must compete against
when a job is advertised.

That
bump of new jobs in county Workforce computers is offset terribly by some 8,600
people applying for unemployment benefits in the same July to September period.

That’s
a significant jump from 5,700 job seekers in the same time in 2008. When you
look at the county’s 5.5 percent unemployment stat from the Colorado Department
of Labor & Employment (www.coworkforce.com), 9,554 are listed as unemployed
out of the county’s civilian labor force of 172,279.

Miller
says new jobs are showing up in office and administrative support, which were
quite sparse this year. Somehow, jobs are getting posted in building and
construction, industries slammed by the recession’s credit crisis. There are
also new jobs in manufacturing production and transportation.

A
noticeable difference in this recession from Colorado’s downturn in 2002-03 is
the broad range of professionals — rather than mostly tech workers — applying
for benefits, Miller said. As residential and commercial building slid to a
halt, architects and engineers lost their jobs. Job openings decreased across
the board. “Retail, hospitality – you name it,” Miller added, were all hit
hard.

Horvath
confirms that this recession hurt not only blue-collar construction workers,
but the sector’s white-collar jobs as well. He estimates some 25,000 to 30,000
building-related professionals lost jobs, accounting for a huge slice of
Colorado’s unemployment.

County
job officials have launched two new programs for job seekers and employers,
which you can find on the Hire Colorado link at www.wfbc.org.

*
The Hire On-the-Job Training Program will pay businesses 50 percent of wages
for one to five months (up to $5,000) to train a new employee in a job.

*
New HIRE internships will provide paid employees to nonprofits and government
agencies for short-term projects.

University
of Colorado business researchers have just a few weeks before their annual
Economic Outlook Forum on Monday, Dec. 7 in Denver. The 2009 numbers won’t be
pretty. Colorado lost 115,600 jobs through September.

Horvath
said it’s nearly impossible to forecast when in 2010 that companies could start
hiring again. “Short answer,” he said, “at some point next year things will be
on an uptick.” CU researchers right now, he said, are encouraged by higher U.S.
GDP estimates. But, after all, they are only numbers.

        

 

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Harvest house postcards-web
Postcards from the '50s show the Harvest House Motor Hotel in Boulder, now called the Millennium Harvest House Hotel. 


The history of the Millennium Harvest House in Boulder will be on display this weekend, Dec. 5-6, as the hotel hosts several organizations celebrating the holidays and the official closing of the city's 150th anniversary.

I remember an early meeting at the hotel of the Boulder County Business Hall of Fame, shortly after current General Manager Dan Pirrallo had been hired. The hotel's new ownership had renamed the facility the Millennium Hotel, using the name of the parent company.

But Pirrallo explained at the meeting that every time he introduced himself as the new manager of the Millennium, everyone would say, "Oh, you mean the Harvest House." He wondered if the hotel could successfully brand its new name, and all of us responded by telling him that for most long-time residents, the hotel would always be the Harvest House.

Shortly thereafter, Pirrallo convinced the new owners that they could be the Millennium, but they really needed to keep the Harvest House as part of the name, too. 

Pirrallo, recently named hotelier of the year by the Colorado Hotel & Lodging Association, will take part in the Sesquicentennial Closing Celebration at the hotel's Century Room from 3 to 6 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 6. The hotel will have a photo display of its history set up in its lobby and corridors, and Pirrallo will speak during the Boulder 150 closing event.

It will be a busy weekend at the hotel as Historic Boulder also will set ups it annual "Homes of the Holidays" gift boutique on both Dec. 5 and 6 and sells tickets to its "Homes for the Holidays" tour of five local homes. Tour tickets are $14 for Historic Boulder members, $17 for non-members in advance and $20 for non-members during the tour. 

On Sunday, the Boulder History Museum sets up its Gingerbread House Contest at the hotel, part of its annual Winter Fest celebration.

To close out the city's 150th birthday, the public is invited to come join in music, singing and dancing. Calico and Boots, a local square-dancing group, performs at 3:30 p.m., followed by Boulder's Ars Nova Singers at 4:15 p.m. with a community sing-along from 4:45 to 5:15 p.m. led by local singers Melinda Mattingly and Evanne Browne.

Also commemorating the 150th, the Sesquicentennial quilts, which have been on public display in several city locations throughout the year, will be officially presented to the city, with the quilters on hand to describe their inspiration for the five panels.

The Sesquicentennial Celebration Committee also will present two plaques to the city. One commemorates the Aug. 8 Sand Creek Massacre Spiritual Healing Run that ended in Boulder; the other illustrates the Sesquicentennial poster that was created by artist Steve Lowtwait. Light refreshments will be served during the event.

For information on Boulder's Sesquicentennial Closing Celebration and stories and history of the city's 150th, go to www.boulder150.com.













 



 

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