Archive for January, 2010

Are you a Front Range blogger looking to get ideas, tips and network with others creating blogs on just about anything under the Colorado sun? 

Well, just like you have to think everyday what you might write as a blogger, just do it and attend the Meetup of Front Range bloggers, alternating meeting sites currently between the Uptown Tavern in Denver and Gordon Biersch Brewery at Flatirons Crossing Mall in Broomfield. 

Maybe you're just thinking you would like to start a blog. That's OK, too. In the meetups I've attended so far, there's always several people just getting started. I wish I had found the meetup before I started blogging, I would have done some things differently from what I've learned.

My 2010 resolution: Try harder to write shorter posts on my blog. So here goes. There's never enough time to get around and meet everyone at the meetups, but I'm always impressed by the blogging talent. Here are some quick links to some very cool bloggers I just met at the January meetup.

* BloginSong.com Camille Bright-Smith introduces herself as a blogger who sings rather than writes her blog. It's a different approach for sure. She's also starting to add other songwriters to her blog.

* Effortlesseating.com Elizabeth Yarnell, a natural health expert, as well as publicity coach, is hoping to create a cooking TV show. For now, follow her blog as well as www.gloriousonepotmeals.com. Oh yes, she writes a third blog, www.recipesforpublicity.com. Several bloggers at the meetup manage to keep several blogs going. I'm impressed.

* callisto.fm Michael Sitarzewski is changing the way we listen to podcasts. You can browse different podcasts by channel. I haven't dug into this very far, but if you listen to podcasts,give it a try. He also blogs at zerologic.com.

Macgetit.com There was a lot of talk about Apple's new iPad since it was released on the same day as the meetup. And Kevin Cullis, who blogs about using Macs, has a post on Why I Probably Won't Get an iPad. That was before the announcement. Wonder if he still thinks the same way?

I could go on but just remembered, I'm supposed to keep my posts shorter. The Bloggers Meetup has more than 300 members, although the meetups usually have about 20 to 30 attending.  

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It’s
an interesting dilemma for Colorado.

Population
growth, natural as well as an in-migration from other states, vs. continuing
job losses and a state unemployment number that isn’t improving much.

It
happened in 2009, it’s forecast for 2010. But is it a problem? I couldn’t help
but wonder during a recent economic forecast by CU economist Richard Wobbekind
in Boulder.

More
people, disillusioned with worsening economies and few good jobs in their own
states, continue to pack their bags and head to the hills – our hills, namely
the Rocky Mountains.

Colorado’s
population increased by about 72,000 in 2009. Of that, about 32,000 were people
moving in, according to CU business researchers.

This
isn’t something new, of course, for bountiful Colorado. We’ve had substantial
net migration since the end of World War II, about 880,000 people between 1950
and 1990. We had another net gain of 359,000 in domestic migration and 58,000
in international migration from 1990 to 1998.

This year, CU
economists think the state will continue to attract people – more than 88,000,
taking our total population to about 5.17 million. Colorado topped the 5
million mark in population in 2008 and continued to grow right through the
recession.

Colorado’s
unemployment rate rose slightly in December to 7.5 percent; in December 2008 it
stood at 5.8 percent. Our numbers are better than many states, but experts all
say the real unemployment figure is certainly higher, easily double digit since
many people who’ve now lost their job benefits are simply dropping off unemployment
roles.

So I wondered about
this. More people continuing to move in – that’s a good thing perhaps for home
sales and rentals. But if they can’t find jobs, what are they going to do?

I asked this directly
to economist Wobbekind, who had made the point in his speech that a drop-off in
jobs combined with more people coming in would add another “pressure” point to
the state’s wobbly economy.

For 2010, the CU
business team forecast that the state would actually end the year with another
net loss of jobs, after losing some 100,000 jobs in 2009. Unemployment, they
predict, may climb to 8.1 percent.

A few other key
factors don’t bode well either for Colorado’s immediate future.

     ·     
The recession
has cut into the state’s overall “intellectual power.”

·     
Social
services are being squeezed throughout state and local governments.

·     
Diminishing
tax revenues are casting a big shadow over education funding, with cuts
imminent.

So how might these conflicting numbers of higher in-migration of people
without enough jobs for newcomers, let alone the people who live here, somehow
be justified in the many ingredients that get stirred into the economic stew
every day?

Wobbekind offered me a few possibilities, stressing that these are “possibilities”
because they aren’t typically measured in key economic indicators. The new
census might be more revealing as it digs into just who is living here.

     ·     
One, there’s
strong evidence that the number of “self-employed” workers is     increasing. As
people have lost jobs or decided to break out of the corporate world and     strike
out on their own, many are working from home, contracting for their services
and     just not showing up in measurable ranks of employment.

·     
Two, several
people in a household are living off the income of a single worker. In other
words, one person may have been hired, and the entire family of 4 or 5 moved
here, adding to the net migration number.

·     
Three, it’s
also possible someone in a new Colorado household continues to hold down a job
in another state, but is able to commute or even work virtually on that job. I
personally know of one woman, laid off from her job in Colorado, who recently
accepted a position out of state but as a Web editor on the Internet, she’s
able to continue to live here.

 No doubt, as
technology continues to drastically alter the landscape of what jobs are
looking like in the new decade, economists and researchers are going to have to
figure out how to adjust their numbers accordingly.

Or, if the state’s
job picture does not improve, as happened in past Colorado downturns – the “in”
migration may suddenly turn to “out” migration. 

 

 

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This is part of a column I wrote in Boulder in March 2007, when I went to a very small bloggers meeting with Twitter founder Evan Williams speaking. Imagine the crowd he would draw now. I wonder what he charges now to speak?

At the time, Williams had 1,500 followers on Twitter. Today, I just checked and the Twitter CEO now has about 1.16 million followers. How far this company has come in the three years since I first heard of Twitter. You can now follow him on Twitter @ev and read his blog at evhead.com.

Here's what I had to say in 2007.

"I'm writing my story about Twitter."

Answering the question "What are you doing?" in 140 characters or less is the very simple business model of one of the newest social networking sites on the Web, Twitter.com.

It's called twittering, and founder Evan Williams said the site was created "more or less on a whim." Now, with the site getting rants and raves from bloggers around the world and user updates reaching 900,000 so far in March, Williams told attendees at a Boulder conference on Weblogs and Social Media that it's "taking over our lives."

Williams, also a founder of ODEO.com and before that, co-founder of Blogger.com, drew laughs showing some of the Twitter posts, including one of his own recently – "I just wrecked my car. I'm fine." Another example: "Internet. I'm in labor."

His audience at the Boulder Marriott, most surfing wirelessly on their laptops and one posting to the live demonstration of Twitter, seemed enthralled with yet another way to communicate to friends instantly.

Twitter, Williams explained, has been called everything from "blogging on crack" to "dodgeball but boring." He liked one blogger's description of "ambient intimacy." For a site that's only nine months old and still trying to figure out what it will be, Williams described it as simply a "blogging tool."

Already new applications are springing up, including Twitterific, a small desktop app for Macs, and Twittervision, which maps the location of anyone posting to Twitter. Another site, Twitterholic.com, lists the top 100 "Twits" ranked by their following of friends. 

Williams is No. 5 on the list with 1,500 people – something he says he's not really encouraging because he doesn't want to see Twitter become another popularity contest.

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Vinyl3
Doug Gaddy, owner of Absolute Vinyl in N. Boulder, played some albums for customers at the store's grand opening. He shares the space with Little Horse Books, owned by Michael Price. 

“A Hard Day’s Night,” the soundtrack to the 1964 British
comedy film starring the Beatles, is playing on my turntable.

I bought the album today, as well as “The Cry of Love” by
Jimi Hendrix, both in great condition, at the grand opening of Absolute Vinyl and
Little Horse Books, two Boulder retailers housed together in about 750 square
feet of space at 4474 N. Broadway in north Boulder.

The stores’ owners, Doug Gaddy at Absolute Vinyl and Michael
Price at Little Horse, have been doing business together for years, dating back
to when Gaddy began selling vinyl at Price’s Little Horse Vintage & Modern
Furniture at the former collection of small retailers on the corner of 15th
and Pearl – now redeveloped into new office and retail space.

The official opening day was busy, as vinyl collectors
mingled, browsed through the thousands of records, and, of course, compared
notes about release dates, cover artists and their own recent vinyl
“discoveries.”

One such collector is Patrick Selvage, who said he owns close
to 4,000 albums.

He slid an album out of its cover to show how the “matrix
number” of each album is etched in the groove area just outside the label.  This, as well as other clues, he says,
helps collectors figure out the edition or “pressing” of the disc.  Serious vinyl collectors, he adds,
start to look for different pressings of a particular album they like. And like
all collectors, that’s just one of the tricks of the trade. Selvage was buying
about $70 of vinyl, having found some interesting buys both in the value $3 bin
as well as higher quality albums ranging from $10 to $20.

Absolute Vinyl and its bins holding close to 10,000 of the 40,000 albums that Gaddy owns,
filed alphabetically and by genre, fill the front of the store, with Little
Horse Books taking up two smaller rooms in the back, where Price also is
selling some art.

It’s a friendly, relaxing atmosphere, and helps fill the gap
left by the recent departure of Bart’s CD Cellar in downtown Boulder.

“We’ve been looking for some space for awhile,” Gaddy says,
noting that downtown rents were too high for their small business.

“I missed the interaction of retail,” says Price, who has
about 2,000 books listed on Amazon, selling about 800 to 1,000 a month. “I tell
everyone it’s a full-time job done by two people,” with his wife helping,
especially with packaging and shipping.

Gaddy and Price are both buyers and sellers, getting leads
by word of mouth as well using their years of experience to know where and how
to buy.

“I’m always hunting,” says Gaddy, who sometimes travels to
East Coast cities like Washington and New York. Regional tastes become obvious,
he says. For example, Zephyr albums, the late ‘60s Denver group that gave
guitarist Tommy Bolin his start, are pretty common in Colorado but much more
desirable in places like New York.

“Doug’s vinyl collection is always meticulous,” Price says.
“I’m going to ride his coattails,” he adds, with the goal of improving the quality
of his own titles in different categories.

Speaking of pressings, I pressed Gaddy to give up some  tips for collecting vinyl. But like all
good collectors, he was cautious in letting too many secrets slip out. “I work
my ass off to find really clear records,” he tells me.

His No. 1 tip for both the advanced audiophile or someone
just remembering how buying records used to make them happy (put me in that category)
is simple: Come visit his store; he’s always willing to help customers to learn
about any music. One celebrity customer who did drop in earlier – Boulder
native Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys.

Eventually I did glean some advice from both Gaddy and a
collector at the store:

·    
Go slow when first starting to buy. Learn what kind
of music you really like. Try online sites like allmusic.com or iTunes, and
listen to short clips.

·    
Go to YouTube, again to listen to many of the
songs, some often rare, that other collectors have uploaded.

·    
EBay also is good to get a feel for prices, as
well as details on rarer and collectible releases.

·    
Discogs is another huge online community-built
database of music information.

·    
When you travel, visit vinyl stores in different
cities, gathering information as well as supporting independent retail.

Eventually every collector starts
to figure out his own “secret” techniques. Do it enough, and your name gets
around. People start to call you.

Both Price and Gaddy say they’re
happy to come to anyone’s house that may have albums or books they’d like to
sell. It’s often easier than looking over boxes brought into the store, since
they’re often working with customers.

You can reach Price or Gaddy by
calling the store at 303-955-1519 or just stopping in and letting them know
what you might have for sale.

Price says he still finds good book
titles by browsing thrift stores, but admits, “It’s getting very competitive out
there.” Gaddy personally doesn’t recommend thrift stores for vinyl collectors,
because typically the quality just isn’t found there.

Annie Gaddy, Doug’s wife, is
helping at the store, as well as his sister-in-law Faith Evans. Price says
he’ll be at the store several days, splitting time between his online book sale
business of selling and another part-time job.

 

 

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BECPanel

A "power panel" of Boulder business leaders said things are looking better for the Boulder area economy in 2010. Scott Green, Google, left, and Pat O'Brien, Guaranty Bank and Trust Co., shared the panel with Stephen Tebo, Tebo Development Co.; Chuck Porter, Crispin Porter + Bogusky; and Kim Campbell, Twenty Ninth Street. 

A funny thing happened on the way through the Boulder
Economic Council’s
economic forecast Wednesday night.

Most of
University of Colorado business economist Richard Wobbekind’s charts and graphs
suddenly started pointing up for 2010. Nearly all of them except, of course,
the federal deficit chart, which showed a plunging line downward illustrating
15 straight months of government red ink. Last year, the deficit hit $1.42
trillion, three times the record set in 2008 of $454 billion.

But that
chart was just a mere diversion from the real localized message of the evening
looking at 2010 for “Boulder & Beyond.”

And both
Wobbekind and a “power panel” of local business leaders examining retail,
banking, technology, real estate and advertising generally had some good things
to say this year’s local economy.

If there
was a consensus, it probably goes something like this: The U.S. recession was
really nasty, and Colorado, which lost about 100,000 jobs in 2009, didn’t too
so good either. But if you live in Boulder County and still have your job, you
should be thankful that the area’s combination of government, professional
services, university and manufacturing jobs at least made it better here than a
lot of other places.

In a
nutshell, here’s what the business experts see:

·    
Banking: Federal examiners are softening a bit,
and healthier banks that have raised capital and improved their portfolios
should start to lend more this year, said Pat O’Brien, market president of Guaranty
Bank and Trust Co. Banks’ loan portfolios in the county area are healthier than
many across the state. Across the country, there are still about 575 problem
banks being watched closely by regulators, but what he described as a “classic
credit crunch” should be loosening.

·    
Commercial real estate: Tebo Development Co.
Stephen Tebo talked about the difficulty of borrowing against “more
conservative” appraisals on commercial properties, but said his business had
gotten back on pace in the fourth quarter after a slow nine months. “I think
there was pent-up demand,” for space, he said. A perception of a glut of
commercial space for lease, especially in downtown Boulder, isn’t true, he
said, although cities in the county like Longmont, Louisville and Lafayette are
not yet filling up vacant space. “If we were willing to rent” to medical
marijuana dispensaries and growers, he added, “we would not have a vacancy.”

·    
Retail: Retailers didn’t see a rebound until the
holiday season, which turned out to be the best since 2006, said Kim Campbell,
senior property manager for Boulder’s Twenty Ninth Street shopping district.
While the news has been glum, luxury chains like Saks and Nordstrom are doing
better after consumers retreated to discounters for most of the year.  In Boulder, Arhaus Furniture, the
Colorado Athletic Club and several new restaurants have opened, with three
retailers, the Container Store, XXI Forever and Ultimate Electronics filling up
the empty anchor space at Broomfield’s Flatiron Crossing vacated by Lord &
Taylor.  “Game changers” in retail
include mobile applications like Red Laser for consumers to scan prices in
stores from their smart phones, and social media getting the word out fast on
events and special promotions.

·    
Technology: The mobile Internet is a powerful
trend in 2010, predicted Scott Green, engineering site director for Google in
Boulder. A surge in sales of smart phones is completely changing the way people
interact and work. Cloud computing is also making it easier for startups to run
without their own IT person, and a trend for more vertical and “end-to-end”
markets, such as Google selling its own phones, Amazon selling the Kindle
reader and Apple selling both music and players is only going to accelerate.
This will be good news for smaller entrepreneurs in the Boulder area who come
up with innovative products.

·    
Advertising: Smart marketers are going to get
more into the “core” of the product, said Chuck Porter, co-chairman of Crispin
Porter + Bogusky, which picked Boulder for a new office because they wanted
something completely “opposite” of their offices in Miami. Boulder has the
“right kind of juice” for the trend to more interactive digital media. CP+B
created one Facebook promotion for Burger King, telling people if they would
“unfriend” 10 of their friends, they’d get a free Whopper. After some 233,000
friends were dropped, Facebook asked them if they would pull the application,
he said. 

CP+B recently helped launch a new Boulder Digital
Works program at CU, and although Porter agreed Boulder could keep moving
toward become a “digital media Mecca,” he’d rather not have the word get out
too much. “I want to hire” the graduates of the school we started, he said.

 

 

 

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The big-box Sam's Club in Louisville, Colo. told its employees on Sunday night that it had been losing money, and it would shut down in two weeks on Friday, Jan. 22.

Greeters at the front door of Sam's Club Monday were handing out a flyer announcing "This Sam's Club location is closing" and telling everyone that the store would be shutting down. The Louisville location employs about 125 workers, according to one employee.

One employee said there would be a meeting on Monday afternoon to see if employees might be offered positions at other Sam's Club or Walmart stores. But for now, he said it looked like all employees were losing their jobs. Sam's Club operates stores in Arvada, Thornton and Loveland. The Arvada and the Thornton store are the closest to the Louisville location, about 20 miles according to the flyer being handed out.

Another employee said that the store's staff was told the Louisville location had lost more than $1 million in the past year and that despite efforts to turn around its performance, the decision to close it was made. On Monday, Wal-Mart said it would be closing 10 of its money-losing club stores around the country, cutting about 1,500 jobs. Stores being closed in addition to Louisville are Nampa, Idaho; La Quinta, Calif.; Vista, Calif.; Rolling Meadows, Ill.; Clay, N.Y.; and Irvine, Calif. Houston, Phoenix and Sacramento, Calif., will lose one store each.

A few employees were seen hugging one another inside the store even as the retailer continued its normal business day.

Both the Sam's Club and the nearby Costco Warehouse just down the road in Superior compete for Boulder County shoppers. Shoppers in Boulder often pack the parking lots of both stores on weekends, since the city has not brought in a similar big box within its city limits.

The flyer being handed out at the store told Sam's Club members they could call the member service hotline at 1-888-746-7726 with any questions.

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Sometime back in Colorado's booming decade of the '90s, we did a readership study at the Boulder County Business Report that came back showing our business readers ate out a local restaurants about five times a week — or at least once a day. 

Now I'm sure that included business lunches, as well as perhaps a nice dinner or two with clients and perhaps family and friends on the weekend.

This all struck home to me the other day with the news that Dolan's Restaurant, a 15-year Boulder favorite for business lunches, parties and special events, had closed after the state stepped in for the owner's failure to pay taxes.

Over the years, Dolan's was a favorite of mine to meet business associates as well as meeting friends for its happy hour, one of the best deals in town. The menu was reliable and good — crab cakes were a favorite — the staff was always friendly and owner Mike Dolan was almost always there, greeting customers by their first names. In CU football season, Dolan's used to be "the" place. 

Just before Christmas, however, I met friends for weekday lunch at Dolan's, and I could clearly see things were a bit slow at the lunch hour. I said hello to Mike and asked him how things were going. "Not so good," he bluntly told me. Businesses were really cutting back on office parties, his bookings for the private rooms were way down, he said. "Businesses all seem to be doing potluck lunches with their employees," he bemoaned.

On the reader comments to the Boulder Camera story about the closing, one employee said, "Everyone working at the restaurant knew it was in trouble for months, and that closure was imminent. It was every employee's decision as to whether or not they continued working for Dolan's." So apparently the closure did not come as too much of a surprise to those working at the restaurant.

And Dolan's is certainly not the first locally owned restaurant to fall upon hard times from the recession, nor is it likely to be the last. The list of local restaurant closings keeps growing. Orchid Pavilion, Sunflower, Burnt Toast (although it was sold), the Scotch Corner Pub at One Boulder Plaza, Sobo (converted to Murphy's South) and Narayan's Nepal Restaurant.

For a relatively small city, Boulder boasts a tremendous variety of incredible restaurants — many recently receiving accolades even from the food writer for the New York Times. The Kitchen downtown is almost always crowded at lunch; next door is Salt, a new entry in the restaurant wars that took over the spot of Boulder's cheeseburger heaven — Tom's Tavern. Successful restaurateur Dave Query operates three restaurants in the same block downtown — Jax Fish House, the West End Tavern and Centro. Not far away his newest restaurant is the Happy Noodle House. And, let's not forget, Boulder chef Hosea Rosenberg won Bravo's "Top Chef."

This list of places to eat out is rather endless. There's enough sushi in Boulder to keep any lover of Asian fare happy. Boulder's Frasca, where chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson won the prestigious James Beard award, is another receiving national and statewide attention, although it looks like the economy has at least stalled its plans to move closer downtown.

Boulder restaurants epitomize the quote "When one door of happiness closes, another opens." Even in the depth of the worst economy to hit the country in decades, entrepreneurial chefs continue opening new restaurants here like Full Belly, Arugula Ristorante and one of the newest soon to open, Pizzeria Basta in the Peloton development on Arapaho. 

Personally I know I do my part in helping support Boulder's restaurants, but I openly confess to watching for some deals along the way. For a birthday celebration one night over the holidays, three couples chose the "happy hour" at Bacaro in Boulder's West End. The idea was to go for some reasonably priced glasses of wine, and enjoy the tapas and other appetizers at happy hour prices. Our bill, of course, was considerably less than if we had all gone for a full dinner. This, and the wine, made us happy.

The combination of both consumers and businesses closely watching their bottom line — and for the consumer that includes their actual bottoms, translates to a difficult and lean time for restaurants. It's not just a Boulder trend, of course. Nationally restaurants have had to become extraordinarily innovative to bring out the customers.

So here's a toast to a much healthier economy in the new decade. One that will get companies out more for business lunches, and even the occasional announcement to their overworked staff — "Beers are on us after work today!" After all, in these lean and tough times, don't you think your employees — who had to bring potluck for their Christmas party — deserve some special attention?

I drank so much coffee over the past year meeting people to talk about how lousy the economy was that I've switched to tea. I still love Boulder's thriving coffeehouse scene, but it sure would be nice in 2010 if instead of "Let's meet for coffee," the invite was "Let me buy you lunch!"



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