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Homegrown businesses at risk – Times-Standard Online
Tuesday 3 Mar 2009, 07:18
Filed under: Humboldt, Southern Humboldt | Tags:

Homegrown businesses at risk – Times-Standard Online.

Kit Mann/For the Times-Standard
Posted: 03/03/2009 01:28:35 AM PST

Caltrans’ planned safety and accessibility improvements for the Richardson Grove section of 101 are critical to Humboldt County, now and in the future. Opponents proclaim that the project will lead to the annihilation of Humboldt County’s “lifestyle” by marauding hordes of big box stores from Southern California. They’ve got it exactly wrong. It’s not the big box stores that we will shut out by maintaining the 101 choke point, but our own successful, diverse, locally grown exporting businesses that we will shut down.

Humboldt County is blessed with a large number of these local businesses. Our higher than average population of entrepreneurs, with support from several effective economic development organizations, have created, grown or diversified a wide spectrum of local businesses that export products out of the county. Labor statistics show that they are the primary source of new jobs in the county, and they strengthen our communities by diversifying the economy.

Businesses like Cypress Grove Chevre cheeses, Kokatat Watersports Wear, Sun Valley Bulb Farms, Fire and Light Originals, O&M Industries, and many, many others. All of them, and virtually every other business in the county, relies on trucks to get the raw materials they need into the county and ship the products they make out of the county.

The trucking industry is standardizing trailer size to achieve the best combination of safety and efficiency. Our problem is that the new

industry standard trailers are about 8 feet longer than what can legally go through the sharp twists and turns of Richardson Grove. Trucking companies may still have smaller trailers available now, but they are rapidly becoming obsolete. It is even more difficult to find current technology refrigerated units in the smaller size. To the trucking industry, Humboldt County is small potatoes and off the beaten track — it takes an extra effort to service us. Now imagine that, in addition to our physical remoteness, we tell the trucking companies that they have to use non-standard, obsolete, more expensive trucks to get here. How many of them do you think will continue to do that? And what do you think will happen to costs?

It’s ironic that one of the main arguments against the project is that it will cause environmental degradation by cutting 40 small trees. Reasonable estimates indicate that using the standard trailers would result in a reduction of hundreds of truck trips per year into the county. Just two local businesses have estimated that using the standard trailer size would reduce their truck trips by about 15 percent, thereby saving something like 100,000 gallons of diesel a year. This translates into keeping over 2 million pounds of Co2 out of the atmosphere. It would take at least 4,000 mature trees to absorb that much carbon dioxide! Recycling in the area is also hampered by the limitations on the trucks that are available to move recycled materials. In short, the environmental harm caused by using older, less efficient trucks, driven more miles, would be many times worse, and spread over a much greater area, than any impact of the project itself.

Of course, it’s not just businesses that will be affected. Every one of us relies on trucking for everything from the food on our tables to the clothes on our backs, whether you shop at Costco and Safeway or Eureka Natural Foods and the Arcata Co-op. Maintaining the restriction at Richardson Grove would be sort of like only allowing people to use dial-up Internet access or cars built before 1989 — less efficient and less effective technologies. By maintaining this choke point in our transportation supply link, we lock ourselves in to less choices, less competition and higher costs for everything and everybody.

Our community’s homegrown businesses are a big part of what makes Humboldt County a great place to live. They are justifiably a source of much local pride. Putting them at serious risk over this relatively minor project will only impoverish us and our community.

The deadline for comments on this project has been extended to March 12, and Caltrans needs to hear more support from the community. Please write or e-mail your support for the project today. Send comments to:

Caltrans Project Manager Kim Floyd, PO Box 3700, Eureka, CA 95502, or e-mail .

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Kit Mann is vice president of Kokatat, a local apparel manufacturer with 140 employees and worldwide sales. “How to calculate the CO2 emissions from a gallon of diesel can be found at:

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