Thursday, December 17, 2009
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
I've been covering small business for most of the last third of my nearly 40-year journalism career, and I have to wonder how much national resolve is actually behind the words atop Jackie Calmes' story. If the president is serious, small business could show the nation the way out of the economic quagmire we are in.
Calmes covered President Barack Obama's speech at the Brookings Institution on Tuesday about job creation. Obama suggested eliminating capital gains taxes on small business investment -- as if many small businesses have money lying around to invest or still have it invested after the two-year stock-market crash; extending a stimulus-bill tax break through 2010 that allows small firms to write off $250,000 in qualified investments; and providing increased tax deductions of capital expenses.
My experience with small businesses suggests that no small-business owner worth his or her salt would turn down any kind of tax break made available to them; but that most owners would also view proposed tax incentives to increase hiring a kind of a "cart-before-the-horse" proposition.
Many owners, too, would simply complain that the paper work necessary and accounting expense of filing for the tax breaks eliminates the true incentive to taking advantage of them.
What small businesses need in terms of relief from this recession is lots of cash and a stimulated consumer and business marketplace for their goods and services.
Obama said his Treasury Department would step up loans to small businesses using unspent TARP funds. The assurance of such loans might indeed incent a small business owner to add an employee or two to his or her workforce.
But credit relief for consumers and existing small businesses -- how about a reinstatement of the credit-card-interest tax deduction? --might open more wallets more quickly to increased consumer and business-to-business buying and spending in 2010.
And more buying and spending, after all, is the best kind of economic stimulus a country can enjoy. Even, I might add, if it's government doing the spending.
My point, here, however, was not to suggest ways to extricate the economy from its worst recession in 50 years. It was to point out that Obama has small business on his mind.
The president never made small business much of an issue during his campaign, but since taking office, it seems, he has drunk the potion that opens one's eyes to the value of the job-creation engine that the nation's small firms have always been.
If more liberal lawmakers would taste the potion, too, this country might just pick itself up fast enough to keep from crying about a continuing economic downturn next Christmas.
And conservatives, by then, might be joyfully aghast at how fast Obama's administration is making progress at cutting into the huge deficits inherited from the last president's reign.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
On Wednesday, the state's Department of Public Health and Environment reported it has withdrawn disinfection waivers for 72 public drinking water systems around Colorado in the wake of its investigation of the 2008 Salmonella outbreak in Alamosa. That outbreak claimed one life and sickened an estimated 1,300 of Alamosa's 8,900 residents that spring.
Gov. Bill Ritter can claim the subsequent health department action as a victory for his administration.
But if Ritter faces a "limited-government" Republican opponent come the fall 2010 campaign, the incumbent governor may be reluctant to speak up for his regulators because such government services cost money, and "limited-government" candidates never advocate raising the taxes needed to pay for them.
Yet those are the services Colorado taxpayers expect of its government. Just like they expect affordable in-state tuitition for its college students, mosquito-abatement in West Nile virus season, and sufficient state support for primary and secondary public-school education.
The state's voters elected Ritter in 2006 to make sure Colorado's government apparatus would be used for such purposes, and most of what Ritter has been criticized for by Republican opponents during his first term has been aimed at his efforts to fulfill that broad, generalized 2006 election promise.
You can bet whoever may be Ritter's Republican opponent in 2010 will try to label him as an overspender of what money the state was able to collect during the 18-month economic downturn that has caused drastic revenue shortfalls.
But don't forget that the "limited-government" Owens administration was responsible for the state's not jumping on programs that might have prevented or reduced the many deaths and hundreds of serious illnesses suffered in Colorado as the initial epidemic of West Nile virus swept east to west across the nation earlier this decade.
Regulators are employed by a state to protect its citizens from failures of business and industry that can affect large parts of the population. When regulators don't do their jobs, people often get hurt, and taxpayers don't get what they pay for.
Let's hope Colorado's current budget cutting doesn't set us up for more West Nile or Alamosa-style public-health failures. The health department's withdrawal of disinfection waivers, forcing public water systems to purify their drinking water, represents taxpayer money well spent.
Don't let anyone try to convince you otherwise.
Friday, November 20, 2009
I have learned since arriving in the state in 1988, the morale of Colorado business takes a cue from the success of the Denver Broncos, and I have come to believe that the success of all the state's professional sports teams seems to set a tone for the success of the entire state.
I know that sounds crazy, but give me a listen.
When I was the night city editor of the Denver Post, I would drive to work on Sundays at a time when those lucky enough to attend Broncos games had already found their parking spots at Mile High Stadium, and the rest of the city was already positioned in front of its TV sets.
Central Denver was hushed and quiet in the middle of the day, waiting the kickoff.
After a loss, on Monday's in the middle of the day, the city was almost as quiet and palpably depressed.
Then the Avalanche came to town and promptly won the city's first national professional sports title. The Broncos followed with two consecutive Super Bowl championships (it should have been three, but the Broncs were beaten by Jacksonville in the first year they also should have won the championship, which, with the next two wins, would have made history).
The Rockies made the playoffs early on and two years ago went to the World Series. The Nuggets made the playoffs several times since I have been in Colorado, but never with as strong a team as they have now, one with a realistic opportunity to take an NBA championship.
Yet it's the Broncos that still set the tone, and you could feel that already this year when they surprisingly won six games in a row as Colorado was feeling the first little urges of a national business recovery. Once again, the state was leading the nation and gathering praise for its growing alternative energy industry, school reform and even health-care delivery on the Western Slope.
Then the Broncos lost to Baltimore. Winter had come early. National unemployment hit 10 percent. Stimulus dollars were being reported to have hired way too many people than seemed realistic.
And the Broncos dropped two more, while the Chargers kept winning.
For some reason, the Broncos and other winning sports franchises in Colorado seem to inspire business and political leadership in the state. There's no objective proof for that, but the winning lifts a burden that winter's snow and cold often impose.
Colorado needs the Broncos to beat the Chargers at home to show the state's business and political communities that the team's improvement over the off-season wasn't just a mirage. And that the inklings of economic improvement in Colorado weren't just false positives.
When the state's professional sports teams are winning, Coloradans, their business leaders and their political leaders are energized. And right now, Colorado cannot afford to let its energy and leadership slip.
Business needs a Broncos win on Sunday.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Last week, President Obama reminded banks who receive bailout funds that they should be lending to small businesses, because small businesses are among the taxpayers who helped bail them out.
Small firms, the president said in his weekly radio address, "must be at the forefront of our recovery."
Obama ought to recruit David Laverty to his cause.
Obama last week not only urged bailed-out banks to increase their lending to small businesses, but he announced a program to allow small, community banks to borrow TARP funds to lend to small-business customers, and he raised borrowing limits for U.S. Small Business Administration loans.
"Now it's time for our banks to stand by creditworthy small businesses and make the loans they need to open their doors, grow their operations and create new jobs," Obama said in his Saturday radio/Internet address Oct. 24.
Small businesses have often been cited as the nation's primary driver of job creation following an economic downturn. Downturns are also famous in Colorado for driving employees of down-sized companies into business for themselves.
Laverty hosts seminars for current and prospective business owners, gathering a mix of consultants together to share startup expertise with small audiences, almost creating one-on-one counseling. He earned his stripes for conducting such group sessions as a volunteer with the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce and as an employee of American Business Advisors, an established south Denver business consultancy.
Since then, he has taken on dozens of clients, many of whom are just starting out. Jess Tarin, for example, along with his partner Steve Niemczura, next week will officially launch BidPuppy.com, a website that matches service providers -- from home-repair contractors to lawyers -- with consumers who post projects for the vendors to make bids on.
Tarin said Laverty's help and advice was essential to the project. "He did good work for us," he said. The website firm is already registering vendors. Tarin said BidPuppy will go live signing up consumers' jobs on Wednesday.
For the first year Laverty worked on his own, he generated only about $30,000 in revenue and had to supplement his cost of living with other means, help from friends and family. In 2009, however, he is turning over about $70,000, which represents for him "a huge breakthrough. It means I'm viable," he said, "and paying my bills and paying my mortgage."
That's the way most entrepreneurs start out. With a dream and prayer. And often times, too, with a new product they can make or sell, or a service they are good at performing. But starting a business is much more complicated.
"The diversity of skills [required] to run your own business is huge," Laverty said. The entrepreneur's core strength is the making of their product or provision of their service, he says. "It's not a wise use of their time" to spend weeks and weeks on the minutia of business development. That's where the business consultant comes in.
Because of the Internet, Laverty works with both local and out-of-state clients. He recently wrote business plans for two separate customers in Kansas City, visiting each customer face-to-face over the past few weeks. He's also helping a Denver-area woman launch a dog-rehabilitation shelter, and he has written a business plan for presentation to an investor by another client who seeks funding to launch a smokeless, "nicotine-delivery" product.
And business has picked up with this fall, Laverty said. He still uses Craig's List and other free listing services to promote his firm, and recently took out an ad in Yellow Book -- marketing techniques he also advises clients to use.
That's what Marketplace is all about. Making a market and reaching a market for new businesses.
In his Saturday address, the president also repeated the assertion that small business has created nearly two-thirds of new jobs over the past 15 years. David Laverty's Marketplace is just trying to do its part.
1601 S. Carr St.
Lakewood, CO 80232
David Laverty, owner
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
No, the managers from the 29 organizations sent to listen to the lecture weren't being put in time-out by their employers. But as Jennings listed the drivers of a series of ethics lapses that have occurred across the nation in business over the past decade and more, the audience was peculiarly quiet.
As if the subject of broken consciences was somehow familiar.
Jennings cited a survey done periodically by KPMG, the audit firm, that found 74 percent of respondents in 2008 reporting they feel pressure at work "to do whatever it takes" to get their job done. Ethics or no.
Another survey found only 9 percent of employees reporting they enjoyed an "ethical culture at work"; and 99 percent of respondents in another survey judged their own ethics to be higher or equal to their peers in the workplace.
At the outset, Jennings showed a list of 50 companies that made national headlines for ethics scandals stretching backward over the past 15 years: Adelphia, Boeing, Merrill Lynch, Enron, Qwest, Bank of America, "KPMG (twice)."
Margie Mauldin, whose Executive Forum hosted Jennings' appearance, said she put "ethics" on her nine-month agenda for the Forum's leadership series because of the financial industry crisis of the past 18 months and the Great Recession that it caused.
Mauldin has been a friend for years, and her picture appears at the left in my list of followers. She invited me to sit in on the high-dollar leadership-training session on ethics because she knows I have always been interested in the subject.
Pressure at work, Jennings indicated, is the #1 driver of "ethical and legal debacles." Pressure to perform, pressure to conform, pressure to keep quiet when speaking up will cut across the company grain. The pressure starts in high school and grows through college and graduate school until it reaches the workplace, Jennings said.
She offered several strategies to relieve pressure and encourage an ethical performance:
- Think long term within the company, rather than only about short-term results.
- Develop a company creed, and practice it, especially within executive ranks.
- Solve ethical dilemmas by devising alternative solutions; talk about the alternatives among colleagues.
"We are all going to hit walls in our jobs and in our careers," Jennings told the group. "There's no perfect organization because human beings run them."
Jennings also advised asking questions. And yet, following her presentation, less than a dozen members of the audience had any questions to ask. "You're all ethical-ed up?" she asked rhetorically?
But even I stayed silent. The question hanging in the air between members of the silent audience was still: Why? Why did two decades of business misbehavior only get worse as time went on? Why were every five years of scandal followed by another five years of new scandal?
Jennings said most people realize when they are stepping outside the bounds of their own professional or personal ethics, but many will do what they do anyway. They rationalize their action with some self-styled "noble" purpose: You do it for your kids; to survive; just this once; or because the end is justifiable.
Wrong! she said. Look for an alternative that preserves your standards. "It's possible to be ethical in business and be very successful," she said. All you have to do is think about it.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Literally. Byte Technology started in a storefront shop in downtown Monterey, and offered tourists to the nearby Fisherman's Wharf and Cannery Row computer stations to log on to the Internet. "It was actually really cool," Low remembers now. Tourists from overseas would come in to download photographs or to send e-mails back home. Then the visitors would ask what the brothers did to make a profit from the enterprise.
"So we actually got a couple clients that way," Low said. At the time, the company was setting up and servicing computer stations in small businesses and nonprofits, doing network support and designing websites as well. When Clarence Low moved to Denver in 2003, Byte sold off the network business and focused on website development.
Today, Byte Technology still has only three employees in both its location, although it supplements its workforce with contract workers. Clarence Low said each customer's project is tailored to the company's or organization's specific needs. Byte's prices are competitive but also tailored to each customer's needs, Low said. In 2008, which included a good chunk of the nation's economic downturn, Byte turned about $300,000 to $500,000 in revenues, he said, being purposely vague.
"Yesterday, I gave a presentation to a nonprofit in Aurora that specializes in providing services to refugees and recent Asian immigrants," said Low whose parents emigrated to San Francisco from Southern China. "They were interested in a multi-lingual component to their website," he said, so within his 45-minue presentation Low showed the group how to upload Korean on the site with ease. That, too, is one of Byte Technology's product offerings. It can show an organization how to self-maintain the sites it creates, adding to a group's or a small business's longterm savings even as it upgrades to the latest in doing business on the web.
Clarence Low's goals for the company are reaching $2 million in annual revenues and, perhaps, 10 employees in both the California and Colorado offices over the next five to seven years. "I give myself that timeframe," he said, because both he and his brother are committed to not growing so fast they begin to shirk ongoing services they provide to their oldest clients.
Check out Byte Technology's website here, and you'll find the kind of "strong, effective, refreshing" design Byte can provide, along with a row of fruit splashing into some clear water that is also emblematic of the company's work. Clarence Low said each employee adopts one of the fruit images to include on the back of a business card, and his is the kiwi. It's a good way for people to recognize him once they've seen the card or one of his business presentations, Low said.
"Hey, you're the kiwi guy!" he said one potential customer greeted him in an airport one day. "Yes, I am," Low said he responded. "You can call me the kiwi guy, as long as you know who I am," he said.
His brother, Terry, is the orange.
Byte Technology: a brand that refreshes your digital presence. Try a bite.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Sunday's newspaper story of a seven-year-old who was abducted from the custody of his father by his mother two years ago, and apparently hidden since then in a specially built room at his grandma's house, suggests a website could be a hit.
The seven-year-old's rescue by Illinois state troopers on Friday follows last month's rescue of Jaycee Dugard, allegedly abducted 20 years ago by Phillip Garrido in California and hidden in his backyard while she grew up and bore him two children, who also were kept in the yard.
Seems like abductors need a little online help in how to successfully hide their prey more effectively.
Grandmas, in the meantime, are also getting a bad name. Maybe to the point that "death panels" embedded in the propsosed health-care reform bills can finally serve a proper purpose.
The seven-year-old's grandma hid him in her modified house. On the same day the missing kid was discovered there, another grandma in San Antonio was reported to have called in a bomb threat on an elementary school, just so she could see her grandkids when the school population fled the building.
All these abductors and bomb-callers happen to be baby-boomers, you'll notice. It's tough getting old and keeping your sense about you, but then it's been tough for most of us baby-boomers to keep much sense about us even when we were young.
Unfortunately, it's our children who know that best about us.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Campaigns were waged against the governor, too. His name was mentioned on the front page of the newspaper as the villain of budget cutbacks to state-funded health clinics, and on page 4B for being the architect of the $260 million batch of cuts overall in order to backfill a $320 million shortfall of revenues in the current fiscal year.
He was praised by the Post's editorial page for both regulating (read: limiting) and promoting the natural-gas industry in the state, and in Susan Greene's column he was the wizard behind the curtain drawn over tragic cost cutting at the state's Fort Logan mental health facility.
One thing you have to say about the governor in all those situations is that he has chosen to govern the people of his state, making tough decisions required of him by state law.
The move to restore funds to pay for drunk-driving arrests was something you might have expected from a former prosecutor once people complained that it would leave more drunks on the road and more victims of drunks in hospitals.
But the Ritter also has stayed firm on cuts that go against his law-and-order grain by releasing some convicts early in order to save prison money, and allowing other convicts shortened parole supervision, also to reduce state spending.
The general impression of Ritter I got after writing a piece in the current ColoradoBiz magazine was that he is doing his job. The report focused on the governor's political prospects for keeping votes in the Colorado business community during his 2010 re-election campaign, specifically by promoting the growth of clean/green industry in the state.
When I briefly interviewed Ritter for the article last July, I asked him if he was already campaigning for re-election given harsh reactions to some of his decisions among his natural supporters. He unabashedly responded that he has been campaigning for re-election ever since his inauguration.
That's the nature of politics today. Campaigns are always on, 24-7.
It's also the nature of being a governor in a state that is divided somewhat evenly between liberal and conservative voters, although large margins of those voting concentrations hone to the moderate center of their groups rather than the outer fringes.
Ritter campaigned as a somewhat undefined moderate and won the day in 2006, but the intervening three years have been hard on his continued efforts not to be pinned down.
He doesn't seem to be brave enough to decide against conservative factions in the state, and yet not liberal enough to provoke them and take his chances. Under that cover, he can claim to be serving the largest number of Colorado citizens, and he's basically right.
But serving a crowd often creates new enemies.
Voters will be making hard decisions for and against him in polling places across Colorado come November 2010. And while pissing off both sides of an argument might be appreciated in a news reporter, it usually doesn't work for an elected official.
Friday, August 28, 2009
The Page One lead story, by Allison Sherry, reports how Patti Gabow, CEO of the Denver Health Medical Center, has written metro-Denver counties asking for millions of dollars worth of compensation for care Denver Health has provided for citizens of those counties in 2008.
The self-interest of Denver Health is obvious. The health system, described by the Post in a story earlier this week as one of the best in the country, is going uncompensated for those same millions of dollars worth of care, and it wants money to cover the costs from counties where the patients live.
Sherry's story said Denver Health is asking Jefferson County for $9.8 million, Arapahoe County, $12 million, and Adams County, $11.3 million.
That's a lot of money, but only fractions of $318 million in uncompensated care Denver Health offered patients in 2008, yet Sherry reports that officials in Jefferson and Adams counties don't seem too interested in paying their fair share.
"We don't believe it's a responsibility for county government to compensate hospitals for uninsured care," Sherry quoted Mark Tandberg, a division director in Adams County, saying in response to Gabow's letter posting the bill.
That response, of course, is in Adams County's self interest. Tandberg, serving his taxpayers, takes the conservative stand in the health-care debate: Government shouldn't subsidize universal health care.
Sherry reports that Kathryn Heider, a spokesman for conservative Jefferson County, also blew off Gabow's request. "I think we probably won't be pursuing it," she told Sherry.
Sherry, in the meantime, has a little self interest in writing the story itself since she is the writer of the earlier story that lauded Gabow's operation as one of the most efficient providing uninsured health care in the nation.
Reporters live and die (literally, since their jobs are at stake) by the give-and-take of story for story with sources. Sherry writes a well-reported story about Gabow's good standing in the national debate over health-care reform, and is then given access to the more powerful story about Gabow's demand for repayment from local governments.
The second story that puts self-interest on parade in the Post's coverage of health-care reform is the story on 15A about certain Catholic bishops in America, including Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, turning against the Obama reform plans, none of which is certain as yet.
That story, by David D. Kirkpatrick of The New York Times , connects the relatively new opposition of the bishops to old and long-held Catholic opposition to use of federal funds to pay for abortions.
Chaput is a vehement abortion critic and during the election campaign last year anti-abortion campaign flyers targeting Obama were passed around the parking lots of Catholic churchs on Sundays. Chaput's book, "Render Unto Caesar," goes somewhat lightly on the issue of abortion while urging strongly that Catholics stand up in the public square and marketplace to denounce political positions that run contrary to church doctrine.
I'm going to review the book soon on Examiner.com where I write about literature, so you might look for the review there when I finally get it done. Consider that last sentence to be promotion of my own self interest.
The New York Times story quotes Chaput as writing in a diocesan newspaper column that Obama's health-reform plan is "not only imprudent; it's also dangerous."
The Times story immediately adds, "The bishops' opposition ... is another setback for Obama's health care efforts."
The opposition also, however, serves the bishops' self interest by not only boosting the church's anti-abortion stance, but also by trying to boost the bishops' personal political credibility within their own congregations.
You could say anything anyone writes boosts someone's self interest, and that probably would not be too far from the truth.
But when self-interest powers a national debate that is supposed to target a common good, specific arguments that benefit one interest over another ought to be pointed out.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
It took ten years to get there, eight of them during the Republican George W. Bush administration, but only eight months since the election of Barack Obama.
According to the Denver Post, actual construction on the project won't start until June, which may be a better time to celebrate the decision of the federal government to build the hospital, given the history of the project.
Before I left ColoradoBiz (in 2007), I had a writer do a profile of then Veteran's Administration head Jim Nicholson who was one of the several VA secretaries to go round and round on the project, but Nicholson did his job for local vets by getting it back on track.
Unfortunately, Nicholson's successor put it off track again, and Saturday's groundbreaking was the closest point yet veterans from the region have come to being assured the new hospital will be there for them if they live long enough to be served in it.
The federal commitment is an example of how Democrats just do it, rather than yak, yak, yak about it, like Republicans want to do on health-care reform, in order to keep the federal government from spending money.
Building a state-of-the-art hospital for vets from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as well as vets from the first Iraq war, the Korean War, Vietnam, and many of the conflicts in between, helps fulfill one of Obama's campaign promises: To get Iraq and Afghanistan wounded proper and on-going treatment. But you won't hear many bipartisans making that point.
Still, it is what Democrats do, besides tax and spend, as they are constantly accused of doing. They tax, yes. But they also spend tax money on government service to its people. Even when they have to borrow billions of dollars to do it.
Democrats believe the people they serve are worth government support. It's time Republican elected officials begin to do the same.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
I didn't think he had it in him, but it seems that governing for all the people finally took precedence in a politician's set of values rather than old, staid biases.
Gov. Bill Ritter, like President Barack Obama, has proven himself an agent of change.
Now, he should call the General Assembly into special session to approve the fee hikes he has proposed to improve gun control in Colorado, and have the legislature call a Constitutional Convention so the state can offer voters a permanent fix to its budget mess while the cost cuts are still fresh and stinging, and more than Band-aids are top of peoples' minds.
At a convention, conservatives will finally have to face the issue that state government costs big money, and that taxpayers who are privileged enough to live and grow old in this state, ought to be responsible for the costs of running a top-notch government operation.
The governor's criminal cutbacks will save the state just $19 million this fiscal year, but they had to be one of the more bitter pills Ritter was forced to swallow, given his background as former Denver district attorney. He said during his press conference that he didn't like having to make some of the cuts, but that he had no choice.
Neither do Colorado voters.
They must soon vote to approve a modern method of financing state government at a level everyone in the state can afford. And yet at a level that will ensure Colorado's national leadership toward energy independence, superior health and prosperity for all its citizens, and a style of living to match the natural beauty that surrounds us.
Friday, August 14, 2009
No one has said anything yet, but it's no coincidence that the governor's "economic recovery team" kicked off a statewide tour in Trinidad, San Luis, Walsenburg and Pueblo to promote small-business and minority-business involvement in contracts that are being cut with stimulus funds coming from the Obama administration.
"Leveraging the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds is one way to help Colorado emerge from this economic downturn faster and stronger," Gov. Bill Ritter said in a statement announcing the tour, led earlier this week by Maranda Pleau, the governor's director of Minority and Small Business Outreach for the state's recovery team.
On Thursday, two days after Pleau first met with small business people on the tour, State Treasurer Cary Kennedy announced the $87 million in financing for school construction between the towns of Hooper and Mosca in Alamosa County, in Alamosa itself, and outside Monte Vista in Rio Grande County.
Pleau answered her own phone when I called her Friday morning shortly before a scheduled staff meeting, but she begged off talking to me about the relationship between the tour and the school-construction funding, saying she had the staff meeting to go to, but also that whatever she had to say had to be cleared through her communications director.
As I said, I have not talked with the outreach director yet, but she said she would be happy to share her thoughts on the subject. I sent her an e-mail asking what she is telling small business owners in the region where the funds are being spent, especially since it's known that few minority-owned businesses have in the past enjoyed participation in large state contracts for capital construction, road building and the like.
Pleau's appointment, in some ways, was a response to complaints from some leaders of the minority business community in metro Denver that minority-owned businesses weren't getting many state contracts, or even encouragement, after two years of Gov. Ritter's adminstration.
Specifically, the Colorado Black Roundtable met with Ritter in February to share concerns that the state was effectively "missing in action" for the first two years of Ritter government when it came to economic development of African-American owned businesses in Colorado, according to Herman Malone, a Republican who attended the session with the Democratic governor.
"He was telling us what he couldn't do," said Malone, who also is my co-author in writing the book "Lynched by Corporate America," which was published in 2006.
Andre Pettigrew, executive director of the city of Denver's Office of Economic Development, told me he hoped Pleau's appointment to the economic recovery team was partly a response to that meeting, although the appointment didn't come until mid-summer.
"I'd like to think the governor, Don Elliman [former state economic development director and now chief operating officer of the state] and that team," Pettigrew said, "that they went out and listened to businesses in our community, that they knew there was an opportunity and an expectation that those communities were going to contribute" to the state's economic recovery.
" ... Our success is going to be measured on whether or not these businesses, these contractors are growing, that they are a vital part of it," Pettigrew said.
Elliman also is chair of the Colorado Economic Recovery Accountability Board, which Ritter appointed to oversee the spending of federal stimulus money. Pettigrew is a member of the board, too, and he told me he has addressed the board on the issue of minority-business participation in spending the government funds.
Pleau's responsibility is to see that minority-owned businesses, women-owned businesses, and other small businesses are included. Let's hope the small business owners she meets with on the recovery team's tour around the state listen up and make sure they get a piece of the action.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
"The story of how two books, William Greider's 'Secrets of the Temple, and Kurt Eichenwald's 'Conspiracy of Fools' foretold the U.S. and global financial crisis of 2009, and offered solutions long ago that could have saved us from the bother."
Eichenwald's book is about the fall of Enron, and I just finished reading in it about how a woman Enron executive's failure to read an e-mail, and one in-house attorney's failure to read Sherron Watkins' memos on mismanagement at upper levels of Enron may have helped bring the company down.
It's a fault I have identified as chronic among executives throughout America. People no longer read the materials they are provided that could make a critical difference to the profitability of their companies and the success of their own careers.
I have already started a series of blogs on this site that I call "Traitor to Myself," and this could stand for another chapter, for I am as guilty of the corporate fault as the two Enron execs, Jim Derrick and Cindy Olson, according to Eichenwald.
But so are Ben Bernanke and George W. Bush.
Both of the books have been sitting on my shelf for at least a year, and I have not brought myself to read them thoroughly until now. I'm sure Bernanke is aware of Greider's book on the history of the Federal Reserve following the 1981-82 recession. He probably read it long ago.
Since George W. openly boasted he did not read, I am just as sure he did not read Eichenwald's tome on Enron even if he did call the company's late chairman "Kenny Boy."
Greider's book, read now, tells more about what the Obama administration is doing to rectify the wrongheaded financial industry than anything else I have read during the past 18 months.
Reading the Enron book for background to a book I'm writing now about Tim Marquez, a Denver oil man, has been a lesson for me in the necessity of doing proper background reading before you launch the writing of anything, from a blog posting to a magazine story.
Yet, you learn, too, that it's never too late to do the right thing. Or start doing it.
Life is an education in everything we do, and our schooling lasts from the day we are born until the day we die. If only we could all appreciate that; and not assume what we don't know.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Don't let insurance companies, the special interests in health care, Republicans, who always defend the establishment because they always serve the monied interests of the nation, or whackos on the Internet (me excluded, of course) convince you that health-care reform is not in your best (self) interests.
I listened to Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, last night on public television. He sounded like one of the nuts. He said a public-option health insurance plan was just a first step in the government plot to take over the entire health-care system in America. The first step toward a single-payer system.
That conclusion is not logical.
It is the Republican Party's national spin for senators and representatives to take back to the heartland to try to talk the U.S. population out of insisting that Congress change health care for the betterment of most people in America.
How can starting a cheaper-than-current-costs, government-run health-insurance plan, to compete against more expensive private insurers, be a step into the hospitals and doctors offices that deliver health care now -- unless you think the private health-care insurers are already there, dictating what health care to give at prices high enough to make the insurers, doctors and hospitals a profit?
Grassley and others say we already have a health-care system that works just fine. How crazy is that?
Even if you think the movie "Sicko" was all wrong, anybody with any common sense, from doctors and nurses, to hospital administrators and even insurance executives, have known and have said publicly for years that our health-care system is on its own way toward bankruptcy if something isn't changed soon. And perhaps the nation with it.
Yet Republicans are now telling the country: It works just fine.
How crazy is that?
Don't be fooled.
If you attend public meetings of Colorado senators and representatives this month you'll no doubt hear the shouts of anti-reform activists who will describe any shouts you hear from pro-reform activists as the shouts of the looney fringe.
Right now, a guy named Jeff Crank, who is described in today's Denver Post as the head of the Colorado chapter of Americans for Prosperity (meaning the rich), is launching a 13-day bus tour around the state to repeat what he told the Post:
"We're headed right now to this thing being a fringe group of people demanding that there be some kind of 'public option' versus real America that is saying we're not going to throw out a health care system that delivers fine care but is expensive and maybe has to be refined."
Don't be fooled, real America. Those last nine words are Crank's attempt to sound not crazy. And in the earlier part of his quote, you see how he's trying to define other people who support reform as "a fringe group."
But who drives a bus around the state to harangue people about crazies in government besides a crazy, himself (although you wonder what's he's getting paid to make the pitch in this otherwise era of joblessness).
Don't be fooled, Colorado. Don't be fooled America. Health-care reform is one reason why a large majority of people in this country voted for the nation's first African-American president. We voted for change, and we could feel in our bones that Obama was the political athlete who could score for us.
Don't listen to shouts on either side of the argument.
Just quietly tell your congressmen and congresswomen to "stay the course," as George W. Bush's father used to say. But make sure they realize you mean the course toward reform.
Get health care reformed in this country by the end of the year, and let it start having its beneficial effect in 2010 and beyond, if we all live that long. Too many have passed without the benefit of the best care our country can offer its citizens.
You won't hear an anti-reformer shouting out about that outrage.
You can bet on that.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Jackson's last doctor is now under the justice system's spotlight -- and the entertainment media's -- but it's fairly clear from some of the reporting that Jackson, even as he was preparing for his "comeback," was still addicted to prescription drugs and finally asked for more once too often, and died as a result, killing himself accidentally.
Newspapers, through their publishers, essentially have done the same, but journalism is under the spotlight, and reporters and editors of the content of newspapers are getting the popular blame.
Journalists haven't kept up. They haven't moved to the Internet fast enough. They can't keep up with the swiftness of the news cycle, the sweep of readers and viewers from one medium to the next, etc., etc., etc.
The blame, in fact, lies with publishers and the advertising side of newspaper failures. Ad sales people were the ones who couldn't keep up, couldn't sell the newspaper's content to readers even as the newspaper's content providers bravely attempted to adjust to readers' demands.
And publishers, who are the executors of newspapers' estates even as the news organs still live, failed to change their business models fast enough to adjust to the changing marketplace.
Ad sales people at newspapers couldn't make the sale. Couldn't close the deal.
And their bosses, the publishers of newspapers, couldn't teach them how to make the sale because the publishers had grown too fat and lazy on unthreatened high profits for at least a hundred years to remember what it meant to hustle.
You won't hear much of that from the newspaper game. The publishers, after all, remain the executors of the newspaper industry estate. They remain the bosses, and like Michael Jackson's latest doctor, they are still in business, at least for the time being.
Journalism, however, seems certainly to be just as dead as Michael.
Dylan Thomas wrote: "Don't go gentle into that good night!"
I expect you'll see journalists accepting his advice even as their profession withers to a slim shadow of its old self. As readers, you should give them succor whenever and however you are able.