Will the next election bring jobs to town?

One of the biggest problems Chico has right now is lack of good jobs. By “good” I mean, a job that provides a wage sufficient to pay rent on a room, eat three squares a day, groom and dress,  enjoy some modest entertainment, own or use transportation to get to work, and keep a bit left over to put in the bank. And, ideally – wages sufficient to allow for “discretionary spending” to stimulate the local economy.

Of course, another quality to look for in an employer is jobs that will pay mortgages and property tax. Too many of the transplants that rode in on that last housing boom still drive to the towns they came from to work -Vacaville, Vallejo, Sacramento, etc. They love the lifestyle here, but can’t find jobs here to afford their upside-down houses.  Of course, the lifestyle here suffers because of this river of commuters, who necessitated that freeway widening we’ve all been enjoying these last couple years. I realize their dilemma is self-made, but there’s no turning around for us now. So, I wish we could get some good paying jobs in here for people like that, so they can really join our community instead of storing their kids in our schools all day while they play bumper cars on 680. Although I realize – city management probably sees this as gas tax revenues.

One irony is, while employer-paid healthcare packages are becoming the law, the  same law is demotivating businesses from hiring new employees as well as motivating employers to cut worker’s hours and even cut positions altogether in order to afford Obamacare. One Paradise business opted to give their employees a raise to buy their own insurance rather than pay for benefits packages because it would save them so much money, even given the government penalty they would have to pay. Others, including government agencies like CARD, have cut employees hours and positions.  This translates to less discretionary spending and less sales  tax.

So yeah, I want to be happy whenever I hear of a new employer coming to town, or an existing employer that is hiring, but I couldn’t help but be skeptical over Milestone, and even before that, Build.com. I don’t think phone bank jobs are the kind of jobs we need to boost the local economy. And, as we recently found out, these employers are not stable or reliable, hiring waves to meet immediate needs, and then laying them off in waves when the rush is over. It really pisses me off that they weren’t honest about it either, claiming up front that they were going to be huge employers.

For a few years now, Build.com has been coming into meetings Downtown and bragging about all the people they employ. They’ve claimed over 400, and I’ve wondered aloud, where do you put them? What do they all do? I’ve bought stuff online, and dealt with the same handful of employees again and again. The hockey warehouse business my son patronizes is run by one man.  He takes orders, packages, ships and bills, even answers the phone.  I wondered, was Build.com including the families of their employees – they very cleverly used the word “support” instead of “employ“.  Apparently so – the article below states Build.com only employed about 350 people. Why would they overstate that? Maybe they were talking about votes, not jobs?

And then Milestone. I’m sorry, I can’t believe a company can exist or offer decent jobs when all they do is answer stupid questions over the phone. I for one never call ‘help’ lines because the person who answers is always an impatient jerk who doesn’t seem to get the point – they’re supposed to be helpful, but they act as though it’s all telepathy, you’re an idiot if you don’t get it.  When you don’t get it instantly or your problem isn’t just a “simple fix,”  they get impatient. They put you on HOLD and never come back. Milestone reps claimed they could train people for this job, I don’t believe there’s any training at all. They hand you a script, they put you in a booth, and there you sit – you either make it, or they bring in one of the thousands who showed up at the job fair to take your place. 

Don’t believe me? Well what’s your take on the reactions of the CEO’s involved? Milestone man was tearful, it was all about him, he is so emotional… Oh, dry up you little bitch, all you ever wanted was to be a big fish in a little pond. Now you’ve jacked a bunch of people around – you’re not allowed to be emotional, unless you’re willing to pay their rent and bills for the next six months. That would be “emotional” of you, all I’m hearing is a bunch of baby whining. Dry it up or go back to your diapers. You’re an embarrassment to Butte County, Dick Richquick.

And Build.com CEO? Christian Friedland, the guy who came to city meetings claiming to support “over 400 people”, wanting the city to put up the money necessary to get commercial jet service “to Disneyland” and other such sundries, doesn’t even have a voice mail with the company anymore. The cock of the walk has flown the coop, having sold out to a British corporation in 2007. It was the Brits who made the decision to can all these people here – we never should have bailed their boiled asses out in WWII.

But I’ll tell you who we should really be mad at – Scott Gruendl and Mary Goloff have many times bragged about bringing jobs like this to town. Where are the real jobs? They’re not coming here, because our housing is too expensive. This I got from former Chamber CEO Jim Goodwin. He said manufacturers won’t locate where their workers can’t afford the housing. They can’t pay wages that will float in our town, where our public workers have driven up the cost of everything from eggs to rent to gas.   Our city council has also allowed our utility companies to take rude advantage – ever wonder why we pay so much just to have Cal Water pump the fluids out from under our feet? And then have to read their disclaimers that say the water is full of all kinds of SHIT but none of it will really hurt you? That’s the city of Chico’s fault. Scott Gruendl has been on council for years, and we still have all the same problems – including poorer air and water quality than when he took office.  Cost of living in this town has gone through the roof in the last 6 – 10 years.  But of course, we’re working on a bag ban!  Pardon me, I haven’t got around to asking my grocers how this is going to affect my grocery prices, but I’m guessing, it’s not going to make groceries cheaper. 

Unfortunately, we only have one candidate running so far, Andrew Coolidge. Two years ago I was unable to endorse or vote for Coolidge  because he did not make himself clear on any of the issues. He has contacted me for information about the water rate increase, but I don’t know what he’s doing about it. I’m hoping he’ll take up my invitation to come down to the library and talk to us about his intentions.  

Coolidge is an employer, a businessman, maybe he has some ideas about how to get good jobs into this area. So far, I’m not hearing anything from Gruendl, Goloff or Sorensen. I’ ve heard rumors that neither Gruendl nor Goloff intend to run again. That’s  great, but we’ll need others to step up. What rough beasts, their hours come round at last, are slouching toward Chico to be elected? yeah, I stole that from Keats, by way of Didion.


Enterprise Record, Laura Urseny 

CHICO — A number of employees at two of Chico’s largest call
centers got layoff notices this month, leaving dozens without
Build.com (http://Build.com) severed ties with more than 30
workers earlier in the month, although some who were laid off in
one department found jobs in another.

The final number that lost their jobs was not clear. Calls to the
Chico office have not been returned.
Build.com (http://Build.com) sells home improvement and
plumbing supplies online, and was created by Chico State
University graduate Christian Friedland. It was purchased by a
British company in 2007.
Build.com (http://Build.com)’s voicemail system said it did not
recognize Friedland’s name when a reporter called.
At last count, the company employed about 350.

On Monday, a number of employees of Milestone Technology were also told their jobs were
ending. The Enterprise-Record got several calls that individuals were given pink slips. No one who
called was willing to talk on the record, but founder Prem Chand returned the E-R’s phone call.
Chand said the call volumes expected by Milestone when it was hiring have not matched what has
“We’re trying to look at the volume coming in and properly align the team,” he told this reporter,
saying the company was expecting that volume to increase in the future, but couldn’t say when.
He declined to say how many received pink slips on Monday, and said more layoffs were expected.
“I feel very emotional about what’s happening. It’s personal because I’m from Chico.”
Chand spent his early years in Butte County.
Chand said he still felt “very strongly” about the opportunities at the Chico office.
Milestone Technologies handles technology questions from clients like Facebook, eBay and Google.
The company had two job fairs this year, and hired more than 300 for a call center established this
year at the Chico Municipal Airport.
Chand said the company is providing a severance package and will be paying some insurance costs
for the employees let go.
Former employees from both companies are being encouraged to contact the Alliance for
Workforce Development, a nonprofit employment service.
Luis Moreno, Alliance director for Butte County, said employees from Milestone or Build.com
(http://Build.com) are welcome to visit the alliance for help with finding new jobs or other
services. The office is inside the Butte Community Employment Center, 2445 Carmichael Drive.
Services are free.

Moreno suggested employees mention the company they worked for because processes have been set up for those companies.   (here I have to ask, what’s with the special treatment?)
The office is open this week except for Wednesday.


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