Mark your calendars!
I will be one of the featured speakers at the 2015 Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association Technology Conference.
If you happen to be in Clearwater, Florida on September 22 stop by to say hello.
Mark your calendars!
I will be one of the featured speakers at the 2015 Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association Technology Conference.
If you happen to be in Clearwater, Florida on September 22 stop by to say hello.
Through my blog I hear from dozens of recent graduates who are looking for an opportunity to gain experience in the GIS industry. Well, here’s your chance.
This is a very unique proposition; it won’t work for everyone. But, maybe it’s perfect for you?
The Opportunity: what’s in it for you
The Work: what you have to do in return
The Application: what to do if you’re interested
That’s it! Please share this with anyone and everyone who may be interested!
Black Hills Energy is the worst kind of corporate vampire. I see this first-hand as an owner of multi-family residential real estate in Pueblo Colorado. Now I’ve learned Black Hills is also hampering Pueblo’s chance to take advantage of our community’s opportunity to invest in solar energy. Something needs to change. Unfortunately, the Colorado Public Utility Commission seems to be a co-conspirator.
I own a small apartment building in the Mesa Junction neighborhood of Pueblo. I bought it in pretty rough condition and I’ve been slowly fixing it up. Each unit is separately metered so, until recently, I charged rent and required tenants to pay for electricity separately through Black Hills. My apartments are affordable 2-bedroom units so they appeal to young families just starting out in life with limited financial resources. I also have older tenants typically retired or disabled and living on modest fixed incomes. Ostensibly, Black Hills has some sort of program to help low-income households afford electricity. It’s called BHEAP and it’s a “heap” of something all right. In reality, Black Hills uses the program as an opportunity to prey on low-income households penalizing them severely for any lapse on their account. But, don’t take my word for it. Watch this video produced by Sister Nancy Crafton, director of El Centro de Los Pobres in Avondale (just east of Pueblo).
Sister Nancy’s account is consistent with what I’ve seen some of my tenants go through. Aside from their on-going scam to raise rates every few months, Black Hills charges ridiculously high deposits for new accounts. One of my tenants who moved in a few months ago couldn’t afford the $200 deposit required to start their $40/month electricity account (can you imagine charging a $3,000 deposit on a $600/mo apartment?) so I am covering their utility bill and they reimburse me. Black Hills wanted a $2,000 deposit from me on a separate commercial property I purchased last year but I was able to avoid it by using an existing account. Of course, new residents or young people moving into their first place don’t have such flexibility. Nice way to welcome them to the bill-paying community, huh? Thanks for the hospitality, Black Hills.
While adding another set of bills is annoying I don’t really have a problem paying utilities as part of a service for tenants. In fact, it provides incentive for me to make investments in energy efficiency. So, along those lines, I began investigating the possibility of installing solar panels on the roof of my apartment building. It’s a fairly large, flat roof with good southern exposure well suited for a solar installation. And thanks to Pueblo’s abundant supply of annual sunshine the energy savings potential is huge. The upfront investment for solar is expensive but so are electricity bills. If I could find a good way to finance the investment, it would pay for itself over 4-6 years and save a boatload of money thereafter. So financing is one hurdle that needs to be overcome (perhaps a good subject for a separate post) but when I learned of another hurdle I was stunned.
Somehow, in their infinite wisdom, the Colorado PUC has allowed Black Hills to control solar installation capacity. So, if you want to install solar on your roof-top you must first get permission from Black Hills. And we’re not talking about a permit to be sure your equipment and installation are up to code. They can simply prohibit installation of additional solar energy production capacity.
Are you kidding me?
The whole reason I want solar is to stop Black Hills from bleeding me to death. Yes, the blood sucking corporation who monopolizes electricity distribution in Pueblo somehow has been given permission to dictate how many solar installations will be allowed and how much energy these installations can generate. Since Black Hills Corporation (owner of Black Hills Energy) is in the coal, natural gas and oil business this is pretty much asking the fox to guard the hen house.
If I want to build a clothesline in the backyard to dry towels, sheets and clothing do I need to ask Black Hills for permission?
Now some of the old guard whose opinions are regularly published in the Pueblo Chieftain will likely say fault lies with the environmental movement on the left because of new requirements involving renewable energy sources driving up costs. Who is paying these people to shill for the carbon energy industry? Do they get a lifetime supply of free gas for their Chevy Suburban? In any case, if you read these blowhards please reserve judgement until you’ve read this article by Paul Huber of EcoSol. He does a good job of clarifying what’s really going on and how Black Hills is fleecing our community.
The Colorado PUC should be ashamed of themselves for allowing Black Hills to loot and plunder the citizens of Pueblo. By the way, the same government agency is also allowing Health Insurance companies to fleece lower income communities, including Pueblo.
Also, here is the contact information provided on their website.
I was contacted this morning by Dr. James Chan, a successful entrepreneur who parlayed a PhD in Geography into a career advising corporate clients on how to enter the Chinese market. Dr. Chan recently wrote a very nice article for the UCSB Department of Geography entitled How to Succeed in Business with a Degree in Geography.
If you are considering a private sector career, even if you have no background in geography, I would read the article as a terrific example of the best possible career skill to acquire and cultivate: adaptability.
An Open Letter to the Pueblo City Council,
This is a unique moment in American history and Pueblo has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make a huge difference in the lives of ordinary citizens. The question is will Pueblo City Council see this as a unique economic opportunity and behave like entrepreneurs? Or will City Council allow the “Chicken Little” voices in our community to carry the day and do nothing?
More than 80 years after the prohibition of alcohol was repealed in 1933 we now have an opportunity to invent a market for marijuana. City Council has begun debating how a legal market might operate within the City of Pueblo. So far, City Council has been reluctant to allow retail distribution of recreational marijuana within city limits. I agree that a cautious approach has been prudent but I’m now convinced that further delay will cost Pueblo an opportunity to control local distribution and participate in the market opportunity. I worry that business interests from Denver and elsewhere are likely to dominate the business landscape in this new market unless City Council proactively implements a system designed to maximize benefits for the local economy.
Before I layout some ideas let’s address those who continue paranoid hand-wringing over perceptions of marijuana as a poison that will infect and destroy society. It’s time to read the writing on the wall. First, marijuana is already here and it’s here to stay. Do you prefer that it remain a black market with criminals controlling distribution and the resulting cash cow generated by undeniably persistent demand? If you think marijuana prohibition is or was a good idea you’re clearly operating with your head buried in deep sand. Billions of US tax dollars spent over decades and marijuana use is no less prevalent. Only Mexican Cartels seem to be benefiting from prohibition. Second, marijuana is far less harmful than alcohol. Have you ever heard of a young person dying because they choked on their own vomit after smoking too much weed? No, because it doesn’t happen – but that’s what alcohol can do if consumed in excess. The CDC estimates that excessive alcohol use kills 88,000 people per year in the U.S. So stop being a hypocrite who enjoys a regular 3 martini pre-dinner routine but won’t allow neighbors to smoke a joint on their front porch. Third, marijuana prohibition is over. There may be a few speed bumps along the way but pot prohibition is ending. Not just in Pueblo, not just in Colorado, but all over North America. Get used to it. Your opposition is akin to the 1999 anarchist-led globalization protests in Seattle. You’re too late. That ship has sailed.
What we should focus on now is how to optimize marijuana distribution in Pueblo. The legal marijuana market in Pueblo should, first and foremost, benefit the citizens of Pueblo. Rather than ceding control of the market to “ganga-preneurs” from Denver or other big money corporate interests from outside our community, we should take this opportunity to build a distribution system that generates both tax revenue and opportunities for Puebloans to cash in on demand for cannabis. I’ve heard local politicians pay a lot of lip service to creating jobs and improving the economy. Well, here is a perfect job creation opportunity, served up on a platter. All you have to do is allow Puebloans to participate.
There are 3 key links in the marijuana (or any other material) supply chain: production, wholesale distribution and retail sales. There’s no good reason why Pueblo can’t control all three links within the local market and keep the lion’s share of pot profits within our own community.
Here are my suggestions for making that happen:
Production. Pueblo County licensing of grow operations has thus far focused on licensing larger scale production with a variety of interested parties (most from out of town as I understand it) applying to grow on rural acreage in the County. The licensing fees are ridiculously high. Add to that the costs to acquire appropriately zoned land and facilities, indoor growing equipment, seeds, soil, etc and 99.9% of would-be entrepreneurs in Pueblo are priced out of the market. Why must we limit production to a scale that requires so much up-front capital? I propose establishing an individual grower license program. Allow individuals to grow cannabis on their own property. Make the application simple and the license fee affordable – maybe $100 per year. This is happening anyway – lots of people growing illegally to supplement their income. Why not legitimize these small grow operations and collect taxes? Why not give citizens with a green thumb (yes, pun intended) an opportunity to produce and prosper? City Council, do you favor job creation? Boom. You just created 1000+ jobs.
Wholesale. Local growers need a centralized market where they can readily sell their crop. The best model for wholesale marketing is the agricultural cooperative structure like grain coops that exist throughout the American Midwest. If you drive through the corn belt in Iowa or Illinois or Indiana you’ll see large grain elevators in every community. These aren’t simply storage facilities, they also serve as the central market place where local farmers are able to sell their harvest at prevailing market prices. I propose creating a cannabis growers cooperative in Pueblo tasked with the responsibility of purchasing marijuana from properly licensed growers located in Pueblo County. The coop could also test, package and label marijuana for wholesale and retail distribution in Pueblo and throughout Colorado. There’s another 20+ jobs created to staff the coop.
Retail. To properly distribute marijuana we need a network of appropriately located stores within the city. Politicians who think that Pueblo West locations are satisfying demand are living in a fantasy world. No one wants to drive out to PW to pay a premium for low grade ganja so they are continuing to buy from their existing, illegal source. To successfully legalize you must also kill the black market. Store locations should be conveniently located but scrutinized to minimize exposure to young people. They should be owned by local residents and they should be closely monitored by a local control board to be sure they aren’t selling illegally to minors. Wait…we already have such a network already in place. These locations are licensed to sell products that only adults, age 21 and over, are allowed to purchase. I’m talking of course about liquor stores. I propose allowing retail liquor stores to sell packaged marijuana products.
Now, if you read my blog regularly you’ll know that I’m biased because I happen to own a liquor store in Pueblo. And, even though the store is currently for sale I recognize this as a clear conflict of interest as it would most likely increase the value of the business. But, I still think the arrangement makes sense. Many people don’t want to live next door to a liquor store or a pot shop. That’s why liquor stores aren’t located next door to parks, schools or single family homes. But, the distribution of substances that should not be in the hands of young people is exactly what liquor stores are set up to provide. Another benefit is that local liquor stores are not controlled by large companies. They are all small locally-owned businesses. Shouldn’t local small businesses and local small business owners be higher on the priority list than companies from outside of Pueblo? Wouldn’t it be better to trust marijuana distribution to people who are well known in the community? I think this makes more sense than having a long series of volatile public meetings where City Council approves zoning rules that lead to new pot shops opening in controversial locations. Do we really need to invite such dramatic conflict? Liquor license holders and their store locations have already been vetted. Why reinvent the wheel?
So there you have it. My 3-point plan for marijuana distribution in Pueblo.
City Council members: Puebloans have voted to legalize marijuana and they voted you into office to work for them. Please don’t pass up this economic opportunity just because you calculate that vocal opposition might score points with the Chicken Little wing of your political constituency. A local grower’s cooperative could really help a lot of people in Pueblo and it won’t hurt you or your constituents one bit.
Please give Pueblo permission to produce and prosper.
Palm Springs, California – Software provider ESReye announced today, during its annual developer summit, that it will respond aggressively to competitive threats from open source software products like QueueGeeIS and cloud-based services like MapBocks by raising prices.
According to Irwin M. Fletcher, ESReye Executive Vice President of Marketing, “It’s never been more difficult to stand out in the GeeIS software market but we are clearly the leader in high prices and we intend to stay there.” Despite successful gains in software industry market share by Lintux, OpenOffIS, OpenStreakMap and other so-called “freeware” products over the past several years ESReye intends to continue to pursue market leadership by focusing on high prices. When asked about this unique strategy, Mr. Fletcher replied saying “QueueGeeIS and other competitive software packages now provide nearly identical capabilities to ArcGeeIS and, as we explored opportunities to differentiate ourselves, we realized that pricing was a key feature where we were uniquely positioned to lead the way.” Mr. Fletcher said that higher prices would take effect as early as next week but declined to convey specifics, stating, “Like most proprietary enterprise software vendors we prefer to avoid transparency when it comes to pricing. We have found that by making it difficult to understand terms for individual or enterprise software license packages we are able to increase revenue on a per-customer basis and maximize profitability.”
When asked to comment on the move, a veteran software industry analyst who asked to remain anonymous said, “Hey, why not? Seems to be working for OraKool.”
This blog post is a satirical publication. The contents of this material are © Copyright 2014 by Justin Holman and may not be reprinted or re-transmitted in whole or in part without the express written consent of the publisher. Any use of real names is accidental and coincidental.
I bought a liquor store last year….it was sort of an accident.
No, I wasn’t binge drinking at the time. I wasn’t really shopping for a liquor store. I wasn’t even shopping for a bottle of wine. But, here I am … proud owner of a liquor license and a terrific selection of craft beers, pinot noirs and small batch bourbons….among many other standard liquor store offerings.
Since 2010 I’ve been investing in real estate in Pueblo, Colorado and when a commercial building with retail on the ground floor and multifamily residential on the second floor was listed for sale I went to take a look. I liked the building, especially the location in the heart of Pueblo’s Mesa Junction neighborhood. As I walked around with the owner, it became clear that the liquor business was being sold with the building.
Hmm. Intriguing. My college buddies would be so jealous.
So, deciding to roll the dice, I made an offer. I fully expected a counter-offer that wasn’t sufficiently attractive, allowing me to walk away and go back to business as usual.
Instead, the owner accepted my offer…..hey, that’s great newwwwzzz….holy shit.
With the building under contract I began due diligence. I remember thinking, before I ever contemplated the notion of liquor store ownership, retail liquor stores enjoy a tidy little monopoly. Must be nice. Well, yes and no. It’s not quite as easy as it sounds. Since taking ownership of the store I’ve learned a few things about the liquor business that might surprise you.
Lesson 1. The liquor business is highly complex. Retail liquor, at least in Colorado, is a fascinating business. Huge number of SKUs. The quantities of categories, brands, flavors, price points and size variations are mind-numbing. Talk about Big Data. Liquor distribution is heavily regulated in Colorado with a 3-tier system composed of manufacturers, distributors and retailers; each tier has its own set of rules and requires its own special license with an application paperwork trail that only a lawyer could love. Inventory is expensive and margins are thin, managing inventory and cash flow is extraordinarily difficult and SKU level demand is nearly impossible to forecast accurately. Running a small liquor store requires business acumen – accounting, operations, human resources, customer service, marketing, sales – the whole enchilada. If you were thinking that a liquor store is like an advanced lemonade stand you’re completely underestimating the task. This is good by the way. Communities need opportunities for individuals to learn how to run a complex business with full P&L responsibility.
Lesson 2. Distributors hold all the power. As a retail liquor store owner I am only allowed to purchase inventory from a licensed distributor. Seems reasonable to keep tabs on who’s moving liquor around the state. But, here’s the catch. Every licensed distributor has a complete monopoly on every product they sell. So, any self-respecting liquor store should have various sizes of Jack Daniels on the shelf, right? I think I’ll call around and see who has the best deal on a case of 750 ml bottles of Jack, compare prices/terms and place the order, right? Wrong. If you want to buy Jack Daniels or any other product whether it’s a brand of beer, wine or spirits, you have your choice of exactly one distributor who carries that product. So, negotiating price isn’t an option. The only possible way you can get any sort of discount is by purchasing large volumes. As a result, the distributors pass along more favorable prices to the mega-stores who can afford to purchase 100 case deals; if you’re a small liquor store you just have to bend over and take whatever price is offered. When I learned this was the way the system worked I was stunned. What? [fade to the Caddyshack scene with Chevy Chase talking to Danny Noonan, “Is this Russia? This isn’t Russia.”]
You mean to tell me that we aren’t allowed to shop around for a supplier who might provide better service, better prices or both? Nope. The Budweiser distributor welcomed us to the industry by requiring cash upon delivery for the first 90 days. No checks. No 30-day net invoice. Not even a money order. Cash on the barrelhead. Nice manners, Bud.
Lesson 3. Owning and operating a small liquor store can provide a comfortable income and job security but it’s no cash cow. If you read my About page you’ll see that I have a day job in a completely separate industry. I don’t work in the liquor store. I hired a manager to run the operation and she supervises a handful of employees who staff the store when she can’t be there. She’s paid a decent salary providing a reasonably comfortable living in Pueblo. We pay hourly employees a decent wage as well. It’s not lucrative but I’m willing to bet we pay better than comparable positions at local grocery or convenience stores. The store is humming along. We did a good bit of business around the holidays and customer traffic is steady. But here’s the thing. This business is not designed for an “absentee” owner because after payroll and inventory replenishment there’s not much left over. However, the setup is perfect for an owner-operator.
As an owner-operator of a liquor store you have roughly the same job security as a tenured college professor. The store could go under if you fail to compete effectively or if the market for liquor dries up somehow (just like a school could close or an academic department could be eliminated). And, your take-home pay will vary with some years better than others depending on volume. But, so long as you have customers who walk in the door, no one can really take away your job.
Sure, I wish the store was a huge cash cow; you know, pay myself a nice salary every month and do whatever I want all day. Sounds great in theory but as a member of the community I’m glad it’s not so easy because big corporate greed would quickly follow. It’s nice to have the owner behind the counter. Customer service is better. And, it’s nice that the liquor store provides a comfortable income. That way the owner is highly unlikely to sell booze to minors – there’s too much at stake to break the law for a few extra bucks. Mostly, it’s nice that a big company can’t swoop in and take over every liquor store in sight. In the name of low prices, they’d shut most or all of the small stores down and open newly constructed mega-locations on the outskirts of town where land is cheap and profit maximized, laying to waste neighborhood small markets within walking distance….sort of like what’s happened with the grocery industry.
This dispersed single-unit ownership system is better for the community because it provides economic activity in a variety of locations along with solid living wage jobs that can’t be readily outsourced or automated. More people have skin in the game and a strong incentive to take care of their stretch of sidewalk in the community. In fact, aside from the distributor monopolies and the cumbersome government licensing process, it just might be a model worth considering for distribution of other commodities, like fresh food.
But that’s a topic for another blog post.
I am teaching a statistics course at Colorado State University, Pueblo this term. To help enhance student learning I am conducting a survey for the upcoming special election to determine whether or not State Senator Angela Giron should be recalled. Students will analyze the survey data and compare the results of the survey to the election results as a learning exercise.
Please help me and my students by completing the survey just once and by answering the questions accurately. Also, please share this link with people you know who live in Pueblo County.
If you feel strongly about the recall election feel free to leave comments below…but please keep the discussion civil. To learn more about the recall election you might go to http://justvotecolorado.org for voter information.
Today is the first day of class for me. I will be teaching “Inferential Statistics and Problem Solving” in the Hasan School of Business at Colorado State University, Pueblo. I’m really excited about it actually. If you’re interested in the subject matter (I mean who wouldn’t be interested in inferential statistics?), feel free to follow along as I will be posting assignments, resources, information, commentary, etc on a course blog page that I’ve set up.
Here’s the link: http://busad265.wordpress.com/
If you’re an academic type and have come across good resources for teaching in general, teaching statistics specifically, testing, grading, etc. Leave me a comment below.
Here’s to a great semester!
If you’re a business executive you’ve no doubt heard a lot about “Big Data” and the promise of analytics. You may have even read a recent post in the Harvard Business Review about how to Get Started with Big Data. It’s a great article and offers good advice but probably should be retitled: “How to Get Started with Big Data if you Can Afford to Pay McKinsey & Co Consulting Rates“. It sort of skips past the Big Data 101 issues that I see as first steps and moves directly to what I would consider more advanced uses of Big Data.
Instead, let’s assume that your company isn’t a Fortune 500 company and maybe you’ve struggled a bit with technology strategy and operations. Maybe you’re still struggling but you can’t wait another year for IT to complete the decade long SAP/Oracle/Cognos/Any ERP implementation that cost millions and has yet to show any benefit. Perhaps you’re not a math genius, not a finance person and not even really what some might consider tech-savvy. But, you know your business, you know your customers and you know your products. You also know you have to keep up with changes in your industry and you don’t want to be left behind if Big Data is the next big thing. [And, I definitely think it will be, at least one of them.] You may be asking: where should I start?
My advice: make a map.
Huh? Why would I start by making a map? Our company manufactures sophisticated engine components. I need performance metrics, fancy algorithms and cutting-edge insights to drive strategy and profit. How is a simple map going to help me improve the bottom line? Sounds like a silly kindergarten activity with no possible ROI.
Well, give me a chance to explain. Before you can turn some Nate Silver-like econometrics modeling guru or Physics PhD genius loose you need good data and some ideas about what specific problems you want to try to address with analytics. Producing a map can be an excellent process for moving toward a more sophisticated Big Data program. So, how can making a map help start this process?
Here are 6 benefits of making a map:
1. Your company will be forced to take inventory of key data elements.
2. Your IT team will be required to deliver data in a usable format.
3. Any problems with customer data will become readily apparent in the geocoding process.
4. Geographic representations of company data will reveal new patterns that spreadsheets may be disguising.
5. Producing a map will allow everyone to get involved, not just the same old digit heads.
6. Seeing your company’s data on a map will generate new ideas.
In the coming days and weeks I will elaborate on each of these points. Stay tuned!