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Jondi Gumz, Reporter At Large: As Joan Rivers once said, let's talk

May 1, 2006

The following is an article from the Santa Cruz Sentinel, to visit the Santa Cruz Sentinel web site, click here.

May 1, 2006 Jondi Gumz, Reporter At Large: As Joan Rivers once said, let's talk You can tell the party's good when you can't find a parking spot. That's what happened when Santa Cruz County Bank hosted a mixer for the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday. About 120 people came to celebrate with the bank, which opened two years ago and now has had three consecutive profitable quarters. The usual head count for a chamber mixer is about 80, according to chamber chief Greg Carter. Or maybe people just wanted to see the art of Geoff Morten, who has an intriguing exhibit called "Dialogues and Conversations" on display. Morten, a poet and painter with a delightful British accent, told me how he ended up in Santa Cruz. He planned a 10-day visit at the suggestion of a friend, but by the third day he decided to put a deposit down on a house. He's been living in La Selva Beach for more than two years. You'll notice Morten's very large paintings as you walk into the bank. They certainly enhance the bright orange wall the bank inherited from a previous tenant. "It's a creative environment," said Mary Anne Carson, the bank's marketing director. Whatever it is, it's working. Morten has sold seven pieces and there's a waitlist of artists hoping to get their turn on that orange wall. Here at the Sentinel, you may have noticed some changes in our business coverage since February, when I started as the business reporter. The idea is to give readers a picture of trends but at the same time focus on local businesses. So you've seen a selection of small business owners talking about their challenges April 16 and an overview of new commercial construction around the county April 30. I want to let you know when local businesses have new products or services. Look for them in the "New and Improved" column, which will appear when the need arises. I want to provide useful information, so I'll be on the lookout for experts to help  like college financial planner Steve Shapiro Feb. 5, Carol Siegel, employment manager at the Boardwalk, which hires hundreds of teens every summer April 9 and Myles Corcoran, a contractor and arbitrator April 30. Teresa Thomae, who runs the Small Business Development Center, has agreed to write a twice-a-month column answering reader questions. On occasion I'll use a column myself if that's the most reader-friendly way of sharing information. I'm also reporting on the median price of housing, compiling the calendar of business meetings, which appears Sunday, and the "People in Business" column, which runs on Monday, and researching business statistics. Can you guess which is the county's top industry  tourism, agriculture or high-tech? According to the state, government was the biggest employer in 2004, with 21 percent of the workforce. The state hasn't put out the 2005 job snapshot yet. Here's another interesting piece of data: 190 people applied to buy two homes under construction by Habitat for Humanity after my story appeared on April 13. If you don't see my name for a week, it may be because I'm taking a turn writing the obituaries and calling police to see if there is any late-breaking news. By the way, the "Cops and Courts" report is one of the most popular features in the Sentinel, and obituaries often lead the list of "most-read" stories online. If you think something should be changed, let me know. I'm no master of mind-reading but I'm all in favor of dialogues and conversations. Reporter at large column Jondi Gumz column mug

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