As I write this, my wife Tish is flying back from Southern California. Between the two of us, in a one-month period, we are tapping into American Airlines’ new Phoenix service, Avelo Airlines’ new Burbank route and two long-standing United Airlines routes connecting through San Francisco. COVID protocols remain but, after a year of staying very close to home, we are again connecting in person elsewhere in the country. United’s Denver route has returned and, with the addition of Phoenix, our ability to connect to flights elsewhere in the country and the world will have effectively doubled.
Lots of good work has made this in-person connection available to us. More work remains to be done in what will be a fast-moving, quickly changing environment. Travel, though resuming, is going to be different going forward. We need to be nimble to be able to respond to changes. Establishing an airport authority that treats Humboldt’s basket of air services and infrastructure as a business looks to me to be the best way to me to adapt to what’s coming. It’s not a radical concept; our friends in Del Norte County did this years ago with good results.
During the past year, we also had the “opportunity” to connect much more over the internet. Recently, I noted a 24-hour period where I participated in meetings by Zoom, Microsoft Teams, in a Facebook room and via Google Hangouts. Though crucial to getting by in the past year, my experience is that I suffered from uneven internet service, especially while working from home. Meanwhile, one of the several exciting projects potentially coming to Humboldt is a giant internet pipe connecting to Singapore. This will connect with another new fiber line that will run from Humboldt to the Central Valley. This kind of connectedness both will hopefully help with our local afternoon data brownouts, but also makes other information-based operations viable here. Eureka Mayor Susan Seaman tells me that the Prosperity Network will be having a presentation and discussion about internet connectedness, from the opportunities and challenges of remote workers to access to telehealth care to broadband and internet policies that will affect our community. The meeting will take place via Zoom — of course — on July 21 from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Watch for registration or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Old school connection infrastructure pieces like roads remain important. In Eureka, we are simply going to have to view construction zones as positive things. Already, much roadwork is happening. As of July 1, additional infrastructure funding starts to come into the city from last year’s local sales tax increase/extension. Those Measure H funds have allowed the city to increase its road maintenance budget from about $700,000 to about $3.5 million — five times the most recent year’s spending.
Meanwhile, my friends in manufacturing companies that ship via semi-trucks tell me that, to the south, the realignment of Richardson Grove remains important to them from a cost-competitiveness standpoint. And fixes for the failing highway at Last Chance Grade, our often-clogged artery connecting us to the north, finally appear to have momentum after years of hand-wringing.
Connection from Humboldt has always been harder due to factors like our remoteness and distance from urban hubs, the lack of population, and the lack of density of the population we have. There are currently multiple bright spots in terms of being connected in various ways to the wider world. Now we need to keep them moving, keep innovating and capture new possibilities.
Michael Kraft believes that from an economic development standpoint, this is the most yeasty and exciting period he’s seen since he moved to the county in the early 2000s. Projects include the potential of Cal Poly Humboldt, Nordic Aquaculture, the Singapore-to-Eureka data pipe, offshore wind projects and the continuing growth of the legal cannabis industry all having considerable traction. Michael can be reached at email@example.com.