Humboldt has Company But for How Long?
Newsweek covers Scotia and company towns this week. The story offers insights into what is going to happen to the town and what is happening to the idea of company towns in general. The piece talks about the positive and negative.
Scotia…has always been a generally happy, strife-free place. To this day, the bond between Scotians and their company is almost religious…
Stoop sitting and marijuana growing are legal in the state of California, but they aren’t in the Republic of Scotia, where there’s “no lounging or unnecessary loitering on the front steps,” and Marathon tracks electricity meters for signs of unusual use….Decades of such tight control have led Scotians to develop an almost comical reliance on company aid. Residents call “all the time” to request help screwing in new lightbulbs, according to Susan Pryor, the town’s housing administrator; she tells them to try using their wrists….
Google is poised to offer the most paternalistic touch of all. The search giant’s Mountain View, Calif., campus already offers a slew of Scotia-esque perks. Employees enjoy the services of a dry cleaner, hairstylist, massage therapist, and chefs who whip up three meals a day. They commute on company buses, nap in company “pods,” and shoot pool in company parlor rooms. Now Google is set to offer on-site employee housing—120,000 square feet of it, slated for construction on NASA land near Mountain View. That’s enough for approximately 60 midsize homes, or 400 dorm rooms….Obviously, all this corporate largesse isn’t just about generosity—it also bolsters the bottom line, helping to spur productivity and reduce attrition.
I was absorbed by the story. But I suspect folks from Rio Dell won’t be loving it.
Rio Dell described itself in a 2007 economic report as a “run-down community with an inferiority complex.” Boarded-up shops mar the main drag, abandoned gas stations sprout weeds, and there’s a nightly parade of wandering hobos. The side streets are cluttered with rotting boats, rusting cars, and eerily dark “grow houses” that supply Humboldt County’s other famous agricultural product: homegrown marijuana. One fifth of the residents are below the poverty line, according to census data, and the city government is nearly broke. Last year it was forced to sell the police dog to make ends meet.
Photo from the Newsweek story. (Incredible shot!)