Archive | June, 2010

Dirt Hugger needs your vote to compete for $25,000 in funding

28 Jun

Vote for Dirt! Vote for Dirt!

Relax. It’s not another local ballot measure. But you can vote. Here’s why you might want to.

You may spend your time getting rid of dirt, but Pierce Louis and Tyler Miller think we need a lot more. Good dirt, that is. They want to make it, and sell it back to people who believe that dirt is life.

You might call them dirt huggers, which wouldn’t hurt their feelings a bit. It is, after all, what they chose to call their startup company — Dirt Hugger LLC.

Based out of their homes in Hood River, Louis and Miller — both former employees of Cloud Cap Technology in Hood River, Louis for three years and Miller for six — are working to create a closed loop for compost.

“We loved working at Cloud Cap,” Louis says. “We really enjoyed working for Ross (Hoag) and Bill (Vaglienti).”

But they had some mental compost cooking up heat. Nights and weekends, they were germinating Dirt Hugger. Miller left Cloud Cap earlier this year, about the time it sold to Goodrich. Louis left a month ago to start hugging dirt full time.

Now Miller is focused on the engineering and site design, Louis handles finance, marketing and sales, and Miller’s girlfriend aims them at potential funding sources. Like the Beat Waste Startup Challenge at Myoo create.

They’ve got a deal with Waste Connections to siphon off all the yard debris from Hood River and Wasco counties, which now goes to composting facilities near Seattle.

Dirt Hugger wants to eliminate that transit cost, accelerate waste decomposition at property near Google in the Port of The Dalles, and sell the compost to gardeners who can’t get enough from their own efforts.

Louis says Waste Connections will pay Dirt Hugger a slightly smaller tipping fee for taking the waste off its hands here, compared to what it pays the composting facility near Seattle. Everybody wins. Waste Connections saves some money, Dirt Hugger makes some money, and we get more compost.

But first they need money — and your vote. Louis says 200 votes at Myoo Create would push them into the final round for a possible grant of $25,000.

That would help them capitalize Dirt Hugger, and begin production.

It’s a feel-good business model. Organic waste in landfills now produces about 40 percent of the nation’s methane gas, one of several undesirable greenhouse gases. Putting that waste into productive growing cycles would sequester carbon in edible plant forms. In a nutshell, their motto could be: Eat … to beat global warming.

Dirt Hugger is starting small. Louis says Hood River County produces about 210,000 tons of organic waste each year — most of it forest biomass, and another big chunk on farms.

“We’re hoping to do 2,000 tons of compost the first year, and 3,000 tons by the third year,” Louis says.

Their startup site in The Dalles has a bit of a cloud hovering over it. Google has an option that expires in August 2011.

That gives Miller and Louis at least a year to test their business model. Now, Vote for Dirt!

Sun + water + warmth + wind = Windfest fun

28 Jun

Volunteer for t-shirts, and City Council agenda … but not at same time

26 Jun

Katie Crafts says Columbia Gorge Windsurfing Association still needs volunteers for Windfest this weekend (June 26-27). Vols get “an awesome CGWA T-shirt and a food voucher to Taco del Mar. And it’s really good wind karma 🙂 … If you haven’t yet registered and would like to, please fill out this form online:  Pass this message on to anyone who may be interested. …

City Council has a full agenda for Monday meeting. New contact for operation of sewer plant. A look at bike lanes grant and parking impacts on May Street. Review of revisions to the controversial in-lieu fees to cover parking related to downtown redevelopment. Budget adoption. More discussion about where to site city offices, now that the city has sold its current space and is considering proposals from the buyers. The fun starts at 6 p.m. at council chambers, 211 2nd St. …

Downtown wine scene gains another player with Stoltz Vineyards

25 Jun

First there was one, then two, three, four, five and six wine tasting rooms in Hood River. Yikes! Pretty soon, people will have to choose.

I finally got a chance to swing by and introduce myself to Garrit Stoltz, the younger half of the partnership behind Stoltz Vineyards and its new tasting room and production facility in the big yellow house at 6th and State, just west of the Hood River Library.

The house at 514 State St., former home to Anderson’s Tribute Center, has been home for years to The Wine Sellers. Appropriate, then, that John and Garrit Stoltz would hang their banner there.

John and his wife, Charlene, migrated to farmland in the Parkdale area in the early ’80s. They bought the former funeral home in 1986 and used it as a base for their businesses — Advanced Navigation and Positioning Corp. and Advanced Systems Concepts — for the next 20 years.

Son Garrit grew up in Parkdale, before leaving for California, where he balanced time as a Marine Corps reservist and college student of international business and Chinese. His studies led to study and work opportunities in China. He also spent time in Israel, before completing college and returning to the valley in 2009, intent on making wine.

Garrit worked for a winery in South Africa before continuing his on-the-job-training at Pheasant Valley winery. “I had dreamed of my own winery for awhile,” he says. After returning from a teaching gig in China last year, he released his first wines this spring.

He still uses facilities at Pheasant Valley to get his wine to barrel. He bottles at the Hood River facility, where he is assembling equipment in classic bootstrap fashion.He talks of the family’s plans to grow the business and make use of the great view platform at the north side of the house, overlooking Georgiana Smith (the name of the original property owner) park.

Currently, the Stoltzes have released a Pinot Noir, a Pink (lighter blend of pinot noir, malbec and sangiovese), a Chardonnay and a Zweigelt — rare in the Northwest, but Austria’s most popular red grape varietal. Tasting room hours are still in flux, so just drop by and pray for luck. Or call 541-436-2543.

Flotsom and Jetsons from the daily litter fence …

25 Jun

So I see a reporter callout for info from women winemakers two days ago, and today, I learn of a post-n-rant by a woman winemaker, in which she says that if she had it to do over again, she would put her winery in Cowlitz or HOOD RIVER county. She extolls the idea of the Fruit Loop, although she misfires in noting that it’s a government-supported enterprise. Propped, yes, with occasional support from the Visitor Council, which uses tax money generated off hotel beds, but not a government effort …

Did you know that Keenwire is looking for an RF engineer? Did you know that Keenwire was … what the heck is Keenwire? Well, it’s in Hood River, and deals with broadband issues, and … stay tuned. I want to know as bad as you do …

“Hood River, the city, is like a cross between Hawaii, with its blue water and steep green cliffs, and British Columbia, with its piney woods and snow-capped …” So begins a blog post on Notes from the Road, in which travel writer and photographer Erik Gauger raves about our fair city, but dings one of our favorite neighbors for plastic potted plants at its gateway. Oops. …

Waterfront dining in Hood River? Why has it taken me so long to discover the Sandbar Cafe? Guess I was always in too much of a rush to rig and rock. Well, today the missus and her Buzzboy did burgers and an unwrapped grilled chicken wrap (she’s avoiding gluten). Under the umbrella. On the deck, Overlooking the sunken kite spit and the SUP’ers cruising by in the Nichols Boat Basin. When the sandbar blocked access to the dock by the sternwheeler in 2006, it left a dock perfectly suited for sunshine munchin’. Comfy lounge chairs, too. And canned beer, too! …

The Waucoma Club is up and running at 207 Cascade Ave. One disgruntled (no doubt) former habitue of the former occupant, the River City Saloon, flamed off some gripes to the Buzz (not permitted past the gate). Hey, if you want to get hammered, or ticked-off because the bartenders actually do their jobs and cut you off when you go VIP, I say more power to the new crew. Someone else wondered why they hadn’t put seats by the windows. ‘Scuse me? You want a view of Mall 202? Place looks nice inside. Several screens to monitor sports action. Someone was kicking a ball aimlessly around a big green field when I dropped by. Wonder what THAT was about? …

New store going in at the Hood River Square. One called Yummy. In between Pizzicato and Quizno’s. Hmm. Wonder if it has anything to do with food? Awaiting a callback, for details …

Love that monster sculpture outside Columbia Arts, but the thing is a bit of a traffic hazard. Seriously, it hangs into the street, and the delivery trucks were halfway into traffic the other day because they couldn’t get past the sculpture into the loading zone. Where’s Dave when we need him? …

Kudos to the Port of Hood River. Its new Halyard Building on Portway is a beauty, and we love the cistern at the west end. Capture water in the wet, dribble it out in the dry. And did you notice the lack of sewer odor downwind of the grinder? The new lagoon cap is doing a fine job of reducing atmospheric taint. …

Hey, what do you think about City Manager Bob Francis’ idea of including a home-brewing contest at this year’s Hops Fest? Ladies and gentlemen, start your carboys …

Urban renewal — what’s in it for the Heights?

23 Jun

Great presentation Thursday, June 17, at the Heights Business Association meeting on the topic of urban renewal districts, and how one might work if the city were to adopt one for the Heights.

City Manager Bob Francis opened the presentation. Elaine Howard, a consulting partner with Tashman Johnson LLC, the city’s urban renewal consultants, expanded the topic.

An urban renewal district creates a way to share tax revenues for infrastructure improvements — things like sidewalks, streets, lights. It does that by freezing the amount of  tax revenues from the urban renewal area to the amount generated at the time the district is created.

People say the “tax base is frozen.” Actually, the tax base continues to increase in value as improvements occur and, theoretically, investors put money into new projects in urban renewal area. But the tax revenue from that “incremental” increase in value is diverted to pay back bonds sold to fund improvements.

So the simple fact is, an urban renewal district does not increase taxing authority beyond what voters have already approved. But because it diverts money from taxing districts, it requires those districts to approve creation of the urban renewal area.

“There may be opposition from our other taxing districts, because everybody is hurting for revenues,” Francis acknowledged.

Francis noted that as a result of the urban renewal district covering downtown since 1986, taxing districts have forgone about $547,000 in revenue per year. The new streets, underground utility improvements, new light poles, sidewalks and tree wells are the result of that. The district was scheduled to end in 2011, but the District had another $7.1 million in projects — improvements to State Street between 9th and 13th — so the expiration of the district was extended another 10 years.

Francis noted that the Waterfront Urban Renewal District funded odor controls at the city’s waste treatment plant, which in turn helped the Port of Hood River construct the Halyard Building on Portway, and recruit ANPC as its sole tenant.

Howard said that before an urban renewal district is created, a feasibility study looks at the target area to determine its potential for increased investment (and assessed value). If a city creates a district and overall property value stays the same, no tax increment occurs — and no way to fund improvements.

If the city of Hood River decides to move ahead and create an urban renewal district, it would form an Urban Renewal Agency with seven members. Public hearings help define the plan, which must also pass scrutiny of the Planning Commission, to make sure it complies with the city’s comprehensive plan. Throughout the process, all affected property owners are notified that a district is being considered.

District plans must clearly specify how much money will be spent, and on what. A plan also must specify its duration. Typical plans run for 20 years. After an urban renewal district expires, all revenue — including the “increment,” from what officials hope is greatly higher assessed value — is apportioned to local taxing districts.

Out of nowhere, a bit of chocolate “bark” as “thanks”

23 Jun

I had to buy a necklace for my wife to get my first taste of Katrina’s Gourmet Chocolate. It’s not a new business — Katrina Staigle (pronounced stag-lee) started her business in 2001 — but it was new to me, when I got a packet of her Oregon Hazelnut “bark” with a recent birthday gift purchase at Hood River Jewelers.

You know what “bark” is, don’t you? Well, I didn’t either, until she explained.

I thought it came from a tree. But in this context, it’s flat chocolate, broken into shards.

The bag that Chris and Julie gave me was a nice retailing touch, and the chocolate was tres tastee, too. Staigle lives in Hood River, but runs her business out of a shop in Mt. Hood. She used to have a candy store where Footwise was, at Third and Cascade, then moved west to the block where Windermere Real Estate is. She closed that store in 2005, and started selling wholesale.

“Wineries mostly,” she says. “We’re at Multnomah Falls, the Gorge Discovery Center. I’m hoping to pick up a few more clients.”

She’s learned what she doesn’t like to do. No more truffles — too labor-intensive — and as little shipping as possible — too spendy.

She’d rather focus on quality.

“I blend my own chocolate, no wax or oils, it’s always fresh,” she says. “I make it myself, do my own packaging, labels, do the dishes, mop the floors.”

Or, as the old saying goes, if you want something done right, do it yourself. 541-380-1010 or by e-mail.