Hello, it's me. It can be awkward to be new. Even more so when it’s “new” twice over. A new column, covering business and work in Cascadia, by a newly birthed Bellinghamster, moving from points south in the state at the cusp of 2022.
So let me start by introducing myself. My name is Frank Catalano, and I’ll be your Cascadia Daily News business columnist today. I’ll begin at the bottom and work my way up, as many in business do.
First, the new location. After more than four decades in the Seattle area — and having repeatedly visited Bellingham — my wife and I decided it was time to move to a city that had the hiking, trees, water and liveliness that we loved, without the municipal problem-solving paralysis and impenetrable regional traffic. (Yes, I was the one quoted in an early CDN story who described Bellingham’s concerns about a rush hour as “kind of adorable.” Sorry about that. Still true, relatively speaking.)
We arrived in December 2021, one week before the Arctic freeze that had me hoping our home’s previous owners knew how to wrap crawl space pipes. I rapidly got to know several local businesses that were experts in dealing with rotted deck posts, roof leaks and garage door springs that snapped in the bitter cold.
Each of these engagements I had to approach with fresh eyes. I had no choice. I’d never interacted with any business here meaningfully, beyond eating a nice Colophon Café breakfast or staying at the Springhill Suites on visits. I was suddenly researching and absorbing business details as a matter of need.
That brings me to the second new development: this column. While I’m new to Whatcom County, I’m not a business or writing novice. I’ve had long parallel careers as a company executive and as a columnist. I’ve served as a vice president or chief marketing officer for several firms, from international publisher Pearson to education technology startup ParentSquare, plus I’ve consulted many more on business matters.
You’ll find I decode corporate jargon so fast it’ll make every stakeholder want to loop back and re-sync.
As a writer, I was a founding columnist and longtime contributor to the Pacific Northwest technology news site GeekWire. I’ve also written regular columns for Puget Sound Business Journal, EdSurge and Seattle Weekly (under the once-clever, now-trite title “Byte Me”).
Even further back, I was a full-time broadcast journalist at radio stations in California, Idaho, Wisconsin and Washington state, wrapping up that phase of my working life at an all-news station in Seattle. I paid reporter dues from Santa Maria to Boise to Green Bay, winning a few nice-but-forgettable awards along the way.
You’ll find I ask a lot of direct questions, and keep asking until I get an answer or everyone’s exhausted.
Both company and columnist skill sets will come into play in this CDN role, as will my fresh set of eyes on Cascadia business. I don’t know the players here, except on a surface level. I love doing research. I want to avoid boneheaded mistakes, which I expect you’ll point out. But I also want to find new takes on businesses and business activity that may have become effectively invisible to longtime locals because of their familiarity.
My overall approach will be to examine developments in business, broadly defined. Not only what’s happening with individual businesses in our region, but also what’s going on with labor and the work we all do in pursuit of commerce and paying our bills. There will be news, analysis and sometimes a bit of wry commentary.
It’s not trite to say the pandemic has caused us to be more aware of businesses and employees we once might have taken for granted. In many ways, we’re all now looking at business and work with fresh eyes, whether it’s from adapting to long-term home offices or viewing the supply chain through a lens of gauzy toilet paper.
Fresh eyes can mean seeing things you weren’t aware of before, or a new perspective on what already is seen. I hope you’ll let this newbie provide both, every week.
People news and press releases, please
Know of a business opening, closing or moving? How about a new exec at a local business or other organization? Send the announcement or information to firstname.lastname@example.org. I can’t guarantee I’ll use everything, or even that I’ll be able to reply. But if you’re in the region we at CDN serve — Whatcom, Skagit, Island and San Juan counties — I want to know about it. I’m needy that way.
Unintended financial literacy education?
Finally, a tip of the hat to the Bellingham City Council for helping educate more kids and adults about coins. The revised downtown paid parking hours and new Fairhaven metered spaces had some of us searching to see if we even had quarters to feed downtown’s one-levered bandits. Yes, there is an app for that, and credit cards are accepted by Fairhaven’s Daleks. But there is something soberingly educational about digging in a desk for a handful of quarters, finding one dated 1970 and realizing that, up until 2005, it would have bought an hour of street space.
Frank Catalano’s column appears Wednesdays. Email: email@example.com; Twitter @FrankCatalano.