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Catalog aids our smallest industrialists

A nonprofit economic development enterprise in Northern California gota $95,000 Forest Service grant to help out small-scale artisans.

Great Northern Corp., based in Weed, planned to gather up a catalog ofproducts to market across the nation, says Jim Cook, community developmentcoordinator.

Great Northern was already hip-deep in a bunch of projects, includinghousing assistance, a residence for developmentally disabled adults andsalmon fishery improvement in California.

But Cook knew marketing outside the region is the key to boosting incomefor the artisans, and the key to that is a catalog.

We did a feasibility study that basically said we were crazy totry it, he said. I was in Ashland asking about a catalog designand I was told about Northwest's Best.

The 3-year-old Medford catalog business, started by Jan Lajoie and herdaughter, Jamie, already provides a marketing vehicle for Northwesternersproducing arts and crafts.

They got together to sort out an arrangement whereby Great Northern paidfor half of the artists' $450 marketing fee for the 25 that were includedin the June catalog.

It's not easy to qualify for inclusion: All of the products are juried.

Others among the 200 Great Northern clients will be included in catalogson the Northwest's Best Ltd. drawing board.

They also had about 40 food producers and we were already thinkingabout putting out a food catalog, she said.

The company sent out 100,000 catalogs in June; this fall it will mail200,000 fall and winter catalogs and 200,000 food catalogs.

Cook said the artisans are getting far more exposure through the catalogcompany than he could get through self-publication. And he says the collaborationis a great success.

We put together a public-private partnership, Cook said.We're really proud of that -- it's extremely difficult.

The economic development partnerships also provided capital to help expandthe fast growing -- 53 percent this year -- catalog business.

Finding capital has been the toughest part, Lajoie said.The partnerships and private funding sources have enabled the company togrow to five full-timers and two part timers.

The catalog company also entered into a similar partnership with CurryCounty agencies that added work from seven artists along with a responsecard.

We've had a — percent return, which is pretty good, Lajoiesaid. They include responses from France, Italy and South Africa.

About 65 percent of the catalog's business comes from the Eastern seaboard,she says.

About 200 artists benefit from inclusion in the catalog.

It's been difficult to sell the concept to the economic developmentpeople, Lajoie said. They're so tuned in to looking at the Wal-Martsand Green Machines, companies that will come in with a building and 100jobs.

She said Jackson County Commissioner Ric Holt was the first to catchon.

We're providing 100 jobs for people -- displaced from mills orfisheries, single parents -- who can stay in communities like Drain andOphir.

Artisans from Douglas County to Mendocino County have work in the catalog.They include people like Ted Young, who worked in the woods for 40 yearsand now produces wooden log trucks and other toys.

Lew Myer was an electrician in Southern California who wanted to liveon the beach at Brookings. He started out producing whistling walking sticksand now makes 11 items for the catalog, including a $9,500 chuckwagon.

Lajoie says she's proud of producing a catalog that brings long-termstability to people rocked by changes in their lives and the economy.

This is not just a glitzy catalog, she said. We arethat, but we're also an economic growth tool.

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