During a recent trip to the west coast, I had occasion to spend some time with a client in the historical Silicon Valley.
Located in the southern part of the San Francisco Bay Area in Northern California, this high-tech economic center is home to a large number of innovative business leaders, such as: Yahoo, Google, eBay, Oracle, Microsoft, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, and Cisco.
It seems peculiar, indeed, to be able to view so many iconic trademarks gracing state-of-the-art structures situated in such close quarters. In short, it’s quite a neighborhood!
The Silicon Valley originally referred to the region’s large number of silicon chip innovators and manufacturers but eventually came to refer to all the high-tech businesses in the area; it is now generally recognized as a leading high-tech sector. This technical hub boasts a large number of engineers and venture capitalists.
In this lap of luxury, one could easily assume that local residents were weathering the nation’s current economic storm better than most. Then, of course, one should never assume.
My first night in town, I visited a grocery store located a few blocks from my hotel in the center of the city in search of a few office supplies. Entering the store, I must admit I was shocked to see a large end-cap display of SPAM luncheon meat … known to many as “America’s Mystery Meat.” SPAM, a gelatinous 12-ounce rectangle of spiced ham and pork, may be among the world’s most maligned foods, dismissed as inedible by many food elites. However, through several wars and recessions, Americans have turned to this glistening canned product from Hormel as a way to save money while still putting something that resembles meat on the table.
Apparently, it’s happening again. At a time when U.S. unemployment numbers continue to grow, employees at the Hormel Foods plant are currently working at a furious pace and piling up as much overtime work as they want.
Two shifts of workers have been making SPAM seven days a week since July, and they have been told the relentless work schedule will continue indefinitely.
Apparently consumers are rediscovering relatively cheap foods, SPAM among them. A 12-ounce can of SPAM costs about $2.40 and is reported by many to be quite tasty. The Hormel plant is producing about 150,000 cans of SPAM per shift. This iconic hard-times food must be popular as it has produced a SPAM fan club, a SPAM museum, a SPAMmobile, a SPAM store, and even SPAM festivals.
How ironic to find this economic offering stacked head high in the heart of what is considered to be one of the wealthiest regions of our country. It is certainly a sign of the times.