The Newsletter

The Girl Scouts' regional Totem Council got a high-powered shot in the arm for its fund-raising effort yesterday with a talk by Carly Fiorina, chairwoman and chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, one of only two women to head a Fortune 500 company

Fiorina hit some familiar themes: the power of this digital age to change everything from the way companies are run to helping the world's poor. She stressed leadership, from the role business can play as a change agent to the Girl Scouts and their "small acts of leadership and courage."

In the connected world of CEOs, she was introduced by Boeing Chairman Phil Condit, who serves on the board of Hewlett-Packard.

Fiorina takes her leadership role to heart. In a year, she has revamped H-P, collapsing 83 profit centers into 12. "A company is a system," she says, and a leader needs to have the courage and capability to tackle everything at once.

Not an easy task. H-P missed earnings projections by a dime in its fiscal fourth quarter last month, the first stumble under the new CEO. At a meeting yesterday, however, Fiorina told financial analysts HP is on track to meet revenue and earnings projections for fiscal 2001, despite an economic slowdown.

Giving Back: corporate division. Boeing gave the Girl Scout fund-raiser a great start. Condit handed a Boeing check for $25,000 to the group as he introduced Fiorina.

Early snowpack reports are running well below average for this time of year, a reflection of the colder but drier fall in the Northwest. Snow depths are only about 50 percent of average across Washington state.

"It's way too early to make a forecast," said Scott Pattee, water-supply specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The keepers of a network of snow-measuring devices called Snotels do not even make a report until January.

But a drier than normal winter could have devastating effects on the region. Snowpack in the mountains is like a bank, holding water needed throughout the year for irrigation, power and fish runs. The region's power system is already under stress and lower than normal stream flows could make things even worse.

Five good years of rain, snow and snowpack have hidden the potential problem from the region. We'll keep an eye on it.

Interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week on Stephen Nelson and Redmond Technology Press. Nelson started his business about 18 months ago.

In a nutshell, the story goes like this: The Louis L'Amour of computer books gets tired of writing books for the big guys. He strikes out on his own and starts Redmond Technology Press. Surprisingly, he succeeds by targeting a niche: business people.

Nelson's Redmond Press has produced nine books to date and plans eight more by March. His most recent book is typical of the kind of "manual" he produces. It's the "MBA's Guide to the Internet."

Boeing plants everywhere are about to settle in for their long winter's nap. Two weeks from today, on Dec. 22, the company will start its annual holiday break, giving all its employees the rest of the year off.

That amounts to seven working days off, including Christmas and New Year's days. The break is a longtime tradition for the world's largest plane maker, and one that is spreading farther and wider around the world as Boeing makes more acquisitions. This year, 197,000 Boeing employees, including nearly 78,000 in Washington, will take the time off.

And this year there's an extra bonus: Soon after the workers get back on the job Jan. 2, between 80,000 and 85,000 of them will receive annual cash bonuses equal to 6.6 days' pay. The bonus program, in its first year, is based on Boeing's year-end earnings, which will be reported in mid-January. The bonuses will be paid sometime after that.

Don't look now, but the mighty dollar is beginning to slip against the long-suffering euro. The European common currency has been in a slump since it was introduced almost two years ago. It's been a bit of an embarrassment for the European Union. But if the U.S. economy continues to slow, the euro should gain.

The Newsletter column by Stephen H. Dunphy

appears Tuesday to Friday in the Business Section of The Seattle Times.

His Economic Memo runs in the Sunday Business Section of The Times.

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