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Monday, May 23, 2022

Sailing on Downtown’s Waters

When Joel Miller vacationed across the pond several years ago, he returned with the most unlikely of souvenirs: a paper boat race.

Miller, head of the planning and entitlements team at the Psomas engineering firm in downtown Los Angeles, visited friends in Tattingstone, England, in 2008 and noticed a trophy for the town’s annual paper yacht race. He asked about the prize and was so inspired that he decided to start a paper boat race sponsored by Psomas – but with a few tweaks.

“Each year, they float their paper boats in the lake, and the boat that is the last to sink is the one that wins the trophy,” Miller said. “But I didn’t know that boats will float for hours and hours if you construct them well enough. So instead of making it an endurance contest, it’s a race.”

But finding a location for the race wasn’t easy.

Miller, 60, asked several downtown buildings if he could use their pools, but they asked for thousands of dollars to rent the bodies of water. So he approached Psomas’ landlord, Thomas Properties Group, about staging the race in the fountain of downtown’s City National Plaza building.

Thomas Properties agreed to let Miller use the fountain for free and now, the fourth annual Psomas Paper Yacht Challenge is being staged there Wednesday. Miller is hoping to raise $10,000 from entry fees and a silent auction for the Los Angeles Ronald McDonald House.

So, does Miller also have his sites set on winning this year’s race?

“I’m not good at arts and crafts. It takes me three minutes to make my paper yacht and I don’t win,” he said. “But my yacht has never sunk.”

Surprise Honor

Barry Levin might start double-checking before throwing out junk mail from now on.

The chief executive of City of Industry food manufacturer Snak King Corp. recently learned through a letter in the mail that he was named Small-Business Person of the Year in Los Angeles by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Thinking it was just junk mail, though, he almost tossed it.

“It was very shocking going through my mail,” said Levin, 53, who was feted for his accomplishment at a luncheon this month.

He also was named California Small-Business Person of the Year and was nominated for the national award. As a result, he got a trip to Washington, D.C., and even a tour of the White House.

Levin said one of his company’s banks nominated him because Snak King persevered through tough times a few years ago when its factory roof caved in. Levin and his workers rebuilt the business “almost from scratch.”

What else does Snak King’s bank appreciate so much about it?

“The fact we pay our bills,” Levin said.

Staff reporters Alexa Hyland and Richard Clough contributed to this column. Page 3 is compiled by Editor Charles Crumpley. He can be reached at ccrumpley@labusinessjournal.com.

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