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Office Hours

Archive for August 2010

Pear Tree Inn site about to be a brew pub, plus other Manito spaces still available

A new restaurant-pub will be going into the space in Manito Shopping Center last used by Pear Tree Inn. The owner of the new pub wants to lie low just a week or so longer; we’ll talk with the owner and provide some of the details within the next 10 days.

Meanwhile, here’s the recap of what’s happening in the center, courtesy of NAI Black broker Colin Conway.

Of course, Ross Dress for Less is taking a large portion of the old Gottschalk’s Building there.

On the main level, the former Red Carpet Travel space, next to the Pear Tree, is available. It has about 1,500 square feet, said Conway.

Also for lease is roughly 12,000 square feet in the upper corner of the Ross building. Conway said he’s working with possible tenants but nothing’s been firmed up.

Spokane recovering, Kootenai County still in recession

Spokane’s economy is recovering, Coeur d’Alene’s remains in recession, according to a new analysis of June data released Monday by Moody’s Economy.com.

But the Kootenai County city’s ranking for cost of doing business and cost of living are slightly better than those for Spokane, as is projected employment growth through 2011, the noted economic research firm concluded.

Offseting Coeur d’Alene’s the positives are retreating home prices, which significantly exceeded national levels three years ago, says Moody’s, which looked at 392 urban markets.

Spokane was ranked 149th for job growth, compared with 41st for Coeur d’Alene. Cost of business in Spokane was 81 percent of the national average, Coeur d’Alene’s was 76 percent.

In cost of living, Spokane was 97 percent of the national average, Coeur d’Alene was 96 percent.

Stoneship: Cyan moves from big games, looking to sell small games via apps

Whether or not Cyan Worlds ever gets around to doing another large Myst-style game/online world, the Mead-based software company is turning out a number of quicker, easier-to-build games for the iOS platform.

Here’s how Cyan’s CEO Rand Miller described the focus of Stoneship, the new App to be released soon. Screenshots from Stoneship were provided courtesy of Tony Fryman, Cyan’s president.
Cyan Worlds has managed to become somewhat proficient with iOS (iPhone, iPod touch, iPad) development after our conversions of Myst, The Manhole, and Riven (coming soon).

Among our small team of programmers we had a couple guys who had an idea for a new iOS game - something specifically for the iOS platform and different from Cyan Worlds’ usual direction. We gave the go ahead and Stoneship was born.

With our reduced staff and resources it’s a huge advantage to have smaller development projects that we wrap up a little quicker. And developing for iOS is also great for small developers like us, because we can self-publish in the App store very easily.

The iOS platform has enough advantages that we’ll be doing more projects in the future.

New Sterling chairman paid $1.5 million

New Sterling Financial Corp. Chairman Les Biller was paid $1.5 million to accept the position, and will receive a total $4.5 million by Dec. 31, 2012, unless he resigns.

Biller’s compensation was listed in a Monday filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The filing also disclosed the resignatiion of all but four members of the Sterling board of directors following completion Thursday of a $730 million recapitalization.

The appointment of Biller, a former vice chairman of Wells Fargo, helped attract private investors who participated in the recapitalization. According to the letter offering Biller the job, he invested between $4 million and $7 million of his own money in Sterling.

Biller succeeds William “Ike” Eisenhart, who became chairman when Sterling co-founder Harold Gilkey was forced out last October by regulators.

Eisenhart remains on the board along with other holdovers Ellen Boyer, Michael Reuling, and Greg Seibly, Sterlings chief executive officer.

OK, Deer Park, that golf course is yours. Now what happens?

Without being there, it became difficult for Office Hours to track the sales of the numerous parcels auctioned off Thursday at the Deer Park auction.

We confirmed that the City of Deer Park paid $850,000 for the 18-hole course. Mayor Robert Whisman said he was told the city “hit the lottery” for getting the course at that price. He was told it should fetch at least $3 million, Whisman said Friday.

We couldn’t determine what the auction netted for other parcels auctioned off by Williams & Williams. A company spokesman said, by phone, it doesn’t reveal purchase prices, leaving that information to buyers and sellers.

We couldn’t reach any of the owner-sellers, who are members of Warren Development, based in Chehalis. If any buyers of the other pieces auctioned off want to contact us, we’d like to hear about it.

Beyond the golf course, the other plum properties in the auction were the Spokane RV Resort, which has 180 or so RV pads, covering more than 45 acres; and a large number of undeveloped residential lots.

Deer Park city officials ended up writing a check for more than $1 million for their new recreation spot, having to add $210,000 for 60 golf carts, mowers, tools, building fixtures and seller’s fees, Whisman said.

Numerica assets reach $1 billion

Numerica Credit Union assets have reached $1 billion, Chief Executive Officer Dennis Cutter said Friday.

He said the Spokane-based credit union reached the benchmark because of internal growth, and the merger with the School Employees Federal Credit Union of Richland in May.

The merger also helped lift Numerica membership to 85,000.

 

Who’s had any success from the Get Motivated event?

We’ve gotten a few calls from folks who attended the recent Get Motivated event, held on Aug. 17 at the Spokane Arena. The event featured some heavy hitters, like Colin Powell, talking about what helps define success, and how to gain success.

The event also included several pitch men who sell a variety of get-rich schemes and plans. All the calls or messages received by Office Hours, so far, have said the Get Motivated event is a long informercial, all designed to upsell products developed by the pitch sales people.

In a desire to be fair, we’d like to hear from people who bought some or any of the products or services available via the event. Tell us what you got and how it’s working out. Send comments to business@spokesman.com and for the subject, write “Motivated.”

Thanks

 

City of Deer Park gets into the golf course business

The City of Deer Park is the proud new owner of the Deer Park Golf Club.

The SR will have a detailed story in Friday’s editions. But today’s auction, still in progress as of 3:24 p.m. Thursday, did resolve the question: How much is the Deer Park Gold Club worth?

The answer: $850,000. Which is less than the current owners hoped to get. At one time the course was the centerpiece of an ambitious $32 million development its developers hoped would turn the quiet little burg on the north edge of Spokane County into the next Sandpoint, or perhaps the next Gleneden.

The buyer is the City of Deer Park. As the main person answering the phone today at the city hall said, “Every city needs a golf course, right?”

The auction will also sell off an adjoining Spokane RV Resort, a condo and numerous parcels of land. The full rundown will come no later than tomorrow on this blog, with the main points in Friday’s Saturday business section.

 

Sterling completes recapitalization

Sterling Financial Corp. has completed the $730 million recapitalization plan announced last week.

The money from a mixture of institutional and individual investors will bring the parent of Sterling Savings Bank back into compliance with regulatory capital requirements, Chief Executive Officer Greg Seibly said.

Sterling reserves had been drained by substantial losses on real estate and construction loans.

“The successful completion of this capital raise helps position Sterling as a premier community banking franchise in the Pacific Northwest,” said Seibly, who added thanks to customers and employees who remained loyal while the bank solved its capital problems. 

COMING SUNDAY: Just how did Sterling Financial Corp. pull off the $730 million recapitalization plan? Read Bert Caldwell’s story in our Sunday Business section.

Kendall Yards building Monroe access

Residents of Kendall Yards may have direct access to Monroe Street by the end of the year, weather-permitting, Wayne Frost said today.

The vice president of Greenstone Corp.’s commercial division said Ide Ave., which connects with Monroe just north of the Spokane River bridge, will be obliterated, as will the retaining wall supporting the sidewalk on its south side.

Some of that work, which includes the installation of water, sewer and other utilities, has already been done or is under way, he said.

In place of Ide, Frost said, Greenstone will build an extension of Bridge Ave. west from Monroe to a new section of Jefferson St. Jefferson will link Broadway Ave. to Summit Parkway, the main street of Kendall Yards.

The parkway will eventually run all the way through the development to Summit Blvd. on its west end, he said, but construction this fall will take the new road west only as far as Elm, where the first homes are being built.

Drivers on Bridge will have to yield to stop signs as they approach Monroe, he said.

Council Connection features call-in session on women and personal finance

This marks a first: a program on the Spokane local government TV channel earns a post on the Office Hours business blog.

This Thursday’s “Council Connection,” the Channel 5 program featuring Spokane City Council members as hosts, will include a session entitled “Enhance Your Assets—A Financial Forum for Women.”

It airs live Thursday, Aug. 26, at 7 p.m. on CityCable 5.  Council Member Amber Waldref (in photo) will host the program with guest Julie Griffith, regional director of Money Management International and co-chair of the group’s Creating Assets Savings & Hope Financial Education Committee.

Also aboard will be Sue Welberry, another member of the Creative Assets committee and a staff worker at WorkSource Spokane.

Viewers can call in questions on the topic, using 625-6337.

 

TierPoint in Liberty Lake adds capacity, plans for the future with a green data center


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Liberty Lake-based data center TierPoint has two announcements this week. First, it’s upgraded its network to 50 gigabits per second capacity.

Second, it’s announced an $8.2 million project to build a third center, TierPoint 3, just down the street from its first and second centers.

The network upgrade means customers who provide Internet and network services from TierPoint will see a faster connection, and even more reliable service, and those who host from the Libery Lake center will have more bandwidth available, said Dan Seliger, one of the partners of the company.

With the new data center, roughly 10,000 square feet, TierPoint is adopting a Green approach to cooling, relying on a system that will draw underground water and use it to cool off the rack room.

About $4.1 million of capital for the project came from financing from Bank of America/Merrill Lynch; another $3.1 million came from Evergreen Business Capital; with another $3.1 million provided by a small business loan through the Small Business Administration (SBA).

TIerPoint, which was founded by tech guru Bernard Daines, provided the remaining $1.0 million.

It’s expected to be operating next spring.

Inside the secret world of Trader Joe’s

You may think we’re on vacation here at OfficeHours central, but no. We do work a full shift, even in August.

We continue pondering the puzzle that is Trader Joe’s, which like Apple, ranks among the most secretive operations on the planet.

Many folks in Spokane know we have had antennae out, probing for signals that the TJ fleet plans to land a new store in the area. We’ve had e-mails, some blog posts and other signs suggesting something may be up. 

Officially, the answer from TJ’s has been: Spokane is not in the company’s two-year plan.

So there. In the meantime, you TJ fans can learn quite a bit more in the newest issue of CNNMoney magazine about the very private world that the California-based, German company-owned Trader Joe’s operates in.

The CNNMoney magazine article has several nice points to make about how the company got that way. Its popularity goes well beyond fan loyalty. Much like Apple, TJ’s invokes a fanatic faith that people in Spokane can identify with.


 

Comcast rolling out ultra-fast broadband for area businesses

Comcast is rolling out, without fanfare, a much faster broadband service for businesses.

Spokane and just about all other Washington Comcast metros can now sign up for 100 Mbps  Business Class Internet Service.

This is an upgrade that roughly doubles what business customers of Comcast have been getting — namely about 50 megabits per second for a price of $189.95. The new service, which hasn’t even been marketed yet, jumps download speeds to 100 Mbps and upload speeds to 15 Mbps.

The price at the fast fast faster speed is about $369.95 per month. For that price the service is bundled with lots of other goodies, such as a Microsoft Exchange service and Symantec antivirus for up to 25 machines.

Comcast has other other slower-bandwidth options at lower prices for businesses as well.

Walt Neary, a Comcast spokesman, noted that the upgrade provides some of the fastest broadband service available in the nation.

Where already tested, the Comcast Business Class service gives medical companies and large firms with huge data needs plenty of options, Neary noted.

One example:  a high-resolution medical image or a large design file of 2 gigabytes could be downloaded in roughly 2.5 minutes on the Business Class service.. Neary said the same file would take 3 hours on the “typical” business T1 line that can download at 1.5 megabits per second.


 

Three state companies make the Fortune fastest-growing list

Three Washington businesses  — Amazon, Coinstar and F5 Networks — have been added to Fortune mag’s list of 100 fastest growing companies.

All three have headquarters in the Seattle area. F5, which makes network management services and tools, has an engineering office in Liberty Lake.

Amazon moved to No. 30 from its previous rank of No. 52. Bellevue’s Coinstar ranked No. 61, followed by F5 Networks at No. 64.

Fortune’s full list is here.  The Sept. 6 issue also features a section on Washington, profiling the state as a center for world-class innovation and featuring its new export initiative, designed to complement President Obama’s National Export Initiative.

You can see the Washington special section at ChooseWashington.com.

Idaho bars Apply 2 Save owner

Derek Oberholtzer will never again operate a mortgage-modification business, or any other credit-counseling service, in Idaho.

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden Monday announced that the owner of Coeur d’Alene-base Apply 2 Save, which closed last year, has consented to a settlement that will deny him a license in any activity regulated by the Idaho Department of Finance.

Oberholtzer and Apply 2 Save filed bankruptcies after collecting millions in fees from hundreds of homeowners hoping to renegotiate payment terms on their mortgages. Most received little, if any, help.

Wasden sued the company and owner in April 2009, since obtaining $45,000 in restitution.   

The Northwest wind turbine industry waits to see what California will do

Another surge is taking place just west and south of Spokane County; it’s the fast growth in the number of wind turbines going up along the Columbia River and in other plateau areas of central Washington and Oregon.

In Sunday’s Spokesman-Review business section, columnist Bert Caldwell will tackle the implications of two California energy measures that would impact the wind turbine industry, a growing player in the Northwest energy picture.

Caldwell’s column notes: “More and more of new generating capacity is built for California consumption: 40 percent in 2009, 66 percent this year. Drive Interstate 90 up the Vantage Hill or through the Kittitas Valley and the size of the investment is new windmills is breathtaking.”

If either of of those California measures is adopted, some of central Washington’s turbines might have to find new power customers.

To bone up or get more information on the topic, we want to mention a study produced by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, in the Tri-Cities.  While this study is a bit wonky, one could learn a lot about wind energy by poking around and getting familiar with the key issues. The study is “Long Term Modeling of Wind Energy in the United States.”   It’s at this link.

 

Apple retail store, downtown Spokane, phase one

The company doing the construction work at the former Eddie Bauer building, in downtown Spokane, recently painted a plywood sheet black to block views of renovations inside the retail office space, at 710 W. Main.

We knew for months that this is the Apple retail store going into River Park Square. Today a workman was adding a stenciled Apple logo to the black wall. We got this image. This is just a temporary wall but it’s the only “official” indication the store is going in. Sometime in the fall the store logo will be added to the facade.

We asked Apple headquarters for comment and received a note saying no announcement yet has been made. Which is Apple’s way of saying, “It doesn’t count until we say it does.”

The opening will be in the fall but an exact date isn’t set yet.

The Joel Building retains a piece of the past

The partners developing the Lofts at Joel, at 165 S. Post, in downtown Spokane, have told the previous owner they will take care to preserve some of the building’s history.

They bought the building from the Ferris family, whose patriarch, Joel Ferris, gave the building the locally memorable title, the Joel Building. The original design for the three-story building was done by noted architect Kirtland Cutter.

This photo of the south exterior wall shows the sign that hung on the building for years, until the retailer shut its doors in 2005.

Developers Ron Wells, Bill Main and Bob Anderson told the Ferris family they’ll place that Joel sign, complete with red apple inside, as a memento. They plan to install it to a wall in the basement garage.

Jos. A. Bank moves to Talbots site

This is not exactly big or surprising news. Jos. A. Bank, a menswear retailer, will move from its current 811 W. Main address in downtown Spokane to a new location in River Park Square, opening in November.

Jos. A. Bank is taking the spot down the street previously leased by Talbots. Talbots has not said if it will open a new area store.

The Mobius Science Center will take over the ground level of 811 and 809 W. Main, opening its doors in 2012, its nonprofit board announced this week.

Both buildings — River Park Square and the West 809 Building across the street — are owned by the Cowles Co., which also owns The Spokesman-Review.

Banner Bank’s Jones retires

Long-time Spokane banker D. Michael Jones has stepped down as chairman and chief executive officer of Banner Bank and Banner Corp.

He will be succeeded at the Walla Walla bank and holding company by Mark Grescovich, who has been president of both entities since July.

Jones, 68, will remain a corporate and bank director.

Jones was president of Old National Bank before it was purchased by U.S. Bank in 1987, and Source Capital before it was acquired by Sterling Financial Corp. in 2001. ONB and Source were based in Spokane. 

Banner purchased F&M Bank of Rockford in 2006, four years after Jones joined the Walla Walla institution, which in June completed a $162 million stock offering. 

Mortgage modifiers barred,

Three men who operated a Post Falls mortgage modification business will return $7,000 to clients, and pay $1,000 in fees and costs, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said today.

Randy Allen, Clint Paulsen, and Travis Smith did not admit any wrongdoing in a consent agreement that will also bar them from further activity related to negotiating new mortgage terms for distressed homeowners.

Wasden’s office received six complaints about HomeModifier, a business they owned as APS Northwest Idaho LLC. HomeModifier did not have the proper licenses from the Idaho Department of Finance.

Consumers said they paid for services they never received.

“While I understand thate these three men never meant to injure consumers, this case serves as a warning to all modifications companies,” said Wasden, who made scrutiny of mortgage modifiers a priority after Coeur d’Alene-based Apply 2 Save Inc. victimized hundreds of clients before closing in May 2009.

 

Good news in the July jobless numbers, if you look hard

Today, the monthly jobless totals came out, and Spokane County’s July unemployment rate remained unchanged at 8.6 percent. Notably, the 8.6 percent is identical to what it was in July 2009.

Among other notable findings, reported by Washington Employment Security regional labor economist Doug Tweedy:

  • The county’s total workforce fell by about 5,000 jobholders, but the county jobless rate remained the same. Those 5,000 jobs were seasonal workers for school districts who shut down in the summer. Those jobs come back gradually in August and September, he said.
  • Spokane gained 500 private sector jobs in July. Those came in manufacturing, construction and health care, Tweedy said. That gives Spokane County five consecutive months of private sector growth. Even though the job growth is small in that period, that’s a positive trend, he said.
  • Washington’s private sector picked up 3,100 jobs in July.
  • July also saw roughly 2,800 Spokane County initial jobless claims. That’s the lowest initial-claim total since September 2008, Tweedy said.

Get Motivated event packs the Spokane Arena

Today’s really really big Get Motivated event continues as we write.

This photo shows we were there. We heard Krish Dhanam first and then “motivational” salesman Bob Kittell came on stage to pitch his get-rich scheme using stock market analysis. That’s Kitell in this photo, shot in bad light from the back of the hall looking down into the main floor. What’s with the Canadian flag up in the corner?

We missed Colin Powell, who spoke very early on and probably is already out of town. A spokesman for the Get Motivated operation said all the scheduled speakers would be on hand.

The Arena was near capacity for the event. Parking around the Arena and in the overflow area of the Spokane Convention Center was hard to find. How to make money during a Get Motivated event? Run the main parking lots.

 

Spokane home to world’s fastest Subway ‘sandwich artisan’

Just call her flash. If you blink, you may miss Jennifer Underwood make your sandwich.

Underwood, 25, has been crowned the fastest Subway Sandwich artisan in the world. And she fills orders right here in the Lilac City.

The Spokane resident won the the global Sub Jammers’ competition in Chicago, where sandwich artisans representing Subway markets went head-to-head to find out who is the fastest sandwich builder. There were 144 employees from nine countries competing.

With a winning time of 45.3 seconds, Underwood took home the grand prize of $3,000. She was selected to represent Subway restaurants of Spokane after she was deemed the fastest local artisan, which paid her an additional $1,000.

Spokane sees no change in jobless rate

Washington’s private sector picked up 3,100 jobs in July, and the unemployment rate fell for the fourth consecutive month, to 8.9 percent, state officials said this morning.

But payrolls overall were down 2,300 in July due to the elimination of an estimated 5,400 government jobs, mostly for the federal census.

In Spokane County, unemployment last month remained unchanged at 8.6 percent, the Employment Security Department reported. That’s also where it stood a year ago.

The state estimated the county’s unemployment stood at 19,840 people in July, about 600 fewer than in June. But the labor force locally also shrunk between June and July, so the jobless rate remained the same.

TierPoint’s massive new underground tank

The Spokesman-Review and Spokesman.com do a weekly feature, “Here’s the Dirt.”
Today we’re more inclined to feature something called “Here’s the Gravel.”

Liberty Lake-based TierPoint, one of the region’s strongest-growing tech companies, is adding a third data center building on its property on Mission Avenue. On Monday, a 15,000-gallon underground tank went into the ground at TierPoint’s innovative new building, which will be designated TierPoint 3. The tank is roughly 35 30 feet long.

While there are some major innovations being installed there (we’ll get to them in a later story), the center will need a power backup system and diesel generator to insure customers never see a power disruption.

This tank, delivered by Xerxes Corp., of California, is the below-ground solution for having enough diesel should Avista lose power in Liberty Lake.  Many centers insure uninterrupted backup power for two days. TierPoint plans on having nine or more days of backup power if needed.

The photo shows the tank partly buried in gravel. Trucks were hauling in additional gravel that will surround the tank up to its cap.

The company plans on opening the center in spring 2011.

Washington reports big jump in e-filing of taxes

Washingtonians may not like filing taxes, but they sure like electronic filing. More than 70 percent of returns are now filed electronically, the Washington State Department of Revenue says.

The agency reports that nearly 1.3 million of 1.8 million state tax returns were filed electronically this fiscal year. That’s a 30 percent jump over the prior year.

Also, almost three-quarters of all excise taxes are paid electronically.

All that reduction in paperwork helps the state operate more efficiently, and it helps businesses make fewer errors, Revenue Director Cindi Holmstrom said.

E-filing got a big boost last year when the Legislature passed a bill requiring the largest businesses, which report on a monthly basis, to file and pay returns electronically. Most already were doing so, but the law brought in all the rest.

Mansion sells for $2.8 million

An historic Spokane mansion, and one of the city’s largest homes, has sold for $2.8 million.

The seller was Spokane Indians and Spokane Chiefs owner Bobby Brett, who with wife Cathy purchased the property at 612 W. Sumner in 1994 for $1.4 million.

The buyer’s name was not available.

The home was listed in 2008 for $3.25 million. It was most recently assessed at $2.7 million.

The 20,500-square-foot home, designed by Kirtland Cutter, was built in 1917. 

Rudy, Colin Powell, and others will be live at Get Motivated event in Spokane

We’re feeling a bit more motivated about next Tuesday’s mega-event, the Get Motivated session taking place in Spokane.

It’s so big, event organizers have added seating in the Convention Center, so that anyone who can’t or doesn’t want to sit in the Spokane Arena has a second choice.

For event details, go to GetMotivated.com.

We also heard this week that the event DOES include live appearances. None of the seven headliners will appear by satellite, as we earlier feared. A Get Motivated spokesman noted that in some instances, on late notice, a headliner may have to appear by satellite.

But Rudy Giuliani, Gen. Colin Powell, Robert Schuller and others will be in Spokane for the event. Live, not by remote feed, we were told.

Based on past shows, you can expect Powell and Giuliani to appear early in the day, then bug out and head wherever they’re going next.

 

Tax credit boosted home sales

Second-quarter home sales in Washington jumnped almost 28 percent over 2009 levels as buyers rushed to take advantage of an expiring $8,000 federal income tax credit.

But a report released today by the Washington State Real Estate Research Center  also showed median prices fell 6.9 percent compared with the 2009 quarter, to $246,800.

Spokane County home sales increased 23 percent, with the median price slipping 3.7 percent to $171,400.

The center’s results mirrored those of two other reports released this week, one by the Spokane Association of Realtors, the other by on-line service Zillow.

State files a settlement for $1.3 million with Bellevue info-provider Intelius

Washington’s Attorney General announced today (Aug. 10) it’s reached a $1.3 million settlement with Bellevue-based Intelius, Inc., a net information provider that gathers and sells personal information on people from all over the country.

A press release lists the main points of the settlement, filed in King County Superior Court (in a civil, not a criminal action):

  • The settlement stems from an investigations into how Intelius led consumers into unknowing memberships in its “Identify Protect” program. The investigations say numerous residents and customers unwillingly were enrolled and billed for membership in that program, allegedly which protected them from identity theft.
  • Afffected customers who filed complaints were buying a search record from Intelius but also not aware they were signing up for  monthly payments for the Identity Protect program, according to a press release.
  • The agreement also requires that in the future Intelius make it crystal-clear when they are offered additional service plans or monthly services.

The settlement stems from an investigation into how Intelius led consumers into unknowing memberships in its “Identify Protect” program. The investigations say numerous residents and customers unwillingly were enrolled and billed for membership in that program, allegedly which protected them from identity theft.

Intelius banked on consumer confusion, says Washington Attorney General

Approximately $300,000 of the $1.3 million will be used to recover the state’s litigation costs and monitor the restitution program.

Intelius does not acknowledge wrongdoing in signing the settlement. Anyone who might have signed up for the Identity Protect program can qualify for some redress. To see the conditions, go to the rest of this post (below):

 

Rosauers to close Deer Park store

Rosauers Supermarkets Inc. will close its Deer Park store next month, President Jeff Philipps said Tuesday.

More shopper travel to Spokane and competition from a nearby Yoke’s Fresh Market, coupled with the economy’s slowdown, have changed the Deer Park marketplace since Rosauers bought a former Excel Foods locaion on South Fir in 2001, he said.

“We have long considered an update to the facility to better compete,” Philipps said, “but the current site is landlocked by other businesses, and would require an investment that is not economically feasible.”

Employees may receive counseling, severance or help with placement at Yoke’s, he said.

Employees were informed of the company’s decision Monday.

Zillow: Spokane home prices slip

Spokane home prices held up better than those for Seattle and Portland during the year ended June 30, according to on-line price tracker Zillow.

At $158,900, the median price in Spokane slipped 2.6 percent, compared with 5.9 percent for Seattle and 7.1 percent for Portland, where prices were $288,900 and $230,200, respectively.

Prices in Bend, Ore., sank by 21.8 percent, the most in the United States. Prices recovered most strongly in previously hard-hit California markets like San Diego, where prices increased 7.3 percent.

The Spokane Association of Realtors Monday reported a median price decrease of 3.4 percent for August compared with August 2009.

 

Spokane homes sales slow in July

Spokane County homes sales tumbled in July, but prices slipped only slightly from year-ago levels, according to the Spokane Association of Realtors.

A total 347 homes sold during the month, off 36 percent from July 2009 and 31 percent from June, when the last of the sales prompted by an $8,000 federal income tax credit closed. The credit expired April 30.

The July retreat broke a nine-month string of year-over-year sales increases.

Median and average prices sagged to $170,000 and $191,074, respectively, down 3.4 percent and 1.7 percent from July 2009.

The 321 pending sales for July also fell significantly compared with July 2009, which tracks a national downturn Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, said he expects to continue until later in the year.

Although inventories of unsold homes remain high, Yun said prices are stabilizing, or even improving in some harder-hit markets.

In Spokane, 3,500 homes were listed as of Aug. 4, a 10-month inventory at the July rate of sales.

Avista changes power-line strategy due to fire conditions

Avista Corp. is making temporary changes to its power line operations as a result of dry conditions and wildfire risk.
The changes could result in customers being without power for longer periods of time if outages occur, officials said.
Lines are normally reenergized automatically when they’re down. Now, however, line personnel will physically patrol the outage area before the line is put back into service to reduce fire risk.
Affected areas include Spokane, the Palouse and the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley. Depending on weather conditions, other parts of the Avista service territory could also be affected.

Rapid Refill to get a new downtown store

Customers of the Rapid Refill business in downtown Spokane have had to deal with the loss of the one store they had, near Lincoln and Riverside. Owner Stu Zimmerman retired and closed the store in June.

Tony Kiepe, who runs two Rapid Refill stores (in Coeur d’Alene and Spokane Valley) says he’s going to fill the downtown void. He said he hopes by October to open a store for customers to exchange or refill ink cartridges or toner.

He said the likely location will be at Third and Washington.  To get an overview of how Rapid Refill works, see the corporate site.

Website shoutout: Chocolate Apothecary

Another in a series of comments/recommendations about area business websites.

A recent trip to the Flour Mill, on Spokane’s north river bank, led to a pleasant visit to the Chocolate Apothecary. We knew it was there but until last week, we hadn’t paid a visit.  So once inside we couldn’t help but buy about $6 worth of dark chocolate, the kind of treat you should reward yourself with after a busy week.

So we were motivated to look for the company site, and it’s well worth looking at. It’s not especially catchy visually; in fact, it’s really a bit static and predictable. Yet that seems to fit the mood of the shop. No one there’s in a hurry. Service comes with a smile, so don’t make a big deal out of waiting in line and don’t stuff that first truffle in your mouth. Take small bites and savor it.

Jos. A. Bank moving to the Talbots site?

 

Talbots has not said if the women’s retail chain will open another Spokane store. It’s closing the 706 W. Main location in River Park Square, due to a lease termination. At this point, Talbots  officials have responded with silence to the question.

So, we now notice the company taking over Talbots’ site, at 706 W. Main, is Jos. A Bank Clothiers, Inc., the nationwide clothing retailer. It has its downtown Spokane storeabout one block west of River Park Square. City building permits show a remodeling permit for the Talbots building issued to Jos. A. Bank.

A conversation with some Bank workers produced this explanation — with the caveat that efforts to get confirmation from the company’s main office have not been successful:

For more than a year Jos. A. Bank has disliked being next door to the empty retail site on the corner of Main and Lincoln. The landlord of the Jos. A Bank store (at 811 W. Main) has tried to find a corner tenant without success. That landlord is a subsidiary of the Cowles Co., which publishes The Spokesman-Review.

So Bank Clothiers decided to make the move about two blocks away, in part to be closer to foot traffic, the workers said. It won’t hurt that the new Jos. A. Bank store is next to the soon-coming Apple retail store.

ADDITION: It’s notable that the two landlords — RPS, where Talbots is, and Centennial Properties, where Jos. A. Bank is — are ultimately one and the same company, the Cowles Co.

Jos. A. Bank’s real estate office won’t even need to change the mailing address where it sends the lease payments.

Comcast spending money and gaining customer approval

A recent Universty of Michigan customer satisfaction survey found that cable TV customers are still a demanding, discerning bunch. It shows that Comcast, the nation’s No. 1 cable provider, is gaining some approval but still falls behind Cox, the company Spokane used to have back about 20 years ago.

Comcast’s numbers are about 13 percent better than they were in the same survey from 2008. Industry watchers say Comcast and other providers are spending money on customer service, knowing there are serious competitors looking to take some of the market away from cable.

Cable companies (listed below) tend to get lower scores than fiber-optic and satellite-video providers:

Approval (out of a possible 100) 67: Cox Communications

61: Comcast

61: Time Warner

60: Charter Communications.

Wall Street Journal staffer David Wilkers recently wrote about this survey and added these two comments:

 

Prices for cable service have gone up by about 3% to 5% a year over the past several years, according to Ian Olgeirson, senior cable analyst at SNL Kagan. Programming costs, most notably the National Football League and other sports rights, have been higher for content providers, and they pass those costs on to cable operators.

 

Other video providers raise prices too, but with the longest track record, cable receives the lion’s share of the criticism.

LeMaster Daniels acquired by Minneapolis accounting company LarsonAllen

Saying the deal makes sense in terms of growth and expansion, Spokane accounting company LeMaster Daniels is being purchased by Minneapolis-based LarsonAllen, LLP.

The sale concludes Nov. 1. LarsonAllen was recently chosen by a Minnesota publication as that state’s top-ranked CPA firm. It has about 1,400 workers worldwide.

Terms of the sale are not disclosed.

LeMaster Daniels has a dozen offices and nearly 300 workers, according to its corporate website. It was launched in Spokane in 1908.  LarsonAllen has operations in 10 states and in the nation’s capital. It has no offices in Washington and Idaho, where LeMaster Daniels has offices.

Arena parking lot event fee will be imposed for ‘Get Motivated’ attendees

Those planning to attend the Aug. 17 Get Motivated event at the Spokane Arena can take advantage of available parking in the Arena parking lot, on the east side.

But that parking will be considered event-parking, according to the Spokane Public Facilities District.

The all-day event, featuring video feeds of people like retired General Colin Powell and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, starts around 9 a.m. and lasts through the afternoon.

Parking will be $5 for the day. If you typically use the east lot as a park-and-ride for the Spokane Transit  downtown shuttle, you’ll also have to pay the $5 parking event fee that morning.

If you come in before 6 a.m., you’ll pay that fee when you leave.

For more on the event, go to Getmotivated.com.

Which retailer will move into Talbots location in downtown Spokane?

Downtown Spokane women’s clothing retailer Talbots is leaving its 706 W. Main location, effective Aug. 21. Its lease expires the end of this month, a Talbot’s employee told us today.

We’ll provide some kind of reward — non-monetary— for the reader who can convince us they really know who will move into that location.

Disclosure: We work for the Cowles Co., which also operates River Park Square, Talbot’s landlord. We asked company officials who would go in there. They were mum, as of Tuesday.

I’m guessing the company taking that spot outbid Talbots when the lease came up for renewal. Whoever that company is, they might feel it’s to their advantage to be next door to 710 W. Main, where Apple will open a retail store this fall.

Apple is taking over the location of Eddie Bauer, one door west of Talbots.


Two week countdown: anyone going to the supersized “Get Motivated” rally at the Spokane Arena?


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Two weeks and counting…..The REALLY big Get Motivated seminar hits the Spokane Arena on Tuesday, Aug. 17. Full-page ads in your local daily paper give all the details on the event, which will feature (by simulcast presentation, not live) folks like former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Zig Ziglar.

It runs from 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. and is likely to be a popular event.

Here’s the pricing, which is a bit curious: at the door, it’s $225. But if you order early or online, the ads say you “SAVE SAVE SAVE.”  Individual seats at $4.95 per person (love that ability to duck below $5) or $19 for an entire office.  

As they say in retail — you’d be crazy not to buy in advance!!!

We’re looking for comments by locals planning to attend Get Motivated. What’s your motivation?  What do you hope to accomplish or discover? We’ll leave comments here. If the comments deserve it, we could write a separate story in the Spokesman-Review or on Spokesman.com.


 

Spokane intellectual property firm Lee & Hayes earns best-of distinction

Intellectual Asset Management magazine has rated Spokane’s Lee & Hayes as the top overall intellectual property law firm. The ranking distinction accompanies a recent IAM article called “Counting on Quality.”

Using a formula developed by a company, Ocean Tomo, the ranking tried to identify the best IP law firms on the basis of quality patents.

IAM used the Ocean Tomo rankings to assess the overall quality of the patents. Ocean Tomo focused on four technology areas: healthcare, information technology, consumer electronics, and industrials.

Lee & Hayes represents six of the 20 largest patent filers in the U.S., including Microsoft and HP. It was founded in Spokane in 1994 by Lewis Lee and Dan Hayes.

Inland Northwest Health Services, Signature Genomics, and Pyrotek are among the firm’s Spokane-based clients.

“We feel privileged to be able to partner with such innovative clients in the pursuit of creating business-focused portfolios.” co-founder Lee said in a release. “We are only able to achieve an award like the one given by IAM magazine because we have great clients, who are committed to building quality patent portfolios.”

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John Stucke John Stucke is a deputy city editor who helps build local news coverage and writes about health care, bankruptcy and rural affairs.

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Scott Maben Scott Maben is a Deputy City Editor who covers North Idaho news and higher education.

Addy Hatch is the city editor, and formerly was business editor.

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