Advertise Here

Office Hours

Archive for June 2010

One year of free T1 Internet service to be given away to one nonprofit

View Larger Map

Spokane telecom company Integra Telecom is ready to give away one full year of T1 Internet service. Yes. A free year, to an eligible Spokane-area nonprofit that meets the guidelines of the contest.

The contest requires a nomination of an eligible area nonprofit. Following the deadline of July 16, a random drawing from qualifying entries will be made. The 10 most nominated groups will be entered into the drawing on July 27 at Integra Telecom’s ribbon cutting ceremony and open house.

Businesses can nominate a worthwhile nonprofit at the Community Connection page of Integra Telecom, at this link. Nominations can also be presented at Integra’s new Spokane office, 201 N. River Drive, or via e-mail at

Nominees must be a 501 C3 or C4 group with an established office within Integra Telecom’s Spokane County service area.

The organization’s mission must serve at least one of the following criteria: youth, wellness and community.

Pirillo dislikes being described as a “social media guru”

We didn’t make up that description.

Tonight is when Seattle tech guy Chris Pirillo gets his chance to sound off on social media, at an event hosted by LaunchPad INW.

Pirillo got to town all right today. The picture here is the proof. He quickly posted a comment on his blog saying that may be stretching it a bit.

No. We don’t like the term “social media guru” either. My suggestion: media maestro.

Spokane’s Tango electric car and Rick Woodbury progress to the X Prize finals

Spokane electric car maker Rick Woodbury has made it through the most recent cut at the Progressive Auto X Prize, the worldwide competition that has $10 million in prizes for innovative vehicles.  Side note: we originally said “electric vehicles.” In fact, the X Prize is open to all types of vehicles, but the entries have largely been electric.

Woodbury just made it through the “knockout” phase of the competition that will identify the world’s  most innovative, hyper-efficient cars.

Woodbury’s tandem car, the narrow battery-powered Tango, successfully passed required maneuvering tests and miles-per-gallon-equivalency tests on a race track near Ann Arbor, Mich. Woodbury finished the test early Tuesday (June 29) and began driving the Tango back to Spokane.

The X Prize finals will start July 17, also in Michigan. In the X Prize finals, winning vehicles must perform at the equivalent level of 100 miles per gallon. In the knockout Woodbury had to deliver at least 67 mpg. He said the Tango did about 86 mpg, but he’s got a few tweaks to get the engine to the 100-mpg mark.

The competition this spring was down to about 30 teams in three categories. Woodbury’s Tango is in the alt-tandem category, where the prize will be $2.5 million.

Five of six entrants in the X Prize tandem group, including the Tango, made it through the knockout, Woodbury said. A sixth entry by a team from Vancouver, British Columbia, failed to move on.

Spokane’s international district sports new street banners

Seventeen banners have been placed near businesses along East Sprague, to call attention to that area’s new claim as Spokane’s International District.

First question: what do you think of the banners? And is there any other part of the metro with a better claim to the tiitle of “international district”?

Thanks to planning support provided by Seattle-based Impact Capital, the banners were recently installed on city poles along East Sprague. The district lies between Helena and Crestline, and between the railroad tracks and Interstate 90.  The idea for the banners came from the East Sprague Business District in conjunction with SNAP, the nonprofit assistance program that works with neighborhoods on economic development. A $3,500 grant from Avista Foundation paid for printing the banners.

Avista crews also reinforced or replaced some of the poles to make them sturdy enough to hold the banners and the brackets that hold them.

A portion of the $3,500 grant is not yet spent, said Tracy Reich, a spokesperson for Impact Capital. That leftover portion will likely go for a “seasonal” set of banners for the district.

Spokane’s downtown HotZone will be up and active during Hoopfest

Downtown visitors this weekend can get free Wi-Fi from the Spokane HotZone as two area firms have stepped in to keep the tech service going.

Created in 2004, the Wi-Fi service area has had continuing problems due to aging equipment and reluctance by the bandwidth provider to continue offering free Internet connectivity. A recent business section story in The Spokesman Review summarized those issues.

Robin Toth, who helped launch the service when she worked for the City of Spokane, said the HotZone will be operating all weekend, during Hoopfest. She said the new zone partners will make an announcement next week about their longterm plans.

Washington to get some of a $173 million computer-chip settlement

Thirty three states, including Washington, have agreed to a $173 million settlement with six chip companies who were accused of conspiring to keep prices inflated during the Y2K mania from 1998-2002.

The six firms, including NEC and Micron Technologies, admitted no wrongdoing. They agreed to a federal class action deal recently. The amounts of money distributed have yet to be announced. The four other firms, based overseas, are Elpida, Hynix, Infineon, and Mosel Vitelic.

The suit says consumers would not have paid the chip prices asked by those companies if the market had not been collectively rigged, according to a recent Washington Attorney General’s office release.

Brady Johnson, who serves in the Washington AG’s office, said: “There will be restitution coming to Washington for consumers as part of this settlement.  The federal court will determine how the funds will be allocated, including how much comes to Washington.  Until that happens, we won’t know how much is coming our way.”

Johnson is senior counsel in the AG’s antitrust division.

He added: “One word of caution though – while the numbers look big, this is a nationwide settlement, so there are a lot of people who will be sharing the funds.  That makes it unlikely that individual refund checks will be issued.  Instead, we may use a “cy pres” process to distribute the money. Which means: it may end up going into a charitable fund since the actual individual amounts from the award would be too small.

Pirillo event moved to the Bing

One more adjustment in the Chris Pirillo visit to Spokane was announced this week by the event host, LaunchPad Inland Northwest.

Pirillo will be visiting town to talk about social media and marketing on June 29, next Tuesday.

But the venue has changed. It’s now scheduled at the Bing Crosby Theater, 901 W. Sprague, in downtown Spokane.

The time is still the same: 5:30 to 8 p.m. Pirillo has written “Poor Richard’s E-mail Publishing” and “Online! The Book,” along with several e-books. He lives in Seatte.

You should make reservations for the event to insure seating. Tickets are $15 in advance and $25 at the door. For information or to register to to

Spokane’s Flying Goat takes a pile of wood and reuses it stylishly

Design awards should soon be flowing in the direction of The Flying Goat, the new north Spokane neighborhood pub in the Audubon Park area. (Exact address: 3318 W. Northwest Blvd.)

The neighborhood restaurant used a handsome selection of recycled wood to put together the floor, the bar (in picture, below) window frames and some of the outside slats. That wood came from a circa 1910 grain elevator erected in Ritzville.  As Spokesman Review Food Editor Lori Hutson noted in a food section story, ” A picture of the original building, constructed in 1910, hangs on the pub wall near the front entrance.”

We want to bring additional attention to ReHistoric Wood Products, at 715 E. Sprague, a Spokane business that was a key piece of the reclamation project.

ReHistoric’s Bruce Johnson was hired by the family owning the grain elevator. In early 2009 Johnson managed to bring down the sturdy elevator, made of Douglas Fir. After bringing the wood to Spokane, nails had to be pulled before the lumber could be milled for its next owner.

For the Flying Goat project, Johnson hired Post Falls-based Aagesen Millworks to mill the wood into the pieces needed by Goat owner Jonathan Sweatt.

Images of the Army’s pilot survival gear

OK, we’re still blogging about the deal signed by the Army with Hayden-based Unitech Composites & Structures.  It’s not that we like their name that much.  Instead we finally got our hands on two images that tell half the story — what those units the Army hopes saves helicopter pilots look like.  

Unitech is making the next gen version of the SEA — military for “survival egress air” (Memo to the Pentagon: SEA is the best you can do?) The tanks are meant to help rescue pilots or crew forced down into water.

The two images here show the small tank that holds, at present, about 100 seconds of breatheable air, and the full unit added to the vest pack worn by an air crew. Go to the rest of this post to see the unit by itself.

Unitech’s new design will add 50 or more seconds to the capacity, plus make the unit 20 percent lighter.

Hayden company developing better survival gear for the Army

The U.S. Army is spending good money to improve something most civilians take for granted — survival gear for airmen and helicopter crews.

We found out that the Army is looking for a better survival kit used by crews who fly over water, and Hayden-based Unitech Composites & Structures is working on the next model.

Unitech Composites will get a year’s time to produce prototypes of the backpack rescue kit, called an SEA – for Survival Egress Air system. 

The current U.S. Army tank, attached to the front vest of the pilot or crewman, weighs about 2.5 lbs, with the metal bottle being about 1 pound.  It contains enough air for roughly 100 seconds.

The new design will add 50 percent more air time and will reduce the weight by 20 percent.

“Lightening the load on the pilot and giving him more escape time is very important to the Army.  Its all about saving lives,” said  Al Haase, president of Unitech and AGC Composites Group, an Oklahoma parent company of the Hayden operation.


SPEEA, Triumph reach tentative deal

Triumph Composite Systems and the union representing its 43 Spokane engineers have reached a tentative contract agreement that will provide bonuses and wage increases, cap medical premiums, and bar layoffs through September 2013.

Members of The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace will vote on the agreement Thursday.

Terms include a bonus of the greater of six percent or $4,000 in the first year, and $2,300 in the second and third years of the 39-month pact. Salaries will increase one percent the first year, two percent the second and three percent third. Medical premiums can rise only 24 percent over the life of the contract.

With overtime, said SPEEA Director of Strategic Development Rich Plunkett, some members are taking home six-figure salaries. 

Green homes showcase cuts prices for final week

There’s a showcase out in Liberty Lake. And “green homes” is the focus of that home show. If taking a close-up look of several new energy-efficient homes sounds appealing, you might note the showcase organizers have cut the cost of admission.

The coupon now at the Green Home Show website saves you $2 from the regular cost of admission.

Tickets are normally $8 per person (seniors pay $5 this Thursday, June 24). The event runs through Sunday at the show location, the River District, created by Greenstone Homes. The map here shows the general location of the show.

For additional details on events and types of homes being shown, see the Green Showcase site.

Former Microsoft attorney joins Seattle office of Lee & Hayes

A former deputy general counsel for Microsoft, Dan Crouse, is joining the Seattle office of Lee & Hayes, a Spokane intellectual property firm.

Dan Crouse worked for Microsoft from 1993 to 2003 where he managed the Microsoft Patent Group. With Lee & Hayes he’ll focus on being a patent portfolio counselor, advising companies how to manage IP assets. His role will be the “of counsel” type, meaning he won’t work a regular schedule.

A press release had Lewis Lee, the firm’s co-founder, saying: “He knows the intriciacies of how to plan, initiate, and grow a world-class portfolio and how to convey that strategy clearly to executives. He is a great resource to emerging and established technology clients trying to negotiate the multitude of intellectual property issues facing tech companies in this century.”

After leaving Microsoft Crouse has spent much of his time providing assistance to a number of nonprofits in the Puget Sound.


Litehouse buys Green Garden

Sandpoint-based Litehouse Inc. today announced the purchase of Green Garden Foods of Kent, Wash.

Operations of the two companies will be consolidated into Litehouse production facilities in Sandpoint and Lowell, Mich., acording to a Litehouse news release.

Both companies make sauces, dips and salad dressings, with Litehouse the No. 2 refrigerated brand in the United States and Canada. Green Garden also makes salsa and mayonaise.

Litehouse makes or distributes cheeses, herbs and beverage to retailers, food service companies and restaurants. 


Candy taxes won’t have much impact on taxpayers’ sweet tooth

You can pretty much count on two consumer impacts from the recent new sales taxes imposed by Washington’s legislators, says Jeffrey LaFrance, a Washington State University professor.

So-called “sugar taxes” imposed on candy and gum will hardly change the consumption of Washington’s sweeth tooth community, said LaFrance, who is professor of agricultural and resource economics in Pullman.

That’s because the sales taxes on candy and gum are not large enough to force consumers to change their spending habits.

But the state’s new $1 a tax increase on packs of cigarettes will certainly lead to a notable decline in  overall sales, said LaFrance.

Cigarettes are “unit elastic,” he explained. That means if cigarettes pre-tax were $6 a pack, the added tax of $1 will have a like size negative impact on demand. So $1 is roughly 16 percent of $6, and LaFrance said the impact should be about a 16 percent decline in cigarettes bought in the state.


Business website shout-out:

ONE of an ongoing series of posts about useful area business websites.

Spokane and Inland Northwest business leaders and economic development folks are right in boosting the green economy that’s blooming in this area.

You can find a very healthy consortium of industries and researchers tackling clean energy, all the way from Itron Inc., to a number of promising startups.

The website — — is worth looking at to get an overview of efforts among members of that group.

The acronym stands for Consortium of Leading Energy Efficiency Northwest Companies. Area businesses are encouraged to visit the site and add their names to the directory.

We liked the site’s clean organization. The Spokane Web team of developed the site for Greater Spokane Incorporated, which is taking the manager role for SiteCrafting provided the work pro-bono, through a Gear Grant, awarded to nonprofits in town as a way to give back to the community.

Loss of low-pay jobs helps raise average wage in Washington

The average wage in Washington rose nearly 2 percent last year, largely because thousands of low-paying jobs disappeared during the recession.

Average annual pay increased 1.9 percent to $47,153 in 2009 – the smallest increase since 2004. The average weekly wage was $906 last year, the Employment Security Department said today.

Among other things, average wage is used to compute unemployment-insurance benefits for jobless workers. Because the average wage increased in 2009, the minimum and maximum unemployment benefits will go up for new unemployment claims beginning next month.

Fiscal Survey of States provides grim details about the impact of the recession

The biannual report, The Fiscal Survey of States, is chockful of fairly grim numbers on how the economy has pasted states from coast to coast.

The survey is released by the National Governors Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers.

The overview states: “Fiscal year 2010 presented the most difficult challenge for states’ financial management since the Great Depression.”

According to the report, in fiscal 2010, general fund expenditures declined 6.8 percent. However, governors’ recommended budgets for fiscal 2011 forecast a 3.6 percent increase in general fund expenditures.

In part that increase reflects higher state contributions to Medicaid, the jointly managed health care program that states share with the federal government. The report is more than 80 pages and can be found here.

Chris Pirillo LaunchPad event rescheduled

The original June 15 evening with Chris Pirillo, sponsored by LaunchPad Inland Northwest, has been rescheduled to June 29.  Pirillo, a Seattle area tech guy and blogger, had conflicts and had to reschedule, said LaunchPad director Bill Kalivas.

The location remains the same, the Red Lion Skyline Ballroom, 201 W. North River Drive, in downtown Spokane.  Hours are 5:30 to 8 p.m.  He’ll talk about social media and marketing.

For more information, go to the LaunchPad event link.

Still missing: when did the East Sprague Drive-in shut down?

Last week The SR’s business column Here’s the Dirt featured a story on the new storage center built by Harlan Douglass just south of Interstate 90 near the Sprague exit.

The six-acre site is on the former home of the East Sprague Drive-in. One thing we could not find was the date the drive-in closed.

In the 1960s the drive-in was the largest in the Spokane area.

We’d send two free reporters notebooks (whoo-hoo) to whoever can give us some documentation on the closing of the East Sprague Drive-in.

Unemployment slips despite job losses

Employment in Spokane County fell by 1,700 in May, but the unemployment rate also slipped because fewer people were job-hunting.

The Washington Employment Security Department said state employment increased by 8,600, but only because 9,000 workers were hired to help conduct the 2010 U.S. Census.

The state unemployment rate for May was 9.1 percent, matching the level of May 2009. The April rate was 9.3 percent. Those figures are adjusted to account for seasonal swings.

Unadjusted, the state rate was 8.8 percent, just below the 8.9 percent for Spokane, where the April rate was nine percent. In May 2009, the rate was 8.5 percent.

Riverpoint Medical School would be economic dynamo

A four-year medical school in Spokane would support more than 9,000 new jobs by 2030, and generate $1.6 billion in new economic activity, a new study says.

Entitled “America’s Next Great Academic Health Center,” the report and its co-authors say the doctors and medical research produced at a Riverpoint medical campus would also improve health care throughout Eastern Washington, especially small communities under-served today.

“What this region needs is doctors seeing patients,” said Paul Umbach, a senior principal of Pittsburgh-based TrippUmbach.

The consulting firm’s study, sponsored by 17 public and private entities, was unveiled to community leaders this morning.

Miller Paint to open Spokane store

Miller Paint Company of Portland, Ore., will open a store in Spokane June 28.

It will be the employee-owned company’s 36th retail store and the first company-owned store east of the Cascades, President and CEO Steve Dearborn said today.

The Spokane store will open in a building formerly occupied by ICI Paints at 7 East 3rd St. Miller Paint is leasing the 7,000-square-foot space.

“This is an exciting addition for the entire company,” Dearborn said. “We have been looking east of the Cascades for quite a while, but have not had the right opportunity present itself. This Spokane location is the right opportunity for us.”

Miller Paint carries architectural and light-industrial paints for both the commercial painter and the homeowner. Miller carries its own line of paints, including Devine Color, plus industrial and high-performance lines from Devoe Coatings and PPG, a full architectural contractor line of Glidden Pro, stain and clear lines of Sikkens and Olympic, and a full line of Rudd Co. lacquer products.

“We are a one-stop shop when it comes to your paint and coating needs,” Dearborn said.

The store will open with four employees. Hours will be 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon.

Dry Fly will release its next whiskey batch Saturday

Spokane’s Dry Fly Distilling, a boutique distillery with a growing reputation for quality spirits, is set to release its next 300 bottles of wheat whiskey on Saturday.

The company will start selling off 300 bottles of the whiskey starting at 8 a.m.  In previous releases customers swamped the store and snapped up the release within a few hours.

The limit will be one bottle per person.

Bottles of the whiskey are also going to state liquor stores. Co-owner Don Poffenroth said the stores getting the liquor should start selling them next week. Three Spokane state liquor stores are listed as receiving the whiskey: Numbers 65, 686 and 181.

Dry Fly’s blog notes:

The stores are being asked to limit sales to 1 bottle per person, and to NOT hold bottle for employees or patrons. Sales will be first come, first served.The distribution of the limited number of cases is based upon which stores move the most total Dry Fly product.


Clearwater picks North Carolina site

Clearwater Paper Corp. will build a new tissue paper plant in Shelby, N.C., Gov. Bev Perdue announced today.

Spokane-based Clearwater will invest at least $260 million in the plant and equipment, which will produce 10 million cases of tissue. Company facilities now produce 30 million cases, spokesman Matt Van Vleet said.

The 650,000-square-foot Shelby plant will employ 250, he said.

North Carolina and local jurisdictions will contribute $50 million in incentives to the project over the next 12 years. 

Foreclosures decline, still double 2009

Fewer Spokane and Kootenai county homeowners received foreclosure notices last month compared with April, but the numbers remained double those of a year ago.

RealtyTrac today reported 136 Spokane and 216 Kootenai county homeowners were in foreclosure in May. In Kootenai County, one in every 279 owners was affected. The rate for Spokane County was one in every 1,451.

In May 2009, 88 Kootenai County homes and 687 Spokane County homes were in foreclosure.

The Kootenai County rate for May was higher than Idaho’s, which at one per every 309 homes was seventh highest in the United States. Washington, with a rate of one per 574 homes, was 20th-ranked.

The national rate was 1-per-400 homes, only slightly less than the rate for April and one percent below May 2009, according to RealtyTrac.

Weekly website shoutout: ROW Adventures out of North Idaho

We’d guess the total number of active, managed websites for Inland Northwest businesses must be climbing somewhere in the several thousand range.

Today the SR Office Hours blog will begin featuring business sites worth discovering or revisiting. Our criteria will include novelty, design, news value or plain old simple discovery of something we didn’t know before. 

Our selections will be presented here from time to time.  Today’s choice is ROW Adventures, a river expedition and trip planning firm out of Coeur d’Alene. The site is

We spotted ROW recently when it won one of this spring’s Inland Northwest Tourism Awards, promoted by the Spokane Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau.

What to like about the site:

  1. Lots of photos
  2. nice location of newsletter sign-up
  3. clearly titled sections
  4. useful search function to find different guides based on fishing or adventure.

Got any other sites worth looking it? Leave your suggestions in the comment box here. We’ll credit those who offer sites that catch our eye.


More Canadians qualify for sales tax exemption

British Columbia visitors will become eligible July 1 for a non-resident sales tax exemption on goods purchased in Washington but intended for use outside the state.

The province recently changed its tax structure in a way that allows residents to claim the exemption. Ontario also made the change.

To get the exemption, visitors must show proof of identity, such as a driver’s license, to the Washington seller, who must record information that would support the exemption in case of a tax audit.

Residents of other Canadian provinces are already eligible for the exemption.

Five states, including Alaska, Oregon, Montana, Delaware and New Hampshire, seven other Canadian provinces, and four U.S. possessions already qualify for this exemption.

Home sale up for eighth month

Home sales in Spokane County rose for the eighth consecutive month compared with 2009 levels, according to May statistics from the Spokane Association of Realtors.

The May total of 519 was up almost 33 percent compared with May 2009. Sales were also marginally ahead of the 505 in April, the last month in which first-time buyers could take advantage of an $8,000 income tax credit.

The average home price of $180,523 was a slight increase from April, and only $1,200 below the May 2009 average. The median price, at $160,747, was off less than two percent from April, and just 3.1 percent from May 2009.

For the first five months of 2010, home sales increased almost one-third. The average price has declined 7.8 percent, the median price 5.9 percent.

The inventory of unsold homes declined from April, to 3,304, but remains above the 3,159 of a year ago. 

Proposed penalties against Avista stem from 2008 gas explosion

Washington state pipeline safety regulators recommend penalties against Avista Corp. that could exceed $1.1 million. The proposed penalties are for actions that resulted in a natural gas explosion and fire in December 2008 that destroyed part of an Odessa home and injured two people.
Investigators with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission’s Pipeline Safety Program concluded that the explosion was caused by a leak from a broken natural gas pipeline that was improperly installed. The investigators also found that Avista removed the cracked section of pipe before commission staff completed its investigation of the incident.

Would you pay more or less at One World, where you can pay anything for a meal?

One World Spokane, the innovative non-profit restaurant at 1804 E. Sprague Ave., picked up a little attention in a recent story in the New York Times.

The Times story was headlined “Pay-What-You-Want Has Patrons Perplexed,” and examined what happens when restaurants offer meals at whatever price a customer chooses.

Anytime you make the payment voluntary, what happens? You tell us…would you pay the “suggested dining charge” or generally go a little less?

The story notes that Spokane’s One World was inspired by the One World Everybody Eats charity, based in Salt Lake City. Janice Raschko, the president of One World Spokane, said the One World Everybody founder came to Spokane two years ago to help the operation get started.

“We are only affiliated with them as mutual support and communication between us and anyone looking to open a kitchen in their community,” she added in a Facebook message (see the One World Spokane Facebook page).

Job openings rise to highest level in 16 months

Job openings jumped in April to the highest level in 16 months, a sign that private employers may boost hiring in coming months, according to the Associated Press.

The number of jobs advertised at the end of April rose to 3.1 million from 2.8 million in March, the Labor Department said today. That’s the most openings since December 2008.

Private employers accounted for the entire net gain. The government’s advertising for jobs decreased, despite the hiring of hundreds of thousands of census workers in May.

Job openings have risen by about 740,000 since bottoming out at 2.3 million in July. But they remain far below pre-recession levels of about 4.5 million openings per month.

Deal triggers jump in Gold Reserve trading

Shares of Spokane-based Gold Reserve Inc. soared Monday on news of a partnership between another mining company with claims in Venezuela and China Railway Resources Co. Ltd.

The stock price jumped almost 18 cents to 90 cents, a 24 percent gain for the day. Volume, at 1.7 million shares, was more than 13 times average.

Gold Reserve owns the Brisas deposit in Venezuela, but the prospective mine with 11 million ounces of gold and 1.4 million pounds of copper was expropriated in October 2009 by the government of President Hugo Chavez.

ISAGA bringing gamers, academics and industry folks to EWU

Are you ready for the gamepocalypse? Or is this much ado about nothing?

A number of lifestyle experts say we’re moving in the direction of the transformation of much of our everyday activity into some form of online game environment. Some don’t like it, and call that gamepocalpyse. Others say it’s a welcome change and will make education and business activity more productive.

Advocates say (on CNN for instance) that the more we connect with others, even in mundane ways, the more gamelike and the more collaborative our activity becomes.

Does that theory provide the perfect backdrop for understanding the popularity of geolocation application Foursquare, for instance.

Next month you can sink your teeth into this topic and many others.   Eastern Washington University’s Riverpoint Campus will provide the location for the 41st International Simulation and Gaming Conference July 5-9, presented by ISAGA.

ISAGA (International Simulation and Gaming Association) is the group that brings together industry, academics and gamers under one tent, to look at how gaming (not gambling) can be used as more than simple recreation.

ISAGA holds a conference yearly. This is the first time it’s been anywhere near Eastern Washington. For more information, go to its site.

Triumph Machinists approve new three-year contract, get job security

View Larger Map

Spokane Triumph Composite Systems Machinists have approved a new three-year contract that gives them job security in exchange for accepting no pay hikes.

Of 335 machinists at the West Plains manufacturing site, 81 percent of those voting approved the contract this week, union district president Tom Wroblewski said.

“The job security provision we got is unprecedented,” he said. He praised the contract as a strong commitment by Triumph to remaining in Spokane.

The contract guarantees members 40 hours of work for the next three years and protects workers from transfers to Mexico or any other current or future Triumph facility.

In exchange, Triumph got the union to accept a zero pay hike over the next three years. The current three-year contract provided increases of 4, 3 and 3 percent per year. Two prior Machinist contracts at Triumph offered some pay hikes, Wroblewski said.

The Spokane Triumph plant makes ducts and panels for major airplane manufacturers, including Boeing. It has about 450 workers.


Next IT ships “Ann” to Aetna for virtual chat help

Insurance provider Aetna is using online virtual-assistant technology developed in Spokane on its secure member website. Developed by Spokane tech firm Next IT, the virtual assistant “Ann” replies to questions with on-screen text answers and with audio responses in a perky female voice.

It’s been in use since January at the insurance giant’s Aetna Navigator portal, which has more than 11 million registered users.

Since being launched, the Ann assistant has cut phone help requests by 29 percent, said Sherry Sanderford, a spokesperson at Aetna’s headquarters in Hartford, Conn.

The company also said Ann generates 2,500 chat sessions per day. For now the tech tool helps members logon or register at the benefit information site. Ann will gain additional features and a larger role in member assistance over time, said Sanderford.

Pullman tech manufacturer gets a shout-out from Seattle Business magazine

cole.jpgDigilent Inc., a Pullman company started by Washington State University faculty member an an alumnus was named manufacturer of the year by Seattle Business magazine.

Digilent was the winner in the small company category of the magazine’s  top manufacturers.

Clint Cole, a lecturer at WSU’s School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, started the firm in 2000 with Gene Apperson, a former engineering student at the Pullman campus.

The company manufactures circuit boards for educational purposes.

Using a programmable computer chip that is used in industry, Cole designed a circuit board that could be used to design a variety of projects, from simple circuits to complex micro-processors.


BPA’s Wright keeps job

The Bonneville Power Administration’s top official will retain his politically appointed job U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu said Thursday.

Steve Wright is BPA’s second-longest tenured CEO and administrator, taking office on the eve of the 2000-2001 West Coast energy crisis. He was named to the post in January, 2002, but had served as acting administrator since November, 2000.

“Steve has done an outstanding job leading BPA through challenging times,” said U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who praised the reappointment, along with BPA’s work in integrating energy from wind power into the region’s electrical grid.

BPA markets the electricity from federal hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River and its tributaries, and a nuclear plant at Hanford

Pullman company earns magazine nod

Digilent Inc., a Pullman company started by a Washington State University faculty member, was named small manufacturer of the year by Seattle Business magazine.

Clint Cole, a lecturer at the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, founded Digilent in 2000 to manufacture and market circuit boards for educational purposes, according to a WSU news release.

 Working with a former student, Gene Apperson, Cole has designed more than 200 products, the release said. The company has 45 employees.

Read more about the company at

Potlatch names Scott as general counsel

Spokane-based Potlatch Corp. has named Lorrie D. Scott vice president and general counsel for the company.

Scott, notably, holds a doctor of law degree from Harvard and a master’s degree in Old World Archaeology from the University of Chicago, plus a B.A. in anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley.

Yes, here’s where we would normally add some clever comments about how Scott can really dig up solid information.

She replaces Pamela A. Mull who retired in March.

Scott joins Potlatch after working at Weyerhaeuser Company where she was most recently senior vp and general counsel for Weyerhaeuser Realty Investors, a land management subsidiary.


McKinstry finds a way to restore early Spokane railway history

View Larger Map

If you have a passion for Spokane railroad history, you’ll celebrate recent plans by a Seattle firm to restore one of the area’s historic train sites.

Seattle energy-efficiency building company, McKinstry, has bought the early 1900s-era electric train shop and yards once used by a railway that ran from Spokane to Coeur d’Alene.

The address of the new McKinstry Spokane office is 802 E. Spokane Falls Blvd., south of Gonzaga inside the University District. Notably, it will call the office the Great Northern Building.

McKinstry has about 50 workers in Spokane now, with roughly 1,600 overall at various locations.

A press release from Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) praised the company’s plan to grow its Spokane location. The firm focuses on building, designing and managing more energy efficient buildings.

The 1900s-era building McKinstry is converting was the shop and train yards of the Inland Empire Railroad Co. which operated until 1919. It became the Spokane and Eastern Railroad Co. That later became the Spokane & Inland Empire Railroad.

In 1929 the railway was taken over by the Great Northern Railroad.


2010 Agora Award winners announced

Seven area organizations on Wednesday were given Agora Awards during an annual ceremony hosted by Greater Spokane Incorporated. Winners were:

  • Small Nonprofit: Spokane Humane Society
  • Large Nonprofit: YMCA of the Inland Northwest
  • Large Business: Advantage IQ
  • Small Business: Catered for You
  • Medium Business: Nystrom Olson Collins, Inc. 
  • Entrepreneurial Spirit Award: Stewart and Associates.
  • C. Michael Archer Community Service Award: Moss Adams accounting firm.

The awards recognize  business and community excellence. Independent judges consider company growth, employee environment and other factors. FOR JUDGES’ comments on the winners, go to the next page below:

Blogger Chris Pirillo to talk about social media on June 15

Seattle blogger, author and social media maven Chris Pirillo will hold forth during a June 15 visit and session in Spokane.

Sponsored by LaunchPad Inland Northwest, the event runs from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the Red Lion Skyline Ballroom in downtown Spokane. The topic is listed as social media and their role in marketing and advertising.

Pilillo has been a media presenter for more than a dozen years. He’s helped create LockerGnome, a network of blogs, web forums and online communities.

According to the Pirillo entry on Wikipedia, he also hosts videos on several including on YouTube, and his own website,

Cost is $15 if  one buys ahead; it’s $25 at the door. If you have a PayPal account, you may pay here.


GU series covers investing, future of health care

Mike RyanA UBS Financial Services manager, Mike Ryan, will be guest speaker for tomorrow’s (June 3) Gonzaga University Business Dean’s Breakfast Forum.

Ryan (shown in photo) will cover the impact of two major market collapses over the last decade on the investment environment. Breakfast starts at 7 a.m., with discussion at 7:30 a.m. The event is in the Jepson Center Wolff Auditorium. 

Ryan is head of wealth management research for the Americas at UBS Financial Services, Inc.

On June 23 in the same location and same time, Rich Umbdenstock will cover “Reforming U.S. Health Care: A Conversation.”  Umbdenstock is former CEO of Sacred Heart Medical Center. He is now CEO and President of the American Hospital Association.

To register, go to  GU is offering both events for $25. Separately each costs $15.


Get blog updates by email

About this blog

The Spokesman-Review business team follows economic development in Spokane and the Inland Northwest.

Sign up for our business email newsletter
Latest comments »

Read all the posts from recent conversations on Office Hours.


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

Recent work by John

Alison Boggs (@alisonboggs) Online Producer Alison Boggs posts and manages content on and its social networking accounts.

Recent work by Alison

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.

Search this blog
Subscribe to this blog
Advertise Here