Archive for May 2010
We’d known for awhile that contractors were filing and obtaining permits needed before Apple Inc. moves into a new Apple Store in downtown Spokane.
We found the permits online and ran a story this afternoon. It’s here.
The managing architect for the $400,000 remodel is listed as Dimple Manghani of MBH Architects, based in Alameda Calif. MBH lists as its clients Apple, J Crew and Target.
The online permits filed on behalf of Apple in Spokane are at https://aca.spokanepermits.org/CitizenAccess. To find them, use the address search box, with 710 W. Main.
Search for 710 W. Main, the former address of Eddie Bauer’s River Park Square Store, to see the listed permits. No opening date is listed anywhere, though we have city sources suggesting it won’t be until August or September. Just in time for school.
Mortgage rates have fallen to the lowest level of the year as European turmoil caused investors to pour money into the safe haven of U.S. government securities.
The average rate on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage dipped to 4.78 percent this week from 4.84 percent a week earlier, mortgage company Freddie Mac said. It was the lowest level since early December, when rates fell to a record low of 4.71 percent. Rates on five-year, adjustable-rate mortgages averaged 3.97 percent, up from 3.91 percent a week earlier.
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The economic rebound last quarter turned out to be slower than first thought, one of the reasons unemployment is likely to stay high this year.
The economy grew at a 3 percent annual rate from January to March, the Commerce Department said Thursday. That was slightly weaker than an initial estimate of 3.2 percent a month ago. The new reading, based on more complete information, also fell short of economists’ forecast for stronger growth of 3.4 percent.
The reasons for the small downgrade: consumers spent less than first estimated. Same goes for business spending on equipment and software. And, the nation’s trade deficit was a bigger drag on economic activity.
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Jobless claims: The number of newly laid off workers filing claims for unemployment benefits dropped last week but the level still remained higher than expected, indicating only modest improvements in the job market.
Applications for unemployment benefits fell by 14,000 to 460,000 last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday. Analysts had expected the level would fall further to 455,000.
Economists say they will feel confident about sustainable job creation once weekly first-time claims dip below 425,000.
The U.S. Treasury has approved agreements that will inject almost $280 million in private equity investment into Sterling Financial Corp.
Warburg Pincus Private Equity X, L.P. and Thomas H. Lee Partners L.P. will each invest $139 million in Sterling, which has undertaken a $720 million recapitalization effort to meet regulator requirements.
The Treasury Department committed $303 million in Sterling under the Troubled Asset Relief Program, but has agreed to mark that investment down to $75.8 million, plus warrants to purchase stock in the future, to assist in the recapitalization.
Sterling is the Spokane-based holding company for Sterling Savings Bank and Golf Savings Bank.
Portland-based Integra Telecom Inc. is expanding its Spokane operations, saying it will double its current workforce of nine in the next six to nine months. The company provides voice and data services to business customers.
It also plans to open a second office at 201 N. River Drive in June. Its current Spokane Valley office is at 9515 E. Sprague. Dana Richardson, branch manager for Integra Telecom, will oversee operations of the company’s Eastern Washington market.
A press release said Integra is making the move as it sees good business growth prospects in the region. “The timing, conditions and environment are now ripe to successfully launch our full service offering in the region,” Washington Senior Vice President Mark Blosch said in a press release.
Nordstrom Rack is moving east, to be closer to the highway and closer to North Idaho. Those are the reasons given by the Seattle-based clothing retailer for leaving the NorthTown Mall and taking up a 30,000-square-foot space in the Spokane Valley Plaza.
It expects the Rack, Valley version, will open in October. It’s taking space last used by Linens ‘n Things, in a triplex flanked by Sportsman’s Warehouse and Old Navy, west of the Spokane Valley Mall.
The Rack is the off-price division of Nordstrom that offers merchandise from other stores at significant discounts.
The new store will offer more retail space and is closer to Interstate 90, offering easier access for more customers along the Spokane-Idaho corridor, a Nordstrom press release noted
Washington homeowners are among the largest beneficiaries of the federal income tax deduction for mortgage interest payments, according to a new study by the Tax Foundation.
The average deduction for Washington residents who claimed the deduction in 2008 was $14,262, fourth highest among the states and District of Columbia.
The average for all returns, not just those claiming the deduction, was $4,426, sixth highest nationally. Just over 31 percent of Washington tax returns included the deduction.
Idaho ranked 25th for average claimed deduction, $10,587, and 21st for average deduction on all returns, $3,081. The deduction was claimed on slightly more than 29 percent of all returns.
In a release, the foundation said the variation in rankings generally reflected higher household incomes, the rate of home ownership, and housing prices.
California ranked first for average deduction on all returns, and returns that claimed the deduction.
A Wall Street private equity firm has agreed to invest $139 million in Sterling Financial Corp. as the Spokane bank holding company continues its recapitalization effort.
Warburg Pincus Private Equity X, L.P. would own 20.5 percent of Sterling if the company successfully completes its $720 million plan to raise enough capital to satisfy regulator requirements.
Warburg Pincus would own Sterling common and preferred stock.
Thomas H. Lee Partners, which had earlier announced a $170 million investment in Sterling, would roll that amount back to the equivalent of the Warburg Pincus investment.
Both investments, and participation by the U.S. Treasury, are subject to completion of the recapitalization plan, regulatory approvals, stabilization of Sterling assets and capital levels, and other conditions.
Many rumors drifted across the metro in recent weeks prior to Thursday’s announcement about the new tenant in Manito Shopping Center.
We heard it would be good ol’ Trader Joe’s, the trendy California food and beverage retailer, who has toyed with our affections before. (see this earlier SR business story).
But lost in the coverage was the under story, namely, that while Ross Dress for Less was taking over the empty Gottschalks at 29th and Grand Blvd., the little food restaurant on the lower level, Pear Tree Inn, is now out.
Brokers for NAI Black, who represent the owners of the mall, say a new plan has a mod ale house/pub planned for that 2,500-square-foot location, which fronts the west side lower parking lot.
It’s next to the state liquor store, which has a long term lease and will remain there.
Incidentally, we went to the liquor store several weeks ago to suss out the REAL story on who was taking over Gottschalks. An employee at the liquor store said, “It’s that clothing company, Ross.”
We should have believed her.
California off-price clothing retailer Ross Dress for Less will move into the vacant Gottschalks building at 802 E. 29th, the company announced Thursday.
Ross already has stores in north Spokane at the Franklin Park Commons and at the Spokane Valley Plaza at Sullivan and Broadway. No exact opening date was given.
The move culminates a year of discussion with possible tenants, said John Bennett, who was the broker for the deal. He is president of Black Property Management.
The deal is considered a major addition to the Manito Shopping Center, at the intersection of Grand Blvd, and 29th.
Ross will renovate about 28,000 of the 40,000-square-foot building formerly used by Lamont’s, and then Gottschalks until it declared bankruptcy.
That renovation will be under the direction of Spokane’s Bernardo Wills Architects. The remaining 12,000 square feet is available for other retail use, said Bennett.
A 16,000-square-foot Rite Aid store will open at a high-traffic Spokane Valley intersection on Thursday.
Rite Aid used what it calls a “customer world” design for the new store, which the Harrisburg, Penn.-based company launched five years ago based on meetings with focus groups. “Customers told us that their relationship with the pharmacist was important, so each new store highlights the pharmacy,” Rite Aid said in a news release. It includes a waiting room with chairs and TV and a private consultation room.
The store, at 12222 E. Sprague, is across the street from a longtime Rite Aid store. The company has said in the past that it sought a more-accessible location at that intersection.
Its grand opening will take place Thursday at 8 a.m.
The new machine and seven converting lines will produce bathroom tissue and paper towels for East Coast markets, officials announced Tuesday. The new facility will cost an estimated $260 million to $280 million.
Clearwater Paper hasn’t chosen a site for the facility, which will employ up to 250 employees. The Spokane-based company expects to break ground on the new facility during the third quarter. At full production, the facility will produce about 10 million cases or 70,000 tons of bathroom tissue and paper towels annually.
Clearwater Paper also has operations in
The Lower Snake River Wind Project will be built on nearly 40,000 acres of leased farmland. Ninety-eight percent of the land will be remain available for crops after the 149 turbines are installed. The farmers will receive lease and royalty payments, utility officials said.
“Wind power and wheat farming are great
partners, and we look forward to this new opportunity for families in our
area,” said Alesia Ruchert, managing director for
The project will employ about 150 construction workers. About 25 workers will be needed to run the wind facility.
Spokane County employers hired almost 4,000 workers last month, dropping the unemployment rate almost two percent in the process.
From 214,300 workers in March, the employment rolls increased to 218,200. A year ago, total employment was 220,140.
The unemployment rate fell to 8.8 percent from 10.7 percent in March, and was only marginally above the 8.7 percent rate of a year ago
The news was also good statewide, the Washington Employment Security Department reported today.
State employers added 5,800 jobs, using numbers adjusted for the season, and more than 50,000 unadjusted. Spokane County figures are not adjusted.
The state unemployment rate sliped to 9.2 percent seasonally adjusted, and 8.7 percent not adjusted. It was the first decline in the Washington unemployment rate in more than three years.
The rate for the United States was 9.9 percent seasonally adjusted.
Spokane’s prospering electronics retail company, Huppin’s Hi-Fi, Photo & Video announced on Monday it plans to add a second store, at 8016 N. Division. (Rendering by John Rovtar Design)
This will mark only the second retail outlet in the 102-year history of the company.
At one time Murray Huppin, the CEO and president of the company, said he considered other options and other locations. Eventually he decided to focus on the growing north Spokane corridor.
The new site is north of the North Division Costco and is a joint retail development with Mark Lax and Joel Huppin, the cousin of Murray Huppin. Lax is owner of Pawn 1, which will use part of the new building for expanded operations. The building will have space for one or more other retail tenants, Huppin said.
Sterling Financial Corp. today announced the appointment of a former Wells Fargo & Co. executive as chairman of the board.
The appintment of Leslie “Les” S. Biller must be approved by Sterling regulators, and is subject to completion of its $720 million recapitalization effort.
Biller is the chief executive officer of Greendale Capital, a private investment and consulting company. Before founding Greendale in 2002, he was the executive vice president and chief operating officer at Wells Fargo.
He had been president of COO of Norwest Corp. when it merged with Wells Fargo in 1998, and also held executive positions at Bank of America and Citicorp.
Biller, a Los Angeles resident, has a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering degree from City College of New York and a master’s in business administration from Xavier University.
Outdoor clothing retailer Eddie Bauer closed its downtown Spokane retail store recently, leaving only an outlet store in the Spokane Valley, the Bellevue-based company said Friday.
Spokeswoman Sarah Redgrave said Eddie Bauer does not comment on store closures or openings. She declined to say if a new Spokane store is in the works.
“This is a normal course of business,” Redgrave said.
The store, at 710 W. Main, has been a tenant of River Park Square since 1997, after it closed another downtown store one year earlier.
Bob Smith, chief operating officer of River Park Square, said discussions were continuing with a tenant interested in the location. He said the decision to not renew the lease with Eddie Bauer was “a mutual decision.”
The Spokane Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau Board of Directors has named Jack Lucas, president of TicketsWest and WestCoast Entertainment, the bureau’s 2010 Extraordinary Leadership in Tourism Excellence Award winner. Lucas was honored Thursday at the Inland Northwest Tourism Awards.
Lucas began his career three decades ago as an usher for Entertainment Services Association, the company that provided ushering and security services for the Spokane Convention Center, Spokane Coliseum (Spokane Arena) and the Spokane Opera House (INB Performing Arts Center).
He leads Spokane’s Best of Broadway series, now in its 24th season.
In 2009, TicketsWest processed close to 10 million tickets, and WestCoast Entertainment presented productions from Anchorage, Alaska, to Spokane. The companies are part of Spokane-based Red Lion Hotels Corp.
If you own 1,000 shares of Spokane travel company Ambassadors Group, you just made $60. (Not $600 as originally posted.)
The company’s directors Thursday declared a quarterly dividend of $.06 per share, to be paid on June 10, 2010 to shareholders of record on May 27, 2010.
Ambassadors Group is a provider of education and professional travel. The company’s stock, sold on the Nasdaq as EPAX, has had a bumpy 2010. It started at $13.59 and closed Thursday at $12.31.
The stock chart across the past four months is a roller coaster ride. The 12-month high point was $17.39 last August.
For information on Ambassador’s programs, go to www.peopletopeople.com.
Spokane Valley window and door maker Cascade Windows has signed a marketing deal with Portland-based Bradshaw Advertising to create a new look for the brand.
A company release said the goal is helping direct a consumer-focused campaign that will take the Cascade brand to a wider circle of customers.
Bradshaw is a full service advertising and marketing firm.
The release quoted Cascade President Randy Emerson saying, “We have aggressive expansion goals as a company, so we were looking for a marketing partner who could help us get there.
“Bradshaw understood our needs and had the energy and creative capability to help us meet our goals.”
Founded in 1989, Cascade has manufacturing and service sites in Spokane, Portland and Salt Lake.
It has more than 400 employees at those locations.
The Association of Washington Business Tuesday recognized the volunteerism and community service efforts of 21 Washington companies, including five based in Eastern Washington.
The Spokane-area corporate winners were: Associated Industries, for its Bright Promise Scholarship program; PAML, for raising $339,527 for charities such as Shriners Hospital and the Make-a-Wish Foundation; Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories Inc. of Pullman, for its work on behalf of United Way, the Corporate Angels Program, and Haitian earthquake relief; and Sterling Savings Bank, for employee incentives that generated 24,000 volunteer hours in 2009.
Also, State Rep. Susan Fagan, R-Pullman, received the Judy Coovert Award for her work on the AWB Health Care Committee.
AWB President Don Brunell said the winners sustained their charitable work during a deep recession.
“Giving back is integral to who they are and what they do. It’s part of how they do business,” he said.
PAML also received one of 10 AWB Environmental Excellence Awards for upkeep and updating of its 162-vehicle fleet, and implementation of route-mapping software. Coupled with handheld devices for couriers, PAML has reduced travel by 1.5 million miles, or 30 percent.
A few bits of information left out of a Wednesday SR story about the Spokane Turbine Center deserve some mention in the Office Hours blog. (To see a short video about the three-week course offered by the STC, it’s here. The full story is here.)
For one, the building the STC has moved into, at the intersection of Rutter Parkway and Fancher, is the renovated former home of the 116th Observation Squadron, which was created and first stationed at Felts Field in 1924. STC Executive Director Jeff Turcotte noted that an anonymous benefactor covered the cost of renovating the stately brick building that is the STC offices.
The 116th eventually evolved into the 142nd Air Defense Group, which became the Air Force refueling wing based at Fairchild Air Force Base.
Second, the training offered by STC is focused on the Kodiak, a small, powerful turboprop aircraft designed by Quest Aircraft Co., in Sandpoint.
The Kodiak was designed by Tom Hamilton, who resides in the Newport area. Paul Schaller, CEO of Quest, said the initial capital to launch the company came from about a dozen U.S. mission aviation groups.
Dishman Dodge has acquired the assets of Spokane Chrysler, and consolidated the two dealerships at Dishman’s 7614 and 7700 East Sprague Ave. locations.
Dishman Owner Marti Hollenback said Chyrsler Friday approved the purchase from former owner Jay Lee after months of review. The Spokane Chyrsler premises at 6818 E. Sprague were not included in the deal, she said.
“We have plenty of room with our 10 acres,” Hollenback said.
She said no Spokane Chrysler employees were retained, but Dishman will likely need more factory-certified mechanics.
“We want the Chrysler customers to know we’re here and we’re here to take care of them,” Hollenback said.
The dealership name has been changed to Dishman Dodge Chrysler.
Almost 7,000 Spokane County homeowners were under water at the end of the first quarter of 2010, and another 5,500 had less than five percent equity.
CoreLogic, which compiles property information for consumers and industry, said 7.1 percent of county homeowners owed more on their mortgages than their homes were worth. Another 5.7 percent had minimal equity.
Statewide, 15.8 percent of homeowners were under water, with 5.4 percent nearly so.
In Idaho, almost 24 percent had mortgages in excess of their homes’ value, another 5.1 percent had little equity.
Those numbers were almost identical for all of the United States. More than 11 million mortgages exceeded equity, and 2.3 million had equity less than five percent.
CoreLogic Chief Economist Mark Fleming said it will take five to seven years for the typical homeowner to regain lost equity.
Home prices in Washington slipped three percent in the first quarter compared with 2009, helping affordability remain at the highest levels in more than a decade.
The Washington Center for Real Estate Research also found median prices in Spokane County were off 5.6 percent, to $170,200, but the number of sales jumped 27 percent from depressed 2009 levels.
The median for all of Washington was $245,900.
Locally and statewide, sales volume trailed off slightly compared with the fourth quarter of 2009.
Center Director Glenn Crellin said the impact of the income tax credit was difficult to gauge, but the activity was slower during the extension that ended April 30 than it was before the first deadline expired Nov. 30.
Affordability, measured using prices, interest rates and incomes, edged down from fourth-quarter 2009, but remained at the best levels since at least the late 1990s.
Liberty Lake based IT-Lifeline announced it’s become certified as a recovery and continuity solution provider for the Oregon Bankers Association.
It’s the first group to get that OBA certification, said IT-Lifeline’s COO Jim Sandford. IT-Lifeline will work with OBA subsidiary BancSource to offer banks recovery and continuity solutions if a catastrophe affects service to their customers.
By earning the OBA endorsement, IT-LIfeline is able to meet with OBA members and discuss options for institutions needing to address data security and business continuity.
For more information about IT-Lifeline, go to www.itlifeline.net.
Among the recent winners at the Spokane Regional Marcom Sparks Awards ceremony was a comic strip, “By All Accounts,” created last year by accounting firm LeMaster Daniels. The company wanted to use the strip as an internal tool to shed light on some of the firm’s diverse products and services.
This panel of “By All Accounts” is one example. It extols the value of the TROI network management service LeMaster Daniels provides to customers.
The strip idea was hatched by company CEO Scott Dietzen and the marketing team. According to Pam Pyrc, the firm’s marketing director, each week’s content bubbled up from internal staffers and was created without an agency.
The key artist and illustrator of the strip was Clancy Bundy, a student at Eastern Washington University. The panel’s last installment was December 2009.
For more information on the awards, check out spokanemarcom.com.
Spokane Teachers Credit Union on Thursday announced Vice President Tom Johnson will take over as CEO when Steven L. Dahlstrom (in photo) retires in December.
On May 24, Johnson will be promoted to executive vice president, in preparation for the handoff of the CEO reins.
Dahlstrom has been with STCU, one of the area’s fastest growing financial institutions, for 30 years, 20 as president and CEO.
Johnson came to STCU after serving as vice president at Whitworth University from 1989 through 2006.
He formally takes the reins on Jan. 1.
Avista Corp. saw its earnings drop in the first quarter, and officials with the Spokane company say weather was largely to blame.
“We had a challenging first quarter because our region experienced one of the warmest January to March periods on record combined with low precipitation and snowpack,” Chairman, President and CEO Scott Morris said in a statement this morning. “This weather pattern reduced our retail loads, hydroelectric generation and net income.”
The company today reported net income of $28.8 million, or 52 cents per diluted share, for the first quarter. That compares to $31 million, or 57 cents per share, for the first quarter of 2009.
Net income for Avista’s utilities operation was $27.8 million in the first quarter, down from $30.6 million a year ago.
Three area groups and their ad agencies won the top awards in the recent Spark Awards, presented by Spokane Regional MarCom Association, made up of area marketing and public relations professionals.
About 80 different Spark awards were presented to groups, businesses and associations for creative work. This was the 15th year the Spark Awards were presented, said MarCom Event Chair Leslie White Hebert of Coffman Engineers.
The three top “Brightest Spark” awards went to:
• GONZAGA UNIVERSITY and Spokane agency Magner Sanborn, for the spring 2009 fundraising campaign “Share Inspiration.” The fundraising effort, with a strong emphasis on social media and e-mail marketing, was cited also for the Dussault Award, which recognizes a campaign that “enhances the vitality and vibrancy of the community,” according to a citation from a group of Seattle judges who made that selection.
• The CITY OF SPOKANE, with Coeur d’Alene agency Hanna & Associates, for a water conservation campaign for citizens called “Slow the Flow.”
• THE SPOKANE REGIONAL CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU, along with Spokane agency Klundt | Hosmer, for the social media campaign “SpoTweetDeals.”
Did it make any difference when Itron Inc. CEO and President Malcolm Unsworth met with President Barack Obama in a Rose Garden ceremony last week?
The Itron stock symbol seems to tell the story.On Friday morning, April 30, Itron shares opened at $80.45. That morning Unsworth, with two Itron manufacturing workers, met Obama and listened as the president praised efforts by U.S. firms like Itron in helping meet the pressing needs of a more efficient electric grid.
At 11:40 a.m., shortly after the White House event, shares of Itron hit their recent high point, at $81.75. That’s the high price point over the past two years.
Since then the Itron share price has slid southward. As of today, it’s trading at $75 and change. To see the earlier Office Hours blog entry on the Rose Garden event, it’s here.
Deloris Duquette, who is vice president for sales development and operations at Liberty Lake-based Itron, said the real reason for the spike was the April 28 Q1 financial results.
“We released earnings after the market closed on the 28th and beat expectations by quite a bit and saw a (roughly) $5 uptick in the price on the 29th on very heavy volume.”
Right after the earnings report, the Thursday and Friday total volumes of shares traded also soared to more than one million shares, Duquette pointed out.
Website datacenterknowledge.com recently listed the 10 largest data centers in the world. Landing at No. 9 is the Microsoft Data Center in Quincy, in the heart of Grant County. Officially, the website made Quincy 9A, with Microsoft’s San Antonio data center 9B.
The photo above shows the Quincy site. Until two years ago, Microsoft planned to build a second adjoining center. For reasons involving state taxes, it stopped and moved more of its data to Texas.
Both San Antonio and Quincy measure about 470,000 square feet. To view a video showing the inside of the Quincy site, it’s here.
Starting next Monday and running for three days, Washington and Idaho managers can earn certification in a downtown Spokane program designed to elucidate the ins and outs of global exporting.
The three-day program offers two different courses at the Academic Center of the Riverpoint WSU downtown campus. Classes run 8 a.m.-5 p.m. all three days. Presenting the courses is the Washington Small Business Development Center.
Pre-registration is required and can be submitted at http://www.wsbdc.org/training-calendar.
This export certification course runs May 10-11, and is certified by the Washington State Department of Commerce. Participants will be ready to take the Certified Global Business Professional exam, offered twice a year. The cost is $295.
The exporting under NAFTA class will run May 12 and is focused on helping companies that export to Canada or Mexico. The one-day seminar is designed to help determine what products qualify for duty-free tariff treatment. Cost is $150.
Sterling Financial Corp. today announced new investments that could fulfill the Spokane institution’s need for additional capital.
Thomas H. Lee Partners, which last week committed $134 million to the recapitalization effort, will increase its investment to $170 million.
Sterling said it will also offer, in a private placement, $555 million in common and convertible preferred shares to accredited private investors.
If that offering is successful – a spokeswoman said she could not comment on whether there were buyers for the new stock – the combined investment of $725 million would bring Sterling and its principal subsidiary, Sterling Savings Bank, into compliance with regulatory capital requirements.