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Archive for October 2010

Liberty Lake gets Gee Imports in former Hummer site

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Liberty Lake vehicle dealership George Gee Automotive has opened Gee Imports, which will sell a cross-section of foreign vehicles.

The lot will take over the former Gee Hummer location on the north side of Interstate 90, at 21602 E. George Gee Ave. in Liberty Lake.

Company CEO Ryan Gee said the goal is to help more customers find efficient and safe imports.

Gee Imports Sales Manager John Paine said most of the cars at the dealership will be 2004 and newer. The selection will lean toward preferred brands such as Hondas, Subarus, Toyotas, Nissans and Mazdas, he said.

“People in the market want efficient, well-made and safe vehicles,” he said.

Kootenai County outpaces Spokane for total construction in September

McGraw-Hill Construction just published these numbers for construction in Spokane and Kootenai counties during September.

For Spokane, the most obvious big leap in in residential construction, comparing this past September to the same month of 2009. Two other major building trends are evident: Even with Spokane having a 34 percent year-over-year gain in residential building this past month, Kootenai County shows more robust construction in that sector.

And nonresidential buldings (which are basically all commercial, manufacturing or school-related projects) continue lagging along. It’s clear the abundant supply of office vacancies plays a key role in holding down nonresidential construction.

Spokane County

                              2010              2009                Change in percent

  • Nonresidential  $5,495,000    $5,454,000     1
  • Residential       $18,135,000  $13,535,000  34
  • TOTAL             $23,630,000  $18,989,000  24

Kootenai County

                               2010             2009               Change in percent

  • Nonresidential $5,420,000   $5,546,000       -2
  • Residential:     $19,173,000  $16,847,000    14
  • TOTAL            $24,593,000  $22,393,000    10


Big turnout when the Rack opened today

The Nordstrom Rack at Spokane Valley Plaza drew more than 500 people, a spokesman for the Seattle based retailer told us.

The best guess was that 525 were there, all of whom tried to be the winner of the 90-second free shopping blitz just before the doors opened.

We’d love to see any cell phone or digital images from people who were there. Got any?

Avista improves 3Q income

Spokane-based Avista Corp. on Thursday posted third-quarter earnings of $12.3 million, or 22 cents a share, compared with income of $8.1 million and 15 cents per share in the third quarter of 2009.

Over the first nine months of 2010, the power utility reported income of $66.7 million, or $1.20 per share, compared with income of $65 million, or $1.18 per share, for the same period one year earlier.
Third-quarter revenue was $367.1 million, compared with $314.7 million from the third quarter of 2009.

Company CEO and President Scott Morris said in a news release that the company is overcoming “a challenging first quarter due to one of the warmest January to March periods on record.” That’s been offset by “lower power supply costs and the continued management of our operating expenses,” Morris said.

Unemployment claim hours extended

Phone lines for those filing unemployment claims or seeking information will open one hour earlier starting Nov. 1, the Washington Employment Security Department announced today.

From Monday through Friday, call center agents will be available 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. The number is 1-800-318-6022.

Applications for benefits and claim submissions can be made anytime on-line. The address is

The centers are busiest during the winter because of seasonal layoffs in construction and agriculture.

The extended hours will last through Jan. 31.

Itron signs deals for 800,000 payment meters in Indonesia

Wednesday turned into a big day for Itron news. The Liberty Lake maker of smart devices and meter solutions for utilities reported record quarterly and nine-month sales.

It also announced it signed deals with the Indonesian state-owned electric power utility, PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara, to provide 800,000 smart payment meters to the Java Bali region.

The release said those meters will be provided by the end of the year; with a few months left, one wonders if most of those are already deployed.

In Indonesia, power payments are unlike what we do in this country. Instead of getting a monthly bill for consumption, many locations in Indonesia — some of which are semi-rural — rely on a different metering system.

With the new Itron-provided keypad, consumers pay for future energy by entering a 20-digit code which credits the equivalent kWh onto the meter. The credit can be purchased by consumers from a supply authority or approved vendor.

Get ready for Thursday’s Race Through the Rack: We have the downloadable entry form here

The opening of the new remodeled Spokane Valley Nordstrom Rack will be at 9 a.m. Thursday.

As it’s done for years, the company starts the first day with Race Through the Rack, a 90-second shopping blitz, offered to one person chosen by random that morning. We spoke with Geevy Thomas, president of Nordstrom Rack, to get an idea what’s in store for people.

Thomas said it’s possible the line of folks at the store Thursday could be north of 300. Staff will start handing out application forms starting at 7 a.m. The winner will be chosen at 8:45 a.m.   Staff then walk the winner through the store, before the 90 seconds, to familiarize them with the layout.

Each winner tends to follow his or her own plans. Some go straight to shoes, then to handbags. Some make sure they pick up a tie, just to have something to give their husband or boyfriend, Thomas said.

Thomas noted that the staff always work with the winner to insure they get what they wanted. “We don’t let anyone leave the store with off-sizes of what they selected,” he said. The staff spends as much time as needed to exchange any items grabbed in the 90 seconds that aren’t the right size or fit.

To download a copy of the application form to enter the sweepstakes, click here.


Governor’s order targets barriers to small business

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire today ordered state agencies to develop programs and institute reforms that will boost small businesses faltering in the ongoing economic downturn.

The initiatives range from help with exports, to improving access to credit, to alleviating the burdens imposed by the state’s complex tax structure and regulatory requirements.

The economy is changing, and government must change to reflect the changes, she said.

Some changes have already been made, Gregoire said, and others will be implemented as soon as they can be identified with legislative consent.

“This is all stuff I think we can do ourselves,” she said, noting the state has already expanded business and occupation tax credits.

She sad 400 jobs were created thanks to $1 million in B&O tax credits targeted at rural counties.

Gregoire said 95 percent of Washington businesses have fewer than 50 employees.

“Clearly, small business represents the backbone of the economy in our state,” she said.

Settlement puts $11.7 million in pension fund

Washington’s pension fund reserves will get a $11.7 million boost from a settlement announced today by Treasurer James McIntire.

The agreement with State Street Bank resolves a dispute over foreign exchange transactions executed between 1997 and 2007, when the bank had custody of funds managed by the Washington State Investment Board, according to a statement from McIntire, who sits on the board.

The funds will be deposited in the Commingled Trust Fund, the $53 billion pool backing pensions for Washington state and local government workers.


Idaho home prices tumble 14 percent

Idaho home prices tumbled 14 percent between August 2009 and August 2010, the worst depreciation in the country, according to business information provider Core Logic.

In Washington, prices fell 5.1 percent eighth worst in the United States. Oregon ranked fourth, with a 6.3 percent decline.

Spokane homes lost 7.4 percent of their value, those in Coeur d’Alene 9.1 percent

Nationally, prices fell 1.5 percent, the first decline this year, Core Logic said today.

The results include short sales and homes taken back by lenders.

Excluding what Core Logic calls ”distressed sales,” Spokane prices were down 6.3 percent. Coeur d’Alene’s prices 12.1 percent.

Core Logic said home prices by August had retreated 28.2 percent from their peak in April 2006. 


Redbox adds videogame rentals in 90 Spokane kiosks

Starting last week, many of the Spokane Redbox kiosks have begun renting videogames in addition to recent movies.

A company release said 90 Spokane kiosks are part of a Redbox test to determine the popularity of the games.

Spokane-area consumers can rent a variety of videogames for the Wii, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.

Rentals will be $2 a night plus tax.  The choices will vary by location. For a better idea of games available in Spokane, visit

Friday follow: A Twitter stream showcasing Spokane business messages

We’ve made a few attempts to single out notable area business websites. Today we’ll go a different direction, doing a sample stream of Twitter messages keyed to the term “Spokane business.” Got any other streams or business lists you think are relevant? Please send them our way and we’ll share… You can review the tweets by grabbing the slider on the right edge of the frame and scrolling down. Most recent messages appear on top.

Google moving closer to its fiber network announcements

Did Spokane get anywhere near being chosen by Google in its much-publicized plan to deploy fiber networks in some lucky metros?

We wondered about that, so we contacted the Mountain View company and asked about Spokane’s chances of being one of the locations chosen. (Photo shows a rally organized by the Spokane Association of Pro-Fiberians.)

The short answer:  the decision hasn’t been made yet and Google intends to make the choice by the end of 2010. More than 1,100 cities made appeals — some silly, some highly sophisticated — to be part of the company’s plan to roll out the first phase of an ultra-high speed network across parts of the country.

As Google spokesman Dan Martin noted, the company will offer the option for one or a number of sites, with a population target of between 50,000 and 500,000.

That means it could be in just one city. Or in several cities. If it does involve several cities, it might be just a portion. In an email, Martin wrote: “… We might select a large city, but only build in a small neighborhood.”

He also said  the company so far has identified several communities “that we think might be a good fit for our project. But we’re not yet prepared to announce anything more at this time.”

The benefit, for Google, is learning how to best deploy the fiber network on a broader scale; the first locations will be beta sites, in effect. The service will not be free, Martin noted. Customers will be facing a pricing system more or less competitive with other providers.

For more Google explanations on the criteria, Martin sent along this link:

Nordstrom Rack kicks off next week with $2,000 shopping spree

For fans of high-end discount shopping, the news is Nordstrom’s Rack will reopen on Oct. 28 at 10 a.m., at the Spokane Valley Plaza. It’s filling 30,000 square feet next to Old Navy (in the building due west of the west side entrance to Spokane Valley Mall).

The retailer will close the NorthTown Rack store on Tuesday and spend all day Wednesday making the final move of equipment, supplies and inventory.  The new store will have roughly 70 workers.

On Wednesday Oct. 27 we’ll do a short story and give people a heads-up on getting ready for the $2,000 Run through the Rack Contest. An explanation is offered here. But our story will give you some clues on what to do, if you’re the winner, of the $2,000 or 90-second shopping spree.

The Nordstrom Rack is the company’s wide-selection unit devoted to discounted items and overstock.

Visits to Apple retail stores dwarf Disneyland traffic

It’s been all of two weeks since we last went lady-gaga about Apple opening a retail store in downtown Spokane. So it’s time to once again bow down to the Lord of Cupertino.

During the company’s recent earnings call, Steve Jobs noted that retail store foot traffic, at its 317 U.S. locations, drew more than 74.5 million visitors. A recent note on this, at, pointed out that many of those visis may not have led to purchases. The short item, with a graphic, said Apple stores have become something like the tech version of mall-hopping.

Here’s the graphic and we’ll have to trust the numbers compiled in producing it.


Airport sets $60 million budget

Spokane International Airport directors today unanimously voted to pass a $60.3 million 2011 budget along to Spokane County and the City of Spokane for approval.

The budget, split $28 million for operations and $32.3 million for capital expenditures, is five percent higher than the 2010 budget, but does not call for any fee increases to either the airlines or the public, airport Finance Manager Dave Armstrong said.

Spokane International is among the few airports with boardings and revenues tracking ahead of 2009 levels, he said.

The city and county own the airport.



Huppin’s opens doors and starts selling Apple products in Spokane

The new North Division Huppin’s store formally opens tomorrow, Oct. 20, at 10 a.m.

The newly remodeled location, at 8016 N. Division, will feature plenty of HDTVs, cameras, audio gear, camcorders, headphones and home theater systems.

It will also start selling Apple products. Huppin’s President Murray Huppin worked for most of the past year to sign a reseller deal that allows his company to sell just about everything Apple makes except iPads and iPhones.

Apple opened its own retail store in downtown Spokane in September. Huppin said that had no effect on his effort to become an Apple reseller.  Apple already has two area retail resellers – Best Buy, and Strong Solutions — both of which sell a full line of Apple computers, iPhones and iPads.

Huppin’s two stores will both sell Apple products. However its nationwide online service, OneCall, will not, Huppin said.

The deal came about as Huppin’s wanted to bring to its customers the smart and nifty devices that have made Apple the most valuable tech company in the world. Huppin said he believes Apple forged the deal in part because Huppin’s customers see the Spokane home-grown company as an innovator and clear leader in consumer electronics retailing.

Nectar Tasting Room lists the first winery lineup

We mentioned last week that the Nectar Tasting Room, opening in downtown Spokane this fall, will feature five area wineries. Company founder Josh Wade didn’t have those wineries lined up when we first posted the mention.

Now he has. The five wineries are:

  • Kirkland-based Northwest Cellars.
  • Anelare Winery from Kennewick.
  • Hard Row to Hoe, from Lake Chelan.
  • Terra Blanca Winery, from Red Mountain.
  • Skylite Cellars from Walla Walla.

Wade intends to turn the main floor of the downtown 1889 Building into a regular wine event hangout, with eats on the side. His blog gives more details on the five wineries who are setting up tasting areas in the building.


State unemployment rate holds at nine percent

The unemployment rate in Spokane County fell to 8.2 percent in September as employers added another 1,220 workers.

Employment in the county has increased by more than 2,000 since September 2009.

The improving employment picture locally, the rate was 8.8 percent in August, contrasts with that for Washington as a whole.

Figures released today by the Employment Security Department show an increase in unemployment as private-sector hiring failed to offset layoffs among government workers.

The unemployment rate held steady at nine percent, lower than the 9.6 percent rate for the United States.

Businesses added 1,000 workers, but 4,200 public-sector workers lost their jobs.



Economic vitality of Northwest cities tumbles

The economic vitality of Northwest cities has tumbled in the last year, according to new rankings by the Milken Institute.

The exception in the 2010 index of Best-Performing Cities was the Tri-Cities, which climbed to fifth among the 200 rated by job, income and output growth, with an emphasis on high-tech employment

Spokane fell to 74th from 41st in the 2009 rankings. Among 179 small cities, Coeur d’Alene sank to 93rd from 15th in 2009. Two years ago, the Kootenai County city peaked at No. 2.

Texas cities ruled the Milken chart, with five among the top 10. Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood topped the list. Detroit was at the bottom.

Among other Northwest cites ranked were Seattle, down from 17th to 37th; Portland, down to 107th from 37th; and Boise, down to 154th from 114th.

Lewiston, unranked previously, was 139th among small cities. Fargo, N.D., was No. 1.

So how good is the Chevie Volt? MSNBC’s Alan Boyle lays out some answers

General Motors is banking on electric vehicles. Its all new Chevrolet Volt is being rolled out for initial tests and trial runs, and the American consumer is starting to pay attention. The Volt will make its official debut later this year. In 2011 the Nissan Leaf will also go on sale.

Former Spokesman-Review features editor Alan Boyle, now the science guy at, just finished an 800-mile road trip with colleague Jim Seida.  Their account suggests the Volt is good but not particularly special.

As Seida and Boyle noted, the Volt uses a gasoline engine along with its electric motor. Their tests involved two long days, which Alan also noted is not generally the main form of travel GM says Volt customers will engage in.

Mileage varied, depending on how much travel the car was making. Here’s Alan’s Q-and-A answer to the mileage issue:

If you consider just the battery-powered driving we did on the first day, our mileage was a pretty darn good 80-plus miles per gallon equivalent. Technically, it was 32.9 gasoline-free miles driven with less than $1.50 worth of electricity. That’s the kind of performance a commuter might expect from the Volt. If you consider the total long-haul mileage, the figure comes down to about 40 miles per gallon. Sure, other cars can do better than that, but that’s not really the point.


Unpaid employment taxes triple

Washington employers have not paid unemployment taxes for 11,485 workers so far in 2010, triple the number for the first three quarters of 2009, the Employment Security Department reported today.

Auditors found $196 million in unreported wages and $2.12 million in unpaid taxes, the depatment said, adding that employer failure to pay jeopardizes the ability of their employees to qualify for unemployment benefits.

The department said freight trucking, schools, contractors and salons were among the industries where unreported workers were most frequently found.

The U.S. Department of Labor awarded ESD its Innovations in Integrity Award  for its audits targeting industries where non-reporting is most likely.

“We’re getting better at this,” said Employment Security Commissioner Paul Trause. “That’s bad news for employers that aren’t paying by the rules.” 

State will raise minimum wage by 12 cents

Washington state’s minimum wage will increase by 12 cents — to $8.67 an hour — on Jan. 1.

The wage is tied, by a citizen initiative, to the the Consumer Price Index. Since inflation was flat the previous year, no increase occurred in 2011.

The most recent CPI data show a slight increase in that index.

Washington’s Labor and Industries department originally went to Attorney General Rob McKenna to determine if the state has the right to boost the minimum wage if the CPI has risen but to a point below what was used to set the existing level of $8.55.

McKenna said the state can’t. The group who pushed the wage initiative, the Washington state Labor Council, opposed McKenna’s interpretation.

Labor and Industries spokeswoman Kim Contris said the decision to raise the rate “was based on interpreting the original intent of the law.

“We really wanted to correctly implement the law,” she said. “We recognize there could be confusion and additional cost if we made a mistake and the court overturned the decision.”

Washinton’s rate is the highest minimum in the nation. The federal minimum wage is $7.25.


Get an overview of cloud computing, and check out the Meadowwood Tech Park

What was once the Agilent Technologies company campus has become the Meadowwood Technology Office Park. It’s at 24001 E. Mission in Liberty Lake. Developer Jim Frank is converting the tech office-manufacturing center into a cluster project focusing on growing area companies.

Your chance to get a good view of what’s happening to that large building comes on Oct. 27, when LaunchPad INW hosts an Emerging Trends in Technology session there, from 3 to 8 p.m.

At 3 p.m., a panel discussion will focus on cloud computing.  Tom Wilburn (in the photo), a Cisco VP for US/Canada Security and Mobility Sales, will also deliver a keynote at 4:30 p.m.

LaunchPad membership is not required to attend the session.

You can register and RSVP for $10 per person online, at Tickets will be  $20 at the door.

For further information, contact Bill Kalivas,

GSI sponsoring a primer on social media

Greater Spokane Incorporated is sponsoring Social Media 101: Engaging Social Media for Beginners and Skeptics.

It runs from 8 to 9:30 a.m. on Oct. 21 at the GSI office, 801 W. Riverside. Presenters will be Andrei Mylroie and Emily Easley of Desautel Hege Communications. It’s $15 for GSI members, $30 otherwise.

Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Foursquare …. if those mean nothing to you and you’re looking to broaden your company’s message to potential customers, social media might be an option.

Family business succession a full day’s topic at Oct. 18 session at Gonzaga

Gonzaga University is hosting an all-day Family Owned Business Seminar, running 8 a.m.--5 p.m. on Oct. 18.

It’s at the Jepson Center on the GU campus. The session will focus on strategies and steps to follow for families needing to keep a business going and planning for the future. It’s $195 per ticket and you can register here.

The main speaker is Lee Hausner, author of “Hats Off to You: Balancing Roles and Creating Success in Family Business Succession.”

It’s described as a six-step transitional model for succession in family business. Hausner is a noted family business consultant and psychologist specializing in issues of wealth and wealth transfer.

Worth noting: search Google Knol for “business succession” and you get 292 results.

If you search Knol for “business success” you get 10,000 results. Mathematically, it must be much harder finding solid advice for the first topic than the second, or do you not agree?


Local foreclosure rates increase

Foreclosure rates increased in Spokane and Kootenai counties during the third quarter of 2010, but filings fell in September compared with 2009, according to a national real estate research company.

RealtyTrac said 727 Spokane properties received a notice of trustee sale, or were taken over by lenders in the quarter. For September, the number was 191.

In Kootenai County, 670 properties were subject to a notice of default or trustee sale, or went back to the lender during the quarter. The total for September was 243.

The Spokane third-quarter filings represented a 76 percent increase compared with the second quarter, and a near tripling of activity a year earlier. September was less active than August, but more than double September 2009.

Quarterly results in Kootenai County were only slightly worse than quarter- and year-prior periods, but monthly comparisons showed improvements. 

Idaho ranked fifth among all states in the rate of foreclosure filings, Washington was 14th.

Nationally, notices and sales were relatively flat for the quarter and month compared with the 2009 periods. More than 930,000 properties were in some stage of foreclosure during the third quarter, 347,420 of those in September.   

Gonzaga professor lands NSF grant for wireless research project

Gonzaga University associate electrical engineering professor Steve Schennum has received a $1.1 million federal grant to work on improving the reliability of wireless networks.

The money, from the National Science Foundation, is the largest federal grant GU has received, the school noted.

Part of Schennum’s research will look at how wireless devices can be designed to be less prone to signal interference from the increasing presence of other wireless networks in a specific area.

A GU release also stated that one industry benefit from Schennum’s research will be to remove some of the technological barriers, in laboratory settings, that developers face when trying to innovate new tools and new network communication ideas.

The GU release said: “There are three companies in the area that are using the (GU Smart Antenna and Radio Lab) now, one of which is LHC2, and there seems to be considerable interest in this work coming from students and prospective students as well,” Schennum said. “We believe it will stimulate even more interest in our electrical engineering program.” 

New Huppin’s Hi-Fi store on N. Division opens on Nov. 5

The new Huppin’s Hi-Fi, Photo & Video location, on North Division, will have a ribbon-cutting ceremony the morning of Nov. 5.

The store is an upgraded version of the company’s downtown retail location. Interactive displays and demonstrations of digital products and home entertainment systems will be the main focus of the new store. It will include a new product center devoted to headphones.

The new store has about 8,000 square feet of selling space, said company president Murray Huppin.

Stay tuned to Office Hours, as there will be a few other details added about the opening between now and then.


Jeanette Hamilton given job of GM at Main Market Cooperative

Jeanette Hamilton has been named the new general manager of the downtown Spokane food co-op, Main Market Cooperative, at 44 W. Main.

In May of this year the market’s board made Hamilton its interim GM. The co-op launched in early 2010 and has revised its business plan slightly to attract more customers. It now has about 1,300 members.

Hamilton was hired in December 2009 as assistant manager. Her co-op experience includes stints as a manager with the North Coast Cooperative in Eureka and a second one, in Tonasket.

She has also worked in management for Spokane-based Yoke’s Fresh Markets. 


Spokane home sales slow

Home sales in Spokane County last month fell to their lowest level since February, and pending sales were lower still, according to figures released today by the Spokane Association of Realtors.

Buyers took title to 317 residential properties, down almost eight percent from August and more than 28 percent from September 2009.

Only 266 sales were pending, down almost 25 percent from August and more than 42 percent from last September.

The low mark for 2010 sales is 210 in February, not surprising given that only 177 sales were pending in January.

The average price was $182,264, down from $191,174 in August, but up from $179,492 a year ago.

The median price was $162,000, off from $170,000 in August, but slightly ahead of the $160,000 a year earlier.

September’s numbers dragged year-to-date sales for the first nine months of 2010, at 3,330, below the 3,338 for the same 2009 period.

Sagle couple’s idea for solar-powered roads wins first round of GE Ecomagination Challenge

Sagle, Idaho couple Scott and Julie Brusaw are the first winners in the GE Ecomagination Challenge, and collected a $50,000 award for a breakthrough idea to use solar panels to build “smart roads.”

Their Web pages are: and here on Facebook.

They were the people’s choice winners for developing a road surface technology, relying on solar glass, that could lead to safer driving, electrical generation and other benefits.

The Brusaws received more than 74,000 votes in the GE-sponsored tech challenge, which drew more than 3,500 ideas. This round of voting was the first in the GE Ecomagination Challenge, which is a $200 million innovation experiment where businesses, entrepreneurs, innovators and students share their best ideas on how to build the next-generation power grid.


Doug Kelley takes the Spokane Catalyst trivia prize — $5 coffee card

Doug Kelley of Spokane was the first person to answer our awesome, totally difficult Spokane Catalyst Awards trivia contest.

We wanted the name of any group other than TechNet that was promoting tech and economic development, back in the mid-1990s, when the awards were launched. Kelley named INTECH.

Which is close enough, as the actual name was INTEC. (Who can forget those balmy days when INTEC moved heaven and earth to bring great things to Spokane?)

A number of other group names would have qualified, as well. Such as the Spokane Regional EDC, the BASR (Biotechnology Association of the Spokane Region), and Jobs Plus, based in North Idaho.

Here’s a hint that puts you one simple step from a $5 coffee card in our trivia challenge

For those stumped (or annoyed) at yesterday’s Trivia Challenge, I say: keep trying. Let’s give you a hint.

The organization that launched the Catalyst Awards is TechNet.

Answer one more of the other three questions correctly, and you’ve earned a $5 coffee card. How hard is that?

We posted the quiz yesterday on this blog; it was our way of saluting the awards, which are handed out more or less annually. The winners were posted yesterday, also.

Now for a bit of caviling. The original purpose of the Catalysts was to call attention to tech companies and tech leaders in the community. Does it look like it’s strayed off target, now allowing non-tech firms or groups to earn the prize?

In a word, yeah.

When that drift occurs, why have them, since the community has other awards for business, such as the Agora Awards? End of screed, now back to our regular programming…

To come in with a winning entry for the coffee card, simply post an answer below or e-mail with the subject “Catalyst.”


Retail sales dip in Spokane County in second quarter

Retail sales in Spokane County took a dip in the second quarter, while sales fared better in Western Washington metro areas.

Taxable retail sales in the county totaled $1.7 billion for April through June, down 2.7 percent from the second quarter of 2009, the Washington State Department of Revenue said today.

By comparison, sales were down 1.8 percent in King County and up slightly in Pierce, Snohomish and Clark counties, the agency said.

Just looking at store sales – the mall and main street trade – taxable sales for the quarter were $841 million in Spokane County. That was unchanged from the same quarter last year.

In the city of Spokane, total retail sales were $918 million, down 3.5 percent. Store sales were down 0.3 percent, to $448 million, the revenue department reported.

This year’s Spokane Catalyst Award winners are…

Seven area groups and business leaders won Catalyst Awards Wednesday during a ceremony at the Lincoln Center. They were:

  • Innovator of the year — Kim Zentz.
  • Company of the year —  Hotstart.
  • Green company of the year — McKinstry.
  • Organization of the year — Goodwill Industries Empowerment Zone.
  • Green organization of the year — Spokane Indians Baseball Club.
  • Mentor of the year — Norm Leatha.
  • Entrepreneurs of the year — Brian Boler and Reid Schilperoort, with Pullman based Ecowell.

Win $5 coffee card if you can answer Spokane’s Catalyst Award trivia challenge

The annual Spokane community Catalyst Awards take place this evening, starting at 4 p.m., at GU’s McCarthey Athletic Center.

We’ll give a $5 coffee card to the first reader who can answer two of the following Catalyst Awards trivia questions correctly:

  • In what year did the Catalyst Awards start?
  • Which group started the awards?
  • How many years have the awards been handed out?
  • Name one other Spokane-area nonprofit group that at one time actively promoted tech-education or tech growth but is no longer around (it can’t be the same as the answer to No. 2 above).

Place your answers here, or send them to, with the subject “Catalyst.”


Nectar Tasting Room update: It’s at 120 N. Stevens in downtown Spokane

We reached Josh Wade, the DrinkNectar blogger who we wrote about yesterday. Wade is opening a wine-tasting room in downtown Spokane in mid November. Our item yesterday didn’t have two pieces of information. So, to help round out the story, here they are:

The room will be on the main floor at 120 N. Stevens (known as the 1889 Building).Wade is still working out the arrangements for converting some of the space into a satellite tasting area.

Wade’s announcement said he’d have five area wineries using his place for tasting. He didn’t name them, and we now found out why.

“They can’t sign any deals with us until I’ve complete my lease agreements” for the space, Wade explained on Tuesday. He said he’s got solid deals with at least four wineries and expects to have the fifth deal in place before long.


Are you jacked about Spokane’s Catalyst awards? Maybe our trivia contest will help

Wednesday evening is the annual Spokane Catalyst Awards ceremony. In honor of the event Office Hours on Wednesday will host a Catalyst Trivia Contest. Some nifty award will be given to the winner, nearly as good as (and perhaps more valuable than) a Catalyst.

The nominees cover several categories listed below. The awards start at 4:30 p.m. at McCarthey Athletic Center, at Gonzaga University. Dr. Thayne McCullogh, the new president of GU, will take a role.

For tickets or information go here. Nominees:

Company of the year

  • IT-Lifeline
  • Ptera Wireless
Clean/green company
  • Blue Water Technologies
  • McKinstry
  • ReliOn
  • EWU School of Computing and Engineering Sciences
  • Goodwill Industries Empowerment Zone
  • Sirti, Gonzaga University School of Law and Partnering Law Firms
Clean/green organization
  • Gonzaga University PACCAR Center
  • Main Market Co-op
  • Spokane Indians Baseball Club/Avista Stadium
  • Norm Leatha - Gonzaga University Hogan Program
  • Rhosetta Rhodes - Whitworth University
  • Yvonne Johnson - Spokane Public Schools
Ken Grunzweig Innovator
  • Jim Fleming - GenPrime
  • Jon Eliassen - Red Lion Hotels
  • Kim Zentz - Sirti
Emerging innovator
  • Brian Boler, Caryn Parker, Reid Schilperoot, Andy Whitaker - EcoWell
  • Josh Neblett and Sarah Wollnick - Green Cupboards
  • Justin Lentz - Ink to Media

Five-winery tasting room to open in downtown Spokane

Josh Wade, a Spokane wine blogger, will open Nectar Tasting Room in November in downtown Spokane.

At the corner of Stevens and Main, the room will house the operations of five Washington winery satellite tasting rooms, Wade said in a press release.

The five wineries he’s arranging deals with have not been announced.

Wade has been using social media, developing a following through his blog and Facebook page. The new business also allows him to focus on his companion business,, which will focus on regional wineries and related topics.

In a release, Wade said Nectar Tasting Room will be open Thursday through Saturday and plans on live music for the weekends.

“This will be a unique wine tasting room experience with iPads as menus, a comfortable urban vibe, and activities that promote interactive wine education as an extension of the participating winery’s main location,” he said.


Spokane folks can attend WPC dinner and speech through technology

The Washington Policy annual dinner happens Wednesday, starting at 7 p.m., in Bellevue. Through modern telecom magic, people in Spokane can watch the event from this side of the state. It will be presented, via HD videoconferencing, at the Lincoln Center, starting at 7 p.m.

The featured WPC dinner guest is Pulitzer Prize winning-columnist and FOX News analyst Charles Krauthammer. The Bellevue event can hold 1,000.

The Spokane event can hold about 200 or so. Tickets for the Spokane dinner-presentation are $49. Tables of eight can be purchased for $350. Reservations can be made by calling 509-570-2384 or emailing

“This is just another way we show our commitment to bringing market solutions to Eastern Washington,” Eastern Washington Office Director Chris Cargill said.

Spokane firm gets contract to upgrade Stehekin Landing ferry facility

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Spokane business Wesslen Construction has won a $1 million contract with the National Park Service to uprade the ferry-landing faciliies at the Stehekin Landing on Lake Chelan.

The contract came through a competitive bid process.

Wesslen will provide universal access at the Stehekin Landing for  passengers traveling via the commercial ferry system. The park service is spending more than $2 million this year to improve the services and facilities at Stehekin, at the low end of Lake Chelan.

The popular Rainbow Mist Trail is also being upgraded to provide universal access to Rainbow Falls.

Seven firm made bids on the job. Wesslen has a history of doing marine projects in remote areas. A recent project was the Agnes Creek Bridge reconstruction.

The work is likely to take place February through June, and the new structure should

Gonzaga listed among ‘best-value’ law schools

As a struggling, underpaid journalist I feel some envy but a lot of sympathy for those folks who are pushing through the Gonzaga University law program.

A recent post by National Jurist magazine came up with 60 “best value” law schools, based on the quality of education vs. the cost of the three years spent earning a degree. Gonzaga was among the group, landing in the B-minus category. Most of the 60 schools in the ranking are public law programs.

The University of Washington made the A-minus list. The University of Oregon landed in the B-plus group.

The criteria included a tuition rate lower than $35,000 per year; a bar pass rate higher than the state average; an average total indebtedness below $100,000; and employment rate nine months after graduation at 85 percent or more.

The listing noted two GU data points: the tuition per year at GU law school is $31,460. Which is about right for the kind of school it is. Its “average” student indebtedness is $94,074, which assumes a student is not getting any scholarship or grant money to pay for school. Only two other law schools in the group of 60 had a higher figure for debt: Lewis and Clark Law School (private school, $95,608) and the University of Minnesota ($94,087, which is $13 more than GU’s).

And using ABA data, the ranking looked at bar exam pass rates. GU’s pass rate is listed at 79.9 precent for first-time test takers. The UW scored 84.6 percent, Willamette had 84.9 percent and Lewis and Clark scored 80.5 percent.


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

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Read all the posts from recent conversations on Office Hours.


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

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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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