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Archive for September 2010

Myst the Movie a step closer to the screen

We were directed to a recent post on, which mentions that Mysteria, a film company, has signed up two producers for a possible feature film based on “Myst,” the groundbreaking game developed in north Spokane by Cyan Worlds.

Back in 2008 we wrote, in an SR business story, about two Myst fans in Indiana who convinced Rand Miller, CEO of Cyan, to let them move forward with a movie based on the Myst books. Mysteria is those guys, who were admitted movie novices without a lot of Hollywood connections.

The story in 2008 noted that Cyan optioned the film rights to Mysteria and waited to see what would happen. The news update this month suggests Mysteria has gone out and moved the project forward. Its partners even rounded up two would-be producers.

Cyan Worlds President Tony Fryman said this is the deal: “The option ties up certain rights (as defined in an agreement) for a period of time while the option is shopped around Hollywood. The Option holder then cuts a deal with a selected studio whom then decides to produce a movie or not. If the Option is not “exercised” within the specified time then the rights typically revert back to the original owner.”

The original rights owner is either Cyan or Rand Miller.

Mysteria has its own blog, which serves as a somewhat limited chronicle of the project.

The Deadline item says producers Hunt Lowry and Mark Johnson have worked a deal with the two Indian Mysteriacs, Adrian Vanderbosch and Isaac Testerman. Those two have been working a few other big deals; they’re the ones producing a version of the John Grisham novel “The Testament.”


Spokane Club names Pilcher its new CEO

The Spokane Club today named John Pilcher its new CEO.

After a national search, the club’s board chose Pilcher to move the athletic-social club forward. Pilcher has been serving as interim CEO for the past several months.

“I’m thrilled to be asked to lead this historic enterprise on its path to success,” Pilcher said in a prepared release.

A Harvard MBA, Pilcher has been COO for the City of Spokane and was the city’s first Economic Development Division Director. Pilcher is a former board member of the Spokane Regional Economic Development Council. He has been involved in numerous community projects and civic groups including Rotary 21.

In a recent Sunday Business section story, we looked at the key membership problems the privately funded club is facing.

Call center operation to hire 190 in Spokane

West Corp., an Omaha-based call center business that has operations in Spokane, said it will hire 190 more permanent and temporary workers here.

The company said in a news release Wednesday that 120 of the jobs will be full time, and the rest will be seasonal, temporary positions. It will hold job fairs every Tuesday in October from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the company’s downtown Spokane location, at 157 S. Howard.

West Corp. currently employs about 1,100 workers in its two Spokane facilities, said David Pleiss, vice president of investor and public relations. The company’s clients here are a wireless telecommunications company and a chain of retail stores, Pleiss said, adding that West Corp. doesn’t identify its clients by name.

For more information visit

Stoneship game, by Cyan Worlds, now available for $2.99

We noted earlier that Mead-based game company Cyan Worlds was developing a light app-style game for the iPhone and iOS community.

The game, Stoneship, is now available for $2.99 at the iTunes store.

Happy gaming, Myst fans. More info.

Spokane gold mining firm goes toe to toe with the Bolivarian Republic

Spokane mining company, Gold Reserve, Inc., is going after the gold. Literally.

The Spokane company — which admittedly has one classic business name, and also one of the dullest — announced on Tuesday it’s going after the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela over an unresolved mining dispute connected to its Brisas copper/gold mine in South America.

The Bolivarian Republic is one of the states of Venezuela. The Spokane company says it’s spent huge amounts to develop the project and now is denied permits to operate.

The estimated damages Gold Reserve is after: $1.9 billion, according to a press release.

The announcement said GRZ (its symbol on the AMEX exchange) has filed an arbitration claim with the World Bank, seeking resolution and compensation for alleged violations of its mining rights and claims in “the world-class Brisas gold/copper project and the promising Choco 5 gold property.”

To see a news summary of the key part of the dispute, this link can provide an overview.

Gold Reserve believes the Venezuelan government has violated various trade agreements.

On the other side of the argument, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has instructed the Ministry of Basic Industry and Mines to create a national mining company, which will allow the state to regulate the industry together with small and medium mining companies that are legally established. In previous statements, Chavez has blasted mining companies for exploiting his country’s mineral reserves and paying very little in taxes.

Gold Reserve has offices in downtown Spokane. For more information, read the continuation of this post, below.rve Inc. 
 926 W Sprague Ave 
 Suite 200 
Gold Reserve Inc. 
 926 W Sprague Ave 
 Suite 200 
 Spokane, WA 992

 Spokane, WA 99201


Downtown street work hasn’t raised any big dust clouds

On Tuesday morning, today, downtown Spokane drivers were unable to cross Lincoln or Monroe as work crews began laying down a base layer along Second Avenue. The disruption was only for the morning commute. Drivers should be able to cross back on Lincoln and Monroe during this afternoon’s commute.

The downtown street projects will continue until November. The city is spending roughly $2.1 million to reconstruct Second and install a 12-inch water main as well as new catch basins.

With warmer weather occurring this week, you will be glad to know the prime contractor on the job, Inland Asphalt, has been diligent with water trucks, keeping road dust to a minimum.

Lisa Woodard, spokeswoman for Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency, said inspectors have visited the street site during the course of construction. Each time they’ve found the contractor fully complying with air control guidelines, she said.

Women not bringing home much bacon in Idaho

Women in Idaho are among the nation’s lowest wage earners, the Census Bureau reported this morning.

Median earnings for Idaho women were $29,122 last year – 72 percent of the $40,440 median earnings for men. Women are paid less in just five states, including Montana.

In Washington, women earn 75.1 percent of what men make. Median earnings last year were $38,521 for women and $51,305 for men.

Spokane foreclosure rates inch upward in July

Foreclosure rates in Spokane increased in July over the same period last year, CoreLogic reports.

New data from the company show that the rate of foreclosures among outstanding mortgage loans in the Spokane area was 1.26 percent for July, up from a rate of 1.14 percent in July 2009.

Foreclosure activity in Spokane was lower than the national foreclosure rate of 3.13 percent for July.

Also in Spokane, the mortgage delinquency rate increased. According to CoreLogic data for July, 4.38 percent of mortgage loans were 90 days or more delinquent, compared to 3.2 percent for the same period last year.

Money to start two export readiness centers

Spokane-area firms looking seriously at exporting products overseas will soon have a new “export readiness center” to assist them.

With a $1.28-million grant from the state Community Economic Revitalization Board, WSU Spokane will host two such centers; one will be in the Seattle area, the second will likely be in the Sirti building, at the Riverpoint Campus. The grant runs for two years.

Spokane already has the International Trade Alliance, a member-backed effort to increase and encourage export trade for area firms.

Brett Rogers, state director of the Washington Small Business Development Center, said the two agencies will work cooperatively. “We will leverage what they do and they will help us the same way,” he said. Some of the training materials that the ITA has will be made available to the export readiness center.

Companies that sign up for the service will receive an assessment of export options and guidance in exporting. Those services are free, said Rogers. The SBDC however does charge for training.

The program focus will be on companies who have not done extensive exporting. As a first step, those client companies will likely be advised to work initially with less-challenging export partners, such as Canada, Japan and Mexico. The export barriers to major markets, like China and India, are larger and take additional levels of sophistication to enter, he said. 

For information on the program, call the SBDC operated by WSU Spokane, at 509-358-7767.


Inside the new Spokane Apple retail store

Roughly 450 to 550 people were waiting to get into the new Spokane Apple retail store Saturday, as doors opened at 10 a.m.

Here are a few photos and one embedded video to show what the store looks like.

Disclaimer: The Cowles Co. runs River Park Square, which is the landlord for this store. Knowing full well people may accuse us of overdoing coverage of this event, we’ll stand accused. Since our job is to acknowledge and evaluate events or circumstances worth community attention, we decided one more post on the opening was warranted.

Nice looking at you

Just in case you wonder what the front of the new Apple retail store in Spokane looks like.

Doors open at 10 a.m. Saturday. And we note, there are strong supporters here of Strong Solutions, a Spokane Apple retailer. That group is holding a little counter-celebration and campout at that company’s store, on East Sprague, at the same time. 

Disclaimer: River Park Square is the landlord for the new Apple retail store. Cowles Co., which runs this newspaper, also owns that downtown mall.

Hollister-Stier chosen as manufacturer of the year

The Association of Washington Business has awarded its 2010 Manufacturer of the Year designation to HollisterStier Contract Mfg.

That’s the contract manufacturing arm of Hollister-Stier Laboratories, LLC., the north Spokane operation that has been part of the community since 1920. Hollister-Stier is a subsidiary of Jubilant Organosys Ltd., based in India.

The company has more than 200 employees and has a steady list of customers for whom it produces contract filling of pharma products.

For more information check out

Park Service looking for new manager for Stehekin Lodge

You too can run a lodge in the beautiful Lake Chelan area.

The National Park Service is looking for bids from people interested in running the Shehekin Landing Resort, also known as Stehekin Lodge, on the headwaters of Lake Chelan in north central Washington.

On Oct. 4, people who have a hankering can tour the site and look over the concession facilities. The event requires advance registration, arranged by calling (509) 682-4921 no later than noon, Friday Oct. 1.

The goal is to find a facility operator who will focus on resort services for the peak summer months, with the option of maintaining the facility for the full year.

The current operators, Cliff and Robbie Courtney, don’t plan to rebid. The National Park Service is asking for a 10-year contract for the lodge.

For more information on the Stehekin opportunity, go to

Mike Brede wins Apple opening contest

Fifteen people made guesses in our recent Office Hours contest to guess the opening date and time of the Spokane Apple store.

Mike Brede (the first of those 15) got it right:  it’s 10 a.m. this Saturday. Three others said Saturday but none said 10 a.m.  One other guess said 10 a.m. one week earlier, Sept. 18.

That person, and Brede, apparently knew the Apple rule: always open a new store at 10 a.m. on a Saturday. The logical choices were either Sept. 18, 25 or one week later, on Oct. 2.

Brede gets a $10 coffee card from Spokane coffee company Atticus.

What to expect waiting in line for Saturday’s Spokane Apple store opening

SMALL ADDENDUM: This same post earlier said the city’s first year take of $175,000 would be a big help to cash-strapped coffers. That of course is a fairly loose guess and not based on any Apple-provided sales estimates. And, on further review, that money will help the city but not that much. A recent SR story said the city has a $12 million budget hole to fill.

Of course we’re still excited about the opening of Spokane’s first Apple retail store this Saturday, at 10 a.m.

Not because of the 1,000 free T-shirts. We’re hoping the Apple cash registers start popping genormous numbers and the end result will be a hefty injection of new state sales tax dollars into city, and county, coffers.

A city official said the Spokane store, on a likely projection, will generate $175,000 per year in sales tax revenue for the city. Considering how strapped the city is, that’s a big help.

We’re adding this link to a YouTube video of last weekend’s Apple store opening in Turin, Italy. About 700 people were in line when it opened.

Points to note:  the Apple store staff go out of their way to be overly helpful, especially on Day One.

And, of those in line, easily 85 percent are males. So, be forewarned if you get in the queue before Saturday’s 10 a.m. opening. Be sure to have your conversational gambits all-guy, all the time. The checklist: sports, “Battlestar Galactica,” “Community,” and the reasons why you don’t much care for the Kindle… You might also comment about how it’s nice to see the ladies come out for the event, as well.

Airport runway extension completed

Spokane International Airport will reopen its main, newly expanded runway Thursday at 8 a.m.

The two-year, $30.7 million project increased the runway length to 11,002 feet, an additional 2,000 feet. The parallel taxiway was also extended 2,000 feet.

New navigational aids were installed. The Federal Aviation Administration will complete testing of all the new equipment in November, following 1,000 hours of continuous operation.

Electric Ave. was moved to allow for the additional length.

Funds for the project came from a $4.50 passenger fee and federal stimulus money.


Drive-by paver leaves unhappy consumers

The Washington Department of Labor & Industries says an itinerant paving company has left behind numerous unsatisfied consumers in Eastern Washington.

Spokeswoman Selena Davis said the department has received 35 complaints against Asphalt Driveways, which has posted signs and flyers with a toll-free telephone number around the state.

Fly-by-night paving operators are common during the summer, she said, but Asphalt Driveways has victimized more consumers than usual.

One consumer said the new pavement was draining towards the foundation of his home, Davis said.

More typically, a thin layer of asphalt is put down on an unprepared or poorly prepared surface, she said.

Davis said L&I investigators have so far been unable to track down the company. 

Is the ‘mancession’ leaving guys short of good clothes? Maybe this suit drive makes sense

Men’s Wearhouse, the national men’s clothing retailer, is spending all September urging donations of used or good quality men’s items to pass along to people looking to upgrade their wardrobes.

The campaign is the National Suit Drive. Anyone who donates good or decent men’s items (anything from ties to a suit) gets a coupon earning a 25 percent discount for a purchase at Men’s Warehouse.

The national campaign’s pitch this year started with a “give-the-suits-off-their-backs” event in five cities, in which  teams of bare-chested men descended on the metro downtown, sporting posters urging guys to make donations.

The goal, according to the campaign, is to help unemployed males dress a little better for a job interview. The press kit claims 82 percent of job losses have affected men, “disproportionately hurting the male workforce,” said George Zimmer, Men’s Wearhouse founder and CEO. “By collecting and donating professional clothing, Men’s Wearhouse aims to help men ‘suit up’ for job interviews and offset the ‘mancession.’ “

Mancession or marketing ploy, you decide. The Spokane location to make donations is the Men’s Warehouse store at 5005 N Division.  All items donated during September will go to Spokane-based nonprofit The Artisans, which will handle the distribution of the clothes.

Spokane Apple store to open doors on Saturday

It’s not that Apple HAS to tell anyone when it’s going to open a new store. It’s their store, and they can keep their news under a blanket as long as they want.

Yesterday, Apple finally announced its Spokane store — the first in these parts — will open on Saturday, in downtown Spokane. For a project costing more than $2 million, one has to say they did a fairly good job of hiding the actual start day from the rest of us.

Up to this week Apple Inc. has never said it will open a store in Spokane, even though the company’s distinctive retail space has been taking shape downtown for weeks.

That changed when Spokeswoman Amy Barney said the store, at 710 W. Main, will open at 10 a.m.

Apple began planning plans to build the store as far back as February, obtaining permits and arranging a lease for space in River Park Square. The downtown shopping mall is owned by  Cowles Co., which also owns The Spokesman-Review.

This is Apple’s first retail store in the Spokane area. The nearest other stores are in Bellevue, Portland and Boise. When the Boise Apple store opened earlier this month, several hundred people waited in line, according to news reports.

The Spokane store will employ more than 70 people, Barney said. 

The store will also offer free weekly workshops and  training sessions to help customers learn how to use Apple products, she said.

John Dresel, president and CEO of Banner Retail Marketing, in Liberty Lake, said Apple’s decision to build a store in Spokane enhances the area’s retail landscape.

“It’s a great thing when a great brand like Apple comes in here,” Dresel said. “It raises the level of all retail boats in the community.”

“They keep it close to the chest, and then when you finally get to go inside their stores, they exceed customer expectations,” he said.

Spokane Valley Yoke’s closing due to lease snafu

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Spokane Valley food retailer Yoke’s Fresh Market plans to close its supermarket at Sprague and Progress because it’s been unable to renew the property lease.

In an announcement Monday, company CEO John Bole said no exact closing date has been determined.
Yoke’s has operated the store since 1985, at 15111 E. Sprague.

Bole said Yoke’s will keep the store open to sell down inventory and make an easier transition of staff and equipment to its other Spokane stores.

The current property lease is set to expire Dec. 31.

Hayden firm Unitech gets contract for V-22 Osprey

Hayden, Idaho manufacturing firm Unitech has won a contract with the Defense Department to make lightweight, insulated ducting components for the V-22 Osprey aircraft.

Unitech, a division of AGC Aerospace & Defense, is expecting to do at least $8 million worth of work in relation to the aircraft contract.

The V-22 is the first tiltrotor aircraft to be deployed by the military; it combines features of an airplane and a helicopter. The airframe incorporates state-of-the-art materials and structural designs which increase reliability and reduce weight.

Unitech President Al Haase, in an e-mail, said the  amount of work for Unitech “depends on V-22 production numbers, but (will come to) at least $8 million over the next several years.”

Photo here is by U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Joe Kane.

Washington companies doing green tech: fed money and how to get it

Companies in Washington with clean-energy projects or energy-saving products can apply for federal money through a program being managed by Sirti.

A Thursday, Sept. 23, workshop at Sirti’s downtown Spokane building will detail the guidelines of the program. The $1.5 million to be awarded comes from the federal Recovery Act and is administered by the Commerce Department.

That meeting starts at 10 a.m. in the Sirti board room; it can also be attended online.

The money will be distributed in grants and loans to firms doing business in Washington.

Sirti market development director Linda Hemingway said applicants must apply for both a grant and a loan. Each qualifying company will receive from $100,000 to $500,000, Hemingway said

She said the expectation is that four to seven firms will receive the awards and loans. Applicants’ projects must be beyond the research stage and be ready for commercial development.


Venture capital and investing trends: Three-hour workshop next week in Spokane

One of Spokane’s key venture groups, Spokane Angel Alliance, is hosting a workshop and presentation on “Trends in Raising Capital” on Sept. 30, 2 to 5 p.m.

It’s at Red Lion Inn at the Park, at 303 W North River Drive. A reception will follow until 6 p.m.

Cost is $50 but free to members of the alliance. To register, go to the site of Connect Northwest, which is coordinating the event; Northwest Venture Partners, of Spokane, is sponsor.

Bob Okabe, managing partner of RPX Group LLC, will be the key presenter. The topics covered are:

  • A walk-through of basic analytic methods and tools.
  •  A discussion of term sheet mechanics.
  •  A discussion of the best practices for meeting investor expectations.
  •  A review of company valuation methods.

For more information: contact Catherine Greer at or 509-358-2114.

Senate commitee approves defense bill, with Spokane earmarks intact

The 2011 Defense Department appropriations bill, which we mentioned in an earlier post here, has moved through the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The vote was 18-12. The bill includes three items items inserted by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., which provides money for three Spokane tech agencies or firms.

Those items are covered in the earlier post. The next step is consideration of the bill by the full Senate. It’s not clear when that will occur.


Nursery, Food Bank get $1,000 from STCU

The Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery and Second Harvest Food Bank will each receive $1,000 from Spokane Teachers Credit Union.

The two charities outpolled 126 others who were nominated at the Greater Spokane Incorporated annual meeting Wednesday.

Attendees named the charity they wanted funded by STCU, which put “Who do you love” nomination cards at every place setting.

STCU spokeswoman Breanne O’Doherty said 582 cards were filled out, and 128 charities nominated.


Virginia vehicle gets $5 million Automotive X Prize

In late July we noted that Spokane car-maker, Rick Woodbury, was eliminated from the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize. His electric car, the Tango, was strong enough to reach the final 15, but failed to complete a key efficiency test in the finals.

Today the awards were announced for the three winning vehicles in the competition.

Notably, the top money went to a car developed by a group out of Virginia who avoided the electric-vehicle model. Instead, their car, Very Light Car No. 98, runs on a combustion engine, using E85, a gas-ethanol blend. (Photo above, from a summary on CNet.)

It has an efficiency rated at 102.5 m.p.g. That team wins $5 million for their effort in the four-seat mainstream category of the competition.

The contest also awarded cash prizes for side-by-side two-seat vehicles and for tandem two-seater (front and back, the same as the Tango’s category). Team Li-Ion won $2.5 million for its side-by-side Wave II.  An electric car, Wave II  has a 170-mile range and top speed of 80 mph.

Murray pushing defense dollars for Spokane area tech projects

Patty Murray, D-Wash., has added language to the 2011 defense appropriation bill that would benefit area businesses and organizations. Here are the key Eastern Washington items added to the bill, which is now being considered by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

  1. Washington State University’s Applied Science Laboratory: $1 million to be used to establish a fuel and energy lab at the ASL in Spokane. One goal is to work with Spokane’s ReliOn in developing alternative energy sources for the Navy.
  2. WSU’s Positron Capture and Storage Project: $3 million for reseach into positron storage,  a high-density, concentrated non-nuclear energy source.
  3. Spokane tech company Next IT: $1.5 million to design and develop virtual agent software to help servicemembers, vets and families obtain information about care and treatment.



Brit paper puts UW at 4th-best U.S. public college

AP - The Times of London says the University of Washington is the 23rd best university in the world. In the newspaper’s higher education list, UW is the fourth-best American public college.

The universities are ranked on 13 factors, divided into five categories of teaching, research, citations, industry income and international mix.

No. 1 on the list is Harvard, and 15 of the top 20 universities are from the United States. The top American public university is the University of California, Berkeley, in the No. 8 spot, followed by UCLA nd the University of Michigan.

Clearwater Paper buying Georgia competitor

Clearwater Paper Corp. will buy Georgia-based competitor Cellu Tissue Holdings Inc. for $502 million, the two companies announced this morning.

Spokane-based Clearwater will pay Cellu Tissue stockholders $12 per share, and assume $255 million in debt, in a deal a Clearwater statement said should increase earnings immediately.

Combined revenues are projected to be $1.9 billion.

Cellu Tissue operates 10 paper-making or conversion plants in the United States from its headquarters in Apharetta, Ga. Many make private-label tissue products like those manufactured by Clearwater, but others make coated-paper products.

Another plant makes styrofoam plates and similar products.

Cellu Tissue stock jumped 50 percent on the news, Clearwater shares traded down $1.35 to $71.32, off less than two percent.



Win a coffee card by guessing the date Apple’s Spokane store opens

We’ll be offering a $10 coffee card to whoever can come CLOSEST to the correct date for the opening of the downtown Spokane Apple retail store.

This photo shows the front and part of the interior, shot on or about Sept. 13, on Main in downtown Spokane.   Officially, Apple Inc. has failed to acknowledge it’s building or opening this store.

So, some contest rules. One entry per person; family of employees of The Cowles Co. and all its subsidiaries are ineligible. And of course, employees or contractors doing work for Apple are also not eligible to win.

To win, correctly name the date the store will open. As a tiebreaker, also add the hour the store will open for its first customers. For multiple winners, Office Hours will randomly select the sole winner in a drawing.

To enter, submit your name and guess in the comments section below this post. Entries must be from valid registered users of YOU DO NOT need to leave your e-mail address in the comment area. Or you can e-mail submissions to with the subject APPLE.

Spokane employment jumps by 3,300

Employment in Spokane County jumped by more than 3,300 in August, dropping the unemployment rate to 8.6 percent from 8.8 pecent in July, and August 2009.

The rate for Washington held steady at 8.9 percent seasonally adjusted, and 8.8 percent unadjusted.

The rate for the United States, also seasonally adjusted, was 9.6 percent.

Total payrolls statewide declined by 2,000 due to a 2,900 reduction in government employment, one-half of that Census workers. Private employer added 900 jobs.

In Spokane, 215,690 were employed, up from 212,340 in July. In August 2009, 215,240 had jobs.


Seven Washington firms on Counselor magazine list of best places to work

Counselor magazine’s 2010 list of best places to work in the ad-specialty business includes seven Washington firms.

The annual list, which recognizes innovative and worker-friendly programs, this year had a total of 75 companies in the U.S. and Canada.

The state list:  Catalyst Marketing (Seattle), Sunrise Identity (Woodinville), Go USA (Wenatchee), iClick (Seattle), Greater China (Bellevue), Image Source & Branded Solutions by Edgar Martinez (Kirkland), and SanMar (Preston).

The full list of 75 covers a wide gamut of large and small, geographically diverse, firms.  The top best place is Dacasso, a Gainesville, Fla.-based supplier that emphasizes fun and team-building programs and rewards. An interactive map of the 75 is online.

No Idaho companies hit the list. 
The local version, the Sloan Awards, recently were announced by Greater Spokane Incorporated. Those awards also honor companies for offering workers benefits and flexible options to help balance work and life. Associated Industries; CH2M Hill; and Humanix Staffing and Recruiting were the winners of this year’s Sloan Awards.

Our blog post on the winners is also online.

David Allen the next Connect Breakfast speaker

McKinstry Co. Executive Vice President David Allen is the next speaker in the Executive Connect Breakfast series, at the Spokane Club on Thursday, Sept. 23, at 7:30 a.m.

The breakfast series promotes area business networking and sharing of ideas.

Allen will discuss the work McKinstry is doing in the Spokane region related to energy and green tech. He is also chair of the Washington Clean Technology Alliance and was recently co-chair of Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce’s Regional Leadership Conference.

Tickets for the breakfast are $30, with registration suggested. For details go to


Agribusiness jobs will be Thursday’s topic at meeting of Inland Northwest Partners

The fall meeting of Inland Northwest Partners, being held Thursday in Moscow, will pay full attention to how agribusiness provides numerous options for community job growth.

The event runs 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Moscow Best Western University Inn.

The day’s theme, according to a press release, will be finding ways “to establish and nurture ag-allied niche businesses at the community level, presenting model practices as well as innovative strategies that have proven successful in the region.”

Steve Van Ausdle, Walla Walla Community College president, will deliver the keynote address at noon, highlighting the success of the Southeastern Washington wine industry.

Other scheduled presenters include Celia Gould, director of Idaho’s Department of Agriculture, on “Tilling the Soil of Opportunity: Agri-Food, Agri-Tourism, Agri-Culture and Beyond”;  and Dr. Curtis Beus, associate professor, WSU Cooperative Extension in Port Angeles, Wash., on “Agri-Tourism: Harvesting New Tourists on the Farm.”

Registration is $30 for INP members and $50 otherwise.

Homeowners can learn how to go green in Sunday tour

Homeowners on Sunday can learn about techniques for going green, such as a custom-built straw bale home, a green kitchen remodel or an urban chicken coop designed with reclaimed materials.

The projects are on display throughout Spokane County as part of the second annual Green + Solar Home & Landscape Tour and Information Fair.

The free information fair will be held 2-6 p.m. at Eco Depot, 1326 East Sprague Ave., Spokane.
In addition, tickets are on sale for tours of new and remodeled projects showcasing differing sustainable design styles, construction strategies and lifestyle choices. Tickets range from $8 to $25 and can be picked up at Green Salon & Day Spa, 227 West Riverside Ave., Spokane.

The $8 rate is for those who wish to take a bicycle tour of five projects on the South Hill. Sunday is SpokeFest, the annual bike event with a series of route choices for riders.

The tour is sponsored by the Washington Department of Ecology, the Northwest Eco-Building Guild and the Emerging Green Builders.

Tour booklets and tickets are on sale at Auntie’s Bookstore, Eco Depot and the Main Market Co-op. Tickets can be purchased at Green Salon & Day Spa on Sunday morning.

Tri-State Distributors sells its four sporting goods stores

Tri-State Distributors has sold its Tri-State outdoor stores in Lewiston, Moscow, Coeur d’Alene and Moses Lake to Sportsman & Ski Haus, an employee-owned sporting goods retailer with locations in Kalispell and Whitefish, Mont.

Sportsman & Ski Haus has no plans to close stores or alter the inventory of the four stores, each of which are independently profitable, said Gerard Connelly, president and majority owner of Tri-State Distributors, reported the The Lewiston Morning Tribune.

Tri-State had a record year of selling upper-end sporting goods, hardware, clothing and kitchen gear in 2008, followed by an even bigger one in 2009, Connelly said.

Connelly and his sister Mary Connelly, Tri-State’s chief financial officer, will stay with the company for a year following the sale, which is effective Oct. 1.

“My primary responsibility, for the sake of my family, our employees and the community, is to secure the future of Tri-State beyond my own career, and that is what we are accomplishing with this transfer in ownership to a great company,” Gerald Connelly said in the news release.

New Light Industries wins lab access

New Light Industries Ltd. will use access to a $2.5 million Washington Technology Center microfabrication laboratory to improve its new liquid-crystal technology, President Steve McGrew said.

The center said it awarded Spokane-based New Light three months of free access to help move the company’s patent-pending technology to market faster.

The lab’s centerpiece is a electron beam lithography tool able to etch features as small as 10 nanometers, or less than one-two thousanth of a human hair.

McGrew said New Light wants to explore new aspects of its technology, which has potential uses in cell phones, digital cameras, eyeglasses and other devices.

Using the center’s lab will save New Light money during a development process McGrew said he expects will take another two years.

Rockford company gets biofuels grant

A Spokane County company has been awarded a $90,000 grant to continue developing a process that converts bluegrass straw into biofuels.

Farm Power, based in Rockford, will use the U.S. Department of Agriculture money for further work on automating controls and feedstock systems, according to a joint statement from Washington senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray.

Farm Power’s technology, with patents pending, produces methane and carbon monoxide that can be burned to produce electricity.

Farm Power Director Jack Zimmer said the grant will help move the technology towards commercialization. 

Dry Fly gin selected among top 10 “new American gins”

Spokane-based Dry Fly Distilling scored another high rating on the Top 10 new American Gins ranking, posted this week on the blog.

Dry Fly, which also makes whiskey and vodka, ranked seventh on the list, scoring a “solidly recommended” rating.

Here’s how DrinkSpirit described the gin: ” A distinctly different style of gin, Dry Fly has thrown out the rule book and taken an entirely different approach to gin. The nose on the Dry Fly Gin is huge green apple, strawberry, confectioner’s sugar and honeysuckle flowers, and back – way, way back in the background – is just a hint of pine.

“The taste is apple, pepper, peach, vanilla, wheat, nectarine and lime peel. The finish is pretty quick and leaves your mouth very cool and clean. We like Dry Fly’s Gin but it’s the kind of spirit which will get people arguing as to whether or not it’s actually a true gin. Either way, it’s an exciting entry into this space and an interesting New American Gin.”

WSU regents endorse Spokane health center

Washington State University regents Friday endorsed designation of the Spokane campus as the university’s center for health sciences education, and backed that step by putting a $70.78 million Biomedical/Health Sciences building at the top of their capital request to the legislature.

Supporters say the building would become the anchor of a a four-year medical school, and associated nursing and pharmacy programs already in place on the Riverpoint Campus.

“We have an opportunity to lead the way into the future of health care with a new campus and a new culture of collaboration,” said WSU Spokane Chancellor Brian Pitcher.

The campus, says the proclamation, could become “America’s next great academic health science center.”

Three Spokane firms win Sloan workplace flexibility awards

Two first-time winners, along with a previous winner, have been selected to receive Alfred P. Sloan Excellence in Workplace Flexibility awards for companies in the Spokane area.

Associated Industries; CH2M Hill; and Humanix Staffing and Recruiting were the winners, a release from Greater Spokane Incorporated said. 

This is Humanix’s third year in a row to win a Sloan Award. For more on the awards, go to the When Work Works site.

Six other firms won honorable mention: BDO USA, LLP; Career Path Services; Matrical Bioscience; Principal Financial Group; St. Luke’s Rehab Institute; and Spokane Teachers Credit Union.

The  awards honor companies that embrace workplace flexibility.

Cyan Worlds posts the trailer to ‘The Manhole Masterpiece Edition’

Those guys and gals in Mead, Cyan Worlds, are moving full-bore into iPhone and iPad apps. They’re soon to see their original iOS game, Stoneship, become available in the iTunes store.

Meanwhile they’ve posted a YouTube video of the trailer to their iOS version of the The Manhole, Masterpiece edition. First made in 1988, the game is a classicly simple but addictive computer game. Wikipedia’s entry offers a full and loving rundown of the game and its history.

Rand Miller, the Cyan CEO, wrote us this note on what’s new: “The Manhole: Masterpiece Edition was a remake of The Manhole - Cyan’s first product. The original was in black and white and we recreated it from the ground up in the ‘90’s (after Myst) using some of the same rendering technology we used in Myst combined with hand drawn characters. At that time we also wrote all new music and sound effects as well.”

One notable addendum: Chuck Carter, a former Spokesman-Review graphics artist, did all the art work on the remake.


The Apture Bar gives you plenty of extra options, including rich media results

Office Hours readers may have noticed the pull-down Apture Bar that floats just below your browser header. if you don’t see it, scroll your mouse toward the edge of the page and it should show up at the top of the page.

This gives a number of options we didn’t have before. It allows quick sharing with Twitter, Facebook and by e-mail. To the right side of the bar is the mojo, the Apture media search option.

One can search a term, like “data center,” and you’ll find sets of results that show up in a window right there in the results box. You don’t need to leave the blog page to search the results.

Results will include A) all of the Office Hours blog; B) All of; and C) All of Google results for the search terms. Not too shabby.


Using underground water to cool the data center

Come Sunday, and our print version Spokesman-Review business section will have a story on TierPoint, in Liberty Lake, using aquifer water to cool its servers.

The new project is called TierPoint 3, and is estimated to cost more than $8 million to put together. It may be just one of a few data centers anywhere that use underground water to chill their interiors.

To read a bit about the innovative idea, here’s a link to the TierPointe announcement.

TierPoint’s managers say they hope to make it one of the biggest non-dedicated data centers in the Northwest. Once the work is finished, the new center should start operations in spring 2011.

The story draws a comparison to other buildings that also tap the aquifer. Also covered is the method used by Yahoo in taking outside air to cool its very large data center in Quincy.

Idaho jobless increases

Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 8.9 percent in August, the one-tenth of a percent increase from July the first since a two-tenths rise in February, the state Department of Labor said today.

Total employment fell to 688,700 from 690,100 in July. Unemployment rose to 67,400 from 66,900.

In August 2009, 685,800 had jobs, and the unemployment rate was 8.5 percent.

The 1,000 jobs added by private employers in August was the second lowest total for the month since record-keeping began in 1997.

The department said it would release county and city breakdowns Sept. 17.



The front design of the new Spokane Apple retail store

We wonder when workers downtown at the new Apple store will install the stainless steel plate and laminated Apple logo to the front of the two-story building.

Until you see it, here are a few drawings from the city’s building permits that show the basic plan and roughly what it looks like. The front wall of the building will be about 34 feet high, to the roofline, and about 41 feet wide along the sidewalk. The doorway will be roughly 7 feet in height.

In a soon-to-be-posted second Apple retail update, we’ll post a short video of the work taking place there, at 710 W. Main in downtown Spokane.

Officially, Apple Inc. still hasn’t announced this is an Apple store.


Itron, Cisco form smart grid alliance

Itron Inc. will license an Internet protocol developed by Cisco to create what the companies said today will be a more reliable and secure smart grid.

Itron, the Liberty Lake-based company that has developed and sold automated metering systems for more than 30 years, will incorporate Cisco technology into its Open Way meters. Itron will also distribute Cisco networking equipment and software.

The new partnership will give utilities a better way to access more energy  resources, and respond to customer demand for more control over their energy use, a joint news release says.

“The alliance between Cisco and Itron represents a major step forward in the realization of a modern, more intelligent energy infrastructure,” Cisco Senior Vice President Laura Ipsen said.

Itron shares climbed $3.65 to $57.65, an increase of almost seven percent, after the alliance was disclosed. Cisco shares climbed 27 cents to $20.26.

San Diego Albertsons store to generate clean power through fuel cells

A while back Bert Caldwell discussed in a column the concerns among regional power producers if California adopts or doesn’t adopt significant energy-generation measures.

We think this item, about a San Diego Albertson’s, is interesting and worth  reading, for a few reasons. One, we do have Albertsons in this area. We don’t see this happening soon in Eastern Washington, but since ReliON, based in Spokane, produces fuel cells, perhaps it’s not that far a reach.


Boise, Idaho-based grocery chain Albertsons is slated to open a new store in San Diego’s Clairemont community that will be one of the first in California to generate nearly 90 percent of its electricity from fuel cell technology. Using a 400-kilowatt fuel cell from UTC Power, a United Technologies Corp., the 55,000-sq.-ft. green Albertsons store will officially open on Sept. 1.


“When it comes to minimizing our environmental footprint, the Clairemont store is a tremendous achievement for us,” noted Rick Crandall, Albertsons’ director of environmental stewardship.

“With the assistance of UTC Power’s fuel cell, it’s our first store that significantly reduces its burden on the power grid.”

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

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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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