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Office Hours

Archive for August 2011

Say a big welcome back to LeRoy Nosbaum, Itron’s ‘new’ CEO

The SR posted this story a few minutes ago, announcing the return of former CEO LeRoy Nosbaum, to the same job at Liberty Lake-based Itron Inc.

Frontier finishes repairs and restores DSL service to North Idaho customers

About 10,000 customers of Frontier Communications in North Idaho regained DSL service Wednesday, following a major equipment failure, the telecommunications company said.

Frontier, based in New York state, acquired all of Verizon's phone and Internet customers last year in a major acquisition.

On Monday the first outage occurred and knocked off DSL service for a few hundred customers, said company spokeswoman Karen Miller.

On Tuesday, the problem grew worse as a more serious equipment failure knocked out most of the DSL customers from Coeur d'Alene to Bonners Ferry. Those customers began getting service back early Wednesday as work crews focused on the problem “around the clock,” Miller said.

By Wednesday afternoon all customers had regained their DSL service, she added.

“We are truly sorry for the inconvenience this caused,” she said.

Area BBB starts consumer review service; plus a suggestion to make it better

Spokane’s Better Business Bureau, which covers North Idaho and Montana as well, has begun testing an online review system process for customers to describe good or bad experiences with local businesses.

The goal of the new review option is to allow consumers to give high-fives for area businesses that who do great work, said Jan Quintrall, the BBB’s president and CEO.

The full daily story is at this link. (Subscription to Spokesman.com may be required.)

This new idea makes sense. But it still has one glitch: finding those reviews at BBB.org is virtually impossible unless you're looking for comments on a specific business.

Quintrall said that since this is still a trial run, the option of adding a link to all reviews posted by consumers might be added later. 

We would like that. It would be instructive to see the recent posts or reviews listed by the past day, past week, past month or whatever.  In the digital age, that's almost so easy that it should have been built into the review option from the start.

Seattle man loses web service after Comcast penalizes him for data use

Will Comcast cut off your Internet service if you use a ton of data, for whatever reason? Basically, yes, provided you go above their 250-gigabyte limit per month (and do so twice).

Here's a YouTube video posted by Seattle blogger-geek Chris Pirillo about the Comcast one-year-without-Web penalty imposed on another Seattle user, a guy named Andre Vrignaud.

Why should you care?  It can and does happen. And in some instances, as Vrignaud claims happened to him, the Comcast data-use monitor that should help one track data consumption can be disabled or fail to work.

We're unclear why that usage monitor disappeared, and we'll ask a few questions of our Comcast contacts on the west side.

Nordstrom simplifies online ordering, offering free shipping for nearly all orders

Seattle-based fashion and apparel retailer Nordstrom Inc. has decided to offer free shipping on online orders for nearly all purchases less than $200.

Up to now, the policy had been free shipping only for purchases over $200.

Jamie Nordstrom, president of Nordstrom Direct, told media outlets that expanding its free shipping service will simplify online orders.

Earlier this month Nordstrom said its going to improve its e-commerce capabilities during the next five years. It will spend about $375 million on that effort.

Nordstrom is No. 34 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

Nordstrom.com's terms note that free shipping doesn't apply to Coach-brand items or on the Westin Heavenly Bed.  Free shipping, it also noted, will result in standard shipping. Faster shipping can be offered for $15 (two-day delivery) or $35 (Saturday delivery).

Deadline near for Washington Secretary of State awards for civic commitment

Know any social-minded company worth nominating for a decent award?

The Washington Secretary of State's office is looking for nominees of corporations that demonstrate a commitment to giving in order to improve local or regional social and environmental conditions.

This honor is called the Corporations for Communities Award. 

The deadline is Aug. 31. 

Each year the secretary's office will select one large and one small business winner. The winners geta National Association of Secretaries of State Medallion. It's said to be the “highest civics honor awarded by the state.”

Nominations can be made by anyone.  The nominee must be registered with the Office of the Secretary of State and be in compliance with state and federal laws. Nomination forms are available on the Secretary of State’s Web site at this link.

GoFroyo will move into the new retail strip taking the spot of China South

The first tenant in the new retail strip that will replace the China South restaurant has been announced: GoFroyo, a Spokane-based frozen yogurt seller, will take one of the end-cap locations. (End-cap means at the far left or far right bay of the strip, which could number up to six spots.)

Nancy Chen, GoFroyo's managing member, said GoFroyo is eager to move into the Lincoln Heights Shopping Center. She said a goal is to get inside the new building by the end of the year to finish store counters and install a floor. They hope to open in January or February at the latest.

While there is a Baskin-Robbins on one end and a Coldstone Creamery on the other end of Lincoln Heights, self-serve froyo stores that let consumers mix and match their own flavors are distinct enough to compete, Chen said. “Frozen yogurt is a healthier choice, in general, for many people,” she said.

GoFroyo will open its first store at Spokane Valley Plaza, in front of the Wal-Mart store. The second GoFroyo location, due to open in November, will be at the Nevada Towers Retail Center, near the Albertsons store at 6704 N. Nevada.

Marshalls will open a store in NorthTown Mall this winter

Clothing retailer Marshalls will move into the vacated NorthTown Mall location last used by the Nordstrom Rack.

A Spokane city building permit notes that Marshalls, a division of TJX Companies of Framingham, Mass., will remodel the 25,000-square-foot location and open this winter.

It will spend about $700,000 on the new project, according to the city permit.

TJX also owns and operates T.J. Maxx stores nationwide and across Canada.

This would be the first Marshall’s location in Spokane. Ten Marshalls stores operate in the Puget Sound area.

A Marshalls company brochure says it offers brand-name family apparel, home fashions and other merchandise including toys.

The company calls itself an “off-price retailer,” meaning its product prices fall below those of better-known brands.

TJX Companies’ investor information noted it’s opening more than 100 T.J. Maxx or Marshalls stores in the North America and Europe this year alone.  

The chart here, found at the TJX investor relations page, is a snapshot of the giant company's current store locations and a look ahead to where it sees future growth.  ENLARGE the graphic by double-clicking on it.

The top grouping is for the entire United States. That top bar includes the Marshalls stores and the far more numerous T.J. Maxx stores. The fifth bar is out of date; it shows no Marshalls stores in Canada, but the company has opened five or more there already. In fact, the Spokane store may well be part of the play to get more business with its fans in British Columbia.

The bottom line (literally) on this chart is the projection that TJX thinks it can add more than 4,000 new stores in the U.S., Canada and overseas. 

That's a lot of confidence…

If you think camelina is like any other crop, take a little time to dig deeper

Since stellar staffer John Stucke was on vacation this week, we had to rely on Tom Sowa to cover the recent visit by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.,  talking about a newly created federal crop support program specifically for camelina, under an effort called BCAP (biomass crop assistance program) .

This BCAP version invites Eastern Washington farmers to sign up to grow camelina, a promising biocrop for producing biodiesel and aviation fuel.

We posted the story on our Spokesman.com Facebook page, and we found a number of concerned residents who feel this “farm to fuels” effort can be potentially bad, harmful or disruptive to normal agriculture and food production.

We don't see it that way. Camelina is not ever going to displace other serious food crops in the land. And it is unlike other designer crops, in that it doesn't need to be bio-engineered to improve yields.

We just want folks to look at some other resources that explain in better detail than our story what the feds are up to, pushing camelina into the food-fuel stream.

Here are the basic set of informational links on the program:

http://www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/newsReleases?area=newsroom&subject=landing&topic=ner&newstype=newsrel&type=detail&item=nr_20110825_rel_0102.html

The BCAP fact sheet is here. A TriCities TV station's web story is here.

Lee & Hayes launches IPStreet, a site devoted to IP analysis and insight

Spokane intellectual property law firm, Lee & Hayes, formally launched its IP Street site on Thursday, looking to become the equivalent in IP to what Morningstar is to stock market funds.

The site is IPStreet.com. It's targeted to investment bankers, IP attorneys, business decision-makers, and inventors. Paid access is available at a number of different levels.

Lewis Lee, co-founder of Lee & Hayes, is the CEO; offices are in Spokane and Seattle. Lee said one value in IPStreet is for a company to track a competitor's patent portfolios. Tracking those assets gives a solid indication of where a company's strategic direction is, he noted.

Lee was also recently interviewed on the evolving role of intellectual property and company planning at CNN Money: http://money.cnn.com/2011/08/18/technology/patent_bubble/#disqus_thread.

Sacred Heart nurses lose state appeals court ruling over overtime rule

The Washington Court of Appeals has ruled Providence Sacred Heart registered nurses are not entitled to overtime pay when their duties prevent them from taking their contract-provided two 15-minute daily breaks.

The ruling, issued Thursday by the court's Division III, overturned a Spokane court's ruling that the nurses were entitled to time-and-one-half wages for the break time not taken.

The dispute goes back to 2004. After a grievance was filed by the nurses' union, Providence Sacred Heart agreed and created a time-management system that provided an additional quarter-hour of salary for every skipped work break.

Then the nurses argued that they were owed overtime for the missed breaks, not just straight time for the 15 minutes.

A Spokane Superior Court judge ruled in their favor and ordered Providence Sacred Heart to pay more than $327,000 in damages, lost wages and legal costs.

The hospital appealed the ruling. Thursday's ruling agreed with the hospital  and said the break times not taken fell within the normal 40-hour work week, and the missed breaks did not require the nurses to exceed a normal work week.

It also noted that the hospital was compensating each nurse, for missed work breaks, according to the  systems the two sides had agreed to.

Appellate Judge Steven Brown, however, wrote a dissenting opinion. He agreed with the Superior Court ruling in favor of the nurses; he did however say he didn't agree with its award of double damages to the nurses.

David’s Pizza: new location selected; opening date not certain

Well-established pizza places tend to hang on. Case in point: popular David's Pizza, which has operated for more than a dozen years on North Hamilton in the Gonzaga district, is relocating downtown.

Owner Mark Starr said he hoped to reopen the new David's in September. Permits and paperwork now look to push that back until October.

The new site is about 5,200 square feet of leased space at 803 N. Post (photo above). That's not the same building as the one that has his old David's signs sitting on top. The 803 address is at the corner of Post and Mallon, about a half block east from where the signs are stored. (Property owner Marcus DeWood is allowing Starr to store the signs there until they can be refurbised.)

Starr continues operating a catering business out of his second restaurant, Famous Ed's on Spokane's South Hill.

Starr left his old location in July after property owner John Stockton decided to raze the building and build a new retail center at that site. Starr said he could have stayed except he couldn't arrange a deal for the amount of space needed.

Spokane No. Division Kmart store to close in November, cutting 68 jobs


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Kmart and Sears Holding Co. officials on Tuesday confirmed that the Spokane North Division Kmart store will be closed in mid-November.

This is the location, at 6606 N. Division, where Lowe's is going to build a bigger, better hardware store for north Spokane residents. We had the original story on the plan more than a year ago.

Kimberly Freely, a spokeswoman for Sears Holding Corp., the parent company of Kmart, confirmed the operation will shut down, eliminating about 68 jobs.

“Those workers are encouraged to apply for openings with area Sears and Kmart stores,” Freely said, but she added she is not sure how many openings now exist.

“Those who qualify will also get severance, of course,” she said. 

Freely noted no plans have been announced to add any other Kmart stores — a decision not very surprising considering the economic climate.

As the new Lowe's project moves forward, the other impacts will be eliminating the Life Center North Church, which occupies the former Lyons Avenue Cinemas building. A number of retail stores and the Szechuan Restaurant and Bar also will be demolished under the plan

Tuesday graphic: looking at social sites through the eyes of SuperHero Comics

We are dedicated to collecting and posting interesting, odd or slightly useful graphics and charts, wherever they may be. All we ask for is clean and fun infotainment.

Today's offering is a cool find, a superhero treatment of popular social media sites. We found it at the uber-social site FreestyleInteractive.co.uk. The infographic is from the Freestyle Interactive digital agency.

We dig the cool and clever takes on sites like Flickr. and Google+. 

Hope you all like it…

July jobless rate hits 9 percent in Spokane County

Spokane County's unemployment rate ticked up a notch in July, to 9 percent. The jobless rate in June was 8.9 percent, and in July 2010 it was 9.1 percent.

There were 20,250 unemployed workers in the county last month, according to the Washington Employment Security Department. That's down slightly from 20,840 unemployed workers in June.

The jobless rate last month hit 11 percent in Stevens County, 11.6 percent in Pend Oreille County, and nearly 13 percent in Ferry County.

Elsewhere in the region, the July rate was 7.5 percent in Whitman County, 7.6 percent in Adams County and 7.9 percent in Lincoln County.

The Riverside Station’s big move: who will feel it most? Plus, bonus name trivia

Some leftovers from last week's big announcement that the U.S. Postal Service will move out of the downtown Riverside post office.

First: some of the area's businesses will feel the impact. Close to 1,000 post office boxes are rented at the Riverside office, and many belong to nearby businesses. Those boxes will also move out, in the first half of 2012, when the downtown station is relocated.

Question One: Who's going to feel the relocation the most?  Vote for your choice.

  • A) U.S. District Court and its associated offices (judges and magistrates).
  • B) U.S. District Attorney's office (in the Foley building).
  • C) The big law firms in the Lincoln Building across the street.
  • D) The Cowles Company, which relies on the post office for inbound and outbound mail.

Another tidbit: the downtown Riverside office was never known as the “Main” post office, according to our historical research. The “main” office is by tradition the name only for the one that houses the local postmaster's office.

The current postmaster, Karen Fairlee, didn't move into the downtown office until 2000. Fairlee said the head office, before then, was at the old Terminal Annex, where Gonzaga's baseball field is now.

“The postmaster moved downtown in  2000 and since everyone knew (the downtown office) as “Riverside” (because that had been the office name for 90 years), the designation was not officially changed,” Fairlee explained in an email.

“Currently, the proper title is the Riverside Station,” Fairlee added.  

More Americans at risk of foreclosure in 2nd quarter

The number of Americans at risk of foreclosure is rising, reflecting the U.S. economy’s continued struggles, the Associated Press reports.

The Mortgage Bankers Association says 8.44 percent of homeowners missed at least one mortgage payment in the April-June quarter. That figure, which is adjusted for seasonal factors, rose 0.12 percentage point from the January-March period.

In a normal market, the percentage of delinquent borrowers is about 1.1 percent, according to the trade group.

Delinquent mortgages have plummeted from a record high of more than 10 percent of residential mortgages a year ago. But the decline is due partly to delays in foreclosure filings that are backlogged in several state courts.

The end of a state and federal investigation into faulty foreclosure paperwork will likely lead to increased foreclosures later this year.

There goes the neighborhood. Where does the Bulldog go after it closes?

The SR today has a story on the imminent closing (possible relocation) of the old Bulldog, formerly known as the Bulldog Tavern.

Once we dove into the background, it became clear this is a tangled mess. There's a lawsuit, all sorts of angry feelings on the part of the people running the Bulldog and the landlord of the property (at 1305 N. Hamilton), and assorted issues on who did what to whom.

Plus, there's the distinction here between those who own the name of the business, and the owner of the building where the business has been.

As of now, we think we can say this much:  The current owners of the Bulldog are going to take everything from the building, leaving nothing but a shell for the landlord, Willard Quinn (who now lives in Bainbridge Island).

Quinn also said he's selling the building to Mary Livingston, who used to be a manager well before the current operators (Trefry Enterprises) took over the operation. Quinn said Livingston will open a tavern in the building.

Also, Trefry Enterprises filed a civil suit against Quinn earlier this year, asserting that the landlord has failed to follow the terms of the 15-year lease that the parties signed 14 years and 11 months ago.

Here's a PDF copy of that suit should you have a lot of time and care how this unfolded in court. 

On Friday, David Trefry, one of the four LLC partners, said the suit was dismissed.

Employment picture not improving in N. Idaho

The Idaho Labor Department today released the July unemployment numbers, and the news is not encouraging in North Idaho.

Four of the five counties in the panhandle saw the unemployment rate go up last month, and the rate remained the same in the fifth: Kootenai County.

Here's the breakdown:

Kootenai County (including Coeur d'Alene): 11.7 percent, unchanged from June.

Shoshone County (including Kellogg): 15.8 percent, up from 14.7 percent in June.

Boundary County (including Bonners Ferry): 15.1 percent, up from 14.5 in June.

Benewah (including St. Maries): 15 percent, up from 14.6 percent in June.

Bonner (includiing Sandpoint): 14.2 percent, up from 13.4 percent in June.

In Post Falls, the rate ticked downward last month, to 12.3 percent. It was 12.9 percent in June.

In Ceoru d'Alene, the rate was 11.9 percent in July, down a tad from 12 percent.

Collectible first bottle of Dry Fly Bourbon sells for $2,650 on eBay

Someone must have really wanted that bottle.

Spokane's Dry Fly Distilling offered Ronald McDonald House and Casting4ACure, two area charities, the first bottle in its first ever batch of new bourbon.

That bottle was recently bought for $2,650, in an eBay auction.

The winning bidder hasn't been identified. Mike Forness, executive director of Spokane's Ronald McDonald House, said he'll ask the winner if he wishes to be made public.

Forness said Dry Fly, since opening in 2007, has been a generous benefactor to Ronald McDonald House in Spokane, and to Casting4ACure, a nationwide charity providing money for research to halt Rett Syndrome, a childhood disease that strikes young women predominantly.

The two charities will split the $2,650, Forness said. The Ronald McDonald House share provides enough money to pay for 400 nights for parents of children needing temporary lodging while dealing with severe medical conditions.

Don Poffenroth, the co-founder of Dry Fly, proudly chimed in: “It's the most expensive bottle of liquor in Washington.”

The distillery produced a limited number of bottles of its 101-proof bourbon, which were released three weeks ago. All the bottles were sold within hours of being put on sale. The company plans to release its second year batch next summer.

Note: eBay typically bans sale of booze. However, the one exception is for sales of “collectible” alcohol. Ronald McDonald House (the seller of the bottle here) followed the eBay guidelines precisely.

Spokane airport offers free Wi-Fi, luggage carts

Spokane International Airport said today that it will offer travelers 20 minutes of free Wi-Fi inside the terminal and free luggage carts, both in response to customer demand.

Lawrence Krauter, airport CEO, said in a news release that the airport's Wi-Fi access fee has been “another source of aggravation to our customers” who are already steamed over airplane pricing models and declines in customer service.

The change in Wi-Fi access will take effect on Aug. 22, the release said. Luggage carts will be available for use at no charge in early September.

Wells Fargo to test $3 debit card fee

NEW YORK — Wells Fargo plans to test a $3 monthly fee for its debit cards starting this fall.

The San Francisco-based bank said the fee will be applied to checking accounts opened in five states starting in October, according to the Associated Press. The fee would be in addition to monthly service fees ranging from $5 to $30 that Wells Fargo already charges.

Although it’s unusual, Wells Fargo isn’t the first major bank to test whether customers will be willing to pay to use their debit cards. Chase last year also began testing a $3 monthly debit card fee in northern Wisconsin.

Other major banks have also revamped their lineup of checking accounts in the past year or so, in many cases by hiking monthly fees or adding conditions customers must meet to qualify for fee waivers.

At Wells Fargo, for example, monthly service fees can be waived if customers set up direct deposit or maintain a certain minimum balances.

Ecommerce at highest-ever level, Spokane below average in ‘digital deals’

Two shopping related items caught our attention.

First, the online retail industry had a very successful second quarter. For various reasons more folks are shopping online than ever before. Ecommerce sales rose 17.6 percent over last year, jumping to $47.5 billion in the second quarter, according to figures from the Census Bureau released this week.

That's also a modest, but notable 3 percent gain in ecommece sales from first quarter of 2011. All U.S. retail sales only rose 1.2 percent from the previous quarter. 

So, doing the math, the Census Bureau said ecommerce accounted for a 4.6 percent share of all retail sales, the highest it's ever reached.

The second item was a survey from Scarborough Research measuring the volume of coupon shopping done in U.S. metros. Notably, across the country the survey finds coupon shopping for household groceries is up 24 percent since 2006. It found the largest single source of shopping coupons is: The Sunday newspaper.

The survey also tried to identify which cities had the highest level of “digital coupons” use. That refers to shoppers who rely on email or web based promotions and follow up with direct purchases, either with national stores on with local retailers.

On the whole, the survey said 27 percent of adult consumers engage in digital-coupon shopping.

And Spokane is lower than that number. According to Scarborough, 18 percent of adult consumers in Spokane County use digital coupons.

Grand Rapids and Detroit rank highest, at 36 percent. Portland scored 31 percent adoption; Seattle is at 27 percent, according to the survey.

Moscow diagnostic firm to research using nanotechnology to improve animal tests

A Moscow-based diagnostic test company has received a $150,000 federal grant to study the use of nano particles in pregnancy blood tests for animals.

The money comes in a SBIR (small business innovation research) grant to BioTracking LLC, a 14-person company that currently provides 24-hour turnaround pregnancy tests for cattle and other ruminants.

The grant will allow BioTracking to test the use of nanosprings, very small particles, developed by another Moscow company, GoNano Technologies.

Nanosprings are being introduced into more biological and chemical applications because they offer an expanded, large surface area tucked into tiny curled materials. Some have compared the structure of nanosprings to tiny, intricately twisted phone cords.

Alex Sasser, the associate executive officer of BioTracking, said the grant will determine how to adapt the pregnancy test to a wider range of options, including virus tests, microbial tests and other options.

Another possible goal, said Larry Branen, BioTracking's strategic officer, is to shorten the pregnancy test time from 24 hours to one hour. “This test might allow that. That's the hope,” Branen said.

The Riverside post office’s history includes the notorious office ‘sneak hole’

Today's story about the plan to close the Riverside Avenue Post Office and relocate in a smaller building downtown provokes this question:

How will this affect your regular life?  As a business person, what's the impact?  As a regular or occasional user, how does it change things for you?

The justification for the move is clear; the US Postal Service doesn't need that much space, especially after sending the carriers who use it to another office.

We found a few interesting tidbits while conducting research. One of the most interesting is this item found in the GSA archives of its historic buildings: 

In additition to the ornate floors, the building contained a common feature in post offices of the era. The “sneak hole” was a specially constructed, enclosed gallery located above the postal workroom that allowed inspectors to secretly observe the actions of employees through strategically placed peep holes. The “sneak hole” is no longer in use today.

 

Nadine Woodward returns to evening news, starting Sept. 12; Nance to AM

Spokane's KXLY TV on Monday announced it's moving former KREM anchor Nadine Woodward back to evening newscasts.

Starting Sept. 12  Woodward and Mike Gonzalez, the current co-anchor at Channel 4's Good Morning Northwest TV report, will take over the evening newscast duties.

They'll co-anchor the 5, 6 and 6:30 p.m. newscasts.

In March 2010 Woodward joined KXLY after losing her longtime TV anchor job at competitor KREM-TV. KREM's action led to hundreds of angry calls and protests by her admirers.

A KXLY release said Robyn Nance and Derek Deis will take over the Good Morning Northwest anchor jobs, running from 5 to 7 a.m. Nance has been an anchor for the same evening newscast Woodard will now take over.

Deis has been KXLY's Sports Director. Mark Peterson will handle weather duties each morning, the release added.

Woodward was quoted saying she's glad to go back to evenings: “I'm also excited to be moving back to evenings where I can be much more involved in the development of the newscasts. And, it's where I'm most comfortable. I'm extremely thankful that KXLY has given me this opportunity,” added Woodward.

Indian gaming revenue in 2010 came in the same as the year before

It's worth noting that data recently gathered by the National Indian Gaming Commission says Indian gaming revenue figures for 2010 remained unchanged from the year before.

The federal commision noted Indian gaming generated gross revenues of $26.5 billion during 2010. That's the same as the year before. Its summary report can be found here.
 
Some other key points worth considering:
  • The NIGC looks at seven regions for gaming by tribes. Of those, the largest growth in '09 and '10 occurred in the Oklahoma Region and the Portland Region. The Northwest (Portland) region includes 50 gaming operations across Washington, Idaho and Oregon. In this area the major tribes with gaming are the Kalispels (Northern Quest), The Spokanes (two casinos) and the Coeur d'Alene (Coeur d'Alene Casino and Resort).  
  • The gains for the Portland region were 6 percent in 2009 and 5 percent in 2010. The Oklahoma-Texas region also reported a 5 percent gain in 2010; no other region had a higher gain in that year.
  • In 2010, 55 percent of Indian gaming operations reported gaming revenue less than $25 million. Of tribes making money in 2010, roughly 62 percent had gaming revenue less than $10 million.
  • For 2010, 49 percent of Indian gaming operations reported an an increase in gaming revenues. Of these operations, approximately 10 percent showed more than a 50 percent gain over 2009. 
  • Approximately 51 percent of gaming operators reported a gaming revenue decrease from their 2009 gaming revenues; however, three quarters of these operations experienced decreases of less than 10 percent.
The report looks at financial statements submitted by 236 gaming tribes. “In this challenging economic climate, tribal gaming remains a stable and reliable tribal economic enterprise that generates jobs and revenues for the betterment of Indian communities,” stated NIGC Chairwoman Tracie Stevens.
 
The table here shows the 2009 and 2010 revenue figures for the seven regions monitored by NIGC.

Central Valley Schools move all its IT services to TierPoint’s ‘cloud’

Liberty Lake's TierPoint has landed a major contract to provide all information technology services for the Central Valley School District.

The job means CV moves its entire network, including email and parent information data, out of its buildings and into virtualized servers inside TierPoint's data center. Also relocated to TierPoint is the district's business data.

In effect, CV moved its IT system to the cloud, and the cloud in this case was less than 10 miles away.

CV Superintendent Ben Small said the project made sense in saving future upgrade costs for hardware, and in cutting about $190,000 per year for two “high level” IT staff. Those positions were recently cut, he added.

The move eliminates the need for the district to upgrade equipment every three to five years, Small said.

CV is paying a yearly cost of roughly $169,000 to switch, plus another $42,000 for one-time startup fees. The costs will continue at that level for the next five years, with some increases based on the volume of data storage the district needs, said Octavio Morales, a TierPoint spokesman.

PerkinElmer layoffs won’t affect Spokane’s Signature Genomics

Massachusetts biotech firm PerkinElmer announced recently it's laying off 72 workers as part of a restructuring plan. 

The announcement, happily, has no impact on Signature Genomics, the Spokane microarray-based diagnostic company that PerkinElmer acquired in 2010.

Signature's President Lisa Shaffer confirmed by email on Thursday the layoffs will not spread to Spokane.

The recently filed 10Q report from PerkinElmer suggests Spokane's operations are among the company's strongest growth sectors:

The increase in our Human Health segment sales during the six months ended July 3, 2011 was due primarily to increased demand from the adoption of our neonatal and infectious disease screening offerings in the diagnostics market, increased growth in the academic sector for both instruments and reagents in the research market, and continued growth from industrial and veterinary applications in our medical imaging business.

 

Windows 95 was the answer; plus, Sagan vs. Apple and how that turned out

We have a winner. Tmeatzie correctly noted that early on Windows 95 bore the codename “Spokane.” Our sources, who worked at the Redmond company, say the name lasted a short while, replaced by the official codename “Chicago.”

We gathered up this other odd little tidbit in our research: all the rest of this explanation is taken from the Wikipedia entry on Apple Inc. litigation.

In 1994, engineers at Apple Computer code-named the mid-level Power Macintosh 7100Carl Sagan” after the popular astronomer in the hope that Apple would make “billions and billions” with the sale of the PowerMac 7100. The name was only used internally, but Sagan was concerned that it would become a product endorsement and sent Apple a cease and desist letter.

Apple complied, but engineers retaliated by changing the internal codename to “BHA” for “Butt-Head Astronomer”. Sagan then sued Apple for libel. The court granted Apple's motion to dismiss Sagan's claims and opined that a reader aware of the context would understand Apple was “clearly attempting to retaliate in a humorous and satirical way, adding “One does not seriously attack the expertise of a scientist using the undefined phrase 'butt-head'.”

Sagan then sued for Apple's original use of his name and likeness, but again lost. Sagan appealed the ruling. In November 1995, an out of court settlement was reached and Apple's office of trademarks and patents released a conciliatory statement that “Apple has always had great respect for Dr. Sagan. It was never Apple's intention to cause Dr. Sagan or his family any embarrassment or concern.”

A clue to find the Microsoft software release briefly codenamed ‘Spokane’

Here's another clue or tip to help someone identify the specific Microsoft software product that was, for a short while, codenamed “Spokane.”

It was a prominent MS product and had significant success.

It's not supported anymore and has not been sold for years.

Win a coffee card naming what Microsoft release was code-named Spokane

We spotted a recent story from Western Washington, noting that Microsoft apologized to the Tulalip Tribe for using the name “Tulalip” as an internal designation for a new product.

The two sides apparently discussed the minor flap and settled it sensibly. The tribe understood the name would not be used on an actual product, and Microsoft agreed to stop using the name internally.

But this practice has a long tradition.

In fact, at one time “Spokane” was a code name for an early test version of a prominent Microsoft product.

Can anyone identify it?  First person to correctly identify which MS product had the “Spokane” test name for a brief while gets a $10 Starbucks card.

Current Microsoft company workers are not eligible. Each participant is allowed just one guess.
  

 

Center Partners wants to hire at least 200 more call center workers here


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Center Partners Inc.’s new Liberty Lake call center will host an open house Saturday, starting at 10 a.m. and ending at 11:45 a.m., when a ribbon-cutting is planned.

The company is moving into a 52,000-square foot office last used as the headquarters of Liberty Lake-based Telect Inc., at 1730 N. Madson. Telect has relocated elsewhere in Liberty Lake.

Center Partners will relocate about 400 of its workers who until recently were based in Coeur d’Alene.

Center Partners officials say they hope to hire another 200 workers for the Liberty Lake location. The company handles customer calls for a number of major companies, including a Fortune 500 financial services company.

Applications for jobs can be found at Centerpartnersjobs.com.

Center Partners still has two other North Idaho centers, in Hayden and Post Falls.

Colorado-based Center Partners will lease the building from Jubilation Enterprises, a firm operated by Judi and Bill Williams, founders of Telect.

Coldwater Creek closes West Virginia call center, leaving only one in CDA

Sandpoint clothing retailer Coldwater Creek is closing a West Virginia call center and concentrating that operation at its Coeur d’Alene location.

The change means the retailer won’t have an East Coast call center, except in situations where added support may be needed, said Coldwater Creek spokeswoman Bobbi Earle.

Coldwater Creek has had a 15-person call center and a distribution center in Parkesburg, West Va., for more than 10 years.  The 15 workers there were offered jobs inside Coldwater Creek’s distribution center there.

The change does not increase jobs in the Coeur d’Alene center, Earle noted. But it will mean more work hours for the staff there, she added.

Earle, in a press release, said the closure results from technology allowing the company to centralize call center work at one site.

Each holiday season Coldwater Creek hires extra call center workers. Last winter the company added 30 workers in Coeur d'Alene. She expects roughly the same this year.

Center: 21 percent of U.S. workers will rely on Social Security for their retirement

The Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies has issued an infographic that tries to suggest we're not doing a great job, us baby boomers, anyway, in preparing for retirement.

The center says that 21 million American workers believe they can rely on Social Security to be the primary source of income. That's about 21 percent of the worker population in the country.

ABout 56 percent of that group say, in interviews conducted by the center, they have a poor knowledge of how Social Security operates.

Catherine Collinson, president of the center, was quote in a release saying: “With so much discussion around the future of Social Security, it’s more important than ever that workers fully understand their benefits and what impact any changes the government makes would have on their retirement.”

One key role the center plays is to identify steps workers can take to become more educated about Social Security benefits.

Washington AG McKenna sues firm for alleged illegal foreclosures

Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna on Friday filed a consumer protection lawsuit against a Bank of America subsidiary, ReconTrust, based in Simi Valley, Calif., for numerous alleged illegal foreclosures against Washington homeowners.

The company is a foreclosure agent for the bank.

A press release noted that “ReconTrust ignored our warnings, repeatedly broke the law and refused to provide information requested during our investigation,” McKenna said. “ReconTrust’s illegal practices make it difficult, if not impossible, for borrowers who might have a shot at saving their homes to stop those foreclosures.”

Notably, at least 74 Spokane County homes are included in the several thousand potential victims of the alleged bad practices of ReconTrust, according to a database maintained by ReconTrust, listing the homes it's foreclosed on and is currently selling.

To search the full list of recent (2011) foreclosures processed by ReconTrust in Washington, here's the link.

An AG's office spokeswoman said the suit does not allege every ReconTrust foreclosure followed the same pattern.

The release notes, however, that “ReconTrust has failed to comply with the Washington Deed of Trust Act, RCW 61.24, in each and every foreclosure it has conducted since at least June 12, 2008.”

Coming up in Sunday Business: Art of Fabrication

Sean “Smitty” Smith straddles two worlds: artist and contractor. And his imaginative creations can be found throughout Spokane: At Zola, The Flying Goat, Main Market Co-op.

Learn more about what inspires his work in our “Front & Center” profile, by writer Michael Guilfoil, this weekend in Sunday Business.

Comcast goes after DirecTV over ‘free’ NFL Sunday Ticket promotions

                                 

  We keep track of  Comcast, the major cable provider in Eastern Washington. We also follow DirecTV, a satellite program provider that's been engaged in a longstanding contract dispute with the company operating KAYU-TV, the Spokane Fox Network affiliate.

In fact, the dispute between KAYU's owners and DirecTV is now in its ninth month, with no resolution in sight. There is the potential for another late-year shutdown of signals from KAYU if the parties don't agree.

So it caught our eye when Comcast filed suit against DirecTV. Here are the particulars:

Comcast filed a complaint in an Illinois court, alleging DirecTV is misrepresenting that it can offer NFL Sunday Ticket programming for free.

Sunday Ticket provides subscribers with all out-of-market games on Sunday afternoons.

“As none of the ads disclose,” the lawsuit said, “the offer is not for free NFL Sunday Ticket service — the offer requires a two-year contract with hefty termination for early cancellation with the NFL Sunday Ticket service automatically renewing in the second year at full price.”

Comcast also charged that DirecTV is a  “serial offender” in false advertising.

Washington berry farms fined for hiring kids 6 and up

The U.S. Labor Department has fined three Washington state strawberry farms a total of $73,000 for employing children as young as 6 years old as pickers, The Associated Press reported today.

The department’s Portland, Ore., office says Thursday the violations include failing to maintain proof-of-age records and pay minimum wage. A total of nine underage workers were found during a child labor investigation in June at farms in Woodland, Wash., and Ridgefield, Wash.

The department says all three employers removed the underage workers and agreed to attend wage and hour training for the next three years.

China South closed, new retail complex will take its place in Lincoln Heights

The China South Restaurant on Spokane's South Hill has closed.

Owners are the Cho and Chan Family Trust, who've operated the restaurant in the Lincoln Heights Shopping Center for 20 years.

They plan to build a new retail center after tearing down the building. It was originally, when built in 1962, an A&W Restaurant.

For the full story, go to Spokesman.com tomorrow or look for it in Friday's print edition business section.

Work taking place at the nearby Trader Joe's played a role in the decision, said Chin Ho Cho, one of the owners.

Comcast ups cable prices in Spokane, and the timing is notable

We were snoozing or on vacation when, earlier this summer, Comcast announced TV and other service rate hikes for Washington customers. The formal announcement said:

“We are making investments in next-generation technology to add value to our products and improve service. We’ve also launched new interactive applications and multi-platform content that customers want and value.  We’ve worked hard to hold down price adjustments, even given the impact of higher programming costs, and in 2011, the average customer bill will increase by 2.8 percent.  These adjustments will not impact about half of our customers because they currently receive services as part of a promotional offer.”

So, a good number of cable customers in Spokane didn't see a hike. But once those promotional deals end, the hike will come.

What's notable is the timing of the increases. This increase took effect July 1.

The previous new rate hike took effect on Aug. 1, 2010.

The one before that took effect on Oct. 6, 2009.

It used to be Comcast went roughly 12 months before increasing prices. That's apparently been replaced by some other, quicker system. We need to do some research on what the industry practice is.  Do cable companies no longer bother to wait a year before another price hike?

We asked Steve Kipp, a Comcast West side spokesman, to elaborate on the pricing schedule. We wondered if the pattern is to squeeze increases in a little earlier each year.

Kipp emailed back a quick reply, saying he would not comment.
  

INB parent posts second-quarter loss

Spokane-based Northwest Bancorporation, Inc., the bank holding company for Inland Northwest Bank, today reported a net loss of $249,000 for the second quarter of the year, compared to a profit of $269,000 for the same quarter in 2010.

After accrual of dividends on preferred stock and related adjustments, the net loss for common shareholders was $418,000 compared to a profit of $100,000 a year ago.

This represents a loss of 14 cents per share for the quarter, compared to a gain of 4 cents per share in the second quarter last year.

Randall L. Fewel, President and CEO of the company and the bank, said in a prepared statement, “The road to full recovery from the worst recession in 90 years is indeed a long and bumpy one. As a result of a higher level of charged-off loans, and after an analysis of the adequacy of the loan loss reserve, management decided to expense $1.5 million into the reserve during the second quarter this year compared to $950,000 during the same quarter last year. That difference of $581,000 drove the decline in profitability for the quarter.”

Fewel said on a positive note, total impaired loans decreased $3.7 million, or 10.1 percent, from Dec. 31, 2010, to June 30, dropping from $37.2 million to $33.5 million. Also, foreclosed real estate dropped $634,000, or 16 percent during that six-month period, from $4 million to $3.3 million, he noted.

SL Start and Associates awarded $8.7 million New Mexico contract

Spokane-based SL Start and Associates has been selected to help needy New Mexicans get jobs through that state’s welfare-to-work program.

The New Mexico Human Services Department has awarded an $8.7 million, one-year contract to the company, founded in 1979 to find better ways to support people with disabilities to live and work in the community.

SL Start and Associates, which provides services for children and adults in about 26 cities in Washington and Idaho, was selected through a competitive bidding process.

New Mexico State University previously had the state contract to provide job services to low-income residents in the welfare-to-work program.

Advice to Men’s Wearhouse: Don’t do this late in the evening, or without sox

We wonder how this promotion, for the business Men's Wearhouse, would go over in the Lilac City?

Certainly it would raise a few eyebrows in downtown Spokane. It indeed caught some attention Tuesday when the promotion landed in downtown Seattle. This image is from Seattletimes.com.

The marketing team for the East Coast men's clothing retailer launched this same bare-yourself strategy last summer in NYC.

The idea is to have guys walk around with just boxers, sox and a necktie, carrying a sign saying “Donate gently used professional attire to any Men's Wearhouse in August for people in need, looking for work.”

Spokane donors can get into the spirit by making donations to the Spokane North Division Men's Wearhouse, without having to be prompted by a bare-chested guy on the street.

Itron announces major water meter sale to Delhi, India

Itron has a strong presence in many overseas markets, particularly in Europe and in parts of Asia.

The Liberty Lake utilities technology provider on Tuesday announced it's made a major water meter sale in India.

Larsen & Toubro, one of the biggest construction firms in India, will supply Itron's residential water meters as part of an infrastructure upgrade project in Delhi.

Itron is providing 250,000 water meters to accurately measure water usage in the metropolitan area—the largest water contract for Itron in India to date. One of the main Delhi water utilities is Delhi Jal Board (DJB).

An Itron release noted that water customers in Delhi are traditionally charged for water service on an estimated average basis, not on actual consumption.

The utility estimates more than 60 percent of metro water connections are either unmetered or have defective meters installed, resulting in major losses and waste across the entire Delhi metro area, the release said.

DJB is embarking on a phased upgrade to provide better monitoring and oversight of  water consumption while improving the overall efficiency of water supply, and ensuring water loss is minimized.

The press release also said: “This contract strengthens Itron's presence in Delhi as this project follows an earlier one of which 100,000 water meters were delivered to DJB.”

First batch of Dry Fly Bourbon gone within two hours

Last Saturday was the launch date for Dry Fly Distilling's notable first-ever Washington state bourbon.

The doors opened early. And within two hours, all 300 bottles — at $65 — were sold.

The privately owned craft distillery doesn't plan to release a new batch until next summer.

Another 270 bottles or so will be available later this week at the Interlake liquor store in downtown Seattle.

Canadian firm takes major stake in Jeld-Wen, owner of Silver Mountain Resort

Canadian investment firm Onex Corp. is buying a majority stake in Oregon-based Jeld-Wen, which owns Silver Mountain Resort in North Idaho.

Orex, based in Toronto, is spending $675 million for its majority shares of Jeld-Wen, based in Klamath Falls, The Oregonian reported.

Of the total Onex is said to be investing $475 million in cash for a 39 percent stake. It will also issue a $189 million note convertible to additional stock.

Silver Mountain Resort in Kellogg includes a ski operation, nine-hole golf course, condos and indoor waterpark.

Jeld-Wen last winter sold three central Oregon resorts to a partnership led by Northview Hotel Group of Westport, Conn. The properties were Eagle Crest near Redmond, Brasada Ranch in Powell Butte near Bend, and the Running Y in Klamath Falls. Also sold was Ridgewater Properties, adjacent to the 

Looking for a job at Grocery Outlet’s new store? Here’s the protocol

Grocery Outlet will open its third area location this fall in the former Safeway store at Third and Maple, near downtown Spokane.

The full story ran earlier today at Spokesman.com.

To those who want to apply for the 30 to 40 jobs to be filled there, here's the advice:  Don't start contacting the company via phone or email. Don't call the other two Grocery Outlets here.

VP of Real Estate Marc Drasin said wait until you see signs posted at the new store. At that point, people can come in and apply.

That could happen by mid-September. 

Drasin expects the store to open in October.

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

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

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Alison Boggs Online Producer Alison Boggs posts and manages content on spokesman.com 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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