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Archive for July 2011

Avista mailing out CFL lightbulbs to help encourage conservation

What's in the kit?Let's just see if we can give you the facts, just the facts, about the 2011 Avista Utilities compact fluorescent lightbulb program. We'll go retro and adopt the Five Ws approach:

Who:  Every one of the 350,000 residential households who are Avista power customers in Washington and Idaho. 

What: The free kit of eight compact fluorescent lights (CFL) that are being mailed to those houses. 

When: Now through November 2011.

Why:  a) Because a 2006 voter-approved law requires Avista to set target reductions in energy use, including conservation and energy reduction. CFLs help do that in a lasting way.

          b) Because Avista has been setting aside a monthly surcharge or tariff it collects on residential customers. It's about $3 per month, on average.

           That's the source for the roughly $7.5 million it's costing Avista to buy and mail the kits.

Where:  Eastern Washington and North Idaho, excluding all of Avista's business customers.

For more information, go to the Avista FAQ on the bulbs, at this link.

Boise’s Highway 12 Ventures to stop future investments

Boise-based venture capital firm Highway 12 Ventures announced it's not going to continue raising money.  Highway 12 was one of the few intermountain Western VC operations that could claim to be doing major investments.

A recent blog post said its partners will continue to manage the first two funds it created. It also said the firm would not shut down, The entry also noted family considerations by some founders played a role in the decision. 
 
Tom Simpson, Spokane-based manager of Win Partners and manager of Northwest Ventures Associates, said he has participated in several investments with the Highway 12 group.
 
“It reminds me of the old song 'Another one bites the dust,' ” Simpson said.

Former Mayor John Powers lands at top Kitsap economic development post

Former Spokane Mayor John Powers has landed a new West Side job.

Powers, who left Spokane and became CEO of Seattle’s Economic Development Council of Seattle and King County, will become executive director of the Kitsap Economic Development Alliance. He replaces Bill Stewart, who has announced his retirement after 3 1/2 years at the helm.

He was mayor from 2001 to 2003.

He stayed at the King County post for three years. Powers then joined Colliers International, an international commercial real estate brokerage.

A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, Powers is 59. Before being elected mayor, Powers worked for many years with Spokane law firm Paine Hamblen.

Photo here is from a 2003 city hall meeting with Powers (on right) and former Spokane Mayor Jim West.

Spokane foreclosure, delinquencies rose in May, says CoreLogic

Foreclosures in Spokane County are a growth industry. A recent CoreLogic study found Spokane foreclosures increased in May compared to the same period last year.

CoreLogic's data show the rate of foreclosures among outstanding mortgage loans is 1.67 percent for the month of May 2011, an increase of 0.42 percentage points compared to May of 2010 when the rate was 1.25 percent.

Foreclosure activity in Spokane is less than the U.S. rate of 3.45 percent for May. That's a 1.78 percentage point difference in Spokane's favor.

Spokane has a mortgage delinquency rate of 4.56 percent. The term refers to mortgage loans 90 days or more delinquent.

A year ago in May 2010, the delinquency rate was 4.40 percent, showing a 0.16 percent hike year over year.  

The image shows the May 2011 CoreLogic map of foreclosures in Spokane County. Click image for slightly larger version; color key shows the varying foreclosure rates.

Career Path Services gets second-place workplace nonprofit award

Career Path Services won 2nd place in a recent Seattle Business's “100 Best Companies to Work For” awards ceremony.

Spokane's Career Path Services offers free job placement help for job seekers and for employers. The nonprofit is funded by federal, state and other grants.

The first place winner in the awards' NonProfit Group was Valley Medical Center, from Renton.

Second place went to Career Path. Its main office is 10 N. Post, in downtown Spokane.

Third place went to Pacific Medical Centers, based in Seattle.

A full list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For in 2011 can be found at this link.

Second place nonprofit award for ‘best business’ goes to Career Path Services

Career Path Services won 2nd place in a recent Seattle Business's “100 Best Companies to Work For” awards ceremony.

Spokane's Career Path Services offers free job placement help for job seekers and for employers. The nonprofit is funded by federal, state and other grants.

The first place winner in the awards' NonProfit Group was Valley Medical Center, from Renton.

Second place went to Career Path Services, whose main office is 10 N. Post in downtown Spokane.

Third place went to Pacific Medical Centers, based in Seattle.

A full list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For in 2011 can be found at this link.

Career Path Services provides assistance in Spokane and Lincoln counties, Colville, Omak, the TriCities, Kent, Auburn, Federal Way, Lakewood and Puyallup.

Report: Thousands out of benefits, still out of work

A recent survey of Washington workers who failed to find work before running out of unemployment benefits revealed that three out of four of them remain jobless.

The survey also shows that 80 percent of those back at work earn less than in their former jobs – on average, about 29 percent less.

Of those who returned to work, about 19 percent found jobs out of state.

The state’s Employment Security Department emailed a survey in April to nearly 32,000 individuals who had run out of unemployment benefits since November 2009, and 5,065 people responded. The claimants had access to as many as 99 weeks of unemployment benefits.

Employment Security sought to find out if exhaustees have returned to work, the employment services they’re using and the barriers they’re running into while looking for new jobs.

Employment Security Commissioner Paul Trause said the survey findings shed valuable insight on what is happening to workers who run out of unemployment benefits.

“The survey contradicts the perception that unemployed workers wait until their benefits run out, then quickly find work,” Trause said.  “We know there aren’t enough jobs to go around right now, but there may be additional factors that keep employers from hiring these workers.”

INHS establishes a full-time MedStar helicopter base in Moses Lake

Northwest MedStar, the air-transport medical service, is setting up a permanent base in Moses Lake.

For the past two summers the service has operated a helicopter day base about nine miles north of Moses Lake through an agreement with Grant County Fire District 5.

The decision by nonprofit INHS establishes a fulltime base, with a registered nurse, respiratory therapist, pilot and mechanic. They will handle emergency responses and assist in transports between regional hospitals.

 A permanent hangar will be constructed later this year to house the helicopter.

 The full-time base provides more direct air transport services and decreased response time for north central Washington, said an INHS press release.

No salmonella found in tests at N. Idaho sprouts producer

Tests at a North Idaho sprouts plant failed to turn up traces of salmonella after the government in June linked an outbreak of food-borne salmonella poisoning to two types of sprouts from the business.

Nadine Scharf, owner of Evergreen Fresh Produce in Moyie Springs, says her company is on the verge of collapse after customers stopped filling orders in the weeks following the government action.

Scharf said she complied with a request by officials to voluntarily recall alfalfa sprouts and a spicy sprouts mix.

Since then, she has laid off 10 of her 14 workers and sold three vehicles to raise cash to pay her bills, she said.

“We are about down to nothing,” she said of her losses in recent weeks.

Sterling Financial reports $7.6 million in 2Q earnings

Sterling Financial Corporation, the bank holding company of Sterling Savings Bank, earned $7.6 million in the second quarter, or 12 cents per share, the Spokane-based company said today.

The net income is compares to $5.4 million, or 9 cents per share, for the first quarter, and a loss of $58.2 million, or $73.91 per share, for the second quarter of 2010.

Loan originations in the second quarter were $883 million, a 41 percent increase over the previous quarter.

Nonperforming assets declined by $131.3 million, or 21 percent, for the quarter.

Greg Seibly, Sterling’s president and CEO, said in a prepared statement, “Sterling’s earnings growth for the quarter was a result of net interest margin expansion and growth of non-interest income. The margin expansion was a function of growth of the loan portfolio and the success of our deposit strategy, which reduced the cost of deposits by 10 basis points for the quarter. The loan growth was a result of higher loan production, which outpaced the significant reduction in nonperforming assets. Our production teams are continuing to generate momentum as we enter the second half of the year.”

Following up on Nate Brantingham, a former CEO’s post-mortem

Today's earlier post on Spokane business owner Nate Brantingham mostly floated out of our memory and the Spokesman-Review's news library.

Later today we contacted Nate and asked for a summary of what he's done after leaving startup game company GamerZunion, and before starting a new firm, Safe Trade USA.

Here's his update:

“gZu (GamerZunion) is done as far as I know.  I went back to EWU and got my master's degree …  While going through the program I taught as an undergrad at EWU and loved that. If there were any openings I would have pursued a teaching route, but this (Safe Trade USA) came along instead!

“I hear from (gZu co-founder) Tye Hooley rarely, and the rest have gone their separate ways.  I'm not even very sure what happened once I left.  I do know that when we hit a rough patch when funding wasn't coming through we discussed various ways to go from there.

“At that time I disagreed with the direction the rest of the board wanted to go and I got the offer from Steve Simmons to come back to EWU, finish my degree and teach, so I took him up on it.  I think at that time the rest of the board was supportive of that.  That was about the last I've heard about it.

“… I'm very disappointed that gZu didn't work out, but I don't blame the very hard working team or board members.  I think the climate wasn't very good and that Spokane wasn't as investor-friendly as they wish they were.  I think there were lots of great intentions that just left us simmering in Spokane when perhaps somewhere else would have been better (like Seattle or Boise). 

“That said, gZu is still a great idea and the industry could still use a service like that; but the timing isn't as good as it was.  More and more mmogs have moved away from subscriptions and into micro-transactions.  I didn't see that working well, but many companies are doing very well with them, so I misread that.”
  

EWU’s Nate Brantingham resurfaces; a review of what he did back in the day

A story earlier this week by Spokesman Review staff reporter Meghann Cuniff called attention to a new company, Safe Trade USA, started by Spokane's Nate Brantingham. His business provides a safer place and a secure location for people to sell items via online sites like Craigslist.

Cuniff's story noted Brantingham, 33, decided to open the store after the shooting death of Jim Sanders in Edgewood, Wash., in April 2010. The killing appears to have been committed by people spotting a Craigslist ad posted by Sanders.

We wanted to go down memory lane and remind readers that Brantingham has done other things in the Spokane tech industry. In 2004 he was part of a team of three EWU students who won a first prize and startup cash in the Gonzaga University Hogan Entrepreneurial Competition.

Their company idea, called GamerZunion, created an online portal for gamers. Nate's brother Austin was part of that team. Game maker Cyan Worlds invested in the company. Nate was the CEO until 2006, when he and Austin left GamerZunion.

The third EWU co-founder, Tye Hooley, continued running the firm until it shut down. We'll track down when the closure occurred. If you know, please comment here.

See new update, compliments of Nate Brantingham. It's in a separate post filed July 27.

The photo here, shot by former staffer Brian Plonka, shows Nate talking about GamerZunion during a 2005 gamefest in Spokane Valley.

Wine Spectator gives a shout-out to Spokane Club restaurant

Wine Spectator magazine digs the Spokane Club restaurant Burgundy’s, giving it an award of excellence.

Featured in Wine Spectator's 30th annual List issue, Burgundy's was feted for its fresh, regional cuisine and robust selection of Washington, Oregon and California wines.

“We’re thrilled with the recognition of a list we’ve been steadily building over many year’s time,” says Urs Moser, the restaurant's executive chef and director.

Moser, who has been with the Spokane Club since 2009, is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Arts of Lucerne, Switzerland. He is the former executive Chef of the acclaimed Raven and the Peach in Fair Haven, NJ,  and was a guest chef at the James Beard House in New York City.

Moser is playing a major role in the club’s redefining itself as a vibrant part of the Spokane dining and social scene, according to a club press release.

New and improved: the Steve McGrew impassioned Spokane blacksmith video

Two Sundays ago the SR ran a business story on local business owner Steve McGrew, along with a 2:45 second video showing him at work in his West Plains blacksmith shop.

We've recoded the video into a smaller file size and in a smoother format. If you haven't seen it yet (or wondered why it didn't run as clean as it should have) here's the link to see it the right way. Or click on the play arrow above.

Thanks to SR photographers Dan Pelle and Jesse Tinsley for helping on this video.

What would you do if those three Spokane area post offices close down?

A news item this morning reports the possibility that a number of area (Eastern Washington, North Idaho) post offices could be closed.

Which leads to the question: what's the best next use for any of those buildings that do might close?

Three Spokane area offices are on that possible list: those in Hillyard, in Dishman and Parkwater.

I'm eager to hear what you'd propose be the best next uses for those locations, assuming they could be converted. 

No, not another Starbucks. My suggestion: Hillyard's post office becomes a guitar-making studio and woodworking shop.

Southwest Airlines to end Spokane-Seattle flights

Southwest Airlines has announced it is trimming four flights each day between Seattle and Spokane starting Jan. 8, reducing passenger choices in getting to the West Coast air corridor.

The announcement on Monday was part of a package of schedule changes that will result in 102 fewer flights in a cost-cutting move by the nationwide carrier.

The two current inbound flights from Seattle and the two departures from Spokane to Seattle are being cut, leaving no direct flights between Spokane and Seattle on Southwest.

Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air have been strong in serving that corridor over the years.

Spokane passengers will still be able to get to Southwest destinations through Portland and other hub cities such as Denver and Phoenix.

The changes were published Monday for the period from Jan. 8 through March 9.

A short history lesson: who did make the first true Washington state bourbon?

We spotted one Washington website that wondered if Dry Fly Distilling really is producing the first-ever bourbon made in the state.

The site included a link to the image here. It's from an ad for Seattle company Northwest Distilleries dating from roughly 1933. Did that firm make bourbon well before Dry Fly?

Likely not.

According to some spirits historians, true bourbon could only be distilled in Bourbon County, Kentucky, up through 1969. We have to acknowledge that view isn't universally shared; some say there was no legal requirement that “straight” bourbon had to be made in Kentucky.

In any event, Don Poffenroth, who co-founded Dry Fly in Spokane, believes the spirit listed in the 1933 ad is among those that were made based on loose distilling standards in the early half of the 20th century.

A company could order or buy some bourbon from a true distiller, and then add some components and call it a bourbon, according to Poffenroth. He's of the opinion that's what happened, as Washington didn't have a true distillery in the 1930s. In fact, Dry Fly was the only true distillery in the state when it opened in 2007.

As Poffenroth noted: A lot of people confused “bottled” with distilled.

Ptera Wireless adding service to North Idaho broadband customers

Liberty Lake-based Ptera Wireless is expanding its wireless broadband service to Coeur d’Alene, Rathdrum and Post Falls.  Ptera also announced it's boosted speeds on all packages without increasing the cost of service.

It will now offer 4 megabits per second for $49.95 per month.

The company already provided service across most of Spokane County.

Company president Jim Wilson said Ptera has been growing by 30 percent per year. Its ability to reach more customers comes from having installed more than 150 transmitters around Spokane and North Idaho.

In a release, Wilson said: “In the past, our typical customer was the rural family without access to DSL or Cable Internet.  This is no longer the case, as most of our growth is in residential and business areas where we go head to head with both carrier types and still win the business.”

In addition to broadband Internet, Ptera offers Voice Over Internet telephone service, business connectivity and networking services.

To accommodate this growth, Ptera recently leased 3,000 square feet at the Meadowwood Technology Campus in Liberty Lake.

Monthly costs start at $24.95 for residential customers, and $59.95 for business customers for wireless Internet. 
  

Dry Fly Bourbon ready to be released this week

Dry_fly_bourbon_bottle_87kb

 

Spokane's Dry Fly Distilling is ready to deliver its first-ever release of bourbon. It's also the first true straight bourbon distilled in Washington, according to Dry Fly's managers.

The official first day for selling the bourbon is Saturday, July 30, inside the Dry Fly shop at 1003 E. Trent. Sales of the first 300 bottles start at 8 a.m.

If you want to get ahead of Saturday's line of buyers, there's a benefit Friday evening at the store, starting at 6 p.m. Tickets for that tasting party are $25 and will benefit Ronald McDonald House and Casting 4 A Cure foundation.

The Spokane store will sell about 300 bottles. Likely they'll sell out within several hours.

The next week, another 240 bottles will go on sale at the Interlake store operated by the state, in downtown Seattle. Company co-founder Don Poffenroth said the release being sold this summer will be the only one, until next July.

Dry Fly's bourbon was aged for two years in Spokane, inside charred-oak barrels. (The legal requirement for any blend to be called a bourbon is aging inside charred oak barrels. Straight bourbon, by definition, must also be aged for at least two years.)

The Dry Fly blend is 60 percent corn, 20 percent wheat, 20 percent barley, all from local crops.

Each bottle costs $64.95 — reflecting the 101 proof quality of the blend. 

Failed ID, MT resort owners want to join lawsuit

BOISE — Two principals at failed western resorts are trying to recoup money they lost when their developments imploded by joining a lawsuit against Credit Suisse Group, the Associated Press reported.

Alfredo Miguel of Tamarack Resort in Idaho and Tim Blixseth of Montana’s Yellowstone Club asked a federal judge for permission to join plaintiffs in a 2010 lawsuit contending the Zurich-based bank used a predatory lending scheme to defraud them.  

Miguel and Blixseth contend “shoddy, deceitful, misleading and fraudulent appraisals” led to bloated loans that were doomed to fail, costing innocent borrowers and others dearly.  
Meanwhile, they say Credit Suisse protected itself by syndicating the loans.  

Miguel also alleges Credit Suisse and a loan syndicate member tried to shake him down for $1.2 million in exchange for releasing him from a personal guarantee for the loan.

Wheat harvest runs behind normal

WALLA WALLA – Cold weather makes some things hard to start and the 2011 wheat harvest is no exception. Cool temperatures, along with wet spring weather, has pushed back harvest locally and regionally, but the extra rain may boost yields in some areas, according to the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin newspaper.

In Walla Walla County, “we’re about two weeks behind right now,” said Dave Gordon, general manager for Northwest Grain Growers. Only about six growers along the Touchet River are cutting wheat right now, he said.

Another local farmer, Curtis Coombs, summed conditions up in two sentences. “It’s just too green. It’s super late right now,” he said.

Another unknown in this year’s harvest will be how much damage fungus stripe rust has caused. The damp spring weather caused a severe infestation throughout the wheat-growing areas, forcing some farmers to apply double or even triple the amount of fungicide to their fields.

The fungus stunts the development of wheat grains, which significantly reduces yields. But how much is yet to be seen.

Borders begins liquidation sales at all stores

Borders Group has begun liquidation sales at all of its 399 stores as the 40-year-old chain winds down operations.

A liquidation company that is part of the process said the sales started today at all 259 Borders superstores, 114 Borders Express and Waldenbooks, and 26 Borders airport stores.

Borders operates two local stores, at 9980 N. Newport Highway in north Spokane, and at 450 West Wilbur Ave. in north Coeur d'Alene.

Gordon Brothers Group, part of a group of liquidators leading the sales, says more than $700 million of the company’s inventory, including books, stationery, music and movies will be sold.

Idaho’s unemployment rate remains at 9.4%

BOISE — The Idaho Department of Labor says the statewide unemployment held steady at 9.4 percent in June.

The agency released the latest jobless numbers today, saying the Idaho labor pool shrunk for the first time in 10 months as fewer jobs were created and more than 1,800 unemployed workers either gave up their search or left the state in June.

Idaho’s jobless rate fell to 9.4 percent in May, down from 9.6 percent in April.

The labor department says more than 30,000 unemployed workers collected $28.8 million in benefits last month, which is down compared to a year ago when more than 38,000 workers received $41.7 million in June 2010.

The state reports more than 10,600 unemployed workers have exhausted their benefits and are still without work.

New karate school opens its doors on South Washington

A new Spokane Kenpo Karate center has opened its doors at 164 S. Washington, suite 200.

Its focus is training in American Kenpo Karate, a style combining elements of Karate, Ju-Jitsu, Judo and Kung Fu for modern day self-defense scenarios. 
 
Bryan Whitaker and Tom Black, both third degree black belts, are the school’s lead instructors. 
Whitaker and Black have almost 40 years combined experience in the Kenpo system. 
 
Classes for now are Tuesday and Thursday evenings; instruction for children runs 5-6 p.m.; adult classes run 6-7:30 p.m.
 
In addition to Whitaker and Black, the school's owners include Colin Conway and Mike Charter.  

McGrew hopes to inspire other metal artists to band together

People familiar with Spokane's Steve McGrew know a few things about him. He's an inventor, a tech company owner and board member (serving as co-founder of biotech firm GenPrime). 

He's also a diehard blacksmith, using his shop for classes and to make commercial metalwork for people wanting tools, utensils, outdoor decorations or functional pieces.

Sunday's Spokesman Review business section will have a story on McGrew and his hopes to help create an area blacksmithing collective. He'd like to find a shop somewhere that lets students and teachers work together.

The story includes a video of McGrew working in his smithy.

STCU opens a new Valley branch

Spokane Teachers Credit Union just broke ground for its 15th area branch, near University High School.

The new branch, at 13211 E. 32nd, will be open later this year, according to a press release.

It will be the second STCU branch in Spokane Valley.

Baker Construction & Development is contractor for the 3,496-square-foot branch, which is designed to meet U.S. Green Building Council standards for LEED Gold certification for sustainable building and development practices.

Designed by Nystrom+Olson Architecture, the building will have craftsman-style elements.

The release noted Spokane Valley's population of 91,836 is anticipated to grow by roughly 16,000 in the next 20 years.

Cowles Company to freeze employee pension plan

Cowles Company, which owns The Spokesman-Review, KHQ-TV, The Journal of Business and other businesses, announced Thursday that it will freeze the company’s pension plan effective Sept.  1. At the same time, Cowles will open its 401(k) match to all employees affected by the change.

The transition affects about 473 employees, or 56 percent of the company’s eligible work force who were not included in a partial freeze three years ago. Their accrued pension benefit will be capped at present levels.

“Revenue and profit predictability has diminished dramatically across all of our businesses in the last decade,” Cowles Company President Stacey Cowles said in a prepared statement. “It is no longer feasible for companies to guarantee payments 10 or 20 years from now when we can hardly predict what’s going to happen 10 weeks from now.”

Numerica CU names new CEO

Spokane-based Numerica Credit Union has named a new chief executive officer: Carla Altepeter, the longtime CEO of CitizensFirst Credit Union in Oshkosh, Wisc.

Altepeter replaces Dennis Cutter, who will retire Aug. 31 after 40 years as Numerica’s president and CEO.

Altepeter has served as president and CEO of CitizensFirst since 1992. She will begin at Numerica Sept. 1.

Her commitment to that community was most appealing to the Numerica board of directors, Cutter said in a news release this morning.

“Her most notable quality is her strong belief in the philosophy of ‘people helping people,’” he said. “These qualities run parallel to those of Numerica, making her a perfect fit.”

Numerica has more than 90,000 members throughout Central and Eastern Washington and North Idaho and more than $1 billion in assets.

Texas networking company buys Post Falls firm TriGeo for $35 million

Publicly traded Texas company SolarWinds Inc. has bought Post Falls technology firm TriGeo Network Security for $35 million.

TriGeo was founded by CEO and President Michelle Dickman in 2001. The sale closed Wednesday.

Dickman, the majority shareholder in TriGeo, will not remain in those positions.

SolarWinds, based in Austin, develops network management tools, applications and storage management software. It was founded in 1999.

TriGeo has developed a series of security products that monitor and track corporate networks and protect against unauthorized intrusions, data leaks or external threats.

The acquisition of TriGeo’s security tools gives SolarWinds a strong base for expanding into corporate security services, said SolarWinds CEO Kevin Thompson in a release.

The Post Falls office will remain indefinitely, a SolarWinds spokeswoman said on background. TriGeo has about 60 employees in Idaho.

For this year’s first quarter SolarWinds reported earnings of $11.7 million or 16 cents per share. Privately held TriGeo’s financials are not disclosed.

TriGeo’s primary customers are in financial services , healthcare, government, utility, retail, and media and entertainment.

Its primary product, the TriGeo SIM (security information manager) module has won a range of tech awards. It was chosen among the 2007 Frost & Sullivan North American Technology Innovation of the Year awards.

WaMu again seeks approval of reorganization plan

WILMINGTON, Del. — Bank holding company Washington Mutual Inc. is asking a Delaware judge to approve its revised reorganization plan.

The judge convened a three-day hearing today to consider the plan, which centers on the settlement of lawsuits pitting Washington Mutual, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and JPMorgan against one another, the Associated Press reported.

The lawsuits were filed after the FDIC seized WaMu’s flagship bank in 2008 and sold its assets to JPMorgan in the largest bank failure in U.S. history.

The judge ruled in January that the proposed settlement was reasonable but refused to confirm WaMu’s plan until changes were made.

Washington Mutual shareholders oppose the new plan, saying it favors hedge funds who dominated negotiations with JPMorgan for their own gain and used inside information from the bankruptcy to trade in Washington Mutual securities.

It’s back: a revived Spokane Metro magazine tries to keep its focus

Today's newspaper carried the story about three Spokane guys resurrecting Spokane Metro magazine.

The first version of the slick, polished mag ran from 2008 to 2009. It shut down as the economy tanked and bills piled up.   Notably, the SpokaneMetro website includes the image here, “Back with Adult Supervision.”

You get the idea the group of new owners are trying to shake part of its past.

The key points from the story today are:

  • Eric Klamper, half-brother of original publisher Collin Klamper, says he'll run the magazine with better financial guidance provided by fellow owner, Steve Larsen. Collin is not part of the picture anymore.
  • The focus will remain on interesting hits on food, fashion, music, the arts, and lifestyles. That doesn't change from the earlier version of Spokane Metro.
  • The mag will continue hosting boffo parties as a marketing focus.  (We wonder if that helped create that pile of bills the last time around?)
  • Susan Nielsen, who recently worked for Vince Bozzi's magazine Catalyst, will be editor. Or as the masthead calls her “chief editorial strategist.”  What happened to good old “editor”?

The rest of the news story can be found online here.

Albertsons will take self-checkout lanes out of stores. But this doesn’t affect area Albertsons stores

self-checkout-station.JPGOne of the nation's major grocery store chains is eliminating self-checkout lanes in an effort to encourage more human contact with its customers.

Albertsons LLC, which operates 217 stores in seven Western and Southern states, will eliminate all self-checkout lanes in the 100 stores that have them and will replace them with standard or express lanes, a spokeswoman said.

But this doesn't affect Washington or Idaho Albertsons stores.  The affected stores losing the lanes belong to the “other” Albertsons, called Albertsons LLC, which operates in Texas, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, New Mexico and Utah. That group came out of a 2006 sale that broke apart the original company.

Stores in the Northwest not making a change are Albertsons-branded stores also, but they belong to the  company based in Boise that operates under the name Albertsons Supervalu. (Here is the Wikipedia summary of that company).

That company says its checkout lanes are very popular. “Our customers say they love them,” said Alberstons Supervalu spokeswoman Lilia Rodriguez.

Self-checkout was launched years ago to promote speedier visits to stores.

But in recent years the idea began going through review. “We just want the opportunity to talk to customers more,” Albertsons LLC spokeswoman Christine Wilcox said. “That's the driving motivation.”

Most violent job in Washington? Nurses aide

SEATTLE — The most violent job in Washington state isn’t being a police officer or a security guard. It’s working as a nurse’s aide.

Seattle public radio station KUOW-FM made that finding as part of an investigative series on workplace safety airing this week. The station found that violence strikes health care workers in Washington at six times the state average, and frontline caregivers in emergency rooms and psychiatric wards get assaulted even more than that.

The single most violent workplace in the state is at Western State Hospital, where criminal defendants are taken when they are found incompetent to stand trial. Workers at psychiatric hospitals are assaulted on the job more often than anybody else — 60 times more than the average worker in Washington state.

Steve Salvatori, council candidate, and weekly talk show host

Local business owner and office-building owner Steve Salvatori is running for Spokane City Council.

Salvatori has also become a noted radio talk show host, with a growing following for his weekly radio show on KSBN Radio.

Naturally, there needed to be a decision by KSBN regarding the overall fairness question; did Salvatori have an unfair platform to talk about himself through the show, and if so, how to deal with that?

So KSBN station management  made sure it offered his opponent, Karen Kearney, the chance to host her own show. Kearney, we were told, declined the offer.

UPDATE added: We learned that Kearney has dropped out, a piece of information not listed in this blog originally. The remaining other candidate, Joy Jones, was also invited by KSBN to have a show. Joy also declined the chance to have a weekly show.

So Salvatori continues his weekly show, a 30-minute question-answer recording with area business people. KSBN, we'll add, is making an effort to find a solid audience for its business news programs.

The lineup and archive of his interviews is at Salvatori's own Spokane Entrepreneurial Center page.

The guests to date include Spokesman-Review publisher Stacey Cowles, Signature Genomics co-founder Dr. Lisa Shaffer and Tom Fritz, CEO of INHS.

Salvatori ran last year for Spokane County Commissioner and didn't make it past the primary.

Horizon C.U. Post Falls branch opens in new spot

Spokane Valley-based Horizon Credit Union has moved its Post Falls branch to 920 N. Highway 41, Suite 10. The doors to the new branch open today.

The branch was relocated from 565 Vest St., south of Interstate 90. The new, 1,700-square-foot space on the north side of the freeway is in the River City Center retail complex.    

“The new branch is more centrally located at Highway 41 and Mullan,” said Brian Grytdal, Horizon’s vice president of marketing, in a news release. “We think members and potential members will find the new location more convenient and easier to access.”

Grytdal said the new location also has additional services, including a drive-through, a deposit-taking ATM, and a self-service center with Internet access to Horizon’s website and Home Banking.

Branch hours remain Monday through Friday. 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Horizon Credit Union has been serving members since 1947, when it started as Kaiser Employees Federal Credit Union in Spokane. It has grown to 16 branches and more than 39,000 members.

Free drinks Wednesday at newest Dutch Bros. Coffee shop

Dutch Bros. Coffee will open a new Spokane outlet Wednesday at 402 S. Freya St. And in keeping with company tradition, the new store will serve free drinks all day Wednesday, from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.

This will be the fourth Dutch Bros. store in Spokane for local owners and operators Kevin and Kerry Parker, who opened the first local store in 2006.

“We’re very excited to open a new location in Spokane, and we owe it to our fans for being so supportive and allowing us the opportunity to continue to serve in our local communities,” Kevin Parker said in a news release.

Regular business hours will be Sunday through Thursday, 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Founded in Southern Oregon in 1992 by brothers Dane and Travis Boersma, Dutch Bros. Coffee is the country’s largest privately-held, drive-through coffee company. There are more than 160 locations in Oregon, California, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Colorado and Arizona.

Spokane gas prices inch upward

Average retail gasoline prices in Spokane rose 0.2 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $3.72 per gallon Sunday, according to gasoline price website SpokaneGasPrices.com.

This compares with the national average that increased 6.3 cents per gallon in the past week, to $3.63.

Prices locally are 77.6 cents per gallon higher than at this point a year ago, and are 11.4 cents per gallon lower than one month ago.

Car dealers see minor growth despite multiple obstacles

Coming up in Sunday Business:

Spokane area vehicle dealerships have embraced a new survival plan. It’s called Hold On — It Should Get Better.

Area dealers say their 2011 business plan is to make a bit more money on vehicle service and repairs, keep hunting for good used cars to spur visits to their lots, and then wait for the rebound.

Since the mid-2000s, new car and new truck dealers in the region have been forced to survive factory bankruptcies, a painful, job-sucking recession and, for import sellers, a sudden disruption this spring in getting new cars from Japan.

Now, most dealers say the business climate looking ahead is much the same as it has been for the past half-year — OK but nothing to rave about.

“We’re not sure what ‘normal’ business is anymore,” said Shayne Goff, general manager at Wendle Motors, in north Spokane.

READ THE FULL STORY THIS SUNDAY

Strong Solutions cutting its retail emphasis, expands its business offerings

Strong Solutions - Apple Mac Sales & ServiceNot everyone in Spokane rejoiced when the Apple retail store came to Spokane last year.

Among those who felt a disruptive impact from Apple’s arrival is Jack-Daniyel Strong, owner of Strong Solutions, a tech business he’s operated since 2009.

Until the Apple store opened downtown last September, Strong’s business, at 1718 E. Sprague, was the largest Spokane full-service retailer and consultant for users of Apple computers and devices.

Ten months later, the downtown store has sucked a lot of Strong’s retail business away. And Best Buy and Huppin's have also carved a share of the Apple retail pie.

Strong’s reaction, initiated this week, is refocusing operations less on retail, more on training, consulting and business services. 

“They (the Apple store) are now focusing on the consumer and so we’ve decided to focus more on business customers,” he said.  

The changes now include opening the store at 8 a.m., two hours earlier, and remaining closed on Saturdays.

That gives business customers a chance to get service or help earlier in the day. The downtown Apple store opens at 10 a.m. 

“We’re now seeing two to three or four people each day coming to the store before 10,” he added.

He’s expanding the menu of business training options. Classes and training sessions on using Apple products or on integrating iPads or iPhones into a business environment  will be offered on weekdays.

Strong said he learned the former plan, offering classes on weekends, didn’t appeal to businesses. “They said they didn’t want to send employees on their own time to a weekend session,” he said.

The enhanced training-session plan includes breakfast and lunch meetings.

Strong said he’ll still sell Apple products. He just won’t carry a large inventory. “And many of our sales are custom-ordered for a customer or a business,” he said.

 His business and consulting services go beyond Apple to include customers who use Windows or Linux, as well.

Another key service, he noted, is securing company data and resources when employees are accessing company networks with personal devices.

PR firm offers 20 hours of public relations to a worthy business

BohlsenPRSummer and free go together, even on the Office Hours blog.

So, we're calling attention to a cool deal offered by Indiana-based PR firm BohlsenPR.

The company started a summer contest to give a free publicity campaign to a worthy nonprofit. The winner gets 20 hours of free PR services.

The requirement: write a 150-200 word essay explaining your summer goals, major developments being worked on, and marketing initiatives you need to support them.

Entrants need to submit essays before 5 p.m. Aug. 19.

The company's website is www.bohlsenpr.com;  its blog is here.  On Twitter, they're @bohlsenPR.

Albertsons to close down Northwest Blvd. supermarket on Aug. 11


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Boise-based Albertsons has decided to close its Northwest Blvd. supermarket in north Spokane on Aug. 11.

The decision is based on business factors, Albertsons said in a release. Translated: it's not that profitable.

Albertsons opened the store when it was built, at 1617 Northwest Blvd., in 1980.

No plans for the site have been announced.

Albertsons still has two other north Spokane markets at 6520 N. Nevada and 9001 N. Indian Trail Rd.

Fewer people sought unemployment aid last week

The number of people applying for unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level in seven weeks, although applications remain elevated, the Associated Press reports.

The Labor Department said today that applications for benefits dropped by 14,000 to a seasonally adjusted 418,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, declined for the first time in four weeks, to 424,750.

Applications have topped 400,000 for 13 weeks, evidence the job market has weakened since the beginning of the year. Applications had fallen in February to 375,000, a level that signals sustainable job growth. They stayed below 400,000 for seven of the next nine weeks. But then applications surged to an eight-month high of 478,000 in April and have shown only modest improvement since.

The government will release its June employment report Friday. Economists expect employers added a net total of 90,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate remained stuck at 9.1 percent, according to a survey by FactSet.

Washington among more affordable manufacturing states, says study

donateWhen Boeing decided to move some aircraft production to South Carolina, many folks declared it as final proof that manufacturing in this region was on the decline and would not recover.  

Despite that pessimism, it's possible to find the opposite view. A recent study found that eight of the top 10 states for cost-efficient manufacturing are in the West or Northeast.

The results, prepared by the American Institute for Economic Research, is called the AIER “Competitiveness and Business Costs” study.
 
The study suggests Oregon is the most affordable location for new manufacturing sites.

Washington was ranked 10th best, on the basis of a state-by-state comparison of the production cost per dollar output of manufactured goods – that is, how much it costs to produce one dollar value of goods in different states.

The study used 2007 Economic Census data and relied on Data Envelopment Analysis, which looks solely at production costs and outputs.
 
Behind Oregon, the most cost-efficient manufacturing states are Connecticut, Iowa, North Carolina, New York, Arizona, Massachusetts, Nevada, Colorado and Washington.
 
The least cost-effective states, according to the study, are: Mississippi, North Dakota, Kentucky, Vermont, Alabama, Louisiana, Alaska, Montana, South Carolina and Idaho.

Cheryl Kilday, of the CVB, will be this week’s Good Morning GSI speaker

Cheryl KildayYou get one more chance for a Good Morning Greater Spokane event, before the show takes a summer holiday and not resuming until September.

This week's event, on July 8, is a networking-discussion presentation with Cheryl Kilday, president and CEO of the Spokane Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau. It's at Beacon Hill, 4848 E. Wellesley.

Kilday will discuss travel, tourism and how they affect the region.

The program starts with networking at 7 a.m., followed by the program from 7:30 a.m.-9 a.m.

Tickets are $25 for members, $55 for non-GSI members.

Register here

Wells Fargo settlement will be used to help homeowners facing foreclosure

Money obtained by Washington's Attorney General's office  will be used to provide free legal help to homeowners trying to work through a foreclosure.

The money, amounting to more than $1 million, is part of a settlement with Wells Fargo Bank, in which the state alleged that Golden West, acquired by Wells Fargo in its purchase of Wachovia Bank,  engaged in questionable loan practices.

That is the October 2010 agreement with Wells Fargo. The AG's office, in that deal, required that the bank provide $29 million in adjustments for about  400 Washington borrowers who received payment option adjustable-rate mortgages. That amount included nearly $12 million in principal forgiveness.

The $1 million grant will go to the Washington State Bar Association's Home Foreclosure Legal Aid Project, which offers free attorney help for state residents facing foreclosure.

Starting July 22, the state's Foreclosure Fairness Act wil provide distressed borrowers with a counselor who will serve as an ally in legal efforts to work through a foreclosure process.

The WSBS project will focus on providing assistance based on which counties have the highest rate of foreclosures.

The AG's office also earlier provided the bar association with $320,000 from the Countrywide/Bank of America settlement for the same purpose.

Pyrotek will move those 20 jobs, from Mexico, into the Industrial Park

Pyrotek Inc., which announced four weeks ago it will relocate 20 good-paying jobs from Mexico to Spokane Valley, has signed a lease on the building those workers will use.

The Spokane Valley company will lease 40,000 square feet of manufacturing space in the Spokane Business & Industrial Park.

Those jobs will be focused on the manufacture of high-end ceramic filters, according to a company spokesman.

Holiday gas prices down from spring highs

Motorists traveling around the Inland Northwest will be paying less for gasoline than they did even a month ago.

Prices are down by 20 to 50 cents per gallon since they peaked in late spring and over the Memorial Day holiday.

This week’s AAA survey shows the best deal on petrol is in southeast Idaho, where prices are at $3.39 per gallon in Pocatello and a dime higher in Idaho Falls.

The most expensive pump prices are in Ketchum/Hailey, where prices are at $3.87 per gallon.

In Washington state, AAA reports the average price for regular-grade fuel is $3.80 per gallon, down from $4 or more per gallon during the spring months.

Many pumps in Spokane were set at about $3.70 a gallon on Friday.

Prices in Boise were at $3.69, compared to $3.73 in Lewiston and $3.61 in Coeur d’Alene.

AAA Idaho Spokesman Dave Carlson says geographic isolation, wholesale suppliers and local retail competition influence pricing and disparities between cities.

Elsewhere, AAA reports the national average per-gallon price has dropped 44 cents since early May, compared to just a 13 cent decline in Idaho.

How many more people will fill up North American cities?

A recent survey tried to identify the “greenest” cities in North America.  Produced by the Economist magazine's “intelligence unit,”  the recent list said San Francisco, Vancouver, New York, Seattle and Denver lead that list. It's based on nine criteria: carbon emissions, energy usage, land use, green buildings, public transportation, water use, waste management, air quality and environmental governance.

Here's for me the interesting piece of data. Citing a United Nations population study, the report offers a view of the continuing urbanization of the planet:

According to the United Nations Population Division, 82% of Americans and 81% of Canadians lived in cities in 2010 and these proportions are set to continue rising, reaching 90% for the US and 88% for Canada by 2050. This is not a new phenomenon. As early as 1955, two-thirds of the populations of both countries lived in cities. Urbanization, though, has now reached a stage where rural America has begun to shrink.  In absolute terms, the rural US population dropped by 12% in the last 20 years and the UN predicts it will decline another 14% in the next two decades, even as the overall national population rises. A similar trend is expected to emerge in Canada around 2020.

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

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Read all the posts from recent conversations on Office Hours.

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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 (@alisonboggs) 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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