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Archive for September 2011

Spokane-based residential moving firm AAA Movers fined by state

A Spokane company, AAA Movers, is among seven residential moving firms fined Thursday by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission for operating without a permit.

AAA Movers, at 7807 N. Regal, was fined $5,000 for five violations. It filed for a valid permit and utilities commission agreed to dismiss $4,500 after one year if it meets all requirements and obligations.

The other firms cited are Last Minute Movers in Bremerton; Innovative Moving Systems, of Bremerton; Save-A-Lot Moving Company, of Everett; Professional Relocation Services, of Bremerton; BestGuys Moving & Labor, of Snohomish; and Empire Moving & Storage in Snohomish.

Who are the deal-friendliest web sites among online retailers?

Yes, we've become fixated on simple-to-read blog lists.

Today's list, via Dealnews.com, is a rundown of what they call the 10 deal-friendliest retail sites. TWo of the sites are from Seattle:  Amazon and Costco.

They are: 

1.       Amazon 

2.       Walmart

3.       Sears

4.       Best Buy

5.       Kohl's

6.       Target

7.       Home Depot

8.       Macy's

9.      Lowe's

10.   Costco


For the full story, go to the page at DealNews.

How will the new medical insurance law affect small business W2 reporting?

Business owners no doubt saw today's announcement that medical insurance costs are jumping a scary 9 percent compared with a year ago.

Those news reports say health-insurance premiums paid by employers  will keep going up, with the average annual cost of family coverage topping $15,000.

Some of that increase, anticipated last year, come from the arrival of new medical insurance coverage requirements that come from the Obama Health Care plan.

The premium increase for the previous year was a more manageable 3 percent.

For businesses not sure how the law affects their health plans for workers, the IRS is offering a free webinar on reporting health care coverage on W2 forms.

The free webinar is Oct. 31 starting at 11 a.m. It will explain what employers and workers need to know about the law, including changes in W2s, different reporting requirements for benefits, and different valuation methods for reporting benefits.

To register for the webinar, go to this IRS page.

RTUI will add about 65 more call center workers to its North Spokane office


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A Spokane call center for a national firm that produces grocery receipt advertising will ramp up operations by adding 65 workers later this year.

RTUI, based in Texas, already has 22 call center workers in Spokane at a new North side location at 4503 W. Wellesley.

National operations director Dana Wenzel said the company will add the extra workers to expand sales. The company produces register ads for about 7,000 food stores nationwide.

Call center workers arrange sales visits to potential advertisers who buy ads printed by RTUI on the receipts. Advertisers range from restaurants and fast-food eateries to auto repair shops and health and fitness retailers.

Wenzel said the salaries for RTUI workers start at roughly $30,000; that figure includes sales bonuses. Full benefits are provided after three months, he said. All the new jobs are all full-time.

Applicants for the new openings should email resumes to the company’s human resources office: employ.scc@rtui.com.

Fred Meyer stores in Washington and Idaho offering needle-free flu vaccine

The option of needle-free fall flu shots is being offered at Fred Meyer stores in Idaho and Washington, the company announced.

The company press release said “most” Fred Meyer stores will have needle-free and traditional options. You may need to call ahead to confirm, if you're looking for the newer version.

This is the first time Fred Meyer stores and pharmacies have provided the needle-free injections, said Marc Cecchini, vice president and director of pharmacy for Fred Meyer Stores.

Injections use a Biojector, a CO2 gas-propelled system that  delivers medications or vaccines through a sterile single-use syringe.  The system has three components: a durable injection device, a disposable needle-free syringe, and a CO2 cartridge.  The plastic syringe is the only part of the system that comes in contact with the patient's skin. 

After each injection, the used syringe is discarded and a new one is inserted for the next shot.

Honeywell doubling the capacity for copper and tin at Spokane Valley site

Honeywell Inc. announced this week it's doubling the refining and casting capacity for high-purity copper and tin at its Spokane Valley production center.

The increase in capacity is a response to growing demand in the semiconductor industry, a Honeywell press release said.
 
Demand for copper material has grown, in particular for high-purity copper used in some semiconductors.
 
Memory manufacturers are also pushing demand as they switch from aluminum to copper.  Copper and tin for advanced chip packaging applications is also on the upswing, said the company.
 
The first phase of expansion will be complete in the first quarter of next year, while the second phase is expected to be completed by the middle of next year.
 
Spokesman Peter Dalpe noted the expansion is solely in capacity; no additional workers are being added.  The plant, at Euclid and Sullivan Road, already is being run full-time, Dalpe said.
 
In 2010 the plant had about 300 workers.

Freeshipping’s list of the 10 best online return policies (includes Costco)

As more business compete harder to win customers online, the notion of customer-service grows even more important.

We came upon the following list (produced by FreeShipping.org), which lays down a list of 10 firms with sensible, compassionate return policies:

1. endless.com The online-only shoe merchant gives shoppers a full 365 days to return unwanted or flawed footwear with guaranteed free shipping both ways on domestic orders.

2. L.L.Bean There's no time limit on returns with L.L. Bean and no authorization is required. Simply download and fill out an online form or use the form printed on your packing slip.

3. Shoebacca.com As with endless.com, Shoebacca provides free shipping both ways and a 365-day window in which to return or exchange your unwanted, unworn footwear or defective products. Returns must have the original tags still attached and shipped in the original packaging.

4. Lands' End  Want to return a purchase and replace it with a different size or color? Lands' End offers free return shipping with no end date for re-orders. For returns without an exchange, use the Easy Return Label for a flat shipping fee of $6.95.

5. Zappos  Zappos'  free shipping is good both for purchases and returns. Whether you're unhappy with a purchase or simply change your mind, Zappos will provide a full refund or exchange within 365 days of purchase. Returns must be unworn (unless defective) and shipped in the original packaging.

6. Overland  Use the Overland free shipping label provided online for a free return via FedEx. Purchases made with a credit card are charged back within 24 hours of receipt and refund checks are issued for orders paid for with cash or a check.

7. Macy's  No receipt is necessary when returning a Macy's purchase because the merchant has a program that identifies products in their system. The department store provides a full refund or exchange within 180 days of purchase, except for jewelry, which is limited to 30 days.

8. Kohl's Kohl's free shipping offers come and go, but you can return your purchase any time for any reason. Lost your receipt? They'll let you exchange your purchase for a comparably priced item or give you store credit. No cash back is available, however, without a receipt.

9. Costco  Here's a rare deal for a warehouse store. Costco will not only refund the cost of your purchase but it will also pick up the tab for shipping and handling. Just return the item to any Costco outlet and they'll remit your refund in your original form of payment. Most items may be returned at any time with the original receipts attached and in the original packaging. Most electronics, however, must be returned within 90 days.

10. Toys R Us and Babies R Us  The “R” Us folks accept returns within 90 days for cash back, if you paid with check or cash. Shipping costs also are refunded, but online purchases must be returned within 30 days and electronics in 45 days. No receipt is necessary if the item was purchased with plastic or from a gift registry.

GSI says it will study raising the idea of a Spokane port district

Spokane-based Greater Spokane Inc. is launching a preliminary study to determine if area voters would support a port district.

Mentioned during the recent GSI annual meeting, the idea of a port district has resurfaced several times among proponents who say it can help economic development.

GSI CEO and President Rich Hadley said on Friday that the group will likely create a task force from area officials and business leaders to study the idea.

 In 1982 Spokane business leaders put a port district to voters and saw it defeated resoundingly, 4-to-1 against.

State law allows counties and government bodies to form a port district and raise funds through taxes. Port districts can be formed anywhere regardless of proximity to water or an airport.

Hadley said Spokane leaders met with officials from Benton County and Moses Lake, both of which have used port districts to boost economic activity.

Moses Lake used its district in 1998 to enlist a large expansion by Genie Industries, which makes construction equipment. Genie built a manufacturing plant there after port officials spent $2.5 million renovating a former airplane hangar for the company's use.

Districts can focus on adding infrastructure to attract businesses or help existing firms expand. That can range from building new roads to adding utility lines, Hadley said. They also serve as marketing arms, encouraging new investment.

Spokane and Yakima are the only two Washington counties to not have a port district, he added.

In 2000 area officials studied the port district idea but shelved it when interest and momentum behindg the idea lagged.

The Walk Shoppe opens its doors at 37th and Grand medical building

Like we used to do weekly when the SR ran “Here's the Dirt,” we're still watching the comings and goings of Spokane-area retailers. Here's a quick update on the Walk Shoppe:

The Walk Shoppe, a shoe and footwear boutique, has opened at the recently completed Grand Corner Professional Building at 3707 S. Grand on Spokane’s South Hill.

The business is owned by Spokane podiatrist Dr. Borys Markewych, who operates the South Hill Foot and Ankle clinic in an adjoining office.

Footware brands offered include Dansko, Clarks, Keen, New Balance and others. In addition to shoes, the shop carries arches, inserts and other personal items, including watches by Slap.

Focused Fitness expanding, will add a gym to its new office in Spokane Valley


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A Spokane Valley childhood health and fitness publisher, Focused Fitness, is expanding its operations and will move into a 18,000-square-foot building next spring.

That new building will include offices and a 4,200-square-foot gym where staff can give hands-on training for health educators using its fitness tools.

Started 10 years ago by owners Karen Cowan and Ron Malm, the company develops and produces youth-focused health and fitness materials used by school districts and youth centers.

The new building and gym will allow staff workers to provide training to customers using the Focused Fitness programs. The company will also offer open-enrollment sessions to give potential customers a chance to examine program options first-hand.

For several years the firm has worked from its office at 2406 S. Dishman Mica Road.

The new building, expected to be ready in March 2012, is down the street at 2426 S. Dishman Mica Road. The two-story, $1.7 million facility is being built by F2 Enterprises, a property company also owned by Cowan and Malm.

Company with the TurboTee moves into new space at Business Park

The GolfmenSpokane golf equipment retailer The Golfmen has moved into 4,000 square feet in the Spokane Business and Industrial Park, in Spokane Valley.

The parent firm of The Golfmen is JRS Investments LLC.

The company's Facebook page says it's developed a new kind of golf tee. The TurboTee (featured in some videos on the Fbook page) supposedly rotates laterally, reducing resistance “and increasing ball speed.”

Where the buffalo roam: A U.S. map of the McDonald’s footprint

Today's infographic comes by way of Stephen Von Worley, an American guy who has a lovely website called Datapointed.net. The site is a festive use of visualizations to explain or track social and historical stuff.

Von Worley went to some trouble looking for a way to display the near-total presence of McDonald's in the United States. Using help from a site called AggData, the map here is his attempt to visualize the broad swath that is Mickey Dee's.

Each bright spot is a location with one or more McDonald's. 

Cyrus O’Leary’s benefit will help Vanessa Behan Crisis Center


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You may have heard already that memorabilia and items from closed Spokane restaurant Cyrus O’Leary's will be auctioned off this Saturday.

The preview will be Friday at the downtown eatery, which closed its doors on Sept. 11.
Among the items to be auctioned are antiques, kitchen equipment, ovens, ice cream machine, tables, and booths.
 
Spokane auctioneer Jeff Owens will manage the sale, starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday at the restaurant at 516 W. Main
 
Restaurant owner Erikki Oranen said he's donating a portion of the proceeds to the Vanessa Behan Crisis Center.
 
Cyrus O'Leary's has maintained a long relationship with that service provider, said Oranen.
 
What he wouldn't say is what the portion going to the crisis center. “It will depend on how much we raise,” he said, noting that the percentage will change according to the net take. 
 
He also didn't want to say what the possible range of percentages would be.
 
Friday's preview will be Friday from 3 to 6 pm.

Commerce Dept. gives $3 million wastewater grant to Quincy for growth

Quincy continues using its data-center cluster as a way to increase its economic profile.

The acting U.S. Commerce Secretary, Rebecca Blank, announced on Wednesday that Quincy has been given a $3 million Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant to build a reverse osmosis treatment plant and related infrastructure that will support the region’s data processing industry.
 
The grant will increase the city’s water capacity and allow for continued expansion of nearby tech businesses who have or might in the future build data centers there.

The grant will help the community treat industrial and domestic wastweater to cool the Quincy data centers. The added capacity will also help area food processing and shipping businesses, according to an EDA press release.

Let's recap the companies using Grant County for affordable energy:  Microsoft, Yahoo, Sabey, Intuit and Dell, so far.

Some like it not: cherry growers didn’t agree to tax themselves for WSU gift

Our take-away from Washington State University's announcement of a $27 million gift from Washington's fruit tree industry is the diversity with which growers responded to a plan to tax themselves in order to raise that amount.

Apple and pear growers said, OK, we'll do it. Cherry and stone-fruit growers voted no. The question was formally presented as a yes-no vote put to the state's fruit growers, with each group having a say on whether it would tax itself.

The increases — or proposed increases — are in addition to existing annual assessments self-imposed fees that fruit growers in Washington now pay.

The $27 million is the largest single gift to WSU in its history.

Apple and pear growers approved paying a special project fee of an additional $1 per ton for the WSU fund. Cherry growers rejected a $4 per ton special surtax. Stone fruit guys said no to an extra $1 per ton charge.

Separate ballots were mailed for growers in the  apple, pear, cherry and stone fruit categories.  About 57 percent of apple growers —  450 —  approved the $1 per ton assessment dedicated to WSU research and extension.

Of the 265 ballots cast by pear growers, 148, or 56 percent, approved a $1 per ton assessment for WSU research and extension.

Cherry and stone fruit growers did not approve the special project assessment, with 56 and 57 percent opposed, respectively.

The long-awaited Manito Tap House opens on Spokane’s South Hill


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It's taken Patrick McPherson pretty much a full year getting his new business, the Manito Tap House, open.

McPherson, who hails from the Tri-Cities, started the process of converting the former Pear Tree Inn at Manito Shopping Center back in fall of 2010. The Pear Tree was shut down as part of the arrival of Ross Dress for Less — which has plans for an opening later this year.

He just opened the Tap House, at 3011 S. Grand Blvd., two Fridays ago. Due to remodeling delays and city code issues, McPherson simply couldn't move the project along as fast as he'd hoped.

Anyone have photos of the interior to share?  If so, we'll give full credit here on Office Hours blog.

McPherson said the Manito Tap House hours are 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, and 11 to close Friday and Saturday. It's closed on Tuesdays. 

North Face store in RPS will open Sept. 30

The new North Face Store, which took over the River Park Square space held by Talbot's, will open on Friday Sept. 30.

The outdoor gear retailer has been working on its interior for the past two months. If there's going to be any sort of grand opening with special attractions, we'll put something here later to call attention to that.

Disclaimer: River Park Square is owned by the Cowles Co., which also owns and operates The Spokesman-Review.

Jim Frank will discuss recent development projects at Thursday’s Executive Connect Breakfast

The next Executive Connect Breakfast, this Thursday, gives you the perfect chance to ask Jim Frank how things are going at the big MeadowWood Technology project in Liberty Lake or the Kendall Yards project near downtown.

The meeting starts at 7:30 a.m. at the Spokane Club Georgian Room (doors open at 7 a.m.).

Frank is the CEO of Greenstone Corp., one of the area's largest commercial and residential development companies.

Advance marketing from Connect Northwest, the provider of the series, doesn't say what Frank's topic will be.

Tickets are $30 in advance and can be reserved through the Executive Connect link.

Spokane County jobless rate goes up to 9.2 percent in August

August is a typically decent jobs month, but the latest job totals from the state and from Spokane County show a continuation of a generally OK year, but nothing great.

The preliminary jobless number for Spokane County for August is 9.2 percent, according to the state Employment Security Department. In July it was 8.8. The August number is not seasonally adjusted, said Doug Tweedy, the state's Eastern Washington labor economist.

A year ago, Spokane County was also at 9.2 percent.

The telling difference: in August 2010 the county had 212,110 employed adults. This past August that number fell to 208,410.

The biggest losers by industries were:  Government, retail trade, construction and financial services.

Look for a more detailed summary at Spokesman.com later today, or in tomorrow's business section of The Spokesman-Review.

A lot of people filled out applications for Trader Joe’s jobs

About 2,500 people turned in applications this week to work at the new Spokane Trader Joe's store, said company spokeswoman Alison Mochizuki.

A new photo of applicants filling out forms outside the building will appear in Saturday's edition of The Spokesman-Review and Spokesman.com.

Mochizuki said not all the Spokane store jobs have been filled, and more applications will be accepted next week.  The location is the Spokane Lincoln Heights Shopping Center.

A slight improvement in North Idaho jobs picture

The high unemployment rate in parts of North Idaho fell a little last month – the first positive sign in a year or more.

The jobless rate in August was 11.6 percent in Kootenai County, down from 11.8 percent in July, the Idaho Department of Labor reported today.

Bonner County also saw a dip of two-tenths of a percentage point, to 14.1 percent. And in Benewah County, the rate dropped to 14.3 percent in August, down from 14.9 percent a month earlier.

Shoshone County, however, saw a slight increase in unemployment claims, to 15.9 percent, as did Boundary County, which hit 15.3 percent in August.

Statewide, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped two-tenths of a percentage point in August, falling to its lowest level in 15 months. Although the rate was estimated at 9.2 percent – the lowest since May 2010 – 70,000 people were still out of work around the state.

The state tracked about 13,250 persons on unemployment in the five northern counties last month. That was 200 fewer than in July.

8 Washington USPS facilities on study list of possible closures; Spokane not on list

The U.S. Postal Service says mail processing in Missoula and Kalispell could move to Spokane if those two operations are part of 252 processing centers nationwide that could be closed in cost-cutting measures.

A USPS study released Thursday said the centers or facilities that could close include eight in Washington; they’re in Pasco, Wenatchee, Olympia, Tacoma, Everett, Kent and two in the Seattle area. Oregon might lose five centers; one facility in Pocatello, Idaho, is also on the study list.

Spokane's airport processing facility is not targeted. However, its historic Riverside Avenue station will close next year and be relocated downtown. The agency is also trying to sublease 24,000 square feet of a downtown Spokane building formerly used by the now-closed Spokane postal district.

It's costing $490,000 per year to pay for that vacant office building.

Nationwide, another 3,500 post offices or stations are also facing possible closure as the agency faces losses this year approaching a staggering $10 billion.

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe has also said the service may cut 120,000 jobs nationwide.

Super publicity: Stinkbug trap company scores WSJ.com online air time

Stephanie Cates, marketing director for Spokane Valley's Sterling International, was a featured guest on a segment today of WSJ's Lunch Break.

Sterling makes the Rescue line of bug killing traps. Cates got a chance to sound off on the company's recently launched stink bug traps. Back East, this is a major concern as stink bugs there have moved across farmlands and into suburban and urban locations.

The jury is still out on whether the Northwest will have to gear up for stink bug war.  Experts have said you'll find stink bugs in our area; they're just not that present yet to constitute a serious crop threat.

Comcast giving low-income residents a discounted broadband option

The digital divide?  You remember it, don't you? It's that gaping chasm separating you guys with broadband from those who have to sputter along using a dial up modem, or else line up at the library.Comcast Corp., the nation's largest cable operator, plans to help bridge the divide for those with limited incomes. As noted on NPR.org, the company is offering decent broadband services at a discount rate of roughly $10 per month. A deal:

The company says low-income families will now be able to get a fast Internet connection for $9.95 per month; the question now is whether the effort can overcome the many barriers that keep the poor from getting online.

Comcast announced the program, called “Internet Essentials,” at a splashy event in the company's hometown of Philadelphia. Mayor Michael Nutter showed up along with city and state education officials as a sign that this program is aimed at an important problem: improving school performance.
 
The program will offer a big discount to low-income families, says Comcast Vice President David Cohen. Basic high-speed Internet, which normally would cost around $50 per month, will be available for the $9.95 rate.
 
To be eligible, families must have a child who qualifies for the free school lunch program — that means an income of less than $25,000 a year for a family of three. Because Internet access doesn't do much good without a computer, Comcast is also offering coupons that will allow these families to buy a basic PC for $150.

Washington to release August jobs numbers

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington officials are preparing to release details on the state’s employment situation in August.

The information from the Employment Security Department on Wednesday comes after recent months showed conflicting signals about the economy. The number of jobs has grown for 11 consecutive months but the unemployment rate has grown from 8.8 percent in March to 9.3 percent in July.  

The unemployment rate had fallen through much of 2010 after hitting a peak of 10 percent at the beginning of last year.   

State economic forecasters have lowered their growth projections for the rest of this year. Lawmakers are now closely watching economic indicators, especially a new revenue forecast due to be released Thursday.

Patty Murray helps launch Deficit Reduction site to track efforts

Washington Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) have announced they've created a Super-Deficit Reduction website for people to track progress and check on key issues addressed.

The official name is Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction site, DeficitReduction.gov.

This public website will allow visitors to view the latest news and notices, live stream hearings and submit suggestions for the Committee’s consideration. Viewers may also access the adopted rules of the committee and navigate to each member’s personal website. 

It also allows citizens to voice concerns.

Pig Out picked up additional traffic from social buzz, says Design Spike’s Bracken

Back to food blogging. A little retrospective on this year's Pig Out event, compliments of Laura Bracken, owner and president of Design Spike, a marketing and digital design company.

Design Spike was hired to pump it up, using social media to make Pig Out even bigger than usual.

According to an email from Bracken, it worked.

“This year's Pig Out showed a 17 percent increase in total food sales, and a 9 percent increase in adult beverage revenue,” Bracken wrote.

About 89,500 folks attended the full event in Riverfront Park. 

The campaign used the usual social sites, including Tumblr and Facebook. In addition, a mobile site was launched to feed data to users of smartphones and tablets, said Bracken.

Vivo moving into third floor space in River Park Square mall

Still no word on who might take the 8,000 square feet of space last used by Abercrombie & Fitch in River Park Square, in downtown Spokane.

But Vivo, a Coeur d'Alene-based retailer of clothes and other household wares will take a spot up on the third floor, River Park Square announced on Monday.

Vivo has stores in CDA, Spokane Valley and North Spokane (at NorthTown Mall).

About Nov. 1, Vivo will move into the space between Claire's and the AT&T store. Vivo is owned by Dale and Shawnda Rainey of Post Falls.

River Park Square is owned and operated by the Cowles Co., which also owns The Spokesman-Review newspaper.

Scratch partners Naccarato and Rex will open two new downtown eateries

It's been a busy week for the folks doing downtown food and drink leases. Last week the Peyton Building formally opened Cougar Crest Estate Winery.

This week the Peyton announced it will bring in two new eateries to fill the former spot of Niko's, the Greek restaurant that closed earlier this year.

Sometime in October, partners Connie Naccarato and Jason Rex will open Rex's Burgers & Brews and Fraiche Contemporary French.

Both will go into 14 N. Post; Fraiche will be the smaller venue, with about 34 seats in the former Niko's wine bar; Rex Burgers and Brews will fill the main room along Riverside.

Naccarato and Rex already run Scratch, at 1007 W. First, the Coeur d'Alene Scratch, and the Rain lounge, next to Scratch.

Rex Burgers and Brews will cover the waterfront of lunch and dinner offerings, including wraps, hamburgers, entrees and hot wings. It'll run seven days a week, with breakfasts planned for the weekends.

Fraiche Contemporary French will be an intimate dining room with a focus on French choices, said Naccarato. The cuisine will be high-quality choices, with local foods a major component.

It will be open 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.

We'll have more details about the openings in Tuesday's stories in The Spokesman-Review and on Spokesman.com.

The leases for all three businesses were arranged through Cody George and Alison Bantz, broker and property manager with Kiemle & Hagood Co.

Cougar Crest Estate Winery formally opens its Spokane satellite taste room

Walla Walla winemakers Debbie and David Hansen opened their Cougar Crest Estate Winery tasting room in downtown Spokane Friday.

Spokane is the Hansens’ second satellite tasting room; their first satellite tasting room opened in June in Woodinville.

Cougar Crest has been growing grapes on 50 acres in Walla Walla for the past seven years. The Spokane tasting room moved into 1,400 square feet at 8 N. Post, in the Peyton Building. The Hansens remodeled the space last used as a downtown store for Simply Northwest.

It will be open seven days a week, said Debbie Hansen.

“We decided to open tasting rooms based on our wine club memberships and where our orders are coming from. So that meant on the west side and in Spokane,” she added.

Samuel Crosby will be Spokane’s room manager.    

Massage Envy franchise moving into North Spokane in November

You like massages?

Massage Envy, a national massage-clinic franchise, will open its first location in north Spokane later this year.

The Spokane franchise partners, Carolyn Wescott and Shawn Husmann, say they’ll hire about 35 workers when the clinic opens.

Massage Envy intends to hire about 30 massage therapists who will work varying schedules, said Wescott, who will be the Spokane clinic’s general manager.

“We see Spokane as a market that has a good number of massage therapists not finding enough work,” Wescott said.

She said the goal is opening the clinic in early November, taking roughly 4,500 square feet at 920 E. Hoerner, at the corner of Hoerner and Nevada.

Husmann is the CEO of a Renton-based Massage Envy. Wescott said there are about 20 Massage Envy clinics on the state’s West Side.

Wescott said massage therapists working at Massage Envy can be paid hourly rates and commissions. Cory Barbieri, of G&B Real Estate, brokered the lease for the property owner, Spokane Pavilion LLC.

Why did no one buy Duane Hagadone’s almost-opulent house on the hill?


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Auction company J.P. King opened the auction of Duane Hagadone's old residence on Thursday afternoon, and 20 minutes after 2 p.m., the auction ended.

Two registered bidders were interested in the property, at 3155 E. Harrison, on 15 acres of Stanley Hill.

Neither bidder came up to the reserve price of $7.5 million. Look for a story later this evening on Spokesman.com that fills in some of the blanks. 

Perhaps the bidders were turned off by some of the glaring inadequacies of Mr. Hagadone's home on the hill. Such as: No built-in vacuum system; no trash compactor (the shame); no air purifier (admittedly not needed in these parts); and no sauna.

No doubt this fine property has other stuff, such as a tennis court, helicopter pad, pool tables and what have you. But no sauna, no trash compactor?  It's no wonder Mr. Hagadone shut the place down and built a nice, big house along the lake. 

That was a no-brainer.

If you hear a plane flying close to the ground Monday…

… Don't panic. It's a routine venting of natural gas from a pipeline in Spokane Valley.

Gas Transmission Northwest LLC, a partly owned subsidiary of TransCanada Corp., said in a news release that the company will vent a 36-in. diameter pipeline in preparation for upgrades to the line. The process, called a “blow-down,”  is considered routine and doesn't pose a threat, but it's very, very loud, the company said.

“Even if you know it's coming, it can be disconcerting. It can sound like a jet airplane circling the house at low altitude for about 45 minutes,” a company spokesman said.

The company has notified about 2,400 households near the site, at 32nd Avenue just east of Barker Road, the release said. The blow-down begins at 10 a.m. Monday.  Access to the area will be restricted and some roads will be closed for the duration of the venting. For information, contact Steve McNulty at (509) 533-2833.

Spokane County foreclosure rate inched up in June, compared with 2010

CoreLogic, a company that aggregates real estate data, said Spokane County's foreclosure rate inched up in June compared with 12 months ago.

Here are the general data, which are not pleasant. They show a clear steady increase in delinquencies. Though the increase is minimal month by month, the trend is disturbingly upward. (Click the map of Spokane County for a larger format version.)

The trend line for 90-day delinquencies and foreclosures in Spokane.

Spokane 90+ Day Delinquency Rate Foreclosure Rate
June 2011 4.58% 1.69%
May 2011 4.57% 1.67%
April 2011 4.56% 1.71%
June 2010 4.40% 1.27%
May  2010 4.39% 1.25%
April 2010 4.38% 1.20%

Source: CoreLogic: www.corelogic.com

READ below the jump for a key explanation of what CoreLogic is tracking in these data.

AmericanWest agrees to buy Seattle bank

AmericanWest Bank plans to buy a Seattle-based bank for $7.2 million in a move that gives the Spokane institution a larger footprint in Western Washington.

Viking Bank has seven branches, assets valued at $406 million and deposits totaling $379 million. The agreement still requires federal regulatory approval, but is expected to close by the end of this year.

AmericanWest has 63 branches in Washington, Idaho, California and Utah. Earlier this year it acquired Bank of the Northwest, which has offices in the Puget Sound region. It also agreed over the summer to buy Sunrise Bank, a Southern California institution.

AmericanWest has about $2 billion in assets and deposits of $1.6 billion.

The financial terms of the deal, characterized as a merger, call for shareholders of Viking to receive $7.2 million in cash, or $2.65 a share.

About 41.7 percent of the bank’s shareholders have agreed to vote all of their shares in favor of the merger, according to a statement issued by AmericanWest Bank on Thursday morning.

Openings: TJ’s, Title Nine and the downtown Sapphire Lounge

Thursday morning new openings (an update):

These two you may have known about already.

  • Trader Joe's will open Oct. 28 in the Lincoln Heights Shopping Center. Good luck with parking that weekend. Smartly, TJ's knows it has to be open a few weeks prior to Thanksgiving.
  • Title Nine, the fashionable outerwear and sports wear apparel company, recently opened a store on South Perry in the Perry Street District. A good company, with an interesting gamble on where it's set up its shop. See our earlier story.

And not least, the Sapphire Lounge, at the corner of Lincoln and First, will do a grand opening this weekend. This is the front-side intimate lounge-eatery attached to the Hotel Ruby, operated by Jerry Dicker and partners. 

The lounge will do a soft opening tonight and Friday. Saturday is more or less a formal opening, according to Dicker. The lounge normally operates Wednesday-Saturday, with the option of reserving the space for functions the other days of the week.

Sante restaurateur Jeremy Hansen did not remain in the executive chef role. An earlier story from the SR described him as the architect behind the Sapphire Lounge menu. Dicker said they chose to go separate ways.

Paul Samson, the bar manager, will still be working the lounge, said Dicker.

It’s not all U.S tax dollars being spent on empty downtown buildings

We were in the grocery line today and a man two places down from us pointed to the morning paper.

“This story shows why this country is so screwed up,” he said. He pointed to the recent SR story about the U.S. Postal Service paying $490,000 per year for empty space on the sixth floor of the downtown Crescent Court building.

“It's just crazy how they're wasting our money,” he railed.

We told him, no, the money for the lease comes out of the USPS operating budget, which is, in general, self-sustaining (or should be, if people used more services and bought more stamps).

In that light, we wanted to offer some links for further reading. The USPS is at a crucial moment in its history, and unless there's a government bailout, the level of services people are used to will change dramatically.

One good starting point is a collection at Washingtonpost.com, entitled “Our Shrinking Postal Service.” It's a worthwhile read. 

The graphic above, which comes from Washingtonpost.com, shows the location of roughly 3,700 possible post offices the USPS is looking to close in the next two years.

Another good summary is this article which appeared recently in the New York Times.

Spokane’s postal service blues: anyone need a big downtown office space?

It's not much fun being the U.S. Postal Service.

The beleaguered agency is drowning in red ink. It's hamstrung by excessive labor costs bargained with its worker unions. The Postmaster General has told the feds that unless it gets huge influxes of cash, it won't be able to pay its bills.

So, by comparison, the problem it has in Spokane of having to unload an expensive lease on offices downtown is fairly minimal.

The story on Spokane's own issues ran in today's Spokesman.com. The USPS needs to move out of its downtown post office next year. But it's also paying a lot for vacant offices in the nearby downtown Crescent Court building, 707 W. Main.

Spokane commercial agency NAI Black is working on finding a new tenant to sublease the space, which comes to 24,100 square feet.  The USPS is willing to cut a great deal: it's paying $490,000 per year for those empty spaces, which formerly held the area's USPS district office. 

Someone willing to sublease could get a 33 percent discount, the flyer from NAI Black explains.

Barbara Doyle joins Itron as the firm’s new VP of investor relations

Barbara DoyleBarbara Doyle is the new vice president of investor relations at Itron Inc., the Liberty Lake company announced Monday.

She has more than 10 years of investor relations experience in the tech industry, serving recently as VP  of investor relations at Lawson Software, Inc., a global provider of enterprise software that was acquired recently by Golden Gate Capital, an equity firm.

She has several years of experience working with IBM as well, in the areas of budgeting and planning, business development and controllership before moving into the investor relations group in 2000.

She has an MBA from Duke University.

Costco co-founder Jim Sinegal will retire at the end of the year

If you're a Costco fan, here are two items to fill your daily quota.

First, longtime CEO and co-founder Jim Sinegal, one of the better executives in Washington state, will step down and retire at the end of the year. Sinegal has guided Costco forward and made it one of the best retailers across the land.

He's also a unique and hands-on guy. SR reporters have called for answers through Costco's Issaquah-based PR department, and sometimes Sinegal would dial back and start answering. Not something many CEOs do today. He'll be replaced by longtime Costco exec Craig Jelineck.

The other news: Sears has announced it's going to start selling its Craftsmen brand of tools inside Costco stores. That's a big and unexpected move. Sears execs say it's their way of reaching customers who may not be visiting Kmart or Sears stores.

This year’s Spokane Catalyst Award nominees are…

The nominees for the coming Catalyst Awards, a yearly tech-company designation managed by Greater Spokane Inc., have been announced. The Catalyst Awards will be presented Oct. 5 at the Riverpont Campus South Facility.

The awards event begin around 4 p.m. Tickets cost $26 for general admission and $10 for students until Sept. 30.  Also, you will see the company Jigsaw listed below. That's not the clothing shop downtown. That's the former Post Falls company that was acquired by Salesforce.com, and relocated to the old Itronix building in Spokane Valley.
 
Jigsaw offers collected databases of company employees and contact information.
 
Company of the year
Jigsaw
NextIT
Purcell Systems, Inc.  
 
Clean/Green company of the year
Demand Energy Networks
ReliOn
Sun People Dry Goods Co.  
 
Organization of the year
EWU School of Computing and Engineering Sciences
Gonzaga University Smart Antenna and Radio Laboratory 
Spokane Public Market  
 
Clean/Green organization of the Year
Applied Sciences Laboratory WSU
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Sustainable Resources INW  
 
Mentor of the year
Yvonne Luman
Rhosetta Rhodes
Thomas C. Simpson
 
Ken Grunzweig Innovator of the Year
Senator Lisa Brown
Paul Buller
Jon Eliassen  
 
Emerging Innovator of the Year
Nick Brown
Josh Neblett and Sarah Neblett
Kirt Runolfson

New Spokane medical school construction work begins

An update a la Here's the Dirt (the former weekly SR business column tracking developments and building projects): The new medical school project, in the University District, has begun moving dirt around. Fences are being erected and crews are working full shifts.

The state gave Spokane one half of the $70 million it will cost to build the new building. WSU hopes to get the remaining $35 million in the next supplemental session.

Plans are to open the building for students in 2014.

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

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Alison Boggs (@alisonboggs) Online Producer Alison Boggs posts and manages content on 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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