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Archive for August 2012

Study says Spokane gained 5,000 solo business owners in six years

This being labor day, two SR writers (Tom Sowa and Scott Maben) produced a story running Sunday that looks at what the local economy offers for job growth.

One piece of information that popped up in the research was a report on the number of business sole proprietors in the local economy.

That's not a number the federal or state economists regularly track. But Gary Smith, who runs a site called the Pacific Northwest Regional Economic Analysis Project (PNREAP) has done some data-gathering and has some numbers worth considering.

Smith has been a regional economist with Washington State University. We tried to reach him to look at the method used in gathering these numbers. We didn't connect. But we will follow up after Labor Day. His site cites the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis.

His numbers say: in 2006 Spokane County had 46,200 sole business proprietors — people who were a one-person business or one so small that it didn't pay payroll taxes to the state. Of those 2,000 were in the farm or food industry.

In 2010, as the recession has pushed many people out of traditional workplaces, Smith's numbers say Spokane's proprietor group has grown to 51,016.  Of those, 2,300 are in farming, according to the data he's collected.

That's a net gain since 2006 of almost 5,000 more people running a sole proprietorship.  It's not clear if those are people who also qualify as part time or full time workers for another company.

Council President Stuckart backs Spokane Tribe’s casino project

UPDATED, with comments from Ben Stuckart.

Though much has been said about the proposed Spokane Tribe's casino and development project in Airway Heights, most of it has been heated opposition.

We caught notice of a strong vote of support by Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart, who published an op-ed piece in support of the development in yesterday's Seattle Times.

One of his key points is the value of the project for the community and the tribe:

This $400 million investment in private dollars will result in much-needed new employment for the Spokane region — 3,000 permanent and 2,000 construction jobs, according to an independent environmental and economic analysis conducted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. It will help temper a serious unemployment rate the tribe and overall region are both dealing with.

We asked Stuckart why he offered this piece to the Times. His answer was that he wanted to counter an earlier Times op-ed piece written by former Gov. Mike Lowry. That piece argued that the Spokanes' proposal would set a risky precedent of allowing tribes to establish casinos off their reservation land.

Stuckart said he'll consider offering a Spokane commentary for The Spokesman-Review on the topic.

The question worth asking: Why did Stuckart take this piece to the paper in Seattle? Did he offer it to the SR first? Stay tuned.

Southwest gives up Spokane-Portland flights starting in January

Southwest Airlines will shut down its Spokane to Portland flights in January, the airline announced.

The decision follows Southwest’s move to drop service to Seattle at the start of this year.

Southwest flies two flights to and from Portland daily.

In terms of total passengers, Portland is the second most-frequent destination from Spokane, according to federal transportation numbers.

Seattle ranks ahead of Portland.

With six flights daily, Alaska Airlines flies more passengers to and from Portland than Southwest does, the data show.

For a full description of the impact, go to this story on

To take sides in tribal casino debate, French uses a legal distinction on duties

Today's regional story about a vote at the Airway Heights City Council had a legalistic issue tucked away and not easily elaborated on. The story noted that two Spokane County commissioners — Al French and Todd Mielke — argue that a 2010 county agreement with Airway Heights should not be allowed to stop them from commenting or taking sides on a proposed Spokane Tribe casino on the West Plains.

French is using a distinction that we were not clear about before. He said, based on a Washington attorney general's office review, that one elected body cannot preclude or prevent a later elected body from exercising its legislative duties.

In this case, the county board in 2010 seems to have tied the legislative hands of the current board, according to French.

He draws a distinction between administrative and legislative duties of elected officials. If for instance the 2010 board signed a contract with some other body to pay money for hauling off refuse, that's an administrative action. And such acts can continue for as long as the terms allow.

But legislative options are not subject to that pre-emptive control, French said, citing the AG's opinion.

We've linked a PDF of the letter sent by the AG's office to Spokane County. It's at the bottom of this post.


Recent subscriber totals for DirecTV and Comcast show an upward trend

EDITED and revised Wednesday, Aug. 29:

Here's one piece of market information we didn't have earlier.

The total number of households in the Spokane DMA (designated market area) is about 430,000.

If the SNL Kagan number is correct, there are 351,656 homes that subscribe either to cable or satellite in this market.

That's 82 percent of all homes. The remainder either don't want to watch TV or rely on over-the-air signals, or have cut the cable and use web based systems, like Netflix or Hulu.

Updated subscriber numbers.

Earlier today OfficeHours posted the old December 2010 numbers relating to how many subscribers DirecTV has in the Spokane TV market. We went out today looking for the latest numbers. The market is the entire eastern Washington area over to the mountains, and also includes portions of Idaho and Oregon.

SNL Kagan, a media tracking company, provided the most recent update (numbers from 2Q 2012):

                   2010 subscribers                  2012 subscribers

Comcast:         100,000                                 107,034

DISH:               102,000                                 103,318

DIRECTV:           69,000                                  75,700

Total market area number of paid programming subscribers: 351,656.

What amazes us is that the three main providers gained paid subscribers in the past two years.

In a down economy, that's a bit of a surprise.

Belo unleashes national and local weather app for iPad and iPhone

We invite you weather hounds to give this app a try, and let us know what you think.

Personally, we think the best way for anyone with an iPhone or iPad to get their weather is through (optimized for mobile) weather summary.

But there may be times when you want something different. And you're not in the mood for Tom Sherry.

In which case, Belo Corp. (the company that operates and owns Spokane's KREM) has just unleashed its new Weather App for iOS (iPhone and iPad).

They're calling it WeatherCaster and here's a video showing how it works:

It's available at no cost through the iTunes store.

More information on app at

It's designed, we're told, to work anywhere across the country and offers weather alerts, animated radars and interactive maps. 

In case you really like Tom Sherry, the app supposedly also sucks in local forecasts, news and video from Belo’s TV stations.

KAYU’s Fox programming again goes dark, and it’s a boring summer rerun

We ran through the KAYU-DirecTV blackout drill back in late 2010 and we pretty much got tired of it within a week.

Today's SR story is another summer rerun, a rehashing of many of the same issues that kept the sides from agreeing back 20 months ago.

Basically: national satellite provider DirecTV is complaining that Northwest Broadcasting (the parent of KAYU and some other Washington stations) is bullying it into an excessive fee for carrying its signal and programs.

NW Broadcasting is saying DirecTV has failed to come to the table in good faith, saying the two sides agreed on a carrying fee but then California-based DirecTV added other provisions that scotched the deal.

Both sides say they want to settle it, and help customers regain access to the KAYU Fox Network programs.

Back on 2011 when this last occurred, we went out and gathered up numbers from MediaBiz to see how the three main non-broadcast providers were doing in Spokane's DMA (dominant market area), in number of subscribers. Here was the number that was tallied back in 2010:

Dish: 102,000;  Comcast: 100,000; DirecTV: 69,000.

We doubt that the general proportion of subscribers has changed much since then.

State program helps Liberty Lake’s Accra-Fab go both Green and Lean

It's been a while since we had a chance to salute area manufacturing firms. Not because they're not out there; we just haven't worked hard enough to find those good stories.

So today that task was made easier when the state Ecology Dept. sent us a link to a video made about Liberty Lake's contract manufacturer Accra-Fab Inc.

The video shows why Accra-Fab has moved into a Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction Program, operated by Ecology, to help firms save money by proper disposal of waste products.

Accra-Fab's Greg Konkol explains in the video how the company's focus on Lean Manufacturing is a natural fit with the waste program's push for Green waste treatment.

A press release from the state said the company saves $179,000 each year through Lean and Green efforts.

Also playing a key part in the focus are Impact Washington and Washington State University.

Businesses wanting to get more information on Hazardous Pollution Prevention can find it at this link.

Synaptics produces a promotional video for the ThinTouch keypad from Pacinian


This is the promo video produced by Synaptics, the company that acquired the technology developed by Pacinian, a promising North Idaho startup doing smart things with very thin pads and screens.

The acquisition by Synaptics was two weeks ago. This short video summarizes the advantages the ThinTouch keyboard will provide for companies adding it to their laptops.

A. No moving key parts.

B. Cleaner distribution of light to illuminate keys in darkness.

C. Ability to use force sensing, as in this video where holding down a key makes an uppercase character.

D. Total thinner keypad leaving more room for battery.

Microsoft introduces a squarish new logo

Microsoft has released its new logo.

It's the first serious change to the four-colored window theme logo in 25 years.

A company blog notes:

The Microsoft brand is about much more than logos or product names. We are lucky to play a role in the lives of more than a billion people every day.

The ways people experience our products are our most important “brand impressions”. That’s why the new Microsoft logo takes its inspiration from our product design principles while drawing upon the heritage of our brand values, fonts and colors.

Huge hedge fund pushing Clearwater Paper to break itself into two parts

Investor Malaise, Spokane version, round three.

SAC Capital Advisors, a fairly large hedge fund operated by Steven A. Cohen, is pushing the directors of Spokane-based Clearwater Paper to split its operations so it can sell off one or both.

SAC is a big fund. It owns 1.6 million Clearwater shares, about 7 percent of the company's common stock.

This is not the first time this year investors have squawked at publicly traded Spokane firms and got actively behind efforts to shake things up. A Seattle investor group has been pushing Red Lion Hotels Corp. to make major changes or sell of all or part of its assets to boost investor value.

And two East Coast funds pushed Ambassadors Group to change its board to revamp its marketing and operations, in light of the travel company's distress stock price.

The Cohen SAC initiative was listed in a recent SEC filing. Cohen said he had a meeting with Clearwater directors urging them to split the company and split it and “pursue the divestiture of one or both businesses to one or more strategic and/or financial buyers.”

He also asked the company to bring in an investment bank to locate possible buyers. He also wants to add two more independent directors to Clearwater's board.

Clearwater has one large operation dedicated to making tissue and toilet paper. It also has a another segment that makes bleached paperboard for food boxes and commercial printing products.

Clearwater Paper was the spinoff unit from Potlatch, which continues its focus as a timber company.

Clearwater's national headcount is roughly 3,700 employees.

How Walt Worthy made it easier for INHS to get into the Wells Fargo Tower

Friday's major downtown Spokane business story was the culmination of two building takeovers: the 17-story Wells Fargo Tower and the six-level Holley Mason Building. Both buildings gained new owners.

The bigger deal was the acquistion of the rest of the Wells Fargo Building by INHS, the nonprofit medical services provider that was originally hatched as a jointly supervised organization serving both Empire Health Services and Providence Health (Sacred Heart).

On Friday INHS took over the last 74 percent of the Wells Fargo Building. In 2009 it had acquired 26 percent of the building.

Now for some history: Walt Worthy, who bought the tower from the ashes of Metropolitan Mortgage and Securiities in 2005, made it easy for INHS to get into a good lease at a time when INHS was struggling to find adequate downtown office space.

In 2005 INHS was working out of two buildings, the Holley Mason and the Steamplant. But it needed more room as it continued to grow.

That year Worthy — who also owns the downtown Davenport Hotel — helped form a condo association for tenants of the Wells Fargo. During that process INHS agreed to a long-term lease that let INHS move in to the tower. 

That lease was signed just before Worthy sold the building to Prium Spokane Buildings, a Tacoma-based developer. The lease included an INHS option to purchase the leased premises which covered about five floors of the entire building.

Three years later, when the option came up, INHS paid $9.4 million to Prium for the portion of the building it was leasing.

Last week's credit bid, in which INHS took over the remainder from Prium, was brokered by NAI Black's Chris Bell. The price was about $16 million.

Happy Monday: when flying first-class, all sorts of odd things happen

All that talk about Allegiant Air coming to town has us scouring the airline and aviation websites this week.

At Aviation Week we found this tidbit about one very demanding couple who didn't like their treatment on Qantas Airlines:

An Australian couple with first class seats on a Qantas flight from Los Angeles to Melbourne refused to fly when the airline could not offer them pajamas in the right size, reports the Daily Mail.

The couple's antics delayed the flight by 30 minutes, with the pair insisting on being given extra large pajamas to wear on the 15-hour flight. They demanded to leave the A380 and were walked back to the terminal to wait for the next flight.


Wells Fargo Building goes to INHS in foreclosure sale after Prium bankruptcy; Holley Mason also sold

Two of Spokane’s well-known but cash-strapped buildings concluded foreclosure sales Friday, shutting the file on separate cases of large commercial properties falling victim to a distressed real estate market.

The 17-story Wells Fargo Tower at 601 W. First and the six-level Holley Mason Building at 157 S. Howard both formally changed hands, culminating bank repossessions after the previous owners were unable to pay off loans.

Spokane’s Inland Northwest Health Services (INHS) took over about three-fourths of the Wells Fargo building; in 2009 it acquired roughly one-fourth of the building when previous owner Prium Spokane Buildings LLC sold that space for $9.4 million.

At Friday’s sale INHS officially took over the remainder of Prium’s 184,000-square-foot tower for roughly $16.1 million, said John Craig, INHS chief financial officer. Prium, based in Tacoma, did not respond to phone calls seeking comment.

Chris Bell, of NAI Black, represented INHS in the deal.

INHS has about 1,000 employees across the region, with 350 to 400 working in the Wells Fargo building.

Prium bought the building from Spokane developer Walt Worthy for $25 million in 2006. The bank that ended up with the mortgage was Spokane-based Sterling Savings.

Prium Spokane Buildings, a division of Tacoma-based Prium Companies, filed for bankruptcy in late 2010.

INHS is an independent medical services provider that works with area hospitals and providers as well as running the St. Luke’s Rehab Center and other services. It was formed in 1994.

Craig said the INHS board has no plans to sell the Wells Fargo building or portions of it in the near future. Since 2006 INHS has been using the building and is its current largest tenant.

The second largest tenant is Wells Fargo Bank, said Craig. He said Wells Fargo has a naming-rights provision, meaning there will be no change in the building’s name.

The Wells Fargo Tower was originally the Farm Credit Bank Building, constructed in the early 1980s.

In 1998 Metropolitan Mortgage and Securities CEO Paul Sandifur bought the bank building for $11.7 million and used it for his company’s base of operations. The once-high flying company stayed there until mounting debt and angry investors forced Metropolitan to file for bankruptcy in 2004.

A year later Spokane developer Walt Worthy bought the building and renamed it the Wells Fargo Tower after signing Wells Fargo as the anchor tenant.

In addition to the sale of the Wells Fargo, Worthy had a previous Spokane deal with Prium. In 2005 he sold the Rock Pointe Commercial Center north of downtown to Prium for roughly $82 million.

While still in bankruptcy, creditors and Prium continue to wrangle over the Rock Pointe assets, looking for a buyer who would want some or all of the distressed assets of that set of three commercial buildings

Second area Hobby Lobby Store to open Aug. 31 in North Spokane

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IF Hobby Lobby is your thing, save Aug. 31.

That's when the second of Spokane's Hobby Lobby Stores opens its doors, starting at 9 a.m.

The first was in Spokane Valley near the mall. This one is at the corner of North Division and East Lincoln Road. It's taking over a 66,000 square foot building once used by Hastings and later by Liquidation World.

The store's “official” grand opening will be the following Monday. Both events are open to the public. 

We like that the friendly corporate Lobby folks even told us, in a release, that Scarlet Suitter is the store manager of the 65,900 square-foot retail facility.

This is the Oklahoma City-based group's fifth Washington store.

Notable tidbit: Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. started as an outgrowth of Greco Products, a miniature picture frames company founded in a garage.

People booking flights on Allegiant and looking at fees should check NerdWallet

One more post about Allegiant Air, the Las Vegas-based carrier that's launching a nonstop from Spokane to Honolulu in January.

If I were designing a cool website that took all the guesswork out of how much passengers have to pay when taking a flight, I'd hope to come up with something like NerdWallet has.

It's especially helpful in detailing exactly how assorted fees and costs will be added to your fare. Using interactive features to modify the number of bags, NerdWallet sweetly totals the final cost by tracking what happens if you purchase more than or less than 30 days in advance, whether you buy online or by phone, and how many bags you check.  

It doesn't, as far as we can tell, detail the airport fees and taxes that are also added.

NerdWallet'sr Allegiant fee page works wonders:

For instance, it shows if you're flying on Allegiant and have 2 checked bags both under 40 pounds, that will  add $140.

If you ask what the price will be if both are 44 pounds (exceeding the 40-pound threshhold), that will add another $100.

Check it out.  

Paging robwahl and Gato: You may already be a coffee-card winner

REPOSTING, and we apologize. Don't know how but we managed to confuse Gato with surgeryGirl.
Trust us, it's an easy mistake when no one uses their real names anymore when posting to forums.

We're not even halfway done with our Atticus coffee card commitment. Where are two of our winners?

You may recall we invited readers to submit suggested names for the new joint operation between Group Health Cooperative and Providence Health. We got seven submissions and we chose three winners: 

No 1: Paramount Medical, suggested by robWahl.

 No. 2: Providence Group Health Cooperative, by surgerygirl.

 No. 3: Whole Health of Spokane, by Gato.

We've mailed an Atticus card to Gatosurgerygirl. We haven't yet received comments/emails from robwhal or from Gato surgerygirl. Those two need to post email or a PO Box here. Or email

Washington jobless rate inched up to 8.5 percent in July

Washington gained 5,000 jobs in July, even while the state jobless rate rose from 8.3 percent in June to 8.5 percent in July, the Employment Security Department said Wednesday.

The U.S. unemployment rate for July is 8.3 percent, up slightly from 8.2 percent in June.

Individual county unemployment rates will be released next week by the state.

According to workplace estimates, the number of jobless state residents seeking work increased by about 4,200. At the same time, the number of employed workers fell an estimated 14,000.

Overall, this amounted to a decrease of 9,800 people in the labor force.

Washington’s job figures showed positive growth from one year ago; July 2011’s jobless rate was 9.3 percent. And since one year ago, Washington has gained roughly 57,000 jobs, based on data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Former CEO Kris Mikkelsen appointed to fill vacancy on airport board

Spokane City Mayor David Condon has appointed Kris Mikkelsen to fill a vacancy on the Spokane Airport Board.

She's the retired CEO of Inland Power & Light. The city council is expected to confirm her appointment at its Monday meeting in City Hall.

“I am pleased that Kris has volunteered to serve in this capacity,” said Condon. “She brings a keen business sense and an understanding of our community to this important board.” 

In addition to her career at Inland Power, Mikkelsen also is an Eastern Washington University trustee and has been busy in a range of other volunteer positions.

The board vacancy is the result of David Brukhardt leaving Spokane to take a position with the University of Wisconsin.

The term on the board expires Dec. 31, 2014.

Washington’s Revenue Dept. creates free app that lists sales tax anywhere

Not long ago we mentioned the interesting new iPhone app that tells you what the real price of a bottle of booze is at the cashier stand.

This week's iPhone App of the Week: A state Revenue Dept. app that looks up the exact retail tax rates anywhere in Washington staete.

The iPhone or iPad app was just released and is available at

An Android app is on the way, according to a press release.

It's free and was developed to help businesses that make deliveries or provide retail services at multiple locations in the state.

The app will be particularly useful to mobile businesses such as contractors who need to code sales tax to the location where a service is performed.  It also will help retailers who ship products from one location to another.  Under Washington law, the sales tax must be coded to the destination of a shipped or delivered product.

Businesses can use GPS or key in an address to get the rate, location code, and a confirmation code.  They also can save the info to a list or forward it to another phone or email address and calculate the total due from the customer.

Walmart Foundation provides $140,000 to state YMCA chapters including Spokane

Spokane's YMCA is one of seven Washington state chapters that are sharing a combined $140,000 provided through The Walmart Foundation and its Washington State Giving Council for hunger relief.

The contributions were recently announced by Walmart, the nation's largest retailer. The money for the Y chapters are part of an ongoing campaign by the Arkansas-based company to support summer feeding programs in 300 urban and rural communities.

In case you only think negative things about Walmart, consider this: According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Walmart easily exceeds all other U.S. corporations in charitable giving.

According to its most recent list, Walmart tops the list with more than $342 million in giving in 2011. Second was Goldman Sachs with $337 million.

The Washington grants stem from research and studies suggesting that lower-income families often find themselves not providing their children nutritionally complete meals during warmer weather.

Across the entire state, Walmart this year is providing $172,000 to the Y chapters and other groups through its Summer Feeding initiative and another $125,000 through the Walmart State Giving Council, a separate state-specific foundation

Other YMCA  chapters receiving grants are in Auburn, Bothell, Everett, Seattle, Tacoma and Shoreline.

They will share a combined $115,000 Walmart Foundation grant and $25,000 State Giving Council grants to support youth lunch programs.

We found this at the charitable contributions link:

Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are in the second year of a $2 billion cash and in-kind hunger relief campaign that extends through 2015. The Foundation’s contributions are strategically aimed at ending hunger for the 1 in 6 Americans that do not know where their next meal is coming from. As such, the Foundation seeks to fund initiatives that integrate hunger relief into our four focus areas (hunger/wellness; education; workforce development; environmental sustainability).

GVD and Jerry Dicker buy the vacant Spokane CompUSA building

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Spokane developer Jerry Dicker has added the former CompUSA building to his firm’s list of downtown properties.

Dicker, the principal manager of Spokane-based GVD Commercial Properties, is paying roughly $3 million for the vacant 25,000-square-foot building, at 808 N. Ruby. The seller is the Lyons Family Trust, based in California. It’s been the owner since 1997; CompUSA leased it until the company declared bankruptcy in 2007.

Dicker said he has no immediate plans and is looking for a long-term tenant to lease the commercial building.

“We felt it is a good, strategic property for the long haul,” Dicker said.

Marshall Clark, of Clark Pacific Real Estate, brokered the sale of the building.

GVD is a partner or full owner of several downtown buildings, including the Spokane Interplayers theater building, the Bing Crosby Theater, the Red Lion River Inn, the Hotel Ruby and the Burgan’s building and adjoining warehouse.

For a fuller story, check back at's business section.

Centennial Properties converts Chancery to executive suites

Centennial Properties, a subsidiary of Cowles Co., has converted the former Catholic Diocese Chancery Building to office space.

The upgraded office spaces are meant to be executive suites and can be configured according to need.
Cowles Co. acquired the building, the former Catholic Diocese Chancery Building, for $2.05 million in 2006.

Constructed in 1924, the Italian Renaissance Revival building retains much of the detail and craftsmanship associated with early 20th century Spokane office buildings, said Deanne Logan, of Centennial Properties.

The Catholic Diocese leases the building’s third floor. Centennial manages leases for offices on the building’s first and second levels.

The building, now called the 1023 W. Riverside Building, also has a new event room on the first level.

Spokane Realtor Jared Miller buys commercial property east of downtown

Spokane Realtor Jared Miller has purchased a vacant office and storage space at 714 E. Pacific Ave., east of downtown.

Miller said he paid $210,000 to Inland Northwest Bank, which took over the building in a foreclosure. The previous occupant was Northwest Floral Design.

The 5,700-square- foot building includes about 800 square feet of refrigerated storage area, Miller said.
He intends to lease the property through his company, Properties One. Chris Bell of NAI Black represented Inland Northwest Bank in the deal.

Tacoma Screw Products plans local store

Tacoma Screw Products has begun building its first Spokane location and outlet store at 222 S. Howe Road, Spokane Valley.

The company has locations across Washington, Idaho and Oregon. It sells up to 45,000 different types of fasteners, tools and industrial supplies.

Baker Construction is the general contractor on the $2 million building.

The location will be a full-service distribution and sales center, starting with a staff of six. Outside sales representatives will also be hired.

A company spokesman said the goal is to move into the building in September and open to the public in October or early November.

Allegiant dropping flights to LA from Billings and Pasco

Allegiant Air, based in Las Vegas, is already shuffling some of its small-city routes.

An Associated Press story today noted that Allegiant is cancelling flights between Sioux Falls, S.D., and LA, citing lack of space at LA International Airprot.

Also being shut down are Allegiant flights to LA from Billings and Pasco.

An Allegiant spokesman said the airline lacks adequate gate and ticket counters at LAX.

The low-cost airline announced this week it's launching flights in January between Spokane and Honolulu.

UW housing study shows single family homes are selling statewide

A week ago we tossed out some numbers on how the Spokane housing market is gaining steam. Notably, median sales of homes sold in Spokane County were at $170,000, the best since July 2010.

If you want a statewide perspective, we just found what you're looking for, the UW Runstad Center's overview of housing in Washington state.

That center collects data and slices it all sorts of ways. Here's how they look at Spokane County for the second quarter of 2012: 

                                                                    Spokane County

Single FH sales  % vs last quarter %     Vs. last year %

 5,860                 -15.9%                       6.7%       

Bldg permits   Median resale % change  H. Afford Index 

333 -20.1%    $168,100            4.1%              204.8                  

Sales, median home prices and affordability data for each of Washington's 39 counties are available at the Runstad Center's website.

The second quarter median sales price here is for existing homes and doesn't include new homes, which are typically selling higher than $170,000 in Spokane County.

The UW center takeaway: “The market is clearly stronger than a year ago, but it eased off a bit compared with the pace we saw in the first quarter,” said Glenn Crellin, associate director of the center. “We always see actual sales numbers increase between the first and second quarter, but this year that increase was less than typical

Three winners of our ‘name the medical group’ contest announced

One of our earlier posts included a contest to win gift cards from Atticus, Spokane's cool coffee shop in downtown. We asked people to come up with a name for the new medical business being launched by Group Health and Providence Health, two are medical providers.

Here are the three chosen winners.  Contact us by email at and we'll get back to you with plans for collecting the gift certificates. (Atticus doesn't let us send cards electronically.)

 No 1: Paramount Medical, suggested by robWahl.

 No. 2: Providence Group Health Cooperative, by surgerygirl.

 No. 3: Whole Health of Spokane, by Gato.

Viewers in Clarkston and Lewiston can now get ABC full HD signals

KXLY Broadcast Group has completed upgrades to HD signals for viewers in the Lewiston-Clarkston area.

A press release noted that ABC 4 HD flipped the switch on July 16 and now is broadcasting in full HD from atop the Lewiston-Clarkston Grade on UHF Channel 44.

To receive the HD signal viewers  need to “re-scan” for channels on their HD flatscreen TV or digital converter boxes connected to a UHF rooftop antenna.  Antennas should be aimed northward towards the grade.


$180 fares by Allegiant are low indeed, until the other fees and options kick in

So we decided to look more closely at how Allegiant Air makes its money while being a low-fare airline.

It's all in the details.

SR staffer Rich Landers jumped on and looked at the actual costs for a round trip to Honolulu in February.  Here's his take:

The advertised price was $179 one-way. Which is significantly lower than other carriers to that destination.

Here's his summary of the final bill:

Despite a low advertised fare, costs add up quickly when booking fares … from Spokane to Hawaii. Here are the costs for two people, round-trip.

— The round trip fare for TWO people comes out to $655.20. Taxes and fees total $116.80.

—A seat selection fee of about $21 is charged if you want to select a seat in advance to be assured you can sit with your partner or family.  Total roundtrip cost for two: $82. (Seats coming back were $20 each, instead of the $21 going to Hawaii.)

—The airline gives a range of costs for carry-on bags.  The only choice you have for the Spokane-Honolulu flight is $50 for a carry-on bag that can't exceed 25 pounds, limited to 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches. It does not say round trip, but I assume it is: Total for two: $100.

—If you need to check a bag, the cost is a minimum of $70.   Let's say you can do without it.  $0 added cost.

That makes the total roundtrip price for two: $954, or $938 if you pay with a debit card.
That's still better than the current advertised price on competing airlines that require a stop between Spokane and Honolulu, but it's a long shot from the advertized special of $180 that caught my eye. 

For contrast, OfficeHours ran a booking test on Alaska Air via Priceline and came up with two round trips coming to about $1,290.  So yeah, there are some advantages with Allegiant.

We got an explanation on those seat and luggage fees from Allegiant spokeswoman Jessica Wheeler:

We charge a fee to choose your seat assignment – each seat has a different value based on demand for the seat. If you do not purchase a seat assignment you will be randomly assigned a seat at check-in.

Carry-on and checked baggage fees vary by route. Hawaii routes are most expensive because it is our longest flight. For many of our optional products the cost to customer vary by airport and route, a reflection of how our costs vary. The less it cost us, the less our customers


Allegiant comes to Spokane, but you might want to read the fine print

So it's now official that Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air will start flying weekly flights from Spokane to Oahu.

The story appeared on earlier today. Some notable and not well-known facts about low-fare Allegiant. It flies into and out of 80 cities, including Bellingham, Wash. Which tells you how competive Allegiant has to be, if they choose to set up flights in and out of places like Missoula and Bellingham. 

Also notable is some of its operating philosophy.  It chooses about a dozen destination locations and then forms routes from smaller cities to those destinations. Yes, lists Bellingham as a little gem of a getaway.

Here's another key part of their approach:  The airline uses the Ryanair model of looking for secondary revenue through sales of food, beverages, and souvenirs on board as well as charges for checking luggage and advance seat assignments.   Which means, the current discount rate of $180 one-way to Oahu doesn't stay that low when you start adding in other costs, like luggage. The St. Petersburg Times reported that the airline's average “extra”  revenues came to $33.35 per passenger in 2011.

And a Wikipedia entry added this nugget of insight: “Allegiant CEO Maurice Gallagher stated in an article that appeared September 2009 issue of Fast Company that the advantages of this pricing structure was psychological. He went on to say, 'We collect $110 from you at the end of your trip. If I tried to charge you $110 up front, you wouldn't pay it. But if I sell you a $75 ticket and you self-select the rest, you will.' ”

Synaptics buys Coeur d’Alene’s Pacinian, with likely boost in headcount to follow

Silicon Valley company Synaptics has purchased Coeur d’Alene-based tech startup Pacinian. The announcement, announced recently, will mean an expansion of workers at the Pacinian research office in North Idaho, said CEO Jim Schlosser.

Synaptics is a publicly traded company. It develops input and touchpad devices for major electronics companies including Apple, Asus, HTC, Lenovo, Gateway, HP, Sony, Ericsson, Toshiba and others. It’s estimated to have roughly 65 percent of the notebook touchpad market.

Pacinian, launched in 2007, develops thin and highly responsive keyboards and touchscreens. Its major product to date is the ThinTouch keyboard that uses no electronics but creates a 40 percent thinner contact surface than conventional keyboards.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

A press release said: “Synaptics’ superior TouchPad technology, used in the majority of today’s notebook PCs, will be coupled with Pacinian’s innovative ThinTouch keyboard technology to provide an unparalleled human interface experience.”

All of Pacinian’s assets and patents were included in the deal.

Coldwater Creek sets election for reverse split, plus details the range of split

Coldwater Creek, looking to keep its stock listed on the Nasdaq, is preparing a special election for stockholders to approve a reverse stock split.

The election is now set for Friday,  Sept 21 at 9:30 a.m. at the women's fashion retailer's Sandpoint office. 

Our earlier story last week didn't have the date. It also then didn't have the reverse split.

The proposal is a reverse split no less than 1-for-3 and not more than 1-for-6. The vote gives the company board the option to choose the level of split.

If you're a stockholder and want to get a ballot, this link gets you what you need.

To read the full proxy proposal, it's linked just below this text box.


Wait a minute. It’s not Charles Schmidt. It’s Charlie, just plain Charlie

We can't quite call Spokane performing and visual artist Charlie Schmidt by any other name.

He's Charlie, always has, always will.

So it was odd seeing Bloomberg pick up a story on last week's announced settlement between Schmidt and a Chicago company, which made T-shirts under the Threadless brand.

Here's the Bloomberg language, with the very serious reference to Mr. C. Schmidt.

Keyboard Cat’ Video Maker, Clothing Company Settle Dispute

The maker of the “Keyboard Cat” video that has been viewed almost 26 million times on Google Inc.’s YouTube video- sharing website settled a copyright infringement suit against a Chicago-based clothing maker.

Charles Schmidt of Spokane, Wash, sued SkinnyCorp LLC’s Threadless unit in June 2011 for putting images of the keyboard cat on T-shirts and cases for Apple Inc.’s iPhones without authorization.

Schmidt said in his filing that he has licensed the images and sections of the video to companies including Microsoft Corp., PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and Nokia Oyj. The video is also being used to promote pistachio nuts, according to court papers.

Susan Ashe named executive director of Spokane HSSA

Spokane's Health Sciences & Services Authority (HSSA) said Friday it's hired Susan Ashe to serve as its Executive Director. Ashe has been acting executive director for more than two years.

“The HSSA Board conducted a vigorous search and interview process,” said Nancy Isserlis, board chair, “after which it approved the hiring of Susan Ashe to serve as its executive director.”

 The board unanimously approved her hiring this week at its regular meeting.

Itssearch committee interviewed four applicants, a press release said.

The HSSA is funded through both private and public sources and is charged with encouraging economic development based on the biosciences, and on improving the efficiency of health care in the area.

 Its board has nine members – three each appointed by the governor, Spokane County commissioners and Spokane’s mayor. 

Ashe brings 30 years of experience in public policy and communications.



Suggest a name for the new Spokane medical company, and win Atticus gift cards

Over here at Office Hours, we're feeling generous, what with the kind weather and all.

We're going to offer three Atticus Coffee/Tea gift cards to the person or persons who come up with the best names for the new joint operation announced by Group Health Collective and Providence Health.

The SR story today laid out the general idea: The two providers will mix and match about 400 Spokane area docs, specialists and nurses across the area, creating an alternative to the alliance forged last year by Community Health Association and Rockwood Clinics. (Rockwood was acquired by Community in mid-2011, creating the then-largest medical operation in this area.)

So the challenge:  Each person can nominate up to three separate names for the new medical group that will be the umbrella operation for Group Health and Providence. You can't use a name that's already in use by another medical institution.

We'll choose three winners from the suggested names.

Good luck. Plunk down your suggestions in the comments field. Winners will be chosen by a committee of local name authorities.  Deadline for submissions is 11:45 p.m. Aug. 6

State taxes on your mind? Let’s compare Idaho vs. Washington in total tax burden

Wednesday's SR business section included a story about how Washington and Idaho fare in a national ranking for total sales tax rates. (Not total taxes paid.) Washington's sales rate was fourth-highest; Idaho's was 36th.

The source is the nonpartisan DC think tank, the Tax Foundation.

What we didn't include were a few other Tax Foundation lists, including one last produced in 2009, which took into account all tax rates at the city, county and  state levels. On that list, Idaho ranked just ahead of Washington for overall tax burden, which compares amount of taxes paid versus per capita income.

Idaho in that ranking was 28th highest in the country, at 9.4 percent of all income going to taxes.

Washington stood at No. 29, with a tax rate of 9.3 percent. Here are the data.

Notably, Idaho hits that mark because it has a state personal and state corporate income tax, while Washington doesn't. (Washington does have a business and occupation tax, however.)

Both have state and local retail sales taxes. For property taxes, Washington is much more burdensome: the per capita amount of property tax in the Evergreen state is $1,226; in Idaho it's $813.

This summary explains the Tax Foundation methodology for its tax burden ranking:

“For nearly two decades the Tax Foundation has published an estimate of the combined state-local tax burden shouldered by the residents of each of the 50 states. For each state, we calcu­late the total amount paid by the residents in taxes, then divide those taxes by the state's total income to compute a “tax burden.” We make this calculation not only for the most recent year but also for earlier years because tax and income data are revised periodically by govern­ment agencies.”

The federal taxes are not included in this ranking, in that the federal rates are uniform across all 50 states and would not really help determine what this list offers — a state-focused analysis of taxes paid.

Select Registry adds the Roberts Mansion to its list of preferred B&Bs

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Select Registry,  an online directory of bed and breakfasts, selected  four Washington loctions to its list of preferred inns.

Among them is the Roberts Mansion in Spokane.

The other three in Washington are Carson Ridge Private Luxury Cabins, Carson, Wash; Turtleback Farm Inn and Orchard House, Eastsound; and Cameo Heights Mansion, Touchet.

“We’re delighted to welcome these outstanding properties,” said Will Carlson, executive director of Select Registry. “Of the 20,000 inns in North America, only 330 have earned this prestigious designation.”

In a release, Carlson said: “Our goal is to give guests the assurance of knowing that when they check into a Select Registry inn, they’re in for an exceptional travel experience.”

The Roberts Mansion is housed in a restored Victorian mansion at 1923 W. First in historic Browne's Addtion.

It has five suites with high ceilings, bay windows and turn-of-the-century décor.  It has a 1,000-square-foot meeting/event room and can accommodate 49 guests indoors and 130 on the lawn, gardens and  gazebo.

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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.


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 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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