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Office Hours

Archive for March 2012

Would a Red Lion Hotels sale cost the area a lot of jobs?

Today's SR business section carried a story about the Red Lion Hotels board thinking about …. a number of options, including possibly selling the operation.

The key question we had: how many people work for Red Lion in Spokane. Answer: 350. 

If there was a sale to another hotel company, what happens then? The best scenario: some job losses but not likely a lot.  

The upside would be that many of the 350 jobs would remain because the bulk of those are  inside the company's two big hotels in this city. 

Another group of Red Lion staff manage the Tickets West / Broadway series operation. That business is one small part of the Red Lion company, and produces roughly 7 percent  of total company revenue, which in 2011 was $156 million.

AmericanWest Bank not only solvent, but in a buying mood

AmericanWest Bank, based in Spokane, has acquired Southern California-based Security Business Bank, in a deal involving a cash payment of $26 million.

Security has  four locations in San Diego. This is AmericanWest's first move into Southern California.
 
Scott Kisting, chairman and CEO of AmericanWest Bank, said in a statement: “We have found a merger partner who shares our core values and in one of the most vital, energetic markets in the Western United States.”
 
AmericanWest has more than 70 branches in Washington, Idaho, California and Utah, assets of around $2.3 billion and deposits of about $2 billion.
 
In late 2011 AmericanWest acquired Seattle-based Viking Bank. It paid $7.2 million for the seven Viking branches.

LaunchPad’s daylong techfest, sessions and network party; tickets are $35

GoDaddy.com’s chief scientist, Dave Koopman, will be featured speaker at Wednesday's Innovation Show hosted by Spokane networking company, LaunchPad INW.

The event runs from 11:30 a.m. to evening at the Mirabeau Park Hotel, 1100 N. Sullivan.

Koopman will discuss technology innovation during the noon to 1 p.m. lunch. Afternoon sessions will feature area tech leaders, followed by a trade show and a networking party.

Afternoon sessions will include comments by GreenCupboards CEO Josh Neblett, Mitch Williams of Gravity Jack, based in Liberty Lake, and Ed Reese, founder of Sixth Man Marketing. 

Admission is $35, free for LaunchPad members. For details go to www.launchpadINW.com

LaunchPad innovation session is Wednesday; will GoDaddy speaker address the SOPA issue?

Spokane-based networking team LaunchPad INW is hosting an “innovation show” on Wednesday at Mirabeau Park, running from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. (really).

The event is described as a series of tech-connected events, starting with a lunch, followed by topic sessions, followed by a networking party.

The keynote speaker is Dave Koopman, who is the chief scientist for website domain registrar GoDaddy.

It would be interesting if Koopman talks about the unfortunate decision GoDaddy made on the SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) issue that erupted into widespread discussion last winter.

In a move that didn't suggest corporate support for web innovation, GoDaddy initially took the wrong side of that SOPA argument. For background: a number of members of Congress supported the SOPA bill that would have given legislators and regulators unusually broad powers to go after website owners who were accused of copyright violations.

Many opponents argued SOPA would have amounted to outright censorship of businesses or website operators who were accused, and not even convicted, of those violations.

At first, GoDaddy was among the companies that fully backed SOPA. Later, after a storm of criticism erupted and thousands of its customers switched their domains from GoDaddy, the company changed its mind, and decided it did not back SOPA. It issued a statement backing “First Amendment rights” and web innovation.

The bill in Congress later died. For a SOPA overview, try out SOPAStrike.com.

Koopman will speak starting around noon, according to the LaunchPad releases.

The cost, if you're not a LaunchPad member, is $35. To register and find more information, go to this link.

Hearing on Spokane Tribe’s casino proposal is certain to generate a lot of heat


View Larger Map

In case you didn't know, tonight is the public hearing hosted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs regarding the Spokane Tribe's impact statement for a proposed casino and resort on the edge of Airway Heights.

The hearing starts at Sunset Elementary School in Airway Heights. The map shows the location. It starts at 6 p.m.

If you go expect plenty of back and forth on how and why this is either a good jobs-producing proposal or a dangerous precedent and a likely encroachment on Fairchild Air Force Base. Officially and completely honestly, OfficeHours is taking no sides on this issue. We wish both sides stick the facts and avoid overblown rhetoric.

For a summary of the proposal and the EIS, it's at this link.

Good news if you like custom brews: CDA Brewing Co. folks move to Spokane

Today's major brewing-business story is the announcement by the Gages and the Wellses to open River City Brewing, essentially a Spokane version of its popular Coeur d'Alene Brewing Co.

The daily story is right here.

We were challenged to add extra information, so here it is, compliments of Gage Stromberg, who will help run the show with his brother Spencer, and his parents, Ron and Julie Wells, in the Eldridge Building, on the west edge of downtown Spokane.

A former brewer at Coeur d’Alene Brewing, Cody Ragan, will become the new head brewer for River City.

The company will do just keg beer to start, but will have smaller kegs and growlers available for purchase at the brewery. That is planned for Fridays, from 3 to 6 pm.  The family owns bottling equipment but is not planning to set it up yet.

While the SteamPlant owners have in the past produced two of the CDA Brewery favorites, that won't continue, said Stromberg.

“No one else has the right to make our beers, or use our names/labels, etc.,” he said.

How close would the Spokane Tribe’s casino be to the Northern Quest Casino in Airway Heights?


View Proposed Spokanes' casino in a larger map

A lot of talk has been generated as business folks and residents are sounding off on a proposed Spokane Tribe casino on land they expect will be annexed by the City of Airway Heights.

Critics have said it's too close to Fairchild Air Force Base. And others say a second county casino will harm the character of the community.  The tribe argues that the casino, as proposed, would not deter or interfere with Fairchild's mission.  And they contend they have every right to seek economic development on lands that were once their ancestral site.

For a view of how close the proposed casino is to the Kalispel Northern Quest Casino, this map lays it out. The pin on the left half is the Spokanes' proposed site; the other is Northern Quest.

State of women-owned businesses: some upsides, some downsides

A recent overview of women in the workplace shows that Seattle is ranked 20th in the nation in growth of women-owned businesses over the past 15 years. Washington state was ranked 35th out of all states in the growth of number of women-owned businesses. 

But while this is interesting stuff, here is a key statistical caveat, presented by the group that collected the data (a foundation created by American Express):
Data from the past three censuses – 1997, 2002, and 2007 – were collated, analyzed and extrapolated forward to 2012, factoring in relative changes in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) not only nationally but also at industry and state levels. State-level GDP changes over the period of analysis are applied to our estimates of change at the metropolitan level.
So to be accurate, this isn't up-to-date information, but it's useful in a limited way. To see an overview of the full report, it's here.
 
The data was analyzed and used to create three rankings: growth in number of women-owned firms, growth in those firms' revenue, and growth in employment. Seattle was 20th out of 25 major cities on number of new women-owned businesses. But when all three categories were measured, it did better.
 
The top 10 cities when combining all three rankings into overall ranking are:
Washington, D.C.
San Antonio
Houston 
Baltimore
Riverside
Sacramento
Tampa/St. Petersburg
Dallas
Atlanta
(tie) Seattle and Portland 
 
The other big-picture piece of information reported by American Express is:  “Nationally, the number of women-owned businesses has increased by 54 percent since 1997.”
 
And: “Despite the fact that women-owned firms continue to grow at rates exceeding all but the largest U.S. corporations and account for 29 percent of all enterprises, women-owned firms employ 6 percent of the country’s workforce and contribute just under 4 percent of business revenues. Even when comparing the contributions of women-owned firms only to privately held businesses, women contribute just 14 percent of employment and 11 percent of revenues.”

Boeing executive to speak next fall in Spokane

James AlbaughJames Albaugh, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, will be the keynote speaker at Greater Spokane Incorporated's annual meeting Sept. 12.

Albaugh was president and CEO of Boeing Space and Communications from 1998 to 2002. In 2002 he became president and CEO of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems, and in 2009 he took over Boeing Commercial.

“Boeing's recent announcement to build the new 737MAX in the Northwest gave our region's aerospace industry a huge lift,” said Rich Hadley, president and CEO of GSI.

“Mr. Albaugh will be able to share his view of the future of aerospace in our region,” Hadley continued. “Our local suppliers will hear from Boeing Commercial's top executive right here in Spokane.”

Inland Power and Light names new CEO

Inland Power and Light of Spokane has selected Chad Jensen to be CEO of the cooperative starting May 21.

Jensen is vice president at Lower Valley Energy, an electric cooperative in Afton, Wyo. He has been with Lower Valley Energy for 22 years and has held positions in finance, power supply and resource development, conservation, communications and member services.

“We are thrilled to announce that Chad Jensen is joining our team. He brings strong industry expertise and is an excellent leader,” said Michelle Caird, president of Inland Power’s Board of Trustees, in a prepared statement. “I am confident that under his leadership, our team will continue to deliver solid financial performance and superior customer service to our members.”

Jensen has a degree in finance from Brigham Young University and an MBA from the University of Wyoming.

He will replace Kris Mikkelsen, who is retiring after more than 30 years with Inland Power. Mikkelsen was named CEO in 2000.

Inland Power and Light is a nonprofit electric cooperative for more than 39,000 member-owners in 13 counties in Eastern Washington and North Idaho. Founded in 1937, it's the largest electric cooperative in Washington.

Finding liquor retailers in Spokane: handy online map at SR.com

Wednesday's major SR business story is the summary of the variety of retailers (90 and counting) planning to sell booze come June 1, when I-1183 takes effect.

Here's an online map, tooled by the SR's Mike Tigas, that displays those 90 stores: http://data.spokesman.com/i1183-transition/liquor-retailer-licensees/

Also worth checking is the state list of all applicants to date, at http://liq.wa.gov/records/frequently-requested-lists and click on the link for “off-premises licensees.”  Note, that list includes applicants for both beer/wine and for spirits. You would need to sort the full list to see just the spirits applications.

Brian Smith, of the state liquor board, said the agency has been “working overtime” to add new names to the list. That list should be new every Monday, Smith said.

Good luck finding a store that DOESN'T sell liquor in June.


  

Apparel retailer lululemon will open its first Spokane ‘showroom’ next week

Lululemon athletica will open its first Spokane store on March 30 in a downtown showroom on the second level of 117 N. Howard.

The Vancouver, British Columbia-company sells yoga-inspired apparel. Company spokeswoman Tracy Keough said the location will be a “cozier” showroom rather than a full retail store. In this case, it's the second level above eatery Soulful Soups.

“Showrooms are only open part of the week so that we can be out in the community meeting our neighbors and participating in local yoga and fitness classes,” she said in an email.

Hours will be 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. The showroom will offer Saturday morning yoga at 9:30 a.m.

A grand opening will be held Saturday, March 31.

Washington jobless rate dips to 8.2 percent last month

Washington gained an estimated 4,200 jobs in February, adding to the state’s gradual climb up the employment ladder, the state’s Employment Security Department said today.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dipped to an estimated 8.2 percent in February, down from a revised rate of 8.4 percent in January.  It was the lowest unemployment rate since January 2009, when it was 7.7 percent.

As a result of the improved unemployment rate, the maximum weeks of unemployment benefits in Washington will likely be reduced from 99 down to 73 in mid- to late April.  Both of the federal benefits-extension programs are triggered by states’ unemployment rates.  Employment Security will announce the timing and more details of the change after receiving official notice from the federal Department of Labor.

U.S. builders start fewer homes but permits jump

U.S. builders started work on slightly fewer homes in February. But they began laying the ground work for a turnaround later this year by requesting the most building permits in any month since October 2008, the Associated Press reports.

The Commerce Department said today that builders broke ground on a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 698,000 homes last month. That’s down 1.1 percent from January’s revised level of 706,000, also the highest since October 2008.

Building permits, a gauge of future construction, jumped 5.1 percent last month to 717,000. Two-thirds are for single-family homes, which are critical to a housing recovery.

It can take up to 12 months for a builder to obtain a permit and construct a single-family home.

Bernanke revisiting college life this afternoon

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is taking a break from his day job this afternoon to revisit the academic life he led before coming to Washington a decade ago.

He’ll stand before a class of George Washington University undergraduates and give the first of four one-hour lectures on the Fed. Anyone can view the lecture live at 12:45 p.m. Eastern time. The Fed will maintain the lectures on its site for later viewing.

Today’s lecture focuses on central banking dating to the panics of the 19th century and early 20th century, which led to the Fed’s creation in 1913.

GW assembled the class of 30 from 80 applicants who wrote essays on what they hoped to learn from arguably the second-most-powerful U.S. official after President Barack Obama.   

Federal lab in Richland to lay off 45

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory plans to lay off 45 employees this week. The cutbacks are in order to adjust to the latest federal budget approved in December, the Associated Press reports.

The Department of Energy national lab based in Richland employs 4,758 people and gets 93 percent of its budget from federal agencies.

The 45 layoffs that could come this week are in addition to almost 70 layoffs in the past 12 months, which included 23 voluntary layoffs. Only a couple of the 45 layoffs this week will be voluntary.

Court says state can’t be sued over sick leave

The Supreme Court says a state can’t be sued under the Family and Medical Leave Act for refusing to give an employee time off to recover from an illness, the Associated Press reports.

The high court on today refused to let Daniel Coleman sue the Maryland state Court of Appeals for firing him after he asked for sick leave.

Coleman asked for leave in 2007 to recover from an illness. His request was denied and he was fired. He sued under the Family and Medical Leave Act, but his lawsuit was thrown out, with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals saying states could not be sued under the FMLA.

The high court agreed. But four justices dissented, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who in an unusual move read her dissent aloud in court.

Small business tax cuts to take effect in 2013

If you own a small business and have yet to do your taxes, the U.S. Small Business Administration has some good news.There are 17 small-business tax cuts already signed into law and an additional five are proposed for 2013, the Tri-City Herald reports.

“These tax cuts are available to all types of small businesses, from main street shops to high growth startups,” said Calvin W. Goings, assistant associate administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration, in a press release.

Some of the tax cuts are:

•Start-up entrepreneurs can deduct $5,000 for start-up expenditures.

•If you have bought new equipment, you can write-off a larger portion of the cost of that new equipment this year rather than depreciating the cost over time. The maximum amount a small business can expense on new.

•Tax credits are available for starting or continuing to provide health insurance coverage for your employees, and this applies even if you are self-employed.

•Starting in 2010, the process for deducting the cost of your cell phone and monthly bills was vastly simplified.
For more information, contact the local district office in Washington at sba.gov.<a href='http://www.sba.gov/'>sba.gov</a>

On The Money: Sources for seasonal work

Temporary or seasonal work can provide a bridge for individuals looking for employment while between jobs, recent college graduations, or people interested in a new challenge.

Seasonal jobs offer opportunities in a wide variety of fields. If you’d like to explore seasonal work possibilities, check out some of these websites, compiled by McClatchy-Tribune News Service:

AfterCollege.com: Caters to college students and recent graduates looking for seasonal work opportunities.

CoolWorks.com: Search for seasonal job in 25 categories under “Find a Job” tab.

SeasonalEmployment.com: Explore different seasonal and temporary job categories by country or state.

SeasonalJobs365: Check out jobs by activity and country.

SeasonWorkers.com: Check out employment opportunities under category tabs or by company or location.

Wasden recovers a record $8 million for Idahoans

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden today released his annual Consumer Protection report for 2011. His office recovered a record $8 million in consumer restitution last year.

In addition, the Consumer Protection Division recovered $2.5 million in penalties, fees and costs; received more than $24 million from a tobacco settlement; and returned $1.5 million in unspent consumer protection money to the general fund.

“Our most significant work in 2011 was in two areas: mortgage foreclosure and pharmaceutical pricing,” Wasden said in a news release.

Wasden said mortgage-related complaints decreased more than 120 percent last year. His office received 116 mortgage complaints for the year, down from 261 in 2010. Still, the mortgage category remained at number one on the Attorney General’s top 10 consumer complaint list, in a tie with motor vehicles.

“This may be due to improvements in the federal Making Home Affordable Program, greater public awareness of mortgage modification options, a decrease in foreclosure filings during 2011, and the proactive steps that we have taken in the Attorney General’s Office,” Wasden said.

Disney ship to make Seattle a homeport for at least one year

Don’t be surprised if you run into Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse in Seattle this summer. If you do, snap a quick picture. This year will be the first and perhaps last time that Disney Cruise Line’s massive red, white and blue floating theme park — the 2,400-passenger Disney Wonder — docks on the Seattle waterfront.

Disney is the newest of seven major lines that will call in Seattle after the Alaska cruise season kicks off May 6, but already has made the decision not to come back in 2013, The Seattle Times reports. Instead, Disney will return to Vancouver, B.C., where it began its foray into the Alaska market in 2011.

Disney cruises market family fun with G-rated floor shows aboard a ship with three pools and 10 decks. The line plans 15 sailings from Seattle this year with Alaska stops at the Tracy Arm fjord and at Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan as well as Victoria, B.C.

Disney’s decision to return to Vancouver next year is an economic loss for Seattle, which has been nurturing the cruise industry since 1999, starting with six sailings and 6,600 passengers.

The Port of Seattle this year expects 880,900 passengers on 205 sailings. Estimates are that each time a homeport ship docks, $1.9 million flows into the local economy, spending generated by passenger hotel stays, restaurant meals and shopping, and purchases of ship supplies.

Starbucks opening Evolution Fresh juice store

SEATTLE — Starbucks Corp. is pushing beyond coffee with the opening of the first Evolution Fresh Inc. juice store, the company said today.

Starbucks, which is looking for new businesses for growth, purchased the California-based juice maker in November for $30 million. Evolution Fresh had been selling its juices in grocery stores such as Whole Foods groceries. The first Evolution Fresh store is in Bellevue, Wash.

Aside from juices, Starbucks says Evolution Fresh shops will have wraps, soups, salads, vegetarian and vegan options and other offerings, the Associated Press reports.

Evolution Fresh, started by Naked Juice founder Jimmy Rosenberg, is one of the few larger juice companies that still cracks, peels, presses and squeezes its own fruits and vegetables rather than using pureed or powdered ingredients. It also uses a process called high-pressure pasteurization to make the juice without heating it.

Opponents try to cut off liquor privatization

KELSO, Wash. — A judge is hearing arguments over whether voters would have approved an initiative to privatize liquor sales in Washington if it had not included a provision for public safety funds.

The entire measure would be nullified if the court determines that voters would have rejected the initiative without it, the Associated Press reports.

Voters approved Initiative 1183 last fall to privatize liquor sales and dismantle Washington’s state-run liquor system. The measure allows stores larger than 10,000 square feet to sell liquor, though it could allow smaller stores to sell liquor if there are no other outlets in a trade area.

Opponents filed suit, arguing that it violates state rules requiring initiatives to address only one subject because it includes the public safety provision. A judge will consider the case this afternoon.

Spokane’s Green Cupboards comes close, doesn’t get tech award

Spokane's hot young ecommerce company Green Cupboards came close but didn't take home the top award in an annual  tech awards contest last week in Seattle.

Sponsored by the Washington Technology Industry Association, the 2012 Industry Achievement Awards are presented to recognize bright and aspiring firms in the state.

Green Cupboards, which sells organic, “green” and eco-friendly items, lost out in the best early stage company category to Big Door, a Seattle firm that “gamifies” other company websites.   Green Cupboards was started by seed money and a team of GU grads who conjured up the company idea during a Hogan Entrepreneurial Contest hosted by the school a few years ago.

No other East Side companies got any recognition in the achievement awards.

Coming Sunday: Royal treatment

This weekend in Sunday Business, Michael Guilfoil interviews Fery Haghighi, who operated Au Croissant bakery and café for 15 years before closing it to focus on Fery’s Catering. Read her Cinderella-like story, including her childhood growing up in a prominent Iranian family, and learn about one of the more memorable kitchen mishaps.

Our Front and Center business profiles run every Sunday. If you have a suggestion for one, email business@spokesman.com, or call (509) 459-5528.

Verizon Foundation provides $30,000 to help teachers prevent cyber-bullying

Over the past year the Verizon Foundation has provided about $1 million in grants to about 250 groups and statewide programs.

Among the recipients is Web Wise Kids, based in Spokane. It's received $30,000 to train educators throughout Eastern Washington to help students prevent cyber-bullying and sexting

And the winner of the chairlift pitch is… Ruby’s Lube of Sandpoint

Seven company presidents today rode the big quad chair at Schweitzer Mountain Resort as part of the great Sandpoint Chairlift Pitch Contest.

In the photo here, eventual winner, CEO Tracy Gibson of Ruby's Lube, pitches judges Kevin Kluender and Travis Kaull, on the left and judge Ty Taitch, on the right.

The contest, the first of its kind in the region, pitted CEOs of seven young companies competing on the chair lift to be selected as the winning startup.

Gibson wins $1,000, six months of free office space and some support services provided by area businesses. Mark Rivers, who's helped organize the event, described the goal as nurturing Sandpoint's entrepreneur network, specifically in the outdoor and recreation industry.

Ruby's Lube is the maker of a line of natural products that protect skin and lips for outdoors types.

Are you ready for ‘guided discernment’ to keep down your workplace stress?

On March 27, two GU business faculty members will discuss their insights into how women can manage stress. The event will start at 10 a.m. in the McCarthey Athletic Center's Herak Room. 

It's free to the public.

The presenters are Molly Pepper and Peggy Sue Loroz. Both women have conducted research on the types of stress women encounter in the workplace and how they can best deal with it.

The press relief from GU pretty much boiled the advice into three nuggets:

Firtst, women should create boundaries around productive time to maximize time-management, increase planning, and minimize stressful work-related emergencies.

Second, women are encouraged to establish an affinity group to support one another.

Third, the advice is for women to develop “guided discernment” to discover their personal “Mighty Purpose” and develop strategies to keep that purpose in front of them at all times.

Spokane’s Ecova part of Groom Energy’s list of “10 companies to watch”

Groom Energy has just released a list we'll call some attention to; it's a list of 10 smart-grid vendors to watch in the ongoing energy efficiency marketplace. 

Spokane's Ecova (formerly Advantage IQ, and before that, Avista Advantage) is among the 10. 

The group of 10 are all in the specific niche of “enterprise” grid-efficiency companies: The other nine are C3, CA Technologies,  EnergyCAP, EnerNOC, Lucid, Phoenix Energy Technologies, Schneider Electric, SCIenergy and Siemens.

Only Siemens, which operates across many industrial and some consumer markets, may be a familiar name.

We call out this list in part because we believe (sincerely) that the smart grid future is important and critical in helping the world better manage the energy needs of consumers and businesses. We also really don't see many stories that explain how companies like Ecova make a difference in the marketplace. 

They're clearly doing the job, and deserve ongoing coverage in the media.

Happy cyberloafing Monday. I hear many of you are slacking off today

The good folks at Challenger, Gray & Christmas, based in Chicago, report that the weekend before the start of the NCAA March Madness tourney is a double-barrelled setup for folks to slack off at work.
 
A report it cited today said the change in Daylight Savings, coupled with anticipation about how to prepare for the onslaught of the games leaves many folks Cyberloafing today.

Here's how they explain it: 
With the field of 68 teams now selected for the NCAA Division 1 men’s basketball championship tournament – affectionately known as March Madness – companies around the country are preparing for is likely to be a week with noticeably diminished productivity as workers begin the annual tradition of organizing office pools, filling out brackets and watching streaming broadcasts of the games from their desks.
 
“Monday could be particularly dreadful on the productivity front, as a new study out today from a Penn State University assistant professor suggests that the loss of sleep stemming from the annual change to daylight savings time results in workers to spend more time than normal surfing the web.  The ‘cyberloafing,’ as it has been coined, could be particularly robust today as many workers take to the Net to research teams and study match-ups in an attempt to generate a winging office pool bracket,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
 
Which can't be true for hard-working bloggers. Like, I mean, this is my second full blog post of the entire day already!  In case you're tracking … I am not cyberloafing yet.

According to one ranking system, Spokane’s economy is ‘resilient’

Patrick Jones, who heads the Eastern Washington University Community Indicators Project, sent this our way. A University of California Berkeley economics institute has developed what it calls a “resilience capacity index,” and it applied the index to cities across the country.

The full report can be found here.

The RCI ranks metros based on a set of factors that reportedly determines a given area's ability to bounce back or recover from economic stresses.  If you look at the jump on this post, you can read the geeky insider stuff on how they measure one ranked metro versus all others.

The bottom line: Spokane does fairly well, ranking No. 85 out of 361 U.S. metros.

Ahead of Spokane from the Northwest are: Seattle at 25; Idaho Falls, 44; Kennewick, 71; BIllings, 75; Bend, 84. Behind Spokane:  Boise, at No. 115.

The SR business pages later this week will take a deeper dive on the RCI and take a look at how accurately it tracks what it says it does.

  

AAA: Average price of gas in Washington $3.98

The AAA auto club reports the average price of a gallon of gas in Washington is $3.98. That’s up 4 cents in a week and 46 cents in a month. It’s 18 cents higher than the national average.

Some metro prices from the AAA’s Monday survey: Bellingham $4.08, Bremerton $3.98, Seattle-Bellevue-Everett $4.05, Tacoma $4.02, Olympia $4.03, Vancouver $4.02, Yakima $3.83, Tri-Cities $3.76, and Spokane $3.67.

Video cams will produce YouTube videos from Sandpoint’s Chairlift Pitch contest

The folks at Sandpoint Forward who are sponsoring a Chairlift Pitch contest next week have a pretty solid idea. We summarized that idea in a story earlier this week.

The guy whose head hatched the Chairlift Pitch contest is Mark Rivers, who lives in Boise most of the time but also works as a consultant for Sandpoint's economic development folks.

One detail we were not able to add to the story is Rivers' other idea: he plans to have a helmet cam attached to some of the judges who accompany the seven contestants up the chair lift. 

Later, Rivers said they'll add some of the videos to a YouTube channel, so folks can hear the pitches from the seven company owners.

The prize of the contest is $1,000 plus six free months of office space in downtown Sandpoint.

Coming Sunday: Litehouse a beacon of success

You may be familiar with Litehouse Foods’ signature chunky bleu cheese dressing, but do you know what inspired the recipe that Ed Hawkins Sr. came up with back in the early 1960s? Learn how this successful Hope, Idaho, company got its start and read about its employee-friendly business philosophy, this weekend in Sunday Business.

State liquor board launches online auctions for 167 liquor stores

While opponents are still legally challenging the validity of Initiative 1183, which privatized liquor sales in Washington, you can start looking at ways to bid on 167 state- run stores that will be sold off this year.

The initiative will allow private companies to sell spirits starting  June 1.

In the meantime, the state liquor control board has a website devoted to the whole bidding process, which started this week. Minimum bids will be $1,000 per store.

Successful bidders will have the exclusive right to sell spirits at 167 locations less than the 10,000 square feet threshold established by Initiative 1183.

There's a FAQ here to explain the ins and outs of the process.

The online auction closes April 20, 2012. Announcement of winning bidder(s) is tentatively scheduled for April 30, 2012.

EPA honors Spokane’s Ecova with 2012 Energy Star sustained excellence award

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded Spokane-based Ecova a 2012 Energy Star sustained excellence award, recognizing the company's commitment to energy efficiency.

Ecova, formerly Advantage IQ, is a spin-off company of Spokane-based energy utility Avista Corp.

The company, with offices across the states, provides energy audits and energy management for corporate clients.

A company press release noted that Ecova has been recognized by the EPA for eight straight years. This is the firm's sixth Sustained Excellence award.

This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the Energy Star program. Energy Star is an international standard for energy-smart consumer products. It was launched as a U.S. government program during the early 1990s, but Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Taiwan and the European Union have all adopted it as an energy savings program.

Coldwater Creek improves 4Q results but records $99 million loss for the year

Sandpoint's Coldwater Creek released earnings numbers on Wednesday for the fourth quarter and fiscal year.

The basics:  Fourth quarter produced a loss of $12.8 million, compared to a loss one year ago of $34.7 million.

For the 12 months ending Jan. 28, the loss was $99 million, versus $44.1 million for the previous fiscal year.

See a more detailed summary of the numbers in Thursday's Spokesman-Review at at Spokesman.com.

Yes, Camping World will sell new and used RVs in Liberty Lake

Today's quick Spokesman-Review story on a Liberty Lake location for Camping World had the basics, but didn't have every key detail.

This post will try to fill in a few blanks.
 
The Camping World folks today confirmed that the new Liberty Lake location will be a full-service dealership, selling both new and used RVs as well as RV equipment.
 
Chris Bell of NAI Black was the broker for the seller of the Mastercraft building. 
 
The buyer and developer, Oppidan Investment, used Marshall Clark of Clark Pacific to represent them in buying the building as well as buying three acres of undeveloped land due west of the Camping World location.
 
Those three acres will be used as the RV sales lot, plus be the location for an RV repair facility.
 
Oppidan paid $816,750 for the three acre parcel. 

IPhone and Android still gaining smartphone share, Microsoft and RIM dropping

Net traffic tracker comScore today released new numbers on the smartphone market in the United States.

The numbers show both Android and Apple are making strong gains in one of the strongest sectors of the country's tech industry.

The graphic here gives the counts and shows a contrast between the most recent, Jan. 2012 and Oct. 2011 numbers.

Source: comScore Mobilens.

Camping World will open RV equipment store in Liberty Lake

The former Mastercraft building in Liberty Lake has been acquired for a new Camping World store, according to the company that brokered the deal.

Camping World, based in Bowling Green, Ky., is one of the nation's bigger sellers of RV equipment, camping equipment and RV merchandise. It's taking over the building used by Mastercraft as its main area showroom and dealership for a line of power boats.

The address is 19651 E. Cataldo.

Camping World will lease the 10,800-square foot facility from Oppidan Investment, a Minnesota firm that will be the project developer. Oppidan paid about $1.8 million for the building, said Chris Bell of NAI Black. Bell represented the seller, Wayne Sorensen, in the transaction. 

This will be the first store operated by Camping World in the Spokane-Coeur d'Alene area. The company has more than 75 stores in more than 30 states.

Oppidan is expected to begin tenant improvements later this month.

Consumers can check out businesses at state fraud website

Wondering how that contractor managed to underbid his competition by so much?  Maybe it’s because he doesn’t pay his taxes, does shoddy work or will take your money and run.

You can find out at suspectfraud.com, a website developed with the Washington state departments of Revenue, Labor & Industries, and Employment Security. The site is an effort to cut down on an underground economy of businesses that don’t play by the rules and to pursue individuals that evade paying their fair share of taxes.

Links allow consumers to check to see if a registered business is properly licensed, owes the state taxes, has had complaints filed against it, or is the subject of state enforcement actions.

Chrysler to sell natural gas-powered truck

Chrysler aims to be the first U.S. automaker to produce a factory-built pickup truck that is powered mainly by natural gas, the Associated Press reports.

The privately held company said today that its new Ram 2500 Heavy Duty CNG truck will be sold to commercial customers that operate truck fleets. The company expects to deliver the first trucks in July.

The truck will have natural gas tanks and an 8-gallon fuel tank for gasoline. Chrysler said a small amount of gasoline is needed to start the truck, but after ignition it runs entirely on natural gas. If the natural gas tanks run out, the engine can switch to gasoline.

Streak in gas price hikes ends at 27 days

Gasoline prices have finally dropped after 27 days. The nationwide average for regular unleaded slipped less than a penny to $3.764 per gallon today. That ended a streak of price hikes that began on Feb. 8.

Pump prices rose by more than 28 cents per gallon in that period, making gasoline the most expensive ever for this time of year, the Associated Press reports.

Gasoline already tops $4 per gallon in California, Alaska and Hawaii. It’s near the $4 mark in several other states, including Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Oregon and parts of Washington.

Despite the one-day drop, experts predict that gasoline will continue to rise over the next several weeks. The Oil Price Information Service predicts the nationwide average could peak at $4.25 per gallon in late April.

Investigators: Fire that razed two business likely arson

Fire investigators say a fire that destroyed a helmet business and a vacuum cleaner business Friday in Coeur d'Alene was likely caused by arson.

Investigators found a gas can under a desk in the building housing Helmet Outlet USA, the Coeur d’Alene Press reports. The Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department stated that Fire Marshal Jeryl Archer II determined that gasoline had been poured on the desk before the fire started.  

The Friday night blaze also destroyed a Kirby vacuum business located in the same building.

Michael Murphy, who owns the building and the helmet business, said both are considered a total loss.

IRS warns seniors of tax refund scam

The Internal Revenue Service is warning senior citizens and other taxpayers to beware of an emerging federal tax refund scam tempting victims to file tax returns claiming fraudulent refunds.

Bogus refund claims have been identified across the nation. These schemes carry a common theme of promising refunds to people who have little or no income and who normally are not required to file a federal income tax return, the IRS says.

Promoters falsely claim they can obtain a tax refund or nonexistent stimulus payment for their victims based on the American Opportunity Tax Credit, even if the victim was not enrolled in or paying for college, the agency says.

Typically, con artists falsely claim that refunds are available even if the victim never went to college, or attended decades ago. In many cases, scammers are targeting seniors, people with very low incomes and members of church congregations with false promises of free money.

Marshalls to open its first Spokane store this Thursday

Long-awaited Marshalls will open its new Spokane location this Thursday, March 8.

The company is one of the country's larger off-price retailers, offering a variety of clothing for men and women. The Spokane store will fill 26,300 square feet in NorthTown Mall, last used by the NorthTown Rack.

This will be the first Marshalls store in the Spokane area.

Grand opening hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Store hours are 9;30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 11 a.m. -8 p.m. Sundays.

The store will hire about 60 full- and part-time workers.

Recession didn’t hit Idaho workers as hard as thought

The recession was not as hard on Idaho workers as originally estimated, but the state is pulling out of the recession more slowly than other states, the Idaho Department of Labor says.

Thousands more Idahoans were working the past two years and fewer were unemployed than previously known, according to new figures revised by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics based on more recent population estimates and employment data.

That dropped the average unemployment rate for both years a half percentage point to 8.7 percent in 2010 and 8.8 percent in 2011.

Also, while Idaho’s 2010 average jobless rate ranked 28th among the states, the 8.8 percent rate for 2011 ranked 31st.

At no time during the recession did unemployment in Idaho exceed 9 percent, well below original estimates that put the monthly rate at or above 9 percent for 20 of the 24 months. Neither did it exceed the national rate, maintaining a string of over 11 years that the state rate has been below the nation’s.

Instead of peaking at 9.7 percent from December 2010 through March 2011 as originally estimated, Idaho’s unemployment rate peaked at 8.9 percent from August through December 2010 and then hit 8.9 percent again in July 2011 before a steady decline to 8.3 percent in December 2011, dropping further to 8.1 percent in January. The national rate was 8.3 percent in January.

Area BBB names new CEO

The BBB serving Eastern Washington, North Idaho and Montana has a new CEO and president. Eleanor “Elea” Katzele, who has been vice president of the Spokane-based Better Business Bureau since 2007, will step into the position being vacated by Jan Quintrall.

Quintrall has accepted the position of head of the City of Spokane’s business and economic development efforts, the mayor’s office announced Monday.

“This organization has grown so much under Jan's direction, and I'm excited to expand even further in our 100th year,” Katzele said in a prepared statement released today. “It's our chance to focus on our Accredited Business services and remind the marketplace what we do; what we're all about.”

Katzele said she intends to focus on building relationships with BBB-accredited businesses and encouraging consumers to become educated buyers throughout BBB's three state region.

Prior to working for BBB, Katzele spent six years with Bank of America in various roles. She has a bachelor's degree from Eastern Washington University with management, marketing and HR majors.

Katzele can be reached at ekatzele@spokane.bbb.org.

BIA will release Spokane Tribe’s casino impact statement on Friday

The Spokane Tribe is holding a press conference Friday at its SpoKo store in Airway Heights on Friday to talk about the release of the environmental impact statement for its proposed casino in Airway Heights.

Releasing the EIS is the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs. Copies of the statement, which offers detailed statements on what the tribe said will be the impacts of a casino, will be available at the Spokane Public Library and on the Federal Register (federalregister.gov).

An overview of the project can be found at this link.

What needs to happen next:  the Tribe needs formal approval of its casino proposal from the Department of the Interior. It's seeking the unusual option of starting a casino on non-reservation land, an issue that tribal opponents have said will create a precedent leading to many more tribal casinos across the country.

The tribe would also need to negotiate a compact with the state of Washington before it can proceed.

Cyan Worlds prepares to release an iPad version of realMyst

Cyan Worlds now has an iPad version of the classic breakthrough game Myst. The revised version is the 3D enhance realMyst, redesigned and enhanced for the mobile iOS platform.

It will come out in April, said company President Tony Fryman.

“To explore the islands and Ages of Myst in realtime with such a gossamer interface is an amazing feeling.” said Rand Miller, CEO of Cyan Worlds. “Walking on the boardwalk above the water in Channelwood has got to be experienced to be believed.”

The new version will be for iPhone 4 and iPad2.
 
The realtime nature iof realMyst also allows for visual enhancement such as moving clouds and rippling water. The audio also creates sounds that emanate from specific locations and react realistically as players explore. 
 
It will be available in the iTunes app store.  No suggested price was provided.

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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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