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Archive for November 2012

Cyan’s Myst chosen by Museum of Modern Art for videogame collection

New York’s Museum of Modern Art has added Cyan World’s groundbreaking game Myst to a collection of significant, artistic videogames.

The MoMA game collection, at www.moma.org, is the start of an evolving exhibit expected to grow to around 40 major games. The full list of the first 14 is found here.

The initial list includes games that became widely known, including Pac-Man, Tetris, The Sims, SimCity 2000 and EVE Online.

Myst was released in 1993, produced by Cyan Worlds, based in Mead. The MoMA listing recognizes brothers Rand and Robyn Miller as the game’s primary creators. Later versions of the Myst franchise included the games Riven, realMyst, Myst V: End of Ages, and Myst Online: Uru Live.

MoMA said it will install the 14 games for a public exhibit in March. Some of the games will be installed in interactive mode, allowing visitors to experience the games firsthand.

“Robyn and I were really excited and tickled to hear Myst was chosen by MoMA,” said Rand Miller, the CEO of Cyan Worlds.

Robyn Miller played a key role in the first Myst product. Since then he’s left the company and is an independent filmmaker.

Myst drew widespread attention because it allowed players to explore and find solutions in a world of challenges and puzzles. It drew praise for drastically breaking from the style of games where one destroys orcs, kills enemies or takes over territory.

This marks the second time this year Myst was chosen for a major collection.

Earlier this year the Smithsonian Museum compiled a traveling exhibit called The Art of Videogames. Myst was one of 80 games included.

The Smithsonian group, which included Donkey Kong and Space Invaders and other arcade favorites, resulted from people voting for their favorite games. “The MoMA collection was based on aesthetics,” Rand Miller said, “and that makes it a bit more satisfying.”

Cyan Worlds continues working on projects, employing 10 people. It’s created iPad and iPhone versions of Myst and is preparing to release an iOS version of Riven, considered the sequel to Myst.

Coldwater Creek gets a nice stock price bump, up 17 percent to $5.72

Just in time for the holidays, we spotted a nice Friday afternoon pop for Coldwater Creek's stock price, on the Nasdaq.

A few months ago the company had to do a reverse-split to keep the price per share above $1. When it did that, its recalculated price came to about $3.89 or so.

Today it rose to $5.72, up 17 percent from Thursday's closing price.

Recent announcements that might have helped the Sandpoint women's fashion retailer is a third quarter report that showed it's trimmed losses, and the announcement this week that a new CEO will take over in January for co-founder Dennis Pence.

Things are picking up stock-wise. Friday's trade volume was 412,519 shares, compared with a recent average volume of  211,332 shares.

No buyout? Avista insists its cost-cutting is a ‘voluntary severance program’

Sometime next month, workers at Avista Utilities have a choice to make. The company is looking to help incentivize workers to leave the utility, in order to cut something like $14 million from next year's operating budget.

Our first story on this offer is here.

But let's be a little more precise. The folks at Avista really really don't like us using the term “buyout.”

When we inquired how many employees have indicated an interest, we were told the word buyout is not accurate. It is instead a Voluntary Severance Program.

Further, with the deadline for volunteers being Dec. 14, Avista has no plans to reveal how many workers take the buyout. Even though it's a publicly traded company, the rules don't require this sort of matter to be revealed in SEC documents or filings.

Avista has a total of roughly 1,500 workers. The offer has not been presented to about 600 union workers, said Avista spokesman Dan Kolbet.

Coffman Engineers hits the Zweig Letter’s hot firms for 2012 list

Spokane's Coffman Engineers, Inc. is ranked 59 out of 100 on The Zweig Letter's “2012 Hot Firm List.”

The Zweig list tries to identify the 100 fastest growing architecture, engineering, planning, and environmental consulting firms in the United States and Canada. The rankings are based on surveys conducted by ZweigWhite and are based on the individual firm’s three-year growth rate in gross revenue.

Coffman, which does a broad array of engineering services and has been in business for 33 years, is the only Spokane area company on the list.

Portland firm Cardno USA is the No. 1 company this year. Others from the ara are Dade Moeller, from Richland, No. 10 on the list; Golder Associates of Redmond, No. 21; and MacKay Sposito, of Vancouver, Wash., No. 54.

The ranking is the based on Coffman’s continued growth over the past several years despite the difficult economy. 2011 marked the best year in the company’s history in terms of revenue and staff size. Company growth has continued in 2012, most notably with the opening of Coffman’s sixth office in Guam.

A press release included the statement: “Coffman Engineers has managed to thrive as a company despite the poor economy of the past few years. This is due to our diversity with our office locations, the markets in which we work, and the services we provided,” said Coffman Engineer’s founder and CEO Dave Coffman.

Coldwater Creek selects a woman to head the company, starting Jan. 1

Sandpoint women's clothing retailer Coldwater Creek did an interesting thing on Wednesday. It appointed a woman as the next CEO.

The women's apparel retailer said its co-founder and CEO Dennis Pence will retire at the end of 2012.

Jill Brown Dean, the current president and chief merchandise buyer,  will take over as CEO on Jan. 1.

The company reported a smaller-than-expected third quarter loss, helped by higher comparable premium retail store sales and improved margins. In after hour trading Wednesday, the stock moved upward, approaching the $5 mark for the first time in a long while.

Normal Wednesday trading closed at $4.87 on the Nasdaq.

Coldwater Creek has been posting losses for more than two years. It has been losing out to larger rivals such as Chico's FAS  and Ann Taylor Stores Corp.

Mike Edwards takes a new job as top director of the Chicago Loop Alliance

Michael Edwards, who was CEO of the Downtown Spokane Partnership before taking a similar job in Pittsburgh, will become the head economic development director for Chicago's downtown Loop district.

Edwards will be the executive director of the Chicago Loop Alliance, Edwards, 53, will be charge of economic development efforts for the Loop, Chicago’s downtown business core. He will oversee a budget of $2.7 million and a staff of seven.

In 2005 Edwards took the head job at the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. He remained there for six years, returning to Spokane last year.

In the past year, Edwards moved back to Washington and served as an economic development consultant, most recently for the City of Spokane.

Edwards starts the new job this week.

Edwards is a member of the International Downtown Association and National Parks and Recreation Association, and holds a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Pittsburgh.

Michael Edwards, who was CEO of the Downtown Spokane Partnership before taking a similar job in Pittsburgh, has landed an economic development job in Chicago.

Edwards will be the executive director of the Chicago Loop Alliance, Edwards, 53, will be charge of economic development efforts for the Loop, Chicago’s downtown business core. He will oversee a budget of $2.7 million and a staff of seven.

In 2005 Edwards took the head job at the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. He remained there for six years, returning to Spokane last year.

In the past year, Edwards moved back to Washington and served as an economic development consultant, most recently for the City of Spokane.

Edwards starts the new job this week.

Edwards is a member of the International Downtown Association and National Parks and Recreation Association, and holds a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Pittsburgh.

TierPoint receives partner award for its use of industry-leading net defenses

TierPoint, the Liberty Lake-based data center and hosting service originally launched by tech guru Bernard Daines, got a little recognition this month.

It was named the Fortinet 2012 VIP Partner of the Year for North America.

A press release noted the award is for outstanding achievement and is awarded annually to some of Fortinet’s more than 1,000 distributors and resellers around the world.

TierPoint, which was acquired in May by Cequel Data Centers, is a Fortinet Platinum Partner and has established a growing presence in the education, retail, medical, and enterprise markets as a leader in managed security services, in addition to traditional data center and cloud services.

In short, that means Fortinet is used by TierPoint to help its data hosted companies be protected from security break-ins and cyber attacks.

Itron’s next CEO offers management ideas online, via HBR.org

On Monday Itron Inc. announced that Philip Mezey, who's been at Itron since 2003, will step into the CEO and president's role at the end of the year. He's taking over for LeRoy Nosbaum, who is retiring for the second time in three years.

Nosbaum retired in 2009 and then came back in late 2011 to fill in as interim CEO. Nosbaum said at the time he would help until the next CEO of Itron was found.

Mezey, 52, joined Itron after being one of the principals at Silicon Energy, which Itron acquired in early 2003. He was VP of product development for the company, which developed apps and software tools for large customers and utilities.

Mezey said in an interview this week he knows the CEO job at Itron is demanding. The job he's held at Itron, COO of the energy group, has kept him busy traveling. “Traveling is pretty much my full-time job,” Mezey said. The CEO's job will be just as itinerant.

When he doesn't travel, those days he considers his happy breaks from the routine.

He's busy enough that Mezey doesn't have a home in the Spokane area, he said. He still maintains a home in Northern California, where Silicon Energy was based.

As a stroke of timing, Harvard Business Review's online site Monday ran an opinion piece today by Mezey, titled “A New CEO's Reinvention Road Map.” Mezey offers comments there on why he subscribes to the notion that a company has to balance maintaining its core assets while also committing to making big changes.

All I know is, if I worked at Itron, I'd go to the HBR site and post some serious apple-polishing comments. Seriously, guys, here's your new CEO offering some major thoughts and as of Tuesday, not one person has posted a response.

You can thank me later for the suggestion.

Larry Krauter, CEO of Spokane Airports to speak at Executive Connect breakfast

Spokane Airport CEO Larry Krauter is the next speaker for the Nov. 27  Executive Connect Breakfast.

The session starts at 7:30 and runs till 9 a.m. at the Spokane Club.

Spokane International Airport, at 4,800 acres, is the second largest airport in Washington. The airport board also manages Felts Field, a 400-acre general reliever airport that is home to over 320 aircraft and 49 tenants.

Registration is $30. Do that here.

Spokane County postpones its first online tax-delinquent parcel auction

Spokane County will postpone its first online auction of tax-delinquent properties until March.

In an effort to help more people bid on the properties, the county announced the first online auction for Dec. 3-4.  The auction will be for about 100 properties for which taxes have gone unpaid for three or more years, said County Treasurer Rob Chase.

A press release noted the postponement is due to the county’s anticipated expenses related to the holidays and winter weather.

Itron selects from inside, choosing Philip Mezey to replace LeRoy Nosbaum

About 20 months ago Itron (based in Liberty Lake) announced Malcolm Unsworth would take over as CEO from longtime top guy LeRoy Nosbaum.

That didn't last too long. In September 2011 the company board brought back Nosbaum and asked him to right the ship. Nosbaum said at the time he'd only be aboard as long as it took to get results and help find a successor.

Monday the board chose the successor, Phillip Mezey, who has been with Itron since 2003 and has been 2003. president and chief operating officer for Itron’s Global Energy segment since March 2011.

The 2009 photo above is one of Unsworth on the left, Mezey on the right. Mezey was not yet head of Global Energy at Itron.  Does anyone know where Unsworth is today?

Itron is a maker of software, services and meters for electric, gas and electric utilities.

Nosbaum steps down agains on Dec. 31 but will remain a consultant with Itron and assist Mezey as he moves on with the job. Mezey will also become board president after Jan. 1.

Investors remain concerned and hopeful; in 2010 Itron shares lifted off into the high $70 range and then started a long retreat. In fall of 2011 the price per share dropped to around $34.

Since then, the share price is up, but only in the $40-41 range, and investors and customers are hoping to see Itron battle back and have Mezey work some magic with new deals and with existing customers.

Walmart and Target workers raising concerns about Thanksgiving sales

So the retail season has a little drama developing this week.
It's the increasing concern by some parts of the business world that stores that open on Thanksgiving are turning into Scrooge, forcing employees to give up one of the entitled holidays most Americans enjoy.

To continue the literary analogy, the players taking the role of Bob Cratchit are employees from Target and Walmart.

Here is a summary of the two similar efforts gaining steam as the Thanksgiving drama unfolds:

Some Walmart workers across the country are considering either striking or takingother actions during Thanksgiving week.

Those workers are predicting as many as 1,000 protests at Walmart stores leading up to Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday. Workers announced upcoming strikes and protests in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, Washington, D.C., as well as workers' plans to walk off the job in Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana and Minnesota. 

The Walmart concern goes beyond early shopping. Reports say concerned Walmart workers are protesting poor working conditions, higher benefits costs, efforts to block people of color, and retaliation against workers advocating for changes in these areas. Some also have said the “Black Thanksgiving” early shopping start before Black Friday is disruptive for many families wishing to enjoy the holiday with relatives.

Then there's the ongoing effort by workers to urge Target to change plans to open at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving eve.

One Target employee, Casey St. Clair, recently delivered more than 350,000 signatures from her Change.org petition to the company's headquarters in Minneapolis. Along with several local Target customers and community faith leaders, St. Clair brought the signatures to the office of Target President & CEO Gregg Steinhafel in several boxes.



  

The 10 Commandments of Black Friday shopping, developed by Mint.com

Yes, we favor small business and local small shopping over chain shopping.

But since that's not everyone's choice, we'll offer up an infographic produced by Mint that alleges to be the Commandments of Black Friday.

A week from Small Business Saturday — consider shopping small this holiday

As the holiday shopping season looms, let's look local:

Starting on Thanksgiving, Spokane city meters will be a little less costly.  Parking is free all-day on Thanksgiving, then through Jan. 1, the city is cutting us a break, requiring meters to be plugged through 5 p.m., instead of 7 p.m.

Also of interest is the Nov. 24 recognition as Small Business Saturday, which invites us all to call attention to  small businesses in Spokane that deserve our patronage.

Everyone says it — that small business is the heart of the economy. Let's help by focusing on those small area businesses over the next several weeks.

The SBA's Small Business Saturday website is at http://www.sba.gov/saturday. The site provides tips for holiday marketing, hiring temporary workers and gearing up for the holiday season. It also includes information for participating in Small Business Saturday.

The American Independent Business Alliance claims money spent at local small businesses generates 3.7 times more direct local economic benefit than spending at chains.

Research done by Civic Economics, an economic development consulting firm, also suggests that cities or towns that help local and independent businesses prosper tend to have a more vibrant community.

Physical Therapy Associates opens doors on Monday at new South Hill clinic


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Physical Therapy Associates has completed its move into new offices at 2507 E. 27th on Spokane’s South Hill.

The company has operated for more than 20 years at an office on South Grand Blvd. The move, to a clinic with 9,200 square feet, nearly triples its room for therapy and health classes, said co-owner Kelly Risse. The undeveloped property at the corner of 27th and Southeast Blvd. was sold by the Garabedian family for about $322,000.

The clinic has a staff of 20, including five physical theratpists, trainers, assistants and a pool specialist who helps clients use the new treatment pool. That pool includes two underwater treadmills.

“We really wanted to move toward complete health care for our patients,” he said. The clinic includes a studio for yoga and TRX classes.

The new office will operate five days a week, Risse said.

Mike Craven of Regulus Properties was the project manager. Matthew Collins of Uptick Studio was the project architect.

That guy tearing down Cyrus O’Leary’s looks familiar. Didn’t he do this before?

Who is the guy at the controls of the excavator tearing up the old Cyrus O'Leary's restaurant in downtown Spokane?

It's Louis (Louie) Ray. The owner of Ray's Demolition has been there before. Read the story in Thursday's Spokesman-Review.

Photo by COLIN MULVANY

Synaptics paid $15 million in June when it purchased N. Idaho startup Pacinian

Back in June this year Silicon Valley input-interface company Synaptics Inc. acquired North Idaho startup Pacinian. The company has designed very thin and very responsive keypads and input devices.

At the time the purchase price wasn't disclosed.

The latest Synaptics 10-Q lists the price as $15.0 million. But shareholders, including several area venture fund investors, will also stand to get additional returns under some “contingency” events listed in the deal.

Up to $11.9 million more would go to former stockholders based on the number of units using the ThinTouch design that are shipped.  For instance, Synaptics states that $5.0 million will be paid to former Pacinian stockholders upon “customer acceptance of a ThinTouch product,” and up to $10.0 milloin of additional consideration based on a “certain rate for each unit shipped” using ThinTouch technology through June 2016.

Our take: let's pull for ThinTouch. Any cash coming here from Synaptics will be a nice bit of stimulus funding.

         

GSI hosts Thursday BizStreet session on digital marketing strategies

Marketing works. But how best to market in a digital world?

GSI is looking for ways to help area business owners answer the question.

Later this week — Thursday — it's hosting a session termed “Online Marketing, Taking the Next Step.”

The three hour BizStreet Intensive features Chris Reilly of Unleashed Online Marketing  and Ed Reese of Sixth Man Marketing. Spokesman.com did a feature on Ed a few years ago.

The two will describe options for businesses to maximize online presence and marketing. It starts with a coffee warmup at 7:30 a.m. and runs from 8 to 11 a.m. at the GSI first floor meeting room, 801 W. Riverside Ave.

You should register ahead of time, by going here: REGISTER.

It costs $30 for GSI Members / $50 for non-members.

In three weeks, swoop down — online — on the county’s tax-delinquent properties


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Anyone out there want to buy the old YWCA building downtown, across from the Ridpath?

Circle Dec. 3 and Dec. 4 on your calendars. Those are Spokane County's first delinquent-tax property auction, done entirely online instead of at the courthouse.

Our earlier story (last week) disclosed all the key details. The county is using a Maryland firm, Bid4Assets.com, to manage and run the online bidding.

BIdders need to register with Bid4Assets and verify a valid credit card.

Among the offerings is the once-busy YWCA building at the northwest corner of Stevens and First (shown in the Google Streetview image).

Today, it's vacant and looking for a good owner.

The full list of the properties to be auctioned can be found online here.  Bidding price will start with the past-due taxes and fees, plus the $150 fee that the county must pay Bid4Assets. Anything above that reserve amount goes to the property owner.

Waste Management kicks in $18 million and recycling here gets a big upgrade

Spokane's waste-to-recycled products industry has been a little slow to catch up with the rest of the country.

But it is evolving. Spokane and surrounding communities like Spokane Valley, Liberty Lake and Post Falls have recently opted into the expanded recycling program launched recently by Waste Management Inc.

Sunday's story about the WM location, near the Waste to Energy Plant on Spokane's West Plains, gave a detailed look at how that waste is sorted, sifted, screened, divided, rolled and baled and shipped to processors.

It's a big deal. WM spent about $18 million to build the plant, plus hired about 35 people to operate it.

A telling piece of information: when operating at normal speed, the plant processes about 11 pounds of waste per second.

Photo: Dan Pelle / Spokesman-Review

Total Wine opens one store and says it’s not done, and watch out, Costco

Lots of folk hereabouts are excited about the new Total Wine store, on Newport Highway in north Spokane.

Those who aren't are probably working at Costco.

The gigantic Total Wine operation is the gorilla that Costco should have seen coming when Costco spent millions in recent years to get the state out of the liquor business.  While Costco will no doubt make some gains in that new market, Total Wine is clearly going to take away a lot of it and keep it. It is, without a doubt, the nation's largest retailer of spirits based on total volume sold.

Company owner David Trone came to Spokane for last week's opening, and he said another location is on the way, in the Spokane Valley.

Total Wine, he added, will try to clean Costco's clock on pricing and choices in the liquor business.

And meanwhile, Amazon.com just announced it also wants to start selling wine nationally with its online store.

That Amazon online store just opened last week. No reports yet on how good a job it's doing providing good selections and solid delivery. Later this week Office Hours will do some price shopping to see how that store compares.

Do you love those new blue recycling containers for curbside pickup?

Friday's a short snow day at Office Hours.

So, do you love your new Blue Cart, the 62-gallon containers area cities are giving residents to recycle more of their household stuff?

You can learn more about what happens to all that stuff when it gets hauled out to the Waste Management facility that opened in October. Look for the Sunday stor on that new MRF (materials recycling facility) at Spokesman.com, on Nov. 11.

And let us add: Happy Holidays to all, even if it's way too early.

County preparing to have an online auction of properties in foreclosure

About 100 parcels or buildings are scheduled to be auctioned off Dec. 3-4 in the first-ever Spokane County online auction.

The county sells off properties that have a three-year backlog of unpaid taxes, fees and interest.  But usually those have happened at live auctions at the Spokane County Courthouse.

The full story appeared earlier today on Spokesman.com.

Among the properties are five parcels that are part of or near the distressed Ridpath Hotel block.

David Blaine launches soft opening of Kendall Yards restaurant


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Today marks the soft opening of Central Food, the new eatery in Kendall Yards. Central Food is the only current eatery in Kendall Yards, the large mixed-use development on the north side of the Spokane River west of the Monroe Street Bridge.

Chef David Blaine has been putting together the new business in the Cedar Plaza building directly north of the state Court of Appeals. Formal address is 1335 W. Summit Parkway (315-3086).

Blaine, the former chef at Latah Bistro, hasn't said when the formal opening will be. This week's launch is all about testing the kitchen, tuning the dishes and working out service concerns.

Our last story about Central Food was in August.  Our announcement story ran June 7. Blaine said the restaurant is still hiring.

Greenstone is the developer of the Kendall Yards project.

GU hoop stars Stepp and Dickau will be on hand for Dick’s Sporting Goods gala

The young folks are happy now that Spokane Valley got an H&M store. Big news there.

Now the rest of the Inland Northwest gets something to celebrate: the opening on Wednesday of the new Dick's Sporting Goods store.

Why is this big? Dick's (we didn't know this before) is the largest U.S.-based full-line sporting goods retailer.

The outdoor retailer's store is also in the Spokane Valley Mall, which has to be happy that it's landed both Dick's and H&M.

The store is hosting a sports celebrity weekend celebration. Former GU hoop stat Blake Stepp will be on hand from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday.

On Sunday, Dan Dickau, another Zag hall of famer, will come by from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

A press release noted the Spokane store is the retailer's third in Washington and its 518th nationwide.

GreenCupboards, three other firms on Seattle Business list of state’s Green 50

A Seattle business magazine has added Spokane's GreenCupboards, to its 2012 Washington Green 50 list.

The list is described as Washington's top sustainable organizations and businesses.

A total of four companies from Spokane made the list. The other three are Avista Utilities, plus Itron Inc. and Demand Energy, a startup in Liberty Lake.

Tove Tupper, GreenCupboard's marketing director, noted that this listing is the first recognition for the company by Seattle Business

The full list is available here.

GreenCupboards was also a finalist in the retail and consumer category, taking second place. Other companies in the retail and consumer category included Brooks Sports and Alaska Airlines.

The company started four years ago and recently moved into offices at the McKinstry Innovation Center, east of downtown Spokane.

GreenCupboards has been on a growth tear lately; in the past two years it's expanded from 14 employees to 55 employees.

Where do your old blue city recycling bins end up? Here’s where

In the next week The SR will give readers a close-hand view of the new Waste Management SMaRT recycling center, at 2902 S. Geiger Blvd.

That's where the county's residents are sending their recycables, now being collected in those new blue single-stream curbside bins.

Among the tons of garbage being processed there are the old blue bins that Spokane city residential waste customers were using. Here's how they look when squashed and baled. The bales will go to regional recyclers for reuse.

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Scott Maben Scott Maben is a Deputy City Editor who covers North Idaho news and higher education.

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