Archive for October 2012
Key Tronic Corp. had record quarterly revenue for the first quarter of fiscal 2013. The Spokane Valley contract manufacturer has been on a slow and steady roll. It keeps winning customers and hanging onto their business.
Total quarterly revenue came to $97.5 million, up 40 percent from $69.8 million in the same period from fiscal 2012.
It had income of $3.7 million or 35 cents per diluted share, up 200 percent from $1.2 million or 12 cents per diluted share for the same period of fiscal year 2012. Key Tronic's 1Q 2013 earnings were not the best ever, said company VP Ron Klawitter.
The stock, traded on NASDAQ, duly popped this morning. Here's the chart as of noon East Coast Time. The chart is just for Oct. 31. The dip in price happened around 10 a.m., followed by a strong rise afterward.
Late notice, but something worth considering this afternoon.
Spokane Area Workforce Development Council, plus the CleenNW trade group and Launchpad INW are hosting a community discussion this afternoon from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Lincoln Center, 1316 N. Lincoln.
The focus will be on the need for workers with clean-tech skills for regional green tech companies.
Panelists announced include Bruce Folsom, Avista's director of energy efficiency programming, Rhosetta Rhodes, from Whitworth University, Kim Pearman-Gillman, business development director of McKinstry, and Rich Marll, senior director of HR at Itron.
Sign up at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The newsy part of last Saturday's business story on Spokane Industries was the report of a record harvest for grapes in Washington state.
According to Erica Waliser of the Washington State Wine Commission, 2012 will break the harvest record: 190,000 tons of grapes will be harvested, topping 2010's 160,000 tons.
The PDF at the bottom of the page is the commission's well-written economic impact summary for our wine industry. Page 24 has numbers on the volume of wine produced.
If you didn't see the Saturday story about Spokane Industries, here's the link and the top five graphs:
It’s a banner year for winemakers and wine drinkers: The Washington State Wine Commission says 2012 will be the largest grape crush ever, with 190,000 tons of grapes harvested.
A big beneficiary of that boom is Spokane Valley manufacturer Spokane Industries.
Once each workday, the privately owned company sends one of its custom-made stainless steel wine vessels out the door to a winery in Central or Western Washington.
These aren’t ordinary steel tanks: They’re roughly 15 feet across and 28 feet high. They hold about 32,000 gallons and weigh, on average, almost 9,000 pounds.
Company President Greg Tenold said Spokane Industries expects even more orders for the tanks, based on the booming regional wine industry.
“We’ve been fortunate. We are the leader servicing the winemaking industry,” he said.
Downtown Spokane bicycle shop Two Wheel Transit Bicycles is moving in November to a new retail store in the South Perry Street district.
The move from 1405 W. First Ave. to about 5,000 square feet at 817 S. Perry, in the northern portion of the HiCo Market building, has been anticipated for months.
Owners Geoff Forshag and Bruce Abbots are closing the current store on Nov. 9 and opening the new store Nov. 13.
Forshag said the move will allow the store to provide more usable space and more customer amenities. Those include a kids' bike area, a bike fitting studio, a larger retail area and larger mechanics spaces.
So what really kept the Spokane Fox Affiliate off DirecTV for about nine weeks?
One story running today in the SR said it came down to a contractual dispute over money.
Jon Rand, an executive with Northwest Broadcasting, parent firm of KAYU-Fox 28, said that the real reason wasn't the payment plan — AKA the carriage fee, which is paid to the station based on some specific amount per subscriber in the market.
The real issue was the aggressive effort, he said, by DirecTV to establish a “most favored nation” clause in their contract. We'll get to that in a minute. Here's the official statement by KAYU:
It is with great excitement that FOX 28 announces they have reached an agreement with DIRECTV!
As of 5 p.m. Oct. 26, FOX 28 returned to the DIRECTV line-up. DIRECTV viewers are now able to watch their favorite FOX 28 programming including Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men, the X Factor and the World Series.
“We are thrilled to be able to return FOX 28 programming to the DIRECTV schedule and are very grateful to our viewers for their patience and loyalty,” said General Manager of FOX 28, Doug Holroyd. “We also want to remind all of our viewers that FOX 28 is a broadcast television station and a beautiful HD signal can be seen over-the-air for free.”
Back when this battle started, Northwest Broadcasting's Rand summarized the key issue this way:
“DirecTV’s allegation of gigantic price increases does not hold water in this case, since price was not the core issue that shot the agreement with Northwest down.”
Here's the short version of what held things up, at least as reported by Northwest Broadcasting:
DirecTV wanted a “most favored nation” clause that guaranteed it would get a rate as good or better as any KAYU signed with other providers.
Then DirecTV also wanted this to be retroactive, back to January 2011.
Northwest Broadcasting balked at that request. And even now no one will say if they backed down, to help get the World Series broadcasts back on DirecTV.
Asked to comment on the settlement or explain how the sides resolved the issues, a DirecTV spokesman declined to give a reason.
Meanwhile, Rand suggested, in an email, that it was DirecTV who finally changed its stance: “The World Series seemed to motivate DirecTV this week.”
The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) on Thursday approved requests by the state’s four investor-owned natural gas companies, including Avista Utilities, to reduce heating rates for customers beginning Nov. 1.
Natural gas companies in Washington are required to adjust rates periodically to reflect changes in wholesale prices. More than half to about two-thirds of a customer’s monthly bill is attributable to the cost of natural gas on which the company is not allowed to earn a profit.
The remaining 33 to 45 percent of the monthly bill covers the cost of delivering the natural gas.
Avista’s typical Eastern Washington residential customer using 68 therms will see a drop of 4.3 percent, or $2.58 a month, for a revised bill of $58.18.
The average residential customer of southwest Washington’s Northwest Natural Gas Co. (NWNG) using 55 therms will see a savings of about 7.7 percent, or $4.82 a month.
All four utilities may see adjustments to the new rates. UTC staff will review wholesale costs and purchasing and hedging practices of the four firms to insure they are appropriate in current market conditions.
The commission decision on Avista’s natural gas rate request is separate from the general rate case filed by the company in April. The UTC is expected to make a final decision in that proceeding next March.
The utilities distribute natural gas to customers but do not produce their own fuel. About half of Washington’s natural gas supplies come from the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia and the other half from Rocky Mountain production sites such as Wyoming.
Avista serves more than 149,000 natural gas customers, primarily in Eastern Washington.
Liberty Lake-based STCU is ranked 16th-best place to work in Fortune magazine’s rankings of medium-sized U.S. companies.
STCU is the third-largest credit union in Washington and the largest credit union in the Inland Northwest. It has 110,000 members with branches in Eastern Washington and North Idaho.
The Best Places to Work ranking at cnnmoney.com praises STCU for a culture of celebration, fun and commitment to employees. The review noted STCU provides a tuition reimbursement for its staff of up to $8,225 per year for related studies.
“It allows parents to take time off for their kids' first day of kindergarten and first grade, as well as for parent-teacher conferences,” the magazine said.
The top-ranked medium-sized business in the ranking was Acuity, an insurance company based in Sheboygan, Wis. A total of 25 companies are listed.
Fortune's lists also include the annual 100 Best Companies to Work For. Northwest companies on that list include: Perkins Coie law firm, No. 58; Nordstrom, No. 61; Umpqua Bank in Portland, No. 69; Starbucks, No. 73,, Microsoft, No. 76; Everett Clinic, No. 87; and Schweitzer Engineering, No. 97.
Spokane's Red Lion Hotels Corp. said Wednesday it's closed a $13 million sale of its Red Lion Hotel Denver Southeast.
This past August the publicly traded hospitality company announced it had entered an agreement with the likely buyer.
Wednesday's announcement identified the buyer: Pandey Hotel Denver LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Pandey Hotel Corporation, the US division of CP Group New Zealand..
CEO and President Jon E. Eliassen said, in a release: “The sale of our Denver hotel helps us reduce debt and invest in our owned hotels in a manner which is meaningful to both guests and shareholders.”
The just-sold former Red Lion Hotel Denver Southeast has 478 rooms and 25,000 square feet of meeting space. It's near Cherry Creek State Park and has scenic views of the Rocky Mountains and downtown Denver.
The company that closed C.I. Shenanigans said it wants to reopen in Spokane but is having trouble finding the right spot.
RAM International CEO Jeff Iverson said Spokane’s been a good market for Shenanigans, which operated for 32 years near the Spokane River just north of the Spokane Convention Center. The restaurant closed abruptly on Oct. 13.
Iverson knew this was the final year for Shenanigans at the spot it's had, north of the Spokane Convention Center next to the Spokane River.
Spokane's Public Facilities District bought the restaurant property in 2010. It now plans to demolish the resaturant this coming spring to expand the convention center.
PFD CEO Kevin Twohig said RAM was told its property lease would not be renewed beyond early 2013.
RAM, based in Lynnwood, Wash., never gave Twohig advance notice it was closing, Twohig said.
He said he assumed the eatery would stay open through December.
Iverson said he never told his employees it would remain open that long.
He also said the company is finding that another downtown location may not make sense.
Downtown Spokane now is “a bit saturated” with eateries competing for diners, he said. Also, the popularity of neighborhood food places further takes away some of the appeal of downtown dining, he said.
“We haven’t found anything” that meets the criteria the company has for an alternate location, Iverson said.
Iverson acknowledged the closure led to “a lot of emotions” directed at his company. He also said he is not willing to rehash the series of events that led to the closure.
“What I can say is we always try to do the best thing we can for our company and our people,” Iverson said.
Tuesday's state number for Spokane County unemployment led to a story that noted September's 8.2 percent is the lowest for this area since 2009.
Specifically, since March 2009. In that month the rate was 8.6 percent. Since then, the rates all were in the high 8s or 9s.
That March 2009 number was the “seasonally adjusted” jobless rate.
However, if you ask Doug Tweedy, the state labor economist for Spokane, the last time our jobless rate was as low was actually December 2008.
He prefers the seasonally nonadjusted rate for Spokane County's jobless rate.
Which is the better number? Beats the heck out of me.
The state uses seasonal adjustments to account for built-in swings and shifts in employment due to seasonal trends. Such as resorts hiring in the summer, or schools bringing workers back on in the fall.
But Tweedy said the adjusted number has been impacted by being baselined against a series of disruptive recessionary job numbers, and that affects the reliability of that measure.
He also noted that he's found the adjusted number is sometimes better and sometimes worse in trying to find an accurate unemployment rate.
Anyone care to sound off on this topic?
You can still start that company this year, if you sharpen your venture capital pitch.
Connect Northwest will help you sharpen the pitch at its next public meeting, from 2:30 to 5 p.m. Tuesday Oct. 30, at the McKinstry Innovation Center, on the east side of downtown.
The pitch clinic will be hosted by members of the Spokane Angel Alliance and others. The Angel Alliance has been an active promoter of Spokane-based investment planning and business formation. The session at McKinstry will focus on the basics of angel financing and how to approach investors to maximize results.
The workshop will provide:
Cost is $45. And you can register here: http://cnwpitchclinic103012.eventbrite.com/
Needless to say, the story about Avista Corp. offering buyouts to most of its workers, which ran online Tuesday, caught lots of attention. It engendered dozens of comments as well, covering the usual spectrum.
In case you want to know how generous (or not) the buyout from Avista is, we'll provide you the document sent around earlier this week. It's the full two-pager, but it's not necessarily the final version. As Avista moves forward, it's possible some of the terms may change slightly.
Anyway, this is how it reads: Look for link below this box; document is a PDF. You will need Acrobat Reader, Foxit Reader or some other PDF viewer to read it.
Spokane's Fruci and Associates accounting firm has purchased MartinelliMick PLLC, one of its Spokane financial services competitors.
MartinelliMick will become a subsidiary of Fruci and Associates, a release noted.
Fruci has been in the Spokane area for more than 70 years, working from offices in downtown.
It specializes in tax and accounting services.
MartinelliMick principals Melanie Sexton Mick and John Webster will join the company as partners, the release noted. The company was formed in 2011.
The acquisition gives Fruci and Associates additional resources to serve the public and private sector in financial services. MartinelliMick has specialized in offering auditing services to publically traded companies and companies considering an initial public offering.
The release noted that only a few Spokane area firms are able to offer auditing services to the publicly traded companies.
Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.
The unemployment rate in Idaho fell to 7.1 percent in September, the lowest rate since May 2009 and down from 7.4 percent in August.
But the state also has seen its labor force shrink four straight months, including the first August-September decline since the 1986 recession, the Idaho Department of Labor said Friday.
Employers in Idaho expanded payrolls last month at a higher rate than in the past five years, and at a slightly faster pace than during the expansion of 2003-07, the state reported.
Another 1,200 workers were on the job in September, pushing total employment to 720,600 – its highest level in four years – and breaking a two-month employment slide.
The jobless rate last month fell to 9 percent in Kootenai County; it was 11.5 percent a year ago. The rate hit 8.1 percent in Coeur d’Alene last month, down from 10.7 percent in September 2011.
Elsewhere in North Idaho, the September rate was 12.4 percent in Benewah County, 10.3 percent in Bonner County, 10.2 percent in Boundary County, and 12.1 percent in Shoshone County.
A little extra information for you, related to Thursday's news story about the Pearson Packaging acquisition of LA-based Moen Industries.
While the terms of the purchase are not disclosed, the overall sales figures for Pearson and Moen are worth noting.
In 2011 Moen registered sales in the $5 million to $10 million range. It was probably closer to the lower number.
Pearson in 2011 brought in a bit over $41 million. The whole goal of the deal, said Mike Senske, CEO of Pearson, was to broaden the company's product line. Moen has done some impressive work in desiging equipment and selling machinest that make Bliss-box containers; Bliss boxes are packages used by many food companies such as Kraft, Senske said.
Before the acqusition the general headcount for Pearson was 135. The deal will add about 10 to 12 jobs at its West Plains location, Senske added.
It was a challenge putting together today's news story, on page A1, about the incentives offered to businesses or homeowners installing solar energy panels. A challenge because there's a good deal of variety and complexity among the federal and state incentives.
One very helpful website for those interested in all those incentives and options is www.dsireusa.org. The name stands for Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency. Good site.
Some numbers that came from the research:
The first Spokane Total Wine & More retail store will open Nov. 2, the Maryland-based company announced.
The business will move into the 25,000-square foot building at 9980 N. Newport Highway last used by Borders Books, which closed in 2010.
Since state voters approved an initiative allowing private liquor sales, Total Wine and other large retailers have opened stores in Washington’s largest metros.
Another national liquor retailer, BevMo, has also said it is considering opening a Spokane location.
The NorthPointe Total Wine will be open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
We received the following release about film crews coming to North Idaho's Silverwood Theme Park to shoot footage for a 2013 Halloween special:
North of Coeur d'Alene, ID – The Travel Channel will be filming portions of Scarywood throughout Silverwood Theme Park on Wednesday, Oct. 24 for a special segment airing in next year's episode of “Halloween's Scariest Thrills.”
Scarywood has been chosen as one of the top 24 in the nation!
Their focus will be Timber Terror running backwards, The Zombiewood Express Train Ride, as well as, the numerous other attractions and scare zones at Scarywood.
Their producers have asked us to identify a number of guests who would be willing to interview with them and talk about Scarywood on camera. If you’re at Scarywood Wednesday, Oct. 24, and you see the camera crew, don’t hesitate to ask the Scarywood staff person if you can interview.
That is all.
This should be, if all goes well, our final post related to Mean Hamster Software, and its recent demise. We wrote about it three weeks ago, highlighting the issues that forced the tech company's CEO, John Swiderski, to shut it down.
Last week we posted that Swiderski struggled to find a decent-paying tech job in the Spokane area. He ended up taking a job with Seattle-based DoubleDown, a virtual casino company.
We asked Swiderski what happened to the eight workers he had in Deer Park. What happened to them?
The answer: one moved to the Tri-Cities, two moved to Oregon, one moved to California, one moved to Seattle for a job.
“For the other three, I am not sure and am checking,” Swiderski wrote by email.
Rosa Pizza owner Brad Barsness said he plans to open his first Spokane pizza place in four to six weeks.
Barsness has operated two pizza take-out-or-deliver places in Cheney and in Airway Heights.
The first Spokane Rosa Pizza is going into 1,300 square feet at 3422 N. Division.
Barsness said he's considered getting a Spokane location for a while. “I finally decided to take advantage of it,” he said.
The new shop will be open daily and employ 15 people, he added.
Don Jamieson represented landlord Harlan Douglass and Brian Anderson represented Barsness. Both work with Spokane's NAI Black agency.
John Swiderski, the Deer Park business man who started and recently had to shut down Mean Hamster Software, has taken a job in Seattle with an online gaming company.
We wrote about Swiderski and the Mean Hamster demise last month. In a world of apps, Mean Hamster got to the point where it wasn't able to compete with much smaller or in many cases much larger software firms.
Swiderski has been hired to be “casino producer” for DoubleDown.com, a Seattle company that calls itself “the world's largest virtual casino.”
After shutting down the Deer Park company, Swiderski said he struggled to find a like-paying job in the Spokane area. He took a job for a week with Glyph Language Services, a downtown Spokane tech firm. That lasted a week. Swiderski said he had to accept the job offer from Double Down, as it paid far more than Glyph did.
And the new job is more challenging, Swiderski said in an email.
We'll post later on how succesful Swiderski's eight last Mean Hamster workers are in finding new jobs.
Those folks who battled to save the old and historic Jensen Byrd Building had their main victory last month when Campus Advantage decided to fold up and dropped plans to tear the building down. The company had signed an agreement in late 2010 with WSU to tear down the brick building and replace it with a multistory campus housing structure.
This week the next shoe fell, even though few “heard” the impact.
On Tuesday the City of Spokane officially concluded the process of revoking the demolition permit that had been issued to a demo firm hired by Texas-based Campus Advantage. The initial plans to tear down the building might have started as early as this past summer if opponents hadn't filed appeals challenging the validity of the demo permit.
The revocation at this point is mostly a symbolic moment; since Campus Advantage had already backed out of the deal.
But there was still some time left for the parties involved, including WSU, to appeal the city's permit revocation. That deadline for the revocation appeal was Oct. 10.
In any event, the status of the old warehouse building near downtown is this: WSU still owns it. WSU has the right to sell it to anyone, and even decide to demolish it if it wants to (with some conditions attached).
As of last month, WSU's position was holding pat and waiting. Spokane developer Ron Wells has continued trying to convince WSU officials that he has a viable development plan, that would include commercial and residential units.
Earlier this week Seattle-based Tully's Coffee announced it's going to file bankruptcy and reorganize to cut operating expenses.
Spokane has three area Tully's coffee shops: Browne's Addition, South Hill (on 29th) and on 104 S. Freya.
Heidi Happonen, a spokeswoman, said the reorganization will not affect those three locations.
Whew, that's a relief. Need us plenty of coffee places here in Spokane if we're going to compete with the bigger cities.
Ready for a little more Walmart?
Wal-Mart Stores will open its second Spokane Valley location on Oct. 17. That's next Wednesday.
The new store, on East Sprague, is
east west of the Costco store on Sprague.
It plans to have roughly 350 full- and part-time workers, according to a company news release.
The average wage for full-time hourly workers is $13 per hour, the company said.
It will have 148,000 square feet of space and will be open 24 hours a day.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony at 7:30 a.m. will open the store, followed by checks handed out to a number of local groups, including Greater Spokane Meals on Wheels and Spokane Valley Partners.
Verizon Wireless has announced its expanding its 4G LTE network in Spokane.
An announcement noted that the Spokane market is part of 37 cities who will now have even-wider coverage of high-speed LTE (long term evolution) connectivity.
It also announced it's introducing 4G LTE service in Walla Walla.
Still responding to investors urging the company to shake itself free of underperforming assets, Red Lion Hotels Corp. announced a new Sacramento franchise has joined the company brand.
The Red Lion Hotel Woodlake Conference Center Sacramento has officially converted to the Red Lion.
The owner is Kumar Sharma of Shri Vinayaka Hotel, Inc. He was quoted saying, “Rebranding the hotel to Red Lion is the next step in marketing this property to its full potential.” The deal came out of an earlier sale of a Red Lion-owned property to Sharma's firm. That other hotel, the former Red Lion at Arden Village, is now part of Sharma's hotel operations.
In exchange, Sharma agreed to franchise the Woodlake hotel.
The full-service hotel has 306 guest rooms, 60,000 square feet of meeting space, a fitness center and an outdoor pool.
As it continues working toward a focused balance of franchises and owned properties, Red Lion is also listing for sale hotels in Medford, Missoula, Denver and Pendleton.
Early holiday gift planning idea:
Spokane’s Dry Fly Distilling is releasing four new spirits around Dec. 1, and expects them to sell out within two weeks.
Started in 2007, Dry Fly has gradually added more choices to its initial group of two retail offerings — vodka and gin.
Around Dec. 1, the privately held distillery will start selling bottles of Port Finish Wheat Whiskey, Straight Triticale Whiskey, Cask Strength Wheat Whiskey and Barrel Reserve Gin.
The first and last are distilled versions of existing blends but using oak barrels to add more taste and variety to the flavor, said co-owner Don Poffenroth.
The Cask Strength Whiskey is Dry Fly’s wheat whiskey but distilled to 120 proof and not the current 80-proof variety. Poffenroth said. That makes the whiskey better for mixed drinks. “You can use less and still get its bolder flavor,” he said.
The Triticale Whiskey from Dry Fly may be the first commercial production of that flavor, he added. Triticale is a grain hybrid of wheat and rye, he added.
It took a number of trials using different Triticale seed varieties to find the right one for the whiskey. The liquor being bottled comes from farms near Ritzville and Rosalia.
“It’s the best thing we’ve ever made,” added Poffenroth, who described it as a smooth blend of rye and wheat whiskey flavors.
All four new blends, plus a second batch of last year’s Dry Fly Bourbon, will go on sale on Dec. 1, said Poffenroth. Bottles will be found in Washington and Idaho liquor stores and many area supermarkets (other than Safeway, which doesn’t carry Dry Fly products).
And now the prices: Around $30 for a 375-milliliter bottle. That's half the usual fifth size. So …. it's not something most people will buy for themselves. Better to give it to someone who deserves a good present.
Tuesday's SR had a story on the impressive legal and professional career of William D. “Bill” Symmes, a longtime Spokane attorney and profoundly diehard sports fan. Mr. Symmes died a week ago.
Among his career highlights was buying a small partial ownership in the Spokane Indians from 1979 to 1982. The owners included Spokane and Coeur d'Alene developer John Stone.
It was Stone who said the AAA Indians franchise made enough money to pay bills, but barely. It became clear to most of the owners that Spokane lacked the number of corporate headquarters needed to provide significant sponsorships and ticket sales.
The owners got into a dispute, with some urging the sale of the AAA franchise to a Las Vegas consortium, while others opposed that sale. Symmes, who was managing partner of Witherspoon Kelley law firm at the time, sided with those urging the sale.
One tidbit: when Symmes, Stone and others bought the team from the previous owners, the sales price was $250,000. “At the time that was a large amount,” Stone said.
Three years later when they sold the AAA franchise to the Las Vegas group, that marked the last time Spokane enjoyed a AAA team. From that point on the team became a short-season A league team.
Greater Spokane Inc. has scheduled a “Calculating New Health Care Costs” session for area groups or businesses, starting at 7:30 a.m. Thursday. It's at the GSI offices at 801 W. Riverside.
Mark Patrick, a partner at Spokane's Moloney+O'Neill, will discouss how the new laws will affect company heath care costs. The GSI press release also says: “This is vital information for nonprofits, for-profits, HR reps, business owners and others.”
The program starts at 8 and runs to 9:30 a.m. Cost is $20 for GSI members, $35 for others.
Catching up after some time away: Sandpoint women's apparel retailer Coldwater Creek is faring better, stock-price-wise, since it went through a recent four-to-one reverse split.
The change took effect last Monday on the NASDAQ exchange where CTWR trades. A number of analysts have taken note and are moving their ratings from neutral to hold. They're citing improved apparel choices and a strong push to attract more purchases through customer loyalty programs.
The company's CEO and President Dennis Pence said, in a release, the split “was necessary for us to maintain our listing position on the Nasdaq Global Select Market, attract high quality investors and more effectively capitalize on the positive changes we have made to our brand which we believe will result in sustained long-term profitability and shareholder value.”
The stock price this week is above $4.
The charts above and below show the stock's climb. The top one adjusts stock prices to agree with the new split price. The one below doesn't.
Also notable: daily volume is very small and is shown in the lines at the lower half of the chart below.