The revenue-grade solar meter, which utilizes an Itron cellular communication module, is ideal for monitoring the energy production of residential and commercial solar photovoltaic (PV) systems.
Archive for September 2012
The unemployment rate fell in August across North Idaho and statewide, due in part to fewer people seeking jobs.
The Idaho rate fell to 7.4 percent, down slightly from July. In Kootenai County, the August jobless rate was 9 percent, down from 9.3 percent the month before.
The rate was lower in Bonner, Boundary, Benewah and Shoshone counties as well.
The loss of 2,600 workers from the state’s labor force – the first July-to-August decline since 1980 – offset an increase in hiring by employers at a rate just above their recession-era average, said Bob Fick, spokesman for the Idaho Department of Labor.
The August jobless rate statewide was the lowest in more than three years, but it also was the third straight month Idaho’s labor force has contracted, Fick explained.
The loss of more than 5,500 from the workforce through the summer was the largest three-month exodus of workers on record in the state and has left the labor force at its lowest level since January.
Still, there were 17,000 more people working in Idaho in August than a year earlier, and 11,000 fewer unemployed. In the past 13 months, the jobless rate has dropped a point and a half from a recession high of 8.9 percent.
Employers may be picking up their hiring, Fick said. Businesses report hiring 18,400 workers in August, mostly to replace workers who retired, were fired, found other jobs or left for some other reason. That rate of hiring matches the average August new hires during the economic expansion from 2003 through 2007, he said.
File this in the I-Don't-Know-How-Much-This-Matters bucket.
Realtor.com keeps track of property searches on its site, and then produces some monthly statistics.
For Washington cities, this is the list of the three most-searched metros for August, followed by rank across the U.S.:
Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA #55
Portland-Vancouver, OR-WA #130
You like more stats on housing? Go here.
Liberty Lake-based Itron, Inc. announced recently it's developing and selling energy meters for the solar market.
The revenue-grade solar meter, which utilizes an Itron cellular communication module, is ideal for monitoring the energy production of residential and commercial solar photovoltaic (PV) systems.
We have to say, dang it, we wanted Mean Hamster Software to make it.
But, sadly, owner John Swiderski just closed his eight-person software shop, which has operated in Deer Park since 2005.
Here's the gist of an article soon to appear on Spokesman.com:
JOHN SWIDERSKI'S technology company has been wiped out by the apps tsunami. His Deer Park firm, Mean Hamster Software, just closed down, crushed by the inability to compete with mobile games.
From 2005 to 2010, Swiderski’s energetic software firm grew to 21 workers and built several successful games for sites like Yahoo Games and PlayFirst.
But websites where people play games are out of fashion. The game industry has shifted toward mobile games played on phones and tablets.
Once mobile apps became the dominant system for game developers, companies that were depending on web-based games got caught.
“We couldn’t compete with thousands of people who were able to become low-cost developers,” he said.
Plus, the new marketplaces of iTunes and the Android store made it vastly simpler for anyone to upload a game and reach thousands of potential customers.
“So there was a lot more competition with the very large app companies, and with indie developers, and that all left me unable to acquire any more third-party contract work,” Swiderski said.
By July 1 Mean Hamster had shrunk to eight workers.
Swiderski tried hard to find jobs for his crew, calling firms from Spokane to Seattle.
He shut down the office last week,
“I paid my workers before I closed shop. That was the right thing to do, but it left me personally broke,” Swiderski said.
At this point he’s joined his former workers on the job-search front. “If I can’t find employment here, I’ll have to move to Seattle. I don’t only do games. I’m a producer, a project manager and a designer. But there aren’t many jobs in Spokane.”
REMAINDER of story will appear in this weekend's Spokesman Review.
This week's big announcement about plans by Walt and Karen Worthy included the likelihood that the new building will be co-branded with a national hotel chain.
We asked again today (Friday) if the Worthys have already narrowed down the choices to one or two major U.S. brands.
The answer: They're talking now to Marriott. But Hilton is also in the picture.
As of Friday, no solid terms or agreements have been set.
Seattle-based Nordstrom, like another major US retailier (Walmart) has cast its eyes toward our northern neighbor.
A story in today's WSJ lays out the key details: Nordstrom plans to open four stores in Canada, including three in high-profile former Sears Canada locations, as the high-end U.S. department-store operator makes its first foray outside the U.S.
From the story:
Seattle-based Nordstrom is the latest U.S. retailer to enter Canada, teaming up with Toronto-based property developer Cadillac Fairview Corp. The shoe and apparel chain will take over three locations—in Calgary, Alberta; Ottawa; and Vancouver, British Columbia—from Sears Canada, which is vacating the leases next month. The fourth store will be newly built in Toronto.
“This is a significant milestone for our company,” Blake Nordstrom, the company's president, said at joint news conference with Cadillac Fairview in Toronto.
Nordstrom could potentially open two to five more stores across Canada depending on the availability of prime locations, but will remain focused on these initial four, he said. The chain already has 15,000 credit-card holders in Canada.
Nordstrom said it expects to hire 1,000 workers across Canada. The first store is the one in Calgary and it's due to open in the fall of 2014, the story noted.
Today's big local business story was the announcement by Walt and Karen Worthy that they're about to begin a plan to build a large headquarter hotel near the Spokane Convention Center.
They acknowledged that the plan is for a very big hotel. About 550,000 square feet. Plus another 300,000 square feet for a garage adjoining the hotel.
By comparison, the historic Davenport Hotel is roughly 250,000 square feet. That takes up a whole block.
So imagine a city block twice as big, that's about the size of the new hotel the Worthys say they're going to start.
Groundbreaking would be the first quarter of 2013. It would likely not be ready until mid to late 2014, according to today's press conference held downtown.
Red Lion Hotels Corp. managers yesterday (Tuesday) produced some responses to last week's shot by an investor group who felt the company wasn't moving forward fast enough to make some major changes.
On Tuesday managers said they’ve contacted more than 70 potential buyers but have failed to find offers to buy the hospitality chain.
The effort is a response to Columbia Pacific Opportunity Fund, a group that has vocally asked for major changes, including sell part or all of the company.
The Red Lion release noted: the outreach resulted in “a limited number of non-binding indications of interest, but (we) did not ultimately receive any offers,” a statement said.
Red Lion’s search to find a buyer followed the publicly traded company’s hiring this spring of Bank of America Merrill Lynch to “develop strategic alternatives” as Red Lion struggled to increase its market share.
Columbia Pacific Opportunity Fund, based in Seattle, said it might seek to oust the company’s directors unless more assets were sold.
The Columbia Pacific filing on Friday said Red Lion managers had not given an adequate summary of its efforts to maximize stockholder value. Columbia Pacific owns about 29 percent of Red Lion’s common stock.
Tuesday’s release also said company board chair and first CEO Donald K. Barbieri will retire at the end of 2012. He has served as board chairman since 1996.
His brother, Richard L. Barbieri, also will retire from the board Dec. 31 unless the board appoints a replacement sooner. Richard Barbieri was the firm’s general counsel and became a board member in 1978.
Both brothers were named by investor group Somerset Capital in a letter released this year. The letter said the Barbieris and CEO Jon Eliassen should be removed from the board for ineffective management.
Eliassen said in Tuesday’s release Re
Red Lion Hotels Corporation said on Wednesday it's signed a franchise agreement for a new location at the Denver airport.
“Our new franchise is one of the closest hotels in proximity to the Denver International Airport, a superb location that will gain visibility for our brand,” said Ron Burgett, Red Lions' VP.
The future Red Lion Inn and Suites Denver Airport, at 7010 Tower Road, is expected to join the system by November 2012.
The hotel has 87 guest rooms and is near downtown and multiple venues, including those used by the Denver Broncos, Colorado Avalanche and Denver Nuggets.
“With all of the competition we have in this market, we think Red Lion will help us to differentiate our property and compete in the midscale segment,” said Zanfar Kahn of Tower Hospitality, owners of the hotel.
The discrimation lawsuit filed by former Sterling Bank CEO Heidi Stanley remains active in Spokane's County Superior Court. Stanley is suing her former employer for wrongful termination, saying she lost her job after being diagnosed with breast cancer in spring 2009.
Sterling officials say the illness has nothing to do with Stanley leaving the company.
That departure or dismissal occurred right in the middle of Sterling's efforts to dig out of a deep financial pit. It ended up taking a huge investment through the TARP (troubled assets relief program).
The recent legal development worth noting is a U.S. District Court ruling against Sterling, who had made a motion to dismiss the suit, arguing that the bank could not provide Stanley any compensation for her departure because of conditions imposed by virtue of the TARP money Sterling took from the feds.
But the court didn't buy the Sterling legal argument. The net result is that Stanley's wrongful termination suit can proceed.
Read to the next section to get a segment from the recent U.S. District Court ruling (the issue of TARP condition dragged this motion into federal court, while the termination action can be pursued at the state court level).
The Detroit Free Press found a good story in our back yard:
Nation's busiest train route plagued by long delays
EAST GLACIER PARK, Mont. - Someone needs to help Amtrak's Empire Builder. The train route has been suffering lo these many years from Amtrak's budget woes - but this summer, train disruptions have been epic.
During July the eastbound No. 8 train from Seattle to Chicago had a zero-percent on-time record and was usually late by at least three hours. The westbound No. 7 train had a dismal 16 percent on-time record.
“With Amtrak, you go by the calendar, not by the clock,” says cross-country passenger Peg Bethany of Arlington, Va. “They always have a reason they are late, and some reasons are better than others.”
The reason mainly is that the U.S. passenger rail system limps along on a wheel and a prayer. Although the Empire Builder is the nation's premier long-distance train with nearly 500,000 riders a year, it is forced to share poor tracks with 110-car freight trains for 2,000 miles across the country, plodding along at 50 miles an hour.
Last summer, North Dakota floods covered tracks near Devil's Lake and Minot, closing all service for weeks. This summer, it was a saga of heat-bent rails, brush fires, wrecks, cars on the track, you name it.
The line shut down both ways for nearly two days after a July 17 freight train derailment in North Dakota and 700 Empire Builder passengers had to be bused past the wreck, arriving 23 hours late to their destination. Empire Builder passengers may face continuing delays because of track work and extreme heat, Amtrak warned this month.
“Amtrak can't control heat, landslides, mudslides and derailments; you have to have patience,” said Jackie Benrud of LaCrosse, Wis., as she waited at the East Glacier Park Station for the Empire Builder to arrive on July 27. It was 7 1/2 hours late. It had been halted by a grass fire outside Spokane.
She was philosophical, knowing that Amtrak operates on its version of “island time” - it gets there when it gets there.
Forced to bear everything from cattle on the tracks to flash floods, the trip on the Empire Builder retains the low-level thrill that something could go wrong at any moment.
However, in a twisted way, the seat-of-the-pants uncertainty may attract a certain kind of traveler.
“I think people kind of enjoy the adventure,” said a desk clerk at the Glacier Park Lodge in East Glacier Park, who wondered why people tolerate such bad on-time record from Amtrak when they scream if their plane is 10 minutes late. The lodge, across from the tracks, is so used to the Empire Builder's erratic schedule that it holds guest room reservations no matter how late they are. It also will keep guest luggage all day or night if the departing train home doesn't show for hours.
Yet what some travelers see as kind of romantic, others take as a sign that one trip on the Empire Builder is enough.
And remember, the Empire Builder serves not just tourists but is a lifeline to many along this northernmost ribbon of America, called the Hi-Line.
If only Amtrak had its own tracks. I heard people lamenting that over and over again.
That's not going to happen. But the oil industry that is drawing thousands of workers to two boom towns that are stops on the Empire Builder route - Williston and Stanley , N.D. - should contribute to the improvement of the tracks. The industry is benefiting from both Amtrak's passenger service and freight shipped along those busy and ailing rails.
BNSF Railway, which owns most of the tracks, also is raking in the dough from the boom.
The day I rode Empire Builder, at least 100 people, mostly men, boarded in Williston. The train had to stop for at least 20 minutes to accommodate the crowd.
One of them was Donna Rash, who moved to Williston from Oregon last November. She and her family are living in an RV, but like thousands of others who have swamped the town, she has a job. She takes the Empire Builder to get back home to visit family near Portland.
“It's better than flying,” she said, as she sat back in a comfy seat and looked out at the blue-sky landscape of Montana streaming past from the observation car.
If any oil folks are listening, pick up the phone and offer to help Amtrak's Empire Builder, on behalf of your workers. You can afford it.
LaunchPad, aka LaunchPadINW, is back into fall mode. The networking group is sponsoring a “jobseekers lunch on Sept. 21, starting at 11:30 a.m.
The session is hosted by Valley staffing firm Humanix and will be at the company's office at 15920 E. Indiana.
To take part or reserve a seat, contact Zan Deery at email@example.com.
LaunchPad also has an orientation for new member on Sept. 19, with the event running from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at
LaunchPad Lounge 120 N. Stevens, in downtown.
Both events are free.
Spokane-based hotel chain Red Lion Hotels is on the receiving end of an SEC filing by Columbia Pacific Opportunity Fund, the Seattle investor group that owns 19 percent of the company's common shares.
The filing is one of a number of requests made by Columbia, which is the largest investor group owning RLH shares.
Saturday's SR and Spokesman.com will have the full story. Here is the short segment from the filing that lays out Columbia Pacific's concerns. The full letter taken from the SEC.gov site is below the text of the story.
Red Lion Hotel Corporation
To the Board of Directors,
While we are encouraged with the recent success in selling off non-strategic hotel assets with the goal of paying down debt, we are completely dissatisfied with the lack of measurable progress made toward satisfying the strategic process. This process was announced on March 28th, and we assume the Board must have been reviewing the options in front of the company for months previously. After five months, it is time for shareholders to learn the results of this process.
Let it be understood that a majority of shareholders are not confident in the current Board’s ability to define a clear direction or strategy for the future of the company. The Board’s lack of a clear or comprehensive plan to create shareholder value is evidenced by relentless shifts in strategic direction over the past several years.
Therefore, should the Board not present a proposal to sell or liquidate the company; we will call for the resignation of the current Board. We are prepared to present a new slate of directors who have demonstrated success in hotel operating experience and value creation through real estate repositioning and capital market transactions. While we would prefer to work with the current directors to reconstitute the Board, we are prepared to take all necessary actions to effect this outcome.
We look forward to hearing results of the strategic process soon.
Not according to a survey produced by Puget Sound Business Journal. We just took a look at it and we saw not one company from our side of the woods.
Here's the full list of 100. If you spot a company that is from over here, let me know, and I'll buy you a cup of joe for the help:
• 110 Consulting Inc
• Aeroform Inc.
• Affirma Consulting
• AIM Consulting Group Washington LLC
• Akvelon Inc.
• Attunix Corp.
• Audigy Group LLC
• BDA Inc.
• BlackRapid Inc.
• Blazing Bagels and Bakery Inc.
• Blink Interactive Inc.
• BooginHead LLC
• Bridge Partners Consulting LLC
• C2S Technologies
• Cashmere Molding Inc.
• Comm/net Systems Inc.
• Compendium Inc.
• Contour Inc.
• Danforth & Associates Inc. (dba Coldwell Banker Danforth & Associates Inc.)
• DBBest Technologies
• Edifecs Inc.
• Epic Seats Inc.
• Evergreen Capital Management LLC
• GM Nameplate Inc.
• Gravity Payments
• Heatcon Composite Systems Inc.
• Hughes Group LLC
• Hunt Marketing Group
• InDemand Interpreting
• Institute for Corporate Productivity Inc. (i4cp inc)
• JeffreyM Consulting LLC
• Kalani Packaging
• Kotis Design LLC
• Lenati LLC
• Mactus Group LLC
• Madrona Solutions Group Inc.
• Management Services Northwest Inc.
• Matisia Inc.
• Method Homes LLC
• Mountains Plus Outdoor Gear
• Nayamode Inc.
• NIC Global Manufacturing Solutions
• Northwest Modular Systems Furniture
• Nuun & Co.
• Nytec Inc.
• Obot Electric
• Omax Corp.
• omniFAB LLC
• Paracle Advisors LLC
• PartyPail Inc.
• PeopleFirm LLC
• Point It Inc.
• Point to Point Transportation Services Inc.
• Powell-Christensen Inc.
• Produxs Inc.
• Protingent Inc.
• Quote Wizard
• Rainier Financial Group
• Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty
• Red Arrow Logistics
• Redapt Inc.
• RGen Software Solutions
• Rooster Park
• RSVP Real Estate
• Saturna Capital Corp.
• Schakra Inc.
• Servpro of Central Seattle
• Sesame Communications Inc.
• Simplicity Consulting Inc.
• SmarTek21 LLC
• Society Consulting (formerly Pentad Solutions)
• Spectrum Controls Inc.
• Sportswear Inc. (dba Prep Sportswear)
• SST Group LLC (dba Seattle Sun Tan)
• Sterlitech Corp.
• Strong-Bridge LLC
• Summit Imaging
• Tableau Software Inc.
• Teleion Consulting LLC
• Tomlinson Linen Service
• TTF Aerospace LLC
• Turner Exhibits Inc.
• Unify Square Inc.
• Urban Renaissance Group LLC
• Vintners Global Resource LLC
• Wimmer Solutions Corp.
• Winshuttle LLC
• World Medical Equipment Inc.
• Xtreme Consulting Group Inc.
• Yoogi’s Closet Inc.
Seahawks fans who rely on DirecTV to see games are getting a break this Sunday.
You'd think that the ongoing signal blackout imposed on KAYU-28's local feed to DirecTV subscribers would mean they'd miss this Sunday's game vs. Arizona.
The blackout has continued since Aug. 13 between KAYU's parent firm and DirecTV, over fees and a few other matters. There's no certainty it will end before Sunday. Neither party seems willing to drop its demands.
However, DirecTV has a free NFL Sunday Ticket preview going on this weekend. That means even though one can't see the KAYU programs over the weekend, there's still that free feed for the weekend.
The DirecTV NFL Sunday Ticket package is much like other paid-system plans: you can get every game, every Sunday, throughout the season, as a premium offering.
And a DirecTV spokesman notes that even if the local Fox affiliate is blacking out the channel the game normally is on, that has no impact on the NFL Sunday Ticket feed.
Time to clarify our earlier post about the number of possible new solo business owners in Spokane County.
That post, published here last week, said one study suggests 5,000 new solo businesses started in Spokane since 2006.
Today we spoke with Gary Smith, the retired WSU economist who runs the NWREAP site, where we spotted that number. Dr. Smith helped explain a few points he views differently than we do.
First, we hamfistedly said in our headline the growth of 5,000 jobs occurred over six years. It was really over FOUR years, covering 2006 to 2010.
Smith also took some exception to the following paragraph that interpreted the number of proprietors in Spokane since 2006. The 2006 number was 46,200 business proprietors, based on data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).
We wrote: In 2010, as the recession has pushed many people out of traditional workplaces, Smith's numbers say Spokane's proprietor group has grown to 51,016.
Dr. Smith said he doesn't agree that the economy's downturn spurred this growth. He said the actual big upswing in proprietorships occurred exactly in 2006 and 2007 and generally stayed there through 2010, the last year the BEA has numbers for.
If anything, he contends the upswing in sole proprietors stems from the strong economy in 2006 and 2007, before the economy tanked.
If that's so, the next numbers that BEA come up with, for 2011, should show a drop from 2010's level. Those numbers will be out in November. We'll look at them and see if that's the case.
If they don't go down, we'll call it a victory for our team.
Tacoma Screw Products has begun building its first Spokane location and outlet store at 222 S. Howe Road, Spokane Valley.
The company has locations across Washington, Idaho and Oregon. It sells up to 45,000 different types of fasteners, tools and industrial supplies.
Baker Construction is the general contractor on the $2 million building.
The location will be a full-service distribution and sales center, starting with a staff of six. Outside sales representatives will also be hired.
A company spokesman said the goal is to move into the building in September and open to the public in October or early November.
Numbers are supposed to be neutral and generally behave the same, no matter who handles then.
But in many instances, including home sale prices, the numbers vary depending on the source.
CoreLogic, one of the country's leading real estate data gathering firms, said in its recent release that Spokane home prices, including distressed sales, declined by 1.8 percent in July 2012 compared to July 2011.
They also declined by 2.3 percent in June 2012 compared to June 2011, CoreLogic reported.
On a month-over-month basis, home prices including distressed sales, increased by 0.4 percent in July 2012 compared to June 2012.
But ask Rob Higgins of the Spokane Association of Realtors, and the numbers don't line up that way.
As reported last month, Spokane County median sale price jumped to $170,000 in July, up from $159,500 in June, said Rob Higgins.
The SR will pick up the more detailed August numbers in a day or two. But Higgins summarized the key points for the local association:
Spokane's CFA Society is hosting an annual Northwest Investment Forum Thursday, starting at noon at the Davenport Hotel.
The featured guest and speaker is Stephen R. Freedman, the head of investment strategy at UBS. Since joining UBS in 1998, he's become a key member of the Wealth Management Americas Investment Committee and a lead analyst of the monthly flagship publication, the Investment Strategy Guide.
Also on the program are these panels:
Registration for CFA members is $50, $65 for others. .
Contact Colin Kelly for information at 509.789.8973 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spokane's Red Lion Hotels Corp. has made another sale. The hospitality company said Tuesday it's sold the Red Lion Hotel Sacramento at Arden Village.
Paying $9 million for the hotel is Kumar Sharma, who had been franchising the hotel prior to the sale. As part of the deal, Red Lion announced it's formed a new franchise deal with Sharma's subsidiary, Shri Vinayaka Hotel Inc.
That deal allows Red Lion to have the former Woodlake Hotel Sacramento now become part of the chain's franchise group. It will be called the Red Lion Hotel Woodlake Conference Center Sacramento.
“This transaction supports our strategy to reduce debt, expand our franchise system and improve the competitive position of our hotels,” said Jon E. Eliassen, Red Lion's president and CEO.
“We added a new franchise hotel with extensive meeting and banquet facilities that make it a much better fit in that market for the Red Lion brand going forward,” he said in a release. It has 306 rooms and 60,000 square feet of meeting space.
In November 2011 Red Lion became the owner of the Red Lion Hotel Sacramento at Arden Village as part of an agreement with iStar Financial Inc. to purchase 10 previously leased hotels. It's had the Sacramento hotel on the market since then. That deal was done to reduce company debt and was financed by the sale of the Red Lion Fifth Avenue in Seattle.
Red Lion shares have been falling since late June when prices hit $8.63 per share. Tuesday the stock was selling at $7.30.
Liberty Lake-based Family Home Care Corp. announced Tuesday that its home health and hospice care services have been acquired by Gentiva Health Services, Inc., a nationwide health and hospice services provider.
Without disclosing terms, Gentiva is taking over all Medicare-supported home health and hospice businesses of Family Home Care.
The private-pay home care services provided by Family Home Care will continue, as that part of the local company was not sold, said Ryan Fix, the company's CEO.
Family Home Care was founded in 1966 and had grown to more than 500 staff workers and aides.
As of Friday when the deal consummated, about 290 of those in the health care and hospice groups will remain with Gentiva. The other 200 will continue working for Family Home Care, Fix said.
The elimination of 10 positions stems from reductions in some managerial jobs, he said.
Gentiva is one of the largest home health care operators in the United States and is traded publicly.
The transaction will be funded from Gentiva's cash reserves and is not expected to have a material impact on the company's results.
In 2001 Michael Nowling, formerly head of the Heart Institute of Spokane, bought Family Home Care from Empire Health Services. Nowling will coninue as owner of Family Home Care.