Archive for April 2013
The Itronix product line, at one time one of the area's chief tech products, is finished.
General Dynamics, which acquired Itronix in 2005, confirmed this week it's dropped the production of all GD Itronix “rugged” products.
Itronix was a spinoff from metering firm Itron. Its original product line was handheld meters used by utility crews. Over time it expanded into rugged, highly durable laptops and tablets.
In 2009 General Dynamics, one of the nation's largest defense contractors, announced it would move all Itronix operations from Spokane to Florida. That decision resulted in the loss of 380 Spokane jobs.
Last winter General Dynamics plugged the plug. A company spokesman sent this note this week:
“Regarding General Dynamics Itronix products, we continually assess our business and make changes to ensure efficiency in our operations.In September 2012, we determined that it is in the best interest of our customers and business to end-of-life the General Dynamics Itronix branded computing products. We will ensure that customer support for products under warranty obligations will be honored.”
You have to wonder how the phrase “end-of-life” ever became a verb.
As a blogger at RuggedPCReview Blog put it, Itronix was a company whose ownership was always in flux.
“Itronix was started in 1989 as a unit of meter-reading company Itron …It was then sold to rugged computer maker Telxon in 1993. In 1997, telecom testing gear company Dynatech Corp. bought Itronix from Telxon for about $65 million. Dynatech changed its name to Acterna in 2000, but fell on hard times and sold Itronix to private equity firm Golden Gate Capital in 2003 for just US$40 million in cash. Golden Gate held on to it for a couple of years before General Dynamics came along. — The band Jefferson Starship comes to mind here, with Grace Slick charging 'Someone always playing corporation games; Who cares they're always changing corporation names.' ”
Spokane County had fewer businesses in 2011 than it did in pre-recession 2007, new Census figures show. Annual payroll was down and the number of businesses in all size categories had fallen — except one. That category is businesses with more than 1,000 employees.
There were nine businesses with 1,000 or more paid employees in 2011, up from seven in 2007, Census data shows.
The report, called “County Business Patterns: 2011,” doesn’t break down employers by name.
But according to the Journal of Business Book of Lists, the over-1,000 crowd for 2011 includes Spokane’s two big hospitals and Rockwood Clinic; URM and Wal-Mart; Avista; Northern Quest Casino; West Corp., the big call-center company; and Gonzaga University. The Census table doesn’t include most government employees.
Spokane County had 12,151 business establishments in 2011, compared with 12,961 in 2007. The largest category is very small businesses, with one to four employees. There were 6,410 such businesses in 2011, down from 6,648 in 2007.
Spokane medical business InCyte Pathology has changed its nameto InCyte Diagnostics, a switch that focuses on the company's medical mission.
It's also added a new corporate logo. The change follows the merger last year between InCyte Pathology and Eastside Pathology, based in King County.
A company release said it will focus on providing reliable, trusted diagnostics services to clients throughout the Pacific Northwest.
It was only a period of time before we'd have another chance to talk about the Mosquito problem — or the Mosquito solution, depending on whom you ask.
Downtown businesses have again started working out solutions to preserve a sense of well-being and calm in the face of younger folks not having anywhere else to hang out. The problem has led some busienesses, such as the Symons Building, to add devices called the Mosquito, which emits a high-pitched sound meant to discourage loitering. Our big story on the effort ran on April 7.
City Councilwoman Amber Waldref will tackle the topic on Wednesday this week during the regular “Council Connection” TV broadcasst, airing at 6 p.m. on CityCable 5.
The show will feature Downtown Spokane Partnership Director Mark Richard, Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub, Spokane Transit Authority Director Susan Meyer and STCU President Tom Johnson.
“The central business core is the lifeblood of our city,” Waldref explains. “Our guests on Wednesday are working hard to make downtown Spokane safe, vibrant and accessible to all our citizens.”
She'll also accept calls from viewers during the show.
Council Connection” programs also can be found on the City’s web site. Go to www.spokanecity.org/services/citycable5/streamingmedia.
Spokane software company Imprezzio has acquired Portland-based web design firm Bad Kitty Studios.
Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.
Imprezzio is a custom developer of software services for enterprise clients around the world. Its offices are in downtown Spokane.
The company said, in a release, that buying Bad Kitty is the next step in its corporate “evolution.”
Bad Kitty Studios has been in business in the Portland area since 2002.
An Imprezzio press release said the newly acquired Bad Kitty team will complement the services of Imprezzio Marketing. That subsdiary, also based in Spokane, offers social media consulting and search engine optimization, among other services.
The term “primary industry” and primary jobs came to mind when I wrote the story last week on the evolution of the former Playfair Race Course into Playfair Commerce Park.
A primary industry is a good thing. It's a company that sells its products or services outside the region, thus importing dollars into the local economy.
SCAFCO, the company that acquired the former racet rack, is the quintessential Spokane primary industry. And its ongoing success in selling its steel studs and steel storage tanks is the key reason SCAFCO could buy the old abandoned track and spend a lot of cash improving it.
The photo above is an example of the kinds of changes SCAFCO has made on the 48 acres that are the new commerce park. Provided by Bruce Katahira of SCAFCO, it shows the before and after changes for Olive Street, in the park.
Hats off to SCAFCO. The park has a strong future. The map here also shows the general layout of the property.
Red Lion Hotels, of Spokane, has sold its last non-hotel property, the Kalispell Center Mall in Kalispell, Mont.
The company said WSPGB Mall, LLC bought the mall for $11.6 million. WSPGB is an affiliate of Woodbury Strategic Partners, of Salt Lake City, and Spokane-based Goodale & Barbieri Co., which manages the mall.
Red Lion signed a long-term lease to operate the Red Lion Hotel Kalispell that’s attached to the mall, the hospitality company said in a news release.
Kalispell “has been, and will continue to be, important to Red Lion for many years,” president and CEO Jon Eliassen said in the release.
The mall and hotel were built in 1986.
Today's story on the planned Target store in the Southgate area is one that begs for a map.
Much of the discussion from Wednesday's meeting of the city's citizen Design Review Board was about making the proposed 15-acre site more pedestrian friendly.
This story needs a map to explain some of the issues. CLICK the MAP above to see a larger version if you can't see this one clearly.
The proposed Target store is the yellow rectangle to the right. Palouse Highway is the upper street; Regal is on the left.
Developer Dave Black and architect Gary Bernardo fully agreed with one specific suggestion from the Southgate Neighborhood Council, that an extra pedestrian path be added from Regal, into the project along the southern boundary. The Design Review Board incorporated that suggestion in its recommendations.
Board Member Colleen Gardner made the point that south of the site are apartments and residences, and that unless the south-boundary walk were added, the temptation to cut through the parking lot would increase the risks to walkers taking that shortcut. The Target store entrance, noted in the map, is at the northwest corner of that building.
The map above is modified from one provided by Bernardo-Wills Architects, of Spokane.
The fuschia-colored bar in the map shows the proposed path along the south edge. It would go to the corner of Target and then connect to a walkway north to the entrance..
The City planning department director must still approve the plan before Black can apply for permits. He said the project could start work as early as this summer, with Target opening next year.
Spokane’s office of the Housing and Urban Development department (HUD) will close in September, eliminating five jobs here.
Federal officials are streamlining HUD as part of broad effort to provide services more efficiently. Spokane’s field office at the Thomas S. Foley Courthouse downtown is one of 16 being closed, the agency reported Wednesday.
Spokane’s HUD office serves Eastern Washington and North Idaho. The office reviews and monitors loan insurance programs for single family and multifamily housing projects. It also has one program manager reviewing insurance for health care facility loans.
HUD will still have a Seattle regional office in Seattle, said HUD spokesman Lee Jones.
Spokane's five staff workers will be offered buyouts or the option to move to another location, Jones said.
Over the next three years, HUD said the restructuring could save $45 million to $50 million.
For not the first time, the state unemployment report for Spokane left us dealing with mysteries.
The story, appearing Wednesday, reported March's county unemployment rate went down from 9.8 percent to 9.1 percent.
But, using different data from a different survey, the state also said Spokane lost 1,100 jobs. That will happen sometimes, when the two data sets move in different directions.
But the second bigger mystery involves a question about 500 positions lost in Spokane during March among the three higher ed institutions, WSU, EWU and the Community Colleges of Spokane.
We sent off a note to the WSU Spokane folks, asking if they were part of the 500 job decline.
We did get an answer, thanks to solid efforts by former newsman Doug Nadvornick.
Doug tracked down the numbers and came up with the basic response, that the state's tracking system found that WSU had lost eight “covered” positions and 23 “non-covered” positions. Essentially, around 31 jobs were eliminated or lost at WSU.
About a handful of those would have been from the transfer of the Interdisciplinary Design Program moving from Spokane to Pullman.
Which leaves the implication that the other 470 lost positions have to be from CCS and from EWU.
And that's going to be another story. Stay tuned. We'll see how this turns out.
Employment Security Department Regional Labor Economist Doug Tweedy said in the story that these numbers are preliminary, and that revised additional data in the next four weeks should clarify the picture.
We hope so, and we'll report what we get.
SQM, a Canadian company that provides follow-up services for companies using call centers, has opened an 11,500-square-foot office at 7400 Mineral Drive, in the Coeur d’Alene Tech Center building.
The company opened the office in March with 90 employees.
Based in Vernon, British Columbia, SQM provides quality assurance services for more than 400 companies across North America. It’s been in business for nearly 20 years.
The North Idaho office is the first in the United States, said Sarah Kennedy, SQM vice president for business development.
Kennedy said the move to Idaho made sense. First, SQM received warm interest and support from area groups, including Coeur d'Alene-based Jobs Plus and its director Steve Griffitts.
Plus, the five hour drive from Vernon, B.C., to North Idaho is just about the right amount for staff from the two offices to manage. As long as travel is relatively easy, Coeur d'Alene made a great choice, Kennedy said.
SQM sees likely expansion in the Coeur d’Alene office as it adds more U.S. customers. It has capacity to handle 200 employees there.
Employees make outbound calls to customers who have had contact with business call centers. Calls are made to determine the level of customer satisfaction, Kennedy said.
Comcast, the nation's largest cable operator, is allowing groups and nonprofits to buy prepaid cards for its Internet Essentials broadband service.
Recent press releases say the option will roll out in the second half of 2013.
Comcast is required to offer Internet Essentials to qualifiying families and customers. Criteria are:
The eligibility also includes families with home-schooled students and those with students in private or parochial schools. Since starting the service, Comcast has enrolled more than 150,000 families, representing a total of 600,000 low-income Americans (including 300,000 children), the company disclosed recently.
The offer means eligible homes pay $9.95 per month for Internet service measuring 3 Mbps.
Comcast itself recognizes the service is essential in bridging the “digital divide.” It said it's seen broadband adoption in higher-income areas reaching around 90 percent of households. While in lower income areas, the rate of adoption approaches 15 to 20 percent of households.
See this a blog post for a recent Comcast blog post on that topic.
The Internet Essentials Opportunity Cards will provide “yet another way to accelerate enrollment by empowering community-based partners, businesses and foundations to help connect families to the Internet,” Comcast said in a statement.
CoiNuts Inc, a somewhat controversial Coeur d'Alene coin and gold trader, is back in the cross hairs.
A recent SR story by Scott Maben catches up on a civil suit filed by the State of Idaho Attorney General against the owner of CoiNuts, Kevin Mitchell, and his daughter Sarah, who has operated the store.
The state is seeking more than $750,000 in restitution, based on 18 instances of customers saying they were bilked by the Mitchells.
CoiNuts registered as an Idaho corporation in November 2007 and operated in a strip mall at 296 W. Sunset Ave., facing U.S. Highway 95. The store closed last July.
Maben's story did not have any response by the defendants or their attorney.
Maben's story noted that criminal prosecution had been considered by Kootenai County prosecutors, but was not pursued.
If you have had dealings with CoiNuts, let us know by adding comments here.
At his NBA page, Dan is listed at 6 foot 3, 180 pounds.
When I visited Dan at this shop, I was struck by his size. He's not 6-3 and not 180 anymore. Either he's lost weight and height, or those NBA stats were a bit inaccurate.
He does have large hands. He's a good addition, by the way, to Spokane's small business team. Welcome, Dan.
So when the US Small Business Administration starts offering free webinars on how to use social media in your business, you gotta wonder. Is anybody out there not using Facebook, YouTube, Twitter or Pinterest?
We'll assume most of you who haven't are just a bit busy. Or you're inclined to wait for the next big thing.
OK, but still. The offer is free. Why not give it a try?
The opportunity starts next Wednesday, April 24, when the US SBA and W20 Group will launch a five-topic webnar to give owners a chance to assess how to use social media.
It's listed as an Introduction to Social Media: Helping You Get Started. It starts at 10 a.m. Pacific time on the 24th.
You have to register at this link.: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6526746452209580800.
In future webinars, the topics will include blogging, content for Facebook, using Twitter, and using location-based marketing.
Website Thumbtack.com has published its second annual report ranking states for their favorable and unfavorable business climates.
Idaho, like it did last year in the survey, scored a big A+. The top ranking states overall were Utah, Alabama, New Hampshire, Idaho and Texas. The lowest rated were Illinois, California, Hawaii, Maine and, in last place, Rhode Island.
The state-by-state map is at this link.
States are ranked on ease of starting a business, ease of hiring, regulations, tax codes, licensing, zoning and other factors.
Washington, which got a C-minus last year, moved up to a B-minus.
Here are the Idaho and Washington breakdowns, provided by Sander Daniels of Thumbtack.com. A release says the results come from surveys of more than 7,700 small businesses across the United States. The survey asked questions about the friendliness of states and cities toward small business.
The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is given credit by Thumbtack for helping produce the survey.
Avista CEO Scott Morris comes downtown this week, taking part in the Thursday morning GSI-sponsored BizStreet morning session.
The PR material says: “Learn what Avista is doing to serve its customers, maintain an engaged workforce, be strong community partners and attract investors.”
The schedule: coffee and chat: 7:45 a.m.-8 a.m.; program from 8 to 9 a.m.
Location: 801 W Riverside, Suite 100; $25 for GSI members, $50 for others.
The day of reckoning for the white pages phone directory has arrived.
Effective May 17, Washington state's regulators will end the longtime legal requirement that the phone company must deliver printed White Pages directories to all state customers.
The result is that the DexKnows phone books will only be delivered to people and businesses who request them, according to a release from the state Utilities and Transportation Commission.
For Washington state, the information published in the Dex directory comes by way of Century Link. Here's the page that explains its role in the system.
The commission estimates the change will save 300 tons of unwanted directories from being thrown out each year. The claim is this change reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 4,000 tons.
The publisher of the DexKnows white pages will be required to make directories available electronically.
That publisher can still print directories but if it plans to distribute them, it has to either use the first option — asking people if they want the book — or using the second option of creating an opt-in system that also easily gives residents the option of not getting the book.
Don Parkins and Maryanne Snyder, owners of Bluz at the Bend, have tried to sell their north Spokane club for months.
No one has made a decent offer, and the two have announced the business will close at the end of the month.
Uncle D's Comedy Underground, which has been operated by Parkins, will stay in business.
The music venue's final show will be April 25, featuring a retirement party for Parkins, with a performance by bluesman Sammy Eubanks.
We didn't take the time earlier this morning, when posting about the proximity of the proposed Rock Creek Mine and the proposed Montanore Mine, to get down a little deeper.
We should have known the USGS has the maps to answer the key question behind that earlier post: namely, how near would the two mines be, if they ever opened?
The map here, provided at this link as a USGS publication, shows that both mines would be working the same formation, the Revett Formation.
If this map is accuarte, the mines would be roughly three to five miles apart and approached from different directions. Both would be operating below the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness Area.
The Rock Creek proposed mine is to the left of the Montanore proposed site. The Troy dot closer to Libby is the operating silver-copper Troy Mine, operated by Revett Minerals.
A Revett Minerals spokesman contacted us after the first post went live, to inform us that the two mines would be distinct, but would both drill the same formation of copper and silver.
There are many miles to go before either mine clears all the hurdles.
A recent article in the New York Times raises the topic of which town is geekier, Seattle or New York.
Ok, I'll hold back my reaction for a few seconds. Sure, I guess NYC has a few interesting tech initiatives and a certain robust East Coast energy.
But geeky it is not. It's nowhere near as geeky as Seattle, which itself knows it's really not quite in the big leagues next to Silicon Valley or even Boston.
Seattle indeed has it over a lot of other contenders, like Austin, Denver or Portland. It's also head and shoulders more tech-centric than New York is. End of that discussion.
SEE NEW map and new information in the succeeding post. (Above this one)
The major mining issue around the Inland Northwest is the continuing campaigns by two companies looking to develop silver mines under the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness Area, and the the opposition area residents have mounted against them.
Today's business section story examined a recent court ruling in Montana that creates more challenges for Spokane-based Mines Management Inc., which wants to develop the Montanore Mine in the area.
The story also notes that Spokane Valley-based Revett Minerals has its own challenges from people trying to stop its silver-copper mine under the wildnerness. The Revett Rock Creek project would start outside the wilderness on its west side. The Montanore would start on the east side. Both mines would tunnel under the surface more or less toward the same target.
It's kind of remarkable that the two companies have claims on supposedly large ore bodies, but the claims are supposedly for distinctly different bodies of ore near each other.
They supposedly do not overlap. That's the story as we were told it.
These maps display the relative locations of the Rock Creek Mine, proposed by Revett, and the Montanore, proposed by Mines Management. The Montanore image comes from the company website. The Rock Creek map is from the RockCreekAlliance site, managed by folks opposing the Revett project.
One major case going through the California court system is one most of us should take heed of: it involves a driver charged with using a map on his smartphone while driving.
Law enforcement spotted that infraction and gave him a $160 ticket plus ordered him to cover court costs for “distracted driving.”
The driver argued that he was looking at a map during a traffic jam. He is not an attorney but did graduate from a law school. He argued that his smartphone map app amounts to a digital version of a paper map in his car, and that he should be free to use the phone.
He was found guilty. The driver has told media he supports restrictions on texting or talking while driving.
A California appeals court judge wrote, in the opinion against the driver, Steven Sprigss, that the state law may have to change.
“It may be argued that the Legislature acted arbitrarily when it outlawed all `hands-on' use of a wireless telephone while driving, even though the legal use of one's hands to operate myriad other devices poses just as great a risk to the safety of other motorists,” the judge wrote in the March 21 ruling.
“It may also be argued that prohibiting driving while using `electronic wireless communications devices' for texting and emailing, while acknowledging and failing to prohibit perhaps even more distracting uses of the same devices, is equally illogical and arbitrary.”
The judge said, however, it's the job of the state Legislature to fix that problem through lawmaking. For now, California courts are compelled to see using all hand-held devices inside cars as illegal. Which nicely distinguishes holding such devices, as opposed to using a hands-free option.
Washington State University's Spokane Small Business Development Center will host a free class on finding the right business or franchise.
Date: April 25, from 7:30 a.m.-9 a.m. at the Spokane SBDC center, 665 N. Riverpoint Blvd, Suite 201.
The session will summarize the steps to follow in determining if franchising is the right career option, and how to conduct research on companies one might be working with.
The presenter, Charlie Magee of FranNet, will dicuss wich industry sectors are likely to perform well now and over the next few years.
We developed a soft spot for the National Retail Federation two months ago when we relied on that group to make sense of the scare-mongering arrival of credit-card surcharge fees. (Update: That's still not news.)
But today the country's largest retail association made an announcement in response to Friday's U.S. jobs report. Which is a dark and depressing announcement. In March the U.S. economy created a measly 88,000 jobs, not even half what the experts on Wall Street expected.
The NRF's CEO Matthew Shay sent out the following remarks. It should be mailed to every member of Congress.
“Today’s economic numbers on jobs and unemployment are disappointing, at best. Even the lower percentage of unemployment points to a discouraged job seeker who has given-up and left the workforce.
“A disturbing barometer of our nation’s fiscal health can be found in the jobs lost in the retail trade sector, the only sector that has pretty consistently provided a lift for our overall economy through this slow recovery period.
“This is far from a wake-up call. It is an urgent plea for help by Americans and the businesses that employ them for policy makers to stop pointing fingers and to start implementing policies that encourage job growth and capital investment.
“We need a bold, forward thinking and sensible fiscal plan that provides certainty and confidence for a stronger economic future in this country, as opposed to rhetoric and gestures that only serve as a convenient sound bite for the next newscast.”
Spokane residents Caleb and Karli Ingersoll are planning to open The Bartlett, an all-ages music venue, along with a separate beer and wine bar, in the Richmond Building, 228 W. Sprague, in downtown Spokane.
The Ingersolls announced last week they hope to open the new club within six months. They found some financial support for their project from the crowdfunding site indiegogo.
The Richmond is one building east of Nyne Bar and Bistro. Built in 1907 as the Richmond Hotel, the building is part of what area building historians call the Mearow Block.
That name comes from Spokane businessman Joseph Mearow who operated the Bell Furniture Company on the first floors of the connected Richmond and Bickett building, which is on Riverside directly behind the Richmond.
Later the buildings were used as the downtown Sylvan Furniture store.
Spokane Club board members want to sell the club’s Spokane Valley facility.
Here's the link to today's story: http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2013/apr/05/spokane-club-is-gearing-up-to-sell-its-valley/?print-friendly
The former Central Park Racquet Club was purchased by the club in 2000 for roughly $3.2 million. Since then the private social and athletic club has spent about $3 million on upgrades.
The reason why: debt and the need to refocus on the club's main role as a central location downtown, for athletics and social events.
Something not reported in that story: Cory Barbieri, of Goodale & Barbieri Company, said he's acting on behalf of one of the potential buyers of the former racquet club.
He's unable to identify the buyer. It is an investor-based group that has experience operating tennis clubs, Barbieri said.
Comcast has added 17 channels to its HD channels in Spokane County. The availability for viewers depends on one's video service level. This means that Comcast viewers here potentially have 456 channels including the 17 new ones. One can also get 46 music channels.
We asked Comcast what it would cost to get all 456 channels. The answer is not easy; with all sorts of bundles and packages, the price would be tough to calculate. Plus, a fair number of those channels are in several foreign languages.
So let's get to the list of new channels:
CSN-NW HD (Comcast Sportsnet Northwest) 617
CSPAN HD 645
GMC HD 684
GSN HD 718
H2 HD 712
Hub HD 721
INV DSC HD (Investigation Discovery) 713
NGWILD HD 666
SPROUT HD 720
TV Guide HD 717
Cooking Channel HD 716
Smithsonian HD 714
Foodies will be glad to have Cooking Channel. And the government types might really enjoy CSPAN in HD.
If you have questions about availability, you need to contact the cable guys.
Wait. If you counted the list you'll find only 16 channels. Where's No. 17?
It's UNIVIS HD on channel 726. It's being added to Comcast's MultiLatino Spanish package.
Red Lion Hotels Corp. announced its Red Lion Inn & Suites Kennewick in Washington has officially joined the system.
The Kennewick faciltiy has 61 rooms with flat screen televisions and an indoor pool, plus other amentiies.
It's at 602 N. Young, in walking distance to Three Rivers Convention Center, and Tri-Cities Visitor & Convention Bureau.
It's owned by Paul Sandhu, of Sandhu NW Hospitality, LLC.
Sandhu owns the Red Lion Inn & Suites Kent. That hotel became part of the Red Lion brand in February of this year.
The earlier experience made the Kennewick conversion “very smooth and we are excited to offer guests another great place to stay in the Tri-Cities,” Sandhu said in a press release.
Red Lion has more than 45 hotels in nine states and one province in Canada. The company has rapidly been moving from self-owned to franchised hotels in key markets..