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Archive for December 2013

Top Spokane business story for 2013: Big expansion in medical education at Riverpoint

The state, Washington State University and area supporters put together an impressive 2013 agenda for expansion of education facilities at the Riverpoint Higher Education campus.

That growth, centerpieced by the construction of the new pharmacy and biosciences building on the campus, is the region's top business story for 2013.

Students, staff and researchers recently moved into WSU's $80 million Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences building on the Riverpoint campus. More growth will follow in 2014, as the school parlays a federal grant that will allow the creation of a downtown medical-training clinic. That program brings together students, faculty and area physicians into a new clinic that will help deliver more patient care to lower-income residents.

OfficeHours tracked the top five stories, and invited readers to nominate the top story. We'll announce the winner in our pick-the-top-story contest on Thursday, Jan. 2. That reader gets a $10 coffee card, on us.

Go back over recent OfficeHours blog posts to see the other four top business stories of the year.


Area’s second-largest business story for 2013: Umpqua buys Sterling Bank

Today's post: The No. 2 business story of the year for the Spokane North Idaho area.

Last week we posted No. 3, the widespread credit card breach connected to area grocery stores.

No. 2 is the acquisition of Spokane's largest home-based bank, Sterling Financial by Oregon-based Umpqua Bank. Our earlier story on the acquisition ran on Sept. 11, 2013.

Tomorrow, Dec. 31, we list the No. 1 business story for 2013.  Because of our pick-the-top-story contest, the final story will determine who wins the SR OfficeHours $10 coffee card.



Here are four business stories of the year that don’t score in top five

We earlier posted the OfficeHours No. 3 business story of 2013: the huge credit card fraud that's ensnarled many customers of stores served by the URM Stores computer network.

Your deadline to win a $10 coffee card is 10 p.m. tonight. Just post a comment here and tell us your pick for top area business story. Winner will be chosen at random if several guesses are all correct.

Here are four stories that won't make it into the final two:

  • The legal hassles and slow resolution of the Greg Jeffreys downtown property lawsuits, primarily connected to the Ridpath.
  • The start of a new Target store on the Upper South Hill.
  • The first spade work on a Convention Center hotel in downtown, begun by hotelier Walt Worthy.
  • The housing market rebound of 2013, for both Spokane and Kootenai County.

So those are four you can scratch off your list.  Again: deadline is 10 p.m. this evening.



No. 3 big business story for ‘13: large credit breach tied to URM Stores

Tonight at 10 p.m. is the deadline to submit entries for the Top Business Story of 2013 for the Spokane North Idaho area.

Just place a comment here or on the two earlier posts that listed Stories No. 5 and No. 4: They were the rehab and cleanup of the Mead smelter and the renovation of a number of major buildings in the downtown area.

Here's the No. 3 story of the year: The widespread credit and debit card fraud connected to data breaches at Spokane's URM Stores. The grocery cooperative operates as a data transmitter for more than 120 regional stores. At some point in the fall, an unknown hacker got access to secure card data. The impact is still uncounted and no doubt affects several thousand local residents (coming a few weeks before the national credit card fraud connected with Target stores).

The most recent story on that problem is here.

Later this afternoon, check back and we'll announce three stories of major significance that ARE NOT among the top business stories of the year


No. 4 business story of ‘13: major land deals will rehab downtown buildings

The No. 4 business story of the year in this area:  downtown Spokane property purchases and renovations planned by local developers.

Earlier this week we published our choice for No. 5, the improvements and cleanup taking place at the former Kaiser Mead smelter.

We'll count down the final three and conclude the series on Dec. 31. We've extended the contest deadline to 10 p.m. Friday, Dec. 27.

If you guess the No. 1 business story of the year, by suggesting it in a comment below, we'll give you a $10 coffee card.

Our No. 4 choice reflects the investments made by developers and companies buying several major old and crusty buildings. Those include the Hutton Building, acquired by STCU;  the grand Spokane Masonic Center, acquired by an investment firm; the former Burgan's buildings, being converted into mixed use by developer Jerry Dicker near GU; and the acquisition of the former Civic Building downtown, by Inland Empire Foundation. (Pictured here, it was the original chamber of commerce building in the early 20th Century.)

You could also throw in the purchases of the Dutch's building downtown and the Sherwood Mall renovation going on by new owners.

As for your No. 1 choices, simply add them in comment form below. One submission per person. In case of ties we'll do a random drawing.




Many firms, not just Sodexo, will adjust or eliminate health plans for workers

Today's business story focused on one employer, national food service provider Sodexo, to cut medical insurance costs by redefining its full time workers.

As the story noted, this has not been a unique decision. Many companies are looking at the new Affordable Care Act as a way to cut the medical benefit while workers are shunted into new private plans.

Altogether, about 44 percent of employers  contacted during a 2013 survey said they plan to stop administering health plans for their former workers over the next two years. The survey was commissioned by Towers Watson, a consulting firm that focuses on helping companies improve performance.

Did the Panhandle counties in November see a jobless bump due to cold?

On Monday Dec. 23 the state of Washington released jobless numbers for Spokane County for November.

The news was about average… our jobless rate rose three-tenths of  percent, to 7 percent.  King County, by contrast, clocked in at 5 percent.

After reading the daily story on the numbers, a caller raised the point that Idaho's numbers — statewide — dropped in November. The caller said, “Hey, if cold weather affects Spokane's numbers negatively, why didn't the same thing happen in November for Idaho?”

The reason:  Idaho's numbers were the statewide number, not the northern Panhandle areas. If we get time, we'll look at the specific North Idaho counties in November to see if they had a similar cold-weather jobless spike, as Spokane did, in November.


Win a $10 card, pick year’s top business story for the Spokane-Idaho metro

How about a $10 coffee card free, to the coffee shop of your preference?

You simply need to pick the top business news story of the year, for Spokane and North Idaho (One choice covering the whole area, not two separate stories).  If your choice matches that of the SR business desk, you get the card. (In the case of multiple winners, we'll hold a random drawing and award one gift card.)

Make your suggestion in the form of a comment below. One suggestion per user. Deadline: 8 p.m. PST Dec. 26.

As you can see, our blog post below gives you No. 5 — the rehabbing of the the old Kaiser Mead Smelter. We'll reveal No. 4 on Dec. 26.

We'll reveal our choice for top story of the year on Jan. 1, here in the OfficeHours blog.

Remember, one submission per person, and the deadline is 8 p.m. Dec. 26.

Officehours counts down the major business stories: No. 5: the Mead smelter

OfficeHours will do its own 2013 business story run-down, counting from Five to One, over the next week.

What were the biggest business news stories of the past year, affecting the Eastern Washington-North Idaho region?

Please feel free to voice your own choices or post links to stories not covered in these pages or by the Spokane media. In fact, we are sure there are some stories that weren't covered in detail that deserved more attention.

Today's No. 5 story:  The ongoing and accelerated efforts by a California company, New Mill Capital to rehab the former Mead aluminum smelter.

We ran the story this past fall, with very strong photos by staff photographer Dan Pelle:

Sen. Murray lauded by airport execs for requiring TSA to safeguard exit lanes

Spokane International Airport is saluting Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington) for her commitment to keeping the TSA responsible for manning exit lane security at all major airports.

Over recent months the TSA, a part of Homeland Security, had been pushing to change its responsibility, getting airports to cover the exit-lane security costs. It said the cuts were needed because of budget contraints.

But Murray didn't let that happen. While brokering the Senate's approval of a new budget passed Wednesday, she made sure it required the TSA to monitor exit lanes at the 154 major commercial airports in the U.S.

Spokane's airport directors opposed the TSA request, saying the change would have “resulted in significant costs increases for airports, introduced untold liabilities and would have blurred the roles of TSA and airports for carrying out a national security function that has been assigned to the TSA by Congress since the creation of the agency in 2001.”

Larry Krauter, Spokane airport CEO, issued a statement Wednesday saying: “In this case, not only did (Sen. Murray) help commercial service airports in the state of Washington, but also airports across the country.  We are convinced that Sen. Murray’s actions averted serious negative consequences for the security of our national air transportation system.”

Spokane firms Interlink, Intrinium merge. No, the name will not be InterTrinium

Two Spokane tech firms, Intrinium and Interlink Advantage, have merged, creating a 35-worker company covering a range of web and technology services.

The new firm will be called Intrinium. At present the companies will remain in their current locations; Interlink operates at 609 N. Argonne Rd. in Spokane Valley, while Intrinium will continue operating from 105 W. Third Ave.

Kirt Runolfson founded Interlink in 1994, and it focuses on security, outsourced services, web, email and cloud computing. It currently has 11 employees.

Intrinium, started by Nolan Garrett in 2007, provides IT security and management consulting services. Its headcount is 24 workers.

It also has offices in Olympia and San Antonio.

Runolfson and Garrett began discussing the merger earlier this year. The two saw ways for their firms to work together and develop a stronger service lineup for local and national customers.

The merger takes effect in January.

GSI hires national executive search firm to find next CEO

Spokane’s Greater Spokane Incorporated has hired Waverly Partners to conduct an executive search for its next CEO and president.

The Cleveland-based firm will work with search committee members to identify the person who will replace Rich Hadley, who is leaving after 20 years in the CEO position.

Hadley has said he’ll depart in May.

GSI is the Spokane area's largest economic development agency, uniting the former Spokane Regional Chamber of Commerce and Spokane Area Economic Development Council.

Board members Linda Elkin of U.S. Bank and Scott Morris of Avista are co-chairing the search committee.

Hadley said the amount spent on the search will vary depending on how many candidates are reviewed and how many are flown to Spokane for visits.

“Our committee has developed a profile with the experience and leadership characteristics of our preferred candidate,” Elkin said in a press release. “We are open to executives with backgrounds in economic development, chambers of commerce, business associations, other kinds of nonprofits, private sector or related experience with a commitment to our mission of business advocacy in this region.”

Do customers stop shopping online due to password recovery problems?

Do people really get all the way to an online store checkout, only to bail when they can't recall their passwords?

Dashlane, a company that makes secure password management software, helped conduct some research to find out how often shoppers don't complete an online purchase due to password issues.

Here's the short version of the results:

18 percent of those surveyed forgot a password or username when shopping.

53 percent went through a password or user name retrieval process.

Dashlane found that 19 percent of online adults in the U.S.-based 55-64 demographic had also given up a purchase from an e-commerce site because of a forgotten password or username.

The survey was conducted by Harris Interactive.

Dashlane would like to suggest this is a major issue, even though we're not convinced it's all that important. Those 19 percent said they halted or stopped a purchase at one time. It doesn't say how many of those later came back and used their passwords to make a purchase. Or who called the store to make the order, instead of relying on the online option.

Global online sales topped $1 trillion in 2012 and might reach as high this year as $1.3 trillion. For the United States the expectation is an ecommerce total sales figure of roughly $410 billion.

The survey was conducted online from Dec. 3-5, 2013, by Harris Interactive on behalf of Dashlane. Survey respondents were 2,032 U.S. adults (age 18 and older) from the United States.

More detailed results from that survey also include: (results in jump box below)


Here are you key deadlines for last-minute holiday orders and shipping

So if you're one of those who buys items online as gifts, here are some critical deadlines for shipping presents.

With our own research and help from, we put together this list for when your final deadline is.


  • Dec. 21: free two-day shipping: Order as late as midnight  9 p.m. PST (varies by item) and usually just Amazon-processed items, not just storefronts using Amazon.
  • Dec. 23: one-day shipping (usually $2.99 per item. Same conditions as above.
  • Dec. 24: local express delivery ($3.99 per item) while available only in select cities.


  • Dec. 19: standard: delivery, by 11 p.m. EST
  • Dec. 21: express 11 p.m. EST
  • Dec. 23: priority mail, by 11 p.m. EST

Best Buy

  • Dec. 20: standard: Dec. 20 by 3 p.m. EST
  • Dec. 21: express: Dec. 21 by 1 p.m. EST
  • Dec. 22: fastest mail rate, by 1 p.m. EST


  • Dec. 18: standard: Dec. 18 by 10 p.m. EST
  • Dec. 19: express: Dec. 19 by 10 p.m. EST
  • Dec. 21: fastest, by 12 p.m. EST

Harry & David

  • Dec. 18: standard: Dec. 18
  • Dec. 20: express, by 10 a.m. PST
  • Dec. 23: fastest: Dec. 23 by 10 a.m. PST


  • Dec. 19: standard: Dec. 19
  • Dec. 20: express: Dec. 20 by 2 p.m. CST
  • Dec. 23: fastest: Dec. 23 by 2 p.m. CST


  • Dec. 21: standard: Dec. 21 by 11 p.m. EST
  • Dec. 22: fastest: Dec. 22 by 5 p.m. EST


  • Dec. 21: standard: Dec. 21 by 11 p.m. EST
  • Dec. 23: fastest 3 p.m. EST


  • Dec. 20: standard (first-class): Dec. 20
  • Dec. 21: express (priority mail): Dec. 21
  • Dec. 23: fastest (priority mail Express).


  • Dec. 19: standard: Dec. 19
  • Dec. 20: express: Dec. 20
  • Dec. 22: fastest: Dec. 22

The Warren Buffett-does-Walter White Christmas Card will get two days of buzz

You can be sure Warren Buffett is not the only guy who used a Walter White (Breaking Bad) persona on his 2013 Christmas Card.

(He posted it on www.instragram recently.)

While others probably did the same, few will get the attention the Oracle of Omaha will reap.  Two things first off: Buffett represents the vast horde of older white guys (I'm in that group) who are chronically late and usually unable to raise their hipness score.

And second, doesn't he have a media handler who should be smarter than him, who would discourage stuff like this? 

Still, it's not the worst thing Buffett might have tried to generate some buzz.  Worse would have been Warren trying to coax some likes by adding Keyboard Cat to his  Xmas card.

As unemployment program expires, 1,480 Spokane workers likely to lose benefits

If the federal government doesn't reauthorize extended unemployment benefits for jobless state workers, the number of people affected in Spokane County will be above 1,400.

When members of Congress fashioned a budget compromise this week, one item not extended was the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program which expires Dec. 28, 2013.

Congressional Democrats and the White House are continuing efforts to pass an extension in separate legislation.  Legislation could be passed retroactively in early January if it not approved prior to the Congressional holiday recess, which is later this month.

The Washington Employment Security Department said 1,480 workers in Spokane County face the loss of jobless benefits as the federal program extension dies. Stevens County has 111, Walla Walla County has 113 and Pend Oreille County has 41, according to an ESD data sheet.


Spokane IP firm Lee & Hayes opens its sixth office, in Washington, D.C.

Spokane law firm Lee & Hayes has opened an office in Washington, D.C., and named former Congressman George Nethercutt as head of its government relations practice.

The D.C. office is the firm’s second new location this year, following the opening of a Rochester, N.Y. office.

Lee & Hayes, best known for its expertise in intellectual property law, also has offices in Austin, Seattle and Portland, with 72 attorneys on staff.

“The primary objective of our new office is to promote our clients’ intellectual property interests in the political, legislative and regulatory processes in Washington, D.C.,” said company co-founder Lewis Lee.

Also based in the D.C. office are Poh Chua, who heads the office’s international and business practice; and Colin Barnitz, a veteran IP patent attorney who previously worked at the firm’s Austin office.

In addition to IP work and government relations, Lee & Hayes also provides services in corporate and securities law and litigation matters.

The firm has been recognized as the national leader in patent quality for four consecutive years by Intellectual Asset Management (IAM) magazine. IAM also recently ranked Lee as one of the world’s leading IP strategists in its IAM Strategy 300 issue.

Greater Hillyard Business networking event is Thursday, at Usher’s

Anyone looking to shake some hands up and get an inside view of the ongoing Hillyard neighborhood economic rebound, we recommend this Thursday's Greater Hillyard Business Association holiday networking event.

It will be at Usher's Corner, from 5 to 8 p.m., with food and other offerings available.  To attend the free event you need to RSVP to Melissa at 456-8088 or Or you can register online at this link.

Usher's is at 5028 N. Market St.

The event is sponsored by the Greater Hillyard business group.

When we talk about the Hillyard recovery, you should know that in terms of jobs and new businesses being started in the past two years, Hillyard is amassing a solid track record.  Office Hours will get back on that topic following the New Year.



Area residents being sent ‘phishing’ attack looking for card information

Spokane police say area residents are receiving “phishing” text messages from a scammer posing as a bank official needing personal information to reactive credit cards supposedly shut down because of fraudulent activity.

Spokane Police spokeswoman Sgt. Lydia Taylor couldn’t say how many such text messages have been received.

But she noted “a large number” of would-be victims told at least two Spokane area credit unions they received the bogus messages sent from the number (208) 758-0211.

The scammer appears to be exploiting fears generated by recent reports of widespread card fraud for customers of Spokane and North Idaho grocery stores.

Last month, more than a thousand area credit or debit cards were involved in a data breach. URM Stores, a Spokane-based cooperative that handles card payments for several area chains, including Rosauers, Harvest Foods and Yoke’s Fresh Market, has said it’s patched whatever security hole in its network was exploited.

Area law enforcement has made no arrests and say they have not yet identified the source of the credit card exploit.

The scam tells would-be victims their credit or debit card is inactive due to fraud. It can be reactivated if the recipient calls back to provide account information, Taylor said.

Numerica opens a downtown Spokane branch in the former Sherwood Mall

Numerica Credit Union opened its eighth Spokane branch recently at 502 W. Riverside Ave. in downtown.

The two-story building provides about 3,000 square feet on the main floor. The branch, one of 17 in Eastern Washington and North Idaho, has a staff of four and is open Monday through Friday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Built in 1953, the building was the first Spokane branch of First National Bank. In recent years it became part of Sherwood Mall.

Earlier this year, it was purchased by RenCorp Realty, which renamed the corner building the Numerica Building. Entry to the branch is either by the main door or via the skywalk.

One owner of the building is Spokane Indians and Spokane Chiefs owner Bobby Brett.

It’s next door to the 1917 Kirtland Cutter Building at 510 W. Riverside Ave., which was also part of the former Sherwood Mall. Area investor Tom Clemson bought it this year and is renovating it for commercial use.

Jake Krummel is the branch manager downtown.

Photo courtesy of Numerica Credit Union/Kelli Hawkins

Six food trucks will hold a rally Friday downtown, from 5-8 p.m.

This could be one way to warm up tomorrow, Friday, from 5 to 8 p.m. (NOT during the lunch hour as this blog wrongly reported earlier).

Downtown Spokane will have a gathering of food trucks. The local organizers at Downtown Spokane call it Spokane 's First Friday Food Truck Rally.

There will be outdoor heating and seating available at the gathering spot   —  on the pedestrian mall on Wall Street between Main and Riverside, on the east side of the Sterling Bank downtown branch.

Six food trucks are lined up, including Azar's, Couple of Chefs Catering, The Jamaican Jerk Plan, Bistro Box, King of Tacos and The Scoop.

Music will be provided by the well-known fiddle trio the Turner Sisters. That should help keep your feet tapping.

For info, call Andrew, at 509 456-0508.

Tyler Lafferty explains his uncanny, constant need to create new businesses

This week's main morning event is Thursday's Connect Northwest breakfast featuring Tyler Lafferty, co-founder of Seven2, 14Four and a number of other businesses.

It starts at 7 a.m. at the Georgian Room of the Spokane Club, 1002 W. Riverside Ave. The presentation starts at 7:30 and runs until 9 a.m.

Lafferty is also a member of Greater Spokane Incorporated’s trustees, the Mead School District Riverpoint Academy Board of Advisors, Spokane STEM’s Design and Leadership team and Spokane Youth for Christ.

Among the sponsors of the event is Cowles Co., which also owns The Spokesman-Review.

Registration is $30. You can sign up here.


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The Spokesman-Review business team follows economic development in Spokane and the Inland Northwest.

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Alison Boggs (@alisonboggs) Online Producer Alison Boggs posts and manages content on and its social networking accounts.

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

Addy Hatch is the city editor, and formerly was business editor.

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