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Archive for January 2013

TSA’s next generation body scanners came out of research at PNNL lab

Last week the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced it would remove backscatter scanning machines from U.S. airports. The decision followed a fail by the company that made those units to devise a satisfying software fix for the problem of images that were deemed too invasive for many airline passengers.

Spokane and other airpots using the backscatter machines will see those replaced. TSA spokeswoman Lorie Dankers said the replacements will roll out in early summer 2013.

The next technology to go into the airports has a Washington state pedigree. Starting this summer the TSA will install machines using millimeter wave beams to look for contraband or weapons at the airline checkpoints.

That technology is developed by L-3, a New York company. That technology traces directly to research done at the Pacific Northwest National Labs in the Tri-Cities.

A story from the Review back in 2006 noted that L-3 acquired the rights to the technology after buying it from the California firm that licensed the millimeter wave system developed at PNNL.

Here's the old story for background:

April 1, 2006 in Business

Body-scanning system developed at PNNL may find wider application

The Spokesman-Review 

A New York company that has extensive contracts with the Department of Homeland Security has acquired a body-scanning system developed at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

L-3 Communications announced this week it has acquired SafeView Inc., of Santa Clara, Calif. SafeView had licensed an innovative holographic body scanner system developed in the 1990s at PNNL’s Richland, Wash., lab.

The technology uses ultra–high frequency waves known as millimeter waves to detect objects that evade the discovery of traditional metal detectors. The non-intrusive, low-radiation system provides a 360-degree image of any objects worn under the clothing of a person scanned by the screening device.

SafeView has already sold versions of its system — called the Scout Personal Screening System — to dozens of customers, including the London transportation system and to the U.S. Department of Defense, which employs the technology to protect people inside Baghdad’s Green Zone.

L-3 officials did not disclose how much the company paid to acquire SafeView. SafeView reported 2005 sales of about $50 million.

A press release on the acquisition said SafeView will help L-3 develop a more advanced set of security systems to be used in the aviation and maritime industries. L-3, which is traded publicly, had revenue of about $12 billion last year.

Downtown Spokane Artisan Fire Pizza opens Thursday, in former Moxie spot

Twitter was right. The new Artisan Fire Pizza in downtown Spokane opens officially Thursday, Jan. 31.

Today is a soft opening. Starting tomorrow hours will be until 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, until 11 p.m. on weekends.

It's taking the former Moxie location at 806 W. Sprague Ave.

You can win a coffee card on us if you spot someone adding card surcharges

There's a lot of non-news behind the announcement that retailers this week have the option of adding surcharges on some credit card purchases. Our story ran this morning at Spokesman.com.

The quick answer:  No one we know is going to be the first company to announce they are adding surcharges. Every retailer who accepts credit cards is already factoring that cost into the price. Hence, few will try to justify going to the trouble of now adding a formal surcharge for the “swipe fee”(the percent of the purchase the retailer pays to the credit card firm).

The New York Times also listed reasons why retailers won't be adding the charges.

If anyone sees a surcharge out there, please send us a photo. We'll send a $5 coffee card to anyone who can show an actual instance of a retailer adding a surcharge. We'll send out three cards to the first three submitters.

The photo has to show the required sign posted at the register that explains the retailer now is adding the charge.  If you find a surcharge on a website, we'll accept a screen grab as proof.

Restrictions: Has to be in any of the following states: Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Idaho or Montana.

The first three submissions must be from three different stores and the submissions have to be by three different readers.

Send your images to Business@spokesman.com.

City’s commercial projects surge in 2012 due to hospitals and WSU med school

Spokane city commercial construction got on a major role in 2012, according to records kept by the city and outside data companies.

The volume of commercial construction last year nearly doubled the volume of the generally weak performance of 2011.

Today's business section story laid out the major points. Here's the top 10 graphs. Go to the story link for the full take.

Spokane’s commercial construction spending rebounded in 2012 because of several large government and hospital projects that brought year-end totals to levels not seen since 2006.

Area construction companies took out permits for $362 million in commercial projects in Spokane County last year. That’s up sharply from the $288 million in commercial jobs in the county in 2011 and $246 million in 2010.

“Things are better for sure in commercial construction,” said Bob Askins, vice president of Shea Graham Construction, based in Spokane Valley. “But the 2011 numbers as a baseline were pretty low. Even so, things are getting better.”

Graham Construction had two of the bigger commercial projects of 2012: the large Biomedical and Health Sciences Building on the WSU Spokane campus and a series of renovations at Deaconess Hospital.

Those two projects, and expansion of Sacred Heart’s emergency room building, helped account for the surge in commercial projects last year inside Spokane’s city limits.

The city in 2012 accounted for $248 million, or 68 percent of all commercial projects within Spokane County. The numbers are based on building permit estimated costs.

The city’s 2012 commercial total is roughly double the $125 million for projects during 201

Private projects generally account for 70 percent to 77 percent of all construction in Spokane County, if private colleges and hospitals are included in the category.

Last year private commercial projects accounted for close to 78 percent, according to Construction Monitor, a national data aggregator.

What happened in the deal between Airway Heights and Spokane County?

It cannot be news or much of a shock to learn the Spokane County commissioners unanimously voted to express opposition to the proposed Spokane Tribe casino and resort, on land they bought and which was annexed to the City of Airway Heights.

Scroll down to the bottom of this text box to read the full nine-page document. It's long and legalistic.

For the record, we want to add the view of Airway Heights city officials, who are contending that a threatened suit by the County had little to do with their agreeing to let the county out of the 2010 deal that curtailed the right to comment on the casino plan.

Mayor Pat Rushing told us that the county was able to terminate the 2010 agreement only when it fully agreed to give up all claims on any revenue the tribe would provide to the city and county, once the casino would open.

Rushing did contact The Spokesman-Review on Friday, the day the first story appeared. Rushing said it would be inaccurate to say the lawsuit forced Airway Heights to terminate the deal. l

An Aiway Heights press release that went out on Thursday last week failed to clarify the reason for the change in plans on the city's part. Rushing said the expectation was to explain the reasons after the release went out.

But Rushing wasn't called by the media that day. That allowed allowed the commissioners to make the assertion about a lawsuit unchallenged.


Documents:

SBA launches site to help small business plug into Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care Act takes effect for many small businesses over the next two years.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) on Monday started a website to help small businesses understand the set of choices they face.

It's www.sba.gov/healthcare.

It includes online tools to gather up information provided by agenices that will be responsible for implementing the law, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The act specifies a set of choices that affect how business owners deal with premiums and access to insurance plans.  The new site breaks down some of the act's provisions for businesses in different sizes — such as, self-employed, fewer than 25 employees, fewer than 50 employees and more than 50 employees. 

Sterling Financial had a solid 4Q and a very decent fiscal 2012

IN case you missed on Thursday, Spokane's Sterling Financial Corp. had a good 4Q earnings report.

The company, which operates Sterling Savings Bank, announced it booked net income of $20.9 million, or 33 cents per diluted common share, compared to $30.6 million, or 49 cents per diluted common share, for the quarter ended September 30, 2012, and $14.8 million or 24 cents per diluted common share, for the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2011.

For the year Sterling recorded net income of $385.7 million, or $6.14 per diluted common share, compared to $39.1 million, or 63 cents per diluted common share, for the year ended Dec. 31, 2011.

The 2012 annual net income included an income tax benefit of $292 million associated with the release of a deferred tax asset valuation allowance.

Here are some other bullet points, borrowed from TheStreet.com:

  • Portfolio loan originations for the quarter were $561.7 million, a 23 percent increase over the prior quarter.
  • Income from mortgage banking operations for the year was $96.9 million, up 85 percent over 2011.
  • Nonperforming assets to total assets was 2.28 percent, down from 2.73 percent at September 30, 2012, and 4.01 percent at December 31, 2011.
  • A total of $40.4 million, or 65 cents per share, was returned to shareholders during the fourth quarter of 2012 through payment of a 15 cent per share regular dividend, a 35 cents per share special dividend and the accelerated payment of the 15 cents regular dividend that would have otherwise been paid during the first quarter of 2013.
  • During the fourth quarter, Sterling announced the signing of definitive agreements to acquire American Heritage Holdings and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Borrego Springs Bank of California.

Comments on Spokane Tribe casino will still be allowed after EIS is released

A Friday regional story noted that Spokane County Commissioners will unwind a 2010 agreement that would have kept them from taking a stance on a proposed Spokane Tribe casino and resort. It won't surprise me if comments posted online suggest the newspaper is working against the Tribe.

For the record, the only opposition to this proposal voiced by The Spokesman Review has been on the editorial page. Which is the page that reflects only the opinion of the publisher, Stacey Cowles.

The reporters/editors/photographers by common agreement don't try to influence the opinions expressed on the editiorial page. We expect readers to know the difference between news stories and editorials.

Here's the update on what's next in the process facing this casino proposal. The Bureau of Indian Affairs is expected to release a final environmental impact statement within the next 45 days.

Once that's finished, 30 days must pass before the BIA can issue its final decision. That decision is the ultimate yes or no that can move the casino plan forward.

According to BIA spokeswoman Nedra Darling, parties are able to make comments before the final decision is made.Those will have to be made to the BIA website in writing or submitted by mail.

Red Lion Hotels introducing new boutique hotel group, Leo Hotels

UPDATED Jan 24 at 10:03 AM

And to explain why the name is Leo Hotel Collection, we went to Pam Scott, Red Lion's director of communications. The answer:

“We engaged  an outside firm, Methodologie, to assist in the development of The Leo Hotel Collection soft brand.  Based on their extensive brand research, Methodologie proposed the name as a complement to the Red Lion Hotels and Red Lion Inn & Suites.”


Spokane's Red Lion Hotels is branching out, developing a boutique franchise network.

Today's business section story covers the essentials:

“Called the Leo Hotel Collection, the concept has boutique, smaller or historic hotels retaining their names but using Red Lion’s distribution and marketing channels, said Harry Sladich, Red Lion’s vice president of sales and marketing.

Red Lion operates or franchises 48 hotels across the Western United States and Canada. In recent years it has focused on franchises rather than corporate-owned properties, which reduces its operating costs while building its network.”

Sladich offered two other hotel groups that have already been pushing the same smaller-is-cool approach.
Marriott Hotels has developed the Autograph group with the same focus. ChoiceHotels introduced its version, Ascend Collection, in recent years.

Why “Leo Hotel”?   Keep watching this post. We'll explain within the hour.

Risk-management tech firm CXOWARE lands $1.25 million in funding

Spokane tech startup CXOWARE has landed its first round of outside funding — a total of $1.25 million from an overseas investor and three regional venture funds.

CXOWARE provides software tools used by large and mid-sized companies to analyze financial risk and other risks that could disrupt their businesses.

Company CEO Steve Tabacek said the funding includes roughly $1 million from Belgian entrepreneur and mathematician Henry Beker. Beker was a founder of U.K.-based information security company Baltimore Technologies.

Beker now has a seat on the CXOWARE board, said Tabacek.

An additional $250,000 came from Spokane Angel Alliance, Spokane’s Inland TechStart Fund and one member of the Seattle Alliance of Angels.

Tabacek started and helped grow Liberty Lake-based IT-Lifeline, a business continuity and recovery services provider. Tabacek still owns 30 percent of that company, but left three years ago when the board wanted a new CEO.

In early 2011 Tabacek and colleague Jack Jones teamed up to start the new company. Jones, a former chief information security officer with Nationwide Insurance, developed a prototype of an analytic tool that would identify the critical areas of business vulnerability.

Those concerns include theft, cyber fraud, external issues like hostile takeover, disruption of the supply chain and other factors. Jones’s breakthrough was coming up with a detailed tool that could estimate a company’s risk, in monetary terms, Tabacek said.

Companies, many of them in the financial services sector, now need to identify risk potential and find ways to prioritize risk mitigation budgets and manage that exposure, Tabacek said.

The company has a staff of five with offices in the McKinstry Innovation Center east of downtown Spokane. Tabacek said the headcount will grow to eight in the next 30 days as the investment is applied to stronger marketing and business development.

The first year and half, CXOWARE relied primarily on his own and Jones’s funding, Tabacek said.

The partners used a Pullman tech company, Integrated Engineering Solutions, to develop the software-as-a-service used by customers. By 2013 Tabacek said they had a dozen paying customers, most of them in financial services and the energy sector.

That success set the stage for seeking outside investment, Tabacek added.

 “Risk management and risk reduction are huge right now for public companies in health care, energy and even the non-public sector,” Tabacek

Spokane MarCom features Feb. 1 work session with Emmy-winner Duperon

The next development meeting organized by the Spokane Regional Marketing and Communications Association features powerhouse media figure Shawne Duperon.

The association, which goes by Spokane MarCom, for short, will host Duperon, a six-time Emmy Award broadcaster and media lecturer. She will discuss working with the media more effectively.

The event runs from 7 to 11 a.m. Feb. 1 at the Lincoln Center, 1316 N. Lincoln St. It includes breakfast. To register or get more details, visit www.SpokaneMarCom.org. (Rates are lower for members and for students.)

Her bio at ShawneTV.com, notes she  is an expert speaker who travels widely to address businesses and media professionals and discuss how communication affects attitudes and outcomes.


The MarCom announcement said Duperon will focus on:

  •  Interview techniques that have you and the reporter looking exquisite. (Really, that's what it says.)
  •  How to not sound like a commercial and have editors run screaming the other way,
  •  How to handle any hostile questions.

Hart Capital’s Inland Northwest Index: area firms did fine in 2012

The tracking index for 15 publicly traded Inland Northwest companies ended a good year with a mild dip in the fourth quarter.

The Hart Capital Inland Northwest Index lost 3.2 percent in total value during 2012’s fourth quarter.

For the full year the index reported a gain of 14.2 percent.

During the same period, the broad S&P 500 was up 13.4 percent.

Hart Capital Management, a Spokane-based investment company, produces the index to track the market performance of the area’s public companies. The accompanying graph is weighted to account for the relative market capitalization of the 15 companies.

The index is measured against the S&P 500; the Hart Index is based on a starting value of 100 from Dec. 31, 2002. The S&P starts from its relative position on Dec. 31, 2002.

The company doesn’t manage an investment fund based on the index, but uses it to track the performance of regional companies, said company President Craig Hart.

In 2011 the Hart index lost 19.9 percent, while the S&P 500 that year ended the year flat.

The top performing stocks in the Hart Capital Index for the year were Key Tronic Corp., Potlatch Corp. and Sterling Financial Corp., with respective increases of 118 percent, 25.8 percent and 25.1 percent.

Avista Corp. was the laggard in the group, down 6.4 percent for the year.

More information on the index is at www.hartcap.blogspot.com.

WalMart Foundation provides $110,000 grant to Second Harvest Food Bank

We almost went through the week without mentioning a major contribution by the Walmart Foundation Washington State Giving Program to Spokane's Second Harvest Food Bank.

The award of $110,000 will be used by Second Harvest to buy  a new semi-tractor, expected to help increase the nonprofit’s food distribution to 28 million pounds annually by 2016.

That award is one of several announced by the mammoth U.S. and global retailer. The Arkansas-based company announced it has awarded $750,000 in Washington state grants in 2012, including $375,000 to nine nonprofit organizations in the second half of 2012.

Additional information about the program’s funding guidelines and application process are available online at www.walmartfoundation.org/stategiving.

Jarms movies to new Cheney space, Bruce Greene brings back Bruchi’s

Here's the advance read on the notable new real-estate retail deals going down in Spokane, and Cheney.

Jarms Hardware takes new space

Jarms True Value Hardware is moving to a new location at 6 Cheney-Spokane Road, next to the Trading Company Grocery.

The hardware business has operated at 1720 Second in Cheney for more than 35 years.

The new location will address the store’s need for more space, totaling just over 22,000 square feet.

Expected move-in date is this summer, depending on the sale or lease of the current property, a press release said.

Colin Conway of Kiemle & Hagood will handle the lease or sale of the existing hardware store.

Bruchi’s plans South Hill return

Bruce Greene, founder of the Bruchi’s sandwich shops in Spokane, will reopen a new store at one of his former South Hill sites.

Greene, who started the sandwich retail chain in 1980 in Spokane, will open a new store at 2804 E. 29th.

That address featured a Bruchi’s until it was closed several years ago. The business that took that spot, Gridiron Subs, closed its doors in 2012.

Greene has not set an opening date for the location.

Darren Slackman and Chris Bell represented the landlord, Harlan Douglass, and Greene. Both agents work at NAI Black.

Fewer people hunt for jobs in the state, causing jobless rate to fall to 7.6 percent

Washington’s state unemployment rate dropped to a seasonally adjusted 7.6 percent rate in December. That's the lowest point in four years and down slightly from the revised seasonally adjusted rate of 7.7 percent in November.

But it's not all good news. The state's Employment Security Department economists say declines in the unemployment rate have been due largely to a shrinking labor force, as unemployed job seekers stop looking for work.

“Our population is growing and we’ve regained more than half of the jobs lost during the recession, but the number of people in the labor force has been declining,” said Joe Elling, chief labor economist for Employment Security. “When the labor force shrinks, it artificially lowers the unemployment rate.”

The total number of employed and unemployed workers in Washington has fallen 60,000 since employment reached its low point in February 2010, about half of that in the past year. Meanwhile, the total number of jobs has grown by about 115,000 in the past three years, out of a recession loss of about 205,000 jobs.

Preliminary data for December 2012 show a total drop of 7,900 jobs. Elling said there was weak response to the employer survey in December, and the number may be revised when late-arriving data are factored in.

For a fuller profile of the gains and losses in job sectors, look for today's online business story at Spokesman.com.

Schweitzer to add 20 residences to White Pine Lodge

Schweitzer Mountain Resort will add 20 new residences to White Pine Lodge. The four-story addition will add 16 two-bedroom/two-bathroom homes and four three-bedroom/three-bathroom homes, the resort says.

The three-bedroom homes will be designed as lock-off units, allowing for varied configurations for owner rental and use.

“These are whole ownership residences in the heart of the village,” said Rod Engel, Schweitzer’s director of real estate.

Schweitzer said it expects to release final pricing for homes in early February and will begin selling units at that time, with construction scheduled to begin as early as this summer.

Lydig Construction of Spokane, which built the original White Pine, is expected to construct the addition. Seattle based Collins-Woerman Architecture is handling the design.

How many folks were affected by the KAYU-DISH snafu? About 103,000

We wondered how many subcribers might have been affected by the blackout created by the KAYU, DISH Network snafu that was settled over the weekend.

Roughly 103,000 is the number we came up with, thanks to the folks at SNL Kagan, a communications and broadcast media information aggregator. The number is certainly a bit lower than that, as some DISH subscribers likely had other options (such as a cable connection or a digital antenna to get signals).

Based on third quarter 2012 numbers, DISH had 103,429 subscribers in the Spokane TV market.

That's up from 3Q 2010, again using numbers provided by SNL Kagan. Here's the three-way subscriber numbers:

                     2010                                        2012 (both measured in 3Q)

Comcast      100,000                                               106,311

DirecTV         69,000                                                 76,478

DISH            102,000                                              103,429
  

Comcast's numbers are entirely in the Spokane metro area. DirecTV and DISH subscribers extend from North Idaho all the way over to central Washington.

Also worth noting is that both DirecTV and DISH ran into problems over retrans fees with Northwest Broadcasting, which runs KAYU.  The important thing is that there are no retrans fees paid by cable for its ability to carry local station signals.

The reason is that the cable giants, like Comcast, give local stations access to some channels at little or no coast, in lieu of retrans fees. Hence, you never see the locals like NW Broadcasting locked in battles over money with Comcast.

A

Viewers who endured KAYU-DISH blackout came away angry at both sides

You probably heard the disputing parties in the KAYU-DISH blackout finally reached an agreement over the weekend:  KAYU-28, Spokane’s Fox affiliate, was off the Dish network since late November over a dispute involving retransmission fees.

Terms of the deal to end the blackout were not disclosed.

But what is clear is both companies ended up with a black eye in the minds of many customers. We did a quick email blast to angry customers who were upset enough to contact KAYU GM Brian Brady last week. Here's a short sample of how those customers told us they feel about what happened to them.

Viewer Carol Nelson's take: “Once the snow's gone, we'll be looking into antenna options so we aren't caught in the middle again. We shouldn't have to leave home in order to watch network programs!”

And, Donald Rowland doesn't pull any punches: “Still, a very bad business practice, to torture the paying customers! SHAME on both companies for doing this! Now that the Seahawks are done, I have no further need of KAYU-28 along with many of the area advertisers. May they reap what they sowed!”

And here's a blast from Stephen Fisher, M.D.: “I believe that reasonable and responsible men and women are always able to reach a fair and equitable solution of any situation.  Our business behavior is mirroring our political behavior and our behavior in many of our other institutions. Those who suffer are those (the two businesses) serve.  Apparently, those in positions to make decisions have misplaced their moral compasses.”

New business roundup: Dickey’s Barbecue, Bike Hub, Fire Artisan Pizza


View Larger Map

Let's catch up on new business openings in Spokane and the environs:

As reported yesterday on the SR's Too Many Cooks blog, Texas-based barbecue retailer Dickey's Barbecue Restaurant opens a Spokane location on Friday.

The franchise business will be at 12628 N. Division (phone number: 465-9999). It's filling the spot vacated by Camino Real.

The first 100 customers at the 11 a.m. opening receive a free pulled pork sandwich.

It will be open daily from 11 a.m.-9 p.m.  There are roughly 270 Dickey's nationwide.

Also notable:

Bike Hub plans second location

The Bike Hub will open a second Spokane store at 1405 W. First Ave., in the space vacated by Two Wheel Transit, which moved to the South Perry District. It plans to open March 1.

The Spokane Valley  Bike Hub is about four years old. Owner Chris Andreasen decided the time was right to add a new shop near downtown, said Valley manager Morgan Johnson.

Johnson said Bike Hub is remodeling the store, which comes to about 6,000 square feet including the basement and main floor.

Fire Artisan Pizza comes to Spokane

Sometime next week, owners of Coeur d’Alene’s Fire Artisan Pizza will open a downtown Spokane eatery with the same name.  It's taking the former Moxie spot at 806 W. Sprague Ave. Co-owner Paul Cartee said the goal is opening the week of Jan. 21.

Cartee said the improvements will change the appearance of the restaurant “totally.” Seating will be either at a counter or at a number of tables. Capacity will be around 45 seats.

His two partners are Doug Johnson and John Cardosa.

2nd Watch CEO Kris Bliesner to explain how the cloud makes business sense

2nd Watch CEO Kris Bliesner will be the featured speaker at the next Connect Northwest breakfast.

It starts at 7:30 a.m. on Jan. 17, at the Spokane Club, 1002 W. Riverside.

Liberty Lake-based 2nd Watch is a tech company helping other companies use cloud technology to save money.

The company recently landed $4 million from Madrona Venture Group and other venture firms.

At 2nd Watch Bliesner oversees strategic development of cloud-based software solutions, the technology development and customer technology solutions.

Tickets are $30. Register at the link.

How did John Deere colors get inside the new Caterpillar distribution center?

Thursday was a grand opening for the new Caterpillar Inc. west Spokane distribution center, not far from the Medical Lake exit.

The place is huge. The stat of the day was 15. The building (565,000 square feet) can house 15 football fields.

Oddly, the interior has contrasting color patterns. Black and yellow are the official Cat company colors. But the interior floor plans are festooned with green and yellow walkways.

Which are the colors of another heavy equipment manufacturer:  John Deere.

More photos from Thursday's opening can be found online in this gallery from Spokesman Review photographer Jesse Tinsley: http://www.spokesman.com/picture-stories/caterpillar-distribution-center-opens/

Sephora to move into one section of the vacant Abercrombie and Fitch store

Edited to change the status of the NorthTown Mall store.

There's progress at last in filling the second-floor space last used by retailer Abercrombie and Fitch inside downtown Spokane's River Park Square.

Sephora, a retailer of beauty care products, will take about half of the 8,000 square feet in the vacant space, the RPS Facebook page noted.

Sephora looks to open in the spring. Without an official Sephora announcement, this looks to be a relocation from the former Sephora in NorthTown Mall. That location is no longer there, according the the NorthTown Mall site.

The usual disclaimer: Cowles Co. operates the Spokesman-Review, and is also the company that owns and runs the River Park Square mall.

No word yet on who else might use the remaining part of the former Abercrombie store. Abercrombie didn't renew its lease back in January 2011. Since then occasional short-term tenants have used part of the large space directly opposite the Verizon store.

North Spokane Fred Meyer store plans to shut its doors on Feb. 2

Instead of shutting its doors on Jan. 31, the East Francis Fred Meyer Store will close on Feb. 2, the company has announced.

Jan. 31 was the original shut-down date chosen when the company announced the plan last year.

The change better fits the financial calendar that the Porland-based Fred Meyer group uses for its accounting, said spokeswoman Melinda Merrill.

Samantha Stout, the HR director at the north Spokane store, noted that the store may change hours in the final week or so before shutting down. It now stays open until 11 p.m., but could switch to 9 p.m., Stout said.

The closure follows failed efforts by Fred Meyer and the landlord, SMS Associates of Seattle, to agree on new lease terms, Merrill said.

Stout said Fred Meyer would have loved to continue the East Francis store, which has operated there for 39 years.

Business has been steady, and last year that store was voted the No. 1 store in the entire Kroger chain for level of employee happiness and satisfaction, Stout noted. “That reflects that we have some of the most amazing associates and they help make this a successful stoore,” she said.

Therm-All moves from Boone to Park Avenue in Spokane Valley

Therm-All’s Spokane Valley production building has relocated to the former Triple R Auction building at 107 N. Park Ave.

Until recently the insulation company operated out of a warehouse at 2902 E. Boone Ave. The new site has roughly 7,600 square feet.

Therm-All provides insulation to steel buildings and commercial customers. It’s been in business in the area since the late 1980s.

Earl Engle of NAI Black and Mark Lucas of Kiemle & Hagood brokered the deal.

Vino! looks to add wine service later this month; state approves a second license

For most of its nearly 20 years in business, Spokane’s Vino! Retail wine shop has served one- or two-ounce wine tastes to customers.

Sometime this month the shop, at 222 S. Washington, plans to open part of its store as a serving bar, allowing customers to order a full glass of wine.

Co-owner John Allen said the state has approved Vino!’s application for a new serving license. Up to now, its retail tasting room license allowed small tastes up to a total of eight ounces per customer.

The switch is part of the shop’s goal of allowing people to hang out and socialize.

Vino decided to divide the store into two sections. The front half is still the retail side where small tastes are allowed. The back half will be the fuller-service wine bar. It will operate on Friday and Saturday afternoons only, to avoid being considered a tavern, Allen said.

Customers can either order a glass of wine from the wines the store is sampling that day. Or they can buy a bottle and pay a corkage fee and drink it there.

Three former Davenport Hotel workers file a claim, asserting time deductions were illegal

Three former service workers of the Davenport Hotel have filed a suit against the Spokane hospitality company, claiming it deducted wages from their paychecks for breaks they didn’t take.

Attorney Kenneth Zigler filed the claim in Spokane County Superior Court. He said he hopes to certify the claims as a class action against the corporation that operates the hotel and other downtown businesses.

Zigler said it’s too early to guess how many other hourly wage workers might join the suit, adding it could be “a significant number.”

The current Davenport workers he’s contacted “don’t want to put their name on the lawsuit,” Zigler said.

The three plaintiffs are Richard Munoz, Mary Morgan Corrigan and Nicole Hughes. The suit doesn’t indicate which jobs the three held or when they left the company.

 Zigler said they and others who might join the suit were employed at the historic Davenport Hotel, the Davenport Tower, the Post Street Ale House, the Hotel Lusso or the Peacock Lounge. Any claims would only apply to practices during the past three years.

Jobs mentioned in the suit are bussers, bartenders, hostesses and servers.

Lynnelle Caudill, managing director of the hotel group, said the suit is without merit. “This appears to be an action being pushed by a former disgruntled employee who was terminated and banned from hotel premises, for unrelated reasons,” she wrote by email.

Red Lion opens franchise location right next to Denver International Airport


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Spokane based Red Lion Hotels Corp. opened a new franchise, the Red Lion Inn & Suites Denver International Airport, on Thursday..

The newly branded hotel  is at 7010 Tower Road, and has 87 guest rooms and is just minutes from downtown and multiple venues.

It's also next to one of the top five busiest airports in the country, a Red Lion press release said.

As of September 30, 2012, the RLH hotel network had 47 hotels in nine states and one Canadian province, with 8,872 rooms and 443,587 square feet of meeting space.

Spokane, Washington make solid gains in high-tech sector over past 2 years

A recent study by  the Bay Area Council Economic Institute found that Washington state has the largest concentration of tech jobs in the United States, comparing tech jobs among all jobs in the state.

Washington's percentage is 11.4 percent of all private jobs.The full study can be found here.

Also notable is that Spokane shows up among the positive job-gainers in the tech sector. The chart here from that study finds Spokane at No. 23 out of the top 25 metros that gained tech jobs from 2010 to 2011. Job numbers came by way of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, according to the Bay Area institute.

The Spokane growth rate was 7.7 percent change in total high tech jobs.

Notably, that growth was focused in those two years. The Bay Area study also lists the top 25 job gainers from 2006 to 2011, and Spokane is not to be found. Leading that list, notably, is Boise. Over those five years Boise racked up a popping 83 percent job gain in high tech. 

The key takeaways: high-tech jobs tend to be concentrated in well-known tech hubs… High-tech employment growth, on the other hand, is happening in a more geographically and economically diverse set of regions. Growth is occurring in the Rust Belt and the South, as well as along the coasts and in regions with many high-skilled workers.

Overall, employment growth in the high-tech sector has been robust, outpacing employment growth in the broader private sector at regular intervals in the recent past. Unemployment in the high-tech sector  workforce has generally been low, particularly when compared to the broader national unemployment  rate. Finally, the distribution of high-tech jobs around the country has increased significantly during the last two decades.

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