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Archive for October 2013

Stand-up comic/economist Yoram Bauman appears at GU on Nov. 14

Yoram Bauman, a pretty funny and witty guy, will make his first Spokane appearance Nov. 14 at Gonzaga University.

Bauman calls himself “the world’s first stand-up economist.” This YouTube video here shows him at work recently at a Seattle club.

Sadly, his GU appearance will not be at a club, and it won't be after dark. It's part of the GU Business Administration Dean's Business Forum, and it starts at 7:30 a.m. It's at the Jepson Center’s Wolff Auditorium.

HIs show is titled “Comedy, Economics, and Climate Change” and tickets will be $15 for the public, $5 for GU students.

A continental breakfast will be served starting at 7 a.m.

You can register at

According to a GU release, Bauman is co-author of “Cartoon Introduction to Economics” and the 1998 book “Tax Shift,” which was written with Alan Durning of the Sightline Institute and helped inspire the revenue-neutral carbon tax in British Columbia.


Public Disclosure Commission has updated list of I-522 contributions

A lot of money is pouring into Washington by opponents and supporters of I-522, the initiative that would require labeling of genetically modified foods or ingredients.

To look at the money raised to oppose the initiative by its main lobbyist, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, check out the state's Public Disclosure Commission site at this link.  All of the more than $11 million raised by the GMA will go to help the committee calling itself the No On 522 group.

The No on 522 group's contributions against I-522 come to more than $20 million.

The main committee supporting the initiative, Organic Consumers Fund Committee to Label GMOS in Washington State, has raised more than $780,000 to date. A listing of all the main committees for or against the initiative are here.


Spokane startup Business Texter leaps to the head of the business-texting pack

It would be hard to find today's local business story looking for it on  It's just one of two locally written business stories, but we sometimes make it hard to find them.

The story looks at the efforts of startup firm Business Texter, a smart idea using good software to help businesses interact with customers' cell phones.

The photo shows CTO David Johnston and CEO Aaron Rollins, on the roof of the Steam Plant building in downtown Spokane. No, that's not their office. The business is small enough that the company has no actual office.

Johnston and Rollins are considering taking some space in the Launchpad shared office environment being put together on the third level of Steam Plant Square. Here's a schematic of that rentable space.

SR photo by Colin Mulvany


Furloughs prevents Employment Security from releasing September jobs report

Due to the government shutdown earlier this month, Washington's monthly and Spokane County's monthly September employment report will be delayed.

It will be combined with the October report, The state report comes out Wednesday, Nov. 20. The Spokane County (and other county) reports comes out on Tuesday, Nov. 26, just before Thanksgiving.


The schedule for the rest of 2013 is:


Data for

month of:

Statewide numbers released

County numbers released


Nov. 20

Nov. 26


Nov. 20

Nov. 26


Dec. 18

Dec. 24

Amazon launches new service that discounts past purchases of actual books

Amazon on Tuesday unveiled another Kindle promotion, a service called Kindle MatchBook.

It works this way. If you've purchased hardcover or softcover physical books from Amazon, the company will give you at least a 69 percent discount on a Kindle ebook version of that book.

The Kindle prices will be from $2.99 all the way down to … free. That's what they say.

Only a certain portion of the Amazon bookstore qualifies for the MatchBook option. The list of those titles is here.

Since these are all Kindle ebooks, you either need a Kindle device or the free Kindle app on your PC, Mac, iPad, Android tablet, and mobile phone.

The general view is that this is another tactic by Seattle-based Amazon to keep customers interested in the Kindle family of readers. The timing is right, as Amazon keeps contending for a decent share of the upcoming holiday gadget shopping list.

Cyan close to two-thirds of its target $1.1 million Kickstarter game fund

Spokane game maker Cyan Inc. is close to two-thirds of the target goal on its Kickstarter funding campaign.

It's trying to raise $1.1 million using crowdfunding from fans and supporters to develop its next game, currently titled Obduction.

The campaign has 18 days to go.

Alaska’s penalty for texting while driving is most severe anywhere

So far, 47 states now have bans on the serious problem of teen drivers, and others, driving while texting.

A blog at Mother Jones magazine has compiled this map that also lists the maximum penalties for first-time offender, and according to where you live, the answer can vary wildly—anywhere between $20 and $10,000.

Alaska leads the states with the stiffest penalty, a fine of up to $10,000. It also allows a sentence of up to a year in jail.

Notably, not every state bans texting. Montana is the closest example. Some states, the map shows, only ban new drivers and those driving a bus.



Second area Total Wine & More to open Nov. 21 in Spokane Valley

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Maryland-based alcohol retailer Total Wine & More will open its first Spokane Valley store on Nov. 21.


The new building, at 13802 E. Indiana Ave., is 25,000 square feet. The company’s first Spokane location, at 9980 N. Newport Hwy., is roughly the same size. It opened in December 2012.


Company co-owner David Trone said the store’s location is intended to attract customers who currently drive to Idaho to buy spirits or wine at prices below those found in most Washington stores.


Trone said Total Wine’s relationships with distributors and producers helps it offer prices competitive with those in Idaho.


Total Wine’s selections include about 1,500 different Washington state wines and 550 Pacific Northwest beers, said company Vice President Edward Cooper.


The new store will have a climate-controlled wine cellar for high-priced bottles, a walk-in humidor for cigars, and rooms for classes, meetings and events.

Here’s the latest rendering of the Worthy downtown convention center hotel

More chances to take sides on the Walt Worthy downtown Convention Center hotel.  Not that we take any sides in the matter.

The latest architect's rendering is shown here, thanks to efforts by Worthy's Davenport Hotel Collection company.

Also here (below) is a PFD document with a detailed summary and drawings of what will be inside the huge 722-room, 15-room hotel.

The work continues on the ground and is expected to continue through next year, with an expected opening in 2015.

The whole point, according to the Spokane Public Facilities District, is to give downtown a lot more room and more dazzle to attract events and conventions.  A consultant told the PFD that the hotel will draw roughly nine more events each year to the Convention Center and generate roughly 20,000 extra room nights from those conventions.

It also predicted the hotel would host 75 to 100 new events per year.


Bloomsday sells former building to Spokane lawyer John Munding

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Spokane attorney John Munding has moved his law office from the Davenport Tower to the former Bloomsday organization office, at 1610 W. Riverside Ave.

Munding paid $326,000 for the 3,500-square-foot office building. Earlier this year the Lilac Bloomsday Association vacated the building and moved to another office in the West Central neighborhood .

Munding said he will use the entire building for his firm. It's one of the few office buildings with its own “troll bridge,” Munding said. Or, if we misheard, he said “draw bridge.” Sounded like the former.

Brian Walker of NAI Black represented the buyer. Pat Martin, of Martin Partners Real Estate, represented the Bloomsday Association in the deal.

Inc. magazine lists Alligator Performance among faster-growing area firms

There are people out there who really need a carbon stack for their truck. Some even know that what they really want is a carbon stack made by Deviant, a company that makes a number of specialized vehicle accessories.  It's come to our attention, through a press release, that Coeur d'Alene-based Alligator Performance has plenty of those carbon stacks, and they sell a lot of them.

What the release mostly told us was that Alligator again landed on the INC magazine list of 5000 fast-selling companies. The private company has a CDA outlet store and an online store that sells lots of products to enhance offroad vehicles, diesel engines and most anything else. It even does full motor rebuilds.

Most of the items it sells are from third parties; but Alligator does make some original parts, including equipment to remove or change emissions-control devices on vehicles.

This year was the third time the company was noted by INC. The publication said Alligator ranked 263 in 2011, No. 298 in 2012 and now No. 590 in 2013.  This year, Alligator Performance also landed in Inc's. Top 10 retail companies.

Red Lion Hotels adds franchise in Ontario, Southern California

Red Lion Hotels has added a Los Angeles property as a new franchise operation.

The Red Lion Hotel Ontario Airport, 204 N Vineyard Ave., is roughly 35 miles east of downtown Los Angeles.

The former Ayres Grand Boutique Suites has 107 rooms and suites and borders the Ontario Convention Center.  Amenities include an outdoor pool and hot tub, a hot breakfast cooked to order and free internet access.

In a release, the Spokane-based hospitality company declared: “In terms of convenience, this hotel is in the center of everything in the Los Angeles Inland Empire.”

The Ontario Airport is just a mile away.

Spokane’s BHW1 developed Purcella ad campaign for Purcell Systems

Earlier this week we called out to find the company behind the Purcella campaign, for Purcell Systems.

We learned that the work was done locally, by Spokane design and advertising firm BHW1.

Here are the credits for that Purcella campaign: Creative Director Tony Hines came up with the Purcella concept. Don Baker, Illustrator/animator, developed the video graphics. Aldon Baker, film composer & commercial music writer, developed the theme music for Purcell System's superhero.

20 years after Myst, Cyan starts campaign to build its next game, Obduction

Cyan Inc., the company based in Mead that developed Myst and Riven and spinoffs from that franchise, announced on Thursday it's developing a Kickstarter campaign to build a new game.

They call the new game Obduction. It's described this way in a release: “Obduction is an all-new, real-time, first-person adventure that harkens back to the spirit of Cyan’s earlier games Myst and Riven. Obduction resurrects the feeling of a player suddenly finding themselves in the middle of a new world that they feel compelled to explore, discover, solve, and become part of.”

The Obduction Kickstarter campaign is already launched, shooting for a goal of about $1.1 million.

The release also notes the meaning of the word: Ob`duc´tion, n.1. The act of drawing or laying over, as a covering.

The plan for a new game was mentioned in a recent interview with Rand Miller, the CEO of Cyan. On the 20th anniversary of the launch of Myst, Miller said he wanted to find a new game to compete with first-person shooters, and a game that's more about the gamer's experience of discovery than claiming territory or eliminating rivals.

It's described by Miller as different from Myst. It's not Son of Myst, but still carries the tones and resonances of Myst and Riven, meaning playing involves searching, uncovering and revealing the world one engages in the game.

Using terms often attached to the games Myst, Riven and Uru, Cyan describes the Obduction project as a “deeply immersive world” that requires a player to move around, examine and develop a sense of place and connections.

The announcement said the Kickstarter campaign will build versions both for Windows and MacOS, with a targeted release of mid-to-late 2015. Kickstarter funding over the base level would be used to expand the scope of the game (adding such things as new places to explore, additional platforms,  localization, technological bells and whistles, and more.

GMO alert: AG sues Manufacturers Association, claiming campaign violation

Dateline Olympia:

Washington AG Bob Ferguson on Wednesday filed suit in Thurston County Superior Court, claiming the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) raised and spent campaign money to oppose Initiative 522 without identifying its contributors.

That violates campaign disclosure laws, Ferguson's office said in the suit.

The claim in the suit is that the GMA illegally collected more than $7 million while hiding who the money came from.

Those funds were spent to publicly oppose the initiative, which if passed would force companies that sell genetically engineered foods, seeds and seed products to identify  those products on their labels.

A recent SR story noted that out-of-state interests on both sides of I-522 are raising large sums: It said “In this high-stakes battle, the Yes on I-522 campaign has collected more than $4.6 million in contributions and the No on I-522 campaign more than $17.1 million.”

Ferguson's press release Wednesday said: “When Washington state voters overwhelming approved Initiative 276 in 1972, they voiced their desire for transparency and openness in elections. Truly fair elections demand all sides follow the rules by disclosing who their donors are and how much they are spending to advocate their views.”

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, based Washington, D.C., represents more than 300 food, beverage and consumer product companies. It is the biggest donor to the No on I-522 campaign.

The Attorney General’s Office alleges the GMA established the “Defense of Brands Strategic Account” within its organization and asked members to pay assessments that would be used to oppose I-522. GMA then funded opposition efforts while shielding contributors’ names from public disclosure.

Ferguson alleges the GMA should have formed a separate political committee, registered with the state’s Public Disclosure Commission (PDC), and filed reports indicating who contributed, how much they contributed and how the money was spent to oppose I-522.

Inslee and state legislators in town Wednesday to discuss greenhouse limits

Climate change is on the agenda Wednesday, when Washington Gov. Jay Insell comes to Spokane to take part in the first of three Climate Legislative Executive Workgroup (CLEW) meetings. The meetings have the goal of promoting carbon reduction and clean energy investment, according to a press release.

The workshop runs from 5 to 8:30 p.m. at the Music Building Auditorium, Spokane Falls Community College.

Inslee and several legislators will discuss a number of optins to incentivize changes, including cap and price on carbon pollution, a clean fuels standard, an end to “coal-by-wire” energy from out of state, along with new transportation planning and investments in energy efficiency.

The Spokane hearing will be followed by hearings held in Seattle Oct.  23 and in Olympia on Dec. 6.

The workshops stem from legislation that  require Washington state to find recommendations to achieve the state's greenhouse gas emissions limits and greenhouse gas emissions targets.

With EnerSys buying Purcell Systems, what happens to Princess Purcella?

So while we ponder the impact of EnerSys buying Spokane Valley-based manufacturing firm Purcell Systems, another question looms.

With the acquisition by the much much larger EnerSys, what happens to Purcella?

Purcella is the fanciful, slightly bizarre animated figure created by some marketing folks to promote and explain the goals and business services provided by Purcell Systems.  The campaign bragged that heat and cold and “EVEN accountants” can't stop her.  It would be ironic indeed if some accountant at EnerSys decides Purcella needs to go bye-bye.

If you care to go through the Purcella video experience, the link is here. Or click the video frame above.

Purcella, as the ads say, is your defender.  If anyone cares to volunteer the name of the firm or marketing guru who developed the Purcella campaign, we'd appreciate it.  We'd like to honor the creator of Purcella with a little Office Hours gift.  (Hint: It will be a gift certificate to a local coffee shop, in a relatively small dollar amount.)

The referrer who leaves us the name or contact of Purcella's creator will get something as well. 

Washington’s tax climate not so bad; in fact, it’s one of the best, study says

Is Washington a bad state for business or isn't it? For many, it's a matter of faith that Washington picks on businesses with a relentless list of taxes, led by the oft-maligned Business and Occupation tax.

The Tax Foundation, however, begs to differ. According to its newly released Tax Climate report card, Washington is the sixth-best state, in terms of business taxes.

The only states better, the foundation says, are: Wyoming, South Dakota, Nevada, Alaska and Florida.

The report is online at this link. Diving a little into the methodology, Washington scores high by not having an income tax and for having a relatively modest state sales tax.

William Webster’s next business: Webster’s Saloon, on north Monroe

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William Webster, who has run several Spokane-area eateries, has opened Webster’s Saloon at 1914 N. Monroe St.

The new business is taking the space last used by Working Class Heroes.

The full-service bar will serve lunch and dinner seven days a week. The business will feature house-made smokehouse barbecue flavorings to enhance dishes.

Webster previously operated Isabella's and Geno's, two Spokane restaurants. He also owned and operated the downtown nightclub Zola.

Webster’s will offer 13 menu items. During football season the bar will open at 10 a.m. on Sundays to cater to the NFL crowd.

Spokane startup Barters Closet hits up Indiegogo to raise funds for mobile app

Those crazy guys who recently launched online bartering platform Barters Closet ( are now looking to beef up their piggy bank to move the company forward. They recently started an Indiegogo effort to raise $70,000 to build a mobile app.

They describe the company's business plan as: a place where people can barter for a new wardrobe in a social network setting.  The company leases office space in the Buchanan Building in downtown Spokane.

The privately held firm, with Connor Simpson at the helm, is working the crowdsourcing angle in hopes of  creating a mobile app to help folks sell items via their phone.

As of today, the Indiegogo campaign had raised almost $700.

Barters Closet is a previous winner of Startup Weekend Spokane and has raised about  $150,000 from members of the Spokane Angel Alliance.

One board member is Tom Simpson, Spokane's venture godfather and biological father of Connor Simpson.

A Barters Closet handout said: “The mobile application will allow users to take pictures of their clothes and upload them for barter, sale or donation; right from their phone!  Users will also be able to connect with other users by following them, messaging them and thriftying them.  Buyers will be able to shop through everything uploaded to Barters Closet to find that one-of-a kind item they are looking for.”

Gov. Inslee comes to GSI forum on Green energy during Oct. 16 event

Governor Jay Inslee will comes to Spokane next week to present the keynote remarks during Greater Spokane Incorporated's State of the Green Economy meeting at The Davenport Hotel.

The event is Oct. 16 (Wednesday), with doors opening at 3 p.m. with the program beginning at 3:30 p.m. A reception will follow from 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
The governor will be featured with panelists Scott Morris,CEO of Avista; and Ash Awad, VP of Energy and Facility Services at McKinstry. 

They'll deal with the general topic of clean technology and job creation.

Hal Calbom, owner of Sustainable Media Group, will moderate the panel.

Tickets for the event are $20 for GSI members and $30 for non-members. The public can register online at the GSI site.

Brooke Martin earns second at 3M Discovery Education young scientist contest

Spokane entrepreneur Brooke Martin won second place in the recent 3M Discovery Education Young Scientist Challenge, held in Minneapolis.

We profiled Martin and her innovation, icPooch, in a recent SR story.

She finished right behind the winner, a young lad named Peyton Robinson who devised a new type of sandbag with features making it superior in dealing with flooding. He wins the grand prize of $25,000.

Brooke gets $1,000 plus a paid student-education travel trip to Costa Rica. She and the two other top finishers go to New York City this weekend to tape an interview on the talk show “Fox and Friends.”

Martin also started a Kickstarter campaign to raise $70,000. That campaign did not hit that mark. Her father, company CEO Chris Martin, said the company will lower its sights to $20,000 for a new Kickstarter campaign.

The lower amount, he said, results from having recently received an angel investment to move the company closer to being able to produce the product.

Looking down on the downtown Spokane site of Worthys’ new hotel

This is the view looking down from a helicopter at the site of Walt and Karen Worthy's downtown Spokane convention center hotel.

It will include 70,000 square feet of meeting space in more than 25 meeting rooms and a 19,000-square-foot ballroom. The project also includes an attached parking garage with more than 900 parking spaces.

The construction has closed the sidewalk and parking lane along Washington between Main Avenue and Spokane Falls Blvd. That sidewalk will be closed for at least the next 12 months. 

Photo provided by Central Pre-Mix Concrete Co

Mike Senske, of Pearson Packaging, takes over as GSI chairman

Michael Senske, president and CEO of manufacturing company Pearson Packaging Systems, is the new chair of the Greater Spokane Incorporate board of trustees. His one-year term started this week.

Linda Elkin, Spokane Region President of U.S. Bank, was elected chair-elect and will be begin her term as chairman of the group, formerly the Spokane Regional Chamber of Commerce, in 2014.

The board’s main focus for the next several months will be replacing Rich Hadley, the business development group’s CEO. Hadley will retire in April after serving in that job for 20 years.

Keyboard Cat wins a settlement with maker of the game “Scribblenauts”

Spokane's Keyboard Cat creator Charile Schmidt has settled a copyright infringement suit filed against Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and 5th Cell Media.

Schmidt was joined in the suit by Christopher Torres, creator of the popular web creation Nyan Cat.
The settlement, in U.S. District Court for Central California, provides no details on the compensation paid to Torres and Schmidt.
In April the two sued Warner Brothers, the publisher of the game Scribblenauts, alleging it included images of the cats without permission or compensation. The software development firm 5th Cell Media was also sued.
Neither company acknowledged wrongdoing. A statement issued by a representative for Nyan Cat said Warner Brothers recently signed agreements to continue using the two cat characters in the game.
Both Keyboard Cat and Nyan Cat have become Internet memes — popular figures or images that have been cited, repeated and linked to by millions of web users.
U.S. copyright law requires anyone making money by reusing the copyrighted images of an artistic creation must first go through a licensing agreement with the owners.
Schmidt’s cat, Fatso, became a web sensation in 2007 when a New York web user posted a video of the animal playing an electronic keyboard. That marked the start of the frequently repeated “play him off, Keyboard Cat” meme.

Kaplan Test Prep survey shows students and law schools both want change

Today's story, about plans at GU Law School to create a two-year accelerated program, had plenty of connections to the bigger picture. In particular, legal education is going through a period of intense self-scrutiny, as school administrators realize students don't want to spend three long years before getting out and competing for work.

We were reminded that the Kaplan Test Prep company recently did a survey of law school admissions officers. The key findings, which in this case are pretty obvious once one looks at the real world:

  • 78 percent of law school admissions officers think that “the U.S. legal education system needs to undergo significant changes to better prepare future attorneys for the changing employment landscape and legal profession.”
  • On this point, they agree with the vast majority of pre-law students (79 percent and recent law school graduates (87 percent) who answered the same way in June and August Kaplan surveys, respectively.
  • Near-term pessimism: 67 percent don’t think the steep,  three-year decline of law school applications will reverse itself in the 2013-2014 admissions cycle.

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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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