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Archive for March 2014

Got a million-dollar business idea? Spend $5 and go through the Startup bootcamp

Organizers of the next Startup Weekend Spokane are hosting a “how-to-pitch” workshop explaining how to present a one-minute business pitch.

The next Startup Weekend will be April 11-13. It’s a three-day competition that involves teams working on a startup business idea. It often draws more than 80 participants.

Organizers have scheduled a Startup Weekend bootcamp next Saturday, April 5, from 1-4 p.m. to teach people how to make a one-minute “elevator” pitch.

A week later, the actual business pitches will be presented during Startup Weekend’s first night. Those on hand vote for their 10 favorite pitches to decide which ideas will be developed during the weekend.

The bootcamp will be at Sixth Man Marketing’s office, 542 W. Cataldo Ave. It costs exactly $5 as a refreshments donation.

Organizer June Swatzell said she went through two Startup Weekends without being chosen entirely because her pitches were disorganized. After attending a pitch bootcamp, her last Startup Weekend business pitch was chosen for development, she said.

Facilitator for the bootcamp is Startup Weekend Spokane organizer Dan Gayle (in photo). Gayle is also a web developer for

To register, go to the Eventbrite link at

Logan Neighborhood foes to McDonald’s holding press conference this morning

The heated debate in the north Spokane Logan Neighborhood will continue in a public way today, around 11:30 a.m.

Residents in that area oppose plans by the McDonald's Corp. to build a drive-through-only restaurant at the corner of Hamilton and Augusta. They say traffic in that area is already heavy and a drive-through will only aggravate the situation.

Today, opponents of the drive-through are hosting a public event, a conference with State Sen. Andy Billig and Spokane Councilwoman Amber Waldref.

They'll be doing the conference at the McDonald's site, we were told by one of the neighborhood organizers.

The short takeaway:  the city didn't oppose this proposal at the planning department level. Unless the opponents can convince McDonald's to revise its design, it's not likely the city government is going to have any impact on it.

Work is already under way at the site. The restaurant is expected to open this summer.



Can angry Logan neighbors push McDonald’s out of the drive-thru lane?

 A week ago we posted the plan by the McDonald's Corp. to build a new restaurant near Gonzaga, on the corner of Hamilton and Augusta.

This week, the big noise is coming from that business's neighbors, who strongly oppose the decision to make the restaurant a drive-through only operation.

A number of citizens of the Logan Neighborhood are trying to rally opposition against the plan, which apparently could have been modified through the city's planning permitting process.

Here's the key statements sent to the media by the ad hoc neighbor group. At this point, the group continues trying to animate opposition so that McDonalds  — one of the country's largest businesses — reconsiders its plan.

At the end of February it was brought to the attention of the Logan Neighborhood Planning Stakeholder Team that McDonald’s Corporation had requested a permit to build a drive-through only facility near Mission & Hamilton that is inconsistent with the neighborhood’s 2006 (center and corridors)designation (pedestrian-oriented) & current planning efforts. In early March 2014, the Logan Neighborhood Planning Stakeholder Group sent a letter to City Planning Director Scott Chesney requesting that he deny permitting McDonald’s project as proposed since it is inconsistent with long-term & current neighborhood planning efforts.

At a conference call at city hall in early March, which included seven McDonald’s corporation representatives, the neighborhood’s request to consider an alternate design fell on deaf ears. The McDonald’s corporate reps stated that they did not have to alter their design and that the neighborhood couldn’t make them do so.

McDonald’s corporation may not be required to coordinate with the neighborhood, but neighbors expected they would be willing to alter their design to fit in with other new developments on the Hamilton corridor. In the past seven years, other developments along the corridor have been consistent with the Logan neighborhood’s planning priorities, such as The Clementine Building and Gonzaga’s new retail/parking garage.

The Logan neighborhood asks McDonald’s corporation to be a good neighbor and build a facility that promotes pedestrian safety and activity that is consistent with the Logan neighborhood’s long-term and current efforts.

Retailers urge adoption by Congress of PIN-based credit cards

The National Retail Federation urged the U.S. Senate on Wednesday to switch the nation from fraud-susceptible credit and debit cards to more protected cards using a personal identification number (PIN).

The NRF said credit card-issuers' insistence on cards that use a signature instead of a PIN puts merchants and their customers at risk.

In a release, the NRF said banks have done their own research – conducted almost 25 years ago that showed PIN-based cards provided more security for consumers, retailers and banks.

In a prepared statement, NRF Senior Vice President and General Counsel Mallory Duncan said: “The bottom line is that cards are poorly designed and fraud-prone products that the system has allowed to continue to proliferate.”

His remarks occurred at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which is considering changes in light of cyber attacks in which consumer card numbers have been stolen. Duncan said current magnetic stripe cards with signatures are too easy to duplicate and forge.

“There are technologies available that could reduce fraud,” Duncan said. “An overhaul of the fraud-prone cards that are currently used in the U.S. market is long overdue.”

Some banks and many merchants say the use of a PIN, with or without an embedded microchip, would create greater security for consumers and retailers alike, Duncan said.

Northwest credit unions and banks have been hit hard twice in the past six months, first by the URM Stores card hack that affected several thousand cardholders. Then came the nationwide Target Stores card fraud, which affected several million residents and consumers.

Many advocates of improved transaction security say the United States should follow the practice in much of  Europe where only chip-based cards are accepted.

Such cards have tiny chips that generate a unique, one-time security code every time you make a purchase. That code prevents thieves from reusing the data.

The battle over chip cards has been stalled in large part because the merchants don't want to change to newer cash terminals until the new chip-based cards are approved. And banks or credit unions don't want to start ordering and distributing the chip cards until they see a significant movement by merchants to use them.

Consumer advocates also argue that more could be done to protect consumers in the case of debit card fraud. While merchants that require a signature end up with zero fraud liability, it's not clear yet whether the use of PINs would provide the same protection.


iCPooch launches dog kiosk idea and gets noticed by the New York Times

The next Startup Weekend Spokane will begin on April 11.  In preparation, let's take a moment to see what's happened to iCPooch, one of the entrants in a 2012 Startup Weekend. Though it didn't win on that occasion, its founders, young Brooke Martin and her father, Chris Martin, have moved the company forward.

Last week they formally announced the company during the Global Pet Expo in Orlando.

A New York Times story mentioned the company and talked to the Martins at the event, which featured thousands of new products and hundreds of displays related to pet products.

The iCPooch goal is the produce a kiosk used by dog owners to communicate remotely with their pet, with the added option to reward the dog with a treat with press of a button.

Our first story on iCPooch ran in August 2013, when the company was still not sure it had enough financing to get off the drawing boards. It did, in fact, gain a nice infusion recently through a Kickstarter campaign.


McDonald’s building new drive-through restaurant near GU

McDonald’s Corp. will open a new restaurant this summer on property it purchased near Gonzaga University in north Spokane.


The Oak Brook, Ill., company bought two lots on the southwest corner of Augusta Avenue and Hamilton Street. It’s taking the corner lot last used by an oil lube business and a next-door residence, which will be torn down.


The restaurant, due to open in July, will be roughly 3,700 square feet with a two-lane drive through.


The company paid $170,000 for the residence at 818 E. Augusta, and $475,000 for the lube business property, at 826 E. Augusta. (Photo here is of the quick lube shop, from the Spokane County Assessor's page.)


Jeff Ottmar of Cornerstone Property Advisors represented McDonald’s. Steve Peterson of Coldwell Banker represented the property owners.

EFF laywer to discuss NSA and privacy at Gonzaga lecture on March 31

Cindy Cohn, legal director and general counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, will discuss “National Security Agency (NSA) Mass Spying, the Constitution, and You” at the Gonzaga University School of Law Judge Justin L. Quackenbush Lecture at noon  March 31.

The lecture will be at GU's Barbieri Courtroom at the law school, 721 N. Cincinnati St..

The free lecture is open to the public.To RSVP to the event, please email or call (509) 313-3738.

The National Law Journal named Cohn one of the 100 most Influential Lawyers in America of 2013, noting “If Big Brother is watching, he better look out for Cindy Cohn.” She has received numerous awards for her work defending electronic and digital rights. In 2007, the National Law Journal named her one of the 50 most influential women lawyers in America. A graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, Cohn worked for the United Nations Center for Human Rights and as a civil litigator in private practice before she began working for the Electronic Frontier Foundation in 1993.

“Cindy Cohn has spent her career pursuing justice – not just for herself but for all of us,” said Jessica Kiser, Gonzaga assistant professor of law. “While free speech and privacy rights are challenged on a regular basis in our increasingly digital world, Cindy Cohn and the EFF are at the forefront fighting back against large corporations and even the NSA to advocate for the public interest.”

The annual Quackenbush Lecture Series honors Judge Quackenbush for his many outstanding contributions as a U.S. District Court judge. .

State jobless rate steady at 6.4 percent; Spokane at 7.9 percent

Washington state’s unemployment rate stayed stuck at 6.4 percent in February, state officials reported Wednesday.

The Employment Security Department also said Spokane’s jobless rate in January pushed up to 7.9 percent, a half percent higher than December.

Because the department goes through a revision of all 2013 data, it doesn’t release the January county and metro rates until mid-March.

Next week the department will release county and metro rates for February, said area Labor Economist Doug Tweedy.

The steady January statewide unemployment rate, combined with growth in payroll numbers, suggests Washington’s economy remains in growth mode, the employment security department said in a release. The state’s labor force of nearly 3.5 million rose by about 10,000 people over the past month, economists said.

In Spokane, Tweedy said the good news is seeing the year-over-year growth. The jobless rate in January 2013 was 9.7 percent, he said.

Spokane’s January job slippage was expected as part of seasonal job losses, he added, as stores shed retail workers and the construction sector slowed down.

From January 2013 to January 2014, Tweedy noted that five sectors showed notable growth: health care added 700 jobs; retail trade and private education each gained 600; financial services and construction gained 500.

The one loser in the past year: leisure and hospitality, down 400 jobs, Tweedy said

Leavenworth couple to open public house in downtown Spokane on Sprague

Leo and Teresa Gonder, who own and operate a construction company in Leavenworth, Wash., will open the Tamarack Public House this summer at 912 W. Sprague Ave., in downtown Spokane.

Following renovations, their hope is to have a soft opening around the time of Hoopfest, said Teresa Gonder, who will be the executive chef and operations manager.

The business will serve food, wine, beer and spirits.

Gonder said she and her husband lived in Spokane before moving to Leavenworth, and have looked for a way to return.

Mark McLees, of NAI Black, helped the Gonders arrange the building lease, Teresa Gonder said

Tired of the same old think sign, downtown wall switches message

A few years back we did a quick item on the sign that some offices in downtown Spokane could see — the “think” sign between Riverside and Main. A photo from the old view is in that blog post.

This year, back in January, Magner Sanborn creative agency got tired of thinking. They flipped the sign from the old IBM slogan to something more digital.

Here's how it looks from the fourth floor of the Magner Sanborn offices.

Crowdswell supporters look for big projects, including U-District Bridge

In last week's SR story about Crowdswell, a website launched by partners of Spokane creative firm Magner Sanborn, we mentioned two local “swells” — the name the site uses for worthy projects that people can support through funding or work. The two swells — both appropriately small and manageable — were a slightly damaged bench outside a downtown Spokane business and the desire to install a doggy-pickup bag dispenser along the Centennial Trail in Kendall Yards.

Another new project on Crowdswell is finding support for the proposed pedestrian-bicycle bridge in the University District.

The U-D “bike and ped bridge” has some state and institutional money earmarked. But there's a gap in how much is needed to get the bridge off the drawing board. The total target for the bridge is somewhere around $7 million, said Brandon Rapez-Betty, the U District's project manager.

The hope is that Crowdswell could be used to raise about $200,000 in local and regional support, to get the ball rolling. The goal would not be to cover the full $7 million, but simply fill in the gap that will be left after the state and area groups define their funding levels for the bridge.


Here’s an infographic on survey related to URM Stores data breach impact

Earlier this week we published survey results asking credit unions the financial impact of last fall's URM Stores credit card breach.

The story is here.

Here's a little infographic provided by the survey creator, the Northwest Credit Union Association, which represents institutions in Washington and Oregon.


Radio Shack plans huge store closures; no list announced for affected stores

Radio Shack announced it's going to close something like 1,1000 stores over the next year or so, roughly one of ever five it operates.

We don't have any list that details where those closures will be. We'll keep after that, hoping to find out the answer in the next few days.

Meanwhile, here's the visual hint that this was coming, when Radio Shack ran this TV ad during the Super Bowl. It cleverly lampoons its own stodgy image. The first minute shows a store clerk taking a call: “The '80s called. They want their store back.”


Nadine Burgess’s gymnastics centers in Spokane Valley keep growing

Nadine Burgess has a reason to be proud.

Her business, Spokane Gymnastics, is humming along.

The all-ages training facility has added a second center at 2515 N. Locust Road in Spokane Valley. Called Spokane Gymnastics Argonne Village, the new space has 28,000 square feet and takes over the former Stroh’s Fitness at that address, near the intersection of Montgomery Avenue and Argonne Road.

Burgess said she'll  continue operating the original 11,000-square -foot gym at 5615 E. Broadway Ave., in Spokane Valley.

The expansion helps address significant growth for the business, Burgess said. “Our business has more than quadrupled in size — staff, enrollment and square footage — in the past six years,” she said. The centers now have six full-time and 28 part-time workers, Burgess said.

She plans to operate both facilities through 2015 when the operations will be consolidated into the Argonne center.

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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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