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Posts tagged: Spokane

Spokane area lands (again) on great places to retire list

Not widely seen as a source of economic development is the appeal this area has for folks 65-and-over.

A number of publications have recognized Spokane is considered is a good place to retire. At least if you don't mind winter (or can get away until April).

Another publication just agreed with that belief: Where to Retire magazine.

Editor Mary Lu Abbott in the latest issue wrote: “Spokane possesses qualities important to today’s retirees. Signs like rising home prices and falling inventory point to a rebounding housing market. Our eight locales, including Spokane, offer boomers excellent buys now, with the possibility for value appreciation in the future, as well as an active retirement lifestyle, ” Abbott said.

The other cities mentioned are Salem,  Reno, Palm Springs, Calif., Wilmington, N.C.; Marietta, Ga.; Hagerstown, Md. and Gainesville, Fla.

What's the business takeaway: Abbott summarizes it thus: Each year 700,000 Americans relocate to new towns to retire. Generally, relocating retirees are healthier, better educated and more affluent than those who choose to not relocate. They bring significant economic benefits to their new states and hometowns. Nationally, two dozen states and hundreds of towns seek to attract retirees as a source of economic development.

Comcast launches Xfinity home security service, tying controls to broadband

Cable company Comcast Corp. has launched a home security service as part of its Xfinity Home package, offering both monitoring and remote controls that can be used to adjust lights or heating.

The company made the new service available Tuesday across Washington state. The service includes a remote app for enabling video from inside the house or for changing alerts or lighting. That app is available on Apple devices, said a Comcast press release.  Personal computers can also use the app for making home security selections.
 
The fee is $39.95 per month.  Among other options, customers can receive text or email alerts when doors open or close, or when motion detectors in the house report activity.

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Comcast will offer TV-plus-Skype, home security service for Spokane in 2012

Comcast Corp., the largest cable company in Washington and the U.S., plans to announce new services for Spokane and Washington state broadband customers next year.

Those are a Skype TV service and a home security over broadband service.  The Skype plan will let users with modern TVs use the interactive platform for video conferencing and phone calls. Skype, of course, can be used as a simple IM chat service as well.

No price plan has been announced and no announced start date has been set.

The home security service has been going through some early testing, including in parts of Portland. For a story on that test, here's an Oregonian report.

For a nice overview of how Comcast and Time Warner and other companies are diving into home security, here's a solid story from the LA Times: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-ct-cable-home-security-20111206,0,3074487.story

The home security option will require some investment in equipment or at least using an upgraded version of the Xfinity app. The monthly cost, apart from startup fees and equipment costs, will run aboug $40 a month, according to a Comcast press sheet.

AARP’s Get Connected event for seniors gives online tips on social networking

Presentations by Microsoft and a well-known how-to author are part of a Dec. 1 session in Spokane on how seniors can use the Web more safely and explore social networking.

Washington state AARP and Microsoft Corp. are hosting the Get Connected session that runs from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at  the Spokane Convention Center.
 
The free event requires registration, and space is limited.
 
Gary Moulton, a Microsoft specialist in online access, and Marsha Collier, author of several books including “Facebook and Twitter for Seniors for Dummies,”  will also be on the program.
 
To register or get more information, go to http://aarp.us/vWRqQQ or call toll-free 1-877-926-8300. 
 
This is the second such event hosted by Microsoft with the AARP. The first one, earlier this year in Redmond, sold out.

Apple isn’t really too keen on letting store workers unionize

Apple's retail stores seem a happy place. Unless you believe in unionizing the workers who toil there, in which case Apple may not be “liking” your Facebook page.

In response to at least one serious effort to create a union for Apple store workers, the Cupertino head office sent out notices this week and asked store managers to take part in a training course today, Tuesday.

A CNET story lays out the key goal of the training: “This course is intended to provide managers with a practical understanding of how unions affect the workplace, how and why employees organize, and the legal do's and don'ts of dealing with unions,” the training description reads. “This is a mandatory class for all new managers, and is required biannually for all managers.”

The posting adds that the course “is a great opportunity to meet our legal team and ask any questions you may have.”
 
That note suggests this has been an ongoing concern, and that perhaps the effort that started back in May has only mildly reignited the need to make sure managers are on the same corporate page.
 
Another CNET story noted that a website calling itself Appleretailunion.com posted this explanation: “The group said wages are the big target, as are Apple's break schedules, training opportunities,” and “the selection and hiring process for internal candidates for open positions.”
 
Photo credit: Apple employees preparing for the launch of the iPhone 4 last year at Apple's flagship store in San Francisco.

(Credit: James Martin/CNET)

Comcast giving low-income residents a discounted broadband option

The digital divide?  You remember it, don't you? It's that gaping chasm separating you guys with broadband from those who have to sputter along using a dial up modem, or else line up at the library.Comcast Corp., the nation's largest cable operator, plans to help bridge the divide for those with limited incomes. As noted on NPR.org, the company is offering decent broadband services at a discount rate of roughly $10 per month. A deal:

The company says low-income families will now be able to get a fast Internet connection for $9.95 per month; the question now is whether the effort can overcome the many barriers that keep the poor from getting online.

Comcast announced the program, called “Internet Essentials,” at a splashy event in the company's hometown of Philadelphia. Mayor Michael Nutter showed up along with city and state education officials as a sign that this program is aimed at an important problem: improving school performance.
 
The program will offer a big discount to low-income families, says Comcast Vice President David Cohen. Basic high-speed Internet, which normally would cost around $50 per month, will be available for the $9.95 rate.
 
To be eligible, families must have a child who qualifies for the free school lunch program — that means an income of less than $25,000 a year for a family of three. Because Internet access doesn't do much good without a computer, Comcast is also offering coupons that will allow these families to buy a basic PC for $150.

Win a coffee card naming what Microsoft release was code-named Spokane

We spotted a recent story from Western Washington, noting that Microsoft apologized to the Tulalip Tribe for using the name “Tulalip” as an internal designation for a new product.

The two sides apparently discussed the minor flap and settled it sensibly. The tribe understood the name would not be used on an actual product, and Microsoft agreed to stop using the name internally.

But this practice has a long tradition.

In fact, at one time “Spokane” was a code name for an early test version of a prominent Microsoft product.

Can anyone identify it?  First person to correctly identify which MS product had the “Spokane” test name for a brief while gets a $10 Starbucks card.

Current Microsoft company workers are not eligible. Each participant is allowed just one guess.
  

 

Comcast ups cable prices in Spokane, and the timing is notable

We were snoozing or on vacation when, earlier this summer, Comcast announced TV and other service rate hikes for Washington customers. The formal announcement said:

“We are making investments in next-generation technology to add value to our products and improve service. We’ve also launched new interactive applications and multi-platform content that customers want and value.  We’ve worked hard to hold down price adjustments, even given the impact of higher programming costs, and in 2011, the average customer bill will increase by 2.8 percent.  These adjustments will not impact about half of our customers because they currently receive services as part of a promotional offer.”

So, a good number of cable customers in Spokane didn't see a hike. But once those promotional deals end, the hike will come.

What's notable is the timing of the increases. This increase took effect July 1.

The previous new rate hike took effect on Aug. 1, 2010.

The one before that took effect on Oct. 6, 2009.

It used to be Comcast went roughly 12 months before increasing prices. That's apparently been replaced by some other, quicker system. We need to do some research on what the industry practice is.  Do cable companies no longer bother to wait a year before another price hike?

We asked Steve Kipp, a Comcast West side spokesman, to elaborate on the pricing schedule. We wondered if the pattern is to squeeze increases in a little earlier each year.

Kipp emailed back a quick reply, saying he would not comment.
  

Comcast adds 105Mbps service for Spokane area customers

Spokane is among cities where Comcast is now offering “Extreme 105 Mbps,” making it one of the fastest download Internet options for cable subscribers.

The top speed before was roughly 50 megabits per second.

If ordered with a bundle, the 12-month cost for users is $105 per month. Otherwise it will be $199 per month for standalone service.

Comcast spokesman Walt Neary said the appeal seems strongest among families who have several members involved in serious online gaming.

About 40 million homes nationwide are potentially able to get the upgraded service.

The Federal Commnications Commission has set a goal of 100-Mbps for 100 million U.S. homes by 2020, as a target for increasing the nation's broadband capacity.

Comcast still maintains a 250GB data cap per month, even for anyone using the Exteme 105 service. Users exceeding that cap will be given warnings of possible disconnects.

How Seattle transformed itself: Any lessons for Spokane?

So this Harvard professor, who looks at “skilled cities,” has this to say in the New York Times:

A great paradox of our age is that despite the declining cost of connecting across space, more people are clustering together in cities. The explanation of that strange fact is that globalization and technological change have increased the returns on being smart, and humans get smart by being around other smart people. Dense, smart cities like Seattle succeed by attracting smart people who educate and employ one another.

The professor is Edward L. Glaeser and this is part of a column headlined “How Seattle Transformed Itself” appearing today at Nytimes.com.

Glaeser doesn't refer to some ideas people often use when talking about high-energy, economically thriving areas, such as “industry clusters” or “Silicon Valley synergies.” 

But he's sort of marrying two frequently cited economic development ideas: the clumping of the “creative class” notion pushed by Richard Florida; and the Silicon Valley model of “coopetition” — the sharing of ideas and resources among groups of companies that see a benefit in helping each other.

The column is worth a read. Hat tip to Emily Proffitt of Whitworth University for calling it to our attention.

Comcast sees more cord-cutting, but gains with data and voice subs

As a follow-up to an earlier Spokesman.com story on the increasing numbers of people cutting the cord from paid TV services, we take note of the fourth quarter earnings reported by Comcast Corp., the nation's largest cable operator.

As it did over the first three quarters of 2010, the cable giant saw losses in total video subscribers. (No numbers are broken out for regions such as Washington.)

It more than made it up for those defections with increased spending by other customers — the ones that opt for multiple products and broadband data and voice subscriptions.

Overall, the company is certainly not hurting. Comcast's broadband margins are clearly driving the gains, noted BernsteinResearch's Craig Moffett in a story cited at online pub MediaBiz.

The publication also said: “In terms of subscriber gains and losses, Comcast reported basic video losses of -135K to 22,802K and broadband gains of 292K to 1,698K.  Phone adds were 257K to 8,610K.  All three metrics beat consensus.  In a move sure to please investors, Comcast also increased its dividend by 19 percent to $0.45/share/year.”
  

Spokane lays claim to title of No. 9, on the list of fast food capitals

The Daily Beast, a generally helpful commentary and news blog, tossed Spokane into the food-industry upper, or lower, echelons in a recent list of the 10 most fast-food saturated cities in the land.

Yay, Spokane.

We ranked No. 9, just after Cincinnatti and ahead of Birmingham, Ala.

The ranking looked at density of fast food places per 100,000 residents. The Spokane FF profile is:

Total fast food restaurants: 158
Fast food restaurants per 100,000 residents: 77.7
Most prominent chain: Subway

The top-rated fast food capital of the United States is Orlando. This, Spokane, is our main competition:

Total fast food restaurants: 463
Fast food restaurants per 100,000 residents: 196.3
Most prominent chain: Subway

OK, here’s how the Trader Joe’s building will fit on Spokane’s South Hill

Trader Joe’s confirmed a long-circulated rumor on Wednesday, affirming plans to build its first Spokane store in the South Hill neighborhood of Spokane.

The specialty grocery chain, based in Southern California, is going to lease 12,000 square feet in Lincoln Heights Shopping Center, at 29th and Regal.

The aerial map here provided by Trader Joe’s shows the location. It will only dislodge one existing shopping center business, Referee Photo, which is the business immediately north (left) of the Hogan’s diner.

Vandervert Developments, the property manager for Lincoln Heights, agreed to move Referee Photo to another Lincoln Heights location. When the new Trader Joe’s building goes in, it will tear out Referee Photo and extend due north and east to fill the 12,000-square-foot footprint shown above.

Once permits are filed with the city, we’ll get an idea of the projected construction cost. Notably, the owner of the shopping center is Lincoln Heights Center LLC, one of whose principals is Spokane businessman Dick Vandervert.

He also owns Vandervert Developments, which manages many retail centers including Lincoln Heights. And the construction on the new Trader Joe’s will be done by Vandervert Construction. All in the family, you might say.


Redbox adds videogame rentals in 90 Spokane kiosks

Starting last week, many of the Spokane Redbox kiosks have begun renting videogames in addition to recent movies.

A company release said 90 Spokane kiosks are part of a Redbox test to determine the popularity of the games.

Spokane-area consumers can rent a variety of videogames for the Wii, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.

Rentals will be $2 a night plus tax.  The choices will vary by location. For a better idea of games available in Spokane, visit Redbox.com/games.

Walmart hands out more than $5 million for state programs

Retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and its charitable foundation contributed more than $5 million to Washington state programs during the fiscal year that ended Jan. 31, 2010.

The Eastern Washington area got some of the love. The Second Harvest Inland Northwest food bank, based in Spokane, received about $60,000 for its mobile food program, according to a company spokesman.

And the Inland Northwest Blood Center received $40,000 for its Growing the Be The Match blood type registry.

Aware of the condition of the economy, the Walmart foundation doubled its donations to U.S. s to food banks at a time when they are being accessed more than ever. Giving more than 127 million pounds of nutritious food—the equivalent of nearly 100 million meals—from Walmart stores, Walmart distribution centers and Sam’s Club locations, Walmart increased food donations by 81 million pounds over the previous year’s amount. 

Seattle lands first on list of most vulnerable cities to cyber-attacks

An industry study of metro areas finds Seattle ranks first for potential exposure to cyber-crime.

Norton, the division of Symantec that deals with security and anti-virus products, came up with a list of the top 50 riskiest online cities.

Symantec teamed up with research firm, Sperling’s BestPlaces, to determine the locales most susceptible to Internet crime.

Seattle ranked first. Portland ranked 10th, San Jose was 20th.

To see the full list, go to the rest of this post.

 

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

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

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