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‘Dollar Democracy’ Gives Investors A Loud Voice In Corporate Decisions

The financial news of the day abounds with articles about investors increasingly voting their conscience by the stocks they select.

“Social Investing Grows, Scores High Returns,” trumpets the monthly newsletter of the National Investor Relations Institute.

U.S. money managers are pouring $160 billion into firms posting strong social records, declares the Social Investment Forum.

Is socially conscious investing important in Spokane?

Yes, assures the owner and namesake of Ken Roberts Investment Management, with $110 million under his care. Running down a list of 450 clients, he concluded 35 to 40 - or about 10 percent - invest following their consciences.

What they object to most often are alcohol, tobacco, mining, logging, and anything nuclear. “We also have a few people who bought a lawn mower at Sears that gave them grief,” says the money manager. “They tell us, ‘Stay away from Sears,’ and we do.”

Is backing your moral convictions with your bucks politically correct?

Many money managers advise: Forget it. Just rake in the biggest pile possible from anything that makes money, then donate the spillover to charity. It’s deductible.

But Roberts tells clients “up front” they have a right to their taboos. It’s consistent with the American capitalistic system to vote with dollars for or against products, policies, and employment practices, he says.

“What I find most difficult is to determine what is socially responsible,” Roberts says. What are the boundaries?

“Is it socially responsible to invest in cereal manufacturers who bombard little kids with commercials for sugared sawdust every Saturday morning? Sugar can be addictive, too, much like nicotine and alcohol.”

In his experience, “fiduciaries of pension plans or institutions are willing to accept lower returns for socially responsible investing. But I think their returns are as good as regular portfolios.”

However one feels about social investing, Roberts says, “Corporations do listen to the dollar vote.

“It’s a dollar democracy out there,” says the money manager. “Wherever investors decide they want to lead America, if they channel enough money in that direction, corporate America will surely follow.”

Agora Award finalists named

Finalists for this year’s Agora Awards, the co-called “Oscars” of the Spokane small business sector,” were announced today.

In addition to entrepreneurial achievement, recipients of the Agora (Greek for “marketplace”) statuettes are chosen for economic impact, contributions to the local culture, and service to the community. Winners are named in three size categories.

This year’s 22 finalists are:

Small: Craven’s Coffee, First Line First Aid, Metro Cafe, Northwest Gourmet, PC Cash Register, RAM Associates, Showorks, Women Helping Women.

Medium:- American Red Cross, Cheney Weeder, Crow’s Nest Entertainment, Data Pro Solutions, Premier Marketing, Saturday Night Printing, Sir Speedy Printing.

Large: Brett Sports & Entertainment, Foothills Lincoln/Mercury/Mazda, Goodwill, LeMaster & Daniels, Spokane Mental Health, Spokane Neighborhood Action Program, and Supercuts.

The Agora Community Service Award this year is dedicated to the late C. Michael Archer, long-time spokesman for the Spokane Area Chamber of Commerce.

The Agora Awards are the only annual program honoring small-business excellence in the Spokane region. An awards breakfast is scheduled May 8 at the Red Lion-City Center. The program begins at 7:30. Tickets cost $15 reserved, $20 at the door. For reservations, call Diane Clawson at the chamber: 459-4111.

US West picks area manager

JoAnn Ficca has been named manager of the Eastern Washington area for US West.

Ficca assumes responsibility for US West’s marketing, public policy, community and media relations east of the Cascades.

She succeeds Annette Miller, who resigned to pursue other opportunities.

Miller had been appointed to the post a year ago this month to replace Sharon Matthews, who resigned to start a home-based consulting business.

Ficca, a 27-year-employee of US West, formerly was marketing manager for Washington state. She and her husband Joe, who is in the maintenance field, are in the process of relocating from Seattle to Spokane, where the couple has strong family ties. He is a native of Spokane.

The couple’s daughter and son-in-law, April and Duane Soderstrom, and three grandchildren live in Spokane.

“We spend all our vacations in Eastern Washington,” she says. “My sister has lived here for 25 years. Our son, John, is starting at Central Washington University in Ellensburg this fall.

“I’m on cloud nine, because as new empty nesters, my husband and I are getting our family all back together again on this side of the mountains. I am eager to get settled in, and start making sure US West customers in this area get the right kind of service.”

, DataTimes MEMO: Associate Editor Frank Bartel writes a notes column each Wednesday. If you have business items of regional interest for future columns, call 459-5467 or fax 459-5482.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Review

Associate Editor Frank Bartel writes a notes column each Wednesday. If you have business items of regional interest for future columns, call 459-5467 or fax 459-5482.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Review