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Buckeye Beans Honored As One Of Washington’s Best Places To Work

Buckeye Beans & Herbs of Spokane, much acclaimed for its entrepreneurial ingenuity, its enviable record of growth, and its caring corporate culture, has won still more honors this time as the best employer in Eastern Washington.

Indeed, the Hillyard-based producer of well over 100 different soup, bread and pasta mixes is the only East Side company to make Washington CEO magazine’s list of the best 25 places to work in Washington.

The magazine graded employers on hiring practices, work environment, leadership, benefits, employee recognition practices, training, communications, and the standards they set for themselves. Buckeye, whose corporate motto is “Making People Smile is Serious Business,” got all A’s and B’s.

Some 103 companies were nominated. The 25 best are all coast firms except two. Besides Buckeye, the lone winner east of the Cascades is Summit Window & Patio Door of Yakima.

Focus 21 focuses on job retention, growth

During the past 10 years, recruiting by the Spokane Area Economic Development Council was directly responsible for creating 5,390 local jobs.

During the same time span, expansion by existing local employers created 32,410 jobs - or six times as many.

The figures are those of Rich Hadley, president and chief executive of the Spokane Area Chamber of Commerce.

“Existing employers create more jobs each year than we can ever hope to achieve through recruited firms,” Hadley recently told board members of Focus 21, the five-year economic development program that replaced Momentum.

Focus 21, for which the chamber is administrator, will invest $565,200 this year in efforts to create more better-paying jobs in the community, the current issue of the chamber’s In Focus newsletter reports. As part of the new strategy mapped out by Focus 21, greater emphasis will be placed on business retention and expansion to build payrolls.

A program called Retention and Expansion Solutions Center in a United Effort (RESCUE) is in the works, and has been funded for one year at $120,000. The chamber will hire a retention specialist to develop and coordinate the program.

RESCUE will focus on firms that generate the greatest return in higher-paying jobs - high tech, manufacturing, transportation, public utilities, health care, finance, insurance, real estate, professional services.

In addition to offering technical assistance, RESCUE projects include working out a fast-track permit process with the city and county, and furthering the development of business and industry parks.

Liquor laws thwart brew-pub project

When Birkebeiner Brewing Co. bought the old Manito Library last year, says owner James Gimurtu, “We felt we could make a compelling case that neighborhood brew-pubs are the way of the future.”

What the company had in mind was a quality establishment with an emphasis on food that would become an integral element of the urban-village experience.

Birkebeiner didn’t bargain on “insurmountable opposition” from the community, says Gimurtu. But the half-century-old library building at 404 E. 30th Avenue backs up onto an athletic field of Sacajawea Junior High School.

State law prohibits selling liquor within several hundred feet of a school, let alone right next door.

“The feedback we got from officials at all levels was that nobody was willing even to talk about departing from long-standing policy,” said Gimurtu. “We didn’t think we could win.”

With a $301,404 purchase offer, Birkebeiner beat out five other bidders on the old library building, which was declared surplus after the city built a new branch library for the South Hill. The plans of others for the old library included an adult day-care center, youth center, and various office uses.

The brewer has since resold the library to another neighbor, Manito Presbyterian Church, 401 E 30th, making what Gimurtu says was “a moderate profit.”

Church officials report they are using the old library as an “Outreach Center.” Members of the congregation helped install a kitchen, and make the place habitable. They hold youth meetings there. Also, as part of the Interfaith Hospitality Network, the church takes turns with other religious institutions housing homeless families on a rotating basis.

Meantime, Gimurtu says he’s disappointed because, “We had hoped to change people’s minds in Spokane about the desirability of quality brew-pubs in urban-village type settings today. These are the neighborhoods of the future that are being redeveloped in other places across the country,” he said.

“There’s a lot of talk about rewriting antiquated and outdated state liquor laws of the type that stymied our project,” he said. “After all, is there one kid who doesn’t know about the existence of beer by the time he reaches junior high school in America today?”

Gimurtu said his group will look outside of Spokane for better opportunities to invest in change.

, 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

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