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Latest from The Spokesman-Review

Spot the irrelevant question

Who are our customers and potential customers?

What do they want? (And how do we know that?)

What's the best way to deliver that?

What will our customers want tomorrow?

What do we offer that distinguishes us from our competition?

How can we communicate that?

Do our employees care about/believe in our product/service?

For us, is quality just a slogan?

Will the office Christmas party be another cheapo affair?

An amnesty for tax deadbeats?

OLYMPIA – Business organizations regularly bemoan how little recognition, respect and support they get from the state. But evidence to the contrary was clear last week, when the state announced a “windfall” of some $321 million from a tax amnesty program.
It showed that when there’s something fishy about what they’ve been doing, businesses get the benefit of the doubt that poor people don’t.
Cheers for the money were second only to Mariner’s improving win-loss record, and with good reason. The state originally thought it might pick up about $24 million by offering businesses a chance to clear up their tax debts without penalties or interest. It got $321 million – $264 million of which the state keeps after sending local governments their share – which is real money in anyone’s book. It offers the Legislature, in the words of Gov. Chris Gregoire, a chance to balance the state’s biennial budget and “go home.”
No one seemed concerned, however, about the reason for the unexpected bonanza….

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, go inside the blog.

Disney Institute brings Walt’s ways to Spokane

   Think back to a soul-sucking work day in an environment that didn’t value the individual and corporate creative process, or at least give you the freedom to explore a new way of doing things. Most of us experience that at one time or another in our professional lives: The internship that asks only that you show up and do as you are told. The mid-level management morass that never rewards - and occasionally punishes - innovation. The checklist performance review.

    While plenty of us still struggle to find a method for interacting, performing and thriving in the workplace, others are studying the art of creativity with the masters: Disney.

    Since its opening in 1986, the Disney Institute has provided tutorials for business leaders who are seeking to change - from the inside out - the way they deal with both employees and consumers.

    I’d heard about the Disney Institute but had no real idea of what exactly it is the Institute does. I assumed the programing fell somewhere between basketry classes and trust-building ropes courses, with a little imagineering thrown into the mix. I mean, I get Disney. I just didn’t get how the fantasy translated into the boardroom and more importantly, the cubicle down the hall from the boardroom.

    So, during a family trip to Disney World last September, I asked for more information. I met and was able to spend some time with Disney Institute facilitator Jack Santiago.  When I asked Santiago, the first DI facilitator to present in Spanish, what the basic, consumable, byproduct of the institute is, he waived an arm.
    

   “Look around,” he said. “We’re in the most creative place in the world. A creative place that runs and grows on a system of best practices. That’s what you get to take home with you.”
   

    I asked Santiago for an example of a business that had made significant systemic changes after attending the institute. He pointed to the Disney Institute’s work with the healthcare industry.
    

   “Think of the basic operation of a large hospital or medical center,” he said. “They are there to serve people, to treat people, but it’s easy for that mission to get lost in the bureaucracy or day-to-day business of running the place.”
    

   By adapting Walt Disney’s business beliefs and passion for creating a positive experience for all “cast members” (employees) hospitals were able to change the way they interacted with “guests” (patients and other visitors.)
    “ The idea is to take our best practices and use them to improve an organization,” Santiago told me.  “We specialize in leadership, service, people management, brand loyalty and creativity training.”

    It made sense, but I asked Santiago for another example. I wanted to talk to someone in a field that it would be hard to imagine benefitting from Disneyisms. That’s how I was introduced to Tom Broussard.

    Broussard, a gregarious, motorcycle-riding, guitar-playing texan is fifth-generation mortician in Beaumont, Texas. He is also a Disney Institute apostle after attending a short presentation at an association annual meeting at DisneyWorld in 2000.
    “I sat there and it was like a lightbulb came on,” he told me during a long phone conversation. “They talked about personalization, making a real connection to others.  Well, what we do is intimately personal.”

    Broussard came away convinced the skills and techniques taught by Disney Institute facilitators could make a difference in the way he and the other funeral service workers in his network interacted with and served clients. He realized that some of the techniques used by Disney enterprises would help him create an experience for those who’d come to say goodbye to a friend or family member that would deepen their bond with the deceased.

    “There’s a move in our industry to celebrate the lives of the deceased. You see slideshows and things like that. But I realized that if we reached out to the people who attended services and helped them create a memorial or a keepsake, we would give them a deeper sense of connection,” Broussard says.  “It didn’t have to mean big changes in the way we do things, just more effective changes.”

    Broussard admits he has the right kind of personality to respond to the Disney Institute message.
        “Some of us expect to find some kind of creative reward or experience in everything we do,” he says. “We look for it. We expect it. We seek it. And we’re compelled to share that, to take that message to others.”
       

   In other words, he wasn’t hard to sell on the concept. Others, he admits, might not be so comfortable with the idea of personalizing, and in some ways “informalizing” the unique constraints of the funeral service industry.
   

    “I think the main thing he Institute gives us - as an industry - are the tools to bring back new concepts and ideas,” he says “They give us the skills to be creative and to make changes in a way that makes people comfortable. It’s ingenious.”
    

   There are the expected contemporary leadership and corporate lessons in Disney Institute programs but Broussard says the first time he met with DI facilitators, the creative process was reduced to an elementary level.
   

    “They had everyone at the table pass out crayons. ‘Now smell the crayon’ they told us.  There was an immediate reaction. That smell is unique. You get a whiff of it and you’re a kid again,” Broussard says. “It really opened my eyes. I took notes with the crayons. I highlighted with crayon. It was one small way of doing things but I could sense the change immediately.”
    

   Broussard’s enthusiasm is palpable when he talks about his experience.
    

   “They talk about structure, but about creative structure,” he says. “Like the way you draw the circles when you draw Mickey Mouse. Creative but with structure.”

.

Sidebar:
The Disney Institute is coming to Spokane. Facilitators will be presenting a one-day program geared for local healthcare professionals.
Where:The Lincoln Center
When: April 12,
Details: For more information on registering for the Disney Institute program hosted by the Human Capital Academy in Spokane call (877) 544-2384, ext. 1.


  

 

Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review. She can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com


  

It’s time to toot the neighborhood horn

Alright, those of us who live here already know that South Perry is a cool neighborhood, but would you check this out: the local blog SpoCOOL had it’s own ‘best of Spokane’ contest and South Perry was a big winner.

In the category best pizza, Veraci took number one and South Perry Pizza placed second.
South Perry Farmers Market won for best Farmers Market.
Best bar went to The Lantern Tavern.
That’s one heck of a great showing for one neighborhood - congratulations to all.

SPBNA is gaining momentum

The South Perry Business and Neighborhood Association decided to start a boot, sock, hats, mitten and scarf drive to benefit students at Grant Elementary School. The blog agreed to help out setting this up.

About 90 percent of kids at Grant qualify for free or reduced lunch, and there is a huge need for winter clothing – especially boots, socks, mittens and hats. Watch for collection bins to appear at Perry businesses soon – contact the blog at piah@spokesman.com if you have larger donations of new or slightly used winter boots, socks/tights, hats, mittens and scarves.
There was a long discussion about the need to update bylaws for the South Perry Business and Neighbor Association. A membership fee hasn’t been charged for four or five years.

Many businesses don’t attend on a regular basis, and the SPBNA doesn’t have any representation at the city’s business center meetings. Those meetings are the first Friday every month at 7 a.m. Krista from South Perry Pizza agreed to take contact to the city and try to make the meetings, so she can report back to the group. A work group of three people will look at the bylaws and propose updates to the group as soon as possible.

The officers remain mostly the same for another year, in order to secure that bylaws are updated and structure of SPBNA is solidified. Only changes are that Spencer Grainger agreed to help secretary Heidi Hash – she is very active with Grant Elementary and may miss a meeting once in a while - and Marshall Powell is the new vice president.

Waldref hosts Council Connection

Am sharing this here, too, though it has an East Central focus. Check out the Neighborhood Business Center Advisory Board.

Tune in to City Cable 5 on Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. when council member Amber Waldref hosts the “Council Connection.” During the first half hour, Waldref is joined by LaVerne Biel, President of the East Spokane Business Association and owner of Access Telecom, as well as Sue Bradley, past chair of the Garland Busienss Association and owner of Tinman Gallery on Garland.

The second half hour will feature Biel and Boris Borisnov, program officer for community building at Impact Capital, and focus on teh newly released neighborhood Action Plan for Spokane’s International District, on East Sprague.

The show’s focus is on how the city and local businesses can better work together and it also features the formation of the Neighborhood Business Center Advisory Board.

Waldref will take calls during the show. The number to reach the show is: (509) 625-6337.

The blog has arrived

… and hey, it’s feeling welcome, too. My office away from the office is The Outlaw Cafe and I had barely sat down before Richard Burris of Hillyard Community Futures came in and said hello. Burris is ready to approach his city council members and the police chief about getting some better neighborhood patrols up here. “What we need is police in plain vehicles and plain clothes,” Burris said. “Those who cause trouble can spot a marked police car from a mile away.”
A local bar owner stopped in, too, and agreed wholeheartedly with Burris. He also shared that bars are in a tight spot when it comes to keeping the good customers around while running troublemakers off their property.
Conveniently council member Bob Apple, who represents Hillyard together with Amber Waldref, showed up, too. Apple listened carefully and encouraged Burris to contact the COPS Shop and the Neighborhood’s resource officer. “It’s important to report these things,” Apple said.
Burris is going to present a letter at the Hillyard Merchants Committee meeting Wednesday morning, hoping the group will support him and agree to approach city hall.
However, everyone present agreed that a lot of good things are happening in Hillyard and that the neighborhood is doing its best to get rid of a bad reputation and replace it with a much more positive image. Look for upcoming Halloween events and a Girls Day Out coming real soon.

It’s time for the annual meeting…

…. introductions begin in a minute followed by reports from neighborhood organizations like the Farmers Market and COPS. Mayor Mary Verner is scheduled to speak at 7 p.m. followed by council members Richard Rush and Jon Snyder. The South Perry Neighborhood and Business Association’s annual meeting runs through 8:15 p.m. at the Emmaunel Life Center (631 S. Richard Allen Court) - come over and say hi.

Annual neighborhood meeting next week

The South Perry Neighborhood and Business Association is having its annual meeting on Tuesday, October 12, at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Emmanuel Family Life Center located at 631 S. Richard Allen Court.
Neighbors and businesses in the area are all invited to attend. The SPNBA is not the same as a neighborhood council, rather it was formed by volunteers who began gathering on a regular basis around 10 years ago when the Perry Street restoration project began to change the face of the neighborhood.
SPNBA would like to hear what residents would like to see happen in the neighborhood in 2011 as well as give an update on what has already been accomplished.

What’s in a name?

Look at any map of Spokane and you will not find the words “South Perry.” Yet in the local (and national) media you hear a lot about Spokane’s “revitalized” South Perry neighborhood. Real estate agents refer to the South Perry neighborhood when listing the amenities of a property. I’d like to engage you in a conversation about this emerging identity. What is causing our neighborhood’s positive evolution? We’ll explore this question for a while, and then look ahead toward a shared vision for this community. But first I want to set the stage:

Business and neighborhood association update

The South Perry Business and Neighborhood Association meets on the first Tuesday of every month at 6 p.m. at the Perry Street Cafe - and it needs your help and input. The organization formed years ago when businesses were first moving into the district, and it falls under the East Central Neighborhood Council. Business oweners, neighbors, teachers, anyone with a connection to South Perry is welcome to attend the meetings.

The annual meeting is coming up on October 12, at 6:30 p.m. at the Emmanuel Life Center - Mayor Mary Verner has been invited, and so has city council menbers Jon Snyder and Richard Rush. Brian Estes will give an update about the Farmers Market and there will be a sign up sheet for volunteer positions - or just volunteers.

No meeting tomorrow

This just in from the South Perry Business and Neigborhood Association:
Friends,
the SPBNA has traditionally taken off the month of August. Our current executive committee decided to continue that tradition as three of our four officers are out of town this week. We will be sending out minutes and an agenda for September shortly. And please put October 12th on your calendar for our annual meeting!
For those we were at the Fair debriefing and we talked about our next meeting being this Tuesday, I apologize.
See you on the second Tuesday of September… unless we see each other sooner at the Farmers Market …. the South Perry blog…. or ……
Shalom!
 
Pastor Deb
President of the South Perry Business and Neighbor Association

T-N: Why Idaho Can’t Attract Biz

Electricity costs a manufacturer 4.48 cents per kilowatt hour in Idaho. The same company would pay 26.05 cents per kilowatt hour in Hawaii. In Connecticut, it’s 14.93 cents. In Alaska, it’s 14.17 cents. The average worker in Idaho earns $647 a week. Next door in Washington state it’s $906 a week. So why aren’t companies standing in line to move here? Three reasons: Our schools aren’t good enough, our business taxes are too high, and, except for Boise, our transportation infrastructure is lousy/Twin Falls Times-News. More here.

Question: Does the Twin Falls editorial assessment apply to North Idaho —  “our schools aren’t good enough, our business taxes are too high, and our transportation infrastructure is basically lousy?

Business and Neighborhood Association update

The South Perry Business and Neighborhood Association met at the Perry Street Cafe last night. The business district is part of the East Central Neighborhood Council, yet years ago broke out a smaller business and neighborhood association to better be able to deal with South Perry issues and topics.

 

New life in the old Altamont Pharmacy building?

The Altamont Pharmacy building has been sitting empty for some time now, and while there has been some possible buyers nothing has panned out for the old building. Now Mark Camp - one of the current owners of the building - is ready to do something about that. Camp says he plans to purchase the entire building and divide it into three small retail spaces.

“There will be two spaces facing Perry, and one toward the back that will be more like an office space,” Camp said this morning. One tenant is ready to move in - though Camp won’t say who it is - and depending on financing he hopes the building will open in Fall.

Vintage clothing on South Perry

There’s a new shop on South Perry. Summer Hightower has opened Veda Lux Boutique in the tiny little white house located right next to Lorien’s windmill - the address is 1006 South Perry Street, and the hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“I’ve been looking at this space for years,” Hightower said. “I grew up in the neighborhood, I went to Grant, and I still have my family living here.”

Hightower’s shop features an eclectic mix of vintage dresses, shoes and purses, as well as hair accessories and jewelry that she designs. “I’ve made jewelry for the past 12 years, everything I do is one of a kind,” Hightower said, holding up a bridal veil.

Hightower will be at the Perry Street Farmers’ Market this afternoon and she’s got many plans for getting more artists into the neighborhood.

“I’d love to have First Friday come up here,” said Hightower. “I’ll host a garden party July 2, that’s the next time there’s First Friday. I’d love to have some artists here in my alley. It would be great.”

Odds, ends and this week’s blog alert

By Thursday, the Lantern has been closed for vacation for one week - it will be closed for one more week. Yes, some of us are counting the days.

Across the street, South Perry Pizza has changed its summer hours: Still closed on Mondays, but now open from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

A new shop has joined the line up on South Perry: Summer Hightower has opened The Veda Lux Boutique in the little white house next to Lorien’s windmill (1106 S. Perry). She sells vintage clothing, jewelry and handmade hair accessories - the South Perry Blog can’t wait to visit.

Thursday morning, the blog will be at The Shop from 9 a.m. to noon - come in and say hello. As always, there will be a stack of free newspapers.

Missing business?

I ran into Mark Mayers of One World Spokane Cafe at a function yesterday. We chatted for a bit, the cafe is going great and somehow that got me thinking of which businesses we are missing on South Perry Street. I stopped by the gas station the other day and was surprised to find pretty much a full-size grocery store inside (I usually just get gas and go) On my way home, I often stop at Hai’s to pick up that one thing I don’t want to drive another three miles to get at Safeway. There are still some empty store fronts on our little street - so tell me, what do you miss? What would you like to see in the old Altamont Pharmacy?

Growing neighborhood businesses

It’s been a busy morning here on South Perry - lots of neighbors and business owners stopped by to chat and the theme of the morning was business development. Photographer Craig Sweat has had his studio in the neighborhood for a long time. “The business climate up here has not always been ideal,” Sweat said. “There just wasn’t a lot of foot traffic, it was difficult to draw people in.” That’s changed a bit over the past two years and Sweat said he likes what he’s seeing: “A few little boutiques, smaller places, kind of like what’s happening right now - it’s going the right way.” The Altamont Pharmacy Building is still vacant but there are consistent rumors that will change soon.

Someone - let’s just call him Mike - came in and shared some frustration about starting and operating a pop-up restaurant in Spokane. The original idea was to see if it’s possible to start a food vendor business for $100, cooking and selling food in various locations - hence the name ‘pop-up.’ Now Mike has hit a wall of permits and regulations, all meant to keep consumers safe of course, but at the same time limiting what he can do. “It can work,” said Mike. “Look at Portland - it’s a street food mecca. Look at Seattle. It’s about a cultural shift more so than anything else.” Keep an eye out for random acts of great food happening in your neighborhood.

New president of SPBNA

The South Perry Business and Neighborhood Association elected a new president last week. Deb Conklin, pastor at Liberty Park United Methodist Church, is serving through this fall while former president Geoff White of the Perry Street Café is focusing his efforts completely on the upcoming fair and parade on July 17.
Conklin has lived in the South Perry neighborhood for three years, and prior to that she’s served in several smaller towns around Spokane.
“This is a unique association because it’s both a neighborhood and a business association,” said Conklin. “And it kind of ebbs and flows: sometimes we are wishing for more business people to come to our meetings, sometimes we are wishing for more neighbors.”
The SPBNA meets on the second Tuesday of every month, at 6 p.m. at the Perry  Street Café.
Conklin said right now SPBNA is working on community building in the neighborhood, which has welcomed several new businesses over the past couple of years.
“We have been working with the farmers market to find a good location,” said Conklin. “For now they are in the parking lot at The Shop, but they would like to perhaps locate around the cul-de-sac by the park.”
The farmers market opens its fifth season on June 3  from 3-7 p.m.
The Spokane Alliance has been working out of offices at Liberty Park United Methodist Church for some time and Conklin said getting involved the way she is now fits a broader movement within the protestant church.
“In mainline protestant circles there is a movement toward making the transition from church being a group that gathers for worship, to church being a group that reaches into the community,” said Conklin, so being involved with the neighborhood and business association is a natural fit for her.
The neighborhood has seen the addition of a vet clinic, a beauty salon, a yoga studio and bar over the past couple of years.
“I think the types of businesses that are coming right now are different from what they used to be,” Conklin said. “There really is a lot happening here right now.”

Idaho continues to loom on Olympia’s radar…

Former state Rep. John Ahern was famous for floor speeches trotting out the specter of unhappy Washington businesses decamping en masse for Idaho.

“That great sucking sound you hear,” he’d warn, as Democrats rolled their eyes, “is business heading for Idaho.”

Ahern’s now gone, ousted by a Democratic challenger in November. Yet the issue clearly isn’t.

“Democrat bills send clear message to employers: Go to Idaho!” said a recent press release from Sen. Janea Holmquist, R-Moses Lake. She blasted several bills that she said would “rip the welcome mat away from our employers.”

Hogwash, say Democrats.

“I think Wa state is clearly very competitive when it comes to biz climate,” said Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, citing studies that gave the state high marks. Part of being competitive, she said, is having a well-trained, well-educated workforce.

Brown also said Washington lawmakers are trying to help, such as by cutting unemployment insurance taxes by hundreds of millions of dollars over the next few years.

“I think it’s kind of ironic that in a down economy, when we actually have a lot to be proud of in this state, that some legislators are kind of going around sounding a lot of negativity,” said Brown.

UPDATE: Good God. Rep. Joe Schmick just used Ahern’s old line again in a floor speech. It never ends.

Idaho Looms Large On Olympia Radar

Across the border in Washington, former state Rep. John Ahern was famous for floor speeches trotting out the specter of unhappy Washington businesses decamping en masse for Idaho. “That great sucking sound you hear,” he’d warn, as Democrats rolled their eyes, “is business heading for Idaho.” Ahern’s now gone, ousted by a Democratic challenger in November. Yet the issue clearly isn’t. “Democrat bills send clear message to employers: Go to Idaho!” said a recent press release from Sen. Janea Holmquist, R-Moses Lake. She blasted several bills that she said would “rip the welcome mat away from our employers”/Rich Roesler, Eye On Olympia. More here.

Question: Does Idaho have a better business climate than Washington? Or are Washington lawmakers simply over-reacting to perceived business competition from Idaho?

U.S. News: WA tops for starting a small business…

Although there’s a constant “we’re great/we suck” debate on virtually all attempts to gauge Washington’s business climate, here’s the latest one: U.S. News and World Report gives the state high marks as a place to launch your company. Tops, in fact.

From the report:

1. Washington. The Evergreen State tops the list by coming in second on the New State Economy Index and fifth on the Small Business Survival Index. Washington is first among the states in steps toward energy efficiency and using more alternative-energy sources. It also has a highly productive manufacturing sector, signaling high wages and a tech-intensive economy. Washington leads the nation in value added per production hour as a percentage of the national average—the difference in value between inputs in the production process and the value of the units as finally sold. But in addition to these nonpolitical factors, Washington also has very low taxes, making the costs of growing a business quite low. It does not have its own income or capital-gains taxes, either personal or corporate.

The list ranked the top 7 states, in US News’ view. Idaho and Oregon? Sorry.

Hat tip: Northwest Republican.

UPDATE: Among those underwhelmed by the news: Richard Davis, with the Washington Alliance for a Competitive Economy. Davis looked at the underlying studies used by the magazine to create its list, and says the results are skewed, partly because Washington has no income tax.

Writes Davis:

Put the “7 best” article in the entertainment file. Combining a tech-centric index with a flawed small business measure does not yield anything like a “best place to start a new business.” Next week the Legislature convenes, with economic recovery the top agenda item. The fluffy “best places to start a business” story should not become a distraction.