Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!!

Happy New Year from the staff at the Vancouver Business Journal – here’s to a 2009 that brings health, wealth and happiness!

► On the record

"I want continued growth in Camas more than anything. We're open seven days a week. I want to see seven days of shopping (downtown).”

– Dawn Stanchfield, owner of Camas boutique Lily Atelier

Reporter's Notebook

Who needs the money more?

Tomorrow Washington’s increased minimum wage goes into effect, and I have to wonder whether it’s good news for the local economy. Is it better to put more money in the pockets of consumers or to leave that money with businesses?

Washington already had the nation’s highest minimum wage at $8.07 per hour, and tomorrow it will rise nearly 6 percent to $8.55. (Details on this are in the Dec. 26 issue of the VBJ ).

From our nation’s capital, the Employment Policies Institute argues that mandated minimum wage hikes lead to job losses that particularly affect vulnerable employees, such as young minorities and high-school dropouts. And to recoup increased labor costs, businesses with small profit margins would need to increase sales significantly, EPI predicts.

But a study released in 2006 by David Holland, economics professor emeritus at Washington State University, found that increased minimum wage had a mostly positive effect on the state’s economy. At the time, a 5 percent wage increase meant losing 2.5 percent of the state’s minimum wage jobs, but put the baseline gross state product down only 0.006 percent.

Owners of small local businesses I’ve talked to expressed worry about keeping up with the increase in a down economy – it’s harder for them to pay bills, let alone compete for and keep good workers. But I also know people who would welcome a 6 percent raise with open arms – not so they can splurge, but so they can pay the bills and eat.

What’s your take on the state’s new minimum wage?

--Charity Thompson can be reached at cthompson@vbjusa.com

Business around the Northwest

Harper Houf Peterson Righellis adds to roster, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

Office market strong in Q4, South Sound Business Examiner

HomeGrocer.com: A start-up survivor, Seattle Business Monthly

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Christmas to All!

T’was the night before Christmas two thousand and eight,
Not a business was stirring, even those open late;
This season had ended, ice and snow filled the air
Causing some to wonder, Would St. Nick really be there?

A historic arctic blast brought snow by great measure
Leaving shop owners visions only of 2009 profit and treasure.
With some heading east for Christmas with family
To grandma’s others drove in their Chevy.

The year was closing and results were mixed
But all had a plan the next year to fix.
New leaders at home and the other Washington, too,
All promising incentives to drive business anew.

But wait don’t just dream, rather put the plan to action
For its business done locally that creates satisfaction.
Look to each other, to the team shout, “Let’s hustle,”
To grow our economy will take everyone’s business muscle.

It’s easy to wait, though the outcome a bit bleak
A bold and direct approach, that’s the need, every week!
The concepts are known, they’re tired and they’re true
Commitment we need to our clients old and new.

For decades we’ve heard them, from all industry they came,
In these tough times it might help to call them by name;
It’s communication, efficiency and our customers first;
Be lean, be focused and for the mission have thirst.

Though it’s profit we want, growth and margins a plenty,
Its losses we’ll have should we cut four and twenty.

Right here, yes right now let’s declare a New Year,
One with customers, orders and sales records to cheer!
It’s ours for the making, and do it we can
If all we believe to the last woman and man.

Happy Christmas to all and to all a
Profitable 2009!

Just Business will return to its regular schedule Dec. 31.

Friday, December 19, 2008

► On the record

“Just like everyone, tenants are being cautious before making decisions. There has been some activity, but nothing that’s translating into a lot of leasing.”

- Pam Lindloff of NAI Norris, Beggs & Simpson in Vancouver, about the commercial real estate market.

Reporter's Notebook

Can Your Mortgage Wait?

Mark Hemstreet, owner of Shilo Inns, says it can – but the economy can’t.

Hemstreet created the eight-point America’s Econ Stimulus and Recovery Plan, the cornerstone of which proposes a one-year “mortgage holiday” – a national mortgage moratorium forbearance for all residential, commercial, industrial and farm loans.
It’s optional, and commercial and residential landlords who opt in could choose to cut their tenants’ rates by up to half.

According to the plan, which Hemstreet told me has earned attention from the U.S. Senate finance and banking committees, the government would pay an estimated 6 percent interest-only monthly payment on all existing mortgage debt to mortgage holders affected. And after the one-year time out, the regular monthly mortgage payments would resume as normal. But a 25-year mortgage would become a 26-year one.

The payoff? Hemstreet expects an immediate economic stimulus of all of the American families' and businesses' regular monthly mortgage payments, to be infused directly back into the economy. The hope is that the infusion of cash will help keep business stable and growing, provide more jobs and create more tax revenue.

And by not having to worry about hefty monthly mortgage payments, Hemstreet figures businesses will be freed to hire employees to get America working again, he said.

“My plan would immediately empower the American family and small businesses and it will pay for itself,” he said. “It puts money in the hands of the average American. The billions we’ve already spent bailing out Wall Street and AIG…was not necessarily money well spent. The money would be better spent on Main Street, not Wall Street.”

But what about the lenders? Many would receive a guaranteed interest stream from the feds, what he said is far better than the alternative of massive delinquencies, bankruptcies and foreclosures.

“The alternative – a prolonged depression – would be far more costly,” Hemstreet said.

Sounds simple. Could it work?

This is no doubt a brief introduction into the plan. More information is available at www.saveoureconomy.com.

-Megan Patrick-Vaughn can be reached at mpatrick@vbjusa.com

Business around the Northwest

Arts Council awarded grant for new center, Snohomish County Business Journal

Plunging loan rates ignite activity, Spokane Journal of Business

Work on Kaiser Permanente hospital to start next summer, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

► On the record

“It’s a priority identified by the community, and any time you get a community behind an idea you know something good’s going to happen. They asked for that program.”

– Lee Cheatham, executive director of the Washington Technology Center, speaking about Washington State University Vancouver’s new electrical engineering program

Reporter's Notebook

Don’t Miss the Tech Train

Read this and weep: The majority of small business owners do not have a website.

“Something like 70 percent are not online,” said David Steinberg, a spokesman for Vancouver-based web-registrar Dotster Inc. “The Y and X generations are doing it (more) themselves, but a lot of people still think they have to call their geeky cousin or nephew to do it.”

I know many small business owners hardly have time to check email, let alone set up and maintain a website. This is even the case with web designers. But avoiding the IT side of your business can cost you – tech-wise as well as in marketing and sales.

Here’s more from a 2008 Microsoft survey of small business owners:
* 89 percent said professional communications (which often depend on tech services) are important to their business.
* In the United States and France, small businesses are most likely to not have any tech services, both at 9 percent. Only 3 percent of Russian small businesses have no tech services.
* 37 percent use Hotmail, Gmail or Yahoo! rather than business e-mail services.
* 56 percent want more virus and spam protection.
* 44 percent believe they would benefit from mobile e-mail and shared calendars.

It’s unfortunate that IT sits on the back burner because useful web tools are becoming more accessible, affordable and integrated into everyday activities. Investing in a tech support staffer (or outsourcing one) and using web tools can help any business save and make more money.

Don’t miss the train, folks. Tickets are not as expensive or hard to get as you think.

--Charity Thompson can be reached at cthompson@vbjusa.com

Business around the Northwest

My recession confession: I’m not spending, Idaho Business Review

Could you be experiencing employee theft — or something like it?
, Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal

Modern Shed offers versatile spaces to live and work, Snohomish County Business Journal

Friday, December 12, 2008

► On the record

“This is a perfect time to be an economic developer. This is a perfect time to be a legislator.”

Bart Phillips, president of the Columbia River Economic Development Council

Reporter's Notebook

‘A recession is too good of an opportunity to waste’

I thought my ears were deceiving me because of the early hour this morning at the annual Legislative Outlook Breakfast, hosted by the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, Identity Clark County and the Columbia River Economic Development Council.

But my ears were just fine because the message was pretty clear from the seven legislators on the panel: Yes, there is a hefty projected state deficit looming on the horizon, but with it, comes great opportunity.

“Don’t waste the crisis,” said Rep.-elect Jim Jacks (D-49th District). “This is an opportunity…we get to choose how to respond to the doom and gloom and reevaluate how we do things.”

The door is wide open for policy changes, said Sen. Joseph Zarelli (R-18th District).

“Having a long-term outlook when we have a short-term crisis is a difficult thing to do,” said Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-15th District).

But if we can keep that long-term vision, we can develop a better economic environment. In that quest, legislators, we wish you luck.

-Megan Patrick-Vaughn can be reached at mpatrick@vbjusa.com

Business around the Northwest

Emergency prep for businesses: How to weather the (literal) storm, Coast River Business Journal

Zero Energy Idea House in Bellevue reaches first major milestone, Eastside Business Journal

Bids go out for Fred Meyer projects amid recession, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

► On the record

“There’s a lot of goodwill and morale that comes out of (holiday parties)…Walls can break down, communication goes up and empathy can increase, and we can always use more empathy.”

– Kevin Young, director of sales and marketing, Red Lion at the Quay, Vancouver

Reporter's Notebook

The Bailout Breakdown

Unless you work in the financial industry, it’s easy to get a headache trying to understand our nation’s financial situation, particularly when it comes to the banking bailout. (I won’t even get started on the automakers.)

In my work this week, I sat down with Jeanne Firstenburg, executive vice president and chief executive officer for First Independent, which has operated in the Vancouver area for 98 years.

Here’s some of what I gleaned from that conversation:

• The “bailout” funds are Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) dollars.

• TARP funds can be used only for community lending or to buy out other ailing institutions, Firstenburg said.

• Financial institutions must pay back TARP dollars or expect the government to play a larger role in their business. “This isn’t free money,” Firstenburg said. “You have to assure stockholders you can pay it back.”

• First Independent applied for TARP funds because “it would be imprudent not to,” she said. But First Independent doesn’t qualify for TARP because it’s a Subchapter S corporation (privately held with profits going to members of its holding company, First Independent Investment Group Inc.). And Firstenburg wasn’t enthusiastic taking a bailout even if the federal requirements changed. “If we participate we have to think about all that really means,” she said. “You don’t want to be tagged to a bailout situation.”

• Government purchase of stock in financial institutions could have significant impacts on the nation’s free market economy. “This could change the course of things for very many years in the United States,” she said. “It’s a huge learning time for all of us. We’ll come out of this as better bankers and as a better nation.”

First Independent’s leaders expect tough economic times to last at least another year. Learn more about the bank’s plan to make it through in Friday’s VBJ.

--Charity Thompson can be reached at cthompson@vbjusa.com

Business around the Northwest

Against the grain: In spite of the economy, local businesses are expanding, Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal

Guitar company shapes vision, reaches 35 years, Bend Cascade Business News

How do mental health issues directly affect the workplace?, Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal

Friday, December 5, 2008

► On the record

“We’re continuing to grow, it’s just a matter of do we need 10 new employees or five?”

- Brandon Byars, manager of recruitment services and workforce planning at Kaiser Permanente

Reporter's Notebook

Ho Ho Ho-memade

My husband and I have instituted a new Christmas shopping rule this season – all of our gifts have to come from local retailers. It’s proving a little harder than I expected, not because of a lack of great options, but because I’m battling pure habit.

As Target is my go-to store of choice, I find it a bit tricky to pause and think about where else I can find what I’m looking for. It’s not hard, but it does require more brain power than hopping in my car and ending up at Target.

But now I’m spending where it has far greater impact – locally – and I think I’m spending less because I’ve put so much thought into what I’m buying that there’s less impulse shopping. (Although that’s not always the case, as I impulse bought a $12 bottle of the most beautiful sparkle nail polish I’ve ever seen at Willow’s the other day.)

But I can almost guarantee nobody will be getting multiples of my presents.

So far, I’ve snapped up a pair of knitted bootie slippers, a screenprinted T-shirt made by my neighbor and bacon flavored salt. (I hope nobody on my gift list is reading this!) And, bonus, I got to connected with some of the folks who created these wonders.

My hope is by changing my holiday shopping habits – by changing my frame of mind – it will carry over into the rest of my spending.

And – shameless plug! – for a great source of wares made my local artisans, check out the 2Hand Revolution Holiday Craft Show and Fair Trade Expo tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
at the August Moon Community Center, 111 W. 39th St. in Vancouver. It’s organized by Brown Warrior Publishing staffer Jessica Swanson, yours truly will have a crafting table and Reporter Charity Thompson will allegedly be teaching kiddies a song or two!

-Megan Patrick-Vaughn can be reached at mpatrick@vbjusa.com

Business around the Northwest

Working to combat crimes at job sites, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

Snohomish to postpone high density rural projects, Snohomish County Business Journal

Health plan hikes show little letup, Spokane Journal of Business

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

► On the record

“It was a year that nobody wanted it to be.”

– Dave Roewe, executive director of the Building Industry Association of Clark County, reflecting on the building industry in 2008

Reporter's Notebook

Loving The Craft

Alexander MacKenzie, founder of Vancouver-based Highland Light Productions, made a career in movies by accident.
“It never occurred to me” to be in film, he said.
But as a child, MacKenzie played on the “Howdy Doody” set with a family friend who worked on the show.
“It was like daycare for us,” he said.
Later, as a sailor, MacKenzie met a screenwriter at a bar in 1970 who was preparing a script called “The Last Detail.” He paired its star with MacKenzie for a character study.
“The Navy sent me on temporary duty to Columbia Studios and introduced me to this skinny kid in the corner, Jack Nicholson, who was from New Jersey just like me,” MacKenzie said.
The Navy assigned MacKenzie to the studio, where he was an extra and crew member for “The Longest Yard,” “The Rockford Files” and more.
MacKenzie completed six tours in Vietnam and stumbled back into movies while vacationing in Hawaii near a movie set. Today he’s making plans for Highland Light to shoot feature films with local crew and actors.
He’s nonchalant when talking about his career, and that’s partly why he’s come so far. MacKenzie wasn’t starry-eyed, he said, so directors assumed he knew what he was doing.
MacKenzie is in a unique profession, but his advice for film newbies applies to any industry: Love the craft, learn all aspects of it and help others get ahead while you do it.
More about MacKenzie’s plans for Highland Light is in the current issue of the VBJ.

--Charity Thompson can be reached at cthompson@vbjusa.com

Business around the Northwest

The best (and worst) of business 2008, Seattle Business Monthly

Recession-proof industries: fact or fiction?, Bellingham Business Journal

Potlatch to spin off Idaho manufacturing business, Idaho Business Review

High-tech scans for Rover, Spokane Journal of Business

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

► On the record

“Refinancing carried us through the last recession, but it won’t be there in this one…Consumer behavior is hard to predict around the holidays, but over the coming year I think we’re due for a correction in both finance and retail, in which both sectors become leaner.”

– Scott Bailey, regional economist for the Washington State Employment Security Department

Reporter's Notebook

The Black Friday Strategy

As much as I love shopping, Black Friday seems like a migraine in waiting.

But it’s a great opportunity for shoppers and retailers, said Jan Teague, president and chief executive officer of the Olympia-based Washington Retail Association. The key for both is strategy.

For retailers it means careful merchandising and marketing and specialized customer service. For shoppers, it means making a shopping list, rising early and teamwork. The reward? Saving more than half on holiday gifts, Teague said.

For about five years, she has developed her Black Friday strategy with family members. They make gift lists and compare prices online, then hit the stores at 4:30 a.m., wearing four layers of clothes and waiting an hour before doors open.

Inside, one person grabs a cart while the others spread out. The team fills it while the cart-driver waits in line for the register.

“You’ve got to go with the right spirit,” Teague said. “You have to have patience with the lines.”

Teague recommends starting with toy and electronics stores, since they run out of stock first. Then hit the clothing stores.

“If you’ve missed the discounts and the items are gone, move on,” she said. “You can come back for it with a coupon…You can probably (visit) three stores before everything is picked over by 11 a.m.”

That’s when she finds a grocery store for coffee, donuts and a deal on poinsettias.

Read more about the holiday retail outlook in Friday’s VBJ. Also, Just Business will not be sent out as usual on Friday because of the Thanksgiving holiday. Not to worry, it will resume on Wednesday, Dec. 3.

--Charity Thompson can be reached at cthompson@vbjusa.com

Business around the Northwest

Stillaguamish Tribe’s Angel of the Winds Casino to triple size in December, Snohomish County Business Journal

Office parties can be risky business, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

State launches video to help businesses with tax planning, South Sound Business Examiner blog

Friday, November 21, 2008

► On the record

“I tell you, the things I do for Arch Miller.”

- Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard, being outfitted in a chef’s jacket and toque for a pizza dough toss at a celebration of the Northwest Culinary Institute, the renamed culinary division of the International Air and Hospitality Academy. Miller founded IAHA.

Reporter's Notebook

THE CREATIVE ECONOMY

I think we’ve all been doing a lot of reading about the economy lately. But recently, it was an article about art’s role in Washington’s economic development that caught my eye. In it, author Valerie Grigg Devis of the Department of Community Trade and Economic Development argues that it’s entrepreneurs and artists who make an essential contribution to the economy.


They are the ones who create something new – and that is what grows an economy. We spend a great deal of money on art without even thinking about it – on music, clothing, home furnishings, movies, books. Many of us travel to legendary cities like Paris and New York largely for the theater, architecture, museums and arts festivals. Even when we travel for a sporting event, Grigg Devis writes, we’re watching a team supported by another team of designers who created the stadium, uniforms, logo, mascot and merchandise.

Nationally, according to a recent study by Americans for the Arts, just the nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $166.2 billion in economic activity, creating 5.7 million full-time equivalent jobs, $104.2 billion in household income and $9.1 billion in state government tax revenues.

In Washington, arts-related jobs make up about 2 percent of the jobs in the state. Doesn’t seem like much. But the latest Creative Vitality Index, published by the Washington State Arts Commission, shows that Washington’s participation and employment in the arts sector was 26 percent higher than the national average in 2006. But while Southwest Washington’s creative vitality grew 42 percent from 2003 to 2006, it was still 23 percent weaker than the national average. An updated report is due out later this year.

I’d love to see this region support the local arts sector to boost the economy. Southwest Washington has some outstanding arts-related businesses, and spending your dollars at them this holiday season keeps money where we need it most – locally.

-Megan Patrick-Vaughn can be reached at mpatrick@vbjusa.com

Business around the Northwest

Andersen Construction appeals fine by Oregon OSHA following accident at condo work site, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

Weak retail growth predicted for the holidays, Snohomish County Business Journal

Can you bank on your bank or credit union?, Coast River Business Journal

Thursday, November 20, 2008

► On the record

“I honestly said, ‘If I have to go to work and talk about chicken breast and broccoli, I might have to kill myself.’ ”

– Letha Brandenburg, who has owned The Healthy Weigh in Vancouver for 18 years and developed weight loss workshops combining nutrition and exercise with psychology

Reporter's Notebook

The optimist’s Magic 8 Ball

Predicting the end of a recession, or anything, is tricky. But Michael J. Parks took a stab at it last week at the Columbia River Economic Development Council’s annual luncheon. Parks is an economist who publishes Marple’s Pacific Northwest Letter. He’s also a self-proclaimed optimist, which is unusual these days.

Parks said the economy is in recession by definition, but that we won’t see another Depression. Unemployment isn’t anywhere near 25 percent like it was back then, he said.

(Funny that one who doesn’t expect a depression is now an optimist. That’s like saying you’re funny because you tell knock-knock jokes or that you’re healthy because you don’t have cancer. It speaks to the state of our economy, doesn’t it?)

But Parks is a studied optimist. He thinks we’re close to the end of the recession, which he said began in January 2008. The average post-World War II recession has lasted 10 months, he said. Recessions of the 1970s and early 1980s lasted 16 months, meaning the current situation could end in April 2009.

Also, Washington’s economy has long been above average. Even as it falters, he doesn’t think it will fall that far. It’s partly because the mortgage crisis hit hardest in California, Nevada, Arizona and Florida, not the Northwest. It also comes from increased exports we enjoy when the dollar is weak.

“But suddenly it’s much less satisfying because the bogie is starting to shrink...Average is below the line,” Parks said.

When times are slow in one area, often a boon emerges elsewhere, he said, recalling the 1960s when Boeing’s business contracted two-thirds and its backlog collapsed.

“That turned out to be when the semiconductor boom began,” he said.

And we all know how much Southwest Washington loves semiconductors.

Charity Thompson can be reached at
cthompson@vbjusa.com

Business around the Northwest

College construction totals $155 million, Spokane Journal of Business

The impact of the economic crisis on the workplace, Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal

Competitions attract tomorrow’s tech leaders, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

Friday, November 14, 2008

► On the record

“The Washington state economy resembles the children of Lake Wobegone – Garrison Keillor described the people as ‘All the women are strong, all the men are good looking and all the children are above average.’ It’s just that we’ll be a little less above average than before.”

- Economist Michael Parks discussing the recession

Reporter's Notebook

Hello, future

I am so far out of the technology loop that the simplest forms of it are mind-boggling to me. I still watch “Steel Magnolias” on VHS, thank you very much.

I just learned there are phone applications out there that can tell you the name of a song that’s playing wherever you are – and then download the song to your phone. You’d think the person who turned me on to this wizardry had just informed me she’d be vacationing on the moon for Thanksgiving.

But today, I was enlightened about a fascinating form of technology that could have much further-reaching impacts than digital “Name That Tune.” Diane Cook, a Washington State University Pullman professor, is leading the research and development of artificial intelligence applications for our homes, offices and beyond.

The technology used in the research is not new – in fact, much of it has been available for some time. But the way the WSU team has used it allows the technology to reason. This, of course, freaks me out – thinking computers? But it is remarkable nonetheless.

Using a network of sensors in your business office, the system can understand you enough to predict your behavior then act by welcoming you to the office – because it knows who you are - turning on your desk lamp and starting your coffee pot, if those are the things you normally do as you enter the office. And all of this without you having to program it to do so.

The researchers have turned their efforts to using the technology for allowing the aging population to remain at home as long and independently as possible, which could go far to improve quality of life and save money.

But back to our workspaces. What I wouldn’t give for technology that senses I’ve been sitting in front of a computer too long and makes a glass of wine and masseuse appear...

-Megan Patrick-Vaughn can be reached at mpatrick@vbjusa.com

Business around the Northwest

How to survive and thrive in the current rocky economy, Bellingham Business Journal

Bracing for a rise in utility bills, Spokane Journal of Business

Portland Development Commission strengthens its bid to buy Northwest Portland property, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

► On the record

“Generally, people hear about this (treehouse project) and laugh. Then they call us a few days later and say, ‘How does this work?’ ”

– Jim Misner, partner of Battle Ground-based Kiddigan Investments, which plans to develop a community of treehouses in Cowlitz County. Read more about it in Friday’s VBJ.

Reporter's Notebook

NICKEL AND DIMED

Word nerd that I am, I’m in a book club. Go on, make fun of me, but I love it.

This week we’re discussing “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America” by Barbara Ehrenreich. It chronicles Ehrenreich’s attempt, basically, to pay rent and feed herself while working minimal wage jobs in 1998.

Her experience was temporary and she lacked housemates to share rent with or family to support. But it was revealing. With weekly rent as high as $240, her hourly wages of $5.15 or even $7.50 weren’t enough for housing and food, let alone anything else.

Fast forward 10 years, and Washington’s minimum wage is $8.07 or $15,494 annually before taxes. Vancouver’s average rent is about $700 a month, more than half of a minimum wage earner’s monthly income.

“In Clark County, you would need to earn $14.56 an hour to afford rent at 30 percent of your income,” said LaVon Holden, deputy director of the Vancouver Housing Authority.

When more than 30 percent of a person’s income goes to housing, they’re likely to be less active consumers, especially in today’s economy. In 2006 in Clark County, 41,294 people lived below the poverty level of $20,614 annually for a family of four or $10,488 for singles.

“If you live in a community where housing is not affordable, it’s a challenge to have stable employees because they’re always at risk.,” Holden said.

Holden welcomes your thoughts on this issue, and so do I. In the meantime, I recommend reading “Nickel and Dimed.” For starters, it’s made me a better tipper.

Charity Thompson can be reached at
cthompson@vbjusa.com

Business around the Northwest

Forecast: ‘Worst recession since 1982’, South Sound Business Examiner blog

The Wal-Mart effect: Can it be reversed? Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal

Expedia announces partnership with Helsinki-based Finnair, Eastside Business Journal

Friday, November 7, 2008

► On the record

“Ours is the only technology center that grew up in the absence of a research center. Our goal is to get the research capacity here.”

- Bart Phillips, president of the Columbia River Economic Development Council, comparing the Southwest Washington to places like Silicon Valley, Seattle and Boston.

Reporter's Notebook

STAY HOME ALREADY

I swear there has been something akin to the plague making its way around Vancouver. It certainly made its way around the VBJ, like many workplaces in town. But when I got it, what did I do? Came to work anyway.

“I’m not that sick,” I said to myself. “I’m just tired. I have so much work to do. I have to go, or the work won’t get done.” The excuses went on.

Since the haze has passed, I’ve been able to reflect on what a terrible decision it was to work sick. It may seem self-indulgent and impossible to stay home and catch up on Ellen when you’re not feeling well, but an article on the BusinessWeek website clued me to why it’s not only bad for you, but your company when you try to be Superman (or woman).

1. We can’t meet the needs of clients when we’re sick. Seriously, who wants to do business with you while you’re hacking up a lung?
2. By bringing your germs to work, you’re increasing the likelihood your coworkers are going to get sick. Not a good way to make friends and…
3. You’re hurting your company. “Presenteeism” – the problems that arise when employees come to work in spite of illness or distracting life issues – can have negative repercussions on your business performance.
4. You’re not being fair to yourself – you need and deserve time to heal.

This is not easy for many motivated workers who think they carry the weight of their companies on their shoulders. But from my own unscientific estimation, I felt drained and unwell, was unproductive and potentially infected my coworkers for five days. Had I taken a day or two off, I could have been back in full force for three days out of that work week.

Now this doesn’t mean you should take advantage of the situation and stay home every time one of your eyelashes doesn’t feel right, but take care of yourselves. When you don’t, everyone suffers.

-Megan Patrick-Vaughn can be reached at mpatrick@vbjusa.com

Business around the Northwest

Portland Cement Association: Demand is dropping, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

Aircraft Rubber: From Race Cars to Space Shuttles, Cascade Business News

Holiday frills attract spirit and customers, Bellingham Business Journal

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

► On the record

“For people who wonder why they aren’t making a difference or reaching their goals, look at yourself and think about what you do when a decision comes. Sometimes there’s an easy choice and a hard choice, but the hard choice could have better outcomes. Make the hard choice.”

– Ron Frederiksen, president and chief executive officer of RSV Construction and the VBJ’s first-ever Kyle Corwin Lifetime Achievement Award winner

Reporter's Notebook

WHY THESE LEADERS ARE WINNERS

Today is quite an important day-after. Yesterday we voted in record numbers to choose new political leaders and 20 young leaders were honored at the VBJ’s Accomplished and Under 40 luncheon with Frederiksen, noted above.

All of this got me thinking about effective leadership. While interviewing the honorees, I was struck by the subtle qualities that allow them to have such economic, civic and philanthropic influence.

Here are a few nuggets of wisdom I gleaned while researching the honorees:

  • “Success comes from a lot of hard work and people who believe in you.”
  • “Somebody has to do it.”
  • “Every day I’m critical of myself and feel like I fall short, like I’m not reaching out. It’s not that I lack self confidence, it’s just that I keep reaching.”
  • “From the electricians to the masonry workers to the landscapers, he treats everyone as an equal and with respect.”
  • “She constantly displays qualities one usually associates with an older person: wisdom, consistency, balance.”
  • “When you call looking for assistance, I’m always ready to jump, probably to my detriment.”
  • “He has an easy-going manner and ability to work with others who are almost never as prepared as he is.”
  • “She won’t ask anyone to do anything that she wouldn’t or hasn’t done herself.”
Profiles of Frederiksen and each Accomplished and Under 40 honoree will be in the Nov. 14 issue of the VBJ. All the best to our leaders, near and far.

Charity Thompson can be reached at cthompson@vbjusa.com

Business around the Northwest

Can you bank on your bank or credit union? Coast River Business Journal

What is affordable housing? Bellingham Business Journal

Bankers are cautious, but still OK loans, Spokane Journal of Business

Sustainable design theorist to visit PNCA, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

Friday, October 31, 2008

► On the record

“I’m hoping we’re at the bottom. Unfortunately, we won’t know we’re at the bottom until about six months after we hit it.”

- Deborah Oester, senior vice president and manager of the real estate division at Bank of Clark County, discussing the real estate market

Reporter's Notebook

GIVE ME A GHOULISHLY GOOD TIME

Despite the icky economy, the National Retail Federation is projecting that Halloween retail sales are going to be the bright spot of holiday spending this year. Sales were expected to increase again this year – reaching an estimated $5.77 billion – while retailers are anticipating the worst holiday shopping season in six years.

The NRF has a take on why, comparing the data to strong Halloween sales in 2002, when consumers were faced economic uncertainty and a slew of geopolitical factors: Halloween is a time to let loose.

It’s a way to escape and be somebody else for a night or two. And I – who am typing this wearing my witchiest stockings and a feathered hat – agree. I also think that no matter how tight money gets, people always have at least one luxury habit they’ll spend on.

Pricey hair products, ridiculously extravagant gourmet olives, video games, season tickets for a sports team – we’ve all got one. For me, it’s Halloween costuming. In fact, I recently bought a totally useless bright red petticoat not because it was at all needed, but because it was a good investment for my costume closet.

So whether you just end up with a bowl of sumptuous olives tonight or letting loose in your best Devo ensemble, we at the VBJ wish you a safe and happy holiday. For more on how local shops fared with shoppers and how much Halloween candy Fred Meyer orders for its stores, check out today’s edition of the VBJ.

-Megan Patrick-Vaughn can be reached at mpatrick@vbjusa.com

Business around the Northwest

Haunted or not, sale must be made, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

Dynamic signs draw customers, Bellingham Business Journal

Commercial construction showing increases in spite of slow economy, Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

► On the record

“I don’t see myself as a career person. It’s the things the kids do, the smiles on their faces, that motivate me…We started the foundation to teach our kids to give back.”

– Renee Nutter, chairwoman of the Nutter Family Foundation and one of the VBJ’s 2008 Accomplished and Under 40 winners

Reporter's Notebook

SOCIAL NETWORKING: NOT JUST FOR KIDS

Before grounding your teenager for spending too much time on MySpace, you might ask him or her how it works first.


Online social networking has become a common and often free marketing tool for businesses and professionals of all ages.

“Google tends to respond more favorably to links from social media,” said Doug Williams, a Vancouver-based web marketing consultant.

A professional account with sites such as LinkedIn.com, Facebook or MySpace can help with search engine optimization by increasing links to a company’s website, he said.
Corporate examples of success and failure with online networking include attempts of Target and Wal-Mart to reach college students through Facebook in 2007.

Target offered an online survival guide for dorm living, touting its established image as a low-cost source for practical items. The page let visitors post photos and videos of their dorm rooms and chat about dorm life. By March 2008 the page had more than 20,000 fans.

Meanwhile, Wal-Mart posed as an online fashion expert. The page played down Wal-Mart’s image as a practical discount chain and came off as unauthentic, Williams said. Comments and online chatting were restricted, and by March 2008 Wal-Mart’s page had 116 fans.

“It was a fiasco for Wal-Mart and a big win for Target,” Williams said. “Wal-Mart was not believed.”
Other helpful interactive sites include Wikipedia, which offers user-generated definitions and research information, and Yelp.com or Citysearch.com, where customers can leave company reviews.

“Ask (customers) to rate you with honest feedback,” Williams said. “It tells your staff to take care of customers and it tells customers you care.”

Charity Thompson can be reached at cthompson@vbjusa.com

Business around the Northwest

Hospital-insurer fight stirs anxiety, Spokane Journal of Business

Microsoft Study Reveals Small Business IT Sophistication, Eastside Business Journal

Getting Formal about Casual Games, Seattle Business Monthly

Credit is a privilege and not a right, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

Thursday, October 23, 2008

► On the record

“The Vancouver-Portland metro area is one of the best places to be inspired as an artist and one of the worst to be funded.”

- Candice E. Jackson, a Bullivant, Houser, Bailey attorney in Vancouver who is co-chair of the firm’s Arts, Entertainment and Sports Law Group.

Reporter's Notebook

FAITH IN BUSINESS

Religion isn’t something we write about much at the VBJ, but Stewart Kent, co-chair of the Clark County Annual Mayors’ and Community Leaders’ Prayer Breakfast says there is a connection between faith and business.

The seventh annual breakfast was Thursday, and more than 500 people took part. It was the largest crowd to date and 70 percent to 80 percent of the attendees were from the business community.
Not only was attendance up by more than 100 people, the number of corporate sponsors hit 54 this year, compared to 40 the year before and the 25 the year before that.

So what’s up? Kent says there is a tremendous faith-based group in the community and that many in it are also in business. And as the economy continues on shaky ground, business owners are looking for help.

“There are people out there who needed some prayer for their business,” he said. “It’s like guys in the fox holes – they’d be fibbing if they say right now they’re not praying, ‘Lord help me, please.’ ”

-Megan Patrick-Vaughn can be reached at mpatrick@vbjusa.com

Business around the Northwest

Schedule set to build Sandy River bridges, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

Governor touts export market success, Tacoma Business Examiner

Medical center debuts da Vinci robotic surgical system, Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

► On the record

“We’re excited to be community partners. We hope to be a good addition to the neighborhood.”

- James Cameron, president and chief executive officer of Cameron Family Glass Packaging, on the upcoming opening of the company’s factory in Kalama. The factory has created at least 90 jobs.

Reporter's Notebook

A GOOGLE OF USES

Google is good for a lot of things. When I was a kid “google” was a pseudo-mathematic term that meant, “a LOT” – like more than 100.

And today it means even more – the search engine is nearly indispensible for any web user who’s researching work or school projects, seeking the best price on a product or wondering what exactly happened with Miley Cyrus and that Jonas boy.

Last week I learned of yet another use for Google: a sole marketing source.

Gravitate Design Studio in Vancouver does its marketing exclusively targeting Google’s search engine. The company spreads the word about its services by 1) optimizing its website to appear at the top of Google search lists and 2) paying for high-ranked spots on Google’s sponsored links lists. No telemarketing, TV, radio or print advertisements.

The return on the company’s Google efforts is nothing to sneeze at. Just Google the word “gravitate” and you’ll see what I mean. Gravitate has solid client bases in the Vancouver area as well as Seattle, Phoenix, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and New York.

“We know it’s incredibly powerful because all of our customers come from (Google),” said Sterling Peak, a Gravitate account executive.

Watch for more about companies that rely on web marketing in the Oct. 31 issue of the VBJ.

Charity Thompson can be reached at cthompson@vbjusa.com

Business around the Northwest

Foreclosures still abound in Treasure Valley, Idaho Business Review

Conference to look at building green capital projects, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

Boutique fights back, Idaho Business Review blog

Friday, October 17, 2008

► On the record

“The downside of a great economy for the last 15 years is that no one has taken really hard look at over-regulation. Instead, they wanted to get a permit through the system as fast as they could. What has happened is added regulations.”

- Marc Boldt, Board of Clark County Commissioner seeking reelection, on whether businesses in the county are over-regulated

Hear from more local candidates in today’s VBJ.

Reporter's Notebook

Food for thought

The Vancouver Business Journal is delicious!

I stopped for lunch this afternoon at Newsies Coffeehouse in downtown Vancouver because I’d heard a rumor that the Journal had a pizza there bearing its name. The rumor is now confirmed – the newspaper-themed café has five pizzas named after local publications, including the VBJ, the two dailies, the Reflector and Vancouver Voice.

My choice was clear and I must say I was quite pleased that the Journal has the most number of toppings – pepperoni, bacon, red onion, black olives, sweet red peppers, artichoke, mushrooms and extra cheese on a non-fat pita crust – and was light, tangy and satisfying.

Newsies owner Victoria Wakefield said that was no accident.

“We assigned the name of the pizza with the paper in mind,” she said. “We wanted it to reflect the size or content.”

We’ll take that as a compliment.

-Megan Patrick-Vaughn can be reached at mpatrick@vbjusa.com

Business around the Northwest

A new look for Powell’s Books?, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

Loyal investors burned by WaMu collapse, Seattle Business Monthly blog

Furniture stores feel the pinch, Spokane Journal of Business

Presidential candidates face off on soda bottles…who will win?, Seattle Business Monthly blog

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

► On the record

“I’m pro-where’s the money gonna come from?”

- Pam Brokaw, Board of Clark County Commissioners candidate, on the Columbia River Crossing

Reporter’s Notebook

I AM A LUCKY LADY. A BUSY ONE, BUT A LUCKY ONE

Last week I had the chance to speak directly to several political candidates in Southwest Washington – two running for Clark County Commissioner and 11 running for the House and Senate in Washington’s 17th and 18th legislative districts.

Sure, politicians are politicians. Interviewing them during campaign season is not the same as chatting at a potluck. And it doesn’t take long before they start to sound quite a bit alike, even the Ds and Rs. But I and other VBJ writers got what I’ve always thought a citizen should ideally have – face time (or phone time) with the people who want to be in charge of matters that affect everyday people in important ways.

I know it’s not practical for every politician to sit down with every potential voter (though they seem to be trying). So that’s why we’re dedicating our Oct. 17 issue to election coverage. You’ll have a chance to read, in print and online, what all of these political hopefuls think about today’s business climate in Southwest Washington.

It won’t be quite like sitting down to chat with them, but hopefully it will help you make your decisions in the coming election. Because voting is on the top of your to-do list, right? Right? I hope so.

Charity Thompson can be reached at cthompson@vbjusa.com

Business around the Northwest

Top retirement concern said to be inflation, Spokane Journal of Business

Bellingham mavens in a man’s world, Northwest Business Monthly

Kohler Pavilion expansion put on hold by OHSU, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

Judge dismisses Tamarack owners' bankruptcy cases, Idaho Business Review

Friday, October 10, 2008

► On the record

“The jobs piece is what’s been missing.”

- Jeanne Harris, Vancouver City Council member and Board of Clark County Commissioners hopeful, on the county’s growth

A reminder to rock the vote!

The VBJ’s General Election poll closes today. We sent the poll via Just Business on Monday, Oct. 6, so if you haven’t already done so, we invite you to cast your votes today.
The results of this first-ever political poll will be in the Oct. 17 issue of the journal, so tune in there.
Again, votes are completely confidential – even we at the VBJ don’t see them.

Reporter’s Notebook

SHAPING THE FUTURE, ONE GLUE STICK AT A TIME

There are few things as fun to me as land use planning. I may be in the lonely minority who admit it, but I think deep down we’re all pretty excited about it.

My suspicion was confirmed Wednesday night sitting in the Gaiser Middle School cafeteria armed with the promise of markers and a glue stick.

(I’ll skip all of the anecdotes about my angst of being unsure which was the “cool” table and not knowing whether anybody would like me enough to let me sit there.)

There has been a push to clean up Highway 99 and create a subarea plan to promote a safe, desirable, walkable and healthy corridor instead of the concrete jungle it has become.

Clark County planners and Team 99, a coalition of business leaders, neighbors and property owners, have done a tremendous amount of work to lay the groundwork for the area’s redevelopment. Now, the county has brought on Seattle-based MAKERS Architecture and Urban Design to help with the upcoming subarea plan.

So what was with the glue sticks? We got to be the planners!

As neighbors, businesspeople, patrons (and in my case, a writer) who live and breathe the area, we got designate what we thought should be corridor’s focal points, what pockets ought to be zoned certain ways and where traffic arterials should be placed. It was a much lower-tech version of SimCity.

There were heated debates. There was laughter. There was community connection.

And it was fun.

-Megan Patrick-Vaughn can be reached at mpatrick@vbjusa.com

Business around the Northwest

Athletes and businesses: A winning combo, Bellingham Business Journal

Riverfront project taking shape in Everett, Snohomish County Business Journal

Dining on restaurant construction, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

► On the record

“We need to align our spending with our revenue just like you do in any business, or else you go bankrupt. We can’t afford to do that as a state.”

– Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-18th Legislative District, speaking of Washington State’s projected deficit

Reporter’s Notebook

KEEPING TALENT CLOSE TO HOME

For those of you who are parents, here’s a good selfish reason to keep Southwest Washington growing: The more developed your hometown is, the less likely your children will grow up and move away.

I haven’t read any studies on this, but the idea came up a few times at last week’s candidate forum with the Battle Ground Chamber of Commerce. And it seemed to resonate with the audience.

“I find my family all over the country,” said Tom Mielke, a Board of Clark County Commissioners candidate. “They had to leave to find a good job and a good home. Quality of life starts with a job and economic development here starts with a business-friendly climate.”

Southwest Washington is growing rapidly, but many of the candidates said there’s a need for fewer regulations to help cultivate business development. If a local economy is not diversified with infrastructure to accommodate growth, it’s likely that much of its young workforce will leave to find career opportunities.

That was the case for Mielke’s family and my own family, and it’s the case for the vast majority of working adults I know.

Part of the reason young workers leave home is just to get out of Dodge. I know because I grew up in Dodge, and getting out seemed like an adventure. But looking back, it’s clear that I left when I decided to get serious about my career. If Dodge had more options for living wage jobs with promise of interesting and fulfilling careers, maybe I would have stayed.

Career opportunities are exciting, but driving six hours in the snow to get to Mom’s house is no way to spend the holidays.

Charity Thompson can be reached at cthompson@vbjusa.com

Business around the Northwest

If Washington state is ranked high as a place to do business, why are business failures so high?, Snohomish County Business Journal

Hospital debuts da Vinci robotic surgical system, Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal

Local film shows green building process, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

Merger creates lumber product giant, Idaho Business Review

Friday, October 3, 2008

► On the record

“More and more I feel like I’m running to protect citizens in our district from their state government.”

– Rep. Jaime Herrera, R-18th Legislative District

Reporter’s Notebook

ROCK THE VOTE!

As this rainy Friday weather has erased any doubt that fall is indeed upon us, it’s hard to miss the definitive buzz in the air that only gets louder the closer we get to Nov. 4.

Today seems especially buzzy, with the news that President Bush signed the $700 billion “bailout” plan into law this afternoon and the never-ending stream of pundits analyzing last night’s vice presidential debates.

Whatever your political leanings, this election season has seemed particularly fun – for lack of a better word – to discuss. And that’s exactly what we’re hoping you’ll do with us.

On Monday, the VBJ will send out a number of polls regarding positions up for election on the national, state and local levels via email. We want to know what you think about the candidates. What better way to gear up for Election Day than to exercise your voting muscles?

Your votes will help shape our election coverage. And for that, we salute you.

-Megan Patrick-Vaughn can be reached at mpatrick@vbjusa.com

Business around the Northwest

Trade mission brings Idaho companies to four Asian cities, Idaho Business Review

Bailout bill not likely to relieve construction slowdown, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce


Got ghosts? Selling a ‘haunted’ house, Coast River Business Journal

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

► On the record

“The only grocery store in town closed a few years ago, so we keep a few odds and ends here.”

– Claudia Chiasson, co-owner of Eric’s Place pizza parlor in Carson, an unincorporated community in Skamania County. She and her husband, Eric, found a creative way to increase their customer base by selling dry goods along with five-pound, double-cheese pizzas.

Reporter’s Notebook

Here’s what I want to know: If manufacturing jobs pay an average of $20 per hour, and if manufacturing is so essential to contemporary life, why are fewer young workers choosing the industry?

I learned this from a panel of industry experts at the Columbia River Economic Development Council’s quarterly luncheon last week. I have to admit, when I picture the manufacturing world, I usually picture the 1950s. But that’s not accurate because my car, computer, cell phone and MP3 player are all at my disposal because of a manufacturing workforce.

As the panel members put it, manufacturing today is a high-tech industry. But it might be that parents and schools just aren’t encouraging youth to consider it as a career path.

I hail from Lewiston, Idaho, where the Potlatch paper mill is almost an economic core. I don’t recall ever being excited to hear that a friend took a job at the mill. But if that friend was making a solid wage and could put engineering and analytical skills to good use, why not encourage it?

It seems people think a “good job” in this day and age has to be an office job. I write that from a gray cubicle, of course. But I wonder how limiting that idea is to someone entering the workforce. I can think of plenty of skilled, brilliant people who would do just about anything to avoid an office job.

But how many of them know of the opportunities manufacturing offers?

-Charity Thompson can be reached at cthompson@vbjusa.com

Business around the Northwest

Delivering the Digital Mailroom to Businesses, Seattle Business Monthly

Tribes move forward with master plan,
South Sound Business Examiner blog

Oregon cities join program to help boost downtowns, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

Friday, September 26, 2008

► On the record

“This is a fun time to be an economist. It’s kind of like standing on the deck of the Titanic saying, ‘Look at those ice bergs…they’re so close!’ ”

Scott Bailey, regional labor economist for the Washington Employment Security Department

Reporter’s Notebook

ON LOVE AND WINE

After a week like this one, I figured we all could use a dose of happy to carry us out the door to the weekend. And there is almost nothing I love more than a good happy love story…or wine, for that matter.


I just got off the phone with David Gray, who owns Salut! Wine Co. in East Vancouver, and he had the most charming story of a couple – John Brighton and Marcia Dieter – who met five years ago at the store’s Friday night wine tastings.


As the story goes, John and Marcia watched each other for a while, wooed and inevitably decided to tie the knot. When it came time to pick a location, they decided the place they would wed would be the place they met.

The celebration will be a casual gathering of about 50 people – “good people, good wine,” Gray said – with Maryhill wines and catering by K’Syrah Catering, Wine and Bistro in Camas (owned by former Salut! business partner Kelly Bruce).

While this Sunday afternoon’s wedding is the shop’s first on-site nuptials, John and Marcia are apparently not the first couple to meet at Salut! and head down the aisle – they’re the third.

“It makes me feel like I’ve aged along with the shop,” Gray said, laughing.

Cheers to the happy couples!

-Megan Patrick-Vaughn can be reached at mpatrick@vbjusa.com

Business around the Northwest

Pay-as-you-go office space nears completion, Idaho Business Review

Bremerton neighborhood café – ‘unofficial thermos museum’ – fills unique niche, Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal

Construction gives boost to tax rolls, Spokane Journal of Business

Office Depot, NASCAR promote Boise salon, Idaho Business Review

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

► On the record

“You just put your big-girl panties on and deal with it.”

– Wendy Love, who reopened her motorcycle accessories shop in Ridgefield this year after selling it in 2006

Reporter’s Notebook

My favorite blog these days (other than this one, of course) is Get Rich Slowly http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/ written by an “average guy” who used careful research and a lot of honesty to scrape himself out of $35,000 in debt. The blog looks at the psychology of spending and investing and has thousands of readers.

This Sunday’s post by guest writer Tim Clark http://www.soulshelter.com/ makes an interesting point about success in entrepreneurship – it’s not about the entrepreneur.

“It’s about helping others achieve goals you care about,” Clark wrote.
It’s not about the entrepreneur getting rich or overcoming the odds, but about helping people (e.g., customers, clients and employees) achieve their goals. Those goals can be big – helping a neighborhood blossom with a real estate development – or small – protecting one person at a time from the elements with a leather jacket.

A local example of this is Wendy Love, who owns Wendy Love’s Co. – formerly Love’s Leathers – in Ridgefield. She started the company selling duffle bags from the trunk of her car and now has an 8,500-square-foot motorcycle accessories store that’s already close to $1 million in sales this year.

She told me that the business grew as she simply responded to requests for merchandise. She listens to what people want, and she gives it to them. And she takes care of them.

“We position ourselves as their friends … and sales naturally follow as a result of that,” Love told me.

Wendy Love is in a niche market, but I know this idea must be playing out with other entrepreneurs. How has helping people helped your business?


-Charity Thompson can be reached at cthompson@vbjusa.com

Business around the Northwest

Green industry tills fertile ground for future lawsuits, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

Central Oregon Positioned to Become Solar Power Hub, Cascade Business News

Retailers should prep for tough holiday,
South Sound Business Examiner blog

Friday, September 19, 2008

► On the record

“I really believe the majority of people have almost a basic need to do something good for somebody.”

- Carol Murray, Realtor at Coldwell Banker Barbara Sue Seal Properties and volunteer for Vancouver nonprofit Lead International

Check out stories about corporate philanthropy in today’s VBJ

Reporter’s Notebook

CONFUSION AT THE AUCTION BLOCK

I find that as a reporter, there is nothing I like better than being out among the people chasing a story. It’s even better when nobody has a clue what is going on.
I love this for the same reason I love inclement weather – it brings strangers together with a wild shared experience.

Fitting for the way I spent Friday morning, trying to stay warm outside the Clark County Courthouse. You see, there was to be a major property auction – the failed Two Creeks luxury condo project developed by Rick Bowler and his wife Marilee Thompson – and the idea of a courthouse-steps auction was too novel for me to miss.

However, details on this would-be shindig were scarce. It took five phone calls to track down the tentative time of 9 a.m. So there I was, in front of the courthouse all by my lonesome when I noticed several other folks with confused looks on their faces. We didn’t know when the action would happen or even where.

All the while, rumors were flying.

You see, Bowler and Thompson now owe Columbia Credit Union more than $21 million for Two Creeks, near Camas Meadows Golf Course. So as part of the judgment against Bowler and Thompson, the Sheriff’s Office must auction off the 29 unsold units – which likely will be auctioned as a chunk, rather than unit by unit.

Word from the Sheriff’s Office is that CCU will likely be the first bidder up to the plate because the credit union is eligible for what’s called a credit sale – meaning that if the credit union wins the auction, it doesn’t have to pay because it is already out the money loaned to Bowler and Thompson. Then CCU has control of the property.

It turns out, many of my compatriots Friday morning were from the grassroots group Save Columbia Credit Union, also there to watch the action – if there would be any action. Because at 9:45 a.m., we were told to go home. The auction had been postponed, which is also what we were told at 1:30 p.m.

What does this spell for CCU and Bowler and Thompson? Only time will tell.
But one thing is for sure: If you want to get rid of property, make it clear when and where to show up with your checkbook.

-Megan Patrick-Vaughn can be reached at mpatrick@vbjusa.com