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


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

Business around the Northwest

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

Bremerton neighborhood cafĂ© – ‘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 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 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

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


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

Business around the Northwest

Proposed New Technology Advisory Committee would evaluate new sustainable products and techniques, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

Small gyms proliferate in Spokane, Spokane Journal of Business

Microsoft joins forces with intimate portraits for women — to collect camel sounds, Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

► On the record

“Attorneys are uniquely positioned to help people. I make no pretense as to suggesting what other people should do. I only know what I have to do.”

– Ryan Taroski, family practice lawyer, speaking of his work for the Clark County Volunteer Lawyers Program

Reporter’s Notebook

Something I’ve learned as a business reporter is that money is a tool. Everyone needs money in some way. The way it’s used is what makes the difference.

In preparation for our upcoming Profiles of Giving issue, I got to know a Vancouver-based nonprofit that is using business as a tool to fight poverty in Guinea Bissau, West Africa.

Lead International has helped start 13 cashew processing plants in that country, which is one of the five poorest in the world. Students of Lead’s trade schools have the opportunity to earn 10 times the country’s typical income – which is less than 50 cents a day for many people.

In Guinea Bissau political instability, AIDS and drug trafficking are common. It’s a place where entire families could die from something like rabies – where death is so common that they see their last days as a time to cross Ts and dot Is before they go.

It’s hard to get these details out of my head. They come back to me while I’m at a cash register, paying bills or scheduling a doctor’s appointment. To be frank, they make our economic woes in the U.S. look like a case of the sniffles.

But organizations like Lead and many others are using money to make a difference in significant ways, and it’s been a privilege to write about them.
Read more about them in this Friday’s issue of the Journal.

- Charity Thompson can be contacted at

Business around the Northwest

WaMu responds to S&P downgrade, South Sound Business Examiner blog

Thinking outside the cubicle: Evolution of the workspace, Bellingham Business Journal

Commuter transit to use double-decker buses, Snohomish County Business Journal

Friday, September 12, 2008

► On the record

“There are jobs out there for humanities majors.”

- WSU Vancouver Chancellor Hal Dengerink, referring to Bob Drewel, executive director of the Puget Sound Regional Council, who earned a history degree from the University of Washington.

Reporter’s Notebook


Economic development can’t exist in a vacuum. It won’t be effective in the long-term by focusing on one sector of industry and it can’t be spurred by one person or organization alone.

Bob Drewel, executive director of the Puget Sound Regional Council, was on the Washington State University Vancouver campus Friday to drive the message home.
It sounds like the PSRC has had great success bringing central Puget Sound counties – King, Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap – cities, ports, tribes, transit agencies and state representatives together to develop policies and make decisions about key regional issues.

Recently, it played a hand in the formation of two industry alliances, the Aerospace Futures Alliance and the Washington Clean Technology Alliance – the first state-wide clean energy alliance that’s made up of green builders and alternate energy representatives.

Since moving to the region, it has seemed to me that Southwest Washington is pretty big on partnerships and cooperation because they are how a good community gets to be a thriving one.

-Megan Patric-Vaughn

Business around the Northwest

Coeur d’Alene ranks No.2 in best-performing small cities; Bend drops from No. 1 spot, Idaho Business Review

Regional economic development district offers businesses a range of services, Coast River Business Journal

Extended play for video games; industry may be ‘recession-proof',
Seattle Business Monthly

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

► On the record

“There are two general schools of thought when discussing the markets. One comes from a sense of abundance and the other from scarcity. … The abundance camp has a (long) outlook. While they are aware of the banking challenges right now, they compare it to the S&L crisis of the 1980s and realize we made it through then and will again.”

– Dale Terwedo, principal of Edmonds-based Terwedo Financial Services LLC in a column for the Snohomish County Business Journal

Reporter’s Notebook


As you read this, science, business and government reps are at the Micro Nano Breakthrough Conference at the Hilton Vancouver. nLight President and CEO Scott Keeney is one of its dozens of brainy speakers.

So what’s a micro nano anything? In Monday’s Nano 101 seminar I learned that nanosciences deal with particles too small to see with most microscopes. From the nano-bit I know, microscience deals with a slightly larger scale.

Nanoscientists work at such a small scale that they can change the optical and chemical structures of materials like water. The government has used nanotechnology to detect pathogens like anthrax, and it could help develop fuel cell technologies, cancer treatment and even magnetic liquid.

The consumer market has 600-plus products made with nano-tech materials. Paul Burrows, a consultant from Kennewick-based Reata Research who led the seminar, said misinformation from the media (darn journalists!) has led to a nano-scare, making even government leaders fear that all nanoproducts are toxic.

“Misinformation on the technology can stifle innovation and leave us exposed to problems that nanotechnology can solve,” Burrows said in a Sean Connery-like accent. “We don’t teach risk assessment and in high schools and that shows up in everything from the way we invest to the way we react to new technology.”

Learn more at

- Charity Thompson,

Business around the Northwest

The wild, wild east: Doing business in China, Seattle Business Monthly

Bremerton to host national waterfront redevelopment conference, Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal

Telecommuting hits a snag: No, not the Internet, Idaho Business Review blog

Friday, September 5, 2008

► On the record

“The downturn in the economy has been good for us with this project. Of course, it’s bad for our other projects, but it’s good to have the downturn now while we’re in the entitlement phase because when we’re ready for construction in two years, the economy will be back up again.”

- David Copenhaver, vice president of development for Gramor Development, speaking about the Vancouver waterfront redevelopment project

Reporter’s Notebook

Columbia River Bank announces cuts

This morning we got some unsettling – but not wholly unsurprising – news from Columbia River Bank. The bank’s financial holding company, The Dalles-based Columbia Bancorp, announced the impending closure of its in-house mortgage lending service.
With it, about 39 mortgage banking positions across the bank’s 22-branch network will be cut in the next 60 days.
The local upside, if there is one, is that only one or two loan officers in Vancouver will be affected, said Chief Financial Officer Greg Spear. Hardest hit will be Bend, where the bank’s core center for mortgage operations is located.
The Vancouver location is primarily a support center with about 52 employees.
The decision to cut the service is tied to the uncertainty in the mortgage markets and risk associated with the industry. The cut will cost the company about $139,000 in severance costs, but is expected to save $4.2 million annually in salary and benefits expenses.
“As a business, you constantly have to look at what’s best for the long-term health of the organization,” Spear said.
The mortgage division has remained profitable, but only by a small margin recently, he added.
In other cost-saving efforts, Columbia River Bank yesterday made an unrelated broad 20-employee layoff and have not replaced employees who have left the company since May. Columbia Bancorp eliminated its director compensation and cut Chief Executive Officer Roger Christensen’s compensation by 23 percent through the end of the year.
The bank’s stance is that the reductions were made in commitment to customer service standards and to bring its staffing model to an appropriate level.

What do you think?

- Megan Patrick-Vaughn

Business around the Northwest

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

► On the record

“It was very easy, like falling off a chair, to understand the benefits. Then it’s just understanding the expense.”
- Tyler Phillis, co-owner of Vancouver-based Sanders Reproduction Glass. The company has invested in technologies that allow three people to do the work of 10.

Reporter’s Notebook

Here’s a statistic you’re not going to like – an estimated three in 10 workers are stealing from their employers.

The number came from Sam Nigro, founder of Vancouver-based Loss Prevention Group, which has helped companies handle inside theft and fraud for 20 years.

I hate to think the worst of 30 percent of the workforce, but numbers from a 2008 report by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners made the situation even clearer. Fraud and theft cause businesses, government organizations and nonprofits lose 7 percent of their revenue each year in the United States.

What surprised me was the way that these scams go down:
• Of the perpetrators in the study, 35 percent were ages 41 to 50. Nineteen percent were ages 51 to 60. Employees younger than 26 were involved in 4 percent of the cases.
• Employees with bigger paychecks were involved with bigger scams, and fraud occurred most among accounting and executive or management staff.
• Most scams weren’t discovered through audits and internal controls. Instead, tips from insiders or observers had a 46 percent detection rate.

For more on employee theft and tips on how to prevent it, check out Friday’s VBJ.

- Charity Thompson

Business around the Northwest