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


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

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


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, 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 or, 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

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


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

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


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

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 cafĂ© 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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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