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

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 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

-Megan Patrick-Vaughn can be reached at

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

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

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

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

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

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