Friday, February 27, 2009

► On the record

“Art gets made no matter what. Art is always rough (to sell). … For the time being, we’re OK.”

- Kathi Rick, North Bank Artists Gallery

Reporter's Notebook

Take a look around

When I have a bad day, my immediate response is to hop online and plan a fabulous vacation I know I’ll never take…anytime soon, anyway. Somehow dreaming about flying off to a little hut on some exotic island helps me forget whatever is bugging me in real life.

But something Clark County Commissioner Marc Boldt said yesterday at the county’s Tourism Awards struck a chord with me: He said those who grew up in or have spent a long time in Southwest Washington take it for granted. In a sense, we become immune to its beauty and treasures you can’t find elsewhere.

And when we attract visitors to experience what we’ve got, it means big bucks. Visitor spending in Clark County has grown an average of 7.5 percent annually from 2002 to 2007 – one of the highest growth rates in Washington. That money has a big impact because it’s not money that is being traded locally – it is being infused into the region from elsewhere.

So hats off to the winners of the third annual Tourism Awards – the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad Association, Pendleton Woolen Mills, Beaches Restaurant and Bar, Chad Naeve of the Heathman Lodge, the Vancouver Wine and Jazz Festival, the Waterfront Renaissance Trail and Bethany Vineyard and Winery. You are having a major impact on not only our quality of life, but the region’s economy.

-Megan Patrick-Vaughn can be reached at

Business around the Northwest

Gig Harbor hospital countdown begins, South Sound Business Examiner

Understanding what is – and isn’t – sexual harassment, Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal

What's the cost of not building a building?, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

► On the record

“Our ability to get funding from the federal government doesn’t exist if we don’t have one voice from the region about what we want.”

-Carley Francis, public information officer for the Columbia River Crossing project

Reporter's Notebook

How much does spending matter?

As I watch corporate giants such as Starbucks and Microsoft make cuts, I hear a lot about how the economy will improve once consumer confidence gets back up.

This makes sense in many ways – businesses can’t survive and people can’t keep their jobs if consumers aren’t supporting them financially. But when I look around, I don’t see a lot of reason for consumers to be confident. I, for one, feel much more confident these days when I’m saving money rather than spending it.

There’s a lot of discussion about this happening online. My favorite money blog, Get Rich Slowly, includes a post this week about the paradox of thrift, which calls attention to a pretty fascinating piece at Elsewhere, I’ve read that the current economic situation could lead to lasting changes in our culture and in Americans’ spending habits – spending less, that is.

If we have a spending slowdown for years to come, how do you plan to adjust within your business? If you believe consumers will pick up where they left off, what’s giving you that confidence? Or do you see our economy heading in a new direction, toward a different kind of strength than we’ve had in recent decades? Your answers to these questions can help shape our coverage of your business community, so send us your thoughts.

--Charity Thompson can be reached at

Business around the Northwest

Stimulus salvage: will local businesses benefit?, South Sound Business Examiner

Forum will focus on innovations in sustainability, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

Hansen Bros. acquires Benevia, Eastside Business News

Friday, February 20, 2009

► On the record

“The Port of Vancouver is the best port for clean energy in the world.”

- Roby Roberts, senior vice president for external relations at Vestas Wind Systems

Reporter's Notebook

We’re making history…

Ouch. Yesterday’s state revenue forecast by Washington’s Economic and Revenue Council painted an ugly picture of what the state is headed for. On top of the already massive forecasted state budget deficit, the council now projects that in the budget period ending June 30, the state now faces the loss of an additional $721 million.

That’s an additional projected $1.6 billion drop in revenue resulting in an approximate $6.8 billion shortfall for 2009-11. That’s 20 percent of the state budget – the largest shortfall in state history.

Local State Reps. Jaime Herrera and Ed Orcutt immediately dispatched word they don’t support tax hikes to solve the problem – Orcutt calling them the easy way out.

Clearly there is no easy way out of this mess. But U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell was in town this morning to spread a bit of bright news in these dark times. She and other clean energy advocates are celebrating the inclusion of $11 billion in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for clean energy investments – which could be a shot in the arm for local job creation.

Locally, the Port of Vancouver has invested in attracting the renewable energy sector, which has proved profitable for the port – and in turn, the region – and is only expected to grow. This year, the port expects that more than 100,000 longshoreman hours due to handling wind energy equipment, compared to 25,000 in 2008 and 72,000 the year before. And with further investment will come more jobs.

You can’t argue with that. How will the stimulus bill impact your industry?

-Megan Patrick-Vaughn can be reached at

Business around the Northwest

Park built by Nutter near OHSU will have green features, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

Fast track to downtown revitalization, Cascade Business News

Home remodels rise as lumber prices fall, Coast River Business Journal

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

► On the record

“Getting out there, doing things together and sticking together as a community – especially in these severe economic times – that’s the only way to get through.”

- Kris Greene, who volunteered as president of the East Vancouver Business Association for eight years

Reporter's Notebook

Making lemonade

A big part of my job involves picking people’s brains – specifically, Southwest Washington’s business brains. You people are smart. Really smart. In this rocky economy, you are proving your smarts over and over, and it’s taking you to good places.

In several interviews lately, people have told me that a slow economy forces us to fix problems we didn’t want to think about before. It forces us to weed out inefficiencies and fluff. It makes us think about making the best use of our resources. It makes us look at how and why we do things. It reveals our strengths. I see this sharpened focus carrying over from the business world into our personal lives as well.

I hear a lot of stories about hard times. But lately, I’ve heard more about Southwest Washington businesses finding ways to outsmart the economy – finding ways to pull through when it seems easier to close up shop. Vancouver planning firm MacKay and Sposito is being strategic about the projects it pursues and careful in its budget cuts as work opportunities slow.

Northwest Builders Resource has added a staff position to help connect local builders with resources and jobs. Manufacturers are opening in-house retail outlets and giving factory workers a hand in process improvements. Salespeople are using communications technology to cut down on travel costs. Laid-off workers are chasing their dreams and starting their own businesses.

The economy has given us some pretty bad lemons. But you all are making some mighty lemonade. Let us know how you’re rethinking business in this economy.

--Charity Thompson can be reached at

Business around the Northwest

Small Business Administration applauds stimulus bill, Eastside Business Journal

Disabled worker initiative launched, South Sound Business Examiner

'Win-win-win' bill in Salem comes with green pom-pons, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

Friday, February 13, 2009

► On the record

“We have a very strategic approach to deciding what we chase. We chase what we think we can win.”

-- Tim Schauer, vice president, Vancouver-based Mackay and Sposito Inc., on getting new projects in a down economy

Reporter's Notebook

Get ready for more

Challenging economic times are exactly when we need more communication and information. It’s during these times business owners are faced with more questions than they have ready answers for – How are others making it and growing their businesses? How can your business add value at times like these? If it’s time to cut, what goes first and how deep should the cut be?

As the Key to Southwest Washington Business, the Vancouver Business Journal is committed to addressing these and other vital questions. To do that, today we launched VBJ Business Extra to provide our readers weekly printed content.

At no additional cost, paid subscribers will receive this abbreviated issue of the VBJ every other week. We know time is money, and it’s our intention to include brief news items to keep you abreast of the constantly changing business landscape and links to more in-depth information on these topics whenever possible.

Plus, our website will start to feature new items posted daily and exclusively at We want to hear what you think of our new issue and what information you’d like to see in it.

-Megan Patrick-Vaughn can be reached at

Business around the Northwest

Need cheap desks? State opens surplus store, South Sound Business Examiner

360 Bond Building a Cut above the Rest, Bend Cascade Business News

Intermax: Growing strong in 'God's country', North Idaho Business Review

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

► On the record

“We filled a niche the grocery stores couldn’t fill. Instead of trying to fight the giant, don’t be where the giant is.”

-- Jim Kufurst, owner of Vancouver-based Butcher Boys, speaking of competition from larger grocery retailers

Reporter's Notebook

Getting the lead out

Remember the state law going into effect yesterday that could require extensive chemical testing on children’s products? You can forget about it for a year. Sort of.

Washington’s Children’s Safe Products Act was overridden Jan. 30 with a unanimous vote by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission to delay enforcement of testing and certification requirements until Feb. 10, 2010.

“If they are going to delay a year, we’re not going to challenge that,” said Carol Kraege, toxics policy coordinator for the Washington State Department of Ecology. “There’s room for argument, but we decided it wasn’t an argument we needed to have.”

The stay of enforcement doesn’t apply to certain products that could contain lead and other harmful chemicals, including paint and surface coatings, cribs, Pacifiers and metal jewelry manufactured after certain dates. (Details are at

The federal regulations target large manufacturers, but could put small retailers in a bind, Kraege said, especially if they sell handmade or secondhand toys.

“Testing is prohibitively expensive for a store like that,” she said. “The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act wants to focus on the larger manufacturers, which makes a lot of sense because the whole supply chain will be better if the focus is there.”

The year-long delay gives regulators, manufacturers and retailers time to figure out how to get harmful chemicals out of the product stream, Kraege said. She hopes retailers and manufacturers will work together to identify problem products.

“(Small retailers) should be asking collectively, if possible, if they can go back to their respective supply chains,” she said. “I don’t think testing is ultimately where they need to go. They need to make some good decisions about what they’re going to sell.”

--Charity Thompson can be reached at

Business around the Northwest

Alcoa suspends power deal as aluminum drops, Bellingham Business Journal

Recession doesn’t deter developer, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

Washington farmers want a legal workforce, South Sound Business Examiner

Friday, February 6, 2009

► On the record

“I have personally spent a good part of the last 10 years trying to move the Columbia River Crossing project forward.”

- Larry Paulson, executive director of the Port of Vancouver

Reporter's Notebook

Think you can do better?

We know our legislators are hard at work in Olympia, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do our part to balance the state’s budget here. This week, Gov. Chris Gregoire unveiled interactive budget calculator that lets you decide what the state should cut in light of a $5.7 billion shortfall.

You can fiddle with funding for priority areas such as education, health care, public safety, economic vitality and the rainy day fund until the magic “you balanced the budget” button lights up. Once this happens, you can submit budget ideas to the governor’s office.

I’m not going to lie, it was pretty fun to play with. Until it dawned on me that the “cuts” I was making are real. There are valuable services that may not receive funding.

Last month, Gregoire proposed a 2009-2011 budget that closed the shortfall through a combination of program reductions, suspension of state employee, teacher and care worker salary increases, pension changes, increased federal contributions and use of the rainy day fund.

I don’t envy you, legislators.

-Megan Patrick-Vaughn can be reached at

Editor’s note: The governor’s site was down this morning, but should be active soon

Business around the Northwest

Job fair sees high attendance but fewer jobs, Idaho Business Review

Building professionals continue to fight mold, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

Earning a living in today’s economy – What’s up in a down job market?, Coast River Business Journal

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

► On the record

“I’m still stunned and lingering down there at Umpqua.”

- John Deane, co-owner of Vancouver-based Deane’s Graphic Design and Assoc. Inc., who had more than 10,000 Bank of Clark County shares at the time of the bank’s failure

Reporter's Notebook

Fuel-saving, time-saving technology

The price of gas has gone down, but there’s as much chance of it staying below $2 as there is of a Northwest drought. So to cut down on travel time and costs, long-term care financial specialist Philip Shields introduced Glance software to his Battle Ground employees.

Glance is a tool that lets users see and access each other’s computer desktops from separate offices (with permission). Shields showed me how Glance works during a recent phone call. After a few mouse clicks, I could see his desktop at my own computer and I watched his mouse click through presentation slides while he explained it all to me over the phone.

It was a little spooky watching a phantom take over my monitor, but the effect was complete. I viewed Shields’ sales information, we communicated effectively and we didn’t have to drive anywhere to do it. Shields used to drive as many as 50,000 business miles per year, but now he’s down to almost zero while reaching clients as far away as Alaska.

“My sales haven’t suffered any, but my gas bill suffered” before, he said.

This post isn’t a Glance endorsement, but I am pleased to hear that such technology is helping local companies save money, make sales and serve clients. What new tools and strategies are you using in your business?

--Charity Thompson can be reached at

Business around the Northwest

Tacoma concrete plant fined for stormwater leaks, South Sound Business Examiner

The Connectors: Seattle area’s uber-networkers, Seattle Business Monthly

Downturn in economy increases stress in the workplace, Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal