Friday, March 27, 2009

► On the Record

“It was not in the cards for me to survive this economy without a silver spoon, anonymous donor or lottery winnings to help me through. Snowstorms and global recessions, along with other uncontrollable forces, have done me in.”

- David Gray, owner of Salut! Wine Co. in Vancouver, which will hold its final wine tasting tonight and will close this weekend

Reporter's Notebook

--Charity Thompson can be reached at


Remember the legislation we reported on March 6 that could have limited workplace communications regarding political and religious matters? On March 25, it turned into an “X” file.

Senate Bill 5446 and its companion, House Bill 1528 (aka the Worker Privacy Act) were halted because of allegations that a Washington State Labor Council staffer sent an email linking future campaign contributions to action on the bills. The case went to the Washington State Patrol at the request of Gov. Chris Gregoire, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown and Speaker of the House Frank Chopp.

The investigation did not go beyond initial review, and WSP reported March 17 that there was no criminal conduct involved. Even so, eight days later, the Senate made the legislation an “X” file.

So far, from what I can tell, this has nothing to do with aliens. But it means that this bill won’t go any further this session, and there won’t be a new state law keeping employers from making workers join in on meetings or exchanges that would influence their religious or political beliefs, including those about unionizing.

All of this makes me wonder how much anyone wanted this bill in the first place – a bill that could have put a kink in free speech rights. The WSP said there was no criminal activity, but the bill is still kaput. When I talked with Rep. Deb Wallace (D-Vancouver) about the bill in late February she was indifferent about it, even though she had signed on as a supporter.

“I don’t feel strongly either way about this legislation,” she said. “There are laws in place that protect employees from harassment. On the other hand, we have organizations saying that there are issues. If there is a need to improve the law, fine. I don’t know if that is the case or not.”

Business Around the Northwest

The faces of unemployment, South Sound Business Examiner

Transition coordinator: New responsibility for some Astoria real estate agents, Coast River Business Journal

Know when training time is paid time, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

► On the Record

“We’re developing customers that want more from coffee than just a latte from some place convenient.”

- Melissa Layman, River Maiden Artisan Coffee

Reporter's Notebook


While the politicos in Washington, D.C., haggle over what should be fixed and how much should be spent fixing it, we here in the real Washington continue to do our best to conduct our business, keep our communities going and get more than four hours of sleep a night.
We are doing this in an economic climate that is new to many and way too familiar to a few of our veteran business people. Owning, operating and managing a business in the current economy requires managers to rely on a very different set of skills than when things were going good.
Everyday I hear about managers who now spend far too much of their time managing employment numbers – i.e. who to lay off this week, who can take a furlough day, etc. – than figuring out whether they can make any money.

Managers of retail and service industries are spending their time managing their cash flow rather than the business itself. This “in the books” managing hinders productivity and the ability of our local businesses to pull themselves and the local economy up by the boot straps and get things moving again.

We all know the effect the “credit crisis” is having on business lending and spending. Some businesses have folded due to the changes in the fiscal environment. But many other businesses tell me that while they have trimmed expenses where they can, they are still in business and things have slowed and become steady – not printing money in the basement steady – but they are starting to see flat numbers rather than declining numbers.

The benefit of a flat economy is twofold. First, a steady, albeit slower, economy allows managers to spend their time managing their businesses again not their cash flow or workforce. And second, it brings some much needed confidence to the local market that indeed this, too, shall pass!

-Steve McDonagh can be reached at

Business Around the Northwest

Maryhill Winery named Washington Winery of the Year, Eastside Business Journal

Bend mall makeover plans welcomed, Cascade Business News

Clear Channel Communications would be anchor tenant in proposed business center, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

Friday, March 20, 2009

► On the Record

“You have to move forward. You can’t let the nightly news hold you back from doing the things you believe in.”

- Tom Hall, co-owner of the Camas Hotel, which is under renovation

Reporter's Notebook

-Megan Patrick-Vaughn can be reached at


Yesterday morning at the dentist, I picked up the Oral-B Triumph with SmartGuide Electric Toothbrush. This is a toothbrush so advanced, it comes equipped with Wi-Fi to communicate wirelessly to a monitor that among other things, times my brushing, alerts me when I’m using too much pressure, indicates which teeth to brush when and presents me with a smiley face upon completion.

I’m generally technology-illiterate – ask anyone, I can barely work my iPod – but this makes total sense to me, and I’m not sure how I’ve lived with a manual toothbrush that can’t send information to anything for so many years.

Apparently it’s just the basic things I have trouble with, such as managing email and business cards.

I’m hoping some of you can relate. At the moment, I have 481 new emails in my inbox. That’s from the last two days. How do all of you manage to get through your email and respond to folks in a timely manner on top of doing your jobs and not work 16 hours a day?

Business cards are another issue. How do you organize the mounds of business cards you collect? By last name? First name? Business name? Industry? Right now, my most recently gathered cards in a coffee cup on my desk. I’m guessing rifling through a coffee cup is not exactly the most efficient way to locate a contact.

Share your responses on the blog – let’s all learn from each other!

Business Around the Northwest

Oregon approves more federal stimulus projects, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

Unique high-end rental property provides long-term income, Cascade Business News

Poulsbo couple turn green-living hobby into business, Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

► On the Record

“Gyms are still extremely busy and that’s a good portion of our client base. In times of recession one of the few things people have control of is their health.”

- Trevor Bryant, Vancouver franchisee of Max Muscle Sports Nutrition

Reporter's Notebook

--Charity Thompson can be reached at


The sun was out this morning, birds were chirping and Breaking Ground announcements were coming in at my desk. After months of rain and recession, I only have one thing to say: Thank God it’s spring!

On our website, the VBJ has a form where contractors can submit announcements of new projects. We try to run them in the paper once a month in our Design and Construction focus section. Since the economy started going south in early 2008, we have run 22 Breaking Ground announcements – about two per month.

In the last week or so, I received five entries.

What is going on, people? All of this good news in the midst of an economic storm – in the construction industry, no less?

I would love to know the reasoning behind it. Are contractors just making a point of getting the word out now, or is there actually an increase in work? How long have these projects been in the pipeline, and what do they mean for our workforce? I have many questions about this, so send me your insights.

While you’re at it, take a few moments to fill out our web form. It gives us (and our readers) a gauge of the industry’s climate and it also gives you an automatic nomination for the VBJ’s Top Projects Awards, which are coming up this summer.

Speaking of spring, yesterday was Roy Sonney’s 79th birthday. He founded Yard ‘n’ Garden Land in Hazel Dell and walks a mile and a half to the nursery every day to see how things are going with his sons and grandchildren, who still work the business. If you stop by this spring and see a handsome gentleman drinking a cup o’ Joe, it’s probably Roy, and he probably has a joke or some sage wisdom on business or gardening to share.

Business Around the Northwest

Senate bill could allow I-5 tolls, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

How many PR people does it take to issue a press release?, Idaho Business Review

Microsoft’s Xbox 360 Records Its Biggest Year Ever, Eastside Business Journal

Friday, March 13, 2009

► On the Record

“People drink when they’re happy and they drink when they’re sad. I think people are buying more $15 bottles of wine than $40 bottles of wine, but I think they’re buying the same amount of wine.”

--Pamela Robertson, owner of Evergreen Wine Cellar

Reporter's Notebook

-Megan Patrick-Vaughn can be reached at


I’m just going to say it: My mom was right.
The woman is good with money, and she taught me from a very young age that living on debt isn’t smart.

It took me a long time to listen – What did my mom know? She’s was only my mother – but debt is hard to comprehend when you’re living in the security of your parents’ house and your biggest financial challenge is figuring out how many kids to babysit to buy the latest New Kids on the Block tape.

Despite my mom’s warnings, once I was a grown up living on my own, it was just so easy to use my shiny, fabulous new credit cards to live the life I knew I deserved to be living.

“I’ll just pay it off next month,” I would tell myself. Well let me tell you, it took five years and a lot of discipline to pay off those credit cards. But once I did, the freedom it allowed was a little overwhelming.

I think we are learning this lesson as a country right now. United States consumers have been on the high of having relatively unrestricted access to money in the last few years, and now we’re paying the price in a major way.

Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin writes that individual frugality has made a cultural comeback, as the “Year of the Bottomless Bailout” has yielded a much-needed correction in the lives of ordinary Americans.

Some folks are delaying large purchases, vacations, eating out less. Hopefully we’re all saving more.

“Out of necessity, a consumption-based society is learning to live within its means,” Malkin wrote in a recent column.

This is not an easy or fun lesson to learn. But in order to get back on the right track, it’s one that’s got to be taken to heart.

Business Around the Northwest

Three eastside businesses take home inaugural Built Green Awards, Eastside Business Journal

SBDC changes name, keeps focus on businesses, Bellingham Business Journal

Panelists: On-the-job safety must improve, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

► On the Record

“Restaurants have to start to look at (locally grown food) from a business standpoint and see that it makes sense to reduce transportation and packaging costs.”

- April Jones, Gus and Co. Farm

Reporter's Notebook


--Charity Thompson can be reached at

This just in – Don and Alison Lovell, owners of The Barbers, are wrapping up paperwork to begin franchising their Vancouver-based chain of barber shops. As early as September, The Barbers could have new locations in Puyallup, Lacey and Olympia, said Don Lovell.

“No matter how cool (a shop) is, people are only going to come from a mile or two away,” he said. “We realized there were other communities that could potentially support it.”

The Barbers currently has 13 locations in Vancouver, Portland, Clackamas, Beaverton and Hillsboro. The Lovells are also considering opening corporately-owned stores in Spokane and Boise, he said.

Barry and Kim Spiegelberg have run four of the Portland locations under a licensing agreement for about five years. But they’re becoming The Barbers’ first franchisees, which Don Lovell said will make the business relationships more clearly defined.

“It outlines our responsibilities and gives us an on paper working model that we can follow for years,” he said.

The Barbers has just more than 100 employees and has had no layoffs during the recession.

“We’re really lucky,” said Don Lovell. “We can do OK in tough times because we’re at a price point that’s affordable. People will still need a haircut.”

Business Around the Northwest

Fast track to downtown revitalization, Cascade Business News

Choosing a collection agency, Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal

Web business casting a wider (Inter)net in today’s economy, Coast River Business Journal

Friday, March 6, 2009

► On the Record

“I am not suggesting we ignore what is happening and hide our heads in the sand. Instead of living in fear and buying into the hysteria, let us reroute our collective energies to focus on getting out of this mess instead of waiting for someone to rescue us.”

- Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard

Reporter's Notebook


The time has come once again for the VBJ to celebrate business growth, but I get the feeling nobody really feels like celebrating their business right now.

I know the business climate is bleak at the moment, but put the current situation aside and think back to 2008. A year ago, many businesses were healthy and growing, and many doubted a full-on recession was on its way.

Let’s celebrate that growth. The Business Growth Awards honor organizations in several categories: Innovator of the Year, Start-up of the Year, Fastest Growing Businesses and Nonprofit of the Year.

Now for those of you who know me at all, you probably know that I love parties. I love planning them, hosting them, attending them, reminiscing about them. Celebrations make life special. One of my favorite quotes, which just happens to be from a business management writer, goes like this: “Celebrate what you want to see more of.”

It’s easy to celebrate when times are good, but I think it’s even more important to celebrate in times like this – we need to keep the morale up and band together.
Click here for entry criteria. Entry deadline is March 16.

And just in case you need a reason to celebrate, today just happens to be Alamo Day!

-Megan Patrick-Vaughn can be reached at

Business Around the Northwest

Industrial and office markets stay slow, Idaho Business Review

Students learn to think like brokers and developers, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

Central Oregon convention business holding up well despite economy, Cascade Business News

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

► On the Record

“It’s been a profession that has stood with me all these years. I’ve never missed a day’s pay or been on unemployment.”

- Ken Serviss, a visually impaired piano technician and former president of Vancouver’s School of Piano Technology for the Blind

Reporter's Notebook

Make it work

Confession: I have become addicted to the reality TV show, “Project Runway.” No matter how snarky the contestants get, I can’t tear away. The fashion designers’ adviser, Tim Gunn, often tells them to “Make it work” when they’re struggling with projects, and I love watching them figure out how to do that with limited resources.

Oddly enough, I thought of this yesterday while talking with Thor Hanson, the new vice president of customer service and marketing at Vancouver-based Hanson Construction and Restoration Co. Inc.

Just go with me on this.

Hanson Construction is in one of our nation’s most struggling industries right now, but its leaders are using careful strategies not just to survive, but to grow. They wrapped up 2008 with $3.2 million in revenue and growth of more than $1 million, said Thor Hanson. The company moved from about 4,300th in 2007 to 3,850th on August’s Inc. 5,000 Index and added six employees this winter.

Making it work for Hanson Construction means building one $2 million home each year and keeping busy with remodeling and restoration work. It means developing relationships with insurance companies for home restoration project leads. And it means that Thor Hanson joined his brother, Owner John Hanson, in late 2008 in a new position to move the company forward. He is involved with networking, lead generation and advertising, which cost money but are reaping rewards, he said.

“If business gets slow, you’ve got to go after it,” said Thor Hanson. “I’m always out talking to people to see if they need any work. … You can’t be afraid. You have to step up and say, ‘Let’s go get ’em.’”

--Charity Thompson can be reached at

Business around the Northwest

Making the leap: How to jumpstart your new business, Seattle Business Monthly

Bartering: Understand the law before venturing down the path, Coast River Business Journal

Newspapers, radio try to find ways to make web profitable, Bellingham Business Journal