Friday, May 29, 2009

► On the Record

“Smile a lot – that’s what people want to see. Make your customers’ day, and they’ll remember you.”

-Pam Easter, co-owner of La Center-based Rosemarie Photography

Reporter's Notebook

- Steve McDonagh can be contacted at


General Motors going bankrupt – might have been cheaper to save them and let some of the banks fail… Gas prices headed in the wrong direction for summer travelers… A new Beach(es)head on the way???... JReid hitting up Niner fans… Publisher sending missives - August 22nd bring your video cameras, might be some good YouTube opportunities… Wind turbine technology opening doors and filling classrooms for the International Air and Hospitality Academy – just a little different Air… JBeatty watching the waves… Oliver Connelly sharing his opinion on all things sales…. Troy Van Dinter waiting for football season to start – How ’bout them Cowboys?... John Bockmeir curiously silent for too long now… JKummer saying goodbye, you will be missed!

Jeff Waddell and his wife, Stacey, have opened their new tasting room, East Fork Cellars next to NW Best Fish Co. on 10th Avenue in Ridgefield. It’s an intriguing and relaxing space with Jeff’s penchant for rock (he has a band called The Cellar Rats) evidenced by the classic rock playing on the big screen monitor. He said every tasting room he has ever been in – and that’s a lot – always has the “cool jazz” playing.

The music there won’t put you to sleep and the wine is first rate… John Posey of Corporate Security Services Inc. advises they will be hosting the Northwest Workplace Violence seminar on June 15 and 16 at the Oregon Convention Center. You can get more info here.

The latest edition of North Bank magazine hit the streets today in which you’ll find plenty of local options for the beautiful weekend on tap and for the coming months – and the gas prices won’t hurt so bad if you stick close to home….

Business Around the Northwest

Regional leaders discuss high-speed rail, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

The man who saved Washington wine, Seattle Business Monthly

Biking to work is good for health, environment, Bellingham Business Journal

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

► On the Record

“If (customers) are passionate about something, they’ll find a way to play.”

- Dave Lanphear, president of Vancouver-based Pacific Boatland, Motorsports and Marine

Reporter's Notebook

-Megan Patrick-Vaughn can be reached at


With the turmoil many businesses find themselves in today, the idea of talking about hiring now may seem laughable. But I read an interesting Q&A with Shawn Boyer, CEO of hourly employment website, today that got me thinking.

Companies that choose to strategically hire employees during a downturn are more likely to protect their bottom line over the long term – they can sail through troubled waters by keeping their turnover low and maintaining customer loyalty, Boyer said.

Other points he made:
• Some companies may think they can save money by hiring less, but by skimping on recruitment, they may end up creating more expenses. Having three people responsible for a six-person job will quickly result in low morale and costly turnover, should any of the remaining staff choose to leave. Plus, customers who don't receive attention in a timely manner because staff is at its max will look for services elsewhere.
• Spending less on recruitment could cost the business more in the long run. The company can save thousands in turnover costs by hiring wisely – implement a recruitment plan now.
• As companies struggle in this tumultuous economy, employees are the lifeblood of any business. They are the ones who deliver the products and develop customer relationships – recruit wisely.

I want to know what the hiring situation is like at your companies. How is it affecting the business? If you’re in a freeze, how is the rest of the staff responding? If you’re hiring, why do you feel comfortable doing so?

Share your responses on the Just Business blog.

Business Around the Northwest

Providence welcomes new chief executive of Southwest Washington, South Sound Business Examiner

Oregon gets first community wind farm, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

Eugene-based PacificSource Health to acquire Boise-based Primary Health
, Idaho Business Review

Friday, May 22, 2009

► On the Record

“There is a naiveté about the unconscious biases in Clark County around people of color."

- Carol Parker Walsh, principal of Camas-based ParkerWalsh Consulting

Reporter's Notebook

-Megan Patrick-Vaughn can be reached at


Having just spent a few days in Las Vegas, this BusinessWeek story about the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino caught my eye. In it, President Gamal Aziz attributes the resort’s tremendous growth in the last eight years to one factor – the employees. And now, as times are a bit tougher in Vegas, he says his people have become even more critical to the company's success.

"Employees are willing to give their all when they are well-treated, appreciated,” Aziz told BusinessWeek. “And the ability to unlock that potential is a competitive distinction…It's their decisions, their actions, their attitude that really make the difference. Imagine taking 10,000 employees, and each and every one of them wanting to give more. That's really the difference between [us and] a company that has its employees just punching the clock and trying to get through the day."

As times are tougher around the country, I can attest to what a difference having truly committed, engaged employees and leadership makes. I would venture to guess we’ve all had jobs at which we were there solely to get the paycheck, and when we clocked out at the end of 40 hours on the dot, we were done. I’d also be willing to bet, those jobs were not the ones at which we felt particularly valued and fostered, or like we were more than a number.

And as an employee, because I feel personally tied to my company, I put in the long hours and feel personally tied to its mission.

Treat your employees well, engage them in the company’s mission and communicate with them about them company – and communicate an interest in their well being. If your company is having difficulty right now, communicate that to employees – they may have some solutions and will likely feel compelled to go the extra mile because they’re not left out in the dark. Right now, employees are going to make your businesses prosper because more often than not, they are the ones out on the front lines hopefully creating a good customer experience.

Business Around the Northwest

Providence Health System terminates Siri & Son Farms’ lease after environmental violation, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

Hybrid Vehicle Sales Tax Exemption Ends Aug. 1, Eastside Business Journal

Housing authority and county reach agreement on Harborside debt restructuring - County to loan KCCHA $40.5 million
, Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

► On the Record

“Things are starting to HEAT UP!!! “

-Albert Angelo, III of the Al Angelo Company

Reporter's Notebook

- Steve McDonagh can be contacted at

Tis the Season

Despite the still tight credit markets and less than desirable vacancy rates, the development and construction industry is alive and well in Clark County. The construction season is in full swing and although it isn’t as frenetic as 2006 or even 2007 there is activity, activity which bodes well for our local business community and is a herald of good things to come.

The Al Angelo Company is almost finished with the first phase of what will be the welcoming face of Vancouver -- The Mill Plain Center -- just west of the Mill Plain exit from I-5 it is a gorgeous 18 million dollar, LEED certified (gold) five story building that delivers a much more substantial impression to visitors than the old Denny’s restaurant did….. Many of the buildings along Evergreen Boulevard adjacent to the old Copps dealership have been raised to make ready for construction of the new Main Library…..Another mixed use building is going up at the Union Corner site out in Ridgefield…. Clark County and the City of Vancouver are gearing up roadwork projects, (as evidenced by the drilling, concrete cutting and loading coming from East Evergreen Blvd up above my house) including the SR 501 interchange project on I-5 at Exit 14.

Meanwhile, last year’s Top Projects host site, Battle Ground Village is continuing to fill. On top of the soon to open Laurelwood Brew Pub and the recently announced Bones Steak & Chop House Restaurant, the new Battle Ground public library is scheduled to open next week. Carmen Villarma of The Management Group said they anticipate 85% occupancy of the existing retail space by this fall.

So all in all things are not as gloomy as they were just a few short months ago. It’s warming up outside and with it we have seen and should see even more of an increase in construction work and the accompanying jobs will help put a little kick into our local economy.

For those of you who broke ground on a project after June 1, 2008 we would love to hear from you so that we can include your project in the 2009 edition of the TOP PROJECTS magazine coming out this July. You can submit your information online; or you can fax over the information to 360-695-3056.

Certainly, relative to the economy, there is much yet to be done, but the long steady trek out of the doldrums has started. Once again the development and construction arena appears perched, with lessons learned, to lead the way.

Business Around the Northwest

Get rich slow: three local LILOpreneurs share their stories, Idaho Business Review

Community Banks are secure and safe, Snohomish County Business Journal

Project may set trend for future development, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

Friday, May 15, 2009

► On the Record

“Because of all of the uncertainty in the dealership world, local dealers may have to be closed. Not to wish bad on them, but it’s going to benefit us in the aftermarket. The future is bright.”

- Ron Warman, owner of Vancouver-based Ron’s Automotive.

Reporter's Notebook

- Steve McDonagh can be contacted at


The automobile had a more fundamental change on our society than computers or Facebook or Twitter will. The automobile, for the first time, made it possible for anyone to be anywhere. Granted it took longer than an airplane flight or teleconference call, but until that time, we lived in rather homogeneous communities that were almost exclusively self-supporting and self-contained.

The automobile gave the everyman the chance to see the ocean, Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon.

Cars became a necessity and rather than two chickens in every pot, we wound up with two (or three) cars in every garage. To put two cars in every garage required more and bigger car manufacturers. So the U.S. companies grew and foreign companies grew until the market became saturated with more makes and models than you could count or remember.

Full disclosure: The auto industry (GM) kept me and my brothers and sisters in shoes and clothes even during prior tough economic times.

So while it is easy to say “just let them fail,” we were the unabashed consumers who wanted more and more and didn’t care what it took to get it made or where it was made as long as it was shipped and delivered to the nearest dealer. This, in turn, resulted in the proliferation of dealerships – they became as common as McDonald’s.

This week’s news that General Motors and Chrysler will close almost 2,000 dealerships between them is not good news. Thousands of people will be out of work, and thousands more who relied on those businesses and their employees to support their own business will feel the pain as well. In the end, the restructuring of the auto industry and the closing of thousands of dealerships, including local dealers, should help the auto industry survive and operate as more efficient businesses.

The dealers who remain open will be substantial employers and will no doubt operate more efficiently. Hopefully the remaining dealers will need to hire some of the people who will lose their jobs when the dealerships close. Even though we are thousands of miles from Detroit, it is important to all of us that the American car manufacturers don’t disappear. It is part of our heritage and I believe that if the difficult choices are made and executed, they can and will survive as bigger and better businesses than they were before.

Business Around the Northwest

Consumer confidence crucial to economic turnaround, Cascade Business News

Girls discover potential careers in building trades, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

Waterfront Advisory Group inspects Bellingham's waterfront
, Bellingham Business Journal

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

► On the Record

“Having a forgettable experience is just as bad as having a terrible experience.”

- Ray Vandervalk, co-owner of Woodland-based Red Leaf Organic Coffee Co.

Reporter's Notebook

-Megan Patrick-Vaughn can be reached at


I have been accused of boasting that I’m out of the technology loop. I assure you, I am not proud of this fact. While I adapt to technology fairly well, I admit that I like to stand on the sidelines and observe a while before jumping on board.

Even from the sidelines however, I am sure of this – Twitter has exploded. I’ve heard twittering about the micro-blogging site for months, but all signs point to yes, it is here to stay.

In April, Twitter hit a major milestone. The site got 17 million U.S. visitors in April – an 83 percent gain from March and a 3,000 percent jump from a year ago, according to U.S. comScore Media Metrix data. That is a textbook “hockey stick” growth curve, my friends.

The guy down the street is Tweeting, newspapers are doing it, community organizations are doing it, local businesses like Dotster Inc. and 1220 Main are doing it and public agencies like Clark County and the Port of Camas-Washougal are doing it, too. The port is giving Twitter a go to encourage citizens to participate in an online dialogue and spread the word about port events – yesterday, someone from the port was going to tour the Port of Kennewick, FYI. (The watchdogs Camas Washougal Watch are on board, too, so things could get fiery?)

For all of you Tweeps out there, how do you use social networking and how’s it going?

Editor's Note: Due to technical difficulties on the server where the VBJ website is hosted, the VBJ website was unavailable most of Tuesday evening and for an hour on Monday evening.

Business Around the Northwest

Apartment demand expected to drop in 2009, Idaho Business Review

Will more firms consider building ownership?, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

'Antique Capital of the Northwest' still drawing shoppers
, Snohomish County Business Journal

Friday, May 8, 2009

► On the Record

“It was very embarrassing for (Portland) to be the nirvana capitol of planning in the country and then have the population turn on you and slap you around and say, ‘No! You aren't going to do this anymore!' "

- Rich Carson, former director of the Clark County Community Development Department, referring to Oregon’s Measure 37 in the documentary, "Making Sense of Place: Portland." It airs Sunday on OPB.

Reporter's Notebook

- Steve McDonagh can be contacted at


The economic forecasters are all starting to sing the same tune: “We are at or near the bottom of the recession – but it will be a very slow climb out.”

The key to the climb for business owners is consumer confidence and, more accurately, consumer action. Plenty of business owners who are, of course, also consumers, have been sitting on the sidelines watching and waiting – but mostly worrying. Worrying that it might get worse, worrying that they will have to lay off employees, worrying that their bank is going to cut their credit limit.

Perhaps it is time to stop worrying and start wondering. Wondering what you can do to grow your business. Wondering about what opportunities have presented themselves as a result of the economic downturn – there might be less competition as others have folded up shop or there might be new laws. regulations and programs that you can take advantage of. Wondering what will happen if we all decide to start the climb out in earnest without waiting for the forecasters to announce the recovery.

Most (not all) economic forecasters primarily rely on statistics generated by the government or trade associations that detail what happened the past few months. They then tell us what they think is going to happen based on the statistics. Essentially it is trend spotting and very educated guessing as to whether the trends will continue.

The trends for months have been showing that the decline is slowing, money is slowly starting to move, homes are selling again and the stock market is well above 8,000. Earlier this week, media mogul Rupert Murdoch said he believes the worst is over and, “I'm not an economist and we all know economists were created to make weather forecasters look good.”
Well, we carry an umbrella in the trunk even when the forecasts call for a sunny day. Business people who have weathered the current storm do need to be prepared for a rainy day, but the savvy business owner sees sunny days ahead is planning how he or she is going to thrive when we climb out of the hole.

Business Around the Northwest

Agreement could make Idaho a nuclear pharmacy, Idaho Business Review

Small businesses get federal stimulus help, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

The ABCs of selling overseas, Coast River Business Journal

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

► On the Record

“Nobody is going to pay to pull a permit to sit on it for 18 months.”

- Steve Madsen, the Building Industry Association of Clark County’s government affairs director, at a public hearing regarding Clark County’s decision to vest Traffic Impact Fees

Reporter's Notebook

-Megan Patrick-Vaughn can be reached at


When he was in town in March, Arun Raha said the U.S. will come out of this recession for several reasons, including that crafty people will always come up with new, irresistible methods for taking our hard-earned money.

Raha is executive director of the state’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council and he was, of course, referring to retailers and marketers. But his words flashed through my mind this morning as I sat in on a presentation by Doug Walsh, chief of the Attorney General’s consumer protection division, and Chuck Harwood, regional director of the Federal Trade Commission, about scams that are popping up more frequently in the recession.

These include credit fixes (“For an advanced fee, we’ll get ride of bad information on your credit report, no matter how it got there!”), debt relief (“For a fee, we have secret tricks to make your debt disappear!”), and employment schemes (“You posted a resume on – come to work for us, we’ll just need a copy of your passport, Social Security number and bank account information for payroll purposes!”)

Of course these claims are too good to be true. But rising unemployment mean more people are desperate for income. And desperate times don’t always leave us thinking clearly. Those of us facing class reunions or weddings can probably relate – “Lose 10 pounds in three days by sitting on the couch and eating Funyuns!” Of course weight loss really comes from diet and exercise, but there is a little voice in the background that really wants the Funyun diet to be true.

And the victims aren’t always who you’d expect. A survey of investment fraud victims by the state Department of Financial Institutions, AARP and the Investor Protection Trust shows that victims are more likely to be male, married, employed and on average, 55 years old.

Business Around the Northwest

Six business lessons from the recession, Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal

State stimulus projects starting slowly, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce

Restaurants, inspectors work as partners, Bellingham Business Journal

Friday, May 1, 2009

► On the Record

“Using green technologies that do not fit with the intended use of a building is a sure way to end up in a lawsuit.”

- Brad Eriksen, attorney at Jordan Schrader Ramis PC

Reporter's Notebook


Innovation. It is what is going to unlock this economy, not billions of stimulus dollars or “short-term bankruptcies.”

Innovation is the process of taking something new or old, novel or old-school, and changing or adapting it to the market so it has a beneficial value and economic viability for your business. We’re not talking about invention – we have millions of “inventions” every year and only a few become true innovations.

In our midst, we have a locally grown company that has exhibited a full and complete understanding of innovation. From recycling french fry oil to offering health benefits to part-time workers, Burgerville has consistently shown a forward-thinking management style based on innovation.

They are at it again. And this time I, for one, can get a little more fired up about it than I was about the recycling of french fry oil – which I am absolutely in favor of – but I can’t drink recycled oil with my burger.

Yes, today Burgerville has started to sell beer and wine in its Salmon Creek restaurant. Some might say this is not innovation, that restaurants everywhere sell beer and wine. True, but not at fast food restaurants, and burger places in particular. Now on a hot Saturday afternoon, Dad can take the kids to Burgerville and have a cold beer with his burger instead of going to a sit-down restaurant and wait for a table.

Burgerville’s innovation is in taking a known process and applying it in a new setting to expand its revenue stream. The moral of the story here is that we all need to innovate during this flat economy much as Burgerville has. Not by selling beer necessarily, but by creating new revenue streams that compliment our core income-producing products and services.

follow Burgerville’s lead and look for avenues to increase your revenue by offering clients innovative opportunities to do business with you. And I, for one, will be looking forward to a hot Saturday afternoon.

- Steve McDonagh can be contacted at

Business Around the Northwest

Sierra Nevada Brewing embraces environmentally friendly shipping, Eastside Business Journal

The tourists will come – a slow spring is likely to be followed by a robust summer in the San Juans, Northwest Business Monthly

Portland neighborhood anxious about streetscape project, Portland Daily Journal of Commerce