Friday, October 29, 2010

► On the Record

“Communication is the most important element of any effort.”

-- Ron Arp, of Clark County based Amplify Group, receiving the 2010 Ron Schmidt Community Involvement Award at the 2010 PRSA Spotlight Awards Showcase for his involvement in the regional branding campaign “Land Here, Live Here.”

Reporter's Notebook

John McDonagh can be reached at

Behind the misleading mud-slinging

For the moment let’s accept the fact that negative campaigning is effective in positioning one candidate against another. Of course by “effective,” we’re assuming more people will be convinced to cast a vote for the candidate who’s not being vilified by the negative campaign.

Now let’s ask the question: What if both candidates are engaged in the same negative positioning? Will it still be an effective way to garner votes? Or will it cause the electorate to become entrenched behind the candidate they originally favored?

This may be the perfect campaign season to find out.

In both the U.S. Senate race and the 3rd Congressional District seat, the chosen approach has been to malign and vilify the opposition. In fact, just finding out what each candidate stands for can be quite the chore.

It’s as if we are asked to believe it’s less important to know what one candidate brings to the position than it is to understand the catastrophe it would be if voters elected the opposition candidate.

How different are the opponents in these two races?

Here are two statements from the candidates running for the 3rd Congressional District seat. See if you can you identify which statement is from Democrat Denny Heck, and which is from Republican Jamie Herrera.

“I’ll do everything in my power to make sure the federal government bears the lion’s share of responsibility for completing the Columbia River I-5 Bridge.”

Compared to:

“I look forward to being a strong advocate for this project both in Congress, and right here in Southwest Washington working with local, regional and state leaders to get the job done.”

The statements are more or less the same, yet the negative rhetoric we’ve heard in this contest suggests the candidates are miles apart on this and many other issues.

A similar lack of distinction can be found behind all the mud-slinging in the U.S. Senate race as well.

Take the issue of health care for example. Republican Dino Rossi is on the record saying the health care package that passed this past year should be repealed. Rossi points out that her opponent, Democrat Patty Murray, helped author the bill.

Now for a couple of statements from the candidates on what they believe health care reform should include:

“Lower health insurance costs… a greater variety of health insurance plans, and give people choice…”

Compared to:

“Provide more choice and stability for families and businesses.”

Admittedly, these statements are out of context – something we’re too often accused of doing in the media. I do it, however, to make a point.

Millions of dollars are being spent on negative, demonizing and often untruthful (or at the very least, misleading) campaign rhetoric to distinguish the candidates. Maybe they do it because the differences in the end are not that great.

These four candidates all contend that small business in America is what needs the attention and support of the federal government. Unfortunately, they are all so involved in painting an evil picture of one another. Knowing the lesser of those evils is anyone’s guess.

Business From Around the Northwest

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

► On the Record

"Today, no business is immune from cyber attacks. The first step is to know the landscape of cybercrime and raise awareness before launching the right counter attacks."

-- Cyber-technology expert Dr. Rocky Termanini, who is scheduled to speak in the Foster Hall Auditorium at Clark College on Friday, November 5th. The free event begins at noon and is open to the public.

Meet Your Neighbors

Nicholas Shannon Kulmac can be reached at

We’ve Got Your Back

In today's economy, keeping track of who the players are can be a
difficult task. That’s why we’ve introduced a new video feature
for Just Business called Meet Your Neighbors.

Today, we spotlight “We’ve Got Your Back,” a new Vancouver Chiropractic office located in the Grand Central shopping center.

Business From Around the Northwest

Friday, October 22, 2010

► On the Record

“We look to support our local companies in every way possible. Whether it’s our credit card processor or the people that deliver our paper products… It’s not always the cheapest, but keeping the money here benefits the whole community.”

-- Jamie Erdman, general manager of Thatcher’s Coffee, on the importance of buying local.

Reporter's Notebook

In the October 1st edition of the Vancouver Business Journal, we told you why we believe Initiative 1082 would be good for business.

I-1082 would allow companies to purchase Industrial Insurance (workers’ compensation) from private insurers rather than continuing with the state run monopoly.

Recently, Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen weighed in on the issue. The following is a look at what he had to say.

I-1082 – A win for business
By Brad Owen, Lieutenant Governor

During my 34 years serving the public in various capacities, I’ve heard a lot of complaints about a lot of things from unhappy taxpayers. As a public official, I know you can’t make all the people happy all of the time and fielding the vast array of complaints is an occupational hazard.

But there is one complaint I hear more than any other, and it has to do with the state Department of Labor & Industries’ (L&I) management of the state workers’ compensation system. People complain about the inefficiency in claims processing. They complain about the high costs. They complain the agency is unresponsive. The list goes on.

What really frustrates the people who complain about L&I is the fact that they can’t do anything about it. They can’t express their dissatisfaction by taking their business elsewhere because L&I holds a monopoly on workers’ compensation in this state.

In a nutshell, they feel powerless. And the truth is they are powerless. That’s why I hope voters will approve Initiative 1082.

I-1082 will simply end L&I’s monopoly and allow private insurers to sell workers’ comp coverage to businesses. This means people will no longer be powerless to do anything about their dissatisfaction with the state agency. L&I will have to compete with private insurers in order to stay in business – that means handling claims efficiently, keeping costs under control and making sure customers are happy.

I know a thing or two about keeping customers happy. Before my life in politics I owned a small business. If I didn’t keep my customers happy they would simply go to my competitors. I don’t need to explain the motivation that provides.

I’ve believed L&I’s lack of competition has been a problem for a long time. In my early days as a legislator, I supported legislation to allow competition in the workers’ comp marketplace. My firsthand experience in small business, combined with a laundry list of complaints registered by my constituents, convinced me that business owners and workers would benefit if L&I faced competition from private insurers. The bill didn’t pass, but after all these years I still believe it’s a good idea whose time (I hope) has finally come.

If I-1082 passes, L&I will, for the first time in its 100 year history, be forced to compete. However, despite its many flaws the initiative doesn’t do away with the state agency. Businesses satisfied with the current system can keep their workers’ comp insurance with the state. But those unhappy with L&I can shop for better prices and better service.

The special interests opposing I-1082 think this choice is a bad idea. They argue the private insurance companies from which we all purchase our health, home, life and automobile coverage are not trustworthy enough to sell workers’ comp coverage. The opponents of I-1082 expect voters to believe companies that sell these other lines of insurance will somehow be catastrophic for workers’ comp just because they are profit-motivated. It simply defies logic.

Are private, for-profit insurance companies perfect? Not by any means. Are they a better option than our current government monopoly? You bet.

If you are unhappy with your private insurer, you can give your business to another insurer. You have a choice. If you are unhappy with L&I, you have no choice. That’s why I’ve received more complaints about L&I than any other state agency.

In addition, being motivated by profit is not the evil thing opponents of the initiative make it out to be. A private insurance company that relies on profit to stay in business simply has a bottom line to meet. If they don’t control costs, operate efficiently and meet that bottom line, they’re out of business. And let us not forget, private insurance companies must also provide good service and keep prices competitively low. If they don’t, they lose their customers.

Our current “non-profit” state-run monopoly system means L&I has no such fears. L&I can’t go out of business. The agency doesn’t have to worry about losing customers or running out of money. When L&I needs more money, they can just increase taxes on their “customers.” And that is exactly what the agency has done, and will continue to do if we don’t pass I-1082.

In these lean times, we can’t afford to continue to prop up a failing government monopoly with increasingly scarce taxpayer dollars. Voting yes on I-1082 will give the private sector the opportunity to do better what government has been doing inefficiently for almost a century. It’s about time.

You can contact Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen at

Business From Around the Northwest

Washington vs. Oregon, Wall Street Journal

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

► On the Record

“Despite businesses going through some tough times, volunteerism has not. People in this community are seeing the need and finding creative ways to meet it.”

Launda Carroll, president/CEO of Innovative Services NW during Tuesday night’s 2010 Care Affair fundraiser

Reporter's Notebook

Nicholas Shannon Kulmac can be reached at

Introducing the 2010-2011 Women in Business Directory

We hope you can join us this Thursday for a fun evening of networking as we release our newest publication, the 2010-2011 Women in Business Directory.

It has been years since the metro area had a business directory dedicated to women-owned and managed businesses. With nearly half of businesses in the northwest owned by women, we’re excited to be bringing this to the marketplace.

It happens tomorrow evening (Thursday, October 21st), 6 PM – 8 PM, Red Cross Building/E. B. Hamilton Hall 605 Barnes, Vancouver at the Fort Vancouver National Site.

Cost is just $10.00 per person, advance registration is recommended by going to

Can’t make it? Watch for a copy of the Directory in your October 29th edition of the Vancouver Business Journal.

Meet Your Neighbors

In today’s economy, keeping track of who the players are can be a difficult task. With that in mind, we’re introducing a new video feature in today’s Just Business called Meet Your Neighbors.

We hope this feature helps your company stay informed about the businesses around us.

Today, we spotlight a brand new business – Neighbors Market in downtown Vancouver.

The market doesn’t open until next week, so we wanted to get a sneak preview of what they’re all about.

Business From Around the Northwest

High-end housing, low-end demand, Then Wenatchee World

Friday, October 15, 2010

► On the Record

“The goal is to educate so that consumers can make better choices. Consumer
demand is the quickest way to bring change.”

-- Washington State University’s Dr. Patricia Hunt, during a conversation about Bisphenol–A (BPA) and its link to reproductive health at Wednesday’s Chancellor’s Seminar Series on the campus of WSU Vancouver

Reporter's Notebook

Nick Shannon Kulmac can be reached at

Forbes ranks Washington fifth best state for business

From the weekend box office to the world of college football, everyone loves a good ranking. And by the looks of it, the folks at Forbes agree. Earlier this week, the financial news magazine published their annual list of “The Best States For Business And Careers.”

Forbes said the ranking measures six vital categories for businesses: costs, labor supply, regulatory environment, current economic climate, growth prospects and quality of life. Business costs, which include labor, energy and taxes, are weighted the most heavily.

So how did Washington stack up? Pretty well, overall.

The evergreen state came in at number five, thanks in part to a strong labor supply, regulatory environment and positive growth prospect.

If you buy into these rankings or not, it should be noted that Washington was number two on the list last year. When that number came out, Governor Chris Gregoire was quick to respond.

“The ranking showcases the collaborative work of state and local agencies to promote economic development and grow jobs throughout Washington,” Gregoire said last year. “But make no mistake, we are not resting on our laurels. I pledge to continue to work closely with state, business and labor leaders to further improve our competitiveness climate and become the best state in the nation to do business.”

Time will tell whether the governor weighs in on this year’s list. In the meantime, let’s examine why we slipped to number five. Forbes said Washington’s economic climate was down slightly, but what really hurt us were business costs (28th) and quality of life (29th).

Not everyone in the northwest lost a spot or two on the list. Oregon jumped from number ten last year, to number six this year. And reaching out of the northwest, Utah received the top ranking for the first time. Virginia and North Carolina rounded out the top three.

Business From Around the Northwest

Port of Lewiston in business slump, Associated Press

Many NW Banks In No Hurry To Repay U.S. Treasury Infusions, Oregon Public Broadcasting News

Halloween is fun, but haunted houses can be scary business, Puget Sound Business Journal

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

► On the Record

“We all have the ability to change society for the better. Whether you are a politician or a local business owner… your character, as the leader, sets the tone.”

-- Marv Serhan, former Navy Captain and current business executive, speaking to the Vancouver Rotary Club Wednesday about ethics in the workplace and in life.

Reporter's Notebook

Nicholas Shannon Kulmac can be reached at

An Introduction

Let me start today’s Business Extra by saying thank you to everyone who has welcomed me into the Vancouver business community with open arms. In just two weeks on the job, I’ve received a great amount of positive feedback from many of you out there about our publication. I look forward to hearing more of those comments, both the good and bad (but mostly the good).

I come to the Vancouver Business Journal as an Oregon Duck, surrounded in the office by a slew of Cougars and Huskies. But I think as long as I don’t tack up any giant posters of Autzen Stadium I should be fine.

I moved to Vancouver nearly two years ago, while surviving the hectic pace and overnight hours of producing a television news morning show in Portland. And let me tell you, I am very happy to be on this side of the Columbia. Broadcast news certainly has its place in the business community, but too often I believe it falls short.

We have a unique opportunity as a business journal. You won’t find any 30-second stories here. The old saying, “if it bleeds, it leads” does not apply. What I look forward to is celebrating success within our community. We all know times are tough, so how about recognizing the individuals who are doing it right?

Because if we can identify success, we can duplicate it.

Business From Around the Northwest

Marketing know-how for lean times, Southern Oregon's Mail Tribune

Friday, October 8, 2010

► On the Record

“Where are the budgets in the state already buying things that could buy the alternatives albeit at a slight premium?”

-- Rogers Weed, Director of Commerce for Washington State, answering a question last week at the quarterly luncheon of the Columbia River Economic Development Council in a discussion about funding alternative energy in the state.

Reporter's Notebook

Steve McDonagh can be reached at

It’s about JOBS!

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs. It’s all about Jobs and I am not talking about Steve Jobs and Apple. Although, there is certainly a segment of our populace that hangs on every new “Jobs Report” (ie. giant self serving commercial) so that they don’t miss out on being one of the first to have Apple’s latest and greatest innovation. But that is another column!

Nope, I am talking about rent paying, milk buying, college tuition paying jobs. The experts told us last month that the Great Recession was over almost a year ago! Of course none of the experts have to go out and look for a job in the current economy, nor does it appear that they consider unemployment a key factor in determining whether or not we are in or out of a recession

A long winded diatribe on the vagaries of the various indexes and measurements used to determine the current state of the US economy would be not only too long for this column but incredibly boring to most of us. But suffice it to say that the metrics used by the experts, from this layman’s point of view, appear to ignore the real world metrics of shorter work weeks, lower pay, laid off teachers, higher prices for milk and gasoline, longer waits on the customer service phone line.

Jobs. It’s all about jobs and the ability of our economy to create and sustain them. A government report out today stated that 58,000 jobs were lost in September as school started up again and teachers and other education employees were laid off due to budget shortfalls around the country. There is no need to further analyze the job market for those of us here in Southwest Washington, we all have a relative or friend or a business acquaintance that is out of work and looking for a job.

Jobs. It is the only thing that is going to bring us out of the Great Recession that ended a year ago! Until we can put people back to work and keep them working it seems that the economy is going to sputter along. To create these jobs we need to have government start rewarding businesses that are leading in innovation and that create jobs and keep jobs here instead of shipping them overseas. We as business owners and consumers need to support businesses that are creating jobs in “our economy.” The global economy is a reality and is here to stay, but if you don’t have a strong local, regional and national economy you can’t be a meaningful participant in that global economy. The only way to have that strong economy is by creating more JOBS!

Business From Around the Northwest

Bank of America halts foreclosures in Oregon, all states, The Oregonian

Schweitzer Engineering expanding in Pullman
, Lewiston, The Spokesman-Review

The new face of financing
, Oregon Daily Journal of Commerce

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

► On the Record

“I don’t think you can overestimate the impact of a University on a community”

-- Dr. Twyla G. Barnes, Superintendent, Educational Service District 112 at the Washington State University Vancouver Scholarship and Service Awards Dinner while asking attendees to consider a generous donation to the WSU Foundation.

Reporter's Notebook

John McDonagh can be reached at

Generous in so many ways

I have the opportunity to attend fundraising events a dozen or more times a month. Last week, one of those opportunities was a breakfast held for the Evergreen Habitat for Humanity at the Hilton Vancouver Conference Center. The room was full with roughly 300 local movers and shakers. And by early reports, it was a fairly generous group.

These events are designed to provide attendees with a comfortable setting, a plentiful meal and a program orchestrated to get us to open our wallets and support the cause. But today I want to talk about the personal support many in our community offer in addition to the financial support so necessary for the non-profit community.

Last week’s fundraiser featured keynote speaker John Deeder, Superintendent of Evergreen Public Schools. John told a story about a young man- Jeff, as I recall, who is now a student at Clark College. When the two met, Jeff he was in high school, and John became his mentor through a program sponsored by his Rotary club. Jeff was on his own, working part-time and homeless. He was what young people call a couch surfer, sleeping with friends or acquaintances wherever there might be an open couch. John described Jeff as a unique case not only because he wanted to stay in school, but because he wanted to be there and made it to college. Many young homeless people simply give up on getting a quality education.

John didn’t tell that story because he was looking to have someone like me write about it. In fact, he’ll likely be a bit disturbed that I singled him out. What the school district superintendent, husband and father did, was to make time in the community to make a difference in the life of someone who was having a challenging time. Certainly John isn’t alone in his willingness to put his own priorities aside to help another. He’s just one example in a community blessed with dozens and dozens of folks who do the same thing in programs like CASA, Share’s hot meal and backpack programs, Boys & Girls Clubs, youth athletics, lunch buddies and the list goes on.

We are a very generous community when it comes to opening our wallets, but the greater gift we can give to those facing challenges is the gift of our time. John Deeder does just that, and he’s a great model for the rest of us. And let’s not forget, John’s story was also effective in getting most in the room to open their wallets.


The cardinal sin of publishing is to write and publish before having a copy editor review what was written. This sin I committed last week in my tribute to Tom Koenninger, when I misspelled the name of a dear friend when it counted most. I give my sincerest apologies to Marilyn and the rest of the Koenninger family. Rushing to print is a quick way to mistakes and a red face, which I’ve been wearing for the better part of a week. Now, off to the editor.

Business From Around the Northwest

Rents rising for some high-demand spaces, The Daily Journal of Commerce

Fewer empty seats for Alaska, Horizon
, The News Tribune

Consequences, meetings and potential impacts
, Business Examiner

Friday, October 1, 2010

► On the Record

“Because I don’t care about being re-elected. It is about doing what is right.”

Dino Rossi explaining to the Vancouver Rotary Club the answer he gave as a Washington State Senator when asked how he could write a balanced budget for the state without increasing taxes.

Reporter's Notebook

John McDonagh can be reached at

How I’ll remember Tom

We represented two different forces – related, yet competing – in an industry that thrived for decades on a strict separation of the two vital functions of a daily newspaper: reporting the news, and the selling of advertising. By my estimation we respected that difference to the benefit of the readers, the advertisers, the paper and our relationship.

That wasn’t the only difference between the two of us. It turns out he was 20 years my senior. While I may have known that at one point, his passion for the outdoors and high level of involvement in professional and community activities must have dropped the age difference from my consciousness. Then there was the fact that while he was a Dawg, a graduate of the University of Washington, I hailed from the land-grant university in the Palouse, Washington State University. This difference brought a set of tensions all its own.

However, it is not the differences between Tom
Koenninger and me that I will remember. Rather it is how willingly Tom accepted me as a member of the management team at The Columbian; how when coverage involved businesses in the community he would readily seek my perspective – but never in a way that would compromise the story or even influence the reporting. Tom understood that the stories we presented to our readers created consequences – consequences for our readers, consequences for the subjects of those stories and consequences for the paper. Tom was the kind of editor who always wanted to understand, if he could, what those consequences might be.

Tom was first and foremost an active member of the community in which he reported and wrote about. As such, he never took his professional role lightly, because any unintended consequence could have a detrimental effect on his community – and that concerned him.

His involvement didn’t come without criticism from the professional ranks, some of whom were on his news staff. Tom wasn’t worried about his ability to write the story that needed to be written or to direct his reporters to write that story regardless of his community activism. His role as editor was to be certain the story that needed telling was told; his role in the community was to make this the best community it could be. I think Tom knew if he performed well as an editor, the community would be better off.

Tom’s passing puts an exclamation point on a transition taking place in our community, which I wrote about recently (To Everything . . . There is a Season). Organizations have succession plans that allow for someone to be appointed to carry the mantle of the position. As a community, I think we are without a succession plan in this case. I don’t see anyone who will provide the perspective in the way the man who grew up milking cows here in the county did or who will coax the community in word and action to be better in the way Tom was able to do for nearly 40 years.

Yesterday journalism lost one of its staunchest practitioners, and the community lost a dear friend: Tom

Business From Around the Northwest

Oregon wind energy too much to handle, Daily Journal of Commerce

One large trader led to May 6 stock market plunge, Seattle Times

Utah coal company eyes private port at former Reynolds Metals site, The Daily News