Business Briefs — March 2018

$300,000 invested in Tri-City entrepreneurship efforts

The U.S. Department of Commerce recently announced that the Port of Benton in Richland received $300,000 to support the development of early-stage seed capital funds through the Economic Development Administration’s Regional Innovation Strategies program.

The port is the administrator for the Tri-Cities Research District, a state Innovation Partnership Zone that has a goal of accelerating the development of local startups. These dollars will support the expansion of education curriculum and business support services to better prepare local companies for seed funding.

This is the first grant of its kind to be awarded in the Tri-Cities, and it reinforces efforts that are already in place, port officials said.

“This is outstanding validation that we are on the right track to grow the Tri-Cities entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Diahann Howard, the research district’s executive director and the director of economic development and governmental affairs for the port.

The Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, housed within the Department of Commerce’s EDA, leads the program to spur innovation capacity-building activities in regions across the nation.

Forty-two organizations — including nonprofits, institutions of higher education and entrepreneurship-focused organizations from 28 states — received more than $17 million to create and expand cluster-focused proof-of-concept and commercialization programs and to support early-stage seed capital funds through RIS.

This fourth cohort of Regional Innovation Strategies awardees expands the RIS portfolio to eight new states and continues to build regional entrepreneurial economies. The awardees were selected from a pool of more than 217 applicants.

 

Pasco company fined $20,000 for hazardous waste disposal

A Pasco agriculture company agreed to pay the state to settle violations for improper handling of dangerous waste.

Syngenta Seeds’ operation in Pasco treats vegetable seeds with pesticides prior to distribution. Last year, an investigation found Syngenta didn’t properly contain waste from this process, potentially exposing people and the environment to pesticide waste, according to the Washington Department of Ecology.

In March 2017, state inspectors observed red dust outside the area where waste is collected prior to disposal. The dust was residue from the treatment process, and was classified as extremely hazardous waste under Washington’s dangerous waste laws.

“When dangerous waste is mishandled, the chances are higher for people and the environment to be exposed to toxic chemicals,” said Karen Wood, section manager for Ecology’s Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction program, in a statement. “Proper handling and disposal is crucial.”

The penalty was originally $30,000, but Syngenta entered into an expedited settlement agreement with Ecology to reduce the recommended penalty by one-third to $20,000.

“Adhering to environmental regulations to protect health and safety is a priority for Syngenta,” said Casey Young, Syngenta Seeds site manager for the Pasco operation, in a news release. “We have improved our administrative processes and addressed Ecology’s concerns.”

As part of the settlement, Syngenta waives its right to appeal.

Ecology’s expedited settlement process saves the state, taxpayers and the company the expense of costly litigation, the release said.

Ecology required the company to immediately correct the violations. The Pasco facility is now in compliance, the state reported.

 

State’s retail sales get boost from auto sales, construction

Washington’s retail sales got a boost from summer sales of vehicles as well as steady growth in construction.

Taxable retail sales grew 7.3 percent in third-quarter 2017 compared to the same period in 2016, and total sales reached $41.3 billion.

Other highlights of July to September 2017 include:

  • Construction rose 9.7 percent to $8.5 billion.
  • Taxable retail sales reported by new and used auto dealers increased 5.5 percent to $3.5 billion.
  • E-commerce and mail order sales increased 18.8 percent to $788 million.
  • Drug and health store sales increased 10.2 percent to $741 million.
  • Lawn and garden supplies and equipment rose by 14 percent to   $202 million.

 

Trade council, Newhouse blast steel, aluminum tariff

The Washington Council on International Trade recently issued a statement to say that it strongly disagrees with the Trump Administration’s tariff announcement on steel and aluminum.

The council said tariffs would negatively affect Washington state companies and consumers alike by driving up prices of goods and inviting retaliation against Washington state exports and investment.

Forty percent of jobs in Washington are trade-related, the council said.

“In Washington state, we depend on our global competitiveness. Trade – both exports and imports – paves the way for Washington-made goods and services to reach foreign markets, provides Washingtonians with products that raise our quality of life, and sustains family-wage jobs in numerous local industries. These proposed tariffs will undermine Washington state jobs and prosperity,” says Lori Otto Punke, president of the council, in a statement.

Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Washington, joined 106 Republican colleagues to send a letter to Trump expressing concern that broad, global tariffs on aluminum and steel imports could have negative, unintended consequences on U.S. businesses and consumers.

 

Richland to break ground on 11th elementary school

The Richland School District expects to award the construction bid for a new West Richland elementary school in early April.

The district’s 11th elementary school will be built near the intersection of Belmont Boulevard and the future Sunshine Avenue.

Design West of Kennewick is the architect.

The new school will be 65,000 square feet and enroll about 600 students when it opens in August 2019.

 

Uber now offering scheduled rides

Uber is now offering scheduled rides in Eastern Washington, including in the Tri-Cities.

The ride-sharing company announced the new perk last month.

Rides can be scheduled up to 30 days in advance via the Uber app.

 

Ecology funds more than 200 clean water projects

Five projects in Benton County are among the 230 clean-water projects funded by the state Department of Ecology’s $220 million in grants and loans to communities across the state. Projects include upgrading sewage treatment systems, management of polluted stormwater runoff and pollution prevention projects.

Projects funded in the Tri-Cities include Benton County Conservation District’s Lower Yakima River water quality, nutrient and aquatic vegetation dynamics program; city of West Richland Public Works Department’s Ironton stormwater retrofit construction; city of Richland’s Meadow Springs limited improvement district stormwater project; Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group’s environmental analysis and design of changes to the Yakima Delta; and city of Richland’s Columbia Park Trail stormwater retrofit project.

For more details and descriptions on projects statewide, go to an interactive map at http://tabsoft.co/2CMwzcf.

 

Public hearings set on Lourdes hospital sale

The state Department of Health has scheduled two public hearings to gather comments about the sale of Lourdes Hospital in Pasco and Lourdes Counseling Center in Richland.

Capella Healthcare LLC wants to buy both facilities from Ascension Healthcare, based in St. Louis, Missouri, for $21 million.

If the Lourdes deal is approved, the type of ownership of the two hospitals will change from non-profit to for-profit.

State law requires the Department of Health to review and approve the application before the change in ownership type occurs.

Capella’s parent corporation is RegionalCare Hospital Partners Holding, Inc. which does business as RCCH HealthCare Partners, based in Brentwood, Tennessee.

Capella’s parent company, RCCH, is privately-owned and operates 17 regional health systems. RCCH has hospitals located in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas and Washington.

Trios Health also is exploring a relationship with RCCH and UW Medicine, but first must clear bankruptcy.

Paperwork filed with the state describes the terms of the Lourdes sale and steps taken by Ascension Healthcare in determining the need to sell the hospitals and in soliciting purchase bids.

The Richland hearing is from 9 to 11:30 a.m. March 19 at the Richland City Council chambers, 975 George Washington Way.

The Pasco hearing is from 1:30 to 4 p.m. at Pasco Police Community Services Building, 215 W. Sylvester St.

Comments are limited to three minutes per person.

In-person Spanish interpretation services will be available at both hearings.

Written comments also will be accepted by March 19 by writing Department of Health, Certificate of Need Program, Mail Stop 47852, Olympia, WA 98504-7852; or via email to fslcon@doh.wa.gov; include “Lourdes Sale” in subject line.

 

Tourism Tune-up training offered in Prosser

A one-day conference aimed at helping employees give customers the best experience their company business has to offer is planned from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 3 at the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center in Prosser.

Keynote speaker for the Tourism Tune-Up event is Bill Levisay, a consultant and public speaker who has worked for companies such as Bolthouse Farms and Coca-Cola.

Seminar topics include human resources, the guest experience and audience engagement.

A networking and social time is scheduled for the end of the day.

Cost per person is $45 for the full day and $30 for half the day. Group discounts are available. Lunch is included.

Tickets required in advance and are available online at theclorecenter.org under “events.”

 

Pasco council approves resolution to promote inclusivity in city

The city of Pasco passed a resolution to reinforce the city’s commitment to inclusivity.

The resolution, passed in February, declares the city as being committed to embracing diversity and equality among its work force, residents, businesses and visitors. It also creates a citizen Inclusivity Committee to assist the council in its efforts.

Mayor Matt Watkins will appoint seven members to the ad hoc commission with confirmation by the council.

The members, who will serve a 24-month term, must have been residents of Pasco for at least one year or own a licensed business operating in the city.

 

Town hall meeting set for Hanford workers

Cold War Patriots will host free town hall meetings for nuclear weapons workers in Kennewick and Richland.

Meetings are at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. March 21 at the Red Lion Columbia Center, 1101 N. Columbia Center Blvd., Kennewick, and 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. March 22 at the Richland Red Lion, 802 George Washington Way.

The morning sessions, starting at 10 a.m., will be customized for people who have already applied for Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act, or EEOICPA, benefits and have either been awarded a U.S. Department of Labor white medical benefits card or have a pending claim.

Morning session participants will also learn how to file for medical expense reimbursement; how impairment ratings can get them more monetary compensation; why they should add conditions to a claim; and why in-home care might be right for them.

The 1 p.m. afternoon sessions and 6 p.m. evening session (Richland only) are for workers who haven’t yet applied for their benefits or those who have applied but their claims have been denied.

Afternoon and evening session participants will learn if they qualify for up to $400,000 in monetary compensation and free health care; how to apply for benefits; what benefits are included; and how to reopen denied claims.

Anyone who worked at the Hanford Site or any other nuclear weapons facility is invited to attend. Resources will be on hand to help workers understand the financial and medical benefits available to them – including home health care – and to guide them through the process of proving the connection between their workplace exposure and their illness.

Refreshments will be offered.

The EEOICPA program is administered by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and offers monetary compensation and health care benefits to workers who participated in the nuclear weapons program from 1942 until the present day and became sick because of radiation exposure.

Cold War Patriots is a division of Professional Case Management, which provides specialized in-home health care services to nuclear weapons and uranium workers.

 

New REACH exhibit features story of migratory fish

A new exhibit with fish as the star has opened at the REACH museum’s Hoch Gallery.

“Aquatic Travelers, The Migratory Fish of the Columbia River” tells the story of anadromous fish (Chinook salmon, Pacific lamprey and white sturgeon) that are born in freshwater streams and migrate to the ocean. It includes information on research, recovery, anatomy of a health watershed and information about how the work dams are doing to get fish through them with fish ladders, special barges and trucks.

The museum at 1943 Columbia Park Trail in Richland, is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Admission is $10 for adults, $6 for students, seniors and military, and free for children younger than 5 and museum members.

 

Benton clerk’s office warns of jury duty scam callers

The Benton County Clerk’s Office is reporting that scammers are targeting the community using jury duty as the bait.

The fraudulent callers claim to be the county clerk and tell individuals that they owe money for not appearing for jury duty. They tell victims that they must get a Green Dot gift card, read out the card information and meet the scammer in front of the justice center to get documents releasing them from claims or damages.

If you receive a phone call related to jury duty that’s suspicious, call the Benton County Jury Department at 509-735-8388, ext. 3094.

 

Tri-City group gets state OK on Medicaid project plan

Greater Columbia Accountable Community of Health has received state approval of its Medicaid transformation project plan.

The plan will transform health care in a nine-county region, including Benton and Franklin counties, and improve the overall health of Apple Health (Medicaid) populations, according to a release. The areas of focus will be the opioid crisis, integrating behavioral and physical health care, addressing chronic disease and transitional care.

The agency earned its full valuation of $24 million, which triggers release of incentive payments and marks the start of the implementation phase of the Healthier Washington Medicaid Transformation, a partnership between Washington and federal centers for Medicare and Medicaid services aimed at improving the health care system.

 

Water supply forecast is for full supply for season

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s forecast for the Yakima Basin indicates the water supply will fully satisfy senior and junior water rights this irrigation season.

Specific water delivery levels will not be determined until later in the year after reservoir storage begins to decline.

Kennewick Irrigation District said it is anticipating a near full annual water allotment for the upcoming water season and does not anticipate the need for restrictions or mandatory enforcement of watering schedules.

The bureau’s March forecast is based on flows, precipitation, snowpack and reservoir storage as of March 1, along with estimates of future precipitation and river flows. Other future weather conditions that determine the timing of the runoff and the demand for water also are critical in determining stream-flows, pro-rations and the extent to which the reservoirs fill.

If spring precipitation and runoff are unfavorable, the bureau said it still expects an adequate supply. Because longer term weather conditions can be unpredictable, the agency recommends water conservation always be considered by Yakima Basin water users.

 

Delta Dental seeks nominations of those who better communities

Delta Dental of Washington is seeking nominations for Smile Makers, or community members who bring smiles to others through acts of kindness, volunteering and good deeds.

The company, along with the Tooth Fairy, will surprise selected Smile Makers during its annual Smile Power tour across the state to thank them for making their community a better place. The surprise is personalized and planned in partnership with the nominator. Smile Power tours are scheduled April through September and nominations are accepted through the duration of the program.

For more information and to nominate a Smile Maker, go to deltadentalwa.com/our-company/in-the-community/smile-power.

 

Job event planned for short-term training options

WorkSource Columbia Basin and Columbia Basin College are holding an information session about short-term training options — three months or less — for job seekers wanting to get to work quickly.

The Fast Track to Jobs session is scheduled for 10 a.m. March 21. Check-in starts at 9:30 a.m. at 815 N. Kellogg St., Suite D, Kennewick.

Job seekers can talk with employers who are hiring and CBC officials about available training and to see if they qualify for free tuition through WorkSource.

Programs offered include certified production technician, certified logistics technician, commercial driver license and hospitality certification.

 

WSU receives grant for self-replicating materials

Washington State University scientists have been awarded $1 million from the W.M. Keck Foundation to develop molecular machines that self-replicate, producing pounds of 100-percent pure material.

Their research is the first step toward a new paradigm in manufacturing where everything from smartphones to life-saving cancer drugs could be designed one atom at a time to exact specifications and then grown out of a vat.

The two principal investigators for the Keck grant, James Brozik, the Donald and Marianna Matteson Distinguished Professor of chemistry at WSU, and Kerry Hipps, regents professor of chemistry, have decades of experience in molecular spectroscopy, single-molecule research and material science. Their team will include two postdoctoral fellows and two graduate students who will work full time on the interdisciplinary project for the next three years.

 

Numerica Credit Union acquires Monad in merger

Numerica Credit Union acquired Monad Federal Credit Union in a merger, effective March 1.

Monad is a one-branch credit union at 1817 W. Sylvester St. in Pasco. It will become a Numerica branch.

The $14.8-million Monad and its approximate 2,500 members approved the merger with the $2 billion Numerica at a special Feb. 5 meeting.

The merger between the credit unions was precipitated when Camelia Uhling, Monad’s president and CEO, announced her upcoming retirement.

The boards of directors of both credit unions, as well as both CEOs, supported the merger, viewing it as an opportunity to combine resources to take advantage of the key strengths of each credit union, including providing an even more attractive portfolio of products and services for members and professional advancement opportunities for current Monad employees.

Monad members will be able to use the 20 branches provided by Numerica. This includes additional products, services and delivery channels offered by Numerica, which has more than 135,000 members.

 

Deadline approaching for Leadership Tri-Cities class

Two information sessions are planned for those interested in applying to be part of Leadership Tri-Cities, which assembles, develops, and educates a diverse cadre of skilled leaders to be catalysts for positive change.

Information sessions about the program are from 5:30 to 7 p.m. March 20 at the Zintel Creek Golf Club, 314 N. Underwood, Kennewick, and March 28 at the Tri-City Development Council’s office, 7130 W. Grandridge Blvd., Bechtel Room, Kennewick.

Over the course of a year, class members attend several sessions led by community experts focusing on the various sectors and industries shaping the region.

Class members also participate in a retreat to focus on team-building, participate in leadership development, and must complete a class project that benefits a community organization.

Leadership Tri-Cities tuition is $1,200 per year.

Applications are due April 30. Interviews will be conducted in mid-May.

For more information and to apply, visit leadershiptricities.com.

 

Pet advocate group seeks new board members

Pet Over Population Prevention seeks new board members.

POPP’s primary purpose is to promote responsible pet care through educating the public on the importance of spaying and neutering their cats and dogs, as well as providing spay and neuter assistance.

Board members are needed to support a number of POPP’s activities, including fundraising, community outreach and supporting spay/neuter clinics, etc.

Learn more by visiting http://popptricities.org/board-members-wanted.html.

 

Revenue department online portal changing

The state Department of Revenue is launching My DOR as the secure portal for all online services March 18.

My Account, the existing online service portal, will be retired. Businesses that previously used My Account will be able to access all their tax and business licensing accounts using their SecureAccess Washington login. Those who use electric funds transfer will need to re-enter information into My DOR after March 19.

For more information about the change, go http://bit.ly/2GUFzi3.

 

Two WSU fundraisers showcase wines, food 

Two upcoming Washington State University fundraisers will showcase wine and foods.

• A dinner event introducing new wines from the WSU Blended Learning student-made wine program is set for 5:30 p.m. March 28 at Budd’s Broiler in Richland. Cost is $125 and includes a wine tasting reception, followed by a four-course dinner paired with wines. Guests will be treated to the first samples of new WSU Blended Learning student-made wines poured by WSU Viticulture and Enology students. This student winemaking project supports hands-on learning by pairing students with local growers and winemakers who collaborate on all aspects of the winemaking process.

This is the third consecutive year for the fundraising event where 100 percent of the money raised supports the Blended Learning program. Proceeds pay for lab modifications and new equipment at the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center in Richland. Ticket available on WSU Foundation website, gocougs.wsufoundation.wsu.edu/VESpringRelease18.

• WSU Tri-Cities’ Crimson Food and Wine Classic at Hamilton Cellars is April 14. Proceeds go toward the university’s hospitality business management and wine business management programs. The evening begins at 6 p.m. at Hamilton Cellars, 55410 N Sunset Road in Benton City, and will feature six Hamilton wines paired with dishes developed by WSU Pullman lead chef Jamie Callison and WSU students that integrate local and season tastes and flavors. During the event, students also will present food pairings, manage the silent auction and interact with guests. Cost is $75 per person on a first-come, first-served basis. Tickets may be purchased at https://formtool.wsu.edu/ccb/Signup/index.castle?formid=33.

 

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