Business Briefs — October 2018
Port of Pasco to receive $7.1 million federal grant
The Port of Pasco will receive a $7.1 million federal grant to improve roads and storm water infrastructure at the Big Pasco Industrial Center after last winter’s snowmelt damage.
The grant was announced Oct. 9 by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The money will be used to accelerate and improve the resilience of the business park by repaving damaged roads and installing storm water management drains to handle future snow melts, according to the Department of Commerce.
“Improving infrastructure resilience at Big Pasco Industrial Center will benefit the Tri-Cities economy and have a positive impact on jobs,” said U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse in a statement. “This grant will help the Port of Pasco meet transportation needs for businesses despite adverse weather conditions.”
It’s estimated the improvements will create 270 jobs and retain 100 jobs.
Big Pasco provides multi-modal transportation from barge to rail and road.
Congress appropriated $600 million toward disaster relief and recovery in the wake of hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters last year.
Chamber to hold diversity summit on Oct. 31
The Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce will hold an inaugural Tri-Cities Diversity Summit on Oct. 31 at the Red Lion Hotel and Conference Center in Pasco.
The half-day event will focus on the importance, impact and benefits of diversity and inclusion practices in the workplace.
The summit will feature multiple breakout sessions on workplace diversity, presented by experts in the field. Topics include unconscious bias, the ABCs of LGBTQIA+ in the workplace and building an inclusive workplace.
The event will conclude with the chamber’s October membership luncheon, featuring a keynote presentation from Kristin Ekkens of the Cultural Intelligence Center, called, “What Now? How to Build a Culturally Intelligent Organization.”
The summit is from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Registration is $65 for chamber members, $75 for guests. Registration for the luncheon is $25 for members, $35 for guests (a luncheon ticket is included with summit registration).
For more information, call 509-736-0510 or visit tricityregionalchamber.com.
CBC reports student enrollment bump
Columbia Basin College’s reports a 2.5 percent year-over-year increase in student enrollment this fall with 7,275 students.
Included in the overall enrollment are 1,347 Running Start students. Running Start is a program that allows 11th- and 12th-grade students to take college courses at community colleges where they can earn high school and college credits.
Washington job rate up in August from month prior
Washington employment ended with a strong finish in August with 9,100 nonfarm jobs being added on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the federal Bureau of Labor.
Professional and business services saw the largest gain with 3,300 jobs, followed by construction with 2,900 and leisure and hospitality with 2,200. Retail trade had the biggest lost.
For rates that weren’t seasonally adjusted from August 2017 to August 2018, jobs increased by 109,400. Professional and business services led with an increase of 26,300 jobs, followed by construction and education and health services that increased nearly identically with a rise of 15,300 and 15,200 jobs, respectively.
Year over year, the employment rate was 4.5 percent in 2018 and 4.8 percent the same month in 2017.
WSU reduces deficit $22M in first year of budget plan
Washington State University has reduced its deficit by $22 for fiscal year 2018 to offset a $30 million annual operating deficit.
Under the initiative, all departments are required to develop plans to increase revenue or reduce spending by 2.5 percent a year for three years to steadily eliminate WSU’s reliance on central reserves for ongoing operating expenses. The university then will focus on replenishing the central reserves, which had fallen from about $200 million in fiscal year 2013 to just less than $100 million four years later.
Increased revenue from tuition and self-sustaining funds such as housing helped with the growth.
Richland seeks planning commission member
The Richland City Council is accepting applications from citizens interested in serving on its planning commission.
Applicants must be Richland residents.
It is recommended that applicants have a general knowledge of the council’s community priorities and the desire to be involved with land use development. A background in any of the following is desirable: urban planning, architecture, transportation, civil engineering, geology or economic development. Participation in the community and time availability also will be considered.
The planning commission meets the fourth Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m. The term for the appointment is until March 31, 2020.
Details are available on the city’s website at ci.richland.wa.us/bccvacancies or by calling 509-942-7388.
The application deadline is Oct. 19.
State superintendent proposes capital gains tax for schools
The state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction is proposing a capital gains tax that would generate about $1 billion per year to pay for schools.
Under State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal’s proposal, half of the money would go toward reducing state property taxes to ease the burden on homeowners if school districts want to increase levies. The other half would be spent on OSPI’s proposed budget priorities.
The tax would be on the sale of stocks and bonds.
Reykdal released his 2019-21 budget request Oct. 9.
“The Legislature has made great strides in education funding,” he said. “But we can’t continue to use a 10-year-old funding model that was not enough even at the time it was created.”
The budget asks for $400 million to create a new funding model for elementary schools, which will build capacity to meet the state’s K-3 class size ratios. The proposal also would create a new program to assist primarily rural schools in maintaining buildings.
It also requests $180 million to increase funding for students with disabilities and provide additional professional learning days for all school staff; $60 million to provide more school nurses, middle school counselors, and family and community engagement coordinators; $65 million to expand dual credit and career and technical education programs; $10 million to fund a pilot program for school districts or tribal compact schools to extend or expand the school day or year, or switch to a year-round schedule.
Last year, the Legislature capped the amount of money school districts can raise through local levies. State law now allows districts to collect no more than the lesser of two amounts: $2,500 per student, or $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value in the district.
Reykdal proposes a plan in which the total levy authority cannot exceed 22 percent of a school district’s state and federal revenues.
DOL proposes decrease in workers’ comp rates
The Washington Department of Labor and Industries has proposed a five percent decrease in the average premium for workers’ compensation in 2019.
If approved, employers’ shares would be reduced an average of $58 per year while employees would pay about $6 less per year. It would be the biggest reduction since 2007.
The public can comment on the proposal by 5 p.m. Nov. 2 by writing to Jo Anne Attwood, administrative regulations analyst, P.O. Box 41448, Olympia, WA 98504-4148 or via email to email@example.com.
For more information, go to lni.wa.gov/rates
Nonprofit startup seeks mentors, volunteers
A newly formed Tri-City nonprofit, FORGE Youth Mentoring, is taking a cue from the concept of a Big Brother-Big Sister program to give youths in the community added support.
The nonprofit is faith-based and will work closely with churches to find mentors as well as volunteers for recruiting, screening and coaching matches, said Todd Kleppin, executive director of FORGE. The nonprofit is starting in the Tri-Cities with goals of expanding throughout the Yakima Valley and into Oregon.
During its startup, the program is also seeking board members and seed donors to supplement local donations that already have been secured.
For more information, contact Kleppin at 509-438-1918 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Port of Quincy data centers help increase the tax roll
The Port of Quincy has seen an increase in assessed property values with a worth of $4.2 billion, according to the Grant County Assessor’s Office.
Curt Morris, chairman and president of the Port of Quincy, attributes the increase to the data centers, which have increased tax revenue significantly.
The superintendent of the Quincy School District, John Boyd, said that the data centers making up nearly 50 percent of the assessed values in the community helped a $108 million school bond to pass for renovation and new school construction.
College presidents tour Richland Lamb Weston plant
Eastern Washington University President Mary Cullinan, Washington State University Tri-Cities Chancellor Sandra Haynes and Columbia Basin College President Rebekah Woods toured Lamb Weston’s Richland plant and Innovation Center operations on Oct. 10.
The focus of the tour was to highlight Lamb Weston’s Richland’s line expansion and see its work in food science within the Innovation Center facilities. The discussion centered on work force development needs locally.
The group toured a $200 million Lamb Weston plant expansion that includes a new processing line and receiving and wastewater treatment facility completed on about 15 additional acres that opened in 2017. The 290,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art expansion increases production capacity by about 300 million pounds annually.
“We added 150 jobs to the economy when the expansion opened last year. This is a good opportunity to share our talent needs for our work force,” said Mark Schuster, vice president of finance at Lamb Weston.
McCurley, Yoke’s team up for 17th annual food drive
McCurley Integrity Dealerships in the Tri-Cities and Walla Walla, along with all Tri-City Yoke’s Fresh Markets, have teamed up for the 17th annual Octoberfest, a month-long food drive.
The McCurley dealerships will accept donated non-perishable items through the end of October.
The dealership also has a goal of raising $40,000 through automotive sales. The money will be donated in November to buy food for the food banks at a substantial savings through Yoke’s.
Yoke’s shoppers also can buy an Octoberfest $5 or $10 “food drive food bag” during their store check-out. This bag can be placed in the donation bin before leaving the store. Bags will be collected and delivered to select area food banks at the end of the drive.
Last year’s Octoberfest food drive brought the 16-year total of donated non-perishable food to nearly 800,000 pounds.
Fast-food chains abandoning no-poach clauses after probes
State Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced that eight more corporate, fast-food chains will end no-poach practices nationwide. The most recent chains join 23 other chains that have ended the practice.
Ferguson has been pushing a goal to end no-poach practices in contract, which prevent employees from taking positions within their corporate brand at other locations. He began investigations in January and continues to review a number of other corporate fast-food chains.
“My goal is to eliminate no-poach clauses nationwide to benefit workers,” Ferguson said. “No-poach provisions create a rigged system where businesses no longer have to compete for workers, putting downward pressure on wages nationwide. That’s wrong — and illegal.”
He has expanded his efforts to other industries with no-poach contract clauses operating franchises in Washington including gyms, child care, hotels, parcel services among others.
Kennewick Fred Meyer sells $270,000 winning Hit 5 ticket
The Kennewick Fred Meyer sold a winning Hit 5 lottery ticket worth $270,000.
The Kennewick winner, whose name was not released, planned to use some of the winnings to travel with her husband as well as help her daughter pay off her car.
Cold War Patriots to honor workers during Day of Remembrance
Cold War Patriots, a community resource organization that advocates for nuclear weapons and uranium worker benefits, will commemorate the 10th annual Cold War Patriots National Day of Remembrance on Oct. 30 in Richland.
Each year, the U.S. Senate passes a bipartisan resolution that designates Oct. 30 as a day to honor the contributions and sacrifices of the more than one million Americans who worked with uranium or in the nation’s nuclear weapons complex from its origins with the Manhattan Project during World War II to the present day.
At the event, workers will be able to reconnect and socialize with co-workers. Congressional and/or local dignitaries will speak. There also will be a candle-lighting ceremony to remember fallen workers. Cold War Patriots will recognize those who served by distributing 10th anniversary commemorative lapel pins to workers. The pins are recommissioned from a pin originally awarded to workers on the Manhattan Project by the Secretary of War. Men and women who worked in the nuclear weapons and uranium industry will be given a bronze pin. Silver pins will be given to workers who have experienced some level of health-related illness due to their work.
The Richland event kicks off at 9 a.m. with registration and a coffee hour reunion followed by the program at 10 a.m. at the Red Lion Hanford House at 802 George Washington Way.
For more information about the event or to RSVP to attend, call 888-903-8989 or visit coldwarpatriots.org.
Universal Realty merges with KD & Associates
Universal Realty of Hermiston merges with KD & Associates, doing business as John L. Scott Real Estate, with offices in Pasco and Walla Walla, as well Milton-Freewater and now Hermiston.
It will remain at 985 N. First St. in Hermiston, the same location of Universal Realty.
Pasco Parks and Rec offers training class for cable bridge run
The Lampson Cable Bridge Run is celebrating its 40th anniversary with its annual event planned 9 a.m. Dec. 15.
To prepare, the Pasco Parks and Recreation is offering an eight-week training program to prepare.
The class is for those 16 and older and will meet at 6 p.m. Wednesdays and 8 a.m. Saturdays, from Oct. 20 through Dec. 12 at Big Cross Disc Golf off Road 36. Cost is $45 for residents and $56 for others. By registering for the class, you will automatically be registered for the 5K.
To register, go to https://bit.ly/2PZaEp2.
HAB holds meeting in Bellevue; Hanford talk set in Hood River
Twenty members of the Hanford Advisory Board held a meeting in Bellevue in September to engage a broader audience in the discussion about nuclear cleanup.
In the rare meeting outside of the Tri-Cities, information was shared on demolition work at the Plutonium Finishing Plant, work on the Plutonium Uranium Extraction Plant Tunnels 1 and 2, Hanford’s tank waste treatment mission, as well as an overview on the Hanford regulatory agencies.
A Hanford Regional Dialogue meeting is scheduled at 6 p.m. Nov. 1 at the Hood River Inn Best Western Hotel in Hood River.
Nominations open for annual Athena awards
The Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce is accepting nominations for its Athena Leadership Award and Athena Young Professional Leadership Award.
The awards recognize those who have attained the highest level of professional excellence, devoted time to improving the quality of life for community members and actively helped other women in realizing their full potential.
A committee will review nominations and select winners. The winners must be present at the Women in Business Conference Athena Awards luncheon on Jan. 30 to receive their award.
For a nomination form, go to tricityregionalchamber.com/Athena-awards.html. The deadline is Nov. 2.
For more information, contact event director Tara Divers at 509-491-3242 or email@example.com.
BBB’s free document shred day is Oct. 19
The Better Business Bureau Northwest and Pacific is offering a free shredding event from 5 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Oct. 19 at Southridge Numerica Credit Union, 4898 W. Hildebrand Blvd., Suite 120, in Kennewick.
Shredding is limited to two boxes of personal documents.
For more information, visit trust-bbb.org/syid.
Bass fishing tournament cancels over travel costs
A major bass fishing tournament has canceled plans to come to the Tri-Cities in 2019 after backlash over the cost of travel by participants.
B.A.S.S. canceled all its western stops for the Elite Series Tournament after it received feedback that the cost of travel to the Tri-Cities was too high from other stops in the series in the Midwest and East Coast.
Cancer center invites businesses to pick up free awareness box
The Tri-Cities Cancer Center Foundation invites businesses to partner with them for breast cancer awareness throughout the month of October.
Companies in the Tri-Cities can promote breast cancer awareness by signing up to receive a free business box.
Foundation staff and volunteers can deliver the box directly to businesses. Each box includes a donation canister to collect money, pink promotional items, staked signs to designate your business and fundraising activity ideas.
In 2017, more than 50 businesses participated and raised awareness for breast cancer. Some companies gave their employees a free “jean day” for participating and some offered promotions to their customers. All of the money raised in the program benefit breast cancer patients in the community.
Exchange health insurers OK’d by insurance commissioner, board
Seven health insurers have been approved to sell plans on Washington Healthplanfinder for 2019 by Washington insurance commissioner, Mike Kreidler and the Washington Health Benefit Exchange board of directors.
The average rate increase for the insurers on the exchange is 13.8 percent, lower than the 19.8 percent that was requested for the 40 plans that will be sold.
The companies are BridgeSpan Health Co.; Coordinated Care Corp.; Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Northwest in separate areas of the state; LifeWise Health Plan of Washington; Molina Healthcare of Washington; and Premera Blue Cross.
KID receives $1 million grant for canal lining project
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has awarded a $1 million grant to complete the Kennewick Irrigation District’s canal lining project.
KID has received a WaterSMART Water and Energy Efficiency Grant for the past four funding cycles. With this year’s allocation, KID plans to install 5.6 miles of high-density polyethylene canal liner on the earthened main canals. The project is expected to result in annual water savings of 1,237 acre-feet lost to water seepage.
The grant criteria places an emphasis on conserving and using water more efficiently; increasing the production of hydropower; mitigating conflict risk in areas at a high risk of future water conflict; and accomplishing other benefits that contribute to water supply reliability.
The Bureau of Reclamation manages, develops and protects water and related resources in 17 western states.
IRS issues guidance on business deductions
The Internal Revenue Service issued guidance on Oct. 3 about business expense deductions for meals and entertainment following law changes in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, or TCJA.
The 2017 TCJA eliminated the deduction for any expenses related to activities generally considered entertainment, amusement or recreation.
Taxpayers may continue to deduct 50 percent of the cost of business meals if the taxpayer (or an employee of the taxpayer) is present and the food or beverages are not considered lavish or extravagant. The meals may be provided to a current or potential business customer, client, consultant or similar business contact.
Food and beverages that are provided during entertainment events will not be considered entertainment if purchased separately from the event.
Prior to 2018, a business could deduct up to 50 percent of entertainment expenses directly related to the active conduct of a trade or business, or, if incurred immediately before or after a bona fide business discussion, associated with the active conduct of a trade or business.
The Department of the Treasury and the IRS expect to publish proposed regulations clarifying when business meal expenses are deductible and what constitutes entertainment.
Cancer center foundation announces large donation
The Tri-Cities Cancer Center Foundation received its second largest gift in its history: a $660,283 donation.
The estate gift comes from a Richland resident who died last year.
The foundation did not release the donor’s name as it protects the identity of estate donations.
“I know she had a passion for cancer care based on other gifts she made through the estate,” said Liz McLaughlin, director of the foundation.
The woman’s estate gave nearly $30,000 to the foundation last year.
The money goes into the foundation’s general fund, which is used for the areas of greatest need at the cancer center, McLaughlin said.
An 18-member foundation board will determine the best use of the money.
McLaughlin said estate gifts “create incredible legacies for people who want to see their funds invested into important things into the future. Because of this gift we’re on target to raise almost $2 million. This would be an all-time high for the foundation.”
Last year the foundation raised $1.4 million.
Tidewater settles penalty over liquid fertilizer spill into rivers
Tidewater Barge Lines has agreed to pay a reduced fine and undertake a conservation project to settle violations for spilling nearly 40,000 gallons of urea ammonium nitrate liquid fertilizer into the Snake and Columbia rivers last year.
The common fertilizer is applied to food crops that can be corrosive to steel. An investigation by the Washington Department of Ecology found that two steel tank barges were corroded or damaged allowing liquid fertilizer to spill into the rivers across four separate incidents in April 2017. As a result, Ecology fined Tidewater Barge $18,000 in March.
Under the settlement, Tidewater will pay $2,400, as well as pay for a $9,600 conservation project on the Columbia River. The Vancouver, Washington-based company also provided Ecology a report describing the fertilizer barge maintenance and inspection programs it will be taking to avoid future releases.
Just as fertilizer supports plant growth on land, it does the same in water.
“Increasing plant and algae growth lowers the amount of dissolved oxygen in water, which can harm fish, such as the salmon species we are trying hard to recover,” said Rich Doenges, a manager in the Department of Ecology Water Quality Program. “We appreciate Tidewater’s resolution to this issue and their desire to make sure a violation of this nature doesn’t happen again.”
Conservation project funds will be used to preserve salmon habitat, natural shoreline, open space and streams at Columbia Grove and the adjoining Wood’s Landing conservation area near Vancouver. Specifically, the money will be used for planting native trees and shrubs, mulch, and invasive species removal. The project is scheduled to begin this fall and continue into winter 2019.
Regarding the April 2017 releases, Robert Curcio, Tidewater’s president and chief executive officer, commented, “Tidewater most certainly regrets the accidental releases of (urea ammonium nitrate) liquid fertilizer. The extended lock closure and colder temperatures experienced during the winter of 2017 were abnormal and required Tidewater to store UAN on barges for longer periods of time which in turn increased the potential for corrosion. In response to the releases, we have since taken additional inspection and maintenance measures to supplement our existing programs and prevent recurrence of UAN releases moving forward.”