Business Briefs — April 2019

Tri-Cities Airport celebrates new nonstop service to LAX

Tri-Cities Airport, city and county officials, and other stakeholders celebrated new nonstop flights to Los Angeles on April 1.

The event included a water cannon salute, speeches and refreshments at the Pasco airport.

The airport announced the United Airlines nonstop flights last fall.

United expanded its route network in March by launching 18 new domestic routes, including the LAX-PSC route.

The nonstop service to LAX was years in the making and the result of regional collaboration to win a federal grant and leverage matching funds to incentivize United to begin the service. 


Tri-City taxpayers get some of state’s largest tax refunds

Taxpayers in Franklin and Benton counties collect some of the biggest tax returns in the state.

The two counties ranked among the top 10 of the state’s 39 counties with the highest amount of tax refunds, according to SmartAsset, an online financial technology company.

Franklin County ranked No. 3 on the list, with the average tax amount refunded totaling $3,086, with 30,520 taxpayers receiving refunds. The average amount of taxes owed was $5,467, from 5,540 people owing taxes.

Benton County ranked No. 9, with the average tax amount refunded totaling $2,873, with 67,300 taxpayers receiving refunds. The average amount of taxes owed was $5,318, from 16,370 people owing taxes.

SmartAsset analyzed data from the IRS to determine the counties where people received the highest average refunds and the counties that owed the most on average after filing their taxes.

To determine the counties that received the highest average refunds, SmartAsset divided the total amount of money refunded by the IRS to each county by the number of refunds given out in each county. It did the same to calculate the average amount owed, by dividing the total taxes owed in each county by the number of filers who still owe taxes.


Gallo buys Hogue Cellars, other regional wineries

E. & J. Gallo Winery is the new owner of Prosser’s Hogue Cellars.

Gallo announced April 3 that it has entered into an agreement with Constellation Brands Inc. to buy more than 30 wine and spirits brands, along with six winemaking facilities in Washington, California and New York.

More than 30 brands will join the Gallo portfolio, including Clos du Bois, Black Box, Estancia, Mark West, Wild Horse, Franciscan and Ravenswood.

Also, as part of the agreement, Gallo will acquire several production facilities across the U.S. The included wineries are Hogue Cellars in Washington; Mission Bell, Turner Road Vintners, Clos du Bois and Wild Horse in California; and Canandaigua in New York.

Through acquisitions, strategic partnerships and new brand innovations, Gallo has sought to expand and diversify its portfolio across all price points to meet growing consumer demand and evolving preferences.

The transaction is subject to regulatory approval.

Founded by brothers Ernest and Julio Gallo in 1933 in Modesto, California, the company is the world’s largest family-owned winery with more than 6,500 global employees and is the producer of award-winning wines and spirits in more than 110 countries around the globe.


Cascade Natural Gas files request for rate increase

Cascade Natural Gas filed a request for a price increase with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission on April 1. The proposed increase is for $12.7 million annually over current prices, or a 5.5 percent overall increase.

If approved, the monthly bill for a residential customer would increase by an average of $2.83 a month, or about $34 annually. The request is for costs related to providing service to customers and does not include the cost of natural gas.

The main reason for the new request is to recover the investments made in infrastructure upgrades, which accounts for about 70 percent of the total request, as well as increased operation and maintenance costs.

The request comes on the heels of state regulators approving another rate increase to recover costs associated with securing natural gas supply in the wake of the October 2018 rupture of a Canadian pipeline.

The state commission approved that request March 28 to recoup an additional $48 million in costs accumulated between Nov. 1, 2018, and Jan. 31, 2019, following the rupture of the Enbridge pipeline that disrupted natural gas markets throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Under the rates approved March 28, a typical residential customer will see a bill increase of about $4.11. This increase took effect April 1.

The commission approved the company’s request on the condition that Cascade Natural Gas collect the costs over a three-year period, rather than the two-year period originally requested.


School closes as precaution after Milne ammonia leak

A Prosser fruit and vegetable processor reported an ammonia leak April 7 that prompted the temporary closure of a nearby elementary school.

Milne Fruit Products detected the leak at 6:45 a.m. in one of the plant’s tank rooms. A news release from the company said staff immediately sealed the room to contain the gas.

Milne officials said the incident at 804 Bennett Ave. was “fully resolved” by 8 p.m.

Prosser School District officials decided that night to close Keene-Riverview Elementary School the following day, April 8. The school is across the street from the Milne plant.

The elementary students went to school across town at Housel Middle School as a precaution.

“Milne’s primary concern remains the public’s safety, the safety of any children in the area, as well as the safety of our own employees,” said Michael Sorenson, Milne’s president and general manager, in a news release.

“We immediately contacted federal and state agencies as well as local fire, police and school officials, who later in the day wisely decided to move students out of an abundance of caution,” he said.

Company officials said there was no immediate release to the atmosphere until company and fire officials properly ventilated the storage facility later in the day.

“It’s unfortunate that this impacted students and teachers but it was in the best interest of everyone concerned,” Sorenson said. “Milne strives to operate the plant safely and to remain good stewards of our environment through our ongoing preventative maintenance, safety and sustainability programs.”


West Richland post office renamed to honor Marine

The West Richland post office has been renamed to honor a Marine from Richland who was killed in a cargo plane crash in Mississippi last year.

The post office at 801 W. Van Giesen St. is now named the Sergeant Dietrich Schmieman Post Office Building.

Schmieman’s family and friends, Marine Corps brothers-in-arms and local leaders honored him during a March 20 ceremony.

“It is our hope that the renamed facility will remind users not only of Dietrich, but of all those who have served under arms and given their all for our nation,” according to a statement from his parents Susan and Eric Schmieman.

Schmieman, a Hanford High graduate, served in the 2nd Raider Battalion at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, when his cargo plane crashed on July 10, 2017, killing 14 others on board. The crash was caused by a deteriorating propeller blade on the KC-130T, according to the Military Times.

Congressman Dan Newhouse proposed the bill to dedicate the post office in Schmieman’s name. It was signed into law by President Donald Trump in December.


Chamber gives top awards to businesses, individuals

The Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce announced its Business on a Roll Award winners March 27 during its annual meeting and awards luncheon in Kennewick.

Winners were Knutzen Engineering of Kennewick (10 or fewer employees), Petersen Hastings of Kennewick (11 to 50 employees) and Gravis Law of Richland (more than 50 employees).

The awards recognize businesses achieving success in 2018.

Award recipients are businesses demonstrating growth in revenue/income or employees; seeking involvement in the Tri-Cities community; and receiving recognition as a model business for others through national or industry awards.

All nominees had to be members of the chamber and could self-nominate.

Other awards handed out at the ceremony included the regional chamber’s Board of Directors S.T.A.R. award, which was presented to Paula Linnen, executive director, external affairs, Battelle/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, for her service, time, attitude and reliability.

Charles “Mort” Mortimer received the Tom Powers Ambassador of the Year award for his time spent volunteering with the regional chamber.

The Tri-Cities Cancer Center received the Community Impact Award and Washington River Protection Solutions took home the Corporate Impact Award for their support and financial contributions to the regional chamber, respectively.


Kadlec transfers operations of Prosser OB/GYN clinic

Prosser Memorial Health began operating Kadlec OB/GYN Clinic on April 1.

Dr. Brian Sollers and physician’s assistant Teresa Charvet will continue to provide care at the Prosser Women’s Health Clinic, and will be employed by Prosser Memorial Health.

Current patients of the clinic at 336 Chardonnay Ave. will receive official notification of the transition. There will be no care disruptions for patients during this process.

In addition to this transition, Prosser Memorial Health will begin an extensive remodeling project at the Prosser Clinic next door. The remodel will convert the current unused pharmacy space into exam rooms and an imaging center.

When complete, the clinic will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day offering full laboratory and X-ray services, similar to the new Grandview Clinic.


State raises minimum sales age for tobacco products

The minimum sales age of all tobacco and vapor products is now 21 years old.

Gov. Jay Inslee signed the bill into law April 5 at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. The new law takes effect Jan. 1, 2020. The bill was considered in five legislative sessions before being passed this year.

The American Lung Association in Washington said the new law will make Washington the 10th state to increase its sales age for tobacco products to 21.


West Richland library grand reopening set after remodel

The West Richland library’s grand reopening celebration after more than $306,000 in improvements is from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 27.

The opening ceremony and a ribbon cutting begins at 11 am at 3803 W. Van Giesen St.

Visitors can stop by and enter to win a new Apple iPad. There also will be music, activities and refreshments

The temporary branch, located behind the permanent branch, will be closed April 21 for Easter and April 22-26 for moving.


Coffee shop at BlankSpace closes; event venue to grow

BlankSpace announced plans to expand its Kennewick event venue into the space formerly occupied by The Local coffee shop.

BlankSpace reported on Facebook that it is tripling the size of its venue at 5453 Ridgeline Drive to include a kitchen and balcony access. Completion is set for the end of April.

The Local announced on Facebook its plans to downsize with the closure of its Southridge location, which was inside BlankSpace. It opened there in January 2017. Its last day there was March 30.

The Local at 8530 W. Gage Blvd., Suite E, in Kennewick remains open.


West Richland election ballots due by April 23

West Richland voters are being asked to consider a $12.5 million bond to build a larger police station. The special election ballots are due April 23.

The bond would add 42 cents per $1,000 of assessed value to property taxes. That means owners of a $200,000 home would pay $84 a year.

The proposed 22,500-square-foot police building would have a secure armory and evidence room and a safer lobby for visitors and staff. There also would be more space for police and parole officers, who currently work four to a desk.

Parole officers must now meet with offenders in hallways or parking lots because of lack of space at the current facility.

There also would be additional space for officer training, community meetings and an improved kennel for animal control, which community members have requested.

The location for the station isn’t set in stone, but two properties are under consideration: a 2.5-acre Bureau of Land Management-owned lot just east of Bombing Range Road off Morab Street and a privately-owned, 2.5-acre lot off Mount Adams View Drive.

Both properties are near the Benton Fire District 4 station on Bombing Range Road.


Fourth annual Taco Crawl to benefit Boys & Girls Club

Taco trucks and Mexican restaurants in downtown Pasco are participating in the fourth annual Pasco Taco Crawl to support the Boys and Girls Clubs of Benton and Franklin Counties. 

Customers can buy $25 booklets containing vouchers good for one taco from each of the 20 participating establishments, valid from April 19 through May 4.

They also can vote for the best taco. Voting closes May 3. The winner will be announced at the Downtown Pasco Development Authority’s Cinco de Mayo Festival on May 4.

Nearly 2,000 people ate their way through downtown Pasco in previous events, devouring more than 22,000 tacos while raising more than $20,000 for the Boys and Girls Clubs.

To buy booklets or more information, Go to PascoTacoCrawl.com.


Career Fair set for April 30 in Prosser at high school

Prosser Economic Development Association and the Prosser School District are joining forces to host a career fair on April 30 at high school’s main gym, 1203 Prosser Ave. 

This free event will be available for students from 1 to 3 p.m. and open to the public from 3 to 5 p.m.

The focus of the career fair is to educate students and the public about the potential employment options available in or near Prosser to all skill levels. Key employers will have booths to demonstrate their prospects, products and services.

To learn more about the event or how to participate, call 509-786-3600 or email economicdevelopment@prosser.org.


Moak seeks another term for port commission spot

Port of Kennewick Commissioner Thomas Moak has announced he seeks a second six-year term on the port commission.

Moak said he wants to follow through and complete the Columbia Gardens Wine and Artisan Village, create new opportunities on Clover Island and a Columbia Basin College culinary school, intensify the progress at Vista Field and develop the former Tri-City Raceway in West Richland to enhance the Red Mountain wine region.

Moak has lived in the Tri-Cities since 1979, and has been a librarian and manager for Mid-Columbia Libraries since that time. He currently is manager of the West Richland branch.

He served one session in the state House of Representatives and 12 years on the Kennewick City Council. He serves on the boards of the Kennewick Housing Authority and the Historic Downtown Kennewick Partnership. He is a past Kennewick Man of the Year.


New law makes corrections to state paid leave program

A new law makes several technical corrections to the new Paid Family and Medical Leave program and clarifies a key provision related to supplementing wages while an employee is out on leave.

The bill was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee on April 3.

The state Employment Security Department operates the program.

When benefits become available in January 2020, Paid Family and Medical Leave will provide partial wage replacement to all eligible state workers for leave to bond with a new child coming into the home through birth, adoption or foster placement, to care for themselves or a family member during a serious illness or injury, and for certain military-related events.

This statewide insurance program is funded by a small premium shared by both employees and employers. Employers began collecting premiums Jan. 1.

Under the original law, employers would not be allowed to supplement the pay of an employee out on Paid Family and Medical Leave with other forms of paid leave, including vacation or sick leave. The new law changes this, essentially allowing employees the option to top-off their Paid Family and Medical Leave benefit with company-provided paid leave. This is in alignment with other states’ policies and was supported by stakeholders representing the interests of both employers and employees.

The bill also makes some technical corrections to the law, including clarifications related to employer-run voluntary plans, appeal rights for employees covered by a voluntary plan, disclosure and privacy provisions, and some definitions within the law, and employees in this state.”

More information about the program can be found at paidleave.wa.gov.

The Office of the Paid Family and Medical Leave Ombuds recently launched its new website with information about services and resources for workers and employers who need help resolving issues with the Employment Security Department and the Paid Family and Medical Leave program at: paidleaveombuds.wa.gov.


Digital Marketing Summit date announced

The Crush Inland NW Digital Marketing Summit will be Oct. 11 at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick and is seeking speakers.

Digital Crush is a one-day conference for digital marketers and business professionals looking to grow their digital marketing skills.

Speakers applications can be found at thedigitalcrush.com.

Tickets to the conference will go on sale later this year. Follow Digital Crush on Facebook for updates.


State tax requirements alter for out-of-state businesses

Gov. Jay Inslee has signed a bill that simplifies Washington tax responsibilities for out-of-state sellers without a physical presence in the state.

The new law immediately removes the requirement for out-of-state businesses without a physical presence to collect and remit Washington sales tax if they make 200 or more transactions into Washington. Businesses will use $100,000 in sales to Washington as the primary threshold for collecting.

Beginning July 1, the bill eliminates the notice and reporting requirements established in the state’s 2018 Marketplace Fairness law.

On Jan. 1, 2020, the economic nexus threshold for business and occupation tax will match the retail sales tax threshold of $100,000. The threshold for retail sales tax and B&O tax will be calculated using all gross income, not just retail sales.

The bill also eliminates click-through nexus and most import commerce exemptions.

The Marketplace Fairness law went into effect Jan. 1, 2018.

Washington businesses that make sales into other states should be aware that they may now be required to register and collect sales tax in those states for items shipped outside Washington.

Check taxadmin.org or streamlinedsalestax.org for information about tax collection and registration requirements in other states.


Kennewick school chief announces retirement

Kennewick School District Superintendent Dave Bond has announced his plans to retire at the end of the 2019-20 school year.

Bond has led the school district since 2008. He began working in Kennewick in 2001, holding other administrative positions before becoming superintendent, including assistant superintendent for secondary education from 2006-08, and principal of Kamiakin High School from 2001-06.

The district has outlined plans to start the search for a deputy successor superintendent immediately. The person selected will work alongside Bond for the 2019-20 school year until he retires.

The school board has hired Northwest Leadership Associates, a school leader recruitment firm, to recruit, screen and guide the district through the interview and hiring process.

The public is invited to provide input about the qualities and characteristics they would like to see in the next superintendent through a survey at: http://bit.ly/kennewicksupsurvey.

The application deadline is May 10, with a hiring decision expected to be announced by early June.


CBC launches new teacher education degree program

After nearly four years of work and dozens of requests, Columbia Basin College is rolling out a degree to help school districts hire qualified teachers.

The new bachelor of applied science in teacher education: residency teacher preparation program, with early childhood education endorsement, kicks off with 20 spots and is designed for students who finished their associate of applied science degree in early childhood education at CBC.

When finished, the students will be qualified to teach pre-kindergarten through third grade. That covers a broad swath of jobs which can range in pay between $13.78 an hour and $23.35 an hour in Washington, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

The first half of the program is designed to allow students to continue working during the day while they take classes at night. Then, for the second half of the program, students will move into classrooms, where they will start student teaching.

CBC plans to expand the program by summer 2020 by offering an option for part-time students.

More information, visit columbiabasin.edu/teachered or call Daphne Larios at 509-542-4562.


Visit Tri-Cities releases 2019 visitor guide

Visit Tri-Cities has released the latest edition of the Tri-Cities Visitor Guide.

The 2019 issue features the local wine industry, STEM attractions, family activities, outdoor recreation, taco crawls and other things to do in the Tri-Cities.

To get a free copy, call 509-735-8486 or stop by the visitor center at 7130 W. Grandridge Blvd., Suite B, in Kennewick. The guide also is available online at VisitTri-Cities.com.

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