Business Briefs — July 2019

Retiring Richland schools chief hired on for next year

The Richland School Board determined that “it is in the best interests of our schools that Superintendent Dr. Rick Schulte continue leading our district during the 2019-20 school year.”

Board members approved a one-year extension of his contract during the June 25 board meeting.

He had planned to retire at the end of the 2018-19 school year and hand the reins over to Deputy Superintendent Nicole MacTavish this summer.

The board had selected her to be Schulte’s successor in April 2017.

MacTavish completed the Urban Superintendent Academy program offered through AASA, the school superintendents association, last year.

The district provided no other details about the leadership change.


Free tax workshop offered in Kennewick on July 18

The state Department of Revenue is offering a free workshop for new and small business owners July 18 in Kennewick.

Participants will learn about Washington excise taxes, reporting classifications, deductions, tax incentives, sales tax collection and record-keeping requirements.

Attendees receive a workbook and reference guide to the state’s rules and regulations. Also, attendees may earn continuing professional education credits.

The workshop is from 9 a.m. to noon at the Labor and Industries building in the second-floor conference room at 4310 W. 24th Ave.

To register, call 509-987-1201 or go to the education page at dor.wa.gov.

Business owners can also watch a short streaming video version of the workshop online.


Tri-Cities Airport among busiest small airports

The Tri-Cities Airport in Pasco has been named one of North America’s busiest small airports for 2019.

With 518,405 scheduled seats in the last 12 months (June 2018 to May 2019), Pasco is the eighth-busiest small airport on the continent, according to global aviation database Official Aviation Guide

The database categorizes an airport as “small” if it has more than 10,000 departing seats annually but less than 0.05 percent of scheduled departing seat capacity in North America. There are 543 such airports in the continent’s aviation system, and Pasco is one of the 10 busiest.

Tri-Cities Airport has an average of 20 daily flights to Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Phoenix-Mesa, Salt Lake City, San Francisco and Seattle.

The airport’s available seats will rise this summer as Delta begins a fourth nonstop flight to Minneapolis-St. Paul and serves Salt Lake City on a larger plane. Increased seasonal service from Allegiant Airlines also will provide more availability to Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix.

The top five busiest small airports are Hector International Airport in Fargo, North Dakota; Akron-Canton Airport, Cleveland, Ohio; Key West International Airport, Key West, Florida; Billing Logan International, Billings, Montana; and Rick Husband Amarillo International, in Amarillo, Texas. Of the top 10, only one non-US airport made the list: Yellowknife Airport, in Canada’s Northwest Territories.


State issues fines for environmental violations

The Washington Department of Ecology issued $210,100 in penalties of $1,000 or more from January through March 2019. A detailed list of the violations and resulting penalties was released in June.

Sun Pacific Energy of Burbank received a $1,700 fine for violating underground storage tank regulations related to fuel storage and operations, installing new tanks without notifying Ecology and receiving fuel illegally for the past year, without pollution liability insurance or tank endorsements. The company paid $800 under settlement of penalty appeal.

Bleyhl Farm Service Inc. of Sunnyside received a $1,000 fine for failing to comply with underground storage tank requirements for operator training, emergency response signage, leak detection and closure requirements at its Eastway Drive fueling station. The company also received a $1,500 fine for failing to comply with underground storage tank requirements for operator training, emergency response signage, leak detection and closure requirements at its Lincoln Street fueling station. Both penalties were paid.           

Penalties are issued in cases where non-compliance continues after Ecology has provided technical assistance or warnings, or for particularly serious violations.

The money owed from penalties may be reduced from the issued amount due to settlement or court rulings. Funds collected go to the state’s general fund or to dedicated pollution prevention accounts.


KID recommends voluntary residential water rationing

The Kennewick Irrigation District is recommending residential customers voluntarily ration their water usage.

The request comes after KID received the July water supply forecast from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for Yakima River pro-ratable users.

The water supply has decreased to 67 percent. If weather patterns do not improve, it is anticipated conditions will worsen. The Bureau of Reclamation’s forecast is based on water flows, precipitation, snowpack and reservoir storage as of July 1, along with estimates of future precipitation and river flows.

KID released a chart based on the last digit of homeowners’ address and suggested a watering schedule for up to 30 minutes per zone to cultivate a deeper root system and help lawns become more drought resistant.

For more water wise tips, go to kid.org.


WSU Tri-Cities welcomes  first medical students

Washington State University Tri-Cities welcomed its inaugural class of the Tri-Cities cohort of the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine on June 17.

The Tri-Cities cohort of medical students spent their past two years studying full time at the WSU Spokane campus, with several trips to the Tri-Cities for clinical campus weeks where they participated in seminars and worked with local physicians.

For their final two years in the program, they are studying full time in the Tri-Cities where they will complete classes and clinical rotations with local health care organizations.

Throughout their time in the Tri-Cities, the students’ clinical experiences focus on six core disciplines, which include family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, OB/GYN, general surgery and psychiatry, with additional content in neurology.


Tri-Cities Community Health to give exchange support

Tri-Cities Community Health has been selected to provide in-person support in Benton and Franklin counties for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange in 2020.

The exchange announced the chosen vendors July 1.

The vendors will oversee the free in-person assistance available to Washington Healthplanfinder customers signing up for health and dental insurance plans for 2020.

Public health agencies, regional health networks and community organizations were selected across the state for the upcoming open enrollment period.


Lamb Weston plans $3.5M Richland research facility

Lamb Weston has plans to complete a $3.5 million research facility in Richland by this fall.

The 13,500-square-foot building will consist of nine bays at 1933 Hagen Road.

The building will be used to research best practices for potato storage.

The anticipated construction completion date is Sept. 30.

Fisher Construction Group of Burlington, Washington, is the general contractor.

The new research facility is adjacent to the potato processor’s $200 million 250,000-square-foot expansion two years ago on its Richland campus that boosted output capacity by about 300 million pounds of frozen french fries annually.

Lamb Weston is one of the largest employers in the Columbia River Basin. In the Tri-Cities, the company operates a corporate office in Kennewick, two manufacturing facilities in Pasco and an Innovation Center and Tech Center on the Richland campus.

The company continues to grow. It announced in June that it has entered into an agreement to acquire Ready Meals Pty Ltd., a frozen potato processor in Australia.

Terms were not disclosed.

Ready Meals sells frozen potato products under the Harvest Choice brand and operates frozen potato processing and storage facilities in Hallam, Victoria.

“The acquisition complements our presence in Australia, providing us additional avenues to increase our position in Australia’s 1.1 billion-pound market,” said Tom Werner, Lamb Weston’s president and chief executive officer.

The Ready Meals facility adds about 70 million pounds of production capacity to Lamb Weston’s existing global manufacturing network.

Upon completion of the transaction, Lamb Weston will own and operate 18 processing facilities worldwide, and an additional eight facilities in conjunction with its joint venture partners.


New gas station being built in Pasco near Lewis Street

A new gas station is under construction in east Pasco, a few blocks east of the Lewis Street underpass.

The fuel station at 110 S. Elm Ave. will include a convenience store.

It is owned by Shiva Financial, a limited liability corporation that also owns the Pik-A-Pop at 1502 N. Fourth Ave. in Pasco.

One of the contractors employed on the project is TopTier Petroleum of Medical Lake.

The project is valued at $1.1 million.


Walla Walla winery plans new production facility

Walla Walla’s Abeja winery is building a new production facility with an underground barrel cave that will consolidate winemaking operations at its 38-acre estate on Mill Creek Road.

The new winery is designed to complement the property’s pastoral setting and is scheduled for completion the summer of 2020.

Abeja’s winemaking operations are based in the Big Barn, a century-old farm building that anchors the property that was converted to a winery in early 2004. A portion of wine is barrel aged there and the remaining barrels are stored at various locations on site. The new winery will allow for central barrel storage to improve winemaking efficiency and the facility’s underground design will boost energy efficiency.

Head winemaker Daniel Wampfler, who shares winemaking responsibilities with his wife Amy Alvarez-Wampfler, began working with Abeja’s facility manager Jacob Coburn on the new design shortly after the couple arrived at Abeja in early 2016.

In addition to underground barrel storage, the new building will feature two new barrel rooms, each with its own heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, as well as fermentation tanks that can be heated and cooled individually. It also will include office space, a wet chemistry lab, sensory lab and an open area to move the crush pad indoors at the winemaker’s discretion.

Ketelsen Construction of Walla Walla is the general contractor.


Porter’s plans third barbecue eatery in Pasco

Construction is underway on Porter’s Real Barbecue’s third restaurant – this time in Pasco.

It’ll be in the Sandifur Crossing shopping center at 5710 N. Road 68.

Grocery Outlet, Dollar Tree and Planet Fitness are anchor tenants in the shopping area. Also opening soon will be Pasco’s first The Kabob House and Wendy’s, according to Yakima-based Hogback Development Co., which built and developed the plaza.

Porter’s made the announcement on its Facebook page, noting the expansion comes less than five years after brothers Porter and Reed Kinney rolled out their renovated 1977 Dodge RV from Porter’s driveway and kicked off their mission to serve up tasty barbecue.

“We’ve been given so much love and support from you all and we don’t take any of it for granted. It’s a dream come true for us to have restaurants in Richland, Kennewick, and now Pasco,” the company wrote on its Facebook page.

Food Network star Guy Fieri featured the barbecue joint on “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” earlier this year.

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