Business Briefs — October 2019

Connect Tri-Cities returns on Oct. 22

Connect Tri-Cities will bring job seekers, employers, educators, labor, tribes, veterans and industry leaders together during this year’s Connect Tri-Cities event on Oct. 22.

Connect Tri-Cities offers visitors an opportunity to engage with the Tri-City community, Hanford contractors, small businesses and youth.

One of the highlights is the STEM Scholarship Competition for high school students, featuring 17 teams. Teams of five students and a faculty advisor from local high schools will put their STEM skills to the test in this challenge.

The top five teams compete Oct. 21 for $20,000 in scholarships. Winners will be announced Oct. 22.

Connect Tri-Cities also will feature an all-day opportunity fair Oct. 22. Community employers, including Hanford contractors, organized labor unions, manufacturers, national laboratories, colleges and universities, and more, will be present.

On-site résumé review and interview preparation also will be available.

A sold-out veterans luncheon will feature retired Gen. James Mattis, the 26th U.S. Secretary of Defense.

Connect Tri-Cities will offer breakout sessions focused on science, technology, engineering and math topics, with live demonstrations featuring scientist Kevin Delaney and Hanford laboratory contractor Veolia, as well as digital media influencer Lance Frisbee and YouTuber Sally LePage.

Attendees also can meet with colleges and universities from across the Northwest and listen to speakers, such as local executive coach Semi Bird and nationally-renowned speaker Edward DeJesus. Presentations geared toward veterans and focused on the next generation Hanford workforce also are on the schedule.

Connect Tri-Cities is sponsored by Hanford contractor Mission Support Alliance and its corporate partners Leidos and Centerra Group.

More information and a detailed schedule of events can be found at connect-tricities.com.


Small business resources workshop coming to Pasco

Learn more about state regulations, compliance issues, paid family and medical leave tax responsibilities and how to avoid paying penalties at an upcoming workshop.

Business-friendly representatives from the state departments of revenue, employment security, labor and industries, and the Governor’s Office of Regulatory Innovation and Assistance have teamed up to offer information to businesses.

Learn about regulation updates; programs and services; a one-stop website; and best practices and tips for success at the free workshop.

The class is from 9:30 a.m. to noon Oct. 24 at the Red Lion Hotel & Conference Center, 2525 N 20th Ave., Pasco.

Register online at http://bit.ly/smallbizclass. Class size is limited.


Airport reports record number of summer travelers

The Tri-Cities Airport in Pasco recorded 119,894 outbound passengers during the summer months of June, July and August—an 11 percent increase above the previous summer’s figures.

The trend sets up the airport to finish the year with another record number of travelers.

Airlines count their passengers in terms of enplanements, or the number of people who board an aircraft at an airport. With 286,537 enplaned passengers this year so far, PSC is up 13 percent over 2018.

All four airlines that serve Pasco have shown growth this year.

United Airlines currently leads the pack with a 32-percent increase, as the airline added a third daily flight to Denver last year and began new nonstop service to Los Angeles this spring.

Delta Airlines served the largest number of travelers in Tri-Cities, with 55,199 enplaned passengers in the summer months, and is up 16.3 percent this summer over last.

Alaska Airlines, which flies six times each day to Seattle, is up 9 percent over 2018, and Allegiant Airlines’ move to an all-Airbus fleet allowed the airline to grow 13 percent more than last year.

A total of 785,164 people traveled through the airport in 2018—the best year on record.


Local businesses named finalists for BBB Torch Awards

Two Tri-City businesses were named finalists in the Better Business Bureau Northwest and Pacific’s 2019 Torch Award for Ethics contest.

The award honors organizations demonstrating exceptional commitment to building trust and integrity with their customers, fellow business owners and communities.

This year, nearly 300 businesses and charities were nominated.

Torch Award finalists from the Tri-Cities included Frost Me Sweet of Richland and Campbell & Company of Pasco.

All Travel Guru of Post Falls, Idaho, and Precision Tax Relief of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, were both named Business of the Year.

Additionally, BBB added a new honor this year, the Spark Award, to recognize newer businesses that exhibit the Torch Award values of ethics, integrity and building trust among staff, customers and around their communities. This year’s Spark winners were Arrottas Automax and New Beginnings LLC, both of Spokane.


Pick up your playground pickets before Oct. 30

The deadline to claim the pickets from the original Playground of Dreams is approaching.

Pickets are available for pickup at the Southridge Sports and Events Complex, 2901 Southridge Blvd., during business hours through Oct. 30.

There are 1,423 pickets engraved with names of donors who helped fund the 2004 playground rebuild after the original structure was destroyed by fire. They were removed by volunteers in 2018 in preparation of the playground rebuild.

For more information, contact Brandon Lange at 509-585-4279 or brandon.lange@ci.kennewick.wa.us.

Additional information is also available at go2kennewick.com/1245/Claim-Your-Picket.


Pasco swears in new police chief

After conducting a nationwide search for a police chief, the city of Pasco promoted one of its own.

Ken Roske was sworn in Oct. 7.

His selection is the first time in more than half a century that an internal candidate has been named chief. Nearly 20 candidates from across the nation applied for the job.

Roske has a 33-year career in law enforcement, serving in progressively responsible leadership positions. He began his career as a Pasco officer in 1986. He was promoted to sergeant in 1998, captain in 2004 and deputy chief in 2017.

Outside of the department, Roske has served in several key leadership positions, including seven years as Tri-Cities Regional SWAT incident commander, state president of Fraternal Order of Police and chairman of the Columbia Basin College Law Enforcement Advisory Committee.  

Roske holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice management and a master’s in organizational leadership, both from the Union Institute and University. He is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy.

Sunnyside Chief Al Escalera was a runner-up for the job.

The city hired the Prothman Co., an executive recruitment company, for the recruitment effort. The process included interview panels with several community members, third-party background checks by Public Safety Testing and multiple interviews with the city manager.


PNNL joins team to create new artificial intelligence research center

Scientists from U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, DOE’s Sandia National Laboratories and the Georgia Institute of Technology will collaborate on solutions to some of the most challenging problems in artificial intelligence today, thanks to $5.5 million in funding from DOE.

They’re partners in a new research center, known as the Center for ARtificial Intelligence-focused ARchitectures and Algorithms, or ARIAA. Funded by DOE’s Office of Science, it will promote collaboration between scientists at the three organizations as they develop core technologies important for the application of AI to DOE mission priorities, such as cybersecurity and electric grid resilience.

PNNL senior research scientist Roberto Gioiosa will be the center’s director and will lead the overall vision, strategy and research direction. Siva Rajamanickam from Sandia and Professor Tushar Krishna from Georgia Tech will serve as deputy directors.

The center will explore how AI and machine learning can support four areas that touch virtually everyone: the power grid, cybersecurity, graph analytics and computational chemistry. Those disciplines touch upon how new medicines are created, how to keep one’s online identity safe, how to analyze masses of information, and how to keep the electric grid humming despite multiple challenges.

A focus of the center is to develop algorithms and architectures that can be used and applied in a variety of different systems, both today’s as well as systems to be created in the future.


Finley’s Green2Go passes vaping product testing

Finley’s Green2Go, a recreational cannabis shop, has passed a supplementary round of product testing conducted by the OK Cannabis Program.

The program is a randomized, end-product testing program for the Washington state cannabis industry.

Due to the recent increase in health risks connected to vaping products, OK Cannabis decided to conduct extra testing in September.

More than 50 brands of vape cartridges from the Green2Go shelves, as well other shops, were tested for Vitamin E acetate.

OK Cannabis determined that all of the randomly selected products tested OK. The program also commended the participating vendors for their integrity and transparency throughout the testing process.

Vitamin E acetate, a synthetic vitamin supplement, has been linked to 55 percent of the cannabis vape products tested by the Food and Drug Administration in connection with the lung disease outbreak. However, the FDA does warn that no one device or product has been linked to all cases. 


John L. Scott merges Pasco, Kennewick offices

John L. Scott Real Estate has merged its Pasco and Kennewick offices.

“Since we opened the Pasco office in 2010, we have developed a regional footprint serving the real estate needs of Benton, Franklin and Walla Walla counties, as well as Umatilla and Morrow County, Oregon,” said Dennis Gisi, owner of the John L. Scott Tri-Cities Pasco franchise.

The franchise has offices in Milton-Freewater and Hermiston, Oregon, as well as Walla Walla and Pasco.

“The addition of the Kennewick team just makes us stronger and more effective in serving the real estate needs in the communities we are located. We gain a lot of synergy in marketing, the use of technology, and most importantly experience with the addition of the agents,” Gisi said.

Terry Parrish Sr. and Randy Blumer from the Kennewick office became business partners in 1986 with the establishment of Pyramid Real Estate, originally as a Century 21 franchise and later a John L. Scott franchise in 2006.

In addition to Parrish and Blumer, those joining the Pasco office are: Rhonda Alberts, Jason Huffman, Scott Saltz and Vonetta Wolleat.

The Kennewick office closed last month to search for a new location, Gisi said.

“The community has been very good to us over the years and we do not want to be absent for too long,” he said.

In the meantime, the office phone numbers, websites and other contact information remain the same and will be forwarded to the Pasco office to make the transition as seamless as possible for clients, Gisi said.

The Pasco office is at 5109 N. Road 68 in suite E. The office can be reached at 509-547 5542. The email addresses and agent cellphone numbers remain the same.

Founded in 1931 in downtown Seattle, John L. Scott is headquartered in Bellevue. It has more than 110 offices with more than 3,000 brokers in Washington, Oregon, California and Idaho.


Learn more about Hanford cleanup at livestream event

Benton County residents are receiving among the highest annual Social Security payments in the state.

Find out more about Hanford cleanup by joining Tri-Party Agreement agencies from 7- 9 p.m. Nov. 7 for Hanford Live, an online conversation with managers from the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Ecology.

The livestream will start with a brief overview from each agency on Hanford’s past, present and future, followed by a facilitated question-and-answer session.

Anyone interested in learning more is encouraged to participate in the online conversation. The goal is to provide an opportunity for communication between Hanford leadership and the public regarding the environmental cleanup.

 To receive the livestream link, register at https://HanfordLive2019.eventbrite.com.

To submit questions or for more information, email HanfordLive@rl.gov.


Commerce announces rural infrastructure grants

Two small communities about an hour outside the Tri-Cities have landed state Department of Commerce Community Development Block Grants.

The state distributed more than $10.5 million in grants for 2019 that include 27 projects selected from 41 applications requesting more than $20 million.

The projects receiving funding will improve water and sewer systems, streets, community facilities and fire protection systems and also support affordable housing projects and community planning.

The city of Kahlotus received $680,000 for well and water distribution improvements.

The city of Mabton received $750,000 for drilling and equipping water supply well No. 7.


Cascade Natural Gas proposes rate increase

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission has reached a settlement agreement with Cascade Natural Gas on its request to raise rates.

The agreement filed Sept. 20 outlines a plan that would increase Cascade’s natural gas annual revenues by $6.5 million, or 2.8 percent, instead of by the company’s requested $12.7 million, or 5.6 percent.

If the settlement is approved by the three-member commission, the average residential customer would pay $1.45 more a month, for an average monthly bill of $47.46. These changes would take effect March 1.

Per the settlement agreement, Cascade would also be authorized to earn a 7.2 percent overall rate of return, instead of the 7.7 percent rate of return the company originally requested.

The UTC, which is not bound by the company’s request or the settlement agreement, will make a final decision on the utility’s request this fall.

The commission received 13 public comments through Sept. 20 on Cascade’s rate increase proposal, all of them opposed.

Customers who want to comment on the proposed plans can submit comments online at utc.wa.gov/comments; write to P.O. Box 47250, Olympia, WA, 98504; email comments@utc.wa.gov; or call toll-free 1-888-333-9882.

In March, Cascade filed a general rate case with the commission requesting a $12.7 million, or 5.6 percent increase.

Cascade’s last general rate increase was in 2018.

Kennewick-based Cascade Natural Gas Corporation serves almost 220,000 residential and business customers in 68 communities throughout the state, including Kennewick, Walla Walla, Moses Lake, Wenatchee and Yakima.


Desert Fiber Arts Guild to hold show and sale

Members of the Desert Fiber Arts Guild have worked all year to create a variety of items, from handwoven rugs and blankets, to fine hand-knit lace shawls and delicate tatted jewelry, to showcase during their Fall Fiber Arts Show and Sale.

Daily fiber arts exhibitions will be a highlight of the event. See how modern spinners make their handspun yarns.

Shoppers also can enjoy a large selection of goods for sale, including shawls, wraps, scarves, mittens, caps, rugs, blankets, towels, tatted jewelry and more.

The annual event will be held Thursday through Saturday, Nov. 7-9 in Kennewick.

Hours are 6:30-8 p.m. Nov. 7; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 8; and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 9.

The show and sale will be at Badger Mountain Yarns’ new location in Kennewick. The yarn shop shares space with Art on the Columbia, a fine art supply store at 830 Columbia Center Blvd., below the Sprint store near Lowe’s.

For more information, go to DesertFiberArts.org or find on Facebook.


Teens sought for free radio journalism workshop

Do you know a teen with a story to tell? They can spend a weekend with professional journalists learning how to make a nonfiction radio story from start to finish.

Participants will learn how to use audio recording gear, conduct interviews, write a script, edit audio and speak on air. This free workshop is for teens ages 16-18. No previous journalism experience necessary.

The two-day workshop is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 16-17 at Washington State University Tri-Cities in Richland.

Apply by Nov. 3 at http://bit.ly/radiorichland.


Pac/West Communications opens Hermiston office

Pac/West Communications is expanding its reach and investment in the Columbia Basin with the opening of an office in Hermiston. The office will serve clients in eastern Oregon and Washington.

The company has a long history of work in the area, including running successful election campaigns, developing communications strategies and lobbying for rural issues and initiatives. The office is in the Columbia Professional Building at 1050 W. Elm Ave. and will act as the company’s regional base of operations.

“The Columbia Basin is a powerhouse of innovation, growth and development in the Pacific Northwest. We’re eager to enhance and promote that work,” said Pac/West Communications President Paul Phillips in a news release.

Pac/West will staff the Hermiston office with two local professionals who have firsthand knowledge of the region and its issues.

For the last 10 years, Phillip Scheuers has worked on government affairs and economic development, specifically in Eastern Oregon. Before joining Pac/West, he served as a legislative assistant in the Oregon Legislature, focusing much of his time on the ways and means and capital construction. He also has significant experience in economic development programs, including business incentives and industrial land development for both public and private entities.

Daniel Wattenburger, previously an editor at the East Oregonian newspaper for more than a decade, specializes in communication and has reported extensively on rural Oregon politics, economy, natural resources, education and health care. He offers insight on media relations and delivering effective messaging campaigns across multiple channels.

Pac/West services include lobbying, political consulting, campaigning, issues management, branding, marketing, public relations, website development, crisis communications and association management. The company also has offices in Wilsonville and Denver.


O’Reilly Auto Parts to build store in Prosser

O’Reilly Auto Parts plans to build a new store on Wine Country Road in Prosser, but a timeline for when it’ll open hasn’t been determined yet.

Eric Bird, external reporting and planning manager for O’Reilly’s corporate office in Springfield, Missouri, confirmed the new store will be at 361 Wine Country Road.

The building will cost $1.4 million, but Bird said he had no other information about the project. “It’s pretty early in the process,” he said. “We’ve approved plans on it.”

But there is no preliminary date for when construction will begin, Bird said. “My guess is this is going to be late next year when it opens,” he said.

O’Reilly Auto Parts has 5,344 stores in 47 states, with 81,000 employees.

There are 157 O’Reilly Auto Parts stores in the state, including two each in Kennewick and Pasco, one each in Richland, Walla Walla, Grandview and Sunnyside.


Musser Bros. to auction port’s surplus property

The Port of Kennewick will auction four surplus commercial properties in south Kennewick next month.

The available land is located near the intersection of Interstate 82 and Highway 395 and the new Bob Olson Parkway; and adjacent to Trios Hospital and the Southridge Sports complex.

The parcels are zoned community commercial and range in size from 1.34 acres to 2.69 acres, totaling 8.5 acres.

The port said the land offers “outstanding opportunities” for medical, residential, restaurant, hotel, entertainment and retail development.

Musser Bros. will conduct the live auction starting at 11 a.m. Nov. 15 at its auction facility at 3125 Rickenbacker Drive in Pasco.


Lourdes Occupational Health relocates east Pasco clinic

Lourdes Occupational Health has moved its east Pasco clinic to Grandridge Boulevard in Kennewick, near the Three Rivers Convention Center.

The Occupational Health Clinic is now sharing space with Trios Urgent Care and Trios After-Hours Pediatrics clinic.

Lourdes operates two occupational health clinics—one in west Pasco on Sandifur Parkway and the newly relocated clinic at 7201 Grandridge Blvd. in Kennewick.

Both clinics will be open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday to assist employers with pre-employment requirements, injury claims, safety education and more. 

This move marks the first time Lourdes and Trios will share clinic space.

Both Lourdes Health and Trios Health became members of the for-profit LifePoint Health in 2018. Together, Lourdes and Trios employ about 2,000 people and work with nearly 300 health care providers.


Grant County Airport lands $9.9M grant

The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake a $9.9 million grant for runway and runway lighting reconstruction.

The amount is based on the airport’s master improvement plan, which was submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration.

“Operations at the Grant County International Airport support both commercial and military users, serving as a key facility for test flights and air traffic control,” said Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Washington, in a statement. “This grant is a substantial federal investment that will allow the Port of Moses Lake to continue their efforts to improve one of the largest airfields in the United States.”

In 2018, Newhouse included language in the FAA Reauthorization Act to prohibit the FAA from realigning or consolidating the terminal radar approach control system at the airport was exempt from consolidation, due to its military operation activity.


State cracks Kiplinger’s top 10 list for tax-friendly states

Kiplinger ranked Washington state No. 6 on its list of best states for taxes.

The list was revealed as part of Kiplinger’s seventh annual Tax Map—available at Kiplinger.com/links/taxmap—which shows state income taxes, sales taxes, gas taxes, “sin” taxes (for products such as alcohol and tobacco) and other tax rules and exemptions across the country.

Washington makes the list of the most tax-friendly states because it doesn’t have an income tax, Kiplinger said. But some of the other state and local taxes in the Evergreen State aren’t quite so taxpayer friendly, it noted.

The Tax Foundation’s average combined state and local sales tax rate for Washington is the third-highest in the country. The state’s gasoline tax is the fourth-highest in the nation. At 19.4 percent, Washington also has the third-highest average state and local cellphone wireless service tax in the U.S.

Washington is also one of a handful of states with an estate tax. For 2019, it’s imposed on estates worth more than $2,193,000. The estate tax rates range from 10 percent to 20 percent.

Property taxes in Washington are more modest. For a $400,000 home, the average tax bill in the state will run about $4,499 per year, which is close to the national average.

To create the rankings, Kiplinger evaluated data and state policies from a wide range of sources on taxes on income, property, sales, fuel, tobacco, alcohol, wireless services, and inheritances and gifts.

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