Business Briefs – March 2020

AAA reports gas prices tumbling amid market uncertainty

The national average for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline has decreased by three cents to $2.32 in mid-March.

The Tri-Cities’ average was $2.71 a gallon, which is lower than the statewide average of $3.05 a gallon, according to AAA.

The market plunge is in response to a lack of agreement between Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and non-OPEC countries to cut production. The trend of pump prices facing downward pressure is likely to continue through the end of the winter driving season if crude oil remains cheap, especially amid concerns about the coronavirus, AAA reported on March 9.

Fire district lands grant to improve volunteer program

Benton Fire District 4 has implemented changes in its volunteer program to make it more welcoming and accommodating for busy work and family lives.

The fire department based in West Richland relies on career and volunteer emergency personnel to respond to an average of 1,600 emergency calls a year.

Last year, the district received a grant from the International Association of Fire Chiefs and the University of Oklahoma to participate in research that was being conducted across the nation to improve diversity and retention of volunteers. Researchers interviewed more than half of current career and volunteer personnel at the district; conducted online surveys; and provided a report at no cost to the fire district. The report outlined areas where small changes could support attracting diverse community volunteers, providing an inclusive environment and improving retention.

The department has implemented changes to the recruiting process that makes the application easier to fill out and streamlines the turnaround time.

“One of the most valuable changes we’ve made is to restructure the program to meet volunteers’ needs,” said Capt. Bob Shannon. “Now they can train as a firefighter, or just to respond to medical calls. We also have an active support services division that helps with tasks around the fire station and supports emergency personnel during significant incidents so there’s a role for everyone interested in serving.”

Shannon volunteered for the fire district for 10 years before accepting a full-time position. He’s now the volunteer recruit coordinator for the district.

For more information on volunteering, contact Shannon at or 509-967-2945 or go to to download a volunteer application.

Ag industry sponsors charity golf tournament

Registration and sponsorships are open for the seventh annual Ag World Golf Classic benefiting Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Inland Northwest.

The 2020 tournaments will be June 2 at Canyon Lakes Golf Course in Kennewick and June 4 at The Links at Moses Pointe in Moses Lake.

The 2019 program raised more than $101,000 for Ronald McDonald House Charities.

The program is hosted by JR Simplot, Lamb Weston, McCain Foods, Potato Growers of Washington and Ag World Support Systems LLC.

Go to or contact Warren Henninger at 509-760-2662 for information. The fee is $250 per player. Hole sponsorships begin at $635.

IRS seeks volunteer advocates in Washington

The Internal Revenue Service is seeking volunteers in Washington state to serve on the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel.

The panel listens to taxpayers, identifies concerns and makes recommendations for improving IRS service.

Volunteers must be U.S. citizens, current on their federal tax obligation and able to commit 200 to 300 volunteer hours during the year and pass a criminal background check.

Visit or call 888-912-1227, prompt No. 5, for information.

Save room for the annual Taco Crawl

It’s time to buy ticket books for the popular Pasco Taco Crawl, which launches its fifth edition in April.

Tickets are $20 and at and are available for pickup at Vinny’s Bakery in downtown.

The price goes up to $25 on April 9.

The tickets can be redeemed for tacos at 20 participating Pasco taco venders between April 17 and May 20.

Participants will vote on the Best Taco in Pasco, with the winner announced at the Downtown Pasco Development Authority’s Cinco de Mayo Festival on May 2.

Proceeds support Boys and Girls Clubs of Benton and Franklin Counties.

McCurley donates $31K to Meals on Wheels

McCurley Integrity Subaru presented a check for nearly $31,000 to support Senior Life Resources—Meals on Wheels in March.

The donation stems from Subaru of America’s annual Share the Love program, which invites buyers to select a charity to receive a donation of $250 for purchases made between Nov. 14, 2019 and Jan. 2, 2020, with a matching donation from the local dealer.

The campaign has raised $170 million since its inception, now in its 12year year.

For 2019, Subaru selected the American society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Make-A-Wish, Meals on Wheels America and the National Park Foundation to receive contributions.

Integrity added the local Meals on Wheels as an additional beneficiary.

Meals on Wheels canceled its major fundraiser of the year over concerns about the COVID-19 virus. The breakfast typically raises $50,000 for the nonprofit, which provides low-cost meals to seniors.

Numerica accepting applications for scholarships, debt relief

Numerica Credit Union will award $45,000 in scholarships in 2020.

The credit union will accept applications for four scholarships through May 10. It will choose 19 recipients.

  • Student Ambassador Awards are available to high school seniors involved in the community.
  • Continuing Education Awards are for college students continuing to work full-time on degrees this fall.
  • Vocational Awards are available for those pursuing trade or vocational training.
  • Student Loan Repayment Awards are available for graduates who seek help reducing their debt load.

Visit for details.

Former Jack in the Box becoming offices

A former Jack in the Box restaurant is being converted into an office, according to a permit issued by the city of Richland.

The ex-restaurant at 1491 Tapteal Drive is north of Columbia Center mall. It sold in December for $475,000 after Jack in the Box closed.

The $50,000 remodel will transform it into an office with four suites.

LaPierre Enterprises of Kennewick is the contractor.

Home repair loans, business loans available in eastern Oregon

The Greater Eastern Oregon Development Corporation offers loans to help low-income homeowners complete essential repairs and to support small business owners.

The Northwest Regional Housing Rehabilitation Loan Program is available to homeowners in Umatilla and Morrow counties. Loan interest is free with deferred payment options.

The federal Intermediary Relending Program helps small business owners secure working capital with loans of $10,000 for up to five years and no payments for the first six months.

Rates start at 4 percent and fees are one half of 1 percent.

Go to or call 541-276-6745 for information

Disabled mom gets new floors courtesy Rebuilding Mid-Columbia

A disabled mother received new floors Feb. 29. She was the 106th area resident to receive help from Rebuilding Mid-Columbia.

The local nonprofit helps low-income residents, including single parents, the elderly and veterans, with home repairs and accessibility.

The most recent client is a single mother of three who was disabled in a car accident. She asked for help when the peel-and-stick floors began to fail, causing trip hazards.

Rebuilding Mid-Columbia partnered with Great Floors to replace her floors.

Hanford custodial contract expires

Mission Support Alliance, a key Hanford site contractor, announced a change to one of its subcontracts.

Akima Facilities Management’s contract expired Feb. 29.

The scope of the work included fewer than 200 employees in warehousing, custodial, maintenance and heavy equipment operations.

MSA said it will perform the work and will work with affected Akima employees with no lapse in activity.

MSA is a team of Leidos and Centerra Group responsible for providing site services to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Hanford site.

State regulators sign off on Frontier

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission has approved the $1.35 billion sale of Frontier Communications Northwest Inc.’s operations in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.

The three-member commission approved the Washington portion of the sale.

The UTC conditioned its approval on the investment of at least $50 million to increase broadband coverage in Washington, a commitment to support the transition to Enhanced 911 and continued reporting on financial and service quality measures.

The buyer, Northwest Fiber LLC, previously operated Wave Broadband. Headquartered in Kirkland, it provides internet, video and phone services with customers in 70 Washington community.

The commission’s order is posted at

Nationwide construction could be affected by coronavirus disruptions

Construction spending in January increased 1.8 percent to $1.4 trillion from December and 6.8 percent from January 2019 as all major segments logged gains, according to a recent analysis of federal data by the Associated General Contractors of America.

Association officials cautioned that January results may have been boosted by unusually mild winter weather in much of the nation and that spending in future months could be impacted by uncertainty related to the coronavirus and its potential impacts on the supply chain for construction materials.

“While overall economic conditions remain favorable, future construction spending levels may be affected by the growing uncertainties related to the coronavirus and its impact on the supply chain for construction components, especially those manufactured in hard-hit countries,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist.

Simonson noted that many construction materials, machines and parts are sourced, at least in part, from China and other countries where production and transportation have been disrupted by the virus. He added that, to date, no contractors have reported supply problems that are impacting their projects. 

Real estate license updates change this summer

Real estate brokers, managing brothers and other professionals in Washington will use a new online system for managing their licenses beginning this summer.

The Washington Department of Licensing launched the system last fall. It expands to real estate-related professions, including brokers, firms, branches and schools this summer.

The system provides a portal to renew licenses, including submitting documents and paying fees. Licenses may be renewed by mail as well.

Contact or 360-664-6500 for information.

PNNL teams with Verizon to bring 5G to laboratory

Verizon Business and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are teaming up to test the implications of 5G technology on research, security and other applications.

The Richland lab will be the first of the energy department’s laboratories to be served by Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network.

PNNL researchers will study the implications for cybersecurity, protecting grid infrastructure and the science behind autonomous systems. The faster speed and increased bandwidth will be used to enhance machine learning, artificial intelligence and public safety.

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