Business Briefs – November 2020

Horse Heaven wind, solar project seeks state approval

Boulder, Colorado-based Scout Clean Energy will apply for approval to develop an 850MW wind and solar farm in the Horse Heaven Hills to the Washington Energy Facilities Siting Evaluation Council, bypassing Benton County.

Scout initially said it would apply for land use approval from county. It shifted to the state process, citing the growing complexity of a plan that includes both wind power and solar. The county and public will have an opportunity to participate in the process.

It disclosed the move late in the afternoon on Nov. 6.

The project has drawn sharp criticism for its potential impact on the physical environment, the local economy and hilltop views. Critics question the fate of the wind turbines after the 25-year lifespan expires.

The wind farm will consist of up to 235 General Electric wind turbines, each 500 feet tall and costing about $4 million each.  Scout has secured wind energy leases and easement agreements covering 60,000 acres in the Jump Off Joe area south of the Tri-Cities.

Energy would be dispatched to customers via the Bonneville Power Administration system through an interconnection agreement.

Goodwill CEO joins Richland School Board

The Richland School Board has selected Ken Gosney to fill the position vacated by Rick Donahoe, who moved out of state in August.

Nineteen applied for the spot.

Gosney is a former Hanford High School principal and current chief executive officer of Goodwill Industries of the Columbia.

The seat is up for election in 2021.

Franklin County has $600K in funding for businesses

Franklin County is providing $600,000 in coronavirus aid bill funds to businesses affected by government-mandated Covid-19 closures.

The county partnered with the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce to administer the Rapid Response Business Grant Program, funded through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, known as the CARES Act.

Go to tricityregionalchamber.com/cares.html for eligibility requirements and application materials.

Badger Club forum explores election results

The Columbia Basin Badger Club will explore the Nov. 3 election results with Richland native and political commentator Peter Wehner at its last free forum of the year from noon-1 p.m. via Zoom on Nov. 19.

Wehner worked as a speech writer for three Republican presidents and is a contributing editor for The Atlantic. His book, “The Death of Politics: How to Heal Our Frayed Republic After Trump” was published in June 2019.

Registration is required. Go to columbiabasinbadgers.com.

There will be no Badger forum in December. Beginning in January, guests must pay $5 to attend.

Enrollment open for GET Prepaid Tuition

The 2020-21 enrollment period for Washington state’s Guaranteed Tuition program runs through May 31, with the cost of a “unit” set at $133.

The state guarantees that a family’s GET savings will keep pace with in-state college tuition and state-mandated fees.

GET and other 529 plans also can be used to pay for apprenticeship programs and some student loan repayments.

GET is one of two options offered by Washington College Savings Plan. DreamAhead, launched in 2018, is an investment-based plan.

Go to wastate529.wa.gov for information.

Missed the Diversity Summit? Sessions online

The annual Tri-Cities Diversity Summit had to move online in October, which is good news for those who weren’t able to participate in the live event Oct. 26-28.

The sessions are now posted online by the Tri-City Regional Chamber.

The summit featured five listening sessions covering racial equity, law enforcement, education and economic inequity and opportunity and a keynote by Skot Welch.

Go to tricityregionalchamber.com/tri-cities-diversity-summit.html for links to the sessions posted to YouTube.

Amazon booked $10 billion in Prime Day sales

Chain Store Age, which tracks the retail industry, reports Seattle-based Amazon saw 2020 Prime Day sales soar 45% over 2019.

Citing data from Digital Commerce 360, it said Prime Day sales on Oct. 13-14 totaled $10.4 billion in the 19 countries where Amazon held the annual virtual discount extravaganza, including the U.S., U.K. and Canada.

Third-party Amazon Marketplace sellers sold $3.5 billion in goods during Prime Day.

Who is that masked man at the mall? Santa!

Santa isn’t skipping Christmas because of the pandemic, but he is making a few concessions as he prepares for his annual appearance at Kennewick’s Columbia Center mall.

Santa pulls into town Nov. 27 and is available for photos from 1-7 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday through Christmas Eve.

New for 2020: Reservations are required, social distancing will be in effect and Santa and his helpers will wear masks to reduce the spread of the virus that causes Covid-19. Go to simonsanta.com to make Santa photo reservations.

Richland High students celebrate DECA month

DECA chapters across the globe take the month of November to promote and celebrate DECA.

The nationwide student organization works to prepare emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges around the globe.

Richland High DECA students attended the Western Region Leadership Conference Nov. 9-13, where they listened to keynote speakers, participated in workshops and competed in mock competitions.

The chapter also performed community service projects, including a yarn and crochet drive with donations going to Union Gospel Mission, and plans to educate its chapter about entrepreneurship during Global Entrepreneurship Week, Nov. 16-22.

Blue Cross Blue Shield settlement payments coming

Customers of Premera and Regency health plans in Washington could receive payments as part of a $2.67 billion settlement to solve antitrust charges levied against Blue Cross Blue Shield in 2013.

The settlement in federal court Alabama affects the 36 Blue Cross Blue Shield insurers nationwide. In Washington, that includes Premera Blue Cross, Regence BlueShield, Regence BlueShield of Oregon and Regence BlueShield of Idaho Inc. They collectively covered 1.1 million Washington residents.

The minimum payment to those affected will be $5.

Small PPP loans now easier to forgive

The U.S. Small Business Administration has simplified the application to apply to have small Paycheck Protection Program loans forgiven or waived.

The forgiveness program applies to loans of $50,000 or less.

The government provided loans through the coronavirus aid bill to preserve jobs in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. The loans can be forgiven if the money was spent on employee pay and other qualified expenses such as rent. SBA began approving forgiveness applications and making payments to lenders on Oct. 2.

Go to the PPP loan forgiveness application at bit.ly/StreamlinedPPPLoanApp.

Banner Bank reports $36.5M in third quarter

Walla Walla-based Banner Corp., parent to Banner Bank and Islanders Bank, reported net income of $36.5 million, or $1.03 per diluted share for the third quarter, compared to $39.6 million, or $1.15 per diluted share during the same period in 2019.

The bank issued its quarterly earnings report on Oct. 2.

It said its earnings reflect the continuing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

For the first nine months, it reported $77 million in net income, or $2.17 per share, compared to $112.6 million, or $3.23 per diluted share in the same period of 2019.

The board declared a quarterly cash dividend of 41 cents per share payable Nov. 12 to shareholders of record on Nov. 3.

Local hypercar grabs ‘Fastest Production Vehicle’ title

SSC North America of Richland reclaimed the title of the world’s “Fastest Production Vehicle” with its 1,750 horse-powered Tuatara.

Driver Oliver Webb set the record-breaking drive on Oct. 10 near Pahrump, Nevada, along Highway 160.

The Tuatara delivered an average speed of just over 316 miles per hour.

SSC first set the record with its debut car, the Ultimate Aero. SSC founder Jerod Shelby said the company will product 100 Tuatara vehicles in a release announcing the Nevada performance results.

Support kids in foster care with Christmas stockings

Heads Up Tri-Cities and United Way of Benton and Franklin Counties are organizing Christmas stockings for children living in foster care in the Mid-Columbia.

To participate, contact the Foster Kids Committee at headsuptricities05@gmail.com. Let the organizers know how many children you want to sponsor and age or gender preference.

The committee will assign children and coordinate stocking dropoffs.

Participants buy age-appropriate toy and games for “their” children. Gift cards are allowed. Food is not.

Unwrapped gifts can be dropped off from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Nov. 30-Dec. 4, at the United Way office, 401 N. Young St., Ste. B, Kennewick.

Grants support higher ed ambitions

The GEAR UP program at Washington State University Tri-Cities received two $20 million grants to support more than 7,000 students who plan to continue their education past high school.

The Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs is a federally-funded effort to support students from middle school to their first year after high school. 

The first grant is from the One Vision Partership and serves middle and high school students in the Pasco, Kiona-Benton City, Prosser, Mabton, Finley, Columbia and North Franklin school districts.

The second is a Harvest of Hope grant which will serve middle and high school students in the Kennewick, Touchet and Walla Walla school districts.

State makes Covid funds available to immigrants

The state of Washington is providing up to $3,000 in assistance to Washington residents who have been affected by the covid-19 pandemic but are unable to access federal stimulus program and other social support because of their immigration status.

The state dedicated $40 million in federal funds to the Washington Covid-19 Immigrant Relief Fund.

It was developed with input from immigrant rights and social service advocates. While active, the program will award $1,000 to eligible recipients, up to $3,000 per household.

Go to immigrantreliefwa.org for application information.

Future Workforce Summit goes virtual

The Southeastern Washington future Workforce Summit will be conducted online from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Nov. 17.

The event is organized by the Washington State STEM Education Foundation and Educational Service District 123 and covers strategies to prepare students for careers in this region.

There is no charge to attend.

Go to bit.ly/FutureWorkforceSummit to register or for more details.

WSU Tri-Cities offers tuition break to Umatilla County

Washington State University Tri-Cities is inviting students from Umatilla County to attend at the in-state tuition rate.

The university is inviting Oregon students to cross the state line without paying a premium under a new program called the “I-82 Advantage.”

In-state tuition is $11,144 per year, compared to $26,087 for out-of-state students.

Applications are posted at tricities.wsu.edu/apply. Go to tricities.wsu.edu/admissions/i82advantage for more information. ACT and SAT scores are not a factor for admissions decisions through spring semester 2022.

 

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