Business Briefs – December 2020

State offers free 2021 workplace safety calendar

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries takes a light touch to the heavy business of workplace safety in its 2021 calendar.

“Spot the Hazards” offers a fictional scenario each month in the name of promoting awareness of the hazards that can harm workers.

Calendars are free to Washington businesses while supplies last.

Go to lni.wa.gov/safety-health/safety-calendar to order a copy.

 Washington opens new round of Covid-19 grants

The Washington Department of Commerce is accepting applications for grants worth up to $20,000 apiece for small businesses seeking relief from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Round 3 of the Working Washington Small Business Grants received $50 million of $70 million allocated in the latest round of business shutdowns.

Grants are available to small businesses with revenue of $5 million or less in 2019 and who are in sectors most impacted by public health measures, such as restaurants, fitness centers, bowling alleys and event venues. Any surplus funds will be allocated to larger businesses.

Go to startup.choosewashingtonstate.com/working-washington-round-3/ or commerce.wa.gov/bizgrants.

Kennewick among midsize cities with most small business owners

Kennewick was ranked nationally as the No. 3 midsize city with the most small business owners.

That’s according to an AdvisorSmith study examining 259 cities using the U.S. Census Bureau’s September 2020 data to see which small, midsize and large cities had the most small business owners.

Kennewick had 100 active small business owners per 1,000 residents. Nationally, midsize cities had an average of 43.1 small business owners per 1,000, the study said.

There are a total of 29,961 active small business owners in Kennewick.

Kennewick had more small business owners than Spokane, which ranked No. 18 on the list.

Topping the midsize city list were Ocala, Florida, at No. 1 and Amarillo, Texas, at No. 2.

For read the study, go to https://bit.ly/KennMidSize.

HomeStreet reports rising earnings, dividend, stock repurchase

HomeStreet Inc., parent to HomeStreet Bank, reported net income from continuing operations of $26.3 million or $1.16 per share for the quarter that ended Sept. 30, compared to $13.8 million and 55 cents the year prior.

Mark Mason, chairman of the board, president and chief executive officer, said the bank benefited from decreased funding costs, high loan volumes and profitability in its home mortgage lending. It has also improved efficiency through cost cutting.

Deposits rose to $5.8 billion, from $5.3 billion. Shareholder equity rose to $696.3 million, from $691 million over the same period, it said in its quarterly earnings report. Total liabilities and shareholder equity rose to $7.4 billion, from $6.8 billion, it said.

HomeStreet paid a dividend of 15 cents per share on Nov. 23 and repurchased 1 million shares of its outstanding common stock. It repurchased an additional 210,000 shares in October, which will be recorded in its fourth quarter earnings report. It has repurchased 20% of its outstanding shares since 2019.

HomeStreet has offices in Kennewick and Richland.

State’s largest credit union commits $5M to racial equity

BECU, the credit union associated with the Boeing Co., is committing $5 million over five years to support Black communities and racial equity in the state.

The Black Community Development Project will partner with local nonprofits to improve the overall emotional, physical and financial health of Black communities. It is led by Black leaders and employs a multicultural staff that represents the communities served.

The investment is the first in a series of steps to support Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) Communities.

BECU serves more than 1.2 members and with more than $25 billion in assets, is easily the largest credit union in Washington.

Could your small business survive a cyberattack?

Washington state earned a D on a report card rating states for the likelihood its small businesses could recover from a cyberattack.

Neighbors Oregon and California earned D’s as well. Idaho scored a B.

The research by Verizon is based on the number of small businesses in the state in 2019, bankruptcy patterns, past history of data breaches and number of victim losses.

Alaska, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts and Wyoming earned F’s.

Alabama, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, South Dakota and Vermont earned A’s.

Washington exempts truck drivers from hour rules

Truck drivers hauling livestock, livestock feed, food, paper products, groceries and medical and sanitation supplies related to Covid-19, including vaccines, are exempt from Washington’s driver hour rules.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee issued the new rules to coincide with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rules amended on Dec. 2.

Mastersingers offer virtual ‘Home for the Holidays’ dinner and show

Mid-Columbia Mastersingers, STCU and more than a dozen local residents are teaming up to make the holidays merry with 12 online “Home for the Holidays’ performances.

The content is a combination of new recorded performances as well as archival video of previous Mastersingers holiday concerts.

Area residents are providing takeout or delivery meals to be enjoyed during the performances.

Participating restaurants are Boaida Brazilian Grill, Cedars at Pier One, Culture Shock Bistro, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, Dovetail Joint Restaurant, Emerald of Siam Thai Restaurant and Lounge, Ethos Bakery & Café, Fat Olives Restaurant & Catering, Kabob House Mediterranean Grill, Picante Mexican Taqueria, Sake Express Sushi & Teriyaki and TC Cider House.

The performances livestream on Vimeo and will be available through 10 p.m. Dec. 27.

There is no cost to view the performances, but donations are welcome.

Go to mcmastersingers.org for information or the Facebook event link at bit.ly/MastersingersHolidays.

Booming Walmart shares cash with workers

Walmart is awarding $700 million in quarterly and special cash bonuses to its 1.5 million full- and part-time workers.

Washington workers will receive about $8.5 million, split between quarterly bonuses in their Nov. 25 paychecks and special bonuses to be paid Dec. 24.

The bonuses average $466 per employee.

Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart said the bonuses reflect a strong third quarter performance.

IRS heightens awareness of tax scams

The Internal Revenue service and the Security Summit partners are highlighting the seasonal scams that take advantage of the holiday shopping season, the approaching tax season and coronavirus concerns.

“This is generally the hunting season for online thieves, but this year there’s a dangerous combination of factors at play that should make people more alert,” warned Chuck Rettig, IRS commissioner.

To protect yourself, use strong passwords, security software for computers and mobile phones, ensure antivirus software has a feature to stop malware, and there is a firewall to prevent intrusions, be alert to phishing scam designed to steal personal data and links or attachments on suspicious emails and shop at web addresses that begin with “https.”

Notably, the IRS will not call, text or email about your Economic Impact Payment, your tax refund or with threats of jail or lawsuits over unpaid taxes.

Go to IRS.gov/security for safety tips.

State enlists smartphones to track Covid-19 exposure

WA Notify is a new smartphone tool to help users track exposure to Covid-19 through anonymized data.

Washington residents who add or enable WA Notify on their smartphones will be alerted if they spend time near another user who later tests positive for coronavirus. Users also may use the technology to alert the system if they test positive. More than 1 million people opted in during the first four days of the program.

As of Dec. 4, the number of phones equipped with WA Notify represents nearly 20% of the state’s adults.

The technology uses privacy-preserving technology developed by Google and Apple. According to the state Department of Health, it works without collecting or revealing location or personal data.

WA Notify is free and can be enabled in iPhone settings or downloaded as an app from the Google Play Store for Android phones. Users can opt out. Go to WANotify.org to learn more.

Virginia, New York and Colorado already are using the tool, as are Ireland, Canada and Germany.

WSU Tri-Cities, CBC promote seamless transfers

Columbia Basin College students can transfer seamlessly to Washington State University Tri-Cities under a new agreement signed in November.

Under the seamless pathway plan, students can complete their first two years of college at CBC and then transfer to the four-year university to complete their undergraduate education.

Students who transfer do not pay for a transfer application, to transfer transcripts and their tuition is frozen from their first semester at WSU Tri-Cities.

At Home earnings soar, company eyes real estate

The parent to the Tri-Cities’ newest home furnishings retailer reported strong sales for the third quarter.

At Home Group Inc. opened a store in the former Shopko building near Columbia Center in 2019.

The Plano, Texas-based no-frills retailer said its third quarter net sales increased 47.5% and its comparable store sales increases 44.1% compared to the same period a year ago.

It posted net income of $47.1 million compared to a $14.6 million loss a year ago. Earnings per share were 71 cents, compared to a 23-cent loss.

At Home operates 219 stores in 40 states.

In an earnings statement, Lee Bird, chairman and chief executive officer, said the brand has the potential to grow nearly three times larger.

“Our real estate opportunities are only getting stronger,” Bird said.

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