Business Briefs – February 2021

Wallula paper mill fined $28,500 for air pollution

The Packaging Corporation of America’s Wallula paper mill has been fined $28,500 by the Washington Department of Ecology for air pollution released from the facility’s wastewater treatment plant.

The Wallula mill is required to reduce emissions from its wastewater treatment plant to comply with federal air quality regulations, Ecology said. Packaging Corporation of America failed to meet these requirements over a period of seven weeks in August, September and October 2020 due to issues in its wastewater treatment plant.

The treatment problems resulted in an additional 7 tons of methanol and other types of hazardous air pollution to be emitted from the plant over a total of 57 days. Along with the penalty, Ecology is requiring the mill to increase monitoring to prevent future issues.

“Although Packaging Corporation of America failed to meet these requirements last year, we have been pleased with their efforts to correct the issue and come back into compliance,” said James DeMay, manager of Ecology’s Industrial Section, which regulates the mill.

The company may appeal Ecology’s penalty within 30 days to the Washington Pollution Control Hearings Board.


SBA offers online business coaching for women

The U.S. Small Business Program has launched Ascent, a free business coaching program for female entrepreneurs.

Ascent is designed to help women grow their businesses. The platform includes exercises and tools, as well as fireside chats with successful women and success stories from real-world entrepreneurs.

Go to ascent.sba.gov.


MSA lays off 30 as Hanford contract ends

Mission Support Alliance has permanently laid off 30 workers after its contract to provide landlord services to the Hanford site transitioned to a new, though related, contractor.

MSA said it would lay off the employees on Jan. 21 in a Workforce Adjustment and Retraining Notification to the Washington Employment Security Department. The notice was later retracted by the state, which said it should not have been released since it involved fewer than 50 workers.

MSA, a partnership of Leidos and Canterra Group, held a contract with the U.S. Department of Energy to provide landlord services at the Hanford site. The contract covers emergency response and training, including the Hanford Fire Department and Hanford Patrol, and infrastructure services and overseeing the preservation of cultural artifacts at the site.

The new contract was awarded to Hanford Mission Integration Solutions, which includes Leidos and Canterra and a new partner, Parsons.

Hanford Mission Integration Solutions sent a declaration of readiness to DOE in January and was finalizing “punch-list” items as it moved to take over the work, including awarding subcontracts. As part of the transition, it sent onboarding packets to MSA employees continuing under the new contract in January.


AWB, Tri-City chamber promote internships

A new website is helping Tri-City students find internships with local employers.

The Association of Washington Business, Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce, Washington State University Tri-Cities and Columbia Basin College launched the Washington Workforce Portal as a place for employers and educators to post about internships and intern candidates.

The Tri-Cities and Spokane are piloting the portal concept.

Go to washingtonworkforceportal.org.


L’Ecole No 41 heads to downtown Walla Walla

L’Ecole No 41, one of the first wineries in Walla Walla, will open a wine bar at the historic Marcus Whitman Hotel in downtown Walla Walla.

Heritage by L’Ecole will serve small production and library lots as well as current releases.

L’Ecole, led by owner and winemaker Marty Clubb, said the new space incorporates design elements from the 1915 Frenchtown schoolhouse it has occupied in western Walla Walla County for decades. Rebecca Clubb-Olson designed the project.

Heritage is expected to open to the public in April during Spring Kick Off Weekend. It will seat up to 19 indoors.

The wine bar cements a longstanding relationship between L’Ecole and the hotel. W.W. Baker, grandfather of L’Ecole’s founder, Baker Ferguson, was part of the team that developed the hotel in the 1920s, according to its current owner, Kyle Mussman.


Hanford tours head online

The public can now take virtual tours of the 580-square-mile Hanford site.

The U.S. Department of Energy previously offered limited in-person public tours in the spring and summer, which filled quickly. The virtual tours are offered to maintain public access to the site cleanup during Covid-19 shutdowns.

The website launched in January and offers self-guided tours that allow participants to tour up to 29 locations on the nuclear reservation. The tour features 360-degree views and descriptions that explain what the viewer is looking at.

Tour stops include the Hanford 324 Building, 200 West Groundwater Treatment Project and structures associated with the Direct Feed Low Activity Waste program, including the Waste Treatment Plant and tank farms.

Go to hanford.gov.


Retired Tri-City Herald publisher dies at age 64

The retired publisher of the Tri-City Herald died in Wellton, Arizona, on Jan. 12 following a recent cancer diagnosis.

Gregg McConnell was 64. He was publisher of the Tri-City Herald between 2011-17. After he retired, he served the editor of Wine Press Northwest, a magazine published quarterly by the Herald.

His career spanned nearly 40 years working at newspapers in Montana, California and Washington.

McConnell served on several Tri-City boards during his stint as publisher, including Tri-City Development Council, Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce and Visit Tri-Cities.

He also ran an unsuccessful campaign as a Republican candidate for state Rep. Larry Haler’s legislative seat in 2018.

McConnell was born in Ronan, Montana, on Christmas Day in 1956, the youngest of eight children, according to an obituary in The Missoulian.

He is survived by his wife Diane of Kennewick and a son, Cory, and Cory’s wife, Tina, and grandchildren Jaida, Jailyn, Torean, Seren and Cerys, all of Hamilton, Montana.

A memorial gathering will be scheduled later in the year.


Richland library reopens under 25% rules

The Richland Public Library has reopened for limited in-person service after closing in January under Washington’s new Covid-19 containment measures.

The library reopened at 25% capacity under the current rules for counties in Phase 1 of the reopening scheme.

Visitors must wear face masks, maintain social distancing and limit their time in the building to 30 minutes. No food or drink is allowed. There is no use of computers or printers.

Online and curbside services are on offer as well. The library is open Monday through Friday for in-person service from 10 a.m. to noon and for curbside service from noon-4 p.m. Both inside and curbside service is offered from 4-6 p.m.


Women in Business conference postponed

The Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce has postponed the annual Tri-Cities Women in Business Conference, which typically takes place the last week of January.

The chamber and its premier sponsor, Washington River Protection Solutions, hope to hold the event at an undetermined date in 2021 as an in-person gathering. In the interim, the chamber invited past Athena Award recipients to share inspirational quotes.

Go to tricityregionalchamber.com/blog to learn what they shared.


Track the 2021 Legislature online

The public can track the 2021 Legislature online as the annual gathering of lawmakers is conducted under limitations meant to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

WashingtonVotes.org is a free public service of Washington Policy Center, a nonpartisan research and education center. It will cover bills, amendments and recorded votes for the session, which began Jan. 11.

The site includes a searchable database of current legislation, updates, customizable email updates and the “Missed Votes Report” that tracks votes taken and missed by individual lawmakers. Users also can track how their legislators vote on key issues.


Amundson named interim manager for Richland

Richland’s longtime assistant city manager has been named interim manager.

Jon Amundson, who joined the city in 2008, will oversee 500 employees in 10 departments.

Reents left the city after 17 years of service in January by mutual agreement with the city council.

The city has no immediate plans to conduct a search for a permanent city manager. Terms of Amundson’s contract were not disclosed at the time of his appointment.


STCU seeks approval to merge with Coulee Dam’s CDFCU

Spokane-based STCU is seeking approval to merge with Coulee Dam-based CDFCU, a credit union with five branches and 14,000 members.

The merger is subject to approval by the National Credit Union Administration and the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions. It is expected to be complete by late 2021.

CDFCU, originally established to serve U.S. Bureau of Reclamation employees at Grand Coulee Dam, has branches in Coulee Dam, Brewster, Republic, Creston and Omak.

The merger will bring the leverage of a large credit union such as STCU to bear on the much smaller CDFCU, including technology and financial products.

If approved the merged credit union will serve about 225,000 members in Eastern Washington and North Idaho. CDFU has about $180 million under assets. STCU, one of the nation’s top 100 credit unions with branches in the Tri-Cities, has $4.1 billion in assets.


‘New’ PPP pushes loan totals to $596 billion

The newest round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) added nearly 900,000 new loans totaling $73 billion to the running total of businesses aided by forgivable loans during the Covid-19 crisis.

In total, 6 million loans totaling nearly $596 billion have been approved as of the end of January, according to figures released by the Small Business Administration.

Congress first authorized the PPP program in the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) and then extended it through the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act, signed into law by then-President Donald Trump shortly after Christmas.

Businesses apply through their lenders, which submit the applications to the SBA.

The new round of PPP loans includes $17 billion in “second draw” loans to businesses with 10 or fewer employees, with an average loan size of just over $35,000. Nearly $3.4 billion was issued to first-time borrowers with 10 or fewer employees, with an average loan size of about $15,000.

There were 16,210 loans in Washington state in January worth a collective $1.86 billion.

Go to sba.gov/ppp and treasury.gov/cares for PPP information.


Pasco airport steps up enforcement of mask rules

The Tri-Cities Airport is increasing enforcement of a mask requirement that has been in place since June 2020.

A mask mandate signed by President Joe Biden adds enforcement guidelines and stricter penalties than had been in place in the effort to curtail the spread of the virus that causes Covid-19. All passengers, operators and visitors at the airport must cover their noses and mouths while on the premises.

Children under the age of 2 and others with special conditions are exempt.

Passengers may request a free mask from their airline or airport staff. Anyone refusing to comply may not be allowed to board an aircraft, asked to leave the airport and/or face a fine.


Crow Butte parking passes now on sale online

Visitors to Crow Butte Park on the Columbia River at Paterson can now buy parking passes online instead of paying in person at the scenic spot.

The Port of Benton and Underground Creative, a Kennewick digital marking firm, launched a new website where visitors can pay for passes with credit cards.

Guests may still buy parking passes in person with cash. However, the port is encouraging visitors to use credit cards online to minimize contact and cash at the park, which includes camping and marina areas.

The park was closed for most of 2020 under the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order to minimize the spread of the virus that causes Covid-19. It is expected to open March 15 to Oct. 15, with the boat ramp open year-round.

Go to crowbutte.com.


Chamber focuses on State of the Ports

The Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce holds its annual State of the Ports luncheon via Zoom from noon to 1 p.m. Feb. 24.

The leaders of the three area ports will provide updates on their latest projects. Speakers include Diahann Howard, Port of Benton, Tim Arntzen, Port of Kennewick, and Randy Hayden, Port of Pasco.

The event is free. Go to bit.ly/StateofPortsRegistration to register or contact Elisabeth Holt at elisabeth.holt@tricityregionalchamber.com for information.


Washington Trust reports 2020 earnings

Washington Trust bank reported its 2020 net income fell to $76.3 million from $83.2 million a year earlier, due to the combined impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and record low interest rates.

It reported its year-end findings in a Dec. 31 report to shareholders

Diluted earnings per share fell to $30.06, from $32.56.

Its assets rose to $9.8 billion, from $7.1 billion a year earlier, a 37% increase funded by deposits associated with the $1.2 billion in Paycheck Protection Program loans it issued under the federal CARES Act, the forgivable loan program designed to support jobs during the pandemic.

“In many ways, this year validated our business model and operating philosophy,” wrote Peter Stanton, chairman of the board and CEO. “Our discipline of maintaining a strong balance sheet positioned us to withstand the unexpected and continue to deliver banking services to our clients and the communities we serve.”


Tri-City teens are among first female Eagle Scouts

Two Tri-City teens are among the first-ever girls to be inducted as Eagle Scouts after Boy Scouts of America welcomed girls to the organization.

Kendalyn Bybee of Kennewick and Celeste Blair of Richland will be honored Feb. 21 at the Blue Mountain Council’s “Be the Change” event.

Bybee organized 79 volunteers to construct a garden shed at Heritage Garden at Hansen Park for the city of Kennewick. The project supports efforts to beautify and educate the community about native plants. The 243-hour project was supported by donations of money and supplies from local Rotary clubs and area businesses.

Blair joined the Scouts on the first day registration opened to young women. For her project, Blair developed a project to combat declining bee populations.

She led her Troop and her younger sister’s Cub Scout Pack to raise almost 3,000 marigold flowers from seeds. The plants were distributed to homes in Horn Rapids along with information about landscape practices that support bees while discouraging the use of harmful pesticides.

Eagle Scout is the highest rank in Boy Scouts and is achieved by only 6% of Scouts.


IRS offers personal IDs to prevent false returns

All taxpayers are eligible for a unique identity Protection identification number.

The Internal Revenue Service expanded the PIN opt-in program to all taxpayers who can verify their identities.

The PIN is a six-digit code known only to the taxpayer and to the IRS. The program aims to prevent identity thieves from filing fraudulent tax returns using a taxpayers’ personally identifiable information.

Go to IRS.gov/IPPIN.


Lessons help teach kids to manage money

The Washington State Department of Financial Institutions has developed an education page to help parents explore personal finance with their school-aged children.

Activities are broken down by grade and include a mix of games, printed material and videos designed with different learning styles in mind.

“Making sure financial education continues to be a part of Washington students’ lives today is a crucial component of making sure future generations are able to better weather financial and economic emergencies tomorrow,” said Lyn Peters, director of communications, financial education and outreach.

Go to dfi.wa.gov/financial-education/fun-clusters.


Covid-19 relief coming for venue operators

The U.S. Small Business Administration is rolling out a grant program to aid venue operators hard-hit by Covid-19 shutdowns.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021 provides $15 billion to hard hit small businesses, nonprofits and venues to provide up to $10 million in financial support to live venue operators and related businesses.

To be eligible, applicants must be a live venue operator or promoter, theatrical producer or live performing arts organization operator, a talent representative, a movie theater or a “relevant” museum.

Go to sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/shuttered-venue-operators-grant.


13 Bones brings its barbecue to Richland

13 Bones Urban BBQ Mobile Kitchen is open for limited hours at Richland’s Anthology Event Venue, 706 Williams Blvd.

The walk-up barbecue truck is open from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Wednesdays to Fridays.

The truck is led by Chef Andy Craig and first launched at the 2012 Benton-Franklin Fair and Rodeo.

Follow 13 Bones on Facebook and Instagram or 13bonesurbanbbq.com for menu and other information.


WSU Community Classroom focuses on prison pipeline

A series of virtual classes will focus on solving the school-to-prison pipeline challenge and helping released prisoners to be successful.

Washington State University Tri-Cities is tackling the prison pipeline through its Community Classroom series, which began in February. 

The presentations are free and held via zoom. Upcoming sessions are:

  • 4 p.m. March 25: A panel will discuss the role of community and schools in reducing the types of crimes that lead individuals into the prison system.
  • 4 p.m. April 2: The panel will learn about the rehabilitation programs serving inmates in Washington prisons. Stephen Sinclair, secretary of the state Department of Corrections, and Robert Jackson, superintendent of the Washington State Penitentiary, are part of the panel.

Go to tricities.wsu.edu/community-classroom.


2021 Women in Ag Conference postponed

The 2021 Women in Agriculture conference has been postponed indefinitely because of restrictions and safety requirements stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Women, Farms & Food is the largest event in the Northwest that focuses on the needs of women farmers, aspiring farmers and women who support their family farms, according to a news release.

Follow womeninag.wsu.edu for updates on the 2022 conference.


Foundations unite to expand cancer care navigation

 The foundations of Kadlec Regional Medical Center and the Tri-Cities Cancer Center are teaming up to hire a nurse navigator to help ease the way of oncology patients during their treatment.

The new navigator will work primarily with patients in active treatment with oral chemotherapy.

This position would be added to the team of navigators already working within the cancer center and Kadlec Hematology and Oncology.

Cancer care on the cancer center campus is becoming more closely integrated with operations being brought under one operational organization within Kadlec.

Each foundation will contribute more than $100,000 to support the addition of the nurse navigator focused on a patient base that currently numbers more than 200.

To support the work of these nonprofit community foundations, go to: Tri-Cities Cancer Center Foundation at tccancer.org/foundation or Kadlec Foundation at Kadlec.org/foundation.


ACT plans virtual fundraiser

Academy of Children’s Theatre will hold a virtual fundraising event and auction from 4:30-6 p.m. Feb. 20.

“Heart for the Arts” will offer comedy spoofs, singing and stage performances, as well as an homage to past ACT productions. Sam Shick and Janet Krupin will emcee the program and local jazz trio Bluzette is on tap to provide pre-auction entertainment.

Proceeds will support ACT programs, including its Covid-19-compliant outdoor summer classes.

Online registration is at academyofchildrenstheatre.org.

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