Business Briefs – September 2021

Pasco company is No. 12 on Inc.’s 5000 fastest-growing list

Solgen Power, a Pasco residential solar sales and installation company, ranked No. 12 on Inc. Magazine’s 5000 Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America list, released in August.

Solgen reported 21,790% growth and was one of only 15 Washington newcomers to the list in 2021. Another 44 were return honorees.

The company was founded in 2017 and currently employs 370 at seven locations in three regions. It recently completed construction of its world headquarters at 5715 Bedford St. in Pasco.

“From inception, we knew we wanted to accomplish something special here at Solgen,” said Chris Lee, CEO and founder.

The Washington honorees reported 210% median growth and a $4.2 billion in combined revenue. Collectively, they added nearly 9,300 jobs in the past year. 

Neighboring Idaho had two newcomers and 16 repeat honorees. The Idaho companies reported median growth of 155% and total combined revenue of $544 million. They added 888 jobs.

Oregon had four newcomers, 20 repeat honorees and reported 138% median growth. The Oregon companies reported $2.6 billion in combined revenue and added nearly 3,000 jobs.

Overall, the list of 5,000 businesses included 529 newcomers and average median growth of 167%. The group had combined revenue of nearly $250 billion and added nearly 2.6 million jobs in the past year.

U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo, Bank of America are Tri-Cities’ biggest banks by deposits

U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo Bank and Bank of America are the Tri-Cities’ largest banks by deposits, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.’s annual survey of branch office deposits, released in September and based on figures from June 30.

The report evaluated the 17 FDIC-insured banks operating in Benton and Franklin counties. It does not include credit unions, which are separately insured by the National Credit Union Administration.

U.S. Bank, with eight local offices, held nearly $720 million in local deposits, representing 14.3% of the Tri-City market. Wells Fargo Bank, with one local office, was second with $667 million in deposits or 13.3% market share. Bank of America, with four local offices, held $577 million in local deposits, an 11.5% market share.

Rounding out the Top 5: Community First Bank, with five branches, $535 million in local deposits and a 10.66% market share, and Yakima Federal Savings and Loan Association, with five branches, $532 million in local deposits and a 10.6% market share.

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License plates in short supply due to pandemic

The Benton County Auditor will issue 60-day temporary paper plates to residents buying cars due to a shortage of aluminum license plates.

The state Department of Corrections slowed production in response to the Covid-19 pandemic but has outsourced production to catch up.

Truck, trailer and motorcycles will not be affected. Transactions from dealerships get the highest priorities for existing supplies.

Benton County Sheriff Jerry Hatcher recalled

Benton County voters recalled Sheriff Jerry Hatcher in the Aug. 3 primary election, with 74% of voters in favor of the recall and 26% opposed.

Turnout for the primary was just shy of 34% of the county’s 126,436 registered voters.

The results became official when the election was certified on Aug. 17. Commander Jon Law will serve as acting sheriff until the county commission appoints a candidate to serve out the remainder of Hatcher’s term, which expires in 2022.

The sheriff’s position is partisan. Because Hatcher ran as a Republican, the commission will choose from a slate of candidates provided by the Benton County Republican Party.

Kennewick restaurant  owner dies at age 84

Carmen “Carmine” Aitoro, retired owner of Carmine’s Italian Restaurant in Kennewick, died Aug. 20. He was 84.

In 2008, at 70 years old, he and his wife Joyce opened the restaurant. He also enjoyed tending his rock garden outside the restaurant, receiving recognition from the North American Rock Garden Society.

Carmine’s closed in 2019 when he and his wife of 60 years – they were high school sweethearts – decided to retire a second time.

Before opening the restaurant, he opened and operated three fence companies, two in New Jersey and one in California, after working after high school at his father’s fence company in New Jersey. In the early 1990s, he and Joyce moved to Las Vegas, where he worked as a card dealer and then a pit boss for Circus Circus Hotel and Casino. The couple retired in 2004 and moved to Kennewick.

He is survived by his wife, four children, numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Rosetta Assisted Living, 5291 Road 60, Pasco, WA 99301.

Bluewood ski resort manager dies at age 65

Kim Clark, a longtime ski industry leader and general manager of the Bluewood resort, died Aug. 31 of an apparent heart attack while working on the mountain south of Dayton.

It’s the Tri-Cities’ closest ski resort and owned by seven Tri-Citians.

Clark joined Bluewood in 2014. He previously managed Mt. Ashland in southern Oregon and led the Arizona Snowbowl ski rental and school program.

In a statement sharing the news, Bluewood mourned an influential leader: “Kim passed away doing what he loved, with people he loved, on the mountain he loved.”

Pacific Northwest Ski Areas Association president Jordan Elliott said told Ski Area Management Magazine: “Kim was a stalwart fixture at the Northwest ski areas that he led over his career, and also as a past board member of the Pacific Northwest Ski Areas Association. His love for the ski industry and ability to lead his teams like a family can’t be replicated and he will be missed greatly.”

He is survived by his wife Tracy. Services have not been announced.

Another Hanford tank is getting emptied

Hanford’s tank operations contractor has begun work to move 104,000 gallons of solid and sludge-like material from Tank AX-103 as part of the nuclear reservation cleanup.

Washington River Protection Solutions, tank operations contractor to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of River Protection, will transfer the tank waste to a double-shell tank for interim storage until it can be sent to the multibillion-dollar Waste Treatment and immobilization Plant to be immobilized in glass, a process called vitrification.”

During the project, workers thread retrieval equipment through small openings in the top of the tank from a control trailer. They will use pressurized water to dissolve the solid, or salt-cake, waste and flush it to the pump that transfers the waste to a double-shell tank.

Tank AX-03 is the third of four million-gallon waste tanks at the AX Tank Farm to be emptied so far. The final tank, AX 101, will be emptied in 2022.

Tank AX-103 is the third million-gallon tank to have its waste retrieved in a group of four called the AX Tank Farm. WRPS has already retrieved waste from tanks AX-102 and 104. Retrieval of the last tank, AX-101, is scheduled to begin next year.

To date, workers have completed retrieving the waste from 17 of Hanford’s 149 older single-shell tanks. Those tanks include the 16 tanks in the C Farm and a tank in the S Farm. Once tanks AX-102 and 104 go through a standard technical review for completion that can take several months, the list will grow to 19.

Travel writers delay Tri-Cities visit

An influential group of travel writers has delayed its Tri-Cities gathering until April over concerns around the Covid-19 Delta variant.

TBEX North America was to be held in September at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick.

The event, now set for April 18-21, 2022, will bring hundreds of travel writers to the area, where they will visit points of interest and write about the Mid-Columbia for a global audience.

Visit Tri-Cities spent more than a year coordinating the visit, which it sees as a way to put the area’s assets, including wine, outdoor tourism and science tourism, on the map.

Michael Novakovich, president and CEO, said he was disappointed, but put on a good face, noting that spring is a good to show off the area.

“We can now highlight even more of the Tri-Cities,” he said.

TBEX is expected to bring 350 to 400 bloggers, online journalists and others with a combined reach of 300 million followers.

STCU, Coulee Dam Federal Credit Union merging

Coulee Dam Federal Credit Union will merge into Spokane-based STCU on Oct. 1.

The merger brings the Coulee Dam union’s 14,400 members into the larger STCU system.

STCU will rebrand the CDFCU locations and is providing staff with remote training on its systems.

“Preparing for the merger has been a major project involving thousands of details,” said Colleen Manley, CEO of CDFCU.

The merger maintains staffing and has been approved by state and federal regulatory agencies as well as by the boards of both credit unions. The five CDFCE branches will close Oct. 1 and reopen
Oct. 4 under the STCU name.

Benton REA customers get $1.75 million rebate

The Benton Rural Electric Association will pay $1.75 million in ownership credits to its 17,400 active and inactive members.

People and businesses that receive electricity from the REA are members and owners of the cooperatives.

Many members receive their payment as a credit against their power bills. Most members who receive a payment this year received a check in late August.

RiverFest canceled for second year in row

The 2021 RiverFest Celebration Festival at Columbia Park has been canceled for the second year because of Covid-19.

The event, organized by the Pasco Chamber of Commerce and a regional coalition, celebrates the Columbia River system with a festival and educational experiences. It was to be held Oct. 9.

In lieu of the 2020 event, the chamber produced a documentary, “Our Rivers, Our Life,” which can be viewed at

Richland banker who focused on basics dies

Richard C. Emery, a longtime banker credited with steering banks away from trouble, died at his Richland home on July 22. He was 80.

Emery was born in Ontario, Oregon, but spent his childhood on the family farm in Otis Orchards, Washington. He pursued a career in banking after earning a bachelor’s degree in economics from Washington State University, beginning at Old National Bank of Washington in Spokane.

His rising career brought him to Kennewick in 1981, when he was hired to organize American National Bank, which was sold to First Hawaiian Corp. in 1996. After several more stops, he returned to the Tri-Cities as president and CEO of Community First.

Eric Pearson, his successor at Community First, called Emery a mentor who was devoted to banking basics and who wouldn’t transfer reins until he was convinced Pearson understood both sides of the business – customer facing and administrative.

Pearson credited Emery with refocusing Community First on basic banking.

“During a time when the organization needed him most, Rich’s leadership steered the bank away from a sideline business that had led it down a perilous path and brought it back to its core roots,” he said in an Aug. 11 statement released on the bank’s website.

Emery is survived by his wife of 59 years, Kathy Emery, four children and by numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Graveside services were held at Sunset Gardens in Richland.

Together with Community First Bank/HFG Trust, his family established the Richard C. Emery Business and Finance Scholarship through the Three Rivers Community Foundation. Donate at

Christ the King Sausage Fest is on

Christ the King Catholic School is operating its annual Sausage Fest as a drive-thru event due to Covid-19 delta variant.

The annual event will offer food and T-shirts from 4-8 p.m. Sept. 17, and from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sept. 18.

The annual fundraiser was originally rescheduled as an in-person event after being canceled in 2020, It was retooled as a drive-thru because of low vaccination and high infection rates in Benton and Franklin counties.

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