Business Briefs – March 2022

Team with Tri-City ties advances to finals

A team with Tri-City ties has advanced to the finals round of a contest aimed at connecting workers to family-wage jobs through a training model that can be replicated across the country. It also puts the local team closer to a chance to win up to $2 million.
The Dignified Work team, a partnership between two Washington-based organizations – Career Path Service and WholeStory – advanced as finalists in the XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling competition, designed to incentivize teams to develop and demonstrate the effectiveness of rapid training and reskilling solutions for those most vulnerable to employment loss in the United States.
The team was selected as one of ten teams out of 118 applicants from around the world and competed in the semifinalist round throughout 2021, training and placing job seekers with growing construction companies in Hampton Roads region of Virginia.
During the final round of the 30-month contest, the team will work with leading employers to support thousands of under-resourced job seekers across the Northwest (Washington, Oregon, Idaho) to quickly gain essential skills to launch careers in construction, medical administration or human and social services.
The team is made up of Career Path Services, a workforce development and human services nonprofit with offices in Kennewick; and WholeStory, a technology platform that provides insight into diverse life experiences to power better hiring, based in the Tri-Cities.


Target raises starting hourly wage for some to $24

Target Corp. is raising its starting wage to as much as $24 an hour, up from $15 an hour, and expanding access to health care, retirement and other benefits.
The Minneapolis-based retail giant operates stores in Kennewick and Richland.
“We want all team members to be better off for working at Target, and years of investments in our culture of care, meaningful pay, expanded health benefits and opportunities for growth have been essential for helping our team members build rewarding careers,” it said in a press release.
Target said the enhancements represent a $300 million investment in its team.


Profits soaring for FDIC-insured banks

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. reports the 4,839 commercial banks and savings institutions it insures reported net income of $63.9 billion in the fourth quarter of 2021, a 7.4% increase over the prior year.
The FDIC credited the increase to economic growth and improved credit income, leading to improved interest income.
The banking industry reported net income of $279.1 billion for the full year, nearly 90% more than the pandemic-affected performance in 2020.


Mark your calendars for Speedfest 2022

The West Richland Chamber of Commerce and Red Mountain Event Center will host Speedfest 2022, combining the best of Cool Desert Nights and Hogs & Dogs, from June 23-25 at the former Tri-City Raceway property in West Richland.
The Cool Desert Nights Cruise is June 23. Hogs & Dogs is June 25.
IBEW 112 Local Union Electrical Workers is the lead sponsor for Speedfest.

Arts apprenticeships accepting applications
The Center for Washington Cultural Traditions is accepting applications for its Heritage Arts Apprenticeship Program through May 2.
The program provides financial support to individuals working to preserve cultural traditions by teaching or studying visual arts, occupational arts, traditional languages, storytelling, dance, culinary traditions and music.
Go to: waculture.org/apprenticeship-program.


Inslee appoints longtime attorney to bench

Gov. Jay Inslee appointed longtime Tri-City attorney Norma Rodriguez to succeed Judge Cameron Mitchell on the Benton Franklin Superior Court Bench.
Mitchell left on March 11.
Rodriguez earned her bachelor’s and law degrees from Gonzaga University. She has operated her own law practice in Kennewick since 1994. In 2015, she established Rodriguez Interano Hanson and Rodgers PLLC, a general practice firm focused on criminal defense, personal injury and Labor & Industries disputes.
Rodriguez is also active in the legal community, serving on the board of Benton-Franklin Legal Aid and as a member of the Youth and Justice Forum Committee
“Norma is an immensely talented and experienced attorney,” Inslee said. “She is well known in the Tri-Cities legal community, and she is so highly regarded by her peers, so well respected, that she will have what it takes to command her courtroom from day one.”
Mitchell served 18 years on the seven-member local bench. He won his last term in 2020. The governor’s office announced his resignation on Jan. 3.


School districts ask voters to reconsider levies in April

The Kennewick, Finley and Prosser school districts are asking voters to take a second look at key property tax measures that fund their budgets.

The districts all saw voters reject operational levies in the Feb. 6 election. The current levies expire at the end of this year. If they are not renewed, districts face the loss of 10% or more of their budgets.

The levies will be on the April 26 ballot, which will be mailed to registered voters in early April.

In Benton County, turnout for the February election was about 30%.

Kennewick voters rejected the operations levy by a vote of 51% to 49%. A separate tech levy passed.

Finley voters rejected their district’s operations levy by a vote of 50.74% to 49.26%.

Prosser voters said no by a margin of 54% to 46%.

Voters can register and update their addresses through 8 p.m. April 26. All elections in Washington are conducted by mail. Ballots must be postmarked or returned by Election Day.

Go to: votewa.gov.


Benton County bans fireworks when danger is high

Benton County has a new ordinance prohibiting fireworks when the threat of fire is high, as determined by the state Department of Natural Resources or other agency.

State law regulates fireworks, but gives local government room to determine when and where they may be sold and discharged and to even ban them outright. The Tri-Cities has a patchwork of rules, with Kennewick outright banning them and most of its neighbors allowing them.

The county commission asked for information about regulating fireworks during unusually hot, dry summers in 2021.

The new law goes into effect in one year, March 8, 2023, and bans the use of all fireworks between June 28 and July 5, 2023, if there is an extreme threat of fire.


Chamber luncheon tackles future of retail

René Sunde, president and CEO of the Washington Retail Association, will speak about the future of retail in a post-pandemic economy at the Tri-City Regional Chamber’s March 23 luncheon.

The in-person event begins at 11:30 a.m. March 23 at the Holiday Inn Richland on the River. The program will be available on Zoom as well.

Tickets are $30 for members, $40 for guests and $10 for virtual participants. The event is sponsored by Veolia.

Go to: tricityregionalchamber.com.


Kennewick selects new police chief

Kennewick has its first new police chief in decades.

Former assistant Chief Chris Guerrero, a longtime member of the Kennewick Police Department, succeeded Chief Ken Hohenberg, effective March 1.

Hohenberg, 66, retired from the city after more than 40 years in uniform, including nearly two decades as its chief.

His successor joined the police department in 1996, serving first as a patrol officer and then rising in the ranks to field training officer, defensive tactics instructor, SWAT team member, detective, patrol sergeant and more. He was promoted to commander in 2015. As division commander, he supervised investigations and patrol divisions and served as the Tri-City Regional SWAT Team commander and incident commander.

He earned an associate degree in criminal justice from Spokane Community College and a bachelor’s in criminal justice and criminology from Washington State University. In 2016, he completed the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia.

He was promoted again to assistant chief in July 2021, when Hohenberg announced his intent to retire in February 2022. A month later, he completed the Police Executive Research Forum, Senior Management Institute for Police Training in Orlando, Florida.

The city has been preparing for the transition ever since.

“The extensive strategic and transition planning efforts within the Kennewick Police Department have prepared us well for the future,” said Marie Mosley, city manager. “Assistant Chief Guerrero will continue the exceptional leadership needed to serve our organization and community at the highest level upon Chief Hohenberg’s retirement.”

The new chief is also an active member of the Pasco-Kennewick Rotary Club and a United Way board member.


Badger Club tackles public records at April meeting

The Columbia Basin Badger Club will discuss public records at its April meeting.

Mike Fancher of the Washington Coalition for Open Government and former 16th District Rep. Terry Nealey will discuss the pros and cons of open public records in a session titled, “Public Record Abuses vs. Transparency.”

The webinar is from noon to 1:30 p.m. April 21. Cost is $5 for nonmembers and free for members.

Go to: cbbc.clubexpress.com.


Let’s Talk About Hanford session set for March 30

For the next edition of Let’s Talk About Hanford, learn about several Hanford cleanup facilities – the Liquid Effluent Retention Facility (LERF), Effluent Treatment Facility (ETF), and the 242-A Evaporator.

The discussion, facilitated by the state Department of Ecology, is at 5:30 p.m. March 30 via Zoom or Facebook.

State Nuclear Waste Program experts, including LERF/ETF Environmental Engineer and Permit Lead Amena Mayenna, and 242-A Evaporator Environmental Permit Lead Andrew Pomiak, are scheduled to speak.

Get details on how to watch at bit.ly/MarchHanfordtalk.


WPC announces keynote speakers for annual dinners

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and former Secretary of State Michael Pompeo will give the keynote speeches at the annual dinners organized by the Washington Policy Center in Spokane and Bellevue, respectively.

Gabbard, a former candidate for the democratic presidential nomination, will speak at the Sept. 16 event in Spokane. Pompeo will headline the Oct. 14 Bellevue event.

Gabbard, who represents Hawaii, is a combat veteran who served in the Middle East and Africa.

The Spokane event begins at 6 p.m. Sept. 16, at the Davenport Grand Hotel. Tickets are $250, with $500 VIP tickets also available.

Go to: washingtonpolicy.org/events/detail/2022-annual-dinner-in-spokane.

As Secretary of State during the administration of former President Donald Trump, Pompeo worked on issues ranging from Chinese actions threatening jobs in the U.S. to peace in the Middle East.

The Bellevue event begins at 6 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Bellevue. Tickets are $350 and $1,000 for VIP access.

Go to: washingtonpolicy.org/events/detail/2022-annual-dinner-in-bellevue.

The Washington Policy Council is an independent, nonprofit think tank that promotes free-market solutions to public policy questions.

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