Business Briefs – November 2022

Benton County closes deal for old KGH building

Benton County closed a $1.6 million deal to purchase the former Kennewick General Hospital on Nov. 1. and is seeking a behavioral health care partner to operate it.

The seller, LifePoint, acquired it after the Kennewick Public Hospital District filed for bankruptcy in 2017 and its assets were sold to a predecessor of LifePoint, which operates both Trios Southridge Hospital in Kennewick and Lourdes in Pasco.

Within hours of securing the property, Benton County solicited proposals from behavioral health service providers to operate a recovery center serving Benton and Franklin counties. The deadline to submit proposals is Dec. 9.

The center will provide services to those experiencing a mental health or substance use disorder crisis or both. It is meant to supplement existing services, not replace them.

For information about the RFP, go to bit.ly/3T9XYMo.


State opens commerce office in Kennewick

The Washington State Department of Commerce has opened an office to serve the Mid-Columbia as part of a move to boost its statewide presence.

The office is within the Tri-City Development Council’s suite at the Tri-Cities Business Center, 7130 W. Grandridge Blvd., Kennewick.

Director Lisa Brown opened the office during an open house on Oct. 17.

The Kennewick office provides reservable and drop-in workspaces for its staff to work. The department has 511 employees, with 88% working remotely on a full- or part-time basis. Most are based in Olympia, but at least 10 currently live and work in Central Washington.


Benton County launches third specialty court

Benton County District Court has launched a Recovery Court to manage criminal cases for drug-affected defendants currently charged with misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor criminal charges.

Recovery Court is overseen by District Court Judge Jennifer Azure and follows two similar specialty courts, Mental Health Court and Veterans Therapeutic Court. The program aims to address the root causes of crime by treating them through the criminal justice system.

Participants take part in substance abuse treatment, mental health counseling (if applicable), submit to regular drug testing, perform community service, live in clean and sober housing, attend regular court appearances and are monitored closely for program compliance.

Recovery Court launched in October with three active participants. It is expected to handle up to 30 cases in the first year. Cmdr. Jon Schwarder of the Richland Police Department is the law enforcement liaison for the program.

The Benton County Public Sales Tax, a voter-approved tax that supports law and justice initiatives across the county, funds all three specialty courts. It is subject to voter reauthorization in 2024.


Grants available for small Benton County businesses

The Benton County Business Resource Initiative is offering grants of $3,000 to $30,000 to help small businesses recover from the effects of the pandemic.

Businesses with 50 or fewer full-time employees can apply for grants of up to 6% to 10% of their annual revenue to pay hiring bonuses, training costs, technology and software upgrades, utilities and rent and outdoor store improvements.

Grants are capped at $30,000.

To be eligible, businesses must be independently owned and operated, have a current business license and provide tax documents for 2019, 2020 and 2022.

The first round closed on Halloween. The second and third rounds open on Feb. 1, 2023, and June 1, 2023. Benton County and the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce are sponsors.

Go to bentonbri.com.


Vit plant vendor fined for safety violations

Two Rivers Terminal LLC, which provides ingredients for fertilizers and other industrial processes, was fined $192,620 for 46 serious and 17 general safety and health violations by the Washington Department of Labor & Industries.

The Moses Lake company, which has a Pasco plant, has appealed the citation and fines.

Two Rivers is providing the ingredients used to form glass to Bechtel National Inc. for the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant, which will vitrify chemical and radioactive waste at the Hanford site.

According to the complaint, Labor and Industries inspectors found 13 violations related to violations of confined space rules after workers entered rail car hoppers to break up and dislodge ammonium nitrate without taking safety precautions.

Workers must have special training to enter and work in confined spaces and safety regulations must be followed. Inspectors also found employees working on the top of rail cars and sulfur trucks without using protective gear to prevent falls. Too, power was not cut off to potentially dangerous equipment.

No one was hurt in the incidents and the department said Two Rivers is cooperating to correct the issues.


Visit Tri-Cities honors Kathy Powell, Keith Moon

Visit Tri-Cities honored the longtime leader of Tri-City Water Follies and the owner of Tumbleweeds Mexican Flair restaurant with its top honors during the agency’s annual meeting, held Nov. 1 in Kennewick.

Kathy Powell, executive director of Water Follies, was named the 2022 Kris Watkins Tourism Champion of the Year, given to those who show dedication to the tourism industry and supporting the agency’s mission to attract visitors.

Powell retired in February after leading the region’s largest event for 15 years.

Keith Moon, owner of Tumbleweeds in Richland, received the 2022 Excellence in Service award for wiping clean school lunch debt and providing meals for cancer patients.


CBC seeks MLK Jr. Spirit Award nominations

Columbia Basin College is accepting nominations for its 2023 Martin Luther King Jr. Spirit Award.

The award honors a student, faculty, staff or community member whose contributions reflect the spirit, philosophy and teachings of the slain civil rights leader.

The deadline is Dec. 15.

The award is given to a resident of Benton or Franklin counties and will be presented on Jan. 16, 2023.

Contact Elizabeth Burtner, eburtner@columbiabasin.edu, for information.


GET college tuition registration open

Washington’s Guaranteed Education Tuition program is open for 2022-23 enrollments through May 31, 2023.

The college and career training tuition program allows families to prepay future post-secondary education costs at current prices.

During the current enrollment, units cost $116.63.

GET is a 529 prepaid tuition program. The state guarantees that units will keep pace with in-state college tuition costs.

Students may use GET at most public or private universities, community colleges or technical schools across the country. GET funds may be used for apprenticeship programs and student loan repayments. Go to 529.wa.gov.


Epic Trust Financial acquires Spokane business

 Epic Trust Financial Group LLC of Richland has acquired Stewart-Longhurst PS Certified Public Accounting of Spokane.

The transition to new ownership began Sept. 1. Terms were not disclosed.

Stewart-Longhurst will operate under the Epic Trust name, though staff, the office at 323 E. Second Ave. in Spokane and the fee structure will be retained. Greg Stewart-Longhurst, the firm’s cofounder, also will remain on for one year to oversee a smooth transition for clients.

The transaction followed Greg’s wife and cofounder, Hanna, being diagnosed with multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer. To give their full attention to her treatment, the couple chose to sell to continue serving their nearly 500 clients at the same high standard.

“We finally found that perfect match in a CPA named Nathan Burt,” Greg said. “Nathan’s firm and our firm are very similar in many ways. The firm has been in the Burt family for generations and is family-owned and run just like ours … We are totally impressed with Nathan and his crew’s level of integrity and the level at which they serve their clients.”

The Epic Trust team’s service encompasses taxes and tax planning, risk management/insurance strategy, business, retirement plans, investments and estate/wealth transfer solutions for individuals, families, professionals and business owners.

Epic Trust formed in 2020 with the merging of several financial service firms who shared the collective vision of providing a comprehensive scope of fiduciary services, offering clients more than 150 years of combined experience.

It has locations in Richland, Spokane and Peoria, Arizona.


Maritime Administration awards $4.2 million to expand Columbia River barge service

The U.S. Maritime Administration has awarded nearly $4.2 million to Tidewater Barge Lines Inc. to expand regional barge service on the Columbia River.

Vancouver-based Tidewater is matching the grant with $2 million and will use the money to buy two low- and zero-emission cranes to enable loading solid waste containers for shipment. The equipment will be placed at Tidewater’s facilities at Vancouver and at its terminal at Boardman, Oregon.

The investment will move an additional 3,000 containers via the river and will reduce truck trips by more than 1 million miles.

The money was awarded through the America’s Marine Highway Grant Program.


Washington, Oregon, Idaho are midpack for business taxes

Washington, Oregon and Idaho rank in the middle of the pack for small business taxes, according to the Tax Foundation.

Washington was 28th, Oregon 24th and Idaho 15th in the national rankings, which is calculated based on the tax structures of individual states.

Nevada, South Dakota and Wyoming were among the leading states for small business because they have no corporate or income tax.

The lowest ranking states were California, New York and New Jersey which the foundation said share complex, nonneutral taxes with “comparatively high rates.”

Go to taxfoundation.org/2023-state-business-tax-climate-index.


Banked households now at record levels

A record 96% of American households had access to banking services in 2021, according to a new survey released in October by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

The 2021 National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households found that 4.5% of households, or 5.9 million, lacked a bank or credit union, the lowest level since the survey began in 2009.

The FDIC, which audits banks and insures deposits, said its survey showed 1.2 million additional households opened accounts in insured banks or credit unions between 2019-21.

“During the pandemic, consumers opened bank accounts to access relief funds and other benefits quickly and securely,” said Martin Gruenberg, acting chair of the FDIC.

The FDIC noted that the rate of unbanked and underbanked households remains higher among minorities than white households. In 2021, 2.1% of white households were unbanked, compared to 11.3% of Black households and 9.3% of Hispanic households.


Banner Bank parent reports earnings, declares dividend

Walla Walla-based Banner Corp., parent to Banner Bank, reported third quarter income of $49 million or $1.43 per diluted share, down 2% compared to the same quarter in 2021.

Its third quarter results included a $6.1 million provision for credit losses, compared to $8.6 million the prior year.

The board of directors declared a 44 cents per share dividend, payable Nov. 10 to common shareholders of record on Oct. 31.

Banner said total deposits increased to $14.23 billion on Sept. 30, 2022, compared to $14.16 billion the prior year.

Banner Corp. is a $16.36 billion bank holding company operating in Washington, Oregon, California and Idaho.


Stanford, UC Berkeley, Harvard top rankings for startup founders

Pitch Book, a Seattle research firm that tracks private investment, released its annual look at the top 100 colleges ranked by the number of alumni entrepreneurs who founded venture capital-backed companies.

The rankings include companies formed by those who earned undergraduate degrees and those who earned graduate degrees.

Stanford University topped the rankings for companies formed and money raised by both undergraduates and graduates. The University of California Berkeley was second for undergraduate programs, while Harvard University was second for graduate programs.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology rounded out the top of both lists.

The University of Washington was 24th for undergraduate founders and 30th for graduate founders. No other Northwest institutions were listed.

According to PitchBook, 456 UW undergraduates formed 413 companies and raised nearly $12 billion. Another 420 Husky graduate degree holders established 346 companies and raised about $10 billion.

The rankings are based on analysis of more than 144,000 VC-backed founders.

The most common reason for not having a bank account was not having enough money to meet the minimum balance followed by lack of trust in banks.

Go to FDIC.gov/GetBanked.


Big Cross Frozen Tundra Run is Jan. 28 

Registration is open for the Big Cross Frozen Tundra Run, a 2.5-mile run and walk organized by Pasco Parks and Recreation. 

The event is from 11-11:45 a.m. Jan. 28 at 3700 Road 36, Pasco.  

The run is open to runners of all ages and the fee is $15. The 2023 event includes the options to create teams.  

Participants must register online. There will be no day-of onsite registration. 

Go to: runsignup.com/Race/WA/Pasco/TheBigCrossTeen25mileTrailRun. 


West Richland honors sergeant for Veterans Day 

 Sgt. Kelsey Gray Lehto of the Washington Army National Guard’s 104 First Transportation Co. was selected as grand marshal for the 2022 Veterans Day Parade in West Richland. 

The Nov. 5 event in downtown West Richland near Flat Top Park included a chili feed following the parade at the park. 

The parade is sponsored by Combat Veterans International. 


Hermiston creates new urban renewal area 

The city of Hermiston is encouraging development of new housing by establishing an urban renewal area. 

The Southwest Hermiston Urban Renewal Area sets the stage for a large-scale development of a 350-acre area near the intersection of Feedville Road and Highway 207, known as Prairie Meadows.  

The city will spend about $14 million to install infrastructure, including a 6,000-foot water line, a 5,300-foot sewer line, a 2-million-gallon reservoir, update the nearby Joseph booster station and build a 38-acre park around a large basalt butte on the site. 

The city will borrow $12 million to start, with future tax revenue in the development pledged to pay it2017 off over a 19-year period.  

Future roads will be paid through developer fees levied on its partner, MonteVista Homes of Bend. 

The project will include 1,300 homes, public services, parks and commercial development.  

MonteVista will donate 1.5 acres for a future fire station. 


Three ports report clean audit findings

The ports of Benton, Kennewick and Pasco have received clean audit reports from the Washington State Auditor’s Office. 

The ports of Benton and Pasco both received unmodified audit opinions signifying no findings of in the auditor’s reviews of their 2021 financial statements.  

Separately, the Port of Kennewick received a clean audit for its 2020 financial statements, the most recent available, according to an independent review by the CPA firm CliftonLarsenAllen and confirmed by the state auditor’s office.  


Yakima Valley Memorial being acquired by MultiCare 

The Yakima Valley Memorial health system is being acquired by MultiCare, a Tacoma nonprofit, and will be rebranded as MultiCare Yakima Memorial Hospital in 2023. 

Terms were not disclosed. 

The Memorial system includes a 226-bed hospital, five primary care clinics and several specialty care services, including the only level-3 NICU in central Washington. With 3,000 employees, it is the largest employer in Yakima County. 

The change is not expected to disrupt care and Memorial patients will have the same access to doctors and services.  

The MultiCare system includes 11 hospitals with locations in Tacoma, Auburn, Olympia, Covington, Spokane, Puyallup and West Seattle as well as clinics across the state. 


Asia-Pacific trade officials to meet in Seattle 

A key Pacific Rim trade group will hold its annual meeting in Seattle. 

The third Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Senior Officials’ and Ministerial Meetings will be held in 2023, according to the U.S. Department of State, the state of Washington and the city of Seattle. 

The U.S. hosted the first APEC economic leaders’ meeting on Puget Sound’s Blake Island in 1993. 

By hosting the 2023 gathering, Seattle will showcase U.S. leadership on economic inclusion through its large population of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders living in the region. 

“Washington state and the APEC nations are bound together by ties of culture, of business, and especially the tens of billions of dollars of trade that flow through our ports,” said Gov. Jay Inslee.  

Washington exported more than $50 billion of manufactured goods, agricultural products and advanced technology to the Asia-Pacific region. 

The value of ag products originating in Washington was $7.7 billion in 2021. Ag exports totaled $21.7 billion when the value of crops passing through from other states were included. 

 

 

 

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