Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business gets new owner

The Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business and Senior Times newspapers began the new year with new ownership.

Paul Read

Tri Comp Inc., which published the Journal and Senior Times, and Cowles Company, a fourth-generation Spokane business with holdings in the news, broadcasting, real estate, printing and other industries, reached an agreement in which a subsidiary of Cowles acquired the non-cash assets of Tri Comp.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Cowles Company also owns KNDU-TV, the Tri-City NBC affiliate.

Both the Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business and Senior Times will continue independently under a new subsidiary of Cowles Company, Mid-Columbia Media Inc.

Journal president and founder Melanie Hoefer of Richland, who launched the monthly business-focused newspaper in late 2001, is exiting the publishing field after a 27-year career to focus on a consulting practice.

Growing the brand

The Journal’s five full-time employees were invited to stay on board and no immediate changes are planned, said Paul Read, longtime publisher of the biweekly Spokane Journal of Business, operating under a separate subsidiary of Cowles Company.

Read has been with the Spokane Journal since it was founded in 1986 and will oversee the Kennewick-based operation.

“I have been so impressed with the staff and product at the Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business, and I can’t wait to see how they continue to grow their brand and serve their advertisers and readers,” Read said. “They have built a great local product and our intent is that it remains integral to and focused on the market it so capably serves.”

Two title changes come with the ownership change: Kristina Lord was named executive editor, and Tiffany Lundstrom, associate publisher for sales. The pair will head day-to-day operations in the Tri-Cities.

The team added a part-time employee, Erin Landon of Kennewick, a familiar face who has supported the two publications for more than a decade, working in production, billing and other roles before she stepped away to be a stay-at-home mother. She returned several years ago to support billing for a few hours a month, and in her new part-time position she will handle accounts receivables and circulation, among other duties.

Humble beginnings

Hoefer founded the Journal with the mission of uniting the local business community and increasing enterprise in Benton and Franklin counties.

“I am humbled how our readers and advertisers have supported the growth of the Journal, and along with talented staff, helped it grow to the essential business resource it is today,” she said.

In 2013, Hoefer purchased the rights to Senior Times, a monthly publication focusing on news of interest to retirees.

Melanie Hoefer

Hoefer was honored for fostering community spirit and supporting entrepreneurs through her work with the Journal in 2014 when she received Richland Rotary Club’s Sam Volpentest Entrepreneurial Leadership Award. The “Sammy” award is named for Volpentest, who for nearly 50 years was a major driver of economic development, including the co-founding of the Tri-City Development Council, or TRIDEC.

Each year the Port of Benton, Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce, Tri-Cities Research District, Fuse SPC and TRIDEC select a self-motivated community leader who guides and inspires others and contributes to entrepreneurship in the region for the award.

In the 21 years since the first edition rolled off the press, the Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business has tackled news that drives the local economy, helping local business managers and owners stay current on issues affecting their bottom line.

That was evident when Volume 1, Issue 1 appeared in January 2002.

The front page featured stories about economic growth (“Local economy strong”) and the cost to fuel up (“Gas prices down”).

Inside, the inaugural issue touched on stories that showed the Tri-City community at its best, like Dr. Lewis Zirkle’s SIGN Fracture Care International, the Richland nonprofit aiding patients in underdeveloped countries and a Q&A with business leaders about how they thought the Hanford vitrification project would affect their companies.

A real estate brief noted the Richland City Council sold 51 acres to a California development company near Walmart for “Vintner’s Square.” That property today is a thriving Target-anchored super center.

Over the years, the Journal has grown significantly, adding a robust online presence and a variety of specialty publications, including two magazines, Focus: Real Estate + Construction in the fall and Focus: Agriculture + Viticulture in the spring; specialty publications on a variety of topics; an annual Young Professionals contest; and the Parade of Homes magazine in partnership with the Home Builders Association of Tri-Cities.

Also popular is the company’s biannual Senior Times Expo that attracts hundreds of visitors each spring and fall.

The Journal also has collected its share of awards over the years, including the Mid-Columbia Micro Business Award in 2015 and the Mid-Columbia Young Business award in 2003.

Cowles Co.

Stacey Cowles

In becoming a subsidiary of Cowles Company, the Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business and Senior Times join a stable of other news organizations that includes The Spokesman-Review newspaper of Spokane, the Spokane Journal of Business and several Fox and NBC stations.

Cowles, pronounced “Coles,” formed in 1890 when William H. Cowles moved to Spokane to be the business manager of The Spokesman, which he later acquired and merged with a rival, The Review.

Today, it is led by the sister-brother team of Betsy Cowles, chairman, who leads the broadcasting and real estate divisions, and Stacey Cowles, president, who oversees the print division.

“We think the Journal team does excellent work and we don’t anticipate major changes,” said Stacey Cowles. “We hope to implement better internal tools for staff that will ultimately help expand online and print offerings.”

The company carries out civic, arts, cultural and educational philanthropy through the Harriet Cheney Cowles Foundation, established in 1944 to honor the memory of the founder’s wife.

Looking forward

Hoefer plans to leave the media industry, but her passion for serving will continue. She launched a new company, Pathways Coaching & Consulting LLC, through which she will help families find appropriate treatment options for their children in need of therapeutic intervention for myriad behavioral and mental health challenges.

She will donate a percentage of every consulting fee to nonprofits in the field that assist families in need, as insurance doesn’t often cover the cost of treatment programs. She plans to add personal and business coaching services in the future.

“God has been lining things up for me to transition into my next calling for a while now, so I fully trust this timing is the right timing,” Hoefer said. “I am confident the Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business and Senior Times are in experienced hands, and I know the staff care deeply about their mission of providing our community with quality content and news.”

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