Business Briefs – January 2023

Lamb Weston says sales up 27%

Lamb Weston Holdings Inc., the Eagle, Idaho, frozen potato giant with major operations in the Mid-Columbia, reported nearly $1.3 billion in net sales for the second quarter of fiscal 2023, which ended in December, a 27% increase over the prior year.

Net income increased to $103 million, an increase of more than 217%, and diluted earnings per share rose to 71 cents, up 223%.

Lamb Weston updated its 2023 fiscal outlook to nearly $5 billion in net sales and $620 million in net income, or diluted earnings per share of $4.28.

Lamb Weston said volume declined 3%, which it attributed primarily to “an inability to fully serve customer demand in the company’s food service and retail channels.”

It said supply chain disruptions, commodity shortages and the challenge of training new production workers affected its production run dates.

Lamb Weston shares trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “LW.” Its 52-week range as of Jan. 5 was $49.71 to $96.87.

Crow Butte makes it easy to pay for parking

A pair of new parking kiosks at Crow Butte Park will make it easy to pay fees to park in the Port of Benton-owned park and campground on the Columbia River west of Paterson.

The kiosks allow visitors to pay the $10 boat launch or day use fee when they enter.

Reservations for the 2023 season can be made at

Goldendale Energy Storage project advances

The proposed Goldendale Energy Storage project, which would provide hydropower during peak energy demand hours, has advanced after the state Department of Ecology completed an environmental impact (EIS) statement.

The EIS evaluates potential impacts to air quality, plant and animal habitat, transportation, water resources and quality as well as Native American resources in the area.

The next steps include a federal review by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and permit decisions, which will occur over the next two years.

If built, the project will consist of a reservoir that generates power by releasing water into a lower reservoir when demand for power is high, then pumping the water back uphill during off-peak hours. Power would feed into the electrical grid at the John Day Dam.

Go to:

SBA funded nearly $940M to Seattle District in 2022

The U.S. Small Business Administration reports it supported nearly $940 million in funding for 1,500 loans to small businesses within the Seattle District in 2022.

The Seattle district serves most of Washington state, including the Tri-Cities, and portions of northern Idaho. Four counties in the Vancouver area are served separately out of SBA’s Portland District.

The Seattle District supported 1,250 7(a) loans valued at $776 million, 168 504 loans valued at $162 million and 83 microloans valued at $1.5 million. The figures exclude SBA Covid Relief programs.

Washington minimum wage now $15.74

Washington was one of 27 states to raise its minimum wage on Jan. 1 and is one of five where the minimum wage is above $15 an hour.

The current minimum wage is now $15.74.

The other states where the minimum hourly wage is $15 or more are California, Connecticut, Massachusetts and parts of New York state, according to Chain Store Age, which reports on issues related to the retail sector.

The Oregon minimum wage is indexed to inflation and won’t take effect until July 1. It currently is between $12.50 to $14.75, depending on location.

The federal minimum wage remains $7.25, unchanged since July 2009. Twenty states follow the federal minimum wage, and it is the default in five more that do not have their own minimum wage regulations.

Benton County receives $2.17M to expand mental health care

Benton County has received $2.17 million for the Three Rivers Behavioral Health Recovery Center in Kennewick.

The state Department of Commerce announced another $20.4 million investment in community-based facilities serving people who are experiencing a mental health crisis, or who are in need of withdrawal management services to help them restore and stabilize their health. 

Five crisis triage and stabilization projects across the state, including in Kennewick, were awarded grants from the Behavioral Health Facilities capital program.

These types of stabilization facilities offer a meaningful alternative to emergency room hospitalization or incarceration.

The funds are for construction, renovation, acquisition and/or equipment costs associated with establishing the facilities, and the projects must maintain the facility for at least 15 years.

This round of funding builds on to $140 million in additional behavioral health investments from earlier this year with funding provided by the Legislature for the 2021-23 biennium.

The investments support Gov. Jay Inslee’s five-year plan to modernize and transform Washington’s mental health system, with the goal of ending civil patient placements at the state’s large hospitals by 2023 in favor of smaller community-based facilities. 

Badger Club welcomes globe-trotting mayor

Former Pasco Mayor Watkins will share his tale of exploring the world in 412 days in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic at the Jan. 19 Columbia Basin Badger Club’s annual meeting, which will be held online.

Watkins, who is now managing Pasco’s efforts to construct a voter-approved aquatics center, stepped off the city council and left his job to explore the world, an adventure that saw him join in early relief efforts connected to the Russia-Ukraine war.

The virtual webinar is from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

The event is free to Badger Club members and $5 for nonmembers.

Register at:

Senske Services acquires Richland, Tacoma firms

Senske Services, a regional lawn care firm based in Kennewick, has acquired Richland-based DesertGreen from founder Scott Hockersmith, and Tacoma-based Scientific Spray Service.

Hockersmith established the lawn, tree and pest control company in 1997.

Terms were not disclosed.

Senske said the local acquisition adds “significant density” to its Tri-City business. 

“I’ve known Scott for many years and have a tremendous amount of respect for what he’s been able to build in the Tri-Cities. I’m excited to have his customers and employees join the Senske family as we look to continually grow and provide the same great services,” said Chris Senske, Senske board member.

It acquired nine businesses in 2022.

Senske said the acquisitions are part of its goal of growing in the U.S. It currently operates in Colorado, Idaho and Utah, as well as across Washington state.

It has a website for firms interested in selling to Senske at

TRIDEC’s annual Economic Outlook, lunch set for Feb. 1

The Tri-City Development Council holds its 60th annual Luncheon and 24th annual Economic Outlook on Feb. 1 at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick. 

The half-day symposium features industry influencers leading panel discussions on key issues impacting the economy of the Tri-Cities. Topics include the impact of tourism, talent retention and recruitment, agriculture innovations, clean energy movement and projects that will be powering the next 60 years of economic development. The Economic Outlook session is from 7:30 a.m. to noon. The luncheon begins at noon. 

To register:

Children’s Reading Foundation distributes books

The Children’s Reading Foundation of the Mid-Columbia is distributing 6,000 books to young readers through a partnership with Hanford Mission Integration Solutions.

The foundation, which promotes literacy, challenged the community to resolve to read 20 minutes each day with a child in 2023 through its Resolution Read.

The book campaign supports families in their efforts to read with their children. More than 200 families signed up for the program in December and will receive free books.

Another 300 book bags are being donated to local groups to distribute to families throughout the Mid-Columbia, including in north Franklin County and in Paterson.

Survey: Inflation, staffing shortages hurting patients

 Patients have less ability to access medical care as inflation and staffing shortages strain Washington’s medical practices, according to a recent survey by the Washington State Medical Association.

The association issued a call to action to shore up the outpatient practice community as the state recovers from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Access to care in our state will continue to diminish over the next year, creating even more pressure on our already overwhelmed hospitals,” it said.

The study included 82 responses from medical practices that were not affiliated with hospitals. 

Key findings: 

  • Nearly 50% reduced office hours, services and treatments because of staffing shortages.
  • More than 30% reduced patient access, including reducing office hours, services and treatments, because of inflation.
  • Nearly 50% limited the number of Medicaid patients they see due to the practice’s current financial statement.
  • Fewer than 10% had the minimum 18 weeks’ worth of cash required for operating expenses with nearly half of practices said they had less than four weeks’ worth of available cash.
  • Over 50% expect further reductions in patient access a year.

Increasing Medicaid reimbursements and reducing staffing strain from prior authorization requirements were the most cited solutions to easing the pressures.

The medical association called on the 2023 Legislature to raise Medicaid rates for all specialties and to reduce the administrative burden posed by insurance carriers’ requirements that patients receive prior authorization for certain treatments.

Security guards head off vandals at old KGH 

Benton County has hired a security company to guard against vandalism at the former Kennewick General Hospital in downtown Kennewick.

The county acquired the now-closed hospital in November as part of its plan to create a two-campus recovery facility for Tri-Citians facing mental health and/or substance abuse disorder crises. The property was repeatedly targeted by vandals and metal thieves, forcing the county to act to protect the building.

PPP Solutions Inc., dba Phoenix Security, is providing nightly security patrols under a contract approved in December.

The vandalism triggered a $12,400 repair bill to address flood damage in two incidents that occurred after regular business hours, the county said.

Richland City Council selects interim councilman

The Richland City Council has selected Ryan Whitten as a new councilman.

The council conducted four candidate interviews for Position 7 during a special meeting on Jan. 6.

The council voted unanimously selected Ryan Whitten to fill the role. He will be sworn in at the Jan. 17 council meeting.

Whitten grew up in Prosser and has been a Richland resident for six years. He is a Navy veteran and has a degree in political science from Columbia Basin College. He works as an instrument and controls technician at Energy Northwest.

Whitten fills the vacant position created by the resignation of Michael Alvarez who was recently sworn in as a Benton County commissioner. He will serve as an interim council member until the term for the position expires. The next general election is November 2023.

The council solicited applications from interested citizens to fill the vacancy. Ten applications were received.

Walmart sends ice cream, chicken and lemons by drone

The 36 Walmart Neighborhood Market stores testing the company’s drone delivery program collectively dispatched more than 6,000 deliveries via drone in 2022, the company reported.

The most delivered products: Great Value cookies and cream ice cream, two-pound bags of lemons, rotisserie chicken, Red Bull and Bounty paper towels.

In all, Walmart estimates that 85% of items in a Neighborhood Market meet the weight and volume requirements to be delivered by drone. The maximum weight is 10 pounds.

Walmart drone delivery hubs are operated by DroneUp, Flytrex and Zipline. Drone service typically takes 30 minutes or less after ordering and is currently available in seven states: Texas (11 drone hubs), Florida (9), Arizona (6), Arkansas (4), Virginia (3), Utah (2) and North Carolina (1).

Walmart notes it operates 4,700 stores in close proximity to 90% of the U.S. population, positioning it to offer drone delivery at a large scale.

Port of Pasco lands $416K for airport study

The Port of Pasco received $416,000 to conduct a due diligence study and engineering master plan for property at the Tri-City Airport to support efforts to promote aerospace and manufacturing at the 460-acre site.

The port was one of six rural entities to share a $2.5 million grant to accelerate development of industrial sites.

The one-time grants were awarded under the 2021 Building Economic Strength Through Manufacturing (Best) Act, which was sponsored by then-Rep. Matt Boehnke, R-Kennewick, now a state senator. The act provides a framework for the state to add 300,000 manufacturing jobs over the next 10 years.

The other recipients were the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation for East Omak, the Lummi Indian Business Council for Lummi Indian Business Park, the Port of Sunnyside for Midvale Industrial Park, the Port of Walla Walla for Wallula Gap Business Park and the Port of Skagit for Watershed Business Park.

Each agency received $416,000.

School supers headline two chamber events

The superintendents of the Kennewick, Pasco and Richland school districts will headline two local chamber luncheons.

The Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce’s annual State of Education luncheon  is from noon-1:30 p.m. on Jan. 25 at the Red Lion Hotel Kennewick Columbia Center. The cost is $30 for members and $40 for guests.

For information, go to, email or call 509-736-0510.

The Tri-Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s luncheon, “State of the School Districts” is 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Jan. 31 at Pasco Red Lion Hotel, 2525 N. 20th Ave. Cost is $25 for members, $35 for nonmembers. Register at

Timeline finalized for merger of Columbia, Umpqua banks

The FDIC has approved the merger of Columbia Banking System Inc. of Tacoma and Umpqua Holdings Corp. of Portland to create a $50 billion regional bank. The deal will be finalized by the end of February.

Both banks operate in the Tri-Cities.

Upon closing, the combined company will become one of the largest banks headquartered in the West, with offices in eight western states that serve customers in all 50 states.

The combined holding company will operate as Columbia Banking System Inc. with headquarters in Tacoma. The bank will operate under the Umpqua Bank name with headquarters in Lake Oswego, Oregon.

The two companies have received regulatory approvals from the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System; the FDIC; the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services, Division of Financial Regulation; and the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions.

In November, Columbia entered into definitive agreements to divest its 10 branches identified by the U.S. Department of Justice, Antitrust Division, which was a condition for obtaining certain regulatory approvals.

Other major subsidiaries and divisions will include Columbia Trust Company, Columbia Wealth Advisors and Columbia Private Bank, which will operate under the umbrella of Columbia Wealth Management, as well as Financial Pacific Leasing, Inc.

The combined company will trade under Columbia’s ticker symbol (COLB).

Hermiston picks up pace of housing development in 2022

The Hermiston Building Department approved permits for 210 new housing units in 2022, setting a new high mark in the city’s recent efforts to increase and diversify available housing for a growing population. This marks the most housing unit permits issued in the Oregon city since 2006.

The new housing includes a mix of single- and multi-family site-built dwellings, income-restricted apartments, and manufactured homes. Since the beginning of 2020 the city has issued 464 new housing permits.

While the U.S. Census Bureau estimated Oregon’s population declined by 16,000 people between 2021-22, Hermiston continued to grow at a steady pace. The Portland State University Population Estimate shows Hermiston adding 277 residents, in line with recent year-over-year growth and bringing the population to 19,696.

The Hermiston City Council has made housing availability an annual goal since 2017 and it has resulted in several large infrastructure investments which allowed the city’s development community to quickly respond to the recent low interest rates, Morgan said.

The city’s Moorehouse Apartments broke ground in 2022 and will add 60 income-restricted units to the city’s housing stock. The 200-home Santiago Estates Manufactured Home community is also underway and is expected to begin permitting units in 2023. 

The 350-acre Prairie Meadows project on Feedville Road was also set in motion in 2022 through the development of the Southwest Hermiston Urban Renewal Area. It is expected to include 1,300 single- and multi-family units and other community amenities and to begin adding housing in 2025.

Pump price spike stalls after the holidays

The recent surge in gas prices caused by frigid weather and robust holiday road travel may be ending, according to AAA.

While the national average price rose daily starting on Christmas Eve, when it was $3.09 per gallon, the steam may have run out as pump prices flattened and then fell by a penny n. The national average for a gallon of gas rose to $3.28 on Jan. 9.

In the Tri-Cities the average price per gallon was $3.60, down from the $4 per gallon it was a month prior. The highest average for the area was $5.31 per gallon in June 2022.

“As we head toward February, pump prices will likely dip, barring any jolt in the global oil market,” said Andrew Gross, AAA spokesperson. “But it is likely that the national average prices we saw heading in to Christmas may have been the lows for this winter.”

According to data from the Energy Information Administration, gas demand dropped from 9.33 million to 7.51 million b/d in early January. Meanwhile, total domestic gasoline stocks fell by 300,000 bbl to 222.7 million bbl. Lower gasoline demand has contributed to limiting increases in pump prices.

IRS: standard mileage rates increase for business use

The Internal Revenue Service issued the 2023 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.

Beginning on Jan. 1, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:

  • 65.5 cents per mile driven for business use, up 3 cents from the midyear increase setting the rate for the second half of 2022.
  • 22 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes for qualified active-duty members of the Armed Forces, consistent with the increased midyear rate set for the second half of 2022.
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations; the rate is set by statute and remains unchanged from 2022.

These rates apply to electric and hybrid-electric automobiles, as well as gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles.

The standard mileage rate for business use is based on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile. The rate for medical and moving purposes is based on the variable costs.

Taxpayers always have the option of calculating the actual costs of using their vehicle rather than using the standard mileage rates.

  • Done Reading?

    Take me back to the top

Posted in

Latest News


Sign-up for our e-newsletter filled with featured stories and latest news.


Shred Day

April 14 @ 8:00 am - 12:00 pm

Spring Career and Internship Fair in Pasco

April 25 @ 10:00 am - 2:00 pm

Head & Neck 5K/2-Mile Walk in Richland

April 15 @ 9:00 am