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Business park expansion begins

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East Wenatchee

Heavy machinery will begin rolling in this month to shape, dig and pave an expansion of the Pangborn Airport Business Park, officials with the Port of Douglas County announced May 11.

The second phase of the business park calls for $1.4 million in improvements that include extension of the public road and installation of water, electricity and high-speed fiber. The contractor will also do some earth-moving and grading to make the sites more “shovel ready” for new tenants, officials said in a press release.

Selland Construction of Wenatchee won the contract for the project with the lowest of 10 bids from local and out-of-area contractors. Selland’s winning bid was below estimates, said officials.

This is a good deal” for the Port of Douglas County, said Alan Loebsack, president of the Port Commission.

Expansion of the site opens an additional 30 acres next to 70 acres already developed on South Union Avenue that includes Executive Flight and the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Construction on the first phase began in 1996.

New lots range in size from 1.5 to four acres, said Doug Provo, the Port’s business manager.

Port commissioners said they hope the expansion project will help generate lease revenue to help support Pangborn Memorial Airport, which is jointly owned by the Ports of Douglas and Chelan counties.

The expansion project was triggered last year when an Israeli company, Grow Fish Anywhere, expressed interest in locating to the Pangborn area, said Lisa Parks, director of the Port of Douglas County. “But we were nearly built out and didn’t really have a developed space for them,” she said.

That particular project is currently on hold, said Parks, “but we’ll be ready now for future tenants.”

The project is being funded through the sale of general obligation bonds and state and regional grants.

The Port plans to install a webcam to capture progress of the construction. Viewers will be able to see it on the Port’s website at portofdouglas.org.

Construction is expected to be completed by October, the press release said.


Big retailer Big Lots heads for Olds Station

One of the nation’s largest resellers of closeout and overstock merchandise could be open here by autumn.

Big Lots Inc., a Fortune 500 company with more than $5 billion in annual sales, should be open by September in a 40,000-square-foot space adjacent to Gateway Cinema in Olds Station, manager of the company that owns the building announced May 14.

I’m happy,” said Bryan Cook, general manager for Sun Basin Theatres. “This is a popular store and a good fit for the Wenatchee Valley. It’ll help continue to revitalize the North Wenatchee commercial area.”

Sun Basin has completed interior prep work — wiring, plumbing, heat and air conditioning — to ready the space for Big Lots, said Cook. “Now they’ll do their own magic to make it a Big Lots store.”

The addition of Big Lots helps fill the former Kmart building, which closed in 2006 and was eventually bought by the state Department of Natural Resources. The agency never developed the property or found a tenant and sold the 107,000-square-foot building to Sun Basin in 2009.

Even with 14 movie auditoriums at Gateway and Big Lots, the huge building will still have room for one more tenant in a 5,000-square-foot corner space, said Cook.

The building sits on 9 acres in a shopping center on Easy Street that includes Food Pavilion, Big 5 Sporting Goods and other businesses.

Based in Columbus, Ohio, Big Lots has 1,400 stores in 48 states. It typically buys in bulk all types of clearance and overstock items — furniture, clothing, housewares, toys, electronics — and resells to customers at heavy markdowns. Most items are sold as they become available, and what’s in the store one day may not be there the next.

Individual stores average about $3.5 million in sales annually, said the company website.

Cook said his theater company had been negotiating with Big Lots since February 2011, when the retailer first considered Wenatchee as a location for expansion.

This is one of the few national retailers that continued to grow and expand through the slumping economy,” said Cook. “This type of store does exceptionally well when everyone is looking for a bargain.”

East Wenatchee

Packaging company buys bin, pallet maker

H.R. Spinner, one of the region’s largest produce packaging companies, announced last week it will buy a Naches-based wood products manufacturer to produce bins and pallets.

H.R. Spinner, which has offices in East Wenatchee and Yakima, will buy J&J Wood Products and rename the company Spinner Wood Products.

In 1916, H.R. Spinner was founded on wood products,” said Ed Jewett, company president. “Now we’ve come full circle.”

The company originally made wooden apple boxes but, over the decades, has expanded its product line to include paper and foam packing items and packaging machines.


Big fruit companies combine marketing

Two big Central Washington fruit companies have combined forces to market their organic products around the world.

Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers of Wenatchee and Columbia Valley Fruit of Yakima will join together this season to market their apples, peaches, nectarines and apricots. Oneonta will handle all sales and marketing of organics for both companies.

We’ve been looking for the right mix to expand our organic offerings,” said Dalton Thomas, president of Oneonta. Columbbia Valley has a fantastic mix of varietals and a state-of-the-art packing line.”

Columbia Valley is one of the state’s largest producers of organic apples, according to a company press release.


Rail company on track to expand

The rail management company that runs refrigerated shipping from Quincy to Chicago has a new partnership to operate up to 250 refrigerated railcars across several western states.

Rail Logistics, which hauls fruit and produce on the Cold Train to Midwest states, has joined with Chicago-based Iowa Pacific Holdings to operate a refrigerated railcar fleet in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, western Oregon and other states.

Since 2006, Rail Logistics has operated the Cold Train Chicagoland Express refrigerated rail service from the Port of Quincy’s intermodal terminal. The new contract with Iowa Pacific is expected to take effect later this year.


Improving home sales continue in April

A third straight month of improving home sales in April for the Wenatchee area could have local real estate folks thinking this is it — the market turn-around they’ve been hoping for.

Pacific Appraisal Associates, the Wenatchee-based appraisal and consulting firm, said May 15 that April home sales here were up 44 percent over the same month last year, year-to-date dollar volumes were up 25 percent and the average home price was up 1 percent with the median price up 4 percent.

The manufactured home market seemed to be bouncing back. In April, sales for mobile homes were 120 percent higher than April 2011 with year-to-date dollar volume more than doubled. These are small numbers of unit sales, with 11 sold this April compared to five last April.

Some stats from Pacific Appraisal’s real estate snapshot for April:

• Year-to-date dollar volume of homes sold hits $44 million, up 25 percent from last April’s $35.1 million.

• Year-to-date number of homes sold totals 196, up 24 percent from last April’s 158.

• Number of homes sold in April rises 44 percent, up to 62 from 43 in April 2011.

• Year-to-date dollar volume of manufactured homes sold doubles to $1.8 million from $0.9 million last April.

• Listings are shrinking. Year-to-date home listings are down 2 percent compared to last year and down 3 percent in month-to-month comparisons. Listings of manufactured homes fell 42 percent compared to April 2011 (down to 11 from 19 last April).

• The number of building permits issued are at 33 for the year, down 37 percent from last April’s year-to-date total of 52.

• The overall vacancy rate for rentals (condos, homes, apartments) is hanging in there at 4 percent, which is considered low by real estate agents and horrendously low for someone wanting to find an apartment.

Numbers are for the Wenatchee market, which includes Wenatchee, East Wenatchee, Malaga, Orondo and Rock Island.


Apple Blossom juices hotel occupancy

This year’s Apple Blossom bash put lots of heads in beds at area hotels and motels to snap a four-year slide in lodging for the celebration’s final weekend.

Local tourism officials reported May 8 that occupancy rates at area inns for the Washington State Apple Blossom Festival rose 5 percent over last year to hit 82 percent, a fill rate that added an estimated $277,000 to the local economy.

Whatever the reason for the increase — the sunshine, the beer garden, more advertising — we’re thrilled with the numbers,” said Roger Clute, executive director of the Wenatchee Valley Visitors Bureau.

Since Sunday, WVVB staff took an informal survey of 21 hotels and motels in the Wenatchee Valley — 1,335 rooms in all — for an occupancy tally on Friday and Saturday nights. In estimating economic impact, the staff included only rates for paid rooms and not dollars from dining, entertainment, gas purchases and other travel expenses.

This year’s increase in hotel fill rates reverses a slight downward trend that began in 2004 and 2005, said Clute, following the festival’s deliberate shift from “a party-hearty spring break atmosphere to a family-oriented event.”

Prior to that shift, occupancy rates some years reached 100 percent with every room taken in Wenatchee, Leavenworth and Chelan, said Clute.

In 2007 and 2008, hotel occupancy slipped more steadily as the recession economy took hold and local families became a mainstay for Apple Blossom events, said Clute.

The huge number of out-of-town visitors was being replaced by more festival-goers from the immediate area,” he said. “I’m not even sure overall numbers for the festival were affected — it was just a different type of crowd.”

Organizers estimate the Apple Blossom Festival draws about 100,000 people during its 11-day run. Most of those are in town for the two big parades — the Keyes Fibre Youth Parade on the festival’s first weekend and the Stemilt Growers Grand Parade on the second.

This year, said Clute, a better mix of festival events — including a beer garden, an evening of wine-tasting and even a bullriding show at the Town Toyota Center — brought a more diverse crowd into town.

And, in the two months prior to the festival, WVVB spent $10,000 on a new online ad campaign in Seattle and Spokane to promote Apple Blossom. Click-through responses from online viewers haven’t been tabulated yet, said Clute, but should be available by the end of May.

Of course, we like to think this ad campaign had a big effect on increasing occupancy rates,” said Clute. “But it was likely a number of factors — the ads, new festival events and, of course, the beautiful weather — all combined to make it a great weekend.”


Farmers Market expands this season

The Wenatchee Valley’s largest farmers market opened for the season May 19 with an expanded line of veggies, foods and crafts.

The Wenatchee Valley Farmers Market, now in its 33rd year, hosted more than 60 vendors at the corner of Palouse and North Columbia streets in downtown Wenatchee. The Saturday market is open 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

This year’s additions include a bakery, fresh eggs, fruit smoothies, homemade soy candles, mosaic art, woodworker booths and more, according to Market Manager Jennifer Wiecking.

The new season also includes live music, scheduled wine tastings, chef demonstrations and other weekend events.

More markets will open in June and July, with the Wednesday market at the Columbia Street location opening June 27 and the Thursday market at Methow Park opening July 12.

For more info, call 663-8712 or visit wenatcheefarmersmarket.com.

East Wenatchee

SnapIt wins big at Walmart

The snazzy SnapIt eyeglass repair screw, the brainchild of East Wenatchee inventor Nancy Tedeschi, will be shelved — and that’s a good thing.

How so? The SnapIt repair kits will be shelved at Walmart — in thousands of the retailer’s stores across the U.S.— after being named a winner in the company’s recent Get on the Shelf contest.

SnapIt and two other products beat over 4,000 inventions to grab the top three spots in the nationwide contest. It was a kind of “American Idol” for ingenious devices, said Tedeschi, with the winner being chosen by hundreds of thousands of voters across the country.

The contest’s grand prize winner was HumanKind bottled water, based in Philadelphia. The third product to snag a prize was PlateTopper, a clever plastic lid that turns any dinner plate into a air-tight storage container.

Find more info on the contest at getontheshelf.com and more info on SnapIt at snapitscrew.com.


Pak-it-Rite packs its summer

Pak-it-Rite, Wenatchee’s downtown shipping hub that’s also stocked with locally-made stuff, has packed its summer with interesting events.

The store is taking pre-orders through the first week of June for the new Orondo Ruby, a sweet and juicy cherry first developed in an orchard on the Columbia River near Orondo. It’s a relative of the Rainier cherry but with a deeper-red skin and 20 percent more sugar content.

Orders are filled in 5-pound and 10-pound crates and shipped overnight.

Later, the first of four Pak-it-Rite public markets featuring local vendors (food, crafts, plants) will be held 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 9 in the business’ parking lot. Some of the proceeds will benefit New Life Adoptions, a Wenatchee nonprofit group.

Owner Adam Campbell said vendors at the public market will offer metalwork, pottery, stonework, leather goods, jewelry, garden plants, organic skin-care products, baked goods and tons more.

Wine tasting will take place in the store and feature Snowdrift Cider Co., the artisan cider outfit in East Wenatchee.

Additional Pak-it-Rite public markets are scheduled for July 14, Sept. 8 and Oct. 13.

Details: Pak-it-Rite, 126 N. Wenatchee Ave. Phone 663-1072 or visit pakitrite.com.


Business loan fund receives state grant

A nonprofit loan fund that helps promote economic development across North Central Washington has received a state grant to help boost rural businesses.

The NCW Business Loan Fund, based in Chelan, received the $468,000 grant May 1 and will use it to establish a revolving loan fund, said Director Rich Watson.

The fund serves Chelan, Douglas and Okanogan counties and the Colville Indian Reservation by providing counseling, training and lending for the startup and expansion of small businesses. Many of the qualifying businesses have been denied funding through traditional lending sources.

Established in 1991, the fund has loaned more than $6 million to businesses in rural communities and helped create or retain 560 jobs, said Watson. The average loan is $79,000.

For more information on the fund, visit ncwloanfund.org or email ncwloanfund@nwi.net.


Fruit company expands field staff

A regional fruit company has expanded its field staff to Wenatchee to help growers better produce, ship and market their products.

Holtzinger Fruit Company of Yakima announced the expansion last month. Shane Dillard will head the new department.

It’s important that we have an extensive field staff that’s dedicated to the independent grower,” said David Lawrence, president of Holtzinger.

Dillard, a third-generation farmer, will help provide growers with the tools necessary to improve profits, Lawrence said in a press release.

Holtzinger has served independent growers, packers, shippers and marketers in the fresh fruit business since it’s founding in Yakima in 1908. The company sells fruit through retailers across North America and in 35 other countries.