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Business Roundup: The Muffler Shop hotrods it to new location

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Jerry and Junell Wentz, owners of The Muffler Shop in Wenatchee, install a custom-built exhaust system.

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The Muffler Shop hotrods it to new location

After 35 years in the same Wenatchee location, The Muffler Shop has moved to 221 Park St. That’s in the auto-repair district between the 7-Eleven store and the George Sellar Bridge at the south end of town.

Owners Jerry and Junell Wentz say they’ll continue to service foreign and domestic vehicles — tractors to hotrods — and offer custom-built exhaust systems for just about any ride.

We do it all,” said Junell. “People wanting custom work for their hot rods have come from Canada, California and all around the Northwest. We’ve installed exhaust systems on ambulances, orchard sprayers, big trucks, compact cars — just about anything you can think of.”

Get more info at their Facebook page (keywords: the muffler shop wenatchee) or call 662-1666.


Insurance agency changes name

Mike Poirier and staff at Cobb Poirier White Insurance have changed — and shortened — their company name to CPW Insurance.

The eight-employee office works with Pemco, Allied, MetLife, Progressive and a handful of other insurance companies to offer auto, home, life and business coverage.

Find them at 118 N. Chelan Ave. in Wenatchee, or visit saveautohome.com.

Students see their futures at College & Career Expo

Cop? Cook? Counselor? Chiropractor? Computer tech?

Those careers and about 80 more job and education opportunities were on display last month for more than 2,000 Wenatchee High School students during a mega-sized College & Career Expo at Wenatchee Valley College.

It’s big and busy,” said Expo co-organizer Diana Haglund, who’s also coordinator for Wenatchee Learns. “It brings together opportunities for students to explore what to do after high school — what colleges are located nearby and what industries and careers are right here in the Wenatchee Valley.”

The 88 “business partners” — colleges, military recruiters, nonprofits, government agencies, small businesses, big companies — filled three venues on the WVC campus to welcome several waves of 500 students each throughout the 6-hour event. Attendees included freshmen through seniors at Wenatchee High School, WestSide High School and the Wenatchee Valley Technical Skills Center.

Sponsors of the event included the Wenatchee School District, Wenatchee Valley College, Central Washington University and a handful other organizations and businesses.

We hope to introduce the idea that job opportunities in the Wenatchee Valley are greater than people think,” said Craig Larsen, director of business development for the Port of Chelan County. “Scientists, machinists, ag workers, computer experts, healthcare professionals, domestic companies, international companies — the list is long and growing every year.”

The Be Your Own Boss booth, sponsored by the Greater Wenatchee Area Technology Alliance, emphasized entrepreneurship and “getting connected, learning the initial steps towards creating a start-up company,” said GWATA’s program manager Kathryn Franklin.

High school juniors Isaiah Abbot, 17, and friend Tanner Seims, 16, both said they were exploring job opportunities in law enforcement in the Wenatchee Valley. “If you live here and want to be a cop, where do you go and what do you do?” said Seims. “We’re hoping this (Expo) can give us some options” on post-high school education and training.

José Garcia, 17, said his career choices stretch toward either athletic training or engineering. “There’s not much here on athletic training, but lots on schools for engineering and other fields. It (the Expo) is a good introduction to other fields that I hadn’t considered before.”

Jonathan Higgins, 17, came away from the Chelan County PUD booth with a big smile on his face. He’s been studying computer programming in high school and is ready to follow a career in computer engineering. “The PUD said they have entry-level jobs at $55,000 a year,” said Higgins. “That’s cool. Real cool.”

Synjon Dudgeon, 17, was a shade disappointed in the Expo’s lack of forestry opportunities. “I love the outdoors and hope to find a job that ties in,” he said. “But there’s plenty of other stuff to see and talk about here. I’m learning all kinds of new things.”

The Expo’s organizers will be listing career interests that were skipped over this year and try to add them in coming years, said Haglund. “Not every job is covered,” she said, “but we emphasized with students that the Expo was also an opportunity to practice ‘soft skills’ — a good handshake, eye contact, friendly introductions.”

She said, “No matter the field, a good first impression is still an important step towards launching a career.”


Conservation districts seek supervisors

Ready to help protect and improve natural resources in Douglas County?

Both the South Douglas and Foster Creek Conservation districts have called for applications to fill vacancies in the coming year for supervisors on their respective boards.

In the South Douglas district, any landowner or land user within the district boundaries are eligible. Supervisors oversee conservation practices in southern Douglas County and help promote education and participation in protection of natural resources

The South Douglas district is currently involved in no-till or minimum-till programs, fire protection of land and properties, a tree sale, water quality projects and other programs.

In the Foster Creek district, landowners or land user within the district boundaries are also eligible for the positions. Supervisors promote education and protection of natural resources in the northern half of the county. Foster Creek has taken the lead in habitat conservation plans as well as biological control of weeds in the county.

For more info, applicants should call the Foster District at 745-8362 or the South Douglas district at 745-9160.


Check out local auto group’s expAAAnsion

Earlier this year, the Wenatchee AAA mapped out its remodel and has now reached its destination.

The whole office has a fresh new look, says Manager Trish Simmons, and selection of luggage and travel gear at the AAA Travel Store has expanded. Simmons says look for fresh paint, new furniture, better lighting and spiffy new retail displays.

The remodel reflects one of the many steps we’re taking as a company to innovate the way we deliver products and services to our community,” said Simmons. “We’re also excited about the new trends in travel — such as multi-generational travel (kids, parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, etc.) and river cruising — and expanding our current line of travel accessories and luggage.”

She reminds us that AAA has been in Wenatchee for 96 years.

Take a look at 221 N. Mission St., or visit online at aaa.com/travel.


Powerpay pays off for 10,000th customer

For one Chelan County PUD customer, receiving her utility bill by email paid off big. We’re talking free light bulbs, PUD-branded clothing and gear, a balloon bouquet and even chocolate.

Roxanne Cates of Wenatchee got the goodies for being the 10,000th Chelan PUD user to sign up for the utility’s Powerpay option, which boosts convenience for customers and cuts billing time and materials for the PUD by sending bills via email.

About one-third of Chelan PUD customers — that’s 10,000 out of around 35,000 addresses — have signed up for the service. The program began in 2011 and increased by nearly 2,000 members just this year.

Customers asked for email billing, and it’s wonderful to see how popular the program is,” said Kerri Wendell, the PUD’s customer accounting manager. “We’re always looking for ways to improve the program and keep enrollment growing.”

For every 1,000 customers who sign up for Powerpay, the PUD saves around $6,480 a year in printing, handling and mailing costs, said Wendell. It also saves paper and supports PUD efforts to operate in a sustainable manner.

As for Cates’ haul of goodies? She got a big ballon bouquet and a reusable SNAP (Sustainable Natural Alternative Power) tote bag loaded with indoor LED bulbs, SNAP snack bag clips and a PUD-branded hat, shirt and water bottle. Best of all, she received a handful of foil-covered “Conservation Makes Cents” chocolate coins. Pretty sweet.

For more info on Powerpay, call 661-8002 or visit chelanpud.org.


New tool will help veterans find jobs

A new tool for linking military veterans with civilian jobs was introduced Nov. 11 by the state Employment Security Department.

The Veterans Military Crosswalk — posted on Employment Security’s jobs website — goes beyond other sites that translate military skills into civilian occupations, said agency Commissioner Dale Peinecke.

Instead, Crosswalk converts veterans’ Military Occupation Codes directly into specific jobs that match their skills and experience, he said.

The tool works on mobile devices and can send email notification to users when it finds appropriate job openings.

I can think of no better way to honor our state’s veterans than to make it easier for them to find jobs when they return home,” said Peinecke. “The new job translator is a major service improvement for our veteran customers.”

Washington is home to 632,000 military veterans, and their overall unemployment rate for last year was 7.1 percent. WorkSource career centers placed nearly 21,000 veterans into jobs at an average wage of $35,600 per year during the agency’s last program year (June 2013-June 2014).

For more info on Crosswalk, visit go2worksource.com and click Services for Veterans under What’s Inside.


SCORE offers advice to small businesses

Sixteen local business experts can offer advice to “get you going down the right path” towards entrepreneural success, SCORE says.

SCORE, Counselors to America’s Small Business, offers free and confidential mentoring to owners of new and existing businesses. “We’ll get you around the ‘tight’ corners whether you have a walk-in store or an e-commerce idea,” says SCORE.

For more info, call SCORE at 888-2900 or email the group at score663office@gmail.com.


New state veterinarian chosen

The state Department of Agriculture has chosen a veterinarian with almost 40 years experience in animal medicine as the new state veterinarian.

Dr. Joe Baker, who’s worked with the New Mexico Livestock Board since 2006, assumed his vet duties Nov. 3.

Baker has headed New Mexico’s food inspection division, worked as a field veterinarian and served for a time as New Mexico’s interim state vet. He earned degrees in veterinary medicine at Washington State University and completed an equine reproduction residency at the University of California at Davis.

Baker “has many years in private practice, but also a deep understanding of regulatory medicine and policy,” said WSDA Director Bud Hover.

As new state vet, Baker will manage the WSDA’s animal health program, which aims to protect animal health, promote the livestock industry and safeguard state residents by identifying animal diseases that could affect humans.


New buildings cap downtown core

Two new retail-apartment buildings under construction in downtown Cashmere have filled one of the last vacant lots along the city’s primary business block.

These are very nice additions to downtown Cashmere,” said Mark Botello, the city’s director of planning and building. “They’ll bring in more activity — both residential and commercial — and round-out the core business area.”

Owned by Dave and Karen Bartholf of Wenatchee, the two two-story buildings sit next to each other at the corner of Cottage Avenue and Woodring Street and have a walkway in between.

The new structures, located at 131 and 132 Cottage Ave., each measure about 7,630 square feet with retail on the first floor and residences above. Cost averages about $345,000 each. The building at 131 Cottage Ave. has one apartment upstairs and one retail space downstairs. The building next door has two apartments and two retail spaces.

Originally, a gas station occupied the corner lot, said Botello. But about 30 years ago, the station was razed and the underground gas tanks removed. It’s been a parking lot ever since.

The new upstairs apartments join a growing list of downtown residences. People live full-time in apartments above Brian’s Bulldog Pizza, Casa Grande Mexican Restaurant and in the second-stories of a handful of other buildings, Botello said.


Sun Mountain beats Four Seasons

Winthrop’s Sun Mountain Lodge, one of the region’s prime spots to sip beer and soak up scenery — was named last month to Condé Nast’s Best Hotels in the Pacific Northwest: Readers’ Choice Awards 2014.

The lodge came in 10th on the list of 25 to beat out Seattle’s Four Seasons Hotel (11th) and the Fairmont Olympic Hotel (15th), along with the venerable Heathman Hotel in Portland, Ore. (18th).

Sun Mountain stretches across 3,000 acres in the foothills of the North Cascades. It’s got a AAA-rated four diamond restaurant, a 3,500 wine collection, great trails for hiking and skiing and guest rooms with magnificent views.

The Tu Tu’ Tun Lodge in Gold Beach, Ore., came in first, while the Davenport Hotel in Spokane was third and the Oxford Hotel in Bend, Ore., was seventh.

To determine the winners, Conde Nast tabulated nearly 77,000 responses from a survey that ranked resorts on the quality of their rooms, food, value, building design, activities and facilities.

East Wenatchee

More passengers, more car rentals at Pangborn

Pangborn Memorial Airport is flying high.

Airport officials announced last month that an increase in numbers of Pangborn passengers and car rentals during the first three quarters of this year have surpassed 2013, one of the busiest years ever for local enplanements.

Visiting fire crews during summer’s wildfires, along with a new Fly Wenatchee ad campaign, get credit for the boost.

In the first nine months of 2014, the number of passengers flying through Pangborn on Horizon Air, the facility’s commercial airline, increased 7.7 percent to 80,762 from 74,963 in 2013. The busiest month this year was August with 10,127 passengers, a 15.9 percent jump from August 2013. (Tallies include both departures and arrivals.)

Through September, the dollar volume of car rentals for Hertz, Budget and Enterprise rental companies were up 34 percent to $926,055 from $688, 008 last year. The busiest rental month was August with total revenues of $182,062, a 77.6 percent rise over August last year. Total parking revenues rose 28.2 percent to $252,027 from $196,520 in 2013.

Increasing numbers of passengers have pushed the load factor, the percentage of seats purchased, to the 70 percent mark for the year, said a Pangborn press release.

As we embark on the construction phase of our runway extension project, it’s great to see that airport usage continues to climb,” said JC Baldwin, Port of Chelan County commissioner. Strong load factors ensure profitability of routes for carriers, she said.

The airport is extending its primary runway from 5,700 feet to 7,000 feet. The $30 million project is expected to be completed in fall of 2016.

Officials say this year’s enplanements were bolstered by wildfire fighting and recovery efforts during July and August. A boost in business is also expected from the launch in August of a new Fly Wenatchee brand and advertising campaign that includes print, billboard and video promotions.


Banner, AmericanWest banks to merge

AmericanWest Bank — with branches in Ephrata, Moses Lake and other central Washington cities — announced Wednesday it will merge with Walla Walla-based Banner Bank. The $702 million deal is expected to close in the second quarter of 2015.

The combined company, operating under the name Banner Bank, will have over $9.7 billion in assets and around 190 branches across five western states, said a joint press release from the two banking companies.

The agreement calls for AmericanWest stockholders to receive 13.23 million shares of Banner stock and $130 million in cash.


Building booms as home demand rises

Saws were whirring, hammers were pounding and developers were grinning last month as home construction continued to rise across Chelan and Douglas counties. Some officials said 2014’s surge in new homes and remodels has neared pre-recession levels.

We’ve been busy, really busy,” said David Grimes, Chelan County’s interim planning director and coordinator of in-county building projects. “But it’s a good busy — good for the county and good the region.”

In fact, everybody was busy. Officials in Wenatchee and Douglas County also reported mini-booms in residential construction and, in East Wenatchee, one of the city’s largest apartment complexes in years was proposed. Construction jobs in September were up 16.7 percent (300 jobs) over the same month last year — the fourth straight month of job gains in the local building industry.

Developers and officials said several factors were contributing to residential construction’s recovery. Those included pent-up demand by buyers after gloomy economic times, continued low interest rates and in-migration to the region by retirees, empty nesters, health care workers and young couples seeking a sunny, safe area to raise a family.

There’s high demand for new, quality homes,” said Matt Bergey, real estate broker for Mountain Vista Homes, the developer of Madison Acres in Sunnyslope. “We’re seeing interest from a mix of people — locals and new residents — who are ready for a move.”

Since last year, the first phase of Madison Acres — 66 lots on 27 acres — has nearly sold out, said Bergey. Now Mountain Vista has begun construction on the project’s next two phases, respectively 18 and 23 lots, on what he called some of the last flat acreage in the Sunnyslope area.

You get nice mountain views but with level yards and easy street access,” said Bergey. “That’s pretty attractive for many buyers.”

Last month, Chelan County planners were tracking construction on three developments already underway, including Madison Acres, and another nine subdivisions — with a total of more than 189 lots — in various stages of the permitting process. That doesn’t even count another 12 short plats of two to four lots that are also in the works.

So far this year, the county’s number of total building permits has reached more than 670, said Grimes, and could shoot past 700 by year’s end. County planners haven’t seen that amount of building activity since the boom years a decade ago, said Grimes. “We’re not there yet, but we’re closing in on the kind of building we had in 2004.”

Building permit totals for the county included single-family homes (157), outbuildings (124), remodels (78), commercial structures and remodels (56), apartment complexes (1) and a host of lesser categories.

In Wenatchee, Weidner Apartment Homes of Kirkland is nearing completion of the 312-unit Riverside9 Apartments, the largest project underway within the city limits. First tenants moved into the complex at the beginning of August. And on South Okanogan Street, developers of the city’s biggest new development — Campbell Glen — have broken ground for 72 houses on 20 acres.

Steve King, Wenatchee’s community and economic development director, said major residential projects are following market demands that have made rental vacancies and mid-priced homes hard to find in the local housing market.

Through September, condo vacancies in the Wenatchee market stood at zero with apartment vacancies at around 3 percent, far below the traditional 5 to 6 percent. And homes priced at $200,000 or less are selling at around 20 or more per month, a number that far outpaces inventory, which is down 8 percent from last year.

This surge in housing is the result many factors,” said King. “But one overarching reason is that the economy is improving and people are moving to Wenatchee.”

The city’s major hurdle to continued development, said King, “is a serious lack of available land. Over the years, we’ve packed in here pretty tight.”

Most new residential development in East Wenatchee has taken place outside the city limits, noted Lori Barnett, the city’s community development director. But a new 107-unit apartment complex, one of the city’s largest in years, has been proposed by Stimac Construction and is in review. The complex would be built near city hall on 7.12 acres, the former site of the old high school athletic track.

The building boom continues in Douglas County, where more than 1,200 home lots are in various stages of construction or planning amid more than 150 subdivisions and short plats. Developments range in size from 72 housing lots down to short plats of two building lots.

Our county building guys stay busy round the clock,” said Associate Planner Suzanne Austin.

The most “buzz” from local residents and builders, said Austin, hovers around eight developments in prominent and visible locations in the East Wenatchee area. Those include more than 100 lots in three projects along South Kentucky Avenue, nearly 50 lots in three projects on Badger Mountain and near the upscale Breckenridge neighborhood off Eastmont Avenue and large developments on 10th Street NE (64 lots) and 8th Street SE (32 lots).

Construction of new homes stretches, said Austin, from rivershore developments north of the Beebe Bridge to a reborn Spanish Castle development in the extreme southwestern part of Douglas County, where development of at least 17 home lots are proposed.

In Douglas County, the number of building permits for single-family homes has grown 49 percent in the last two years — from 81 in 2012 to 121 through October of this year.

The numbers show it,” said Austin. “New home construction has taken off.”