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Business Roundup: Big changes a-brewing at Badger Mountain

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Chris & Beck’s Gyros, a mobile food trailer, is serving Greek specialties from the parking lot of Badger Mountain Brewing in Wenatchee.

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Big changes a-brewing at Badger Mountain

The always-bustling Badger Mountain Brewing in Wenatchee has been undergoing interesting year-end changes. Take a look:

Country Boy’s no longer city boys: Barbecue lovers can say bye-bye to Country Boy’s slabs of baby-backs in Wenatchee. At least for now.

Country Boy’s Southern Style BBQ, arguably the most popular barbecue restaurant in North Central Washington, closed its Wenatchee outlet in November after nearly two years of serving. The outfit’s original restaurant in Cashmere remains open and busy.

Owners Tom and Anitra Dew opened their Wenatchee location inside Badger Mountain Brewing in January 2013. “Business was good,” said Tom. “We were busy much of the time.”

The good news? Tom said they’re meeting with building owners in Wenatchee to find another location for their restaurant. “We want our barbecue in Wenatchee,” said Tom. “We’re continuing to look for a space that works for us.”

Details: Country Boy’s Southern Style BBQ, 400 Aplets Way, Cashmere. Phone: 782-7427. Web: countryboysbbq.com.

Badger brews up new menus: Barbecue has departed Badger Mountain Brewing, but those beer drinkers still crave eats. So what’s next on the brewery’s menu?

Manager Jim Blair said the brewhouse moved quickly to invite Chris & Beck’s Gyros, a mobile food trailer, to set up shop in their parking lot. Now brew buffs can grab a lamb-feta-tzatziki Greek sandwich and take it into the bar to accompany their drinks.

But that’s not all. Blair said Badger Mountain has plans to offer in-house goodies soon. He’s talking pizzas, sandwiches, paninis and the like.

And that’s still not all. Plans are underway for a full kitchen build-out to be completed in the next four to six months that’ll give provide customers with “upscale pub food” such as gourmet macaroni and cheese, deluxe nachos and baked oysters.

And that’s STILL not all. Sometime in the next four or five months, Badger Mountain will open its new distillery to produce a line of hard liquors. Blair said they’ll start with a “white product,” such as moonshine, and work their way up to bourbon and a single-malt whiskey.

Equipment has already been ordered and is on the way,” said Blair. “We’re serious about getting the distillery up and running as soon as possible.”

Details: Badger Mountain Brewing, 1 Orondo Ave., Wenatchee. Phone: 888-2234. Web: Facebook.com/badgermountainbrewing.


Riverside9 Apartments will be home for new businesses

A decade after city officials launched development plans for Wenatchee’s waterfront, the first new commercial buildings along Riverside Drive have begun to take shape.

The two residential-commercial structures, now underway with completion set for October 2015, could bring an assortment of businesses to the Riverside9 Apartments, the city’s newest, largest and arguably most upscale apartment project in years.

We’re thrilled to see the arrival of these commercial buildings,” said Steve King, the city’s director of community and economic development. “They reflect back to the city’s original vision for a waterfront complex of residential, commercial and recreation opportunities.”

Plans call for one building to house two 3,000-square-foot retail spaces with apartments on the two floors above. The other building would contain 20 “live-work” units with smaller first-floor spaces for craft studios or offices for professionals such as accountants or insurance agents.

We view these commercial spaces as both amenities for Riverside9’s tenants and added businesses for Wenatchee’s residents,” said Jackie Fisher, commercial leasing manager for Weidner Apartment Homes, owner of the Riverside9 Apartments.

The project,” she said, “is like a partnership with the local business community that we hope brings further development” to Riverside Drive, which has long been considered ripe for development.

So far, she said, a dozen businesses have shown interest in renting the retail spaces, but final tenants haven’t been named. Possible tenants could include a convenience store, coffee shop, a home decor store or others. When finished, the buildings will cap two years of construction of the $30 million, 312-unit Riverside9 Apartments, built on 6.4 waterfront acres along the Apple Capital Recreation Loop Trail. Apartments range in size from around 498 square feet to 1,563 square feet. Monthly rents range from $775 to $1,374.

The apartments have rented nearly as fast as they’ve been completed, said Fisher. “We’re not 100 percent occupied, but almost.” Construction is about 75 percent complete.

In 2003-04, the city created a plan that included its vision for waterfront development with Riverside Drive as an integral part of those plans. The city had hoped for a stronger commercial presence after a $10 million upgrade of the road in 2009, but the downturn in the economy slowed most new construction.

Still, some waterfront development has taken place along Riverside Drive, most notably the $52 million Town Toyota Center (opened in 2008) and, across the street, the Riverwalk Condominiums near Walla Walla Point Park. Existing warehouses near Fifth Street have also been renovated to accommodate a brewery, cigar shop and fitness center.

In the downtown area, Pybus Public Market (opened in 2013) anchors hopes of further development along the Columbia River, including the 57-room Chrysalis Inn and Spa proposed for a 3-acre site just north of Pybus.

North of downtown, “Riverside9 is the perfect start” to a new phase of development, said King. “It’s a concrete example of the possibilities, of what can happen there.”


Legislature 2015: School funding has lawmakers scratching their heads

How to boost education funding and keep a balanced budget?

Lawmakers and lobbyists scratched their heads Dec. 10 in trying to explain to local business folks how the state might increase school programs and shrink class sizes and still have enough money for everything else.

It’ll likely be our biggest effort” of the 2015 legislative session, sophomore State Rep. Brad Hawkins, R-East Wenatchee, told members of the Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce at the group’s annual Legislative Preview. “Know that we’ll be giving it our full attention.”

Twelfth District lawmakers Hawkins and Sen. Linda Evans Parlette led a breakfast panel that also included Jon DeVaney, president of the Washington State Tree Fruit Association and Sheri Nelson, government affairs director for the Association of Washington Business. About 60 Chamber members attended the early-morning gathering at Town Toyota Center.

Lawmakers said they’re feeling the squeeze between maintaining a balanced four-year budget — a condition imposed by the Legislature in 2012 — and meeting demands of the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision along with passage of Initiative 1351 in November.

The McCleary decision is a court order that requires the legislature to increase spending per student by 2018, while I-1351 calls for reduction in class sizes beginning in the 2015-2017 biennium.

Economists have estimated that funding the McCleary decision and I-1351 could cost billions of dollars per year — money the state doesn’t have.

State revenues are up 9 percent,” said Parlette. “But is that enough to fund even part of these new demands? Time will tell.”

The 105-day 2015 legislative session kicks off Jan. 12 and ends April 27. But, said Nelson of the AWB, rumors have circulated that complicated issues could extend the session by several weeks. “We joke with legislators that if they’re renting a house for the session, they’d better rent it through June.”

Other topics at the legislative preview:

Transportation — An $8 billion transportation package, which included some road and rail projects in North Central Washington, failed to gain a vote during the last legislative session.

Parlette said it’s possible the package could be revived in the upcoming session, but that Republicans would want to push through some changes in how projects are chosen and funding allocated.

Business climate — The state’s fruit growers are wary of increased regulations and taxes that could hinder business growth, said DeVaney of the tree fruit group. “We’re always looking for policies and taxes that might increase the cost of business and put us at a disadvantage against our competitors,” he said. Concerns are also growing, he added, that Gov. Jay Inslee’s initiatives to curb climate change could add costs for the ag industry, including reformulated fuels that would add $1 per gallon to gasoline prices.

Minimum wage — The push for a $15 minimum wage worries small business owners, said Nelson of the AWB. “The minimum wage was never meant to be a living wage,” she said. “Maybe we should change its name to ‘training wage.’” The state’s current minimum wage of $9.47 per hour is one of the highest in the U.S., she noted. “Toss in sick leave, vacation and health care, and it’s probably closer to $12 an hour — and that’s a huge portion of costs for the state’s small businesses.”


Not just horsing around

The Alatheia Riding Center, a nonprofit therapy facility that uses horses in its programs, has been featured in the fall issue of Fjord Herald, a quarterly publication of the Norwegian Fjord Horse Registry.

The article on therapeutic riding, written by Alatheia founder Nancy Grette, highlights ways the facility’s six Fjord horses are used to develop strength, balance, coordination, social skills and cognitive abilities in clients with physical, mental or learning disabilities. Clients range in age from 3 to 74.

In the five years since we started Alatheia Riding Center, we’ve seen remarkable transformations in the lives and abilities of many of our clients,” said Grette.

Last year, Alatheia served 48 riders through weekly, semi-private lessons.


Hort Day looking for participants to join Jan. 19 trade show

Organizers of the Lake Chelan Horticulture Day are seeking vendors to show products and services at the annual event.

Sponsored by Chelan FFA Alumni, the Hort Day will run from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 19 at Chelan High School, 215 W. Webster Ave.

The event brings together producers, professionals and businesses in horticulture and viticulture from around the Lake Chelan Valley for a day of meetings, workshops and a trade show.

Both booth and outdoor display space are available for vendors. Booth rental space starts at $125. Proceeds help provide scholarships and support for the Chelan FFA.

For more info, contact the trade show’s coordinator Rod Cool at 682-4061.


Labor dispute continues to squeeze NCW apple exports

Just when North Central Washington’s apple industry was hoping for mega-exports from its largest crop in history, millions of boxes of ready-to-ship fruit are threatened with shipping delays in a labor dispute at the state’s major ports.

The timing couldn’t be worse,” Jon DeVaney, president of the Washington State Tree Fruit Association, said in December. “Weeks of delays have turned this into a critical situation.”

Fruit industry execs say a months-long dispute between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association — which represents port operators in Seattle, Tacoma and Longview — has put the squeeze on exports, including apple shipments to key markets in Latin America and Asia. Shipping slowdowns began three weeks ago and are expected to continue into December.

Neither side has given details of their negotiations, which began July 1 when the ILWU contract expired.

Local fruit companies, including Stemilt Growers, confirmed they’ve been affected by port slowdowns but declined to comment further. The Seattle Times reported Dec. 18 that Chelan Fresh, based in Chelan, had temporarily laid off 250 workers and cut 70 workers from full time to part time due to the labor slowdown.

In December, loading and unloading of ships docked in Seattle and Tacoma slowed by as much as 60 percent, said PMA officials, as union workers either walked off the job early each day or were sent home by supervisors. ILWU officials — representing 13,900 workers at 29 west coast ports, including Seattle and Tacoma — said the slowdowns were due to mismanagement and shortage of equipment.

An exact count of delayed shipments has been elusive, said fruit officials. Containers waiting in ports for longer than a couple of days have often been redirected to domestic markets. A few shipments to Latin America have even been trucked to ports in the southeastern U.S. such as Houston, New Orleans or Miami.

But DeVaney said total apple shipments (domestic and exports) in November averaged around 3.1 million boxes per week in recent years. This year, after port slowdowns began Oct. 31, November’s weekly shipment dropped around 500,000 boxes to about 2.6 million.

NCW apples are packed in refrigerated shipping containers that can keep fruit relatively fresh for weeks, said Rebecca Lyons, export marketing director for the Washington Apple Commission. But with shipments taking 14 to 21 days to reach their destinations, any delays would reduce the fruit’s shelf life once it arrived in export markets.

The Apple Commission has boosted efforts this year to sell up to 40 percent more apples in the industry’s largest export markets — China, India, Mexico and Canada. The push follows a record-breaking harvest of more than 140 million boxes with some unofficial estimates reaching 155 million boxes. The previous record harvest was 128 million boxes in 2012.

With the domestic apple sales fairly stable, we’re looking to the export markets to sell these millions of additional boxes,” said Lyons. “A timely shipping schedule is crucial to this type of marketing.”

The port slowdowns place large portions of the state’s food and farm product exports in jeopardy, say ag officials. More than $15 billion worth of farm products ship out through Washington ports each year, according to the state Department of Agriculture. Apples, potatoes and Christmas trees head the list of exported products.

As a result, hundreds of millions of dollars in apple sales are at stake, say fruit officials, as overseas consumers enter prime food-spending periods — Christmas in Latin America, Chinese New Year in China and Southeast Asia.

Missing any delivery deadline undermines the chances of continuing sales,” said DeVaney. “It opens the doors for our competitors to step in.”

In particular, said DeVaney, European apple growers have aggressively stepped up efforts to peddle their fruit in international markets after East Asia exports dwindled following conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

It’s critical that shipments make their target delivery dates in some of these big international markets,” said DeVaney. “We’ve got all these apples, we sure as heck want to sell them.”


Orchardists John Gebbers, Randy Smith on Tree Top board

A top exec for Gebbers Farms has been chosen to serve on the board of directors of Tree Top, the juice cooperative based in Selah.

John (Johnny) Howard Gebbers, operations manager for Gebbers Farms’s warehouses, was elected to the 3-year term at Tree Top’s shareholders meeting in November in Yakima. Gebbers, 34, is one of the youngest directors on the board.

Our cooperative is comprised of a wide array of growers, from those managing just a few acres to those with dozens of orchards and large-scale business operations,” said Tree Top CEO Tom Stokes. Younger generations in farm management readily embrace new technologies and evolving business practices, he said.

We’ve got a really nice balance of growers on the Board to represent the memberships’ interests,” said Stokes.

Tree Top shareholders also re-elected orchardists Randy Smith of Cashmere and Warren Morgan of Quincy to new 3-year terms on the 12-member board. Smith was chosen board chairman for the third straight year.

Tree Top, one of the state’s largest privately-held companies, is an ag cooperative owned by more than 1,000 apple and pear growers. The company has eight processing facilities in Oregon, California and Washington, including one in Wenatchee.


New chef caters to convention crowds

What’s cookin’ at the Wenatchee Convention Center? A brand new chef.

Leonard Silva, a 15-year veteran in the culinary trade, joined the convention center’s hospitality team last month after years of working in high-end kitchens from Seattle to Montana to Connecticut. He’ll oversee all of the convention center’s kitchen operations and catering.

Silva got his start as a dishwasher at Angelo’s Italian Restaurant in Lakewood, where he eventually cooked his way up to head chef. Later, he learned formal culinary and pastry techniques through internships with several hot-shot chefs. He’s worked as an executive chef, a corporate chef and as head chef in private residences. Silva particularly enjoys serving the elderly and was recently dining services manager at two senior living communities in Seattle.

I’m looking forward to working in the heart of Washington,” said Silva. “Wenatchee offers easy access to some of the world’s best fruits and vegetables and boasts excellent local producers.”

Plus, his family has history in central Washington. “Many years ago my grandfather made apple crates here, and my great-aunt cooked at various Wenatchee hotels,” Silva said.

East Wenatchee

Paine Electronics joins billion-dollar Emerson

One of our area’s most high-tech companies — Paine Electronics in East Wenatchee — has been bought by the billion-dollar tech giant Emerson.

The purchase, announced last month, would add Paine’s sensor technology and manufacturing to Emerson’s stable of companies that provide automation for the oil and gas, pulp and paper, power and water, mining and metals and food and beverage industries. Last year, Emerson had $24.7 billion in sales.

Paine designs and produces pressure transducers and transmitters for extreme environments, such as deep-sea oil rigs and high-flying military and aerospace equipment. The 62-year-old, employee-owned company (with additional offices in Renton) recently added a new research-and-development facility.

Paine’s products are a natural complement to our already-strong measurement technologies for the oil and gas industry,” said Tom Moser, an Emerson vice-president. “We’re excited about the synergy between our two companies and the opportunities for global business growth.”


PetHub collars technology to help locate lost pets

The story goes like this: Man loses dog. Man checks smartphone. Man finds dog.

Sounds simple enough, but it’s taken Tom Arnold years of thinking, experimentation and software code-writing to perfect PetHub.com, a startup tech company that helps reunite lost pets with hopeful owners.

Our goal is to return home as many lost pets as possible,” said Arnold, who founded the online service in Seattle but now runs it from Wenatchee. “We’re aiming for a million customers by the end of 2016.”

Now with over 100,000 members, PetHub uses info-packed collar tags to direct the finders of lost animals to a website and call center that provides owners’ contact info and pet profiles — the pet’s name, description and any important medical and behavioral information.

The collar tag is imprinted with a QR code, or Quick Response barcode, that can easily be read by smartphones. A toll-free phone number and PetHub’s website address are also on the tag. The newest PetHub tags, just hitting the market, even link the pet to an owner’s smartphone via Bluetooth and can scan up to 500 feet away for a lost pet.

In the last two years, the company has reconnected more than 400 pets with their owners, while scores more may have been located by direct contact between finder and owner, a statistic not tracked by PetHub. Of the 400 returned home, 97 percent were found less than a day, said Arnold, and the rest in less than two days.

Here’s how it works: Sally finds a trembling shih tzu in her backyard that’s registered with PetHub. Using a smartphone, she scans the animal’s collar tag and is instantly connected to the pet’s profile and owner’s contact info. (Or she can call the toll-free number on the tag to be connected with PetHub’s call center.) Simultaneously, pet owner Bob receives an email notification that someone has located little FiFi and his pet’s profile has been scanned and checked.

The clear message is that this system works,” said Arnold. “Over the last two years, we’ve had great success.”

Arnold came up with the PetHub idea back in 2009 when his job at Microsoft repeatedly took him abroad. “I worried about my cats left behind and what would happen if they got loose and, even worse, got lost,” he said. “I wanted a system that was easier and more efficient.”

He soon left Microsoft “to dig a little deeper” into the idea of pet-locating software and in 2010 formed PetHub.

The collar-tag system, said Arnold, is designed to complement microchipping and mesh with tag ID systems already being used by animal shelters and veterinarians.

Arnold said statistics on lost pets are “downright scary.” According to his company’s research, one out of three animals goes missing in its lifetime. Only 18 percent of dogs are found, and only 2 percent of cats return home. Just 10 percent of America’s dogs and cats are microchipped, but 57 percent of the microchip data is out of date — carrying wrong addresses or phone numbers.

Our thinking is, ‘why not raise the bar?’” said Arnold. “Why not use the power of the Internet, social media and smartphones to help locate lost pets more quickly and efficiently? That’s where PetHub comes in.”

Technically a software company, PetHub licenses its system to collar-tag manufacturers who etch PetHub QR codes on the backs of their tags. Purchasers have the choice to become PetHub members — either registering for the free basic service or adding features with a yearly subscription membership.

The more members we have, the larger the safety net grows to find lost pets,” said Arnold. “The larger the net in a particular area, the more likely it is for a pet to return home.”

Currently, said Arnold, PetHub works with 11 manufacturers to produce coded tags and has seen 20 percent growth in the last two quarters. He hopes the company’s newest high-tech offering boosts business even more.

PetHub’s Signal, a tag embedded with a Bluetooth chip, allows a pet owner to scan nearby areas (up to 500 feet away) for a lost pet. It also contains a small speaker — beep! beep! — and a flashing LED bulb for owners to locate their animals from a distance.

Every step we take with this (tag) technology is a way to help lower the number of animals going into shelters,” said Arnold. “We want to find more animals who aren’t making it home. Our mission is to have pets live long, happy lives with their owners.”


South’s bar at Pybus ranks with state’s best

Let’s give a hearty toast to South, the Latin restaurant at Pybus Public Market in Wenatchee, for being named one of “Washington’s 10 Best Bars Outside of Seattle” by the lifestyle website Thrillist.com.

South’s bar at Pybus ranks with some of the state’s classic watering holes, including The Brick Tavern in Roslyn, The Brown Lantern in Anacortes and The Barnacle in Eastsound. The Pybus location has basically the same drink menu as restaurant’s original location in Leavenworth.

In choosing South, reporter Chona Kasinger at Thrillist.com wrote: “Boasting 50 different mezcals and tequilas, plus a hefty selection of rum, pisco and cachaca, South’s booze lineup matches anything you’ll find in Seattle, and they’ve got a lengthy menu filled with Latin and Mexican classics like their Cubano burrito, four types of enchiladas and much, much more.”


Tax webinar for business owners rescheduled

The state Department of Revenue will host a live webinar this month to help business owners better understand the whys and hows of filing their taxes online.

The free one-hour webinar will be held 10 a.m. Jan. 7. The registration deadline is Jan. 4. This session was originally scheduled for Dec. 10.

Whether you’re a small business or a CPA who handles multiple accounts, e-file offers several advantages over traditional paper filing,” said a Revenue press release. Those include 24-hour access to your tax return and payment system and automatic error checking.

Webinar participants will learn how to file electronically, how to sign up for electronic due date reminders and sales tax changes and how to use various payment options, including EFT debit, EFT credit, E-check, and credit cards.

To register, send an email to NBOWebinar@dor.wa.gov. Include your name, company name, phone number and email address.