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Business Roundup: Charter College a shot in the arm for medical assistant hopefuls

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Charter College medical assistant students Wesley Hester, left, and Nick Wylie learn administrative procedures while in class with instructor Darla Danielson.

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Charter College a shot in the arm for medical assistant hopefuls

EAST WENATCHEE — Nursing programs at area community colleges had too many prerequisites for healthcare industry hopefuls Wesley Hester and Carina Renteria.

They faced grade-point pressures, long waiting lists, in-depth chemistry and biology classes, not to mention rigid class schedules and programs of four years or more.

It was too much for me,” said Hester, 20, of Wenatchee, who had previously earned a Certified Nursing Assistant certificate at Wenatchee Valley College. “I wanted to learn to help people and then get my certificate so I could get out there and start working. So I enrolled here — it’s a perfect fit.”

Hester and Renteria are two of 13 students in the very first class of East Wenatchee’s new Charter College, a for-profit school offering a 10-month program with no prerequisites for certification as a medical assistant.

Renteria, 22, who commutes from Moses Lake to East Wenatchee for twice-weekly Charter classes and labs, said waiting times to enroll in the nursing program at her hometown community college were simply too long. “There was too much uncertainty about getting in or not,” she said. “This suits me better, although I spend a lot of time out of class on the computer — sometimes studying for hours every night.”

Certification in the 69-credit-hour program costs just over $23,000, according to the college’s website, with financial aid available to most students. Across its 13 branches in three states, the school has a 70 percent success rate in helping graduates find jobs, said its top execs.

The college, which opened Sept. 7, launches a new class every five weeks at its “campus” in Eastpoint Plaza on the corner of Eastmont Avenue and Grant Road. The school’s curriculum blends classroom and laboratory training with hours of online research, presentations and instructor interaction.

Angela Hansen, East Wenatchee’s campus manager, said most Charter students put in at least 16 hours a week on the computer — some twice as much — to learn medical terminology, physiology, lab procedures and interact with instructors who check coursework and assess students’ progress.

Students can do that work at home or in one of Charter’s three onsite “connection rooms,” which provide students with big-screen monitors and lightning-fast connections to make computer studying “as easy and relaxed as possible,” Hansen said. The college also has 60 laptops available free for students to use in the building.

The campus also includes a laboratory/classroom fully equipped with examination tables and equipment — stethoscopes, eye-ear instruments, microscopes, centrifuges, and other medical tools. There’s even a life-sized fake arm to practice placement of intravenous catheters and blood drawing. As the program progresses, skilled students will practice on each other. A regular classroom with instructor’s lectern and desks is next door. And out front is a small “student union” called The Hub with a circle of soft chairs, tables, snack machines, a group-study area and a computer bar where students can plug-in their own laptops or borrow one of the college’s machines.

Right now, Charter has three onsite instructors for its East Wenatchee students. Students also complete a 180-hour “externship” after graduation to gain experience in real doctors’ offices, nursing homes, rehab centers and other healthcare facilities.

Josh Swayne, Charter’s chief operating officer, said the school chose the Wenatchee area because it’s a city that serves a much larger geographic area. “People from several counties come here for medical needs, banking and shopping. It’s a hub, too, for education — that’s why we’re here.”

Swayne said he doesn’t view Charter’s medical assistant program as a direct competitor to WVC’s healthcare programs. “It’s an alternative that works better for some students. We like to think we’re faster-paced and more flexible than a traditional college. And that we have equal, if not more, interaction between instructors and students.”


Follow Papa to new pizza location

WENATCHEE — Take note, pizza lovers. The Papa Murphy’s Take ‘N’ Bake Pizza outlet in Wenatchee moved last month to a spankin’ new location.

Richard and Sharon McDonald, co-owners with daughter Shannon Seaford, closed up their space at Fifth Street Center (also home to Tastebuds and Garlini’s Napoletana) on Oct. 6 and reopened in their new stand-alone restaurant three days later.

The new 2,500-square-foot Papa Murphy’s was built on the site of the old Sunny’s Market at 706 N. Miller St., which is about 100 feet north of the Wenatchee Safeway. The new restaurant has a drive-through window for speedy pizza pickup.

Need more info? Call 664-7272 or visit wa.wenatchee.papamurphys.com.


Farm loans available to women, minorities

WENATCHEE — Women and minority farm producers can now apply for government loans specifically set aside to help them.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency provides a portion of its farm loan program funds to ensure that women and minority producers have opportunities for success, said Judy Olson, FSA state executive director.

Loan funds can be used to purchase farms, livestock and equipment. They can also be used to operate the farm, build or repair farm buildings, pay for soil and water conservation practices and refinance debts.

Direct loans are currently available for farm purchases with terms up to 40 years and interest rates of 3.75 percent. Direct operating loans have a current interest rate of 2.62 percent.

FSA guaranteed loans are made through banks or other lenders at their current rates.

For more information, call the Chelan County FSA office at 662-1141, ext. 2.


Smith takes development skills to Yakima County

MOSES LAKE — Even if you never heard of Jonathan Smith, the whiz-kid executive director of the Grant County Economic Development Council, you’ll likely catch his name in the media in coming months.

The 36-year-old Smith, who joined the EDC back in 2005 and became its head honcho in 2012, departed the organization on Oct. 21 to lead New Vision, the development agency for Yakima County.

Among other projects, Smith credited with helping attract to Grant County eight companies that have invested $1 billion and created 500 full-time jobs. And he also helped secure $25 million to build water, electrical, fiber optic and road systems for new facilities in Quincy and Moses Lake.

This promotion is a big step for Smith. New Vision isn’t kidding around when it comes to attracting development to Yakima County, so he’ll have his hands full guiding an agency that in the last 28 years has brought in hundreds of millions in investment dollars and thousands of jobs.


Chinese importers get taste of local apple, pear industries

WENATCHEE — Chinese fruit importers visited here ,ast month to learn more about our apple and pear industries.

Sponsored by the Washington Apple Commission and Northwest Pear Bureau, the trade mission brought buyers from major importing companies in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Dalian to view central Washington growing and shipping operations. The nine importers also chatted face-to-face with sales teams from local companies.

We think China could be the third largest market for Washington apples in the near future,” said commission president Todd Fryhover. In addition to hosting the local tour, the commission is also helping with in-store and digital promotions with Chinese retailers.

Back in May negotiators reached an agreement to allow for all varieties of U.S. apples to be sold in China. During the 2014-15 apple season, which ended Aug. 31, about 3.1 million cartons of Washington apples — $53 million worth — ended up in China, according to Rebecca Lyons, the Apple Commission’s international marketing director. Commission execs say they hope to expand on these shipments.


Marketer brings Hollywood, coupons to local shoppers

WENATCHEE — Marketing whiz Terry Allen is counting on your love of movies to make his new advertising venture a success.

Scan across a crowded movie theater and you’ll see every demographic,” said the owner of Marketing Concepts Unlimited, a Wenatchee-based advertising and promotion firm. “Kids, teens, seniors, men, women, Hispanics, Asians, all races. Everybody loves the movies.”

It’s the perfect target audience, he said, for his new Wenatchee Movie Clips Coupon Magazine, which blends ads and coupons from local merchants with insider info from Hollywood’s biggest studios.

More than 10,000 copies of the slick, 16-page, full-color magazine — Katniss Everdeen from “Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2” is on the cover — were mailed last month to select Wenatchee area households and businesses.

How healthy are our regional ag industries after that excruciatingly hot summer?The debut issue of Wenatchee Movie Clips featured 11 movies and included a pullout poster for “Hunger Games: Mockingjay 2,” which will be released Nov. 20. Other films spotlighted in the issue included “Bridge of Spies,” Steven Spielberg’s new thriller (set for release Oct. 20); “The Peanuts Movie,” an animated adventure (Nov. 6); “The 33,” about trapped miners in Chile (Nov. 13); and “The Good Dinosaur,” the latest Pixar release (Nov. 25).

In addition, said Allen, the print product ties directly to a website that offers more movie reviews, trailers, behind-the-scenes articles and videos and, of course, coupons from local advertisers that can be printed right at home.

The product is both print and digital,” said Allen. “Essentially, this is a publication that will sit on someone’s coffee table for a month or two. But we also want our readers to be able to not only hold it in their hand, but check for it on their phone or spend time with it on their tablet or home computer.”

Wenatchee Movie Clips has no connection to Sun Basin Theatres, the owner of Wenatchee’s two multiplexes. But Allen did interview Sun Basin managers before beginning ad sales for the publication back in July. “They confirmed the motivating idea behind this project — that movies are incredibly popular in the Wenatchee Valley.”

Allen decided to introduce the Movie Clips concept in Wenatchee after seven years of selling advertising for a variety of promotions, including ads on pizza boxes and The Local VIP discount cards for local businesses.

Movie Clips is the fifth advertising venue we’ve offered to valley businesses over the last seven years,” said Allen. “And it’s the grandest investment we’ve made.”

Movie Clips, a nationwide company with direct mail products in 212 cities in 22 states, has struck deals with Hollywood’s eight largest studios, he said. Those studios pay to promote new releases in the coupon magazine and provide content — articles, videos, posters and graphics — for the website.

Allen’s company sells ad space around those articles and his son, Benjamin, designs ad graphics for local merchants. So far, the company has signed up 40 businesses — from restaurants to gyms to bookstores to home builders to spas.

We’ll be direct-mailing our magazine to select households with middle- to upper-middle incomes and higher,” said Allen. “We’re looking for local residents who like movies and, basically, enjoy good deals on products and services.”

He added, “Who doesn’t like a good deal?”


Ag television show launches third season

SEATTLE — Season three of the award-winning TV show “Washington Grown” had its debut last month on a regional cable news channel and online.

Produced by the nonprofit Washington Farmers & Ranchers, the 13-episode season of half-hour productions blends education and entertainment to show how the ag industry affects the state’s economy.

The show can be seen at noon and 8:30 p.m. Sundays and 4:30 p.m. Saturdays on Northwest Cable News. It can also be viewed online at wagrown.com the Monday after it’s televised. Beginning early next year, Spokane’s PBS affiliate KSPS will also air the episodes.


State expands Underground Economy Unit

OLYMPIA — The state has expanded its team to audit employers who fail to report wages paid to workers to avoid paying unemployment taxes.

The state Employment Security Department received federal funding last month to hire two new auditors to detect employers who fail to report wages or who incorrectly classify employees as independent contractors or don’t classify them at all.

The new hires will bring to eight the number of auditors on the state’s Underground Economy Unit. The two new auditors are expected to detect up to $7 million in unreported wages each year.

The state agency received $415,935 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Labor to expand the auditing team.


Banner Bank absorbs AmericanWest

NCW — Walla Walla-based Banner Bank, which has branches in Wenatchee and East Wenatchee, has finalized its acquisition of AmericanWest Bank, headquartered in Spokane.

That doesn’t mean too much for North Central Washington, admits Kevin Vitulli, manager at the Wenatchee branch, although AmericanWest branches in Ephrata and Moses Lake will now become Banner Bank operations.

So as you travel around, you will see a few more Banner Bank branches,” he said. “We’re excited about the addition as it will enhance our service to clients in those areas.”

The combined companies will now have $9.9 billion in assets and 203 branches across five Western states.