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Business Roundup | Ride-hailing service Uber arrives in Wenatchee

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Uber driver Ethan Card of Wenatchee

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Ride-hailing service Uber arrives in Wenatchee

WENATCHEE — Ethan Card wants to take you for a ride.

Card, who’s believes he’s Wenatchee’s first Uber driver, says he kicked off the global car-ride service here on Aug. 19 when he realized that Uber — with nearly 16 million active users per month — could grow even more by adding a few daily trips from, say, Pangborn Memorial Airport to Leavenworth and all points in between.

Nearly a month later, the Wenatchee Valley boasts about five Uber drivers who provide rides — usually between noon and 2 a.m. — when not working their day jobs. Card says he’s trying to enlist more qualified drivers to provide round-the-clock service for the Wenatchee Valley.

Uber is the perfect side job for me,” said Card, 24, who lives in Wenatchee but works part-time as a fireman in Burlington. “The hours are flexible, the pay is pretty good and, heck, I love to drive.”

Card registered as an Uber driver just a few weeks after the ride service, in many markets a direct competitor to taxi companies, opened Eastern Washington as an expansion territory. Card said he found Uber drivers in Yakima and Ellensburg, but none in Wenatchee.

I saw there was an opportunity, so I grabbed it,” said Card, who’s worked over the years as a tire salesman, safety specialist, web developer, karate instructor and wildland firefighter.

Based in San Francisco, Uber is technically a software company that has developed a smartphone app to connect people needing rides with people who have cars. Through the app, riders call for a car, select their destination and pay for their ride. No money is exchanged between rider and driver — it’s all a function of the app.

The ride-hailing company, recently valued at $62 billion, was available this summer in 66 countries and 507 cities — not counting Wenatchee, Cashmere and Leavenworth. It’s been criticized for undermining longstanding taxi services in major cities and taking jobs from taxi drivers. Some cab companies have labeled the Uber service as supplying “pirate taxis.”

Card was raised in Wenatchee and graduated from Wenatchee High School in 2007. Since childhood, he’s aimed to be a fulltime fireman and has worked in Utah and Washington to gain skills and experience in that profession. In addition to fireman duties in Burlington, he’s also part owner in Wenatchee of a wildfire water truck under contract with the U.S. Forest Service.

The Uber driver said he’s committed to “building the credibility of the ride service” in the Wenatchee area by enlisting more qualified drivers. Each potential driver must undergo a background check that includes their driving records and licensing history. Cars must be 2006 models or newer and pass an Uber inspection of the exterior, interior and mechanical and safety systems.

For Uber rides, Card drives his 2015 Honda CR-V, a station wagon-like crossover vehicle with room for up to four passengers and luggage. On Thursday, Card made eight Uber trips in the area, which pushes the total for his first month past 50 trips.

That’s not too bad for a part-time driver,” he said. “I get to drive around this beautiful valley and, best of all, I’m my own boss.”


Quincy irrigation district seeks director nominations

QUINCY — The Quincy-Columbia Basin Irrigation District is accepting nominations for candidates to run for director positions in three districts.

Nominations will be accepted until 5 p.m. Nov. 7 for positions in divisions 3, 4 and 7. Nomination forms are available at the irrigation district office in Quincy. The election will be held Dec. 13.

Currently, Phil Stadelman is director in Division 3, Mike LaPlant in Division 4 and Derek Allred in Division 7. Directors serve for a three-year term.

For more info, call the QCBID offices in Quincy, 787-3591, or in Royal City, 346-2301.


Farm finances workshops to be held in Wenatchee

WENATCHEE — A four-day series of classes on managing farm finances will held here in November.

Hosted by the Yakima-based Center for Latino Farmers, the 20-hour educational series will be held from 5 to 9 p.m. each day from Nov. 7 to 10 at Wenatchee Valley College. Cost is $100 per person or $150 per couple.

Topics in the farm financial management series will include an understanding of credit, financial statements and equity assessments so that a farm business plan can be prepared. In addition, the workshops will help participants set up a record-keeping system and develop a manual or computerized accounting system.

Registration is limited to 15 participants on a first-come, first-serve basis. Priority is given to farmers and ranchers who want to qualify for a Farm Service Agency loan to buy property, equipment or for working capital.

To learn more or register, call (509) 453-3157.


Home prices, August sales set 10-year record

WENATCHEE — Home prices around here just keep climbing. And climbing.

The median sale price for a single-family home in the Wenatchee market in August hit $267,750, the highest median price since tracking of that stat began in 2005, according Pacific Appraisal Associates, the local appraisal firm.

On top of that, sales of single-family homes and condos in August rose to 121 units, a record tally for homes sold that month since 2005 — and almost double the number sold in recession summers of 2008 and 2009 (62 units in August of those years).

Buyers sitting on the fence for a few years are jumping in to buy, now that interest rates might actually tick upwards,” said Paul Mares, communications director for the North Central Washington Association of Realtors. “They’re seeing this is a prime time to buy.”

August’s median price is 7 percent higher than August 2015 — that’s an $18,500 jump over the last 12 months. And in June, July and August, the median price averaged even higher at $277,867.

Three other factors pushing up Wenatchee home prices:

♦ Listings in August were down 17 percent to 212 from the same month last year. Buyers are deciding quickly to make a purchase (or not), which means slim pickings in some price categories, mostly for lower-cost homes, and increased competition among buyers.

♦ Mares said many investors are shifting from the stock market to instead put their money into real estate, which creates a lot of pent-up demand among these potential buyers as they wait to snap-up just the right property. Most of these investors aren’t flipping the houses, said Mares, but are instead converting them to rental properties.

♦ The Wenatchee market’s soaring rental rates — up 51 percent in the last year to an average monthly rate of $1,058 — has meant many people see value in buying a home rather than renting, said Mares. That spices-up competition for low-cost homes even more, Mares said.

The market gets even tighter, said Mares, when you toss in a whole bunch of other potential buyers — retirees discovering the Wenatchee Valley’s nice climate and amenities, local empty nesters downsizing to smaller homes and condos and new employees in health care, education and other industries relocating here for work.

Despite all this demand, building permits issued this year trail those in 2015. Single-family homes are down to 148 from 173 last year, duplex units dropped to 12 from 16 and building permits for apartments this year are at zero, down from 81 last year.

The Wenatchee home market includes Wenatchee, East Wenatchee, Malaga, Orondo and Rock Island.


Cevado honored with ethics award

CHELAN — A Chelan technology company specializing in software for the real estate industry has earned an ethics award from the Better Business Bureau Northwest.

Cevado Technologies, a maker of web products for real estate agents and brokers, is one of five Northwest businesses to earn the BBB’s annual 2016 Torch Awards for Ethics. The 18-employee business is owned by Jennifer Allen-Tate.

The award honors companies “whose leadership demonstrates a high level of personal character and ensures the organization’s practices meet the high standards of ethics, and consequently, generates trust,” said a BBB press release.

Ethics in business is the foundation of why I get up every day,” said Allen-Tate. “If we have ethics at the highest level at every part of our organization — there’s no way we can’t succeed. I believe that it is absolutely invaluable.”

An independent panel of judges viewed entries from for-profit organizations in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska and western Wyoming. Businesses could be of any size and BBB membership was not a requirement.

For more info on the BBB and the ethics award, visit bbb.org/northwest/programs-services/torch-awards-for-ethics/.


Cashmere’s burned BJ’s to be rebuilt

CASHMEREBJ’s will bounce back.

Gutted by fire Aug. 24, the popular Shell service station and convenience store at the main entrance to Cashmere could be rebuilt and again selling gas and jo-jo’s in six or eight months — if all goes according to plan, a company exec said last month.

We know this fire has been disruptive for our good customers,” said Phil Dormaier, chief financial officer for Wenatchee Petroleum Company, parent of the six-store chain of BJ’s Shell and Food Marts. “We intend to be back in business and serving customers’ needs as soon as possible.”

The 2,880-square-foot convenience store at 102 Titchenal Way burned when fire started in a motorhome parked next to the building. Gas pumps located 70 feet away and underground fuel storage tanks were not damaged.

The blaze displaced eight employees, said Dormaier. “But nobody lost their job, and all have been reassigned.”

The station is located on 0.82 acres near the intersection of Cottage Avenue and Highway 2/97, one of the busiest junctions in town. It sits next door to Rusty’s Drive-in, also a Wenatchee Petroleum business.

Fire virtually gutted the convenience store, destroying food shelves, refrigeration cases, a grab-and-go food operation, checkout counters and storage areas. The roof collapsed during the blaze, but some scorched walls remained standing. A dollar estimate of the damage is still being compiled, said Dormaier.

Clean-up of the burned site could begin as early as next week, said the Wenatchee Petroleum exec. A start on construction of the new building will depend on how quickly permits are obtained and construction crews are lined up.

Insurance, demolition, construction estimates — these things often take time,” said Dormaier. “But we’re eager to get going and get back in business.”


Wade named 2016 Apple Man of the Year

WENATCHEE — A top executive for Wenatchee-based Columbia Fruit Packers has been named 2016 Apple Man of the Year by an industry trade magazine.

Mike Wade, co-owner of Columbia Fruit International, was presented the award Aug. 25 in Chicago during the two-day annual Apple Crop Outlook and Marketing Conference of the U.S. Apple Association.

Sponsored by The Packer, a produce industry trade journal, the award honors individuals who have shown leadership and innovation in their respective industries, said an article from The Packer announcing the award recipient.

Wade, outgoing chairman of U.S. Apple, was nominated for the honor “for his integrity and honesty, which garners loyalty and dedication from Columbia Fruit Packers’ employees” said the article.

The challenges of today’s apple industry call for forward-thinking individuals, both growers and marketers, willing to invest in trends that will play out in five to ten years, not tomorrow,” said The Packer’s national editor Tom Karst in presenting the award. “The individual we honor tonight was praised for an ability to embrace innovation, whether that means new varieties, cultivating organic apples or any number of different things.”