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Business Roundup | July

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Washington Federal’s Wenatchee Branch Manager Amanda Pearcy cuts the ribbon on the new 4,000-square-foot bank. Pictured, from left, Washington Federal staff members Teresa Garcia, Assistant Manager Lisa Lang, Pearcy, Walt the Vault, Tania Sanchez, Alex Aldana, Melissa Garibay and Nancy Martinez. Not pictured: Louisa Maldonado, Madellyn Rice, Matthew Rallios and Stasha Reed.

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Washington Federal’s new building makes its debut

WENATCHEE — Washington Federal’s new 4,000-square-foot Wenatchee branch at 830 N. Wenatchee Ave. is open for business.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony on June 7 made it official and offered an opportunity for the staff to show off some of the new features — an open-ceiling design, sliding glass office doors and a mural-sized photograph of the 1923 Apple Blossom Festival parade on the wall behind the teller stations.

The facility also includes a drive-thru and ATM, plus a community meeting room that will be available to the public at no cost.

An additional 1,500 square feet of tenant space on the south side of the building is available for lease.

The new facility, more than a year in the works, opened its doors May 21.

Amanda Pearcy is the branch manager and Lisa Lang is the assistant manager.

It replaces the 1960-era building that was demolished last year. 

The South Wenatchee Avenue branch is now closed.

 

Beauty Academy closes its doors

WENATCHEE — The Beauty Academy at 208 S. Wenatchee Ave. closed its doors in mid-May

Permanently closed,” reads the sign posted on the glass door, though the state Department of Licensing has not yet been officially notified of the closure and it is unclear whether all students who paid tuition have completed the coursework.

According to the school’s phone message, training sessions were scheduled to start in January, March, July, September and November.

Phone calls to the school were not returned.

The vocational trade school, owned by Don Crowell, has been operating as D.K.C. Corporation since 2008.

 

New cosmetology school in the works

WENATCHEE — The Beauty Academy is closed, but a new cosmetology school is in the works at the same 208 S. Wenatchee Ave. address.

Gaby Amante, who was an instructor at the former Beauty Academy for 15 years before leaving four years ago to pursue her “own thing,” is putting together a plan to reopen the school.

If all goes well, the doors will open in August,” she said.

She doesn’t yet have an official name since she is working through the licensing process with the state.

We are trying to move forward as fast as we can,” she said. “But yes, I am reopening. It will be a different manager and a different owner, but in the same location.”

 

Chelan County PUD gets S&P ratings bump

WENATCHEE – Chelan County PUD got a financial ratings bump following a mid-May debt review.

S&P Global Ratings upgraded the PUD’s Consolidated System debt to AA+/Stable from AA/Stable, putting the Chelan PUD in the top five public utilities in the nation to receive the high rating.

The AA+/Stable rating matches one received from Fitch Ratings in October 2008 and affirmed in September 2017.

 

NCW Fair gets boost from Waste Management

WATERVILLENCW Fair will be able to step up its children’s entertainment this year thanks to Waste Management of Wenatchee.

The company agreed to sponsor the fair with a $5,000 donation per year for the next four years. The first $5,000 check was delivered May 23.

Fair manager Carolyn Morley said the fair has lost a lot of its entertainment over the last few years because of changes to the carnival circuit.

This will help us provide more entertainment for kids, a whole outdoor kids’ zone with vendors and entertainment,” Morley said. She is still working on the details, but believes it will fit the bill.

 

Twisp wins 2018 Smart Communities award

OLYMPIA – Twisp’s economic revitalization plan earned accolades May 24 as one of the 2018 Smart Communities Award winners.

This is the 13th year for the award program, designed to recognize achievements by local leaders who promote smart growth planning and projects that contribute to thriving communities, a prosperous economy and sustainable infrastructure in the state.

Twisp was one of two communities to win a Smart Vision Award.

The town used innovative ways to get community members involved in the review of the proposed plan, including combining “gallery openings” with the open houses. The judges said the town’s process and vision development provides a model for other towns seeking economic revitalization.

For information on the Governor’s Smart Communities Awards or the Growth Management Act, visit commerce.wa.gov/growth.

 

Giga Watt sponsorships fuels more GWATA events

WENATCHEE — A new coding club for kids is one of the educational programs GWATA has added to its lineup recently thanks to a $20,000 sponsorship from Giga Watt, the local tech company that provides turnkey services for cryptocurrency miners.

In addition to the annual sponsorship, Giga Watt has supported students and educators. At the May 19 NCW Tech & STEM Showcase, Giga Watt awarded Wenatchee School District Mariachi instructor Ramon Rivera a $500 donation for receiving the most community votes as “favorite teacher” at the event.

For information visit www.gwata.org.

 

Misleading letter calls for annual registration renewals

OLYMPIA — A misleading mailing making the rounds looks like a bill for renewing corporation registration, but isn’t, says Secretary of State Kim Wyman.

An Edmonds business owner received a letter recently that requested $121.86 be sent to an Olympia post office box by July 31. It warned that “your state annual report will not be filed until payment is received.”

The mailing does not mention the Office of Secretary of State or include its logo, which is part of all official correspondence.

Businesses and charities can verify their filing status with the Office of Secretary of State online at sos.wa.gov/corps. For information, call 360-725-0377 or e-mail to corps@sos.wa.gov.

 

Pangborn flight to San Francisco still circling

WENATCHEE — Stylish “Fly Wenatchee” baseball cap? Check.

Fourth flight from Pangborn Memorial Airport to Seattle on Alaska/Horizon? Check.

Direct flight from Pangborn to San Francisco?

Not quite yet, but soon.

That’s the word from Port of Chelan County executive director Pat Jones.

We are still waiting on our federal administration to make decision about our grant application,” Jones told business leaders gathered at the May 24 Partners in Economic Development at the Wenatchee Convention Center. “We expected this to take place at the end of last year. We are hopeful we will get a decision soon.”

The port, a co-owner of the airport in East Wenatchee, applied for a $750,000 federal grant through the Air Service Investment Program, which required a $400,000 match from the local community. The money was raised during a campaign last year.

The idea is to use the funds to offset costs if ticket sales do not cover expenses during the first two years, thus reducing the risks for an airline that would be investing up to $8 million during the two-year startup.

Jones said several carriers are interested.

We need the federal 2-1 match to our contributions to get the carriers to take a chance on our route,” he said.

 

Mall has new owners, but familiar faces, events

EAST WENATCHEE — Stephannie Kuntz has fond memories of a toy store and the Breadboard Deli at the Wenatchee Valley Mall from when she was a kid.

She worked at Sears — in what is now Sportsman’s Warehouse — when she was in high school.

It’s changed so much over the years. I’ve been in this mall so many times, in different areas and seen it from different angles. Now I know where the electrical room is,” she laughed.

As general manager, she also is familiar with things like irrigation leaks, painting plans and construction projects.

She started the job officially May 7, taking on a new role with the mall’s new owners.

New York-based Namdar Realty Group LLC, as Wenatchee Realty LLC, purchased the property from Vintage Capital Group on April 3. The $19 million deal included 11 parcels. VCG, based in California, paid $32.5 million when it purchased the regional mall in 2007 from PASSCO. That company purchased it for $43 million in 2003.

Kuntz had been working at the mall for the past four years as marketing director and assistant general manager, in training for when Bob Waller decided to retire. Waller had managed the mall for the past five years.

Rather than retirement, Namdar convinced him to take the general manager post at Heritage Mall in Albany, Oregon, another VCG property it purchased in April. He accepted, but agreed to come back to East Wenatchee one day a week to help Kuntz with the transition.

Kuntz said the biggest task on her to-do list is getting Aspen Dental up and running. The building, which is going up on the pad north of Wells Fargo outside the main mall structure, is on track now to open at the end of the summer.

We don’t have a specific date yet,” she said, but construction, which stalled over the winter, started up again this spring in full force. “It had a few bumps, but it’s happening. It’s official. They’re getting close to completion. It’s beautiful.”

The Saddle Rock Cafe, in the meantime, is getting ready to open, replacing Alley Cafe on the Parkway, near All American Ice Cream.

In the last year or so, the mall property has seen the arrival of Victoria’s Secret, PetSmart and Grocery Outlet and new spaces for Bath and Body Works and Children’s Place. Not long before that, it was Marshall’s.

 

Grant County labor report: Higher unemployment, fewer jobs overall

EPHRATA — Grant County saw more unemployed and a decline in jobs overall this April compared to last April, but a few industries are seeing an uptick, including private health services and information and financial activities.

That’s the latest from the state Employment Security Department, according to job statistics released May 22 and analyzed by state Regional Labor Economist Don Meseck.

Grant County’s unemployment rate increased by 0.5 percent in April 2018 from April 2017 and the number of jobs decreased by 360, according to Meseck’s Labor Area Summary for Grant County released June 4.

Certainly not good news for the Grant County economy,” Meseck said.

 

Region continues to add jobs

WENATCHEE — Job growth in Chelan and Douglas counties from April 2017 to April 2018 is ahead of the state average, with construction continuing as the fastest-growing industry.

The two counties, which make up the Wenatchee Metropolitan Statistical Area, have 1,500 more nonfarm jobs this April than last, a 3.4 increase, according to job statistics released May 22 by the state Employment Security Department and compiled by state Regional Labor Economist Don Meseck. The state had a 2.6 percent job growth during that same time period.

Of the 1,500 added jobs here, 300 came from construction, an 11.5 percent jump in that category, which brings the total to 2,900 jobs in the two-county area.

Education and health services, which are primarily private health-service providers, saw a 6.9 percent hike during the same time period, adding 500 jobs, for a total of 7,700 jobs. The other biggest increase in local employment is in leisure and hospitality, which grew to 6,600 jobs. That’s a 300-job increase.

At the same time, the local monthly unemployment rate increased from 5.1 percent in April 2017 to 5.3 percent in April 2018, but those are still good numbers, Meseck said.

The number of people in the labor force this April dropped by 348 over April 2017, while the number of unemployed rose by 72, which accounts for unemployment rate change, he said.

 

Chelan County agriculture employment growing

WENATCHEE — Agriculture employment and wages have grown in the past decade in Chelan County.

That’s according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wage program conducted by the state Employment Security Department. The preliminary data for 2017 was released in May 2018.

State Regional Labor Economist Don Meseck analyzed the industry employment changes from 2007 to 2017, which show that in Chelan County, 1,368 of the 4,459 jobs added in that decade were in the agriculture industry.

In 2017, agriculture accounted for 23.7 percent of the jobs (10,422 of the total 43,907 jobs) in the county and for 16.1 percent of the wages. That’s an increase of 0.8 percent of the jobs and 1.9 percent in the share of wages during that decade.

One could generalize that within these past 10 years, the footprint made by agriculture on Chelan County’s economy has become relatively larger,” Meseck said.

 

New cafe features Mexican-style street snacks

WENATCHEE — Adriana Pulido is sharing food traditions from her childhood at her new cafe.

Wenatchee Piña Loca opened March 13 at the southwest corner of Second and Mission streets.

The menu of portable Mexican-style “street snacks” features items similar to those her mother sold from a stand in Michoacán when Pulido was growing up.

This isn’t the usual Mexican restaurant. We don’t have tacos, enchiladas and burritos,” Pulido said. Instead, the menu is lighter, featuring fresh fruits and vegetables in sweet and spicy mixtures that include iced fruit smoothies and snow cones topped with candies and spiced nuts, a tostada layered with cucumber, avocado, pork rinds and fruit or Mexican-style corn on the cob (elote), or corn in a cup (elote en vaso).

The elote and elote en vaso are the most popular, Pulido said, though on rainy days, she sees a spike in requests for tosti elotes (nacho chips topped with corn, butter and chili sauce). The warm summer weather boosts orders for shaved ice drinks that include fruit, nuts, candies and sauces.

She also offers ham and turkey sandwiches and tostadas with shredded pork or shrimp for those who might want a little more than a snack.

 

Valley foodies see more options with new eateries

WENATCHEE — Mexican-style street snacks offered by Wenatchee Piña Loca are just one of the new and renewed options for diners that have arrived or are on the way in Wenatchee and East Wenatchee.

Some of the details on the new arrivals are still few and far between, but here’s some of the latest developments:

<> Bernie’s Burgers & Suds, 603 N. Wenatchee Ave., made its debut this spring, under the ownership of Bernadette and Phil Harper. According to the Facebook page, “Just to let you know, same great food, just a new name.” It replaces the former Buddy LaFleur’s.

<> Mai Lee Thai, which opened at 390 Valley Mall Parkway in 2006, moved in January to 595 Grant Road, East Wenatchee, in the space formerly occupied by Lulu’s.

<> Tiki Hawaiian Barbecue, 1450 N. Wenatchee Ave., Wenatchee. The new sign went up in April on the property that previously housed Carlos1800 (and before that Ciro’s Pizza) but no details have been available on when the restaurant will open. A “hiring now” sign on the window directs potential employees to stop by the Peking Chinese Restaurant at 350 Simon St., East Wenatchee. Peking owner Al Tsang purchased the North Wenatchee Avenue property in 2016. A building permit issued in May 2017 called for a $100,000 commercial alteration to the building.

<> A new coffee shop is going up at 1556 N. Wenatchee Ave., according to a building permit issued April 11. The project is valued at $300,000, according to the permit. The “coming soon” signs that went up say it’s Foraycoffee.com. A response to an email there says more details will be available in August.

 

Peoples Bank plans safety barrier after latest van accident

WENATCHEE — The noise was memorable.

It scared everyone. It was the loudest noise I’ve ever heard in my life,” Peoples Bank Branch Manager Jeremy French recalls of the moment when a van crashed into the bank building about 4:15 p.m. June 1. “We could feel it a little bit on the floor, but the noise got us.”

Most of the 10 or so employees in the bank at the time had their backs to the point of impact on the southwest corner of the building. The van had been traveling northbound on Mission Street when it left the roadway, hit the glass wall and landed with its front end in the vacant meeting room.

The driver, 69-year-old Edward Delp of Wenatchee, was transported to the hospital and later cited for driving while intoxicated.

No bank employees were hurt in the incident, but their nerves are a bit frayed. French said a pigeon hit the window several days later and everyone jumped.

Then we started laughing. It got to us a little,” he said. “We’re a little shell-shocked.”

New barriers will be installed to better protect the building.

 

Gateway Project on hold after council vote ends in tie

EAST WENATCHEE — The city’s Gateway Project is on hold after a City Council vote on increasing construction costs ended in a tie.

Bids were opened in April for the project, but the lower of two offers was $626,311 — nearly 62 percent more than the engineer’s estimate of $387,525. City Council rejected both bids at its April 24 meeting.

At the council’s May 24 workshop, Dan Ireland with engineering firm SCJ Alliance presented members with potential design changes. Even with the adjustments, the estimated construction costs would be $516,821.

On June 12, council members Jerrilea Crawford, Tim Detering and Matthew Hepner voted for increasing the costs, while council members Chuck Johnson, Harry Raab and John Sterk voted against it.

Mayor Steve Lacy said he can’t break ties for proposals involving spending. Newly appointed Councilwoman Shayne Magdoff must be sworn in before she can vote on issues.

The vote rendered moot two other motions regarding the Gateway Project. One was to approve additional design revisions, and the other was to rebid the project in the winter.

The city purchased 20,000 square feet of property at 88 Ninth St. N.E. in 2015. An old service station was demolished to make room for what would serve as a community plaza and entrance to downtown.

 

Chelan County PUD employee dies in Rock Island Dam accident

WENATCHEE — The Chelan County PUD worker who died June 13 in an accident at the Rock Island Dam has been identified as 40-year-old Eddie Bromiley.

Bromiley, a technician for Chelan PUD’s Central Maintenance group, was struck by a piece of steel from the spillway around 2:45 p.m. during crane testing, according to the PUD.

Co-workers performed first aid on Bromiley until emergency responders arrived, but they weren’t able to revive him.

The accident is under investigation.

Bromiley began his career at the PUD in April 2000.

He became an apprentice wireman in August 2003 and then a journeyman in October 2004. Bromiley moved to being a meter relay technician in May 2005 and into the technician position in May 2008.

 

Douglas PUD, Colville Tribes sell power to Puget Sound Energy

EAST WENATCHEE — Puget Sound Energy has signed a three-year contract for the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation’s 5.5 percent share of the power produced by Douglas County PUD-owned Wells Dam.

The estimated 25 megawatts of electricity will provide enough energy to power about 20,000 homes.

The deal, put together by Douglas County PUD on behalf of the Colvilles, is for the slice of power assigned to the Colvilles as compensation for flooding tribal land when the dam was built in the mid-1960s.

The Colvilles originally were paid for the land’s assessed value, but later argued the amount was too low. PUD officials in 2004 agreed to provide additional compensation that included 4.5 percent of the dam’s output from 2004 through Aug. 31, 2018. The share bumps up to 5.5 percent after that.

Douglas County PUD has purchased the Colvilles’ share of the power for its own use for the past four years. The PUD signed the $24.5 million deal in 2014 following a study showing that in 2016, the utility might not have enough power to meet peak demand. The plan was to sell any excess power to a third party to recoup part of the costs.

The PUD Commission on June 11 amended the power sales agreement to reflect the Colvilles’ new power share. It also confirmed the three-year sales contract with Puget Sound Energy that will start Sept. 1, 2018, and continue through Sept. 20, 2021. The agreement amounts to about $527,000 per month, according to Douglas County PUD spokeswoman Meaghan Vibbert.

 

Alcoa pays $62 million, permanently closes one potline

MALAGA — Hopes that Alcoa’s Wenatchee Works plant will restart dimmed Monday.

The aluminum maker announced it will pay the Chelan County PUD $62.4 million due as part of an amended power sales agreement and will permanently close one of four potlines at the Wenatchee Works facility.

The smelter, which has been idle since 2015, has another three potlines and enough contracted power to run the plant, but the decision to pay the penalty is not hopeful, says Aluminum Trades Council President Kelley Woodard.

It’s a punch in the stomach,” Woodard said. “You never say never, but it’s a hit. The odds of a restart definitely went down.”

Wenatchee Works had about 428 employees when it closed in 2015. A restart would have revived some of those jobs.

I would say the Wenatchee workers need to accept that this is game over,” said Harold Collins, a former pot room equipment operator who started working for Alcoa 28 years ago. He has been in a retraining program since the plant closed, but, like others, had hoped for a restart.

Alcoa continues to receive 26 percent of the electric generation from Chelan County PUD’s Rocky Reach and Rock Island dams in an agreement that runs through Oct. 31, 2028.

When the plant is not operating, the PUD sells unused power on Alcoa’s behalf, and the proceeds are applied toward Alcoa’s monthly contract costs.

 

Oglesby turns Sunday sports page item into AppleSox home run

WENATCHEE — The tale of how Jose Oglesby bought the Wenatchee AppleSox starts more than a year ago with a Sunday sports page.

The former Microsoft manager was sitting at home reading the paper when he saw an item about Seahawks punter Jon Ryan investing in the Portland Pickles, a summer collegiate wood-bat team in the West Coast League.

I thought, ‘If Jon Ryan is doing it, how unsafe can it be?’ ” Oglesby said of the business investment. “So I thought I’d look into it.”

Oglesby, 61, had grown up in Colombia and the Panama Canal Zone listening to Major League Baseball radio broadcasts.

The baseball bug stayed with him after he moved the United States, where he attended hundreds of major and minor league games over the years.

He was drawn by the numbers, the statistics and the analytics that helped make him a successful software developer, a career that started in 1978.

I spent many years writing computer software for a living,” he said, including 26 years at Microsoft. He moved to Seattle in 1990, where he and his wife, Lauren Feaux, still live.

He purchased the team from founder Jim Corcoran in May.

 

Lighthouse center could open by Thanksgiving

WENATCHEE — Lighthouse Christian Ministries hopes to raise $100,000 needed to complete renovation of a center serving the homeless and those at risk of homelessness.

If Lighthouse can raise the $100,000 from the community by August, a group of 16 donors has pledged to match it, for a total of $200,000, said board President Kyle Hendrickson.

Hendrickson said that amount should complete the project, now two and a half years in the making.

Lighthouse has raised $1.2 million for the now-$1.4 million project. Rising construction costs and things like asbestos abatement pushed up the price tag, Hendrickson said. But he expressed confidence that they’ve passed that phase.

We feel like we have our heads around everything that’s going to need to be done,” he said.

As long as funds are secured this summer, there are no delays anticipated, and the Ministry Center should be open by the end of November. “We’re hoping to be serving Thanksgiving dinner here this year,” he said.

 

Downtown banner project honors veterans

WENATCHEE — Current and former military service members will grace Wenatchee’s downtown come November if Linda Haglund has her way.

The Wenatchee Downtown Association executive director hopes to see streets lined with banners, each featuring the photo and name of a local veteran or active service member.

We want to honor our heroes,” she said. “Each banner would have their picture, their name, the branch of service and, if we know it, the rank and years served.”

The banners, which will hang from the streetlight brackets along the downtown’s core, would be purchased by families, community members or businesses and displayed during the month of November in 2018 and 2019.

The banners, after they’ve been displayed for two years, will then be returned to the families or, for a re-up fee, put back into the rotation for the next year.

The individual stories and photos also will be compiled in a book as a keepsake publication, “Beyond the Banners,” Haglund said.

The application forms are available at wendowntown.org. The $200 cost covers production and shipping. Anything left over will go to the Wenatchee Valley Post #3617 of Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Information: 662-0059.

 

Introducing the new Crescent Bar

CRESCENT BAR — The final touches on renovations to Crescent Bar’s on-island boat launch and parking area are wrapped up and ready to go.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony on June 2 marked the end of the major construction overhaul at the Grant County PUD-owned Columbia River recreation site.

Planning for the $35 million revamp began in 2010. Work started in 2016.

The first phase of construction included renovation of the off-island marina area and development of the off-island day-use park and trail.

The second phase included the development of a 55-site campground, multi-purpose day-use park and pedestrian trail on Crescent Bar Island. It also included the removal of the fire station and commercial building. The new campground opened last spring.

Two final projects — the renovation of the on-island water system and wastewater-treatment plant — will conclude during the year.

 

Imagining business what-ifs during tour of vacant spaces

WENATCHEE — Kick the tires and dream a little bit.

That’s what the 2018 Downtown Possibilities Tour gave participants a chance to do — explore the “what-ifs” of entrepreneurial endeavors.

The May 30 event invited current and aspiring entrepreneurs to check out six leasable spaces in the city’s downtown in the hopes of spurring new business ideas.

Tour participants also got the first look at the new toolkit for business owners being put together by the WDA, the city of Wenatchee, the Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Port of Chelan County. The kit includes a list of resources about everything from the uses allowed in the central business district zone and uses that would require a conditional use permit to how to apply for those permits, the licenses needed and who to talk to about creating a business plan and financing.