Monday, May 18, 2009
Local breaking business news prepared by Business Examiner staff.

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Business owners remain optimistic
Lacey development to showcase gold standard
Olympia broke ground on City Hall
Sumner leaders take paycut to help budget
Venture to file quarterly report later
SBA now has fully guaranteed loan offer
Workplace safety is focus of new ad campaign
Around the Sound
Business owners remain optimistic
A recent Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index survey concluded that small business owners are optimistic about the future.  The “future expectations” score on the index rose nine points to an index number of 10, while the “present situation” score dropped 6 points to negative 11. A score of zero means small business owners, as a group, are neutral ó neither optimistic nor pessimistic ó about their companies’ situations. The index high of 114 occurred in November 2006.

These metrics comprise the overall Index score, which reflects six key measures:  financial situation, cash flow, revenues, capital spending, job hiring and credit availability.
 
Business owners with “very good” or “somewhat good” financial situation expectations increased 11 percent from last quarter’s survey results. Expectations for “a little” or “a lot” of increase in capital spending rose 44 percent from last quarter.

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Lacey development to showcase gold standard
The First Park Meridian Campus in Lacey is the site of the state’s first large distribution center to seek LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

To meet this high standard of environmentally friendly development standards, the developer included energy efficient lighting, reflective roofing materials, and permeable pavement throughout the site to avoid concentrated water run off from its parking lot.  The park also uses a number of water efficiency and conservation measures including low-flow toilets, permeable surface materials to decrease storm runoff, and a water-efficient irrigation system to maintain the natural landscaping.  The site also offers preferential parking for carpoolers and hybrid vehicles.

The developer, First Industrial Realty Trust, has completed three of the six facilities in what will be a  780,350-square-foot park on a 45-acre campus. The locations are waiting for tenants.

“In the current economic climate, companies are looking to reduce their overhead costs as much as possible. By utilizing environmentally-friendly buildings, such as the ones at First Park Meridian Campus, companies can significantly reduce their energy and other operating costs for their supply chain,” said Gary Danklefsen, First Industrial’s regional director.

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Olympia broke ground on City Hall
Construction on Olympia’s new City Hall has officially begun ñ officials held a ground breaking this morning.

The Olympia City Council, local dignitaries, staff and members of the public celebrated the occasion with an on-site groundbreaking ceremony along the 600 block of Fourth Avenue East in downtown Olympia.
 
Pile driving at the site is expected to take about six weeks.  Actual construction will begin once pile driving is finished with the anticipated completion of the building set for late fall of 2010.
 
Once complete, Olympia city services and employees now housed in several different buildings will be co-located in a single building for improved citizen service.  The current City Hall building will be used for Olympia’s Municipal Court, jail, and probation services.

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Sumner leaders take paycut to help budget
Several City of Sumner leaders announced last week that they are taking 2 percent pay cuts to help with the city’s budget. This voluntary reduction is being taken by Mayor Dave Enslow and City Administrator John Doan. They are being joined by the majority of the leadership team representing Police, Public Works, Community Development and Administration departments.

“As leaders in the organization, we chose to make this contribution to help the city,” said Enslow. “This was one more small thing we could do personally to help.”

In addition to continuing to find more efficiencies, city officials are considering the creation of a tax on the city’s stormwater utility and implementing up to six furlough days before the end of the year.

Like many jurisdictions, Sumner is feeling the effects of the economy. Sales tax revenue is down as are other key sources of revenue like building permits. Sumner officials have been tracking the trends and accordingly started asking employees to spend less more than a year ago.

“We got ahead of this thing a bit,” Enslow said. “And, for that reason, we’re not hurting as badly as some neighbors. But, we’re still hurting.”

Employees started working on a number of cost-saving measures. One senior level position was eliminated in March, and numerous empty positions have been left vacant through attrition. Some programs such as hanging flower baskets were temporarily suspended while more efficient measures were put in place, such as mailing the city newsletter four times each year instead of six.

At the beginning of the year, many employees, including directors, managers and senior staff were required to take some or all of their cost of living raises in vacation time instead of the traditional salary increases. Employees in any of the city’s five labor unions were also given the opportunity to participate in the COLA Exchange. A third of the city’s union membership participated in the savings program at some level.

Despite all these measures, Sumner continues to see revenues lagging behind its budget estimates. Sales tax, which accounts for about half of the city’s general fund budget, is 20 percent below budget. A number of other cost-saving ideas are being explored with the intent to avoid any additional layoffs.

“Our vision is to set the standard of excellence for a progressive small city,” City Administrator John Doan said. “That hasn’t changed with the economy. The key to providing excellence is the talent of our employees, and they have been great in working together to make sure we make it throughóall together.”

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Venture to file quarterly report later
Venture Financial Group, the parent company of Venture Bank, has filed a Notification of Late Filing with federal regulators. It expects to be current with all reports within 15 days.

The DuPont-based bank stated it was unable to timely file the first quarter financial results because it has not completed its financial statements for the period. It is also still working to complete the year-end 2008 10-K filing.

“This has been a strange time with the new rules and the changing of the rules,” said Venture’s Senior VP for Marketing Joseph Beaulieu.

As it stands now, the bank expects to report first quarter 2009 net income of $2.4 million, compared to $3.1 million for January through March of last year. An increase in non-performing assets as a percentage of total assets —  9.15 percent, or $100.2 million this year compared to 1.72 percent, or $20.9 million for the same quarter in 2008 — is the primary factor contributing to the different bottom-line results.

Interest income not earned due to nonperforming loans was $1.5 million for Venture’s first quarter, as compared to $300,000 for the 2008 period. 

SBA now has fully guaranteed loan offer
Small businesses suffering financial hardship as a result of the slow economy may be eligible to receive temporary relief to keep their doors open and get their cash flow back on track through to a new loan program announced today by the Small Business Administration.

SBA will start guaranteeing America’s Recovery Capital loans this summer. ARC loans are deferred-payment loans of up to $35,000 available to established, viable, for-profit small businesses that need short-term help to make their principal and interest payments on existing qualifying debt. ARC loans are interest-free to the borrower, 100 percent guaranteed by the SBA, and have no SBA fees associated with them. ARC loans will be made by commercial lenders, not SBA directly.
 
“These ARC loans can provide the critical capital and support many small businesses need to make it through these tough economic times,” said SBA Administrator Karen G. Mills. “Together, with other provisions of the Recovery Act, ARC loans will free up capital and put more money in the hands of small business owners when they need it the most. This will help viable small businesses continue to grow and thrive and create new jobs in communities across the country.”

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Workplace safety is focus of new ad campaign
The state Department of Labor and Industries has partnered with four business and labor organizations to develop an advertising campaign to raise awareness about the importance of workplace safety in Washington.

Co-sponsoring the ad campaign are the Association of Washington Business, the Washington State Labor Council, Associated General Contractors, and the Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council.

“Running this campaign now is particularly important because there are significant risks to workplace safety during an economic recession,” said L&I Director Judy Schurke.

She noted that businesses may be tempted to cut corners on workplace safety when times are tight, and employees worried about having no other job options may not speak up about unsafe conditions. Also, employees may be fatigued from additional workloads or may be doing unfamiliar tasks, making them more prone to injury.

The centerpiece ad, called “Homecomings,” shows people coming home from work to their loved ones, juxtaposed against one boy who is worried that his dad isn’t home from work yet. The ad concludes with a reminder that, on average, two people die every week in Washington from on-the-job injuries and illnesses. The ads call attention to WorkSafe.Lni.wa.gov and resources for making workplaces safer.

Around the Sound
Business and development watchers in the South Sound will have an opportunity to hear three developers present their conceptual designs for the redevelopment of East Bay at a public open house set for 5:15 p.m. on Wednesday, May 20, at Washington Middle School, located at 3100 Cain Road SE in Olympia.

Manufacturers in Thurston County will hold a round table talk all day on May 20, at Aska Co., located at 4706 Pacific Ave SE in Lacey. The event is a  time to network and tap into the many resources available through the Northwest Manufacturer’s Alliance and other partnering organizations. RSVP by emailing ggilmore@thurstonedc.com.

The World Trade Center Tacoma’s 16th Annual Globe Awards Dinner and Auction, presented by KeyBank, will be held May 21 at Hotel Murano Tacoma. The event will feature Robert Marcovitch, President of K2 Sports as a keynote speaker. Visit www.wtcta.org.

 ìGo Local Tacoma Dayî will be the centerpiece during the opening day of the Broadway Farmers Market on Thursday, May 21 in downtown Tacoma.  In addition to members of ìGo Local Tacomaî being on hand, visitors can enjoy the Iron Chef Cook-Off, to be judged by local celebrities and city officials.  Along with local music, there will also be a gardening demonstration at the Foodie Fun Clinic and multiple family friendly activities.

The Centralia College Foundation, in partnership with Providence Centralia Hospital and the United Way of Lewis County, will host an in-service workshop for professional financial and estate planners. The “Continuing Professional Education Seminar” will be held on the Centralia College campus on Thursday, May 28, from 7:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. Accountants, attorneys, and financial or estate planners will need to register for this workshop by May 11 by calling the foundation staff at 736-9391, ext. 290. Attendees will earn CPE, CFP, EA or CLE credits for participating. The seminar will be held in the college boardrooms, Hanson Hall, corner of Walnut and Rock Streets in Centralia. Training and discussion topics include creative giving and planning, Medicaid and long-term care, ethics and charitable planning, Social Security retirement and focus on fixed income. Registration is $50 per person and includes admittance for one, appropriate professional training credits, all course materials, a continental breakfast and lunch.

There will be a special, all-day event at the Tacoma-Pierce County Association of Realtors located at 2550 Yakima Ave. in Tacoma on Thursday, May 21. The day will start with an FHA essentials class from 9 a.m. to 12 noon. Following the three clock hour class, a working lunch and Homeownership Forum will be held from noon to 3 p.m. The work sessions will help agents better understand FHA programs and down payment assistance options. Along with discussions on FHA programs, the afternoon session will include information on: foreclosures, Eastside code enforcement, a down payment assistance panel, the $8,000 Tax Credit, Sec 8 (Y) and HouseKey and Rural Development. Realtors, licensed agents and lenders are all invited.

A Business Summit will be held 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday June 5, at Capital Christian Center, located at 819 Olympia Ave., Olympia. The summit will focus on several timely topics to help a company’s bottom line.  There will be a panel of marketing, advertising, public relations, and social networking experts.  A presentation regarding the state of our local economy along with economic forecasts for Thurston County will be offered.  Opportunities as a result of the Stimulus Legislation for the business owner will be presented.  The tax panel will discuss an amazing 300 tax changes as a result of the Stimulus Legislation as well as tax changes as a result of legislation passed 2008.  Attendees will walk away with practical and useful information in each of these areas.  Each session will end with a question & answer section.  Lunch is provided.  The cost is $15. Register at Capital Christian Center’s website:  www.go2ccc.org.

Economic Gardening: The cost is free to Tacoma businesses and available to businesses located outside the city limits on a space available basis. the event has two identical sessions, one from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. or one from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Both sessions will be held on June 10 at Evergreen State College-Tacoma Branch, 1210 Sixth Ave., Room 105.  Reserve a spot by phone, by calling (253) 573-2435.

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