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Tuesday, January 8, 2008
Local breaking business news prepared by Business Examiner staff.

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New program to help military spouses with long-term careers
Kreidler seeks authority over individual health plans
Puget Energy declares dividends
Griot’s Garage to be car care company for LeMay
Washington companies earn ‘Best Places’ for equality
Business.gov unveils new search features
American Business Awards calls for entries
Are you a Top Place?
People on the Move
New program to help military spouses with long-term careers
A new federal program available to families at Fort Lewis, McChord Air Force Base and Naval Station Kitsap has been designed to help military spouses establish long-term occupational careers.

The program, offered by the Departments of Defense and Labor, allows eligible military spouses to receive up to $6,000 during two years for education and training aimed at enabling them to pursue portable careers in high-demand, high-growth occupations.

Washington received a combined $3.7 million for the program and will implement it statewide in April. Of the total, $1.2 million is earmarked for Pierce County’s military bases. The funds, which will be administered by the Tacoma-Pierce County Employment and Training Consortium, will provide training and employment to 331 military spouses between now and June 30, 2010.

For more information, visit www.MilSpouse.org.

Kreidler seeks authority over individual health plans
State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler will again request legislation to restore his ability to regulate rates in the individual health insurance market.

The Insurance Commissioner’s authority over individual health plans was revoked by the Legislature in 2000 in a deal meant to salvage the individual health insurance market. In exchange for a pledge from the carriers that they would stay in this market, four key changes were made: the health carriers were allowed to off-load the sickest 8 percent of applicants to the state’s high-risk pool; the pre-existing condition waiting period grew from three months to nine; health carriers can replace a product on 90 days’ notice; the Insurance Commissioner lost authority to review rates.

“Eight years have passed since this law took effect. Meanwhile, the carriers are making record profits, and consumers have seen their rates jump an average of 16 percent per year,” Kreidler said.

Puget Energy declares dividends
Puget Energy has declared quarterly dividends on the company’s common and preferred stock.

A quarterly dividend of 25 cents per share was declared on Puget Energy’s common stock, payable Feb. 15 to shareholders of record as of the close of business Jan. 23. The dividend is the 258th consecutive quarterly dividend paid by Puget Energy and its predecessor companies.

Griot’s Garage to be car care company for LeMay
The LeMay— America’s Car Museum has announced Fife-based Griot’s Garage as its official car care company.

The multi-year sponsorship commitment includes provision of car care products for the care of the museum’s collection. The museum will use Griot’s products at the current location at Marymount Academy in Spanaway, at Club Auto in Kirkland and Denver, and in the new museum upon its completion.

Washington companies earn ‘Best Places’ for equality
The Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the nation’s largest gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, released its list of companies that have earned the “Best Places to Work for GLBT Equality” seal.

Topping the list for Washington are Microsoft, Nordstrom, Recreational Equipment Inc., Starbucks and Washington Mutual. Several companies that are headquartered elsewhere, but have strong ties to the South Sound, were also awarded the seal: The Boeing Co., Raytheon Co., Northrup Grumman Corp., American Airlines, US Airways, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, KeyCorp, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, UPS, Allstate Insurance, Nationwide Insurance and well as a host of retailers, including Macy’s, Gap, J.C. Penney, Best Buy, Borders, Sears and Walgreens.

The seal is awarded to companies that score a perfect 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index, which measures policies and practices implemented to promote fairness and equality in the workplace for GLBT employees.

“We honor the companies awarded for being the ‘Best Places to Work for GLBT Equality,'” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “Each of these companies is working hard to transform their workplaces and make them safer for millions of employees around the country. We can now say that at least 10 million employees are protected on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity on the job.”

The 2008 Corporate Equality Index report, released this fall, awarded an unprecedented 195 major U.S. businesses the top rating of 100 percent, up from 138 last year — a 41 percent increase. One of the CEI’s major findings was that a majority of rated employers now offer workplace protections on the basis of gender identity — 58 percent. That number has increased from just 29 percent in 2005.

To see a complete listing of companies who received the 2008 “Best Places to Work for GLBT Equality” seal, visit www.hrc.org/placestowork.

Business.gov unveils new search features
Business.gov has launched new search features and expanded content that make it easier for small business owners to find essential information they need to run their operations, including forms, licenses, permits and regulatory information from federal, state and local governments.

In addition to federal resources, business owners now have access to more than 9,000 state, territory, county, and city Web sites that provide information on starting and managing a business while complying with regulations from all levels of government.

Business.gov’s new search service is a “mashup” — a unique service created by combining content from separate Web applications — of Google-based services that include Google’s Custom Search Business Edition, Google Maps, the Google Search Appliance and publicly available compliance information culled from federal, state and local government Web sites.

Business.gov has also expanded the content of its Small Business Guides, which help business owners understand what regulations and programs apply to them, how to comply, and how to stay in compliance while growing and managing their operations.

American Business Awards calls for entries
The Sixth Annual American Business Awards issued a call for entries today, seeking to honor the performances in business, from top executives and organizations to sales teams and support staffers.

In a nod to corporate America’s focus on “green,” the 2008 awards will present an award in the new Best Environmental Responsibility Program category to honor companies making changes internally or in their communities to improve the environment.

Entries may be submitted in dozens of categories, ranging from Best Executive to Most Innovative Company. Entry kits for The 2008 American Business Awards may be requested at www.stevieawards.com/aba. The 2008 awards will honor accomplishments made since Jan. 1, 2007. The entry deadline is March 31. Late entries will be accepted through April 30 with a late fee.

Are you a Top Place?
Nominations are now being accepted for the Business Examiner’s fourth annual 2008 Top Places to Work program. Nominations are due Feb. 8 and employee surveys are to be submitted by Feb. 29.

Top Places to Work recognizes outstanding company cultures in the South Sound. Companies that apply will complete an employee opinion survey evaluating their workplace culture in the following evaluation areas:

– Integrity: Company vision is communicated and consistent with employee responsibilities;
– Appreciation: Employees are consulted on relevant decisions;
– Equity: Rewards are distributed with fairness;
– Gratification: Employees are proud of: personal contributions, team contributions, organization’s products and reputation; and
– Solidarity: Socially welcoming work culture.

The judging panel will select the Top Places to Work in three categories: small/medium companies with less than 100 employees, large companies with more than 100 employees and non-profit organizations. Recognition will also be given to the organizations that rise to the top in each of the five evaluation areas.

Organization must be headquartered in the South Sound and must be at least five years old; may not be the subsidiary of a parent organization and have the application process completed by a senior manager.

An event and special publication will honor the honorees. Applications and more information can be found in the Leadership Recognition tab atBusinessExaminer.com/leadership.

People on the Move
Cornerstone Financial Strategies in University Place has announce the addition of financial advisor William Pickles. Pickles brings more than 15 years experience.

Erin Berger has joined The Creative Office in Olympia as the new director of marketing. She joins the firm with several years experience in the office products and furnishings industry.

Vallie Jo Fry has accepted the position of vice president of administrative services at Bates Technical College. Summer Kennesson accepted the position of dean of educational research, planning and development in November. Gloria Garner accepted the position of instructional assessment and curriculum coordinator. Patrick Brown joined Bates as position of manager of student programs and associated student government in October. Patricia Chase accepted the position of manager of recruiting and outreach in November 2007. Demetria Strickland accepted the position of associate dean of continuing education and apprenticeship.

Realtor Steve Sheller has joined Greene Realty Group as an associate broker. He brings more than 19 years of experience.

AAA Washington has hired Jennifer O’Malley as an insurance agent at its Tacoma center. O’Malley will specialize in personal-lines insurance including auto, home and life.

Olympia-based Siminski & Associates has announced that Karen Sanders and Elizabeth Tyner have recently joined its professional accounting staff.

Columbia Bank recently announced Michael Henson, assistant vice president and branch manager as the new manager at the Federal Way branch. Connie Pentecost was promoted from assistant vice president to vice president and manager of the Westgate branch. Donna Sayre was promoted from an assistant vice president and senior financial analyst in private banking to assistant vice president and commercial loan officer.

The Puget Sound Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America has announced its 2008 officers: Janelle Guthrie, president; Linda Elliott Farmer, vice president of administration; Jennifer Hawton, vice president of programs; J. Ryan Shannon, vice president of membership; Troy Brown, vice president of education; Rita Brautigam, secretary, mentors program; Erik Elvejord, treasurer; and David Blandford, past president, ethics officer.

Davies Pearson P.C. has announced that Sok-Khieng Lim and Brian King have become shareholders of the firm. Lim’s practice is focused on immigration, general business, civil litigation and personal injury. King’s practice is focused on motor vehicle dealerships, commercial litigation, construction law, real property and general business.

Pam Marzano was recently certified as an official “E-Agent” by Keller Williams University. To earn the certification, Marzano had to complete a number of online technology courses and pass a detailed exam that covered such topics as online marketing, website management, and internet postings.

State Liquor Store 124, previously located on Cleveland Avenue in Tumwater, will reopen at 5738 Littlerock Road SW, Suite 109 on Saturday. The store closed at the Cleveland location this week to allow time to relocate inventory. The store is moving because the business outgrew the former location. The new location is 1,000 square feet larger than the old store.

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