Thursday, February 16, 2012
Local breaking business news prepared by Business Examiner staff.
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State revenue rises, but risks remain high
The Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council’s latest economic forecast is very similar to its November forecast, with the same muddle-through conditions expected for the rest of the biennium, along with a high degree of downside risk.
Factors outside the state are the biggest threat to the U.S. and Washington economies, according to the council, which says it is likely that Europe will enter another recession or is already in one. If the sovereign debt crisis leads to a financial crisis, the U.S. economy is likely to enter a new recession as well. The weakness in Europe has contributed to a slowdown in Asia, a concern for Washington exporters.
The Washington economy is recovering about as expected in the November forecast. There have been no major developments since November that have altered the outlook significantly, the council says. The state’s economy is narrowly outperforming the U.S. economy and the council expects that trend to continue.
Forecast changes due to economic conditions, including revenue already collected, added $32.2 million, for a total increase of $95.7 million above the November forecast. State general fund revenue for the 2011-13 biennium is now forecasted at $30.284 billion. The initial forecast of general fund revenue for the 2013-15 biennium is $32.294 billion, an increase of 6.6 percent from the revenue of the current biennium.
Forecast of state general fund revenue for 2011-13 (probabilities in parenthesis):
ï Baseline (50 percent): $30,284 billion; $95.7 million higher than the previous forecast.
ï Optimistic (10 percent): $32,025 billion; $1,741 million more than the baseline forecast.
ï Pessimistic (40 percent): $28,749 billion; $1,535 million less than the baseline forecast.
ï Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors’ assumptions: $30,261 billion; $23 million less than the baseline forecast.
Spaceworks finds success in Hilltop Business District
Two Spaceworks Tacoma project sites in the Hilltop Business District have converted to house full-time independent business tenants.
After just six months with the program, Fab-5 and N. Dybevik Piano Co. have transitioned into leases with the property owner of the Spaceworks building at 1310-1316 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.
“I can’t imagine a better use for the building than Spaceworks,” said Oliver Doriss, owner of the next-door Fulcrum Gallery. “The block is completely different now ñ traffic to my business has increased and there are more eyes on the block keeping the area safe.”
Last year, Spaceworks supported 18 creative enterprises, exhibited 28 large-scale art installations, activated 20 ground-level retail spaces, supported over 70 events and performances, inspired over 40 articles in local press and attracted over 16,500 visitors.
“With the stabilization of these two projects, it is clear that Spaceworks ‘works’ as an economic development tool,” said Tacoma Arts Administrator Amy McBride. “We’re not only providing opportunities for local artists and entrepreneurs, but strengthening business districts plagued by chronic vacancy.”
Spaceworks Tacoma is a joint initiative of the City of Tacoma, the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce and Shunpike designed to activate empty storefronts and vacant space in downtown Tacoma. The initiative makes no- and low-cost temporary space available to artists, fledgling creative entrepreneurs, organizations and community groups.
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Thurston County honors EDCís Cade and Olympia Rotary as distinguished leaders
Leadership Thurston County ñ part of the Thurston County Chamber foundation ñ last night recognized Economic Development Council executive director Michael Cade and the Rotary Club of Olympia as their distinguished leaders for 2012.
The awards banquet, which drew roughly 300 from the local business community to Saint Martin’s University’s Worthington Center, is an annual highlight of Leadership Thurston County’s 10-month training program, which has produced 450 graduates in its 20 years.
Keynote speaker, former state Supreme Court justice Gerry Alexander, noted the prevalence of women in the organization’s training track, as well as growing numbers of women across business industries in general.
“The legal profession isn’t alone in experiencing this change; (it) has gone on everywhere, and has made our society fair in the sense that this artificial barrier has largely removed,” Alexander said. “And, on top of that, this change has been very good for the economy. Think about what the entry of all these women into the workforce has meant.”
As EDC director since 2000, Cade has worked in tandem with the Chamber, the Olympia-Lacey-Tumwater Visitor and Convention Bureau and local businesses to heighten economic development throughout Thurston County. Highlights of his work include attracting companies such as Trader Joe’s and Harbor Wholesale foods to the rapidly developing Hawks Prairie area.
Fundraising efforts were the reason The Rotary Club of Olympia received the award: locally, for creating West Bay Park’s Rotary Point site on Budd Inlet in Olympia; regionally, for matching high school students with opportunities to play musical instruments; and internationally, for helping bring clean water to countries in Africa.
Previous award-winners include commercial real estate company The Rants Group, developer Tri Vo, former Olympia councilman Jeff Kingsbury and Business Examiner publisher Jeff Rounce. Community Youth Services, Capitol City Press and Grays Harbor Paper were also past winners.
Energy complaints rise to top of consumer complaint list
Regulated electric and natural gas companies moved to the top of the consumer complaint list in 2011, while telecommunications companies dropped to a close second.
The state Utilities and Transportation Commission’s Consumer Protection Help Line opened 715 customer complaints against regulated electric and natural gas companies for customers with billing disputes, disconnect threats, quality of service and customer service issues. In 2010, customer filed 697 complaints against energy companies.
Energy and telecom companies swapped places in the ranking, with complaints against energy companies increasing 25 percent over the previous year, and complaints against telecommunications companies dropping 27 percent. The UTC received 528 consumer complaints against regulated telephone companies in 2011. In 2010, they topped the list with more than 700 consumer complaints.
The solid waste industry was a distant third although complaints were up 22 percent from the previous year. Eighty-four consumers filed complaints against regulated garbage and recycling companies in 2011.
UTC Consumer Protection staff saved consumers more than $200,000 in 2011 through customer credits and refunds. They investigated 1,364 complaints for customers of regulated companies, and recorded more than 170,000 violations for failure to comply with state laws.
Talks continue over new toll rates for Tacoma Narrows Bridge
The Citizen Advisory Committee for the Tacoma Narrows Bridge will meet Feb. 22 to continue reviewing new toll rate options.
The public meeting, scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. at Gig Harbor Civic Center, 3510 Grandview St., is the third in a series of four in which the CAC reviews current toll rates, considers new toll rate options, and reviews costs and revenues for the bridge.
If the CAC is unable to decide on a recommended toll rate for the bridge at the meeting, another meeting will be held March. 8. The CAC will make its official recommendation to the Washington State Transportation Commission during its March 20-21 meeting in Olympia.
Previous meeting materials can be found online.
Producer Price Index ticks up
The Producer Price Index for finished goods advanced 0.1 percent in January, seasonally adjusted, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.
Prices for finished goods declined 0.1 percent during December and moved up 0.2 percent in November. At the earlier stages of processing, the index for intermediate goods fell 0.4 percent in January and crude goods prices increased 1.5 percent.
On an unadjusted basis, the finished goods index advanced 4.1 percent for the 12 months ended January 2012, the smallest year-over-year rise since a 3.6-percent increase in January 2011.
Construction materials prices increase 0.4% in January
Increased turmoil in the Middle East may be having an effect on U.S. construction materials prices. According to the U.S. Labor Department’s Feb. 16 Producer Price Index, materials prices increased 0.4 percent in January and are 5.4 percent higher than a year ago. Nonresidential construction materials prices were up 0.4 percent for the month and are 4.8 percent higher compared to the same time last year.
Iron and steel prices also increased 1.8 percent in January, and are 7 percent higher than January 2011. Steel mill prices increased 1.3 percent for the month and have increased 9.4 percent during the past 12 months. Prices for plumbing fixtures and fittings increased 0.5 percent compared to December and rose 3.1 percent since last January. Prices for concrete products inched up 0.2 percent for the month and are 1.5 percent higher than one year ago.
In contrast, prices for prepared asphalt, tar roofing and siding fell 2.9 percent for the month and are down 1 percent year over year. Nonferrous wire and cable prices dipped 2.5 percent in January and have decreased 5.6 percent during the past 12 months. Prices for fabricated structural metal products decreased 0.8 percent for the month but are still 3.4 percent higher than a year ago. Softwood lumber prices slipped 0.6 percent in January and are 3.2 percent lower compared to the same time last year.
Crude energy prices increased 1.6 percent for the month as crude petroleum prices jumped 5.7 percent. Year over year, crude energy prices are up 2.1 percent.
Overall, the nation’s wholesale prices increased 0.1 percent for the month and are 4.1 percent higher than January 2011.
Housing starts increase in January
Privately-owned housing units authorized by building permits in January were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 676,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is 0.7 percent above the revised December rate of 671,000 and is 19 percent higher than the January 2011 estimate of 568,000.
Single-family authorizations in January were at a rate of 445,000, 0.9 percent above the revised December figure of 441,000. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 208,000 in January.
Privately-owned housing starts in January were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 699,000. This is 1.5 percent above the revised December estimate of 689,000 and is 9.9 percent higher than the January 2011 rate of 636,000.
Single-family housing starts in January were at a rate of 508,000, 1 percent below the revised December figure of 513,000.†The January rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 175,000.
Privately-owned housing completions in January were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 530,000. This is 12 percent below the revised December estimate of 602,000 but 4.1 percent above the January 2011 rate of 509,000.
Single-family housing completions in January were at a rate of 389,000, 14.9 percent below the revised December rate of 457,000.†The January rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 136,000.
HCC in search of distinguished alumni
Highline Community College is seeking nominations for its 2012 Distinguished Alumnus Award, which honors former students who have made significant contributions through community service, noteworthy professional achievement and/or recognized leadership.
Highline first gave the award in 1990. Norm Rice, former mayor of Seattle, was the first recipient. Other recipients have included Junki Yoshida, founder and CEO of the Yoshida Food Group; Joan Enticknap, president and COO of Homestreet Bank; Highline’s Dr. T.M. Sell; and last year’s winner Linda Yoshida.
Nominations may be submitted by e-mail to Alana Young. The deadline is April 16.
and S. Mae Fujita Numata
have joined the Board of Directors of Columbia Banking System
. Lantow has experience in strategic management and leadership, including her most recent position as chief financial officer of McCormick & Schmick’s, a 93-restaurant company based in Portland, Ore.†Numata’s financial background includes her current position as chief operating and chief financial officer of Schnitzer Investment Corp. of Portland, Ore., an investment firm with interests in commercial, industrial and multi-family properties, ocean shipping and other industries.
Karl Hentschel has been selected as Mason General Hospital & Family of Clinics‘ February Employee of the Month. He is a network administrator in information technology and has worked at MGH&FC for three years.
Cherie Singer and Brenda Senderoff have joined Market Enginuity, the underwriting team representing 88.5 KPLU and KING FM.†Senderoff has experience in advertising sales and developing marketing strategies, businesses and brands in the print media. Most recently, she was a market development account executive at Encore Media Group.†Singer was most recently at Encore Media Group as an Account Executive in Advertising Sales. She held the same position at Bonneville Radio Group and at Puget Sound Business Journal, where she specialized in advertising sales related to health care, insurance and the marketing/media industry.
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