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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Local breaking business news prepared by Business Examiner staff.


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Jobless numbers inch up in February
Hospital district leaders want to modify Valley Medical-UW Medicine Alliance
PUD No. 3 considers electricity rate increase
Tacomaís intermodal volumes continue strong
Fashion retailer eyes summer opening at South Hill Mall
RadioShack expands in Tacoma
Steel imports up during February
People on the Move
Jobless numbers inch up in February
Unemployment rates rose last month throughout the South Sound, with the exception of Lewis County, according to the latest data from the state Employment Security Department.

In Pierce County, the jobless rate rose from 9.6 percent in January to 9.8 percent during February. In Thurston County, the rate rose from 8.3 percent to 8.5 percent. Mason County saw an uptick from 11.5 percent to 11.7 percent.

Lewis County’s unemployment rate held steady at 13.9 percent last month.

Statewide, the unemployment rate for February was a seasonally adjusted 8.2 percent. The jobless rate for the nation was 8.3 percent.

Hospital district leaders want to modify Valley Medical-UW Medicine Alliance


Commissioners of King County Hospital District No. 1, which operates Valley Medical Center, are seeking to modify their Strategic Alliance Agreement with UW Medicine to ensure it meets legal compliance.

Because of concerns about the legality of the alliance, the commissioners hired former Supreme Court Justice Phil Talmadge to review the agreement to determine if there were any legal problems.

Talmadge concluded that the agreement illegally transfers responsibility from the district’s elected Board of Commissioners to an unelected Board of Trustees who are not accountable to the voters of the hospital district.

Earlier this month, commissioners approved a resolution that authorizes President Dr. Paul Joos and Vice President Anthony Hemstad to negotiate with UW Medicine to revise the agreement.

“The agreement between UW Medicine and Valley Medical was reached in under five months,” Joos said. “I believe making the necessary modifications will take significantly less time. I know we can reach an agreement if everyone is committed to resolving the legal problems identified by Mr. Talmadge. The last thing the commission wants is to have a long drawn out legal process that ends up in the Supreme Court.”

PUD No. 3 considers electricity rate increase
Mason County PUD No. 3 commissioners conducted a public hearing today about proposed electricity rate increases. The financial impacts of looming renewable energy purchases and an increase in price for wholesale electricity supplies purchased from the Bonneville Power Administration are among the main reasons PUD 3 is considering increases this year.

The adoption of the 2012 budget in December anticipated a retail electricity rate increase, which includes a 3 percent change in the cost for energy consumption and a 10-cent per day increase in the daily customer charge. The last increase in electrical rates was in 2009.

Commissioners will consider adoption of new rates at their April 10 regular business meeting. The rate increase is driven by several issues:

ï An average 10 percent increase in the cost of wholesale purchases of electricity from the Bonneville Power Administration and a possible further boost in rates in coming years.

ï The loss of rate credits from the BPA due to past overcharges by the federal agency.

ï The possible loss of a $1 million annual discount from the BPA for certain utilities with a large proportion of rural customers. This is due to an increase in PUD customers.

ï A state requirement to buy a certain percentage of its electricity supply from qualifying renewable energy sources. The condition under state law will have a 3 percent impact on the cost of wholesale electricity purchased by the PUD for its customers.

ï Overall increased operating costs for the PUD.

A residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity would expect a bill of about $81.24 per month, an increase of $4.84 per month (not including applicable state or City of Shelton utility taxes). The PUD is using $500,000 from reserves this year to reduce the impact on rates.

Tacomaís intermodal volumes continue strong
Continued increases in international and domestic intermodal container traffic helped drive Port of Tacoma’s intermodal volumes up 16 percent through February.

This is the fourth month in a row that intermodal volumes have increased. For the same time period, total container volumes dropped by 4 percent.

Other year-over-year Tacoma cargo results include:

ï Breakbulk volumes rose 51 percent, piqued by strong demand for construction and agriculture equipment.

ï Imported auto units are up 7 percent, illustrating improving U.S. auto sales.

ï Log exports slipped 28 percent, due to a slowing Chinese real estate market and the general economy.

Fashion retailer eyes summer opening at South Hill Mall
The French word “rue” means street. 21 is the age so many people want to be.†That describes the essence of the fashion merchant about to join the lineup at South Hill Mall in Puyallup.

Rue21 expects to open its doors in late summer.†The store will occupy 3,800 square feet near the Multi-Care Good Samaritan Play Park. Rue21 offers a broad assortment of the newest emerging trends in apparel and accessories for girls and guys.

Launched in 1987, the Warrendale, Pa.-based company operates more than 700 stores in 46 states.

RadioShack expands in Tacoma
RadioShack will celebrate the opening of its newest store at 4502 S. Steele St., Space 501A, Tacoma, on Friday.

RadioShack employs about 33,000 people globally and has a retail network of about 4,675 company-operated stores in the United States and Mexico. The company also has more than 1,475 wireless phone centers in the United States and about 1,140 dealer outlets worldwide.

Steel imports up during February
Preliminary February steel imports totaled $2.8 billion (2.4 million metric tons), an increase of $100 million (0.1 million metric tons) from the preliminary January totals of $2.7 billion (2.3 million metric tons), according to the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The February change in steel imports based on metric tonnage reflected an increase primarily in blooms, billets and slabs. Increases occurred primarily with Brazil and India.

The year-to-date final statistics through January 2012 showed steel imports of 2.6 million metric tons compared with 1.9 million metric tons through January 2011. The largest commodity increase occurred primarily in blooms, billets and slabs. The largest country increase occurred primarily with Russia. The largest country decrease occurred primarily with Mexico.

People on the Move
Lindsey Pritchard has joined Tacoma Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau as administrative assistant. She has more than 10 years of administrative experience and most recently worked at Orcas Power and Light Cooperative in Friday Harbor.

Craig Adams has been appointed as a Pierce County Superior Court commissioner. The appointment marks a return to the bench for Adams, who served as a court commissioner for two years during a career that includes work in private practice and as an assistant attorney general for Washington state. Adams has spent the past 20 years as the legal adviser to the Sheriff’s Department.

Pierce County Superior Court Commissioner Meagan Foley will shift from civil to criminal cases. She was first appointed to the bench in 1988 and has served on numerous committees, including as presiding commissioner several times.

Amy Tiemeyer has joined America’s Credit Union as a military†relations liaison. She has experience as a small business owner, community volunteer and also is an Army veteran.

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