Gregoire unveils new jobs effort
Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire proposed the Washington Jobs Now Initiative Jan. 15 with $1 billion in public works projects plus program reforms for the unemployed and homeowners.
Gregoire proposed dedicating $427 million to projects that will be ready for groundbreaking in the next few months. Of that, $21 million is devoted to green industries.
Construction-ready transportation projects could get $390 million and create nearly 20,000 jobs in the next two years. The state is in its largest-ever transportation construction cycle, with 1,400 projects under way.
Another $400 million from the state's Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund could go to a temporary increase in unemployment benefits for workers and a temporary tax cut for businesses.
The state's shared work program also got Gregoire's support, and could give unemployment benefits to workers with reduced hours. The training benefits program could also get a boost, paying stipends to laid-off workers who are in school or training.
Under the initiative, homeowners facing foreclosure could get extended time to arrange financial options before losing their homes.
State sees record unemployment claims
In December, 90,331 people applied for unemployment benefits, the most in state history, according to Washington's Employment Security Department. The tally is a 75 percent increase from December 2007.
The numbers are especially staggering considering the department's unemployment call centers were closed or understaffed several days in December due to bad weather and holidays.
A surge of 25,687 new claims during the week of Christmas broke the state's one-week record, nearly double the amount as the same week in 2007.
The department has responded to demand by acquiring additional phone lines and hiring more staff.
More than 136,000 Washington residents received unemployment benefits in 2008. Benefits are paid out of the state's unemployment-insurance trust fund, which has a current balance of more than $4 billion.
Visitors bureau partners on geotourism map
The National Geographic Society and three local partners will develop a bi-state geotourism map of the Central Cascades region.
Project partners are the Southwest Washington Convention and Visitors Bureau, Washington State Tourism and Travel Oregon. They will develop a printed map guide and interactive website to promote local natural and cultural attractions.
Nominations highlighting people, experiences, sites and attractions in the region can be submitted at www.thecentralcascades.com and through March 29.
The Washington partners will host a free community forum at 1 p.m. Feb. 13 at the Water Resources Education Center, 4600 S.E. Columbia Way in Vancouver.
C-W port repairs begin
The Port of Camas-Washougal began a month-long dredging and repair project in early January.
The marina basin dredging will remove natural accumulation of mud and silt sediment, bringing it back to a navigable depth between 4 feet and 6 feet. Marysville, Wash.-based contractor Plats Plus has a Jan. 31 deadline to complete the $290,287 project.
At the port's Washougal marina, the equivalent of six miles of lumber will replace older wood components of the marina's floating breakwater, its outermost floating dock for visiting commercial and recreation boats. Portland-based BCI Contracting will complete the $119,831 repairs.
Also this winter the port will install new launch ramps and fire department connections.
Tourism awards approach
The Clark County Tourism Awards will be held Feb. 26 at The Hilton Vancouver.
With the awards, the Clark County Board of Commissioners recognizes businesses, individuals, events and programs in the local hospitality industry.
Business finalists include Bethany Vineyard and Winery, Phoenix Inn Suites and Brett Wilkerson of The Heathman Lodge for Outstanding Tourism Service; Beaches Restaurant and Bar, La Bottega Cafe Deli and Wine Shop and The Restaurant at the Historic Reserve for Restaurant Excellence; and the Historic Reserve Bookstore, Lily Atelier and Pendleton Woolen Mills for Retail Excellence.
Rising Star nominees are Chad Naeve, The Heathman Lodge; Teresa Smith, Phoenix Inn Suites; and Morgan Thompson, Marriott Springhill Suites.
Awards will be presented at 4 p.m. Feb. 26. Registration is available at www.southwestwashington.com or 360-750-1553, ext. 13.
BG Chamber names business award finalists
The Battle Ground Chamber of Commerce named the finalists for its 2008 citizen and business person of the year awards.
Business Person of the Year nominees are Al Patel of Battle Ground Best Western Inn and Suites, Jeremy and Heather Brown of Rusty Grape Vineyards and Jorgan Cattin of Battle Ground City Grill.
Winners will be announced at the annual Battle Ground Chamber of Commerce Recognition Banquet at 6 p.m. Feb. 7 at the Battle Ground Community Center. Reservations are available at www.battlegroundchamber.org or 360-687-1510.
Regional law firms unite
Two of the region's oldest law firms, Miller Nash and Newcomb, Sabin, Schwartz and Landsverk, both of Portland, have joined forces.
Miller Nash has several regional offices, including one in Vancouver.
The Jan. 1 merger created a multi-service team of 122 attorneys. Miller Nash and Newcomb Sabin were founded in 1873 and 1892, respectively.
Parr assists flood victims
Parr Lumber lent rain-soaked Southwest Washington flood victims a helping hand in early January, supplying pre-bagged sand free of charge.
The Portland company has several regional locations, including those in Vancouver, Ridgefield and Woodland. Parr also donated food and equipment to those caught in the December 2007 floods.
INNOVATION + TECHNOLOGY
WSUV, GeoMonkey earn research funds
A technology project of Vancouver-based GeoMonkey Inc. and Washington State University Vancouver received $35,582 from the Seattle-based Washington Technology Center.
GeoMonkey, also known as MapWithUs, develops mapping software for consumer mobile devices with WSU Vancouver's School of Engineering and Computer Science.
Those funds, plus $8,092 from GeoMonkey, will go to WSUV's initial research and technology development for the project.
In January, WTC awarded $561,797 to eight projects by Washington researchers and companies that could generate more than 400 full-time technology jobs in five years. Proposals for WTC's next round of funding are due April 23. Details are at www.watechcenter.org/rtd.
nLight expands laser platform
Vancouver-based nLight Corp. revealed its Pearl solid-state laser platform, enabling a new class of air-cooled laser systems.
The laser platform has electrical-optical efficiency of 50 percent to 60 percent, resulting in significantly less heat. Power levels as high as 100 watts are available at 879, 885 and 888 nanometers with nLight's proprietary PowerCore fiber.
The company's NXLT diode technology allows for longer product life under harsh industrial conditions while the PowerCore fiber gives consistent beam quality and power transmission independent of fiber layout and movement.
DESIGN + CONSTRUCTION
BIA names directors
The Building Industry Association of Clark County chose 30 members for its 2009 board of directors.
On the executive board are President Morall Olson of M.J. Olson Enterprises, Vice President Tracy Doriot of Doriot Construction, Vice President Secretary Chuck Eng of Pac Rim Homes, Vice President Treasurer Brian Fleetwood of Columbia Credit Union, Vice President Associate Shellie Grammer of News Radio 750 KXL and Past President Hugh Hall of Lynwood Homes.
REAL ESTATE + DEVELOPMENT
December sets low home sales record
Clark County's residential real estate market saw some of the lowest sales numbers of this decade in December.
Homes sold in 2008 numbered 4,900, down 28.6 percent from December 2007, and down 41.2 percent from December 2006. The year's results were 23.3 percent lower than those of 2000, the decade's previous record-setter, reported Associate Broker Mike Lamb of Vancouver-based Windermere Real Estate/Stellar Group.
New closed residential sales were at 285, down 4 percent from December 2007. Active listings were up 4.6 percent from the previous December. Inventory was down to 14.8 months from November's 16.9 months.
Home prices edged up 0.8 percent from November with an average of $277,889, but were down 7.9 percent from December 2007.
BANKING + FINANCE
Riverview suspends dividend
Vancouver-based Riverview Bancorp will not pay dividends on shares of common stock for the fiscal third quarter.
The company is maintaining a conservative approach to finances in light of continued economic deterioration, and is positioned to withstand the difficult economy, according to a news release.
Riverview has paid cash dividends for more than a decade, and plans to resume payment as soon as possible. As of Sept. 30, the bank's risk-based capital ratio was 10.7 percent and qualifies as well-capitalized under federal bank regulatory guidelines.
Riverview will report third quarter fiscal results after the market closes on Jan. 29.
CCU contributes to band's inauguration trip
Columbia Credit Union agreed to assist the Evergreen High School band and color guard in raising funds for their trip to the recent presidential inauguration.
Columbia will match every donation up to $5,000 until Feb. 14. The Evergreen High School Booster Club is accepting contributions via its website, www.ehsboosters.com.
Skills Center caters inaugural ball
Students and instructors of the Clark County Skills Center restaurant management and culinary arts program joined 11 other Washington teams to serve a variety of appetizers at the Governor's Inaugural Ball on Jan. 14.
The offerings included sour cherries with gorgonzola mousse, smoked pork loin with blackberry compote and sautéed Mushrooms in pastry shells. Held at the state capitol, the event drew about 6,000 guests.
PIC director resigns
Vancouver-based Partners in Careers Executive Director Beth Taylor has resigned. Taylor, who has been with the nonprofit for more than 25 years, was hired as director in 1995.
The organization assists challenged job-seekers in finding employment and has immediate plans to find a replacement.
Goodwill to open Salmon Creek store
Portland-based Goodwill Industries of the Columbia Willamette will have opened a Salmon Creek store Jan. 22.
The facility at 14300 N.E. 20th Ave. in Vancouver will feature more than 11,000 square feet of thrift retail space.
Activists rally for higher wages
The Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane has until July to collect voter signatures for a proposal to boost large retailers’ minimum wage.
If the league collects 2,795 signatures, the proposal would go on the city ballot in November. If passed, Spokane retailers with stores of 95,000 square feet or larger would be required to pay employees 135 percent of the state’s minimum wage, or $11.54 an hour.