Bushong named Woman of Year
October was a good month for local marketing whiz Jennifer Bushong.
On Oct. 15, Town Toyota Center officially named Bushong as their director of marketing and communications. She’d been doing the job for the past 14 months, but the announcement sealed the deal for her to work some marketing magic on the 4,000-seat arena.
On top of that, Bushong was named Oct. 17 as 2012 Woman of the Year by Wenatchee Business and Professional Women, which provides scholarships and other help for women to move forward in their lives.
At the group’s annual awards luncheon — sponsored by the Wenatchee World and other local businesses — about 100 women gave Bushong a standing ovation for her marketing skills and service to the community. In her brief thank-you speech, Bushong praised the women in the room for their ongoing commitments to local schools, churches and community.
“There’s much to be done and much we can do,” she said. “But only if we work together.”
A 16-year marketing veteran, Bushong, 40, owns JB Marketing Group where she serves as project manager and consultant for a wide variety of local businesses. Her community service includes work for Miss East Cascades, the Festival of Trees, the Junior Service League, Ballet Theater Northwest and Girl Scouts of America.
Anjou in Airstream a ‘Rivet’-ing combination
Anjou Bakery has cooked up a business idea that combines nostalgia, wanderlust and road food.
Kevin and Heather Knight, owners of the Cashmere-based bakery, last month announced plans to open a branch outlet next year at Wenatchee’s new Pybus Public Market in a vintage Airstream travel trailer. It would be an espresso and take-out food outlet in a 31-foot 1973 aluminum-skinned beauty that could be the first of its kind in the state.
The new place — called Rivet because thousands of them hold an Airstream together — will be located outside of the market itself.
The Airstream will have its own patio seating area and a drive-through window.
Local partnership featured in report
The work of two area organizations and how they collaborated on local projects has been featured by a national group as a case study on effective partnerships.
Joint efforts by the North Central Washington Economic Development District and the North Central Regional Transportation Planning Organization have been featured as one of 10 case studies from 11 states in a recent report by the National Association of Development Organizations.
The report highlights projects from across the U.S. that show how transportation and economic development groups can complement each other by sharing resources and trimming costs.
In NCW, the two groups share board members and have repeatedly worked together in new projects that involve transportation and economic development, said NCWEDD Administrator Jennifer Korfiatis.
Released in September, the NADO report will be sent to the group’s 300 members in the U.S. and used when lobbying for the membership to Congress and other elected officials.
Farm store employees to share $33,000
Safety is paying off for employees of a regional chain of farm stores, including one in East Wenatchee.
The 400 employees of Coastal Farm & Ranch’s 12 stores in Washington and Oregon will share an insurance rebate of more than $33,000 as a thanks for placing safety as a top priority, owner Buzz Wheeler said in a press release.
“Safety is the most imporant thing in our stores,” said Wheeler. “Nothing we do is worth getting hurt over.”
Trail group receives $50,000 grant
A Methow Valley sports organization has won a $50,000 endowment grant from the Wenatchee-based Community Foundation of North Central Washington, foundation leaders announced last month.
The Methow Valley Sport Trails Association will use the funds as a base for permanent annual income boosted through investments and additional donations, said Beth Stipe, the foundation’s executive director.
The Community Foundation chose the MVSTA in September from a list of five finalist organizations narrowed down from 31 applicants. The winner was announced at the foundation’s celebration dinner Oct. 4 at Sun Mountain Lodge near Winthrop.
Organizations were judged on their impact to their communities, strategic planning and board participation and commitment.
The MVSTA maintains 120 miles of recreation trails which provide 45,000 skier days in winter and serve an estimated 45,000 users in summer, according to a Community Foundation press release.
Leadership training underway
Put on your thinking caps: How are a local bank lady, cable TV guy, medical gal, jail guy and a travel expert all connected?
These are five of this year’s 15 participants in the 11th annual Community Leadership Class hosted by the Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by the Wenatchee Valley Medical Center. Participants were announced last month.
The Community Leadership Class is an eight-month commitment “to personal growth, professional development and community awareness,” said a Chamber press release. Participants learn all kinds of stuff about the valley — including key community issues — as they talk to local leaders and tour businesses and facilities.
They also get together once a month to study topics such as government, media, agriculture, health care, education and economic development. They’ll also get a quick, educational face-to-face with members of the Chelan County SWAT Team.
The leadership class’ aim is to shape a new batch of “motivated citizen leaders who guide the future growth of the Wenatchee Valley,” said the release.
This year’s class includes: Curtis Lutz, Chelan County Regional Justice Center; Gary Taylor, Comcast Spotlight; Holli Davis, Goodwill Industries; Jason Underwood, North Cascades National Bank; Jenny Sorom, Central Washington Hospital.
And Kathleen Knappert, Port of Chelan County; Lisa Higbee, Central Washington Hospital; Lisa Phillips, US Bank; Nancy Fike, GTC Technical Support; Ryan Baker, Chelan County PUD.
And Shane Bickford, Douglas County PUD; Tamera West, AAA Washington; Thad Brewer, Port of Douglas County; Tyler Theiss, Cashmere Valley Bank; and Vivian Ramsey, SCJ Alliance.
Travel agent’s nowhere near packing it in
Online travel websites offering discount prices were supposed to squash traditional brick-and-mortar travel agencies, but don’t tell Sandy Mathews.
Mathews, owner of Journey Travel & Tours, in September doubled the floor space of her 12-year-old business, added two new employees and has jumped head-first into social media as a way to connect with clients and boost customer service.
“It’s all about customer service,” said the veteran travel agent. “No matter where they go, what they see and how they travel, it all comes down to making sure they have the best trip possible and return home safe and satisfied.”
Beginning in the late 1990s, online sites such as Expedia and Orbitz did contribute to the closing of hundreds of travel agencies across the country, admitted Mathews. Agency numbers shrank by as much as 20 percent annually and remaining agencies were forced to retool and refocus in order to survive.
Mathews said Journey became expert in corporate travel, family travel, winter getaways and cruises.
“But we never stopped providing a broad array of services,” said Mathews. “We could see that this area’s residents travel in all sorts of ways — family trips to adventure expeditions — so we kept providing it all.”
Today, Mathews said local residents should consider using a travel agent for most international travel and package tours and cruises. “It doesn’t happen often, but if something should go wrong with flights, hotels, itineraries, then you want someone — someone skilled — to be working in your favor.”
The Journey owner said her company has embraced technology in recent years, “and that’s made a huge difference.” Pricing, scheduling, reservations, research — it all moves now at a much faster pace.
And social media — Facebook especially — has helped her clients connect with agents and with each other, said Mathews. Journey customers post brief reports and photos from their trips directly to the company Facebook page and exchange travel info from afar.
“It’s definitely evolved into a kind of local travel community,” she said. “People sharing their adventures from around the world.”
Details: Journey Travel and Tours, 500 N. Wenatchee Ave., Wenatchee. For more info, call 662-7775 or visit journeytours.com.
Fred Meyer pumped to sell fuel
Freddy has gas. And that’s a good thing.
The new Fred Meyer Fuel Center here opened Oct. 11 with 18 fueling stations, a kiosk selling snacks and tobacco products and the usual gas discounts for customers with Fred Meyer Rewards cards.
The fuel center — 86th in the Fred Meyer chain — is one of company’s largest. The standard size for most Fred Meyer stores is 10 fueling stations.
“We have the space for a larger center,” said Mike Berck, fuel field specialist for the company, waving a hand at the spread of pumps and racks of oil at the north end of the store’s parking lot.
“And we have high expectations, anticipating good business here,” said Sam Strouse, the company’s fuel manager. Both execs arrived in East Wenatchee from Portland, Ore., to oversee project details and the facility’s soft opening.
The center’s high-tech pumps offer engine-cleaner additive ($1.99 to $7.99 depending on quantity) that goes into your tank from the pump nozzle. No messy containers to open.
At the kiosk — the glass booth where customers pay — refrigerated display cases were loaded with energy drinks, soft drinks and bottled water.
A big grand opening was held Oct. 19-2 with special offers and discounts, including a 20-cent per gallon discount.
Details: Fred Meyer Fuel Center, 11 Grant Road, East Wenatchee. At the parking lot’s north end, near the garden center. Fuel center kiosk is open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, with pay-at-pump service available 24 hours a day. 881-2800.
International club opens here
A new hotspot has opened in Wenatchee.
The Van Go International Night Club will feature “sultry sophistication,” said owner Aaron Ruiz, that highlights a Latin-Euro beat of salsa, meringue, hip-hop and Spanish rock.
Even the name Van Go is designed to give the impression of “something international, diverse, upscale and European,” said the owner.
The club located at 27 S. Chelan Ave., former site of Club Level and in the same building as the Volcano Club.
H.R. Spinner donation to support tree fruit research
One of the state’s top produce packaging distributors has donated $75,000 to support expansion of Washington State University research orchards, including the Sunrise Research Orchard south of here.
Yakima-based H.R. Spinner, which has a distribution center in East Wenatchee, said Wednesday that its donation would support development of three acres of research orchard — two acres at Sunrise and one acre at WSU’s Irrigated Agriculture and Research Center in Prosser.
H.R. Spinner President Ed Jewett said the company’s gift is aimed at supporting the entire tree fruit industry.
“Our company focuses on packaging, but we also recognize the importance of a healthy tree-fruit supply chain, from the planting of trees to the apple arriving to consumers,” said Jewett.
H.R. Spinner, founded in 1916, recently expanded its product line with the acquisition of a Naches-based manufacturer of bins and wooden pallets.
Feds fine Dovex $134,613
The Dovex Fruit Co., an international fresh fruit and vegetable processor with facilities here, was fined for failing to fully meet requirements for a risk-management plan required by the federal government.
Dovex was fined $134,613 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to meet risk-management requirements for equipment maintenance since August 2008, said Wally Moon, an EPA emergency preparedness manager for the Pacific Northwest.
Dovex has corrected the violations. In 2008, the company was fined $98,241 for failing to submit its risk-management plan since 2003.
The latest fine, one of two imposed on Central Washington companies for failing to meet risk-management requirements, was announced Oct. 2.
The Clasen Family Co., a cold fruit storage company with facilities in Union Gap and Yakima, also failed to submit its risk management plan since 2004. The company will pay $17,030 and spend at least $58,800 installing equipment to reduce the risk of ammonia leaks and improve emergency response.
The two companies’ risk management plans are required by the federal Clean Air Act for emergency situations involving anhydrous ammonia, one of the most potentially dangerous chemicals used today in agriculture and refrigeration, said Moon.
The plans must also include accident-prevention programs and an emergency-response plan to handle accidental chemical releases.
Ammonia is a colorless gas that can cause severe burns to skin, eyes, throat and lungs. It is used in refrigeration systems.
Fines at both companies deal with reporting requirements for risk-management plans and not a release of ammonia.
Having a solid prevention program can help stop things going “from bad to worse” if a workplace accident causes a chemical release, Moon said.
“We can’t take chances with public health,” he added. “Preventing an accidental release of dangerous chemicals like ammonia protects the lives of workers, responders and nearby residents.”
‘Man of steel’ feels a magnetic pull
The beam stretched 30 feet long, weighs two tons and joins a 40,000-pound truckload of steel.
“It’s a big load,” said Doug Gardner, who’s seen and done it all — rebar to retail — in his 25 years in the local pre-fab steel business. “Wish we had more just like it.”
That’s the challenge for the 48-year-old Gardner and the year-old branch facility he manages here for Columbia River Steel Supply, a four-decade-old company based in Moses Lake. How to fill more big orders in an industry rocked by recession? How to sell more steel when economic uncertainty shrinks construction budgets, forces layoffs and postpones projects?
“It all comes down to good products and great service — delivering what we promise, making sure that handshake means something,” said Gardner.
Last year, Gardner grabbed the Columbia River Steel manager’s job when company owner Steve Rimple began the search for what he called a “man of steel” — someone who knew how to work it, sell it and ship it.
“This was a job that seemed custom-made for me,” said Gardner. “It isn’t often that perfect fit happens in a career, so I jumped at it.”
A Wenatchee resident since age 2, Gardner worked a few retail jobs after high school but knew those jobs wouldn’t make a career. “I liked retail because I like people and like sales,” said Gardner, “but I knew I wanted to make a little more money.”
For him, steel had a magnetic pull. Standard Steel of Wenatchee, operating in the Pybus Building, paid $8 an hour to novice workers — “a good wage at the time,” said Gardner — and soon he was cutting and bending rebar for the company.
“I found I liked steel,” he said. “I liked the feel of it, I liked the people who worked with it, and I like the industry as a whole.”
Morse Steel soon bought Standard. Through the years, Gardner worked his way up the pre-fab ladder — “I think I worked every job the warehouse offered” — to become shop foreman for Wenatchee’s preeminent steel company.
Gardner has worked the last 12 years in pre-fab steel sales, focusing his efforts to supply fabricators spread across eastern Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.
Now, at Columbia River Steel, Gardner oversees a six-employee staff who sort, shape and ship 500,000 pounds of steel, stainless steel and aluminum in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Nuts, bolts, fasteners, angles, tubes, sheets, rods and beams fill the three-story, 13,000-square-foot warehouse located in an industrial area near Pangborn Memorial Airport.
Problem is, said both Gardner and Rimple, Columbia River Steel opened in 2011 at the tail end of a recession that dramatically slowed the region’s construction, manufacturing and — right along with them — the need for pre-fab steel.
“But things are starting to pick up,” said Gardner. “We’re starting to see improvement as we expand our customer base and reach out to smaller fabricators and even do-it-yourselfers with weekend projects.”
Gardner laughed. “Need a kick plate for that barn door? Nuts and bolts for a kid’s treehouse? We give small projects the same attention as huge ones. We’ve got the steel for it all.”
Region’s sports tourism takes big hit from smoke
This autumn, sports tourism in the Wenatchee Valley pretty much went up in smoke. Make that wildfire smoke.
Running? Slowed. Tennis? Whacked. High school sports? Many events relocated or postponed.
Local sports organizers and promoters have estimated lost revenues at $600,000 and higher since lightning-caused fires began Sept. 8 and smoke pushed air quality to hazardous levels.
And just when business leaders thought it couldn’t get any worse, soccer was booted.
On Oct. 10, a fifth week of unhealthy air due to continued wildfires forced cancellation of the 30th annual Apple Cup Soccer Tournament, the area’s fourth-largest sporting event.
Set here for Oct. 12-14, it was expected to attract almost 3,000 out-of-towners and fill nearly every local hotel room to give the local economy a pre-winter kick of just over $400,000.
“For the health and safety of the kids participating, as well as for the spectators, we must put aside our desires to host the tourney and err on the side of safety, not fun,” said organizer Colleen Hendrickson in a letter to players and coaches. She cited poor air quality as the culprit.
Registration for the tourney had hit 121 soccer teams, with more than 100 from outside the area. The estimated 1,175 athletes — boys and girls, ages 6 to 18 — were to arrive with 100 coaches and an estimated 1,650 parents and team supporters. Soccer-loving spectators were expected to number several hundred each day.
“It’s a real disappointment, but what can you do?” sighed Matt Kearny, marketing director for the Wenatchee Valley Sports Council. “Hotels, restaurants, retailers, service stations — they all take a hit when a cancellation of a big event like this occurs.”
Even worse, he said, hotels took a double hit financially. “Thinking they were filled up, many hotels turned away other reservation requests for that weekend,” he said. “That’s a room rental they’re not likely to get back.”
Wenatchee Fire FC, sponsor of the soccer tourney, and registered teams also took a hit, explained Hendrickson. A portion of registration fees — up to $250 per team — had already been spent with vendors, she said, and the amount that will be returned wasn’t clear.
Axing of this year’s Apple Cup followed cancellation of other local sporting events, including Wenatchee’s River Run Half-Marathon and the Fall Doublesfest Tennis Tournament at the Wenatchee Racquet and Athletic Club.
Meanwhile, area high schools were forced to cancel, postpone or relocate dozens of sporting events through September and into October as wildfires burned and smoke choked the area.
“Schools were massacred by the smoke situation,” said Kearny. “Games were moved or canceled, traveling costs soared and ticket revenues plummeted. Not a good situation when you’ve got budgets to maintain.”
Machine harvesters show pluck
Brandon Mulvaney has picked a lot of apples for the state Tree Fruit Research Center, but the plucking’s always smoothest from atop a mechanical harvester.
“No ladders, no heavy bags, no trudging to a bin way down the row,” said Mulvaney, feeding fresh-picked Granny Smiths into the suction tube of a DBR vacuum apple harvester. “Faster, more efficient, much less physically demanding.”
Mulvaney’s plucking skills took a backseat Oct. 2 to fruit rows full of whiz-bang science and gadgets at a technology expo sponsored here by Washington State University’s Center for Precision & Automated Agricultural Systems.
Demonstrations at WSU’s Sunrise Research Orchard highlighted the experimental engineering of CPAAS’s faculty and students in 13 machines or software systems designed to increase orchard efficiency and reduce the fruit industry’s most labor-intensive tasks. About 90 growers, packers and shippers attended.
“Long term, we’re trying to provide stability to an industry prone to inefficiency and labor shortages,” said CPAAS director Qin Zhang, a WSU professor of agricultural engineering. “These devices and systems can help smooth out the labor and allow workers to do more with less effort.”
Such as picking apples. Mulvaney and other pickers stood on or near their mechanical harvester as it rolled slowly and driverless down the orchard row. Pickers placed each apple in a rubber-padded vacuum tube which whisked it to a soft rotating disc that gently eased it — unbruised — into a waiting bin.
One observer reached into the bin, picked up a huge green Granny and inspected it closely. “Huh,” he said, sounding a bit surprised. “No bruises. Looks good.”
Four rows down, WSU regional ag specialist Karen Lewis said mechanical blossom thinners — which look like giant spinning bottle brushes — can cut the cost of thinning blooms on an acre of orchard by more than 95 percent.
“You can reduce it all down to about 55 bucks and 30 minutes of work (per acre),” she said. “A huge difference from the hand- or chemical-thinning that’s more traditional.”
And in the middle of the orchard, WSU post-graduate student Yunxiang Ye guided a remote-controlled bin dog, which is a rolling overhead lift that transports filled-up fruit bins to an end-of-row station for loading and transport.
The bin dog, Ye explained, can move bins from the center of a row without disturbing pickers or other yet-to-be-filled bins. “I know we say this over and over,” laughed Ye, “but it increases efficiency tremendously.”
Other demonstrations and devices drawing interest were:
A shake-and-catch vibrating cherry harvester, both full-sized and hand-held.
Software systems that analyze an orchard’s environment — light penetration, soil moisture, weather conditions — so a farmer can make management decisions via smartphone, tablet or office computer.
Other systems that use cameras to estimate crop yields, pruning patterns and irrigation needs.
Micro-sprayers installed in tree canopies to deliver water and chemicals.
All good ideas, said Zhang, but, as yet, all still in the experimental stage. Acceptance of these devices and processes could take years, he said, as the gadgets are perfected and orchards tweaked to be more compatible to machine-assisted harvesting.
“Already, we’re simplifying orchard layouts and designs and making the machines smarter,” said Zhang. “Orchards and machines, simplicity and intelligence — that could be the future for the fruit industry.”
A sweet taste of success for Crunch Pak
Seeking some marketing zing, the nation’s largest apple-slice snack company has added a “z” to some of its hot-selling brands: Dipperz, Flavorz, Salad Kitz.
It’s a tweak, Crunch Pak execs said last month, that’s brought the Cashmere-based snack maker tonz of succezz.
“The ‘z’ is a branding thing,” laughed Tony Freytag, both marketing director and a founder of the 12-year-old fresh-cut fruit company. “It’s fun, catchy and lends a bit of consistency and recognition to our products.”
Then, more seriously, “And it works. Sales are strong. Business is good.”
Since slicing its first Granny Smith in 2000, Crunch Pak has paired smart marketing with cutting-edge food science to deliver pre-cut apples to consumers hungry for a snack that’s tasty, healthy and convenient.
The privately-held company, said Freytag, has increased sales by 30 percent or more each year since 2009 to capture 44 percent of the $600 million fresh-cut apple industry and become a dominant player in the North American apple-snack trade. It’s a market shared with Dole, Chiquita, Earthbound Farm Organics and others.
A glance down Cashmere’s Sunset Highway, newly curbed and paved, tells the tale. On Tuesday, hundreds of employees bustled for a midday shift change and a dozen forklifts zipped stacks of apple bins into the company’s massive new processing plant.
In September, the company nearly tripled production space at its 10-acre facility here with the opening of a 40,000-square-foot, controlled-atmosphere addition to house expanded packaging lines, 30-foot-high storage racks and eight new loading docks, quadruple the previous number.
The expansion allows the facility’s 700 employees, up from 500 last September, to process more than 1 million pounds of apples per week into more than 600,000 snack packages.
“Crews are handling about 7,000 apple slices per minute,” said Freytag. “Let’s see, that’s about six trays of Dipperz” — apple slices with a packet of caramel sauce — “every five seconds.”
The increased production is necessary, said Freytag, to meet demand for apple snacks at some of the nation’s top grocery and retail chains. Walmart, Costco, Target and East Coast mega-grocer Publix all carry Crunch Pak brands, as do thousands a small- and medium-sized grocery and convenience stores. In July, about half of the nation’s Wendy’s began offering Crunch Pak slices as a side option with burger meals.
Two years ago, Crunch Pak added a production and shipping facility in Pennsylvania to handle growth of East Coast sales, including a push into Canadian markets.
About a year later, Crunch Pak renewed its branding partnership with the Disney corporation to produce Foodles, including Mickey Mouse-themed snack trays. Disney also highlighted Crunch Pak products in June when the entertainment giant announced plans to advertise only healthier foods on its TV channels, radio stations and websites by 2015.
And then there’s the glitz. Crunch Pak products have graced backstage snack tables at the Oscars, Billboard Music Awards, Kids Choice Awards and other star-studded events.
“That’s a fun aspect to all our marketing,” said Freytag. “A little bit of glamour to top our employees’ hard work.”
He emphasized that behind all that glint and glimmer a Crunch Pak research and development team seeks ideas and innovations for new and improved products.
Twelve years ago, the team helped develop the two innovations that have made Crunch Pak’s success possible: micro-porous plastic bags that allow the escape of gases from ripening slices and a calcium-vitamin C solution that slows oxidation and browning. Combined, the two innovations stretch a sliced apple’s shelf life from two minutes to two weeks, said Freytag.
Last month, the R&D team rolled out its newest concoction, Flavorz, just in time for the back-to-school rush. Flavorz are packs of sliced apples infused with the “taste essence” of other fruits, such as grape, strawberry, peach and mango. Freytag won’t discuss the infusion process — “it’s secret” — but said the company worked on the project for more than two years to get the flavors just right.
But innovation is only a first step in bringing a product to market in this digital age, said Freytag. The trick now is to learn to navigate a new marketing landscape of Internet and social media that bypasses traditional advertising methods to speak directly to the consumer.
“Twitter, Facebook, blogs, our website — we’re trying it all,” he said. “We want to reach the mom who’s getting her kids ready for school. Is there a healthy snack in their lunchboxes? Now, we can remind her of that.”
Standing in Crunch Pak’s cavernous new facility, Freytag pointed to an empty space in one corner. “We’ll have that space filled with packing lines or storage racks in a few months,” he said.
He paused for a moment. “The question this company faces today isn’t whether to expand our facility. That’s a given. The real question is how fast will we fill it up?”