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Business roundup: Fruit industry’s Underwood ripe for retirement

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Chuck Underwood Retiring after 45 years in the fruit industry

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Fruit industry’s Underwood ripe for retirement

Chuck Underwood, a 45-year veteran of the fresh produce industry, has retired from the domestic sales staff of Wenatchee-based Columbia Marketing International.

Chuck’s an extraordinary individual who’ll be greatly missed by his CMI family,” said company president Bob Mast. “The roads he pioneered with customers along his journey at CMI will forever be appreciated.”

More than four decades ago, Underwood began his career at the Growers Clearing House and then moved to NuChief Sales, now known as Honey Bear. He later helped launch the Stirling-Underwood company, which evolved into Northwest Fresh. He brought his many customer connections to CMI when he joined the company’s sales team 15 years ago, Mast said.

In retirement, Underwood said he plans to enjoy more golf, more biking and more boating on Lake Chelan.


Cafe AZ’s training restaurant closes after YWCA board vote

The Wenatchee YWCA has closed its training restaurant, Cafe AZ’s, due to a dwindling number of trainees, lagging business and community support and financial losses.

The decision was announced Nov. 13 after the YWCA board voted to close the restaurant immediately.

Executive Director Jenny Pratt said trainees funneled into the program from other agencies have dropped from 50 last year to 10 this year. Business has been slow, she said, and has never broken even. The cafe lost about $21,475 this year. Pratt said scheduled catering jobs will be carried out through the end of the year with volunteer and other staff support. The closure will not affect the YWCA’s other retail stores.

The cafe, located below the YWCA at 212 First St., opened in May 2010 to train unemployed and disadvantaged people for restaurant jobs and help them achieve self-sufficiency.


BofA nearly ready to check out of NCW

The countdown continues toward Bank of America’s exit from North Central Washington on Dec. 6. Seattle’s Washington Federal, the biggest of the state’s regional-based banks with $13 billion in assets, last summer bought a bundle of BofA branches, including seven in NCW and 44 more in eastern Washington, Oregon, Idaho and New Mexico.

Locally, those branches include the ones in Wenatchee (both locations), Leavenworth, Chelan, Omak, Quincy and Moses Lake. Washington Federal has already mailed “welcome guides” to BofA customers to explain the company-to-company shift of their accounts, money, loans and credit cards.

At noon Friday, Dec. 6, BofA branches will close for the conversion. They’ll reopen on Monday, Dec. 9, as Washington Federal branches.

For more info, call Washington Federal at (800) 324-9375 or visit


Hits keep on coming — on FM radio

Sunny FM, the local radio station that promotes itself as broadcasting “The Greatest Hits of All Time,” has added another hit-making favorite to its schedule — the AppleSox baseball games.

The station — KCSY at 93.9 FM — will be the new flagship station for AppleSox club, said team co-owner Jim Corcoran, and feature all 58 regular games and playoffs during the 2014 season.

Sunny FM’s Sox broadcasts will also be heard on KWCC-TV, the local cable channel. The radio broadcast will play over the visual of an electronic baseball scorebook that’ll provide rosters, stats and inning-by-inning scores.


New website geared for adventure seekers

RunWenatchee has introduced a new website — — to help market the area’s growing number of endurance events. Those include marathons and loppets and bike races.

The need here is great,” write RunWenatchee founders Steve Maher and Joel and Michele Rhyner. “Many other communities, particularly in areas with recreational assets, recognize that sports endurance events attract visitor spending, lead to economic development and make their locales infinitely more liveable.”

In short, they want to help raise the Wenatchee Valley’s profile as “an amazing setting” for endurance events and — for that matter — to live, play and raise a family, they wrote.


Farmers Market harvests higher sales

Vendors at the Wenatchee Valley Farmers Market aren’t just growing veggies. They’re growing revenues, too.

Penny Bickford, president of the Farmers Market, told the board of Pybus Public Market last month that this year’s Farmers Market sales had grown by 16 percent over those in 2012.

She said the jump in sales could be attributed to several factors:

This was the Farmers Market’s first year in their new home at the bustling Pybus facility.

Vendors have gotten more savvy on what products to sell and how to market them.

And market stalls added a new point-of-sale system that allowed customers to pay with credit, debit and EBT cards.

One vendor, who sold a craft item priced at over $100, may have lost that sale if not for the point-of-sale system,” she said.

The card-reader devices were a requirement of a federal HUD grant that helped finance the Pybus Market project.


McDonald retires after 35 years at Numerica

Longtime financial employee John MacDonald retired in October after 35 years of helping customers at Numerica Credit Union and its predecessors.

MacDonald’s responsibilities had included overseeing operations of the Wenatchee region, handling tech duties, editing the credit union’s newsletter and training and mentoring hundreds of employees over the years, a Numerica press release said.

MacDonald began his career in 1978 when he joined the local branch of Highway District 2 Credit Union. He then aided the credit union through seven mergers, construction of new branches and growth of assets from $2.8 million to $125 million. He’s also been active in community groups and projects, including serving as treasurer of the RiverView Kiwanis Club for 20 years.

We’ve been proud to have him at Numerica all these years,” said Michelle Grabicki, a Numerica vice president.

MacDonald said his plans for retirement include perfecting his do-it-yourself skills, reading, traveling and staying involved in the community.

Moses Lake

Carbon-fiber plant receives award

A manufacturing plant here that produces carbon fibers for German carmaker BMW has been named 2013 Manufacturer of the Year by the Association of Washington Business.

SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers received the award in November.

SGL’s ultralight carbon fibers will be used to make components for the new BMWi series, including the all-electric BMW i3 automobile.


Farm Service Agency will loan to minorities, women

The Farm Service Agency has set aside a portion of its farm loan program specifically for minorities and women to buy farms, equipment and livestock.

Funds may also be used by minorities and women to operate a farm, build or repair farm buildings, pay for soil and water conservation projects and, in some cases, refinance debts, said state FSA Executive Director Judy Olson.

Made by banks and other lenders, the loans are guaranteed by the FSA for up to 90 percent of any loss. Payback on a direct loan for a farm purchase may extend to 40 years, with operating loans stretched from one to seven years. Rates and terms will vary.

The FSA is a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture with offices in Chelan and Douglas counties. For more info, call the Chelan County office at 664-9385.


Weidner talks about why they’re in Wenatchee

Execs for the billion-dollar development company now building North Central Washington’s largest apartment complex say the rental market here begs for more upscale housing, particularly on the city’s waterfront and along its popular walking-and-biking trail.

We looked at supply and demand and the area’s very low vacancy rate, and it all added up,” said Greg Cerbana, director of public relations for Kirkland-based Weidner Apartment Homes. “We believe the Wenatchee area is ripe for apartments that are beautiful, accessible and innovative.”

The 312-unit Riverside and Ninth Apartments, located about 10 blocks north of downtown Wenatchee on the Apple Capital Recreation Loop Trail, will mix retail with residential, emphasize eco-friendly construction and introduce to the region the first “live-work” rentals that combine a downstairs office or storefront with an upstairs apartment.

The $30 million housing development joins Pybus Public Market in redefining how Wenatchee’s waterfront will evolve. City officials have said the Riverside and Ninth complex fits well with the city’s vision for a redeveloped waterfront, although they had hoped for a stronger retail presence since investing $10 million to upgrade Riverside Drive in 2009.

Construction of the new complex began in earnest two months ago with Molitor Development of Moses Lake as the general contractor. The first of eight buildings — a recreation center — is expected to be completed by early summer next year. The first apartments should be move-in ready by autumn 2014 with the project completed in mid-2015.

Weidner was attracted in part to the Wenatchee market because of the area’s extremely low rental vacancy rates. In September, the overall vacancy rates were down 33 percent from last year to just 2 percent. Vacancies for apartments fell 67 percent to 1 percent or less. Traditionally, vacancy rates have hovered between 4 and 6 percent.

The complex is the latest for Weidner, ranked as the 33rd largest apartment company in the nation with 214 complexes in seven states and four Canadian provinces. Weidner owns and manages nearly 38,000 units, with about 95 percent as residential rentals and the rest commercial properties.

We want this complex to fit in and be a part of the community,” said Cerbana. “We’ve taken steps to make sure it becomes an asset — a welcoming place in a beautiful location.”