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Business roundup: Pot, potholes, planes top legislators’ agendas

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Rep. Brad Hawkins

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Wenatchee

Pot, potholes, planes top legislators’ agendas

Highways, high taxes, flying high and getting high are just four of the top issues lawmakers will face this month when the 63rd Legislature convenes in Olympia, local legislators said.

This is a session where we fine-tune the budget and wrap-up unfinished business,” said Rep. Brad Hawkins, R-East Wenatchee. “At least that’s the plan — we’ll see where it goes.”

Twelfth District lawmakers Hawkins, Rep. Cary Condotta and Sen. Linda Evans Parlette presented a preview of the 60-day legislative session, set to begin Jan. 13, to members and guests of the Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce on Dec. 11.

The legislators said the 2014 session follows an intense year of lawmaking that brought an extended 105-day session along with two special sessions to hammer out a balanced budget and approve incentives to entice Boeing to build its next big jet in the state.

A quick look at upcoming issues:

  • Highways: Parlette said legislators still face challenges on how to fund a transportation package of road and bridge improvements across the state, including some projects in North Central Washington.
  • High taxes: Condotta said Washington’s business and occupation tax needs attention or, most likely, complete reform if lawmakers are to “improve the environment for businesses across the state.” The legislator said he also believes the state Department of Labor and Industries needs to “refine and define” their description of an independent contractor. The current definition, he said, is undermining and confusing to small business owners, many of whom rely on independent contractors for services.
  • Flying high: Efforts continue to win the bid for the Boeing 777x project, said all three legislators. Gov. Jay Inslee put the finishing touches on a bid package last month to meet Boeing’s Dec. 10 deadline. Fifteen states were invited to bid on the project. Condotta expected Washington would “get another bite of that apple” when Boeing execs meet again with the state’s business and civic leaders. In November, the legislature passed $8.7 billion in tax breaks for the project.
  • Getting high: Tweaking regulations for the sale of marijuana in the state could also continue in the next session, said Condotta. “This is a market that’s already going,” he said. “All we want to do is take it out of the dark and move it into the light, where we can regulate it and tax it. Yes, it’s an experiment.” As of Wednesday, he said, more than 1,800 applications had been filed statewide to grow or sell marijuana.

Wenatchee

Red Lion up for sale

Wenatchee’s Red Lion Hotel could be checking out.

The 149-room hotel on North Wenatchee Avenue is one of half a dozen Red Lion properties put on the market in November, according company executives.

The hotel is considered one of the company’s “non-strategic assets that need significant upgrades,” said Julie Shiflett, chief financial officer for the 55-property chain. The other Red Lion hotels put up for sale are in Kennewick, Kelso, Yakima and two in Idaho (Twin Falls and Pocatello).

The properties have a total of 890 rooms, or about 7 percent of Red Lion’s total of 12,441 rooms.

The sale of the hotels is part of a growth strategy, said Shiflett, to turn around a company that’s undergone big changes in recent years, including resignations of key officers earlier this year. CEO James Evans said the company will focus more on operating hotels in large metro centers.

So far this year, Red Lion has added 11 franchised properties with plans to add 20 more franchise properties in 2014. Over the last four quarters, Red Lion’s total net income was down $6.8 million, even though it posted $1.2 million in revenue last quarter.

Wenatchee

Campbells receive A.Z. Wells Award

Carl and Betty Campbell were honored with the Spirit of A.Z. Wells Award from the Central Washington Hospital Foundation in November.

Carl and Betty, who died in 2010, received the honor at a black-tie event for over 300 people in the hangar of Executive Flight, the air charter company owned by Carl.

The A.Z. Wells Award, named after local philanthropists Alfred Z. and Emogene Wells, is given annually to residents who’ve provided significant support and leadership to Central Washington Hospital and other health-related institutions in North Central Washington.

The Campbells moved to the Wenatchee Valley in 1953 and built Parkside Sanitarium, which grew quickly into a company of retirement communities in nearby towns. Over the decades, the company evolved into Triple C Healthcare, a locally-based outfit with facilities in 21 states. That includes Colonial Vista Retirement and Assisted Living in Wenatchee.

Their vision and labor have made possible the extension of medical, social and cultural services in an environment of warmth and compassion that challenges, uplifts and encourages human beings,” says the hospital foundation’s website.

The couple have contributed generously to many local nonprofits, civic groups and other community efforts — and mostly done it quietly and from behind scenes — said a Foundation press release.

Wenatchee

Carr named chef for annual grape growers’ gathering

Local restaurateur Dan Carr has been selected as guest chef for the annual convention of the state’s grape growers.

Carr, chef for Visconti’s Italian Restaurants in Wenatchee and Leavenworth, will lead a culinary team to serve at the banquet of the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers’ Annual Meeting, Convention and Trade Show.

The three-day convention, set for February in Kennewick, draws over 2,000 growers and wineries from around the Northwest. Carr’s team will present a multi-course dinner, matched with Washington wines, to over 400 industry leaders, said an association press release.

Carr entered the restaurant industry in 1974 and has served as culinary development director for the Visconti Restaurant Group since 1999. Under his direction, Visconti’s has earned multiple awards.

For more information on the convention and grape growers’ association, visit wawgg.org.

Wenatchee

SCORE offers business counseling

Ready to start a business and live your dream? A local group of advisers wants to help.

SCORE, an organization of 20 local business mentors, offers counseling and workshops to new and established entrepreneurs across North Central Washington.

Free mentoring is offered from 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursdays. One-hour brown bag workshops are held at noon on the second and fourth Wednesdays each month. Cost is $10 per business. Both services are offered at SCORE’s downtown Wenatchee office at 2 S. Chelan Ave., Suite B.

To make an appointment or get more information, call 888-2900 or visit centralwashington.score.org.

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