WENATCHEE — When Foray Coffee opens on North Wenatchee Avenue in a few months you won’t be able to pay for your drink in person with a debit or credit card — or with cash of any kind.

All payment and ordering for the drive-thru coffee venture, which is the brainchild of Cafe Mela owner Kyle Hendrickson, will be done entirely through a smartphone app.

“You can’t buy a coffee without the app. It’s 100 percent app-based for orders and payments,” he said.

Orders can be placed in the app ahead of time and, using GPS, an algorithm will tell the baristas to begin preparing the order so it’s ready right when the customer pulls up.

The goal of the entire system is to maintain quality at a fraction of the time it takes other drive-thru coffee shops, Hendrickson said.

“The thing that we’re solving is trying to give people a super high-quality product with almost no wait time,” he said. “Trying to solve that has led to a lot of the kind of funny stuff we have going on and also the app.”

Foray’s building is across from Grocery Outlet Bargain Market on North Wenatchee Avenue. Hendrickson is just waiting for his app developer to complete the software so they can begin beta testing the system.

A few years ago Hendrickson looked into patenting the idea of using GPS to time orders. He discovered that a startup in Canada was already developing something similar.

He then teamed up with the company, called My eLane, to build an app for Foray. They worked with a professor at Wenatchee Valley College to build an algorithm that could accurately predict food and drink prep times.

Hendrickson’s ideal scenario starts with a customer placing an order on the app before leaving work or home. The algorithm calculates how long that order will take to make based on the number of baristas working and number of other orders pending.

As the customer gets closer the order pops up on baristas’ screens inside the shop. If everything is timed correctly the order should be ready right as the customer pulls up to the window.

Since the customer’s credit or debit card has already been charged through the app, they simply grab the order and go.

 

WENATCHEE — Confluence Health will break ground in March on a 500-space parking garage on its Central Washington Hospital campus.

The three-story structure will be available for visitors, patients and staff. Construction is expected to take six to nine months.

More parking is needed to match the hospital’s considerable growth over the last few years, Confluence Health CEO Peter Rutherford said in a news release.

“Central Washington Hospital’s function as a center for acute and specialty care in our region has grown, but our ability to provide parking for those patients, up until now, has not,” he said.

“We’ve listened to our neighbors, patients, and staff, and we hear them loud and clear. Building this parking structure addresses a foundational need so CWH can continue to serve as a leading health care center now and into the future.”

Confluence Health is one of Central Washington’s biggest employers with close to 4,000 employees.

 

WENATCHEE — The NCW Regional Tourism Summit will be held on Feb. 11 at the Confluence Technology Center, the NCW Economic Development District has announced.

The third annual summit will focus on tourism sustainability.

Representatives from chambers of commerce, the State Department of Commerce and WVC are scheduled to present at the summit.

For information and to register, go to wwrld.us/2GbrlwN.

 

PESHASTIN — The seed that eventually grew into Lithic Skis was planted in 2014 on a road trip from Utah to Washington.

“We drove 12 hours straight through the night,” the company’s co-owner Ty Bourgeois said. At the time he worked for a different ski manufacturing company in North Lake Tahoe, California, with his friend, Paul Roberts.

After years of making someone else’s skis, the pair were looking to set out on their own and start up their own operation.

“We had friends who spent some time in Washington and we asked them, ‘If you could pick one place to ski and exist where would it be,’” Bourgeois said. “They said Leavenworth, that the people are cool and the mountains are rad.”

Bourgeois and Roberts took their advice and moved to Peshastin, just east of Leavenworth. A year after that red-eye road trip, the newly minted Lithic Skis began pressing its first skis as the only independent ski maker in the state of Washington.

“The market for skis here isn’t saturated and building skis in the mountains is a huge priority for us,” Bourgeois said.

Bourgeois and Roberts have established the Lithic brand as a high-end, all-wood boutique ski manufacturer. The two-man operation released its 2018-19 ski line in September, with most models starting at around $950 a pair.

Their shop in Peshastin is the heart of the operation. Each pair of Lithic Skis starts and ends its journey there and usually that journey doesn’t take long.

“Our processes are so dialed in that Paul can draw a ski on the computer one day, we can make it that same day and be skiing on it the following day,” Bourgeois said. “So we can prototype and improve rapidly.”

Lithic is able to achieve the quick turnaround by doing nearly everything in house. Most of the shop’s equipment was custom-built using proprietary designs from Roberts, who has an engineering background.

Roberts designs each ski model with drafting software, then builds the core out of raw lumber with a band saw, router and planer.

Then Bourgeois shapes its metal edges, and together they press all the layers together. The only thing they outsource is the ski’s graphic artwork.

A majority of the company’s sales come from North Central Washington and its skis often end up on the region’s slopes.

“Ideally we want to go to Stevens and Mission Ridge and see 30 people in our skis, which is starting to happen and that’s super gratifying,” Bourgeois said. “It’s mostly local — that’s kind of been the priority of our model. Start out local, then go regional, and then go national and international.”

 

ROCK ISLAND — To prepare for future growth and welcome businesses, the city has updated its zoning districts.

The City Council on Dec. 27 adopted an ordinance extending the general commercial zone on Rock Island Road and establishing a commercial-industrial zoning district along the Columbia River at the site of a former silicon plant.

The ordinance also amends Rock Island’s district use designations. The changes are part of the city’s comprehensive plan.

“We’re planning for the next 20 years,” Mayor Randy Agnew said. “Currently, the commercial zone ended just a little past Dad’s Country Store. Thinking 20 years into the future, I thought — and the council thought — it would be a good idea to extend that commercial zone on down Rock Island Road, which is basically our downtown area.”

Possibilities could include restaurants, boutiques and a laundromat, he said.

“Whatever you’d see in a downtown,” he said. “I think as the town grows and we start getting our lakes a little more usable than what they are now, it’ll be the same thing you’d see in any small town."

 

WENATCHEE — Registration is now open for the Wenatchee Valley Professional Development Summit, which aims to build interpersonal skills for the local workforce.

The summit will be held on Feb. 7 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Confluence Technology Center.

Registration is $50 a person and available through the Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce at wenatchee.org or 662-2116.

 

EAST WENATCHEE — Direct flights from Pangborn Memorial Airport to the San Francisco area, which were once projected to begin in the summer of 2019, likely won’t take off until at least 2020.

Several airlines have shown interest in picking up the route but none have committed yet, which led Port of Chelan County officials to adjust their projections by a year.

“In conversations with the airlines it looked like we would be pushing our estimate back, that they weren’t going to be ready to come into the market,” Airport Director Trent Moyers said. “The airlines have said ‘Yep, there’s a need for it.’ It’s just a matter of timing when they want to come try it out.”

The Port has pitched the route to several international and regional airlines, Moyers said. The frontrunners are Alaska Airlines, United Airlines and SkyWest Airlines.

“We’ve had meetings with other airlines but those are the ones I would think would be the most likely candidates to come in,” he said.

Alaska-Horizon currently operates the only commercial service out of Pangborn with daily flights to Seattle.

An airline would likely invest about $8 million over a two-year period to establish daily flights, according to the airport’s website.

The Port has $1.1 million from a federal grant and local matching dollars on the table for any airline that picks up the route. Those funds would help cover operating expenses if ticket sales aren’t enough to break even.

 

SPOKANE — Giga Watt’s attorneys announced Jan. 7 that they would stop representing the Bitcoin miner in its ongoing bankruptcy proceedings.

The announcement came a day before the court held a creditors meeting at the Red Lion Hotel in Wenatchee. Giga Watt was not represented at the meeting.

The four attorneys from Spokane firm Winston & Cashatt had represented Giga Watt since it filed for Chapter 11 protection on Nov. 19. Their representation of Giga Watt was to end on Jan. 22, according to court documents.

Without any Giga Watt representatives present, the U.S. Trustee’s Office attorney who oversaw the meeting, Jim Perkins, decided to hold a second creditors’ meeting on Jan. 16.

Giga Watt listed assets between zero and $50,000 and liabilities between $10 million and $50 million when it first filed for bankruptcy in November.

H2 Pre-cast, an East Wenatchee concrete company, filed a $4,177.55 claim in December. Wenatchee-based Pacific Northwest Infrastructure with a $3,212.30 claim.

Talents 633 Ministries, a religious nonprofit based in Illinois, on Jan. 7 filed a claim for the $90,202.37 it invested in Giga Watt’s “initial coin offering.”

The ministry uses the returns from investments to fund humanitarian work, like providing hurricane relief and establishing Christian youth groups.

Most of Giga Watt’s financial situation has been frozen pending the outcome of the Chapter 11 proceedings, which temporarily protects a company from paying outstanding debts while it restructures its finances.

The Port of Douglas County has been looking for a potential new tenant for the company’s separate Bitcoin-mining facility, which is under construction on Port property near the airport.

In December the Port identified Texas-based Red Team Investments as the front runner to take over the facilities if Giga Watt doesn’t survive the bankruptcy.

 

WENATCHEE — Chelan County processed a record number of building permit requests in 2018.

The Community Development Department handled 1,006 building permits last year, up from 867 in 2017, according to Chelan County data. The last record year was 2016 with 990 building permits. In 2012, Chelan County processed 600 building permits.

It’s all related to the economy, Commissioner Doug England said. The county’s economy and the housing market are starting to return to where it was before the recession hit.

“The hot spots seem to be the Chelan, Entiat, the fringes of Wenatchee,” England said.

Community Development’s building permit data includes homes, plumbing, commercial structures, mobile homes and accessory dwellings like garages and sheds. Some of the biggest increases in 2018 were in single-family residences, mobile homes and pools and spas.

The building permit numbers do not include any developments or master planned resorts, Community Development Director David Kuhl said. The data also does not include the cities of Chelan, Leavenworth and Wenatchee.

Some of the higher building permit numbers this year are also because of the abnormally warm winter, England said. Contractors and building inspectors can get more work done since things aren’t covered up by the snow.

Affordable housing remains an issue, though, he said. The biggest problem with finding affordable housing is the cost of land.

By the time people buy the land, dig a well and get the sewer working, the price gets pretty high.

“So you really have to look at areas where the initial land costs don’t kick you out of the ballpark before you even start,” England said.

 

EAST WENATCHEE — The city has awarded a contract for Gateway Park, although the project will cost more than expected.

East Wenatchee-based KRCI had the lowest of four bids with an offer of $533,102, including sales tax, project development manager Tom Wachholder told the City Council at its Jan. 8 meeting. Bids were opened that afternoon.

The six-figure bid was $16,281 over the construction budget, but the council agreed to award the contract.

A start date for the project has not yet been set.

The city purchased 20,000 square feet of property at 88 9th St. N.E. in 2015. An old service station was demolished to make room for what will serve as a community plaza and entrance to downtown.

 

EAST WENATCHEE — Bitmain confirmed Jan. 15 that 18 workers from its locations in East Wenatchee and Malaga have been laid off, marking the first local impact of the company’s global restructuring.

The Chinese hardware manufacturer opened a Bitcoin-mining center near Pangborn Memorial Airport in November. The $20 million mine is one of the largest in the region. Bitmain also has a facility in Malaga for repairing computers.

Both will continue to operate despite the reduced headcount, a Bitmain spokesperson said.

“We remain optimistic about this region’s potential for our existing and new business operations in the future,” the spokesperson said. “As the condition of the markets we operate in improves, we will plan our expansion in the region accordingly.”

Rumors of massive company-wide layoffs began circulating on Chinese social media in December, according to trade publication Coindesk.com. The layoffs were reported to affect 50 percent of the company’s roughly 3,000 global employees.

Bitmain intends to name a new CEO to replace co-founders Wu Jihan and Zhan Ketuan, according to a report in January from the South China Morning Post.

The restructuring comes as the price of Bitcoin has tumbled in the last year, dropping from $19,700 in December 2017 to less than $4,000 in January 2019.

Bitmain says it will continue to operate in the area.

 

WENATCHEE — The Chelan County Commission would like residents in unincorporated areas to use their nine-digit zip code when shopping online.

The county is losing sales tax revenue from people using city zip codes when making online purchases, Commissioner Kevin Overbay said. Residents in places like Sunnyslope are using a Wenatchee zip code, and in Lake Wenatchee and Plain they are using a Leavenworth zip code.

“The generated sales tax revenue is going to the city,” Overbay said. “The city doesn’t provide them any services, such as plowing for their roads. So what is happening is the county is losing that revenue to the cities.”

It is unclear how much money the county is losing to the cities, he said. But since online sales have increased, cities have seen their sales tax revenue was increasing. But the county’s sales tax revenue hasn’t seen that same level of growth.

“What we noticed is that the sales tax revenue for the cities continues to escalate and yet ours was not escalating at the same rate,” Overbay said. “And you would think that it would be proportionate, but it was not. It was disproportionate.” puts limits on how much property tax counties can collect and sales tax revenue fluctuates depending on the economy.

The county was forced to dip into its reserves for about $100,000 when balancing the 2019 budget this year.

 

EAST WENATCHEE — Pangborn Memorial Airport saw a record number of passengers pass through its doors in 2018, with a total of 127,563 inbound and outbound travelers.

“We feel really good about it,” said airport director Trent Moyers. “There’s been a lot of support from the community to 'Fly Wenatchee' and it showed up in those numbers.”

The airport had 64,689 departing passengers, a 7.2 percent increase from 2017, according to a press release Jan. 16. Arrival passengers totalled 62,874, up 7.1 percent.

Only 2.7 percent of flights were cancelled in 2018, which added to the increased passenger volume. That was largely due to a milder winter and readily available pilots, Moyers said.

Pangborn’s fourth daily flight in the summer and over the holiday season also added to the record numbers. Alaska Airlines has already made plans to bring back the fourth flight this June, Moyers said.