Archive for November, 2010
Government regulators shut down three banks as of 5 p.m. PST, bringing the total to 149 in 2010 (2009 total was 140). Here are the details:
No. 147: Gulf State Bank of Carrabelle, Fla. was shut down, then taken over by Centennial Bank, Ark. Gulf had five branches. Estimated cost to the FDIC: $42.7 million.
No. 148: Allegiance Bank of North America in Bala Cynwyd, Pa. was closed, then taken over by VIST Bank of Wyomissing, Pa. Allegiance had five branches. Estimated cost to the FDIC: $14.2 million.
No. 149: First Banking Center of Burlington, Wis. was shut down, then taken over by First Michigan Bank or Troy, Mich. First Banking had 17 branches. Estimated cost to the FDIC: $142.6 million.
I’ll have further details about this in my Sunday BizTalk column, but here’s the basic info:
The Washington Office of Financial Management recently released its estimates of median household income, broken down by county. It estimates Whatcom County’s median annual household income in 2010 to be $46,188, down more than $600 compared to 2009. Household income measures the amount of money coming in from all members of the home over 18 and includes revenue such as public assistance and retirement.
If the projection holds up, this will be the first time Whatcom’s median household income has dropped year-to-year since 1999-2000 and only the second time in at least 21 years.
The same trend is happening throughout Washington. The median household income for the state is projected to be $55,379, a decrease of more than $900 compared to 2009.
King County remains the top area in terms of household income, with a projected total $66,398. The county with the lowest median household income was Whitman, at $33,262. Skagit’s median household income is projected to be $54,548 this year, down about $300 from 2009.
It’s been a busy week for Whatcom County business news, but I’ve also been gathering info for Black Friday. I’ll have more info later, but here are the opening times for some of the Bellingham retailers. Something that’s different this year is some of the midnight openings at Bellis Fair and Wal-Mart:
BLACK FRIDAY OPENINGS
Here’s a list of special openings for stores on Friday, Nov. 26:
Midnight: Wal-Mart (some sales start at midnight, while door-buster sales start at 5 a.m.), and a variety of stores at Bellis Fair mall, including Old Navy, Aeropostale, Foot Locker, Champs, Vitamin World, American Eagle, Game Stop, Men’s Warehouse, Toys R Us, McDonald’s, Sbarro, Auntie Anne’s.
3 a.m.: Kohl’s.
4 a.m.: Sears, JC Penney, Target, Macy’s,
5 a.m.: Best Buy, Fred Meyer, Michaels, Kmart, DeWaard & Bode.
5:30 a.m.: Radio Shack.
6 a.m.: The rest of Bellis Fair, Lowe’s, JoAnne Fabrics, Office Depot.
7 a.m.: OfficeMax, Big Lots!
Whatcom County’s unemployment rate dropped to its lowest level in nearly two years, pushed downward as the local colleges got into full swing.
In October the unemployment rate was 7.2 percent locally, the lowest since December 2008, when the rate was at 6.1 percent, according to data from the Washington State Employment Security Department. Non-farm employment rose by 2,000 people between September to October, to 79,100, much of it spurred by state government hiring, which includes college teachers and related support positions.
In Whatcom County, October is typically the month with the lowest unemployment rate of the year; it’s happened in seven of the past 10 years.
While the local unemployment rate continues to drop, there are still significant issues in the local job market, said Reinhold Groepler, a regional labor economist for the state.
“If you look at the unemployment number itself, this area looks good, but when you get down to the industry numbers, it’s not as good,” Groepler said.
The local unemployment rate is significantly lower than the state and U.S. rates in October, which were 9.1 percent and 9.6 percent respectively. However, this area continues to see little in terms of private sector job growth. Total private sector non-farm employment in October locally totaled 63,000 people; that’s down from 64,100 in October 2009.
One sector that showed sight improvement year-over-year was manufacturing, which gained 100 jobs. The construction industry employed 5,900 people locally in October, down 900 from a year earlier.
“The construction industry is still in the doghouse in this economy,” Groepler said.
The lower unemployment rate is also reflected in the number of Whatcom County residents receiving unemployment benefits. The number of people who received continuing claims locally last month was 2,858, the lowest monthly total since November 2008. The number of people filing initial unemployment insurance claims in Whatcom County was 1,669 in October, up from 1,468 in September but significantly lower than much of last year, when monthly totals typically were in the 1,900-2,500 range.
The number of Whatcom County residents who exhausted unemployment insurance benefits in October was 215, the lowest monthly total since February 2009. During this recession, the number of Whatcom County residents exhausting these benefits peaked in November 2009, when 468 people ran out of benefits.
In nearby counties, Skagit posted an unemployment rate of 8.9 percent, while Snohomish was 9.8 percent. King County was at 8.5 percent.
Here are some details about the new tool store coming to Bellingham…
Sunset Square has landed a big retail tenant, filling a space that’s been empty for nearly two years.
Harbor Freight Tools is currently remodeling five different suites in the center area of the retail mall, including a spot formerly occupied by Play it Again Sports before it closed in January 2009. Harbor Freight Tools plans on occupying 10,000 square feet, offering thousands of factory-direct tools as well as other items, including some toys, said Kevin Borg, manager of the Bellingham store.
The plan is to be open in early January, with an official grand opening scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 20. The company is currently hiring about 20 employees for the Bellingham store. Once open, the store’s hours will be 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
The company had been trying to get established in this market for years, because about 20 percent of the Everett store’s sales are from customers north of Skagit County, Borg said. He said the easy access from the freeway and an attractive lease contract were factors in getting established at Sunset Square.
Harbor Freight has stores across the U.S. and is in a growth period, with plans to open 100 stores in the next three years, Borg said. The 42-year-old company offers more than 7,000 brand-name tools, including Chicago Electric, Central Machinery and Central Hydraulic. Customers range from do-it-yourselfers to contractors.
For further details about the company, including employment information, visit harborfreight.com.
Here’s an updated story from earlier today…
BELLINGHAM — Aluminum Chambered Boats announced on Monday, Nov. 15 that it is ceasing operations at its Fairhaven facility.
Interim president Tom Latham said the recession, mounting debt and its inability to make a profit contributed to the closure. ACB attempted to secure a strategic investment partner to restructure the company, but has not been successful to date.
The company, which sold boats to the military, law enforcement agencies and the recreation industry, was a significant employer for 12 years on the Fairhaven waterfront.
“It is very sad to see such a skilled workforce (idled),” said Bill Geyer, chairman of the board at ACB, which has more than 200 individual stockholders. “This workforce put together a superior product, and over the years it knocked heads with some very big companies to land contracts. We were hoping it would be a successful company, but it was not making a profit.”
At this point the company and its stockholders will evaluate what to do next, including aggressively continuing a search for additional capital. They should have a clearer picture about whether the company can be saved in the next two weeks, Latham said.
About 35 employees were impacted by the announcement. At its peak four years ago, the company employed 110 people. The current workforce was sent home on Nov. 15 to await further updates, Latham said.
Founded in 1998 by Larry Wieber, ACB began its growth spurt after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks when it became qualified to sell boats to a military intent on beefing up its waterfront security. Perhaps the company’s biggest contract prize came six years ago, when it landed an $18 million contract to supply 66 boats to the U.S. Marine Corps.
Throughout 2010 the company struggled, shrinking its workforce and making changes with its leadership. In March Wieber resigned his position as CEO but remained on the board of directors until this summer. Jim Moore, who had been hired in 2008 as president, took over the CEO position. He held the position for four months before leaving the company. Latham, who had been hired as director of operations in March, became interim president in July.
It appeared the company was getting back on track in May, when it was announced the company won a contract with the U.S. Coast Guard to build up to 80 boats, adding $37.7 million in revenue. However, Latham said the contract itself had some issues in how it was negotiated and did not offer the financial benefits they were expecting.
“The company didn’t bid appropriately for that contract,” Latham said.
Reached by phone, Wieber said he completely cut ties with the company last summer because he disagreed with where the company was going.
“It’s a tragedy that it ended this way,” Wieber said. “It was my dream to establish this company in this community. It didn’t have to end this way.”
ACB also has a significant contract with the U.S. Army to build boats, but it was still in the proto-type testing stage, and production wasn’t expected to take place until at least 2014, Latham said.
The company was on the Port of Bellingham’s commission meeting agenda for Tuesday, Nov. 16, proposing an eight-year lease renewal, contingent on ACB entering into a financial agreement with another regional boat manufacturer. ACB occupies multiple buildings in the Port’s Fairhaven Marine Industrial Park.
“Aluminum Chambered Boats has been a valued Port tenant since 1998,” said Port Executive Director Charlie Sheldon in a written statement. “We knew they have been facing extreme economic difficulties and we have been working with them to try to keep this company and these jobs in our community.”
Aluminum Chambered Boats announced on Monday, Nov. 15 that it is ceasing operations at its Fairhaven facility.
In a press release, interim president Tom Latham said the recession has impacted the company. ACB attempted to secure a strategic investment partner to restructure the company, but has not been successful to date. Lack of profitability and a mounting debt load also were contributed to today’s closure.
There was no immediate word as to how many employees would be impacted by today’s closure. At one point the company had 110 employees; as of today the number was down to 35, according to Latham.
ACB built boats for the military and law enforcement agencies, along with recreation industry. The company was founded in 1998 and is a private company owned by more than 200 individual stock holders. Its facility is on the Fairhaven waterfront, on Harris Avenue near the Bellingham Cruise Terminal.
Government regulators shut down three banks Friday afternoon, bringing the total to 146 in 2010. Details below. If there are others this evening, I’ll catch up with them on Monday.
No. 144-145: Tifton Banking Co. in Tifton, Ga., and Darby Bank & Trust in Vidalia, Ga. were shut down, then taken over by Ameris Bank of Moultrie, Ga. Eight total branches were impacted. Estimated cost to the FDIC: $160.8 million.
No. 146: Copper Star Bank, Scottsdale, Ariz. was shut down, then taken over by Starns Bank National of St. Cloud, Minn. Copper had three branches. Estimated cost to the FDIC: $43.6 million.
Here are some tidbits I found in the City of Bellingham’s building permit data:
– A permit has been approved to put in a Harbor Freight Tools store at 1155 E. Sunset Drive, No.118 (in Sunset Square, in the former Play it Again Sports space). According to the company’s website, it sells brand-name tools in stores across the U.S., including nearby in Everett, Bellevue and Kent.
– A new restaurant called The Lunch Bucket has been approved to do tenant improvements at 505 32nd St., Suite 102 (in the Viking retail center, near the Sehome movie theater).
– The Subway sandwich shop is still going through the permit process for a new spot at 21 Bellwether Way, No. 109.
The Canadian dollar finished exactly at par with the U.S. dollar on Wednesday, Nov. 10, good news for Whatcom County retailers heading into the holiday shopping season.
It’s the first time it has reached parity or above since April. The recent rise in the loonie is because of increased prices for natural resources, such as oil, as well as a stronger Canadian economy, said Steven Globerman, a professor at the Center for International Business at Western Washington University. He also noted the Canadian economy has higher interest rates compared to the U.S., which is attracting capital.
For the short-term, Globerman expects the loonie to remain around this level unless there’s a big drop in natural commodity prices. In the longer term, what happens to the loonie will depend on the global economy and the demand for natural resources.
The stronger purchasing power could mean even more Canadian shoppers in Whatcom County. There’s been an uptick in Canadians shopping in Whatcom County since British Columbia changed to the Harmonized Sales Tax earlier this year, increasing the price on some retail products.