Archive for March, 2012
One bank closure to note so far this week: Fidelity Bank, Dearborn Mich. It was taken over by The Huntington National Bank, Columbus, Ohio. Estimated cost to the FDIC: $92.8 million.
That makes the 16th bank closure for the first quarter of 2012, a much slower pace than in the years following the 2008 financial crisis.
Cheese Meat(s) Beer, a new restaurant going into the former Lightcatcher Café space at the Whatcom Museum, is scheduled to open at 4 p.m. on Friday, April 6.
Owners Travis Surmi and Annalou Vincent plan to offer a variety of snacks, desserts and meals. Surmi and Vincent had been doing reservation-only dinners and brunches at Ciao Thyme, under the name The Big White Bean.
For details about the new restaurant, visit cheesemeatsbeer.com.
Effective June 1, Canadians will be able to do more shopping in Whatcom County before getting hit with a duty tax.
Currently the cap is at $50 after 24 hours away from Canada, $400 after 48 hours away and $750 after seven days away. That will change to $200 after 24 hours, $800 after 48 hours and $800 after seven days away.
Ken Oplinger, president of the Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce & Industry, believes the most significant change in the Canadian exemption limits for Whatcom County retailers is for the 48-hour period, which will rise from $400 to $800.
“The 48-hour limit change is a big deal for Whatcom County retailers, partly because of the number of Canadians who have second homes in the Birch Bay area and regularly travel across the border,” Oplinger said.
Oplinger said it appears Canadian traffic into Whatcom County has remained strong in the first quarter of 2012, noting that the border was particularly busy last week, which was spring break for many Canadians.
“(Whatcom County) retailers have expressed no concerns to me about Canadian shopping; it has remained strong,” Oplinger said. “I don’t see anything right now that would slow down traffic, even if the Canadian dollar weakened into the mid-90s (compared to the U.S. dollar) in the coming months.”
Oplinger also noted that it will take the British Columbia government some time to complete the changes to the Harmonized Sales Tax issue, something B.C. residents voted to change last year. The HST has meant a higher tax rate for certain products, such as school supplies, possibly prompting more Canadians to shop for those products in the U.S.
Just received news about Sargento, with the first details below. I’ll update the story with further details on our home page:
BELLINGHAM – Sargento Foods Inc. announced that it plans to close its Bellingham waterfront facility, which would mean the loss of 54 jobs locally.
According to a company press release, the plan is to cease operations of the 65,000 square foot facility in the next 9 to 16 months, with a final closing date to be announced later this spring.
The decision to close the facility was due to several factors, including the plant’s primary customer not renewing its contract with Sargento, which expires at the end of the year.
Sargento purchased Portionables, which included the Bellingham facility, in 2007.
“This is very difficult news to deliver to our valued Bellingham employees,” said Lou Gentine, CEO of Sargento, in a news release. “However, incremental increases in volume would not sustain the operations at our Bellingham facility over the next few years. We are grateful for our employees’ great contributions and commitment to providing quality products. We are also committed to making this transition as easy as possible for them.”
The company said it has outlined a transition plan, which includes a training program, to help employees land job opportunities in the Bellingham area.
Feeling a bit of that prankster spirit for April Fool’s Day?
Merch Bot is giving away whoopee cushions for free to the first 100 people who walk through the door on Sunday, April 1. The store, which is at 126 W. Holly St., is open noon to 5 p.m.
Owner Django Bohren said this is usually a busy week for the store, which has a collection of products for those looking to trick someone.
“We keep well-stocked on classic pranks from the benign (joy buzzers and squirt rings) to the evil (amazing stink bombs and exhaust pipe whistles),” Bohren said in an email.
The whoopee cushions are the classic one, Bohren said, which give out the real Bronx cheer.
Here’s a press release from Bellingham Marine, which recently moved its corporate headquarters:
Bellingham Marine, world renowned marina builder, is pleased to announce the relocation of their corporate office. On December 27, 2011, Bellingham Marine moved into their new location just a few miles from its previous location where it had been for over 80 years.
For Bellingham Marine, the new office space means upgraded communications and IT systems, new amenities for employees and room for growth. The company purchased the new office building in December of 2010 and leased back the office space until the company was ready to move. “Owning our own building gives us staying power in these uncertain economic times and creates a hedge against any future inflation,” said Paul Chapman, CFO for Bellingham Marine.
Bellingham now owns seven of its ten BMI-US plant and office locations. Chapman added, “There are significant financial advantages to being our own landlord that we enjoy at all of those locations.”
The new street address for Bellingham Marine’s corporate office is 1323 Lincoln Street, Bellingham. The mailing address of PO Box 8, Bellingham, WA 98227 remains the same along with all phone numbers and fax numbers.
It’s a busy time for business openings locally. Here are a couple more to note:
– The Green Barn in Lynden has closed its old spot and is busy getting ready to open in its new building at 8 a.m. on Friday, March 30. The new, bigger building is at Birch Bay-Lynden Road, near the Guide Meridian intersection. The Green Barn sells a variety of locally grown/produced food.
– TD Curran, an Apple computer store specialist, is opening its Bellingham waterfront store at 2551 Roeder Ave. at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 31. First 250 people get a free Apple t-shirt. There will also be raffle prizes.
A clothing store for boys, girls and young adults is opening on Thursday, March 29 at Bellis Fair.
The store, called rue21, will have a grand opening ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. on March 29, said Marie Brohan, a district manager for the company. She said the 6,200-square-foot store in the Macy’s wing of the mall will offer a variety of clothing fashions and accessories at inexpensive prices.
Headquartered in Pennsylvania, rue21 has more than 750 stores in 46 states. It also has 11 stores in Washington state, including the Everett Mall. For details about the company, visit rue21.com.
Whatcom County’s unemployment rate rose in February, but it appears to have more to do with people re-entering the labor market rather than job loss.
Last month Whatcom’s unemployment rate was 8.5 percent, up from a revised rate of 8.1 percent in January, according to the Washington State Employment Security Department. Whatcom’s February rate is down significantly from a year ago, when it was at 9.5 percent.
While the unemployment rate increased between January and February, so did the number of people working locally. Last month 98,245 people were employed locally, up 189 compared to January and up 2,117 compared to February 2011.
The number of people actively seeking work locally also rose, from 8,694 in January to 9,110 in February.
Job growth in the past year has taken place in a variety of private sector industries. Manufacturing jobs continue to lead the way, employing 500 more people than a year ago, followed by retail (up 400 compared to a year ago) and construction (up 200). One sector not following that trend is leisure and hospitality, which had 600 less jobs than a year earlier.
The public sector continues to shrink year-over-year, according to the report. Last month in Whatcom County 16,600 people were employed in federal, state and local government positions, down 200 from a year earlier.
Whatcom’s unemployment rate remains lower than other nearby counties last month, including Skagit (10.7 percent), Island (9.3 percent) and Snohomish (8.9 percent). The county with the highest unemployment rate last month was Ferry (15.7 percent) while Whitman (6.6 percent) had the lowest.
Washington’s unemployment rate, not seasonably adjusted, was 9.1 percent last month, while the national rate was 8.7 percent. Counting discouraged workers, the unemployment rate nationally is estimated to be 15.3 percent.
Below are the latest registrations for companies wanting to do business in Bellingham. Most of these are new companies entering this market, but some are existing firms that are changing ownership/address:
Foundation Computer Services, Shaine W Metz, 2066 Timberline Drive, Bellingham
The Stone Moon, Timberly N McKinley, 1304 Cornwall Ave., Bellingham
Apex Facility Resources Inc., 4435 Colorado Ave S, Seattle