And the Winners Are…


A sell-out crowd of 450 business leaders came together at the 32nd Annual Business Person of the Year Awards Banquet Wednesday night to recognize the best and the brightest in the Whatcom County business community.

A highlight of the event at the Semiahmoo Resort & Spa was presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award to local fishing-industry icon Andrew Vitaljic (vit-a-lick) of American Canadian Fisheries.

Other winners included (more videos on the way!):

  • Business Person of the Year—Anne-Marie Faiola of Bramble Berry, a hugely successful do-it yourself bath and beauty products business that she launched on her kitchen table 20 years ago;

  • Small Business of the Year—Emergency Reporting, a developer of software for first responders to medical and civil emergencies worldwide; and

  • Start-Up of the Year—1st Class Auto Body, which zoomed from zero to $2 million in auto-repair revenues in just its first year in business.

The event was emceed by Tony Larson, president of the Whatcom Business Alliance and publisher of Business Pulse magazine, co-sponsors of the awards program.

A special thank you to all who made this event possible!

Title Sponsors: Heritage Bank and Whatcom Center for Philanthropy

Co-Sponsors: Chmelik Sitkin & Davis P.S., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Larson Gross CPAs, Muljat Group Commercial, Saturna Capital, Semiahmoo Resort, Golf and Spa

Table Sponsors: 1st Class Auto Body, Alcoa Intalco Works, American Canadian Fisheries, Banner Bank, Barron, Smith, Daugert PLLC, Bellingham Cold Storage, Bellingham Technical College, Bornstein Seafoods, Bramble Berry, Care Medical Group, Chmelik Sitkin Davis P.S., CorePhysio, Cowden Gravel, Fat Cat Fish Company, Heritage Bank, InnoTech Process Equipment, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Larson Gross PLLC, Moss Adams LLP, MSNW, Muljat Group Commercial, PeaceHealth, Peoples Bank, Port of Bellingham, Saturna Capital, SaviBank, Semiahmoo Resort, Golf and Spa, Skagit Bank, Superfeet, Tradewinds Financial Management, US Bank, VSH Certified Public Accountants, Washington Federal, Whatcom Business Alliance, Whatcom Center for Philanthropy, Whitman Holdings, Western Washington University




WBA Member, Fortiphi-HR, Awards 2018 Women In Business Scholarship


Fortiphi-HR Awards Women In Business Scholarship Winner 2018

Mount Vernon, WA. Fortiphi-HR, a brokerage firm that specializes in Employee Benefits,
Insurance Services and Human Resources Management with offices in Mount Vernon and
Blaine, Washington, announced the name of the 2018 recipient of the annual Women in
Business Scholarship .

This years’ Scholarship award goes to Casondra Macias of Sunnyside, WA.

In addition to raising a family and volunteering as a
community wellness advocate, Casondra is a full time student
at Yakima Valley College. She currently holds a cumulative GPA of 4.0 and after
graduation is striving for a career as a surgical technician. Casondra has come a long way since she dropped out of high school at 16. The stresses of trying to raise her son and work part-time while finishing school were overwhelming. She thought her dreams of college were over. But with support from her family, she eventually passed her GED and applied for college.

“I want to show my children that no matter the obstacles presented,” she says, “you can
overcome them. My goal is to show my children that through hard work and determination, youcan achieve anything.”

And she is achieving so much already: in her most recent quarter at YVC, she was placed on the President’s List for taking 18 credits while maintaining a 4.0 GPA, all while managing a household of six, being a wellness advocate in her community, and taking care of her injured grandmother.

This determination and drive was especially meaningful to Fortiphi-HR Co-founder Jay Ebert. In 2007 Ebert lost his daughter, Chelsey Rae Ebert, to cancer while she was still in high school. Inspired by her memory, and because they support the advancement of young women in business, medical, and related fields, Fortiphi-HR decided to offer a $500 scholarship to young women in Washington state who are interested in pursuing studies focused on Business, Management, Entrepreneurship, Healthcare, and related fields.

“We are really excited to continue this scholarship,” said Ebert. “Casondra’s strength and
determination reminds me of Chelsey, and was very inspiring to all of us at Fortiphi-HR. We look forward to being able to help more motivated and enthusiastic students like her. Please join us in congratulating Casondra on a job well done.”

Applications for next year’s scholarship are now being accepted at The deadline for application is December 31, 2018.



Giving Teens a Backstage Pass to Local Workplaces


By Cheryl Stritzel McCarthy

Industry in Whatcom County needs valuable employees, and students in Whatcom County need to know about job and career opportunities. Dealing with those parallel needs with its new Youth Engagement Initiative (YEI), the Whatcom Business Alliance brings local businesses and Whatcom County high school students together.

“We’re working with businesses and schools to take students into workplace facilities,” said Laura McKinney, NW Government Affairs & Public Relations Director for Alcoa who serves as Co-Chair of the YEI committee. Tom Kenney, recently retired northern Washington Regional President for Washington Federal joins McKinney as the second co-chair.

The initial phase of engagement involves a partnership with the Whatcom/Island/Skagit (WIS) Region of Junior Achievement (JA) Washington. Students will explore the world of job hunting through two in-class lessons of the “Job Shadow” curriculum. On-site tours of companies are the highlight of “Job Shadow.” Students visit a business or nonprofit organization, where they observe professional work conduct, learn what skills and education they need to earn jobs, and participate in a series of host-led challenges that bring home lessons from the “real world” of work.

At Alcoa, McKinney said, students will have a chance to see inside the manufacturing facility and learn about positions from entry-level all the way to engineers and accountants. “They’ll see how they might move up through a company,” she said, “and what their own future could look like. It is critical that they begin asking themselves now questions like, how do you start looking for a job? And what do your days look like when you have a job?”

In addition to the partnership with JA, the YEI is looking more broadly at the connection between our K-12, technical and community colleges, four year universities, and our business community. Business owners know that the key to their success is the quality of their people. “We [the YEI] want to build a bridge for Whatcom County students and young people to reach the family wage employment opportunities that are available right here,” said McKinney. “We want high schoolers to see the relevance of education to their futures.”

Whatcom County has an 80% graduation rate, which is above the national average, but only 31% of Washington high schoolers go on to earn some kind of post-secondary credential. A study by Boston Consulting Group foresees about 740,000 job openings in Washington over the next five years. Most of those jobs, especially those that support a good quality of life, will be filled by workers with post-secondary education or training (reference: Washington Roundtable).

The YEI kicked off Feb. 7 with an event at Bellingham Technical College, where 300 Whatcom County high school students heard from speakers Mike Andes (Augusta Lawn Care Services), Erin Baker (Erin Baker’s Wholesome Baked Goods), Kevin Menard (Transition Bicycle Company), and Anne-Marie Faiola (Bramble Berry Soap Making Supplies and WBA Business Person of the Year nominee). The high energy presentations offered some valuable advice like “Show up, and persevere” as well as some encouragement and optimism that each of the students have their own future in their hands.

“The response has been overwhelmingly positive from both sides,” McKinney said. “This fills an important need for both schools and businesses.” One request from the schools that were able to bring students for the kick off was to make the presentation into a road show so that the whole school might benefit.

YEI Co-chairs McKinney and Kenney expect to spend the majority of the spring recruiting businesses to participate in the JA “Job Shadow” program while also expanding their advisory Committee. The long term vision includes developing different levels of hands on learning experiences and scoping an online platform that would be a hub of information about different career paths and opportunities.

“You can’t walk into a manufacturing facility and see what it looks like to work there like you can in a coffee shop or a restaurant,” McKinney said.  “We want to provide a bridge that allows students to take those next steps towards their future with a real sense of what that future could be like.”

Click HERE for more information on the event.

The next opportunity for participation with the WBA’s Youth Engagement Initiative (YEI) comes up March29 when Whatcom Rotary North plays host to a Career Choices Fair

Meanwhile, we’re working on the details of the next YEI tour in our mission of bridging the gap between local employers and our local youth, nationally, student seek cheaper and quicker paths to liveable wage careers.

Full information about the YEI appears on our website:

If you know a local youngster interested in a path to good-wage careers after high school, and an alternative to going to college, refer them to a career fair at Bellingham Technical College (BTC):

Further, the WBA can set students up for a Job Shadow experience. You can facilitate that by becoming a Job Shadow Site host:

To stay abreast of the continuing development of the YEI, SIGN UP FOR WBA YOUTH ENGAGEMENT INITIATIVE NEWSLETTER

In a controversial give-and-take about trade school vs. college, insights appeared in the March 6, 2018, Wall Street Journal print edition under the headline: “Trade School Wins Fans Among Teens.” As the article points out, “….the decision to forego a four-year degree runs counter to 30 years of conventional wisdom.”

Some passages from the article:

The friction around the best path forward after high school is popping up around the country as anxious students and families try to figure out how to pay for four years of college. At the same time, business groups and state governments make the case for a free or much cheaper vocational education.

The conversation is being fueled by questions about the declining value of a college degree as well as the rising cost of tuition and student debt. Low unemployment and a strong job market are exacerbating an already growing skills gap, raising prospects for tradespeople like welders who are in high demand.

In 2009, the last year for which data is available, 19% of high-school students were concentrating in vocational subjects, down from 24% in 1990.

Even as more students enroll in college, “40% to 50% of kids never get a college certificate or degree,” said Tony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. And among those who do graduate, about one-third end up in jobs that don’t require a four-year degree.

This has prompted a rethink about the value of colleges and is fueling a separation between the winners and losers in higher education.

You can read the entire article on the WSJ website: Why an Honor Student wants to Skip College and go to Trade School


Grit—The Power of Passion and Perseverance


Pioneering psychologist Angela Duckworth shows anyone striving to succeed—be it parents, students, educators, athletes, or business people—that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent, but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls “grit.” According to Janelle Bruland, a Whatcom Business Alliance Board Member and President/CEO of MSNW, Grit is “a powerful tool for personal and professional success.” (Ms. Bruland’s full review can be read below).

With insights from her landmark research, Angela explains why talent is hardly a guarantor of success. And that grit—a combination of passion and perseverance toward a single goal—is the hallmark of high achievers in every domain. Her research involved teachers working in some of the toughest schools, cadets struggling through their first days at West Point, and young finalists in the National Spelling Bee, as well and lessons learned from dozens of high achievers—including Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll.

(May 3, 2016 Scribner) Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Village Books.

How Gritty Are you?

Review by Janelle Bruland, CBSE
Immediate Past President, BSCAI

Because my own approach to life is one of optimism and tenacity, I was drawn to this book. It is a powerful tool for personal and professional success by improving what Duckworth identifies through research as grit. A psychologist, she found that the highly successful have determination that plays out in two ways.

First, resiliency and hard work. Second, a deep desire to achieve.

In the book you can rate yourself for grit. The first component is your passion score – how steadily you hold to goals. The perseverance score determines how you fare in the face of adversity.

Duckworth notes that if you experience significant difficulty during your youth that you overcome on your own, you develop a different, stronger way of dealing with adversity later in life. Countered with “fragile perfects,” people who cruise through life friction free, for a long, long time before coming up against their first real failure: They often become paralyzed by misfortunes as they have so little practice falling and getting up again.

You can find hope, regardless of where you may fall on the grit scale; you can improve your score with a mindset of perseverance, despite circumstances.

You can build a culture of grit within your company by demonstrating grace to team members when something they try is not a raging success. You never let setbacks hold you back. Use mistakes and problems as opportunities to get better – not reasons to quit.

One of my favorite passages in the book was her passion around instilling grit in her home. She put “the hard thing rule” in place:

  1. Everyone – including mom and dad – has to do a hard thing. A hard thing is something that requires daily deliberate practice.
  2. You can quit. But you can’t quit until the season is over, the tuition payment is up, or some other “natural” stopping point has arrived. You must, at least for the interval to which you’ve committed yourself, finish whatever you begin.
  3. You get to pick your hard thing.
  4. For her high school daughters she added a fourth requirement: Each one must commit to at least one activity for at least two years.

Grit takes practice.

Duckworth summarized that her daughters wish she could relax a little (something this Mom can relate to), but they don’t wish that their mother was anything other than a paragon of grit.

Satisfaction comes from doing something important, doing it well, and doing it even though it is hard. Complacency has its charms, but none worth trading for the fulfillment of realizing your potential.



Don Goldberg: New Man of the Hour in Port Development


Interview by Mike McKenzie

The Port of Bellingham has hired its new Director of Economic Development, Don Goldberg, who previously held a similar position with the Port of Portland. He sat down with Business Pulse recently for a conversation about his background and vision for Whatcom County business.

Business Pulse: You came here from Portland. Are you from there?

Don Goldberg: No, I grew up mostly in New York City, in the Bronx. However, I finished high school in Milwaukee, then went to Beloit College in Wisconsin, transferred and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse with a BS degree in business.

I’ve traveled to 75 countries and lived all over including Vancouver, B.C., where I attended culinary school. I’ve lived in Vail, Colorado; Banff in Alberta, Canada; a number of places in California, and then worked my way up the coast to Oregon. And now here. I’ve lived on West Coast 37 years—the last 17 in Oregon.

Will your role here be similar to what it was at the Port of Portland?

There I was Director of Business Development in charge of both domestic and international development. I managed the Economic Development Department and the Property Dev team; we were the largest land developer in the state. Another group marketed industrial properties for the Port.

There’s a major difference here. The role here takes an opposite approach from there, in that I advocated only for the Port of Portland. Here, the Port of Bellingham is the state-designated agency for economic development, therefore the benefits to our port are secondary to the state’s. This means I’ll market all of Whatcom County to create and bring in better jobs, and they’ll be no more or less Port-centric than for any other part of the county.

Have you been here long enough to observe what lies ahead for your position at the Port of Bellingham?

I accepted the position and moved here a month before it started, and I rode all around the area with staff on a real-estate tour. I’ve gotten enough of a feel to be aware that the county is quite complex and diverse in its makeup.

Mine is a newly-created role funded by the City, the Port, the County, and even partially by the State. Remember the line in the movie Braveheart when Mel Gibson says, “Unite us! Unite the clans!”? We’ll Create partnerships and unite the diversity of our region to create a more powerful product. One of the most powerful things we have is that we our diverse sectors—ag, maritime, tech, manufacturing, and more.

Not only will we be uniting and creating partnerships, we need to answer the question, “Why Whatcom County?” We want a clear vision of who we are so that anybody outside the region will see us more than simply a really nice place.

Your resume reflects an interesting variety of career positions, in a wide range of areas. How do those experiences benefit you in this role?

My work with Collier’s International (a commercial real-estate services company operating in 68 countries) gave me a lot of experience dealing in commercial real estate, which is a high priority for the Port. And I attended an executive-coaching school in Seattle and went into consulting; that has prepared me to meet, listen, learn, and gain understanding—the main approach I will take with stakeholders here. I also worked for a land trust. And all of these have been executive-level positions.

What other experiences will come to bear in your work in the county?

As Senior Project Manager for the Trust for Public Land in Portland for seven years, where I worked before the Port of Portland, I was able to use my skill sets to do something positive for people. We established a nature conservancy, we raised money for timber preservation, and we won a coveted honor—the Collins Award for Conservation.

My career reflects an unusual hybrid in that that I’ve spent the majority of it in the for-profit private sector, but also several years in nonprofit, and now several in government. I understand the strengths of each one and how to bring those benefits forward.

Name some highlights in Portland under your watch.

Probably the biggest one that people here can relate to was a huge project at PDX (Portland’s international airport), when I was Director of Business Development in 2015. Also, we formed a team for industrial development, both domestic and international, and sold $60 million worth of industrial property that included two large Amazon facilities.

What’s the team look like here?

I report to Executive Director Rob Fix. Right now, there’s one person on my team, but we’ll hire two more pretty soon for a team of four.

Although you work for the Port, part of your salary is paid by the City, County, and State. Will you be squeezed by cross-purposes, politically?

Not at all. The way you deal with politically hot issues is to find middle ground, rather than taking an adversarial position.

What are your top priorities out of the gate?

Retain, expand, grow. Keep what we have, and expand into areas around them. I’m all about deliverables and making positive changes, not just generating more reports.

Do you see an immediate need?

More high tech. Everybody wants those companies. And affordable housing. The cost of living here is high. Great quality of life, yes, but that’s not what keeps people here. Drive the economy, and they will stay.

The news release announcing you reveals that you’re aware of the Bellingham Waterfront District redevelopment. Any thoughts?

The Port has done a great job with partnerships on that project, working with the City. Harcourt, the developer, has a positive economical process. We can really take some big steps forward. I said in the press release that this revitalization is a critical part of the regional economy as a major stimulator for growth throughout the county. And we can all push together to have it happen faster.

In a nutshell, what’s your vision for your new undertaking?

Programmatic action. Deepen the learning, forward the action.



Hartnell’s ‘Aha! Moment’ Has Prevented Lots of Wrinkles—And Saved Lots of Salmon


“We held to strong standards, which required a long paper trail. But we had a big-picture perspective for the preservation of sustainable fishing, and we believe in it. It’s just who we are.”

— Randy Hartnell, President, Vital Choice

By Mike McKenzie

Randy Hartnell, President of Vital Choice Wild Seafood and Organics in Ferndale, and his brother, Terry, were fishing for herring off the shores of San Francisco in the late ‘90s when their boat broke down. “We were out near Alcatraz,” Randy said. “And the engine blew.”

While repairing it, they had the radio blasting. A doctor was talking on National Public Radio about the very best source of Omega-3—wild-caught Alaska salmon. “Dr. Nicholas Perricone (an expert in anti-aging skin care) was discussing his book, The Wrinkle Cure, and how eating that salmon would prevent wrinkles,” Randy explained. That became an “Aha! moment.” He’d fished the Alaskan waters for some 20 years and knew the value of sustainably harvested salmon—not to mention its taste—compared with farm-raised salmon that had become all the rage because of convenience and cost.

Inspired by the Perricone broadcast, Hartnell and his wife of 33 years, Carla, co-founded Vital Choice, in 2001. After many successful years of online, retail delivery of sustainable, flash-frozen Alaska and other Pacific Northwest salmon (plus other wild-caught fish), Vital Choice ranks in the upper half of Business Pulse’s annual Top 100 privately owned companies in Whatcom County, and it was the Small Business of the Year in 2012. “I’d like to think we’ve prevented a lot of wrinkled skin,” Hartnell said with a laugh.

The company also carefully chooses beaucoup other certified organic edibles to offer through its award-winning catalog and web store. In addition to a rigid selection process, Vital Choice also considers the most minute details in its meticulous “green” approach to doing business, such as using specific types of recyclable containers for packaging, and shipping via truck, rather than air, to minimize the carbon footprint. An example of attention to detail: A post on their website notes that “tiny pellets from degraded EPS (Styrofoam) can harm birds and marine life, so we’re eliminating those boxes entirely….”

Purity—i.e., absence of mercury and pollutants—is a frequent topic in Vital Choice’s marketing message. The company trademarked Vital Green™ as its Environmental Stewardship program, proclaiming how it fights global warming, how it employs SeaSaver™ boxes, and how it enables CubeCycle™ of foam shipping cubes.

Vital Choice supports the Ethiopia Clean Water Project, funding the installation of certain water filters. “From the very beginning, Carla and I were committed to this ‘green’ approach to our business,” Hartnell said. “We became one of the first to join the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). We had the very first federally certified product to carry the MSC logo back when it had no marketing power, because nobody knew what it was yet. Now they’re the gold standard among 30 or 40 certification programs.”

Hartnell said he knew full well that fishermen wanted to continue to have an abundance of fish is the ocean, and that that would require responsible management. “As we’ve gained momentum, hundreds of fisheries have been certified. It’s become an important factor, and here’s a good-news story in consumer-based sustainability: Did you know that McDonald’s, for example, buys certified Alaskan Pollock for its fish sandwiches?”

The same standards hold for Vital Choice’s selections of halibut, haddock, cod, and Omega-3 products, like krill oil. “Our management staff got this all rolling from the beginning,” Hartnell said. “To go forward with credibility, we held to strong standards, which required a long paper trail. But we had a big-picture perspective for the preservation of sustainable fishing, and we believe in it. It’s just who we are.” 

From the very outset of their company 17 years ago, Randy and Carla Hartnell decided to “go forward with credibility and strong standards within the industry, even though it creates a lot of paper trail….”

He was very familiar with those acceptable standards and best practices, having come out of the Alaska seafood industry. “The management system up there is a model for the world over the last 50 years,” Hartness said, “and for the most part extremely successful.”

He continued, “I spent 20 years in that management regime, and now you compare it to seeing where habitat hasn’t been maintained properly, not having a reliable sustainable history, and it’s sad.”

Hartnell broke it down into the simplest common denominator: “Self-preservation….if you want to provide, then you have tio take care of the resources. You have to develop a strong habitat, with finance-based, free-market management and protocols.”

He cited pebble mining in Alaskan waters feeding into Bristol Bay as a huge looming and continuing threat these days—a vast subject, and a story all unto itself, which Vital Choice has followed closely since 2005. “The Environmental Protection Agency under the Obama administration stopped the program to combat the pebble mining threat,” Hartnell said. “Now, under Scott Pruitt as the director, the EPA has breathed new life into the program to stop the bad effects. We have put a fund-raising program on our website for organizations involved in this fight.”

Vital Choice has been a longtime partner with Monterrey Bay Aquarium, which publishes a “seafood watch.” That includes a scorecard for monitoring what fish to eat:

Green means fish too seek out as the best for consuming, Red means fish to avoid, and Yellow means an OK grouping. “You can get seafood wallet cards and a link to an app from us,” Hartnell said. “We’ve distributed hundreds of thousands of those in our online orders and at trade shows.”




Bellingham Traverse, a five-leg relay race, was founded in 2001, to raise awareness of salmon’s importance to our environment, while also encouraging people to get outside and have fun. Photos by Brandon Sawaya

By Sherri Huleatt

Washington is known for its stunning outdoor adventures. And when it comes to outdoor races, Whatcom County is leaps and bounds ahead. According to Todd Elsworth, Co-Executive Director of Recreation Northwest, when comparing our community’s races to other similar-sized communities, “We blow them away.”

During 2017, Whatcom County hosted 132 outdoor-recreation events (nearly one every 2 1/2 days, on average), drawing more than 34,000 participants. Big-ticket races, like Ski to Sea and the Bellingham Bay Marathon, draw thousands of participants each year, about half from outside the county. Compound that with the thousands of onlookers along the routes and waiting expectantly at the finish line (while, of course, sipping a locally crafted beer), along with race day prepping—which includes buying running shoes, gym memberships, physical therapy, etc.—and the economic impact touches everything from gas stations, to breweries, to outdoor apparel suppliers, to hotels, and beyond.

Lance Romo, the Recreation Director for Bellingham Parks and Recreation, described it this way: An athletic shoe costs an average of $100. If 430 people participate in the Bellingham Traverse, that’s $43,000 represented just in running shoes, many a pair of which have been purchased locally. And runners also spend beaucouop bucks on apparel and equipment (backpacks, water bottles, et al). Add to that any equipment, fuel, coffee, theatres, food, and hotel rooms purchased by race participants, and you’re talking a considerable revenue stream.

Go one step further, and multiply this by Whatcom County’s more than 100 outdoor races, and you’ll get a pretty hefty chunk of change going straight into the local economy. According to a 2015 study by Earth Economics, outdoor recreation contributes $585 million annually to Whatcom County’s economy and supports 6,502 jobs (about 7% of the county’s non-farm jobs).

Ski to Sea, the county’s largest race, draws about 2,500 participants, with more than half traveling from more than 50 miles away. According to Anna Rankin, Whatcom Events’ Race Director, Ski to Sea also attracts about 20,000 spectators each year, with an estimated 25%-30% coming from outside the community.

Tour de Whatcom, a 22- to 100-mile cycling event, drew 750 participants in 2017—up about 15% over 2016—and more than half came from outside Whatcom County. “I think these races greatly impact the economy of Whatcom County,” Rankin said.  “While people are here for these events, they’re paying for hotels, meals, and shopping. They often have families, a support team, friends, etc., with them who also are supporting the economy.”

The real impact from these races doesn’t happen on race day, though, it’s what happens afterward. According to Elsworth, outdoor races act as one of the best commercials for Whatcom County life, giving spectators and participants just enough of a taste of county attractions to make them want to come back. “These races aren’t just a day of play,” Elsworth said. “They’re a magnet to bring them back.”

He said local race planners work together to cement Whatcom County as the recreational capital of the Northwest, so in the short term, the races are about having fun and getting people outside; in the long term, this abundance of events is about increasing tourism and, in some cases, getting people to move here.

“I know participants who’ve packed up and moved here right after the race,” said Amy Trowbridge, Marketing Director for Mt. Baker Ski Area and Mt. Baker’s Legendary Banked Slalom Race. Established in 1985, the slalom race is the world’s longest-running snowboard event and draws 400 participants, more than half from all over the world, and about 1,000 spectators a year.

People use the event to piggyback for company retreats, family reunions, and annual vacations, booking up hotels months in advance all along the Highway 542 corridor. “After coming here, how can you not fall in love with this place?” Trowbridge said.

Outdoor races have a three-fold effect on the local economy: (1.) Prepping, which involves purchasing outdoor apparel, gym memberships, etc.; (2.) Race day itself, which draws thousands of spectators who fill hotels and restaurants, and (3.) The onslaught of tourists who come back to the county after sampling its many outdoor wonders.

Ski to Sea is Whatcom County’s largest race, a team relay on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend that draws about 2,500 participants and 20,000 spectators a year. It features eight team members in seven race legs: cross country ski, downhill ski/snowboard, running, road bike, canoe (doubles), cyclocross bike, and sea kayak. The first one, billed as “the original adventure race,” took place 45 years ago.

New this year: Racers can participate in as many as three legs on race day, either for one team or for multiple teams. Teams will have a minimum of three racers and a maximum of eight. The Race course runs through six towns in Whatcom County—Glacier, Maple Falls, Kendall, Everson, Lynden, and Ferndale—and ends at Marine Park in the Fairhaven district of Bellingham.

Registration is now open for 2018:

BIG RACES By the Numbers

Ski to Sea (Relay with 7 legs)
2,500 Participants
(50%-60% from out of county)
20,000 Spectators

Bellingham Bay Marathon
2,500 Participants
(60% from out of county)
5,000 Spectators

Tour de Whatcom (Cycling)
750 Participants
(50%-60% from out of county)
100-300 Spectators

Bellingham Traverse
(Relay with 5 legs)
450 Participants
(20% from out of county)
100-300 Spectators

Legendary Mt. Baker
Banked Slalom (Snowboarding)
400 Participants
(50% from out of county)
1,000 Spectators


NEWSMAKERS March|April 2018: People in Whatcom County


WCC chemistry faculty member Dr. Tommaso Vannelli (left) and instruction classroom support technician Mark Price, with the Chemco donation.

Local businesses donate nearly $45k to Whatcom’s STEM programs

Three major Whatcom County businesses have donated a total of $44,000 in money and goods to Whatcom Community College’s growing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs.

Chemco donated more than $31,000 in equipment for the chemistry lab, along with a differential scanning calorimeter that analyzes complex mixtures, from pesticides to vitamins. The Phillips 66 Ferndale Refinery and the Tulalip Tribes Charitable Fund donated $10,000 and $3,000, respectively, to purchase software for the lab.

STEM students are deemed more likely to continue their studies when they have access to hands-on, authentic laboratory experiences. More than 170 students will benefit annually from these donations. The need for more qualified workers with these technical skills was identified as a major challenge in the Jan./Feb. edition of Business Pulse.

Lynden handles critical samples for Ebola vaccine

Phil Maxson, Lynden International’s Director of International Operations.

Phil Maxson recently returned from the EBOVAC-Salone Labs at Kambia District Hospital in West Africa. That’s where Lynden’s customer, Clinical RM, is working on a clinical trial of Ebola vaccine in Sierra Leone. Ebola is a rare and deadly disease caused by infection with one of the Ebola virus species.

Lynden International has been assisting government and non-government organizations with transportation and logistics in West Africa since the Ebola crisis in 2014. “This particular project involves Lynden transporting human blood samples from the clinical trial to the U.S. and Europe for testing,” explains Phil, Lynden International’s Director of International Operations.

Due to the difficulty in keeping the samples frozen and stable during the long transport back to the U.S., Lynden is using Liquid Nitrogen Dry (LN2) shipping containers to maintain a temperature of minus 150C for up to 10 days. The containers are more commonly known as ‘dewars.’

“Each LN2 Shipper can accommodate up to 405 2ml vials, and is equipped with a GPS-temperature sensor so at any time, (except when on an aircraft in the air), we can monitor the temperature and see exactly where the unit is anywhere in the world,” Phil says. “First we ship the charged, but empty containers into Sierra Leone and then deliver them to the laboratory which is about three and a half hours from Freetown, Sierra Leon’s capital city.”

Once the lab has loaded all the samples into the special canister containers (see photo at right), Lynden handles the shipping of the units to various labs located in the U.S. and Europe.

Lynden International handles the transportation of over 400 shipments per year into and out of Africa for various organizations; many of these are temperature-controlled products requiring specialized handling.

Two score newly elected have taken office

At the start of the year, 20 newly elected officials were sworn into public offices throughout Whatcom County, including two new faces on both the County Council and the Bellingham Port Commission.

Election races in November 2017 changed nothing on the Bellingham City Council, as all incumbents won. But redrawn voting districts and three vacancies created rearranged positions on the Whatcom County Council, with incumbents Rud Browne, Todd Donovan, and Barry Buchanan moving to different district seats, while Ken Mann and Carl Weimer did not run for reelection

The new faces joining the county council were Tyler Byrd, by election and new to public office, and Timothy Ballew, by council appointment to fill an unfinished term through 2018 (Satpal Sidhu resigned). Byrd owns Red Rokk Interactive, a digital marketing firm, and commercial fisherman Ballew was immediate past chair of the Lummi Indian Business Council (LIBC).


Ken Bell and Michael Shepard were sworn in as the Port of Bellingham’s newest Commissioners. Bell previously served on the Whatcom County Charter Review Commission and the Whatcom County Planning Commission. Shepard is new to public office.

Shepard is a Research Associate at Western Washington University’s Center for Pacific Northwest Studies and teaches graduate and undergraduate eLearning classes at Goucher College, located in Baltimore, Maryland.

Bell is the President/CEO of Best Recycling, a waste-management company known for its ability to work in very remote locations, like the Yukon Territory, Alaska, Antarctica, Greenland, and the Aleutian Islands.


Jeremiah (Jay) Julius was selected as the new Chair of the Lummi Indian Business Council, the Lummi Nation’s governing body, which also chose Travis Brockie as Vice Chair. Others elected to seats on the LIBC were: Celina Phair (Treasurer), Cheryl Sanders, and Fred Lane.


One of the most notable elections in the county put newcomer Kyle Christensen into the mayor’s office in Sumas, winning against the incumbent of the previous 16 years, Bob Bromley. One other new mayor emerged from the balloting—Harry Robinson in Blaine—unseating Mayor Pro Tem Paul Greenough.

Several districts and wards elected new council officials in other county cities:

Blaine—Eric Davidson, Alicia Rulenon.

Everson—Jolene Pratt, Matthew Goering.

Ferndale—Kate Hansen, Cathy Watson.

Lynden—Mark Wohlrab, Kyle Strengholt

People on the Move…

KeyBank has named Gloria Nemechek a Senior Vice President and Senior Relationship Manager in its Commercial Banking Division. She will work with middle-market business clients in Whatcom, Skagit and Islands Counties.

Her role is to understand clients’ industries, businesses and goals in order to provide value-added strategic ideas and capital to help them grow. She has spent much of her career in commercial banking, serving large corporate and international businesses, as well as those in the middle market, in multiple metropolitan and global markets, including London, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

With more than 25 years in the banking industry, Gloria has held leadership sales and lending positions at major financial institutions, including Wells Fargo Bank, U.S. Bank, Security Pacific Bank and Bank of America.

“We are delighted to welcome someone with Gloria’s expertise and business acumen. Her client-centered focus will complement our team approach that ensures seamless delivery of best-in-class products and services,” said KeyBank’s Washington Commercial Banking Leader Sean Foley.

Erin Divine has been promoted to Director of Sales at Four Points by Sheraton Bellingham Hotel & Conference Center.

Divine’s nine years of sales experience includes five at Four Points Bellingham. She returned to the hotel last year upon completion of its multimillion-dollar renovation, which culminated with launch of the B-Town Kitchen & Raw Bar.

Four Points General Manager John Burns said Divine’s experience and local relationships benefit the entire community. “Erin has worked all the markets during her five years with us. Her knowledge of the hotel and the community makes her the ideal person to lead our sales efforts.”

Divine said, “With 14,000 square feet of flexible meeting space and a ballroom that can accommodate up to 500 people, we can assist a wide range of clients on everything from small-group meetings to large banquets.”

Four Points Bellingham is managed by Providence Hospitality Partners and is located at 714 Lakeway Drive, just off Interstate 5 at Exit 253. For information, call 360.671.1011 or visit

The Muljat Group has added three real-estate brokers to its team—Trish Gale, Diva Menke and Heather Simpson.

Gale is a 12-year resident of Bellingham. She has nearly four years of experience as a broker and soon will be a licensed managing broker and is working toward a diversity certification.

“After years in sales and services, I know how to negotiate on the behalf of clients while balancing the emotions that come along with buying and selling homes,” Gale said. “My ability to build relationships keeps them central to the process by setting clear expectations and doing what I say I’m going to do.”

Menke is a graduate of Western Washington University and has recorded $2 million in sales in just 18 months as a broker. She’s also a local musician and 13-year Whatcom County resident.

“It’s my belief that buying and selling should be a fun process where the client feels empowered,” Menke said. “I’m available day and night and work hard for them, with integrity and open communication.”

Simpson also is a Bellingham native and has 12 years of real-estate experience in Whatcom County. The Squalicum High School graduate was CEO of another Bellingham real-estate agency before joining The Muljat Group.

“My experience, combined with local knowledge, helps buyers and sellers experience a smooth and positive transaction process,” Simpson said. “I’m involved with many community-centered projects and children’s activities and my mission is to empower women in leadership.”

The Muljat Group is located at 510 Lakeway Drive and is online at You can contact Gale at 360.296.2667, Menke at 360.920.6456, and Simpson at 360.393.9075.

Thomas Boucher has joined North Coast Credit Union as the Community Development Officer. Most recently, he served as Community Liaison for Congressman Rick Larsen.

Boucher will serve on nonprofit boards, be involved with community outreach, and advocate with local, state, and national government policy makers on behalf of North Coast and the credit union industry. Some of the issues he will be working on include easing restrictions on member business lending and safeguarding the industry with regard to housing refinance reform.

Marilyn Brank, North Coast President, said, “Thomas’ extensive knowledge of federal and state government and his desire to be a positive influence in our communities makes him the perfect fit for this very important position.”


A faster, cheaper option to a career


As the WBA Youth Engagement Initiative pushes into its initial phase in efforts to facilitate bridging the gap between local employers and our local youth, nationally, student seek cheaper and quicker paths to liveable wage careers.

Know a local youth interested in pursuing a path to liveable wage jobs after high school and an alternative to 4-year college? One option:  Have them attend one of Bellingham Technical College’s career fair. More info , click here:

Also, Whatcom Rotary North will host a Career Choices fair on March 29th! Info here!


Why an Honors Student Wants to Skip College and Go to Trade School

As worries about student debt rise, states and businesses increasingly push faster, cheaper paths to the workplace; parents are stumped

Read article on WSJ website here: Why an Honor Student wants to Skip College and go to Trade School

Appeared in the March 6, 2018, Wall Street Journal print edition as ‘Trade School Wins Fans Among Teens.’

Raelee Nicholson earns A’s in her honors classes at a public high school south of Pittsburgh and scored in the 88th percentile on her college boards.

But instead of going to college, Ms. Nicholson hopes to attend a two-year technical program that will qualify her to work as a diesel mechanic. Her guidance counselor, two teachers and several other adults tell her she’s making a mistake.

“My dentist told me to (work on cars) as a hobby, but she kept telling me with my potential I should really go to college,” said Ms. Nicholson, a junior at Charleroi Area High School in western Pennsylvania.

The friction around the best path forward after high school is popping up around the country as anxious students and families try to figure out how to pay for four years of college. At the same time, business groups and state governments make the case for a free or much cheaper vocational education.

The conversation is being fueled by questions about the declining value of a college degree as well as the rising cost of tuition and student debt. Low unemployment and a strong job market are exacerbating an already growing skills gap, raising prospects for tradespeople like welders who are in high demand.

Still, the decision to forgo a four-year degree runs counter to 30 years of conventional wisdom.

“Parents come from a generation where everyone was pushed to go to college and the tech schools were for the bad kids,” said Dawn LeBlanc, principal of the North Montco Technical Career Center in Lansdale, Pa.

In 2009, the last year for which data is available, 19% of high-school students were concentrating in vocational subjects, down from 24% in 1990.

Even as more students enroll in college, “40% to 50% of kids never get a college certificate or degree,” said Tony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. And among those who do graduate, about one-third end up in jobs that don’t require a four-year degree.

This has prompted a rethink about the value of colleges and is fueling a separation between the winners and losers in higher education.

These forces are leading to a course correction now rippling through U.S. high schools, which are beginning to re-emphasize vocational education, rebranded as career and technical education. Last year, 49 states enacted 241 policies to support it, according to the Association for Career and Technical Education, an advocacy group.

Pennsylvania is among the states trying to increase the number of students attending career and technical high schools. Students in those programs often earn certificates that help them land a job after graduation or college credits, which they can apply to a two- or four-year college.

High-school graduates looking for career training can find many programs at community colleges or through a growing array of new offerings like coding academies and apprenticeships, some of which allow students to earn a salary and attend schools free.

“We’ve got to make sure we’re sending the right signals and also preparing people for the world as it really is not as maybe we’d like it to be,” said Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf.

Dr. Carnevale calls the movement a “counterrevolution.” But he also believes it will remain a hard sell, particularly in affluent suburbs and for high-achieving students.

Kathleen Mallee and her husband are both professionals with college degrees in the well-heeled Philadelphia suburb of Collegeville—and they always figured their 14-year-old daughter would follow in their footsteps. But she has her heart set on a vocational school, where she wants to study cosmetology and computer science. Ms. Mallee frets that decision will be looked down upon by her neighbors, but she isn’t confident a college degree will help their daughter get a decent job and could saddle her with debt.

“As soon as you say ‘debt-free,’ my husband is relieved,” said Mrs. Mallee, “He just doesn’t want her to incur a lot of debt and struggle. And I don’t want her to study the wrong thing (in high school) and struggle.”

The family has until April to decide.

Ms. Nicholson seemed destined for college at an early age.

“Raelee was smart from the time she was a baby, from the time she was two nobody could dress her, she was always a leader and she had her own mind,” said Raelee’s mother, Beth Nicholson, a nurse. “I always expected her to go to a four-year college. That was my expectation.”

But when she was 14, Raelee rebuilt a car with her older cousin.

“We worked on it the entire summer and when we got it running it was the best feeling in the world,” she said. “I really like working with my hands.”

She doesn’t listen to those trying to dissuade her from her passion. “Diesel mechanics charge $80 an hour,” she says.

SUPPORT Whatcom Business Alliance Youth Engagement Initiative. Learn how here!
Read other NEWS for Youth Engagement Initiative.

SIGN UP FOR NEWSLETTER to hear more info on WBA Youth Engagement Initiative.


Peoples Bank Appoints Peter Cutbill as Chief Credit Officer


Peoples Bank Appoints Peter Cutbill as Chief Credit Officer

30-year banking veteran succeeds Terry Daughters on the executive team.

Bellingham, WA – February 26, 2018 – Peoples Bank, a locally owned and operated, independent full-service community bank with over $1.6 billion in assets, announced the appointment of Peter Cutbill as Executive Vice President and Chief Credit Officer. Peter succeeds Terry Daughters, who will retire from the Bank later this year.

Peter joins Peoples Bank with over 30 years of banking experience, most recently as Senior Vice President and Chief Lending Officer at Skagit Bank. In this role, Peter managed all commercial loan production across Skagit Bank, growing the Bank’s loan portfolio by 44 percent over the past three fiscal years.

“We are excited to welcome Peter to Peoples Bank. His longtime presence in the community and extensive knowledge and experience in commercial lending, credit administration and special credits make him highly qualified for this position and a tremendous asset to our executive team,” said Charles LeCocq, Peoples Bank Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer. “At the same time, we owe a deep debt of gratitude to Terry for his valuable contributions to Peoples Bank over the years, and we wish him well in his upcoming retirement.”

Peter has worked in Whatcom County for the past three decades as a community banker. He is deeply involved in the community having served as co-chair of the Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce, president of Junior Achievement of Whatcom, Skagit and Island counties, and president of the Downtown Bellingham Partnership. Peter was an adjunct faculty member of Whatcom Community College and holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Toronto, and Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Buffalo. He is a respected member of the Western Washington Banking Community.

Celebrating Terry Daughters’ 20-Year Legacy

Terry joined Peoples Bank in 1999 as a Commercial Loan Officer. In 2009, he was promoted to Senior Vice President and Commercial Banking Team Leader, taking responsibility for all commercial lending activities in Whatcom County. In 2014, Terry was promoted to his current role of Executive Vice President & Chief Credit Officer where he is responsible for all aspects of portfolio underwriting and loan portfolio risk management. Terry was appointed to the Peoples Bank Board of Directors in 2017, where he will remain on the Bank’s Senior Loan Committee and will help lead the Bank’s future growth.

A lifetime resident of Whatcom County, Terry is active in the community with past roles including president of the Bellingham Central Lions Club and member of the City of Bellingham’s Budget Advisory Committee. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Washington and is a graduate of the Pacific Coast Banking School.

 About Peoples Bank
Peoples Bank is a locally owned and operated, independent full-service community bank with over $1.6 billion in assets. Headquartered in Bellingham, Washington, the Bank was founded in 1921 and operates 25 branches located throughout Washington. In its most recent rating, Bauer Financial, a leading independent bank rating firm, awarded Peoples Bank its highest five-star superior rating. This rating recognizes Peoples Bank’s strong financial management practices, dedicated employees and long-standing customer relationships. Learn more about Peoples Bank at