Business Pulse Reveals Whatcom County’s Top Private Companies


By Mike McKenzie

Some staggering increases in gross revenues were the most remarkable trend that leapt off the pages as we compiled this year’s Top 100 Privately Owned Companies in Whatcom County.

Most notable among them: Brim Tractor in Lynden, Dan Brim’s company that has operated for more than 50 years. After adding a complete line of construction equipment, Brim’s six stores that spread from Canada to Oregon increased sales last year by a stunning 160%!

Other shining examples: Tiger Construction with a nearly 85% rise; Emergency Reporting, G.K. Knutson, and Vital Choice at about 50%; Morse Distribution, Kam-Way, and Pro Pack at around 45%; Western Refinery Services 40%, and Hardware Sales at more than 35%.

Altogether, sales totaled in excess of $5.14 billion among the Top 100 leaders, and they account for over 10,100 jobs in Whatcom County and more than 18,000 jobs overall.

Open the digital version below to find out who made the list.

Companies to Watch Pushing Upward on the County’s Top Privately Owned List

 Glass installation goes far beyond autos at Louis Auto Glass

Although automobile glass glistens in the forefront at this local company, it also could be called “Glass R Us” for its versatility. Louis Auto Glass is fast approaching 90 years in business, and its world of glass has expanded into other applications at locations in Bellingham (where it all began four generations of Adelsteins ago in 1929), Lynden, and Mount Vernon.

While windshields remain the core business, with replacements in every kind of vehicle, the company has developed many other areas of in-house, industry-certified expertise, said President Rick Adelstein (son of owner Mel, grandson of founder Louis, and father of VP Carrie, who steers the anchor store). “For example, in doing windshield replacements, it’s important to correctly install lane-departure and ‘asleep at the wheel’ sensors that are part of the new auto technology,” Rick said, “Otherwise, a dealer or auto repair can’t recalibrate them correctly.”

Other areas of company growth include installation of shower doors and double-pane windows in residential housing, especially apartment complexes. “Seems like we have a shower-door customer about every day,” Rick said. Louis Auto Glass was the Business Pulse Small Business of the Year in 1994, and 17 years later the Bellingham-Whatcom County Chamber of Commerce & Industry named it the Large Business of the Year.

Ari Edelstein, Rick’s son, operates a related business in Bellingham—Final Touch Auto Spa— specializing in detailing, window tinting, paint protection, and—of course—windshield repair from rock damage. A chip off the whole block….


Louis Auto Glass is just one of several companies identified in this year’s search for the Top 100 Privately Owned Companies in Whatcom County that came close, falling just outside the list. Some exceeded $5 million, which, until this year, would have qualified for the list—an indication of how strong the economy was for so many businesses last year.

Here are numerous other companies that identified themselves in our survey as what we call Companies to Watch, because they are rapidly approaching the $8 million cutoff of this year’s Top 100:

Aquatechnex in Bellingham

Cascade Connections in Bellingham

Chrysalis Inn & Spa in Bellingham

Crystal Creek Logistics in Ferndale

Fat-Cat Fish in Lynden

Len Honcoop Gravel in Lynden

Lyndale Glass in Bellingham

Lynden Sheet Metal

MGM Solutions in Bellingham

Onyx Coffee in Bellingham

Signs Plus in Bellingham

2020 Solutions in Bellingham

Zender’s Truck & Equipment Parts & Service in Bellingham


Locals Fish Alaska but Bring the Bounty Home


By Pete Granger

Did you know that Whatcom County has a thriving commercial-fishing industry? Many people don’t. The Port of Bellingham estimates that commercial fishing and processing companies in Whatcom County employ more than 2,700 on Port premises. The maritime industry in general employs more than 6,000 Whatcom County residents.

And did you know that many of the county-resident fishermen spend a good portion of their fishing efforts in Alaskan waters?  They also bring 10s of millions of dollars in income back to the county with them.

Many of the bigger boats in Squalicum and Blaine harbors travel to Southeast Alaska each spring to fish for pink and other salmon species. These are the 58-foot-long purse seiners. Alaskan law prohibits salmon seiners from being any longer than 58 feet. And Bristol Bay gillnetters can be no longer than 32 feet.

Smaller vessels, such as gillnetters and trollers, go to Southeast Alaska as well. Some boats travel as far as the southwest tip of the Alaska Peninsula. Other Alaska locales include Kodiak, Cordova and Prince William Sound, and Cook Inlet.

Bellingham and Blaine also have a fleet of tenders that travels to all these areas each season. These are larger vessels that take the fresh catch from the fishermen and deliver it to the seafood plants for processing.

Besides salmon, county fishermen target halibut, sablefish (black cod), roe herring, Dungeness crab, and Pacific cod.

Whatcom County also is home to many boat owners, skippers, and crewmembers who fish in the fabled Bristol Bay sockeye fishery. Their 32-foot gillnet boats stay the winter in boat yards around the Bay. Crews fly up in early June for two months of intensive fishing; the 2018 sockeye run is predicted to be a near-record 50 million fish!

Anecdote: Resident Alaskans view fishermen from the “Lower 48” with some disdain. But they have come to accept their out-of-state cousins in the sometimes intense competition for fish!

Anecdote: Did you know that in Alaska, many fishermen refer to sockeye as “reds,” and chum salmon as “dogs,” and pink salmon as “humpies” and coho salmon as “silvers,” and chinook salmon as “kings”?

On any given day in the Summer in Whatcom County, you’ll see seafood products that were caught in Alaska, and chances are it was caught by local fishermen. For example, fresh Copper River sockeye are first in the marketplace in mid-May. By late June, they’ve been supplanted by sockeye from Kodiak and Southeast Alaska. July features fresh Bristol Bay sockeye. Trolled  silvers will appear shortly after sockeye as well as Southeast Alaska pinks and chums in August. Winter months will feature these species that were flash frozen. From mid-November to mid-March, fresh halibut from Southeast Alaska is available.

There are a number of salmon fishermen living in the county who sell their catch directly to local consumers. Entrepreneurs, such as Desire Fish, Fall Line Fisheries, Sea to Shore Seafood, and Nerka Sea-Frozen Salmon offer high-quality frozen salmon in the Fall, Winter and Spring.

A majority of the Alaska catches gets returned to processors in Whatcom County, including
American-Canadian Fisheries, Bornstein Seafoods, Dana Besecker Co., Homeport Seafoods, Icy Strait Seafoods, Q Sea Specialty Services, Seafood Producers Cooperative, Sound Pacific Seafood, Trans Ocean Products, Trident Seafoods, and Vital Choice Seafoods. Much of the product goes through the Bellingham Cold Storage complex—the largest portside cold storage on the West Coast, handling millions of pounds of Alaska product..

Alaskan waters draw the fisheries and fill the boats, but the hauls return to fill the Whatcom County tills.

Pete Granger retired from 45 years of working in the maritime and commercial fishing industry (and remains an active reef-net -fishing operator off of Lummi Island). Pete also serves as president of the Whatcom County Working Waterfront Coalition.


The migration of Whatcom County-based fishing vessels by the hundreds to Alaska account for an enormous economic boost back home at the Ports of Bellingham and Blaine.

They create hundreds of jobs and then bring back 10s of millions of dollars in gross product that translates to hefty incomes for families and crews of the wide variety of fisheries.

Fishing boats of all sizes (within limitations of Alaska law), worked by men and women, and often employing high school and college youths for rigorous summer work, travel far and wide around the state of Alaska’s waters.

Some boats travel as far as the southwest tip of the Alaska Peninsula. Other Alaska locales include:

The Arctic and Yukon Region in the northwest;

Down around through Bristol Bay, Kodiak, and Cordova (seat of the famous Copper River) in the Westward Region;

And, the Southeastern Region moving toward the coast west of Juneau.

These waters have a reputation as the some of the most pristine and best-managed fishing areas in the world. This map shows the breadth of the managed areas for commercially fished salmon:

Commercial Salmon Management Areas



Birch Golf Classic Tees Up Community Caring


Clockwise from top left: Team Birch Equipment (with Jake Locker, far left); Some of Carole Garguile’s team of volunteers with Sarah Rothenbuhler, far left; 2017 winning team Dunkin & Bush; Team/sponsor Mills Electric (with Ryan Stiles, 2nd from right).

By Dave Brumbaugh

When does writing a check with a few zeroes at the end make you smile? Perhaps when it:

  • Goes to truly deserving nonprofits that make a difference with people facing heart-breaking challenges.
  • Gives you the opportunity to golf at one of Northwest Washington’s top courses.
  • Connects you with an amazing array of local people in business, education, entertainment, law enforcement, and sports.

That’s the recipe for the Birch Golf Classic set for Sept. 6 at the Bellingham Golf & Country Club. For the last three years Birch Equipment in Bellingham has orchestrated the Birch Pro-Am, teaming up with local businesses to raise more than $750,000 for Whatcom Hospice.

The event has a new twist this year. Birch CEO/Owner Sarah Rothenbuhler restructured the format, working in concert with former NFL quarterback Jake Locker, Paul Twedt with Northwestern Mutual, and Jessie Evenson, who is Birch Equipment’s Director of Employee and Customer Programs. They transitioned from the previous pro-amateur format to a “community-amateur” event.

Instead of teams pairing only with a pro golfer (several still will participate), the teams will select a “celebrity” from the local region. Some have marquee names—like Locker and former NFL kicker Michael Koenen, and internationally-known comedian Ryan Stiles (Uptown Theater owner and star of “Who’s Line Is It Anyway?”)—and others include entrepreneurs, politicians, and executives from the area.

“We’re all so busy with life and work, and the tournament will provide a great day for meeting and connecting incredible people whose paths don’t always cross, but they should,” Rothenbuhler said. “You really get to know people when you spend a day golfing and having an early dinner together.

“True admiration and friendships have developed with people, businesses, and services we only have had time to read about. So this year a spin on the pro-am platform will shine a light on 30 people doing amazing community work through their careers and community involvement.”

The teams will select what’s called a “Duo”—their 5th player from the community list, plus an enticing prize package put together by a variety of sponsors (e.g., entertainment packages like a Rod Stewart concert, Seattle pro sports events, wine and dining experiences, golf clubs, etc.).

“A lot of time and energy is going into this,” Locker said, “because we believe in people truly coming together for their community. Not just for the prize benefits, but because they actually care about people. That’s what’s been happening with this tourney, and we’re now bringing it to another level.”

Beneficiaries this year: Northwest Youth Services (NWYS) and Engedi Refuge.

Northwest Youth Services impacts more than 1,000 youths every year in Whatcom and Skagit Counties, providing a safe home for more than 200 young people between ages 13-24 who have run away, been displaced, or experience homelessness due to trauma, neglect, abuse, or exploitation.

Engedi Refuge is a restorative program for women who have survived sex trafficking and prostitution. The refuge provides relief from poverty, addictions, abuse, and complex trauma often associated with sex trafficking.

“The Northwest is in a homeless epidemic, and our I-5 corridor is one of the busiest sex-trafficking areas in North America,” Rothenbuhler said. “This tournament connects community businesses who want to shine a light of awareness and financial support on services that make a difference in transitioning our kids and those trapped in human trafficking to a network of better options.”

At press time the Birch Golf Classic lineup had not filled out completely. For updated information on players, prizes, and getting involved, visit or check its Facebook page.  


Team entries in the Birch Golf Classic 2018 have selected a “Duo”—a 5th player on the team selected from a list of prominent community members (rather than a traditional choice of a professional golfer), plus a prize package. The tournament takes place Sept. 5 at the Bellingham Golf & Country Club.

Following is the list of 5th players and the prize package that completes the Duo for participating four-person teams:

  • Carmen Dolfo, Women’s Basketball Coach & Administrator WWU + Private Wine Cellar Dinner at Lighthouse Bar & Grill for 8
  • Chelsea Long, Vice President, Acme Lift + All Inclusive Sounders Suite Tix w/ Pre-Match Field Access for 5
  • Chris Jorgensen, Director, Aerotech Golf + Miura Wedges w/ Aerotech Shafts
  • Craig Welty, PGA Pro, Skagit Golf & Country Club + All Inclusive Mariners Diamond Club for 4
  • Dale Zender, VP of Operations, CAO, CFO, PeaceHealth NW + Sold-Out Leonetti Merlot & Cabernet Wine
  • Senator Doug Ericksen + Private Tour of 22 North with Happy Hour for 10
  • Doug Thomas, President & CEO, Bellingham Cold Storage + 12 Seat Mariners Package
  • Jake Locker, Co-Owner, The Locker Room, Former NFL Quarterback + $2,500 Shopping Spree at Birch toward Rental / Retail
  • Janelle Bruland, President & CEO, MSNW + All Inclusive Seahawks Sideline Tix for 4
  • Whatcom County Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Nyhus + The Locker Room Fitness Club Annual Membership & Swag for 4
  • Jeff Tetrick, Career & Technical Education Director, Bellingham Public Schools + Dinner Tab at Dirty Dan Harris Steakhouse for 8
  • John Blair, General Manager, Dunham Cellars + All Inclusive Sounders Suite for 8
  • Michael Koenen, Co-Owner, The Locker Room, Former NFL Punter + Guided Private Waterfowl Hunting Excursion for 4
  • Mike Montgomery, PGA Pro, Sahalee Country Club + Front Row Rod Stewart Seats (Oct.) for 4
  • Ryan Stiles, Upfront Theater Owner, Actor, Comedian, Producer + Upfront Theater Package
  • Steve Card, Director of Athletics, WWU + Sold-Out Leonetti Merlot & Cabernet Wine
  • Steve Lawrence, MHS Teacher & President, Meridian Education Association + Private Cicchitti’s Pizza Truck for 50 people
  • Tony Larson, President, Whatcom Business Alliance + 4 Jeroboam (3 Liter) Dunham Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Wes Herman, Owner, Woods Coffee + Exclusive Woods Coffee Product Package & Tour

For more information about the tournament, go to for a full slate of sponsoring teams and a summary of the nonprofit organizations benefiting from the event (NW Youth Services and Engedi Refuge).


Back To The Future of Local Salmon


By Sherri Huleatt

Experts mark 1985 as Whatcom County’s last great fishing season. Stakeholders from business, government, the Lummi Nation, higher education, and more have joined forces to raise the region’s fish population to 1985 levels.

Doug Thomas, President and CEO of Bellingham Cold Storage, chairs the new Whatcom Creek Hatchery Improvement Committee. He brought stakeholders together in 2016 to discuss solutions for increasing fish population in an environmentally sustainable way. After meeting once a month for two years, this group is advocating for a new Whatcom Creek hatchery.

“Why reinvent the wheel? Let’s take the best-in-class practices from Alaska and try them here in Whatcom Creek. Everyone seems in favor of it.

We’re all trying to bring back the fish population.”

—Doug Thomas, Chair, Whatcom Creek Hatchery Improvement Committee

It would serve as a state pilot project, patterned after the Douglas Island Pink and Chum (DIPAC) hatchery in Juneau, Alaska—one of the most successful hatcheries in the world. “Why reinvent the wheel?” Thomas said. “Let’s take the best-in-class practices from Alaska and try them here in Whatcom Creek. Everyone seems in favor of it. We’re all trying to bring back the fish population.”

That achievement would have a major trickle-down effect on the local economy, impacting commercial fisheries, sport fishermen, packaging and storage companies, whale-watching tours, boating repair and storage, and more. Thomas said that the Washington Dept. of Fish & Wildlife, local governments, and the Lummi Nation support the project.

Owner Mark Riedesel at Barlean’s Fishery said, “We’ve seen our working waterfront shrink bit-by-bit every year. A new hatchery releasing up to 17 million salmon smolts yearly would create a true bright spot in our fishing-related community.” Riedesel serves as president of Bellingham Puget Sound Anglers, sits on the Hatchery Committee, and is an advisor to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Puget Sound Recreational Fisheries Enhancement Committee. “A hatchery of this magnitude,” he said, “has the potential to create more jobs within the commercial sector of the fishing industry and to benefit the recreational business. It’s a true win for all user groups.”

The new hatchery could be a major boon for tourism, too. Hatchery committee member Sandy Ward, President and CEO of Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism, said the hatchery could provide a great educational opportunity about the life cycle of salmon. “Couple this with the chance to enjoy fresh seafood at some of the best farm-to-table restaurants in the Pacific Northwest,” Ward said, “and we have the recipe that will get visitors to spend an extra day or night in Bellingham and Whatcom County and generate additional visitor spending.”

Hatchery Committee member Brittany Palm-Flawd, BTC’s Hatchery Manager and an instructor, said the hatchery could provide a new hands-on training facility for students, and employment opportunities for graduate students.

The hatchery plan is in line with Governor Jay Inslee’s initiative to restore Washington’s dwindling orca population, since salmon are orcas’ primary food source. “By assisting in efforts to save the whales, hatchery jobs also help the tourism and conservation sectors,” Palm-Flawd said.

A cost-recovery program would fund the hatchery’s ongoing operations by requiring fishermen to pay a percentage of their catch’s value and thereby decrease government spending on the project.

The next step in the process: obtain financing to conduct a feasibility study. Once the hatchery is built (still several years out), Thomas said, it will take several years to see results as stronger fish populations slowly increase. “But even a small increase would make a huge impact,” he said.

If 10 million fish were released into the water with a 1.5% survival rate, then just 150,000 would return. If survival increased to Alaska levels (about 3%), that would double the fish population. While the increase might sound small, it could make a huge difference to the local economy.

“This much-needed hatchery can make a difference and point us in a positive direction,” Riedesel said. “Whales, commercial fishermen, recreational fishermen, business owners, and many others will benefit.”

Proposed Salmon Hatchery: Local leaders Weigh In on Value of Econ Impact

Three members of the newly-formed Whatcom Creek Hatchery Improvement Committee from different industry perspectives responded to this question from Business Pulse:

“How much would a proposed Whatcom Creek salmon hatchery impact the local economy?”

Business: “From a business perspective, a new hatchery would create an opportunity for more salmon to be available both commercially and for the recreational community to harvest. This type of hatchery would also help alleviate impacts on local salmon stocks of concern. What those positives equate to from the business side of things, is it would allow for more local fish to be harvested and purchased, at a reasonable price, and we can then pass those savings on to all of our customers. What’s really important to remember is that this can all be done while being respectful of wild stocks of concern.”

—Mark Riedesel, Owner, Barlean’s Fishery; President, Bellingham Puget Sound Anglers, and Advisor for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Puget Sound Recreational Fisheries Enhancement Committee

Tourism: “We know that visitors from around the world are looking for experiences that are unique and authentic. Having the hatchery open to visitors and locals alike would provide an opportunity for Bellingham and Whatcom County to showcase our sense of community, natural resources, history (including the Lummi Nation and Nooksack Tribe), and how critical protecting the future of our fisheries has become.”

—Sandy Ward, President and CEO, Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism

Higher Education: “There definitely are positive impacts for the program and its students. As a technical program that focuses on hands-on training, this provides another educational resource for the students (on-site training, internship opportunities, access to different operational systems, etc.) and local employment opportunities for our graduates… By increasing the number of hatcheries, you not only provide hatchery jobs (direct) but also associated jobs (indirect).”

—Brittany Palm-Flawd, Bellingham Technical College Hatchery Manager & Instructor


Northwest Youth Services | Paying wages to Youth for local employers offering job experiences.


ABOUT Northwest Youth Services

Northwest Youth Services is a non-profit organization serving young people ages 13-24 experiencing homelessness in Whatcom and Skagit Counties.

We support youth in identifying goals and building the skills necessary to reach their own sense of stability.

Northwest Youth Services offers housing, street outreach, help finding a job or enrolling in school, connection to mental health services, support for LGBTQ youth, restorative justice for juvenile offenders, and referrals to other services in the community.

Learn more here.

Some of NWYS services:

Youth Jobs: Helping youth gain vital job experience.

Youth Jobs is a partnership between Northwest Youth Services and local businesses to offer paid work opportunities to young people.

Through Youth Jobs, youth can find paid work in an area that interests them, and can gain experience to put on their resume. It’s also a great way for businesses to support young people in a meaningful way, while benefiting from the extra help at no cost to them!

If your business is interested in participating in this program, in which Northwest Youth Services pays youth wages, please send an email to NWYS to learn more.

Youth Engagement Initiative mission includes activities such as working to promote organizations and programs like FutureNW.

VISION & MISSION STATEMENT: Youth Engagement Initiative

The Whatcom Business Alliance through the Youth Engagement Initiative works in partnership with students, parents, employers, policymakers, educators and like-minded organizations to create synergies that advance youth employment and career opportunities in Whatcom County.

#careergoals / #WBAyouth


Futures NW | Empowering Students to Achieve their Career and College Dreams


FuturesNW actively recruits students who are low-income, first-generation students from underserved communities. Our staff and volunteers works with students from the 8th – 9th grade transition through their first semester as a college freshmen. Our program helps families remove the barriers that prevent students from being successful by providing them with comprehensive academic support, leadership training, and financial and college advising to succeed in college and beyond.

Read more about this Whatcom County based organization at

Youth Engagement Initiative mission includes activities such as working to promote organizations and programs like FutureNW.

VISION & MISSION STATEMENT: Youth Engagement Initiative

The Whatcom Business Alliance through the Youth Engagement Initiative works in partnership with students, parents, employers, policymakers, educators and like-minded organizations to create synergies that advance youth employment and career opportunities in Whatcom County.

#careergoals / #WBAyouth


MyWorksource | Build a Career Path that’s right for you

Share is a one-stop shop for job seekers and employers looking to connect with resources including skills discovery workshops, hiring events and much more! Such as:

On July 12th, 2018 Worksource Whatcom is offering a free workshop called #Y to help those ages 16-24 years old get on the path to employment. Click the link below to learn more:

There is so much to explore and learn from the website, funded by the Employment Security Department of Washington State. You can even scroll through job titles to read descriptions and occupation demand on thousands of Whatcom County jobs, click here.

MyWorksource has partnered with to bring MyWorksource — an online tool providing Washington State youth (and adults alike) an easier way to build a job search portfolio…or if they still are trying to discover a career path…tools to help them find the right fit.  Watch the video on how the partnership can help you!  Then visit and begin building your portfolio by clicking on MyWorksource.

Youth Engagement Initiative mission includes activities such as working to promote organizations and programs like and MyWorksource

VISION & MISSION STATEMENT: Youth Engagement Initiative

The Whatcom Business Alliance through the Youth Engagement Initiative works in partnership with students, parents, employers, policymakers, educators and like-minded organizations to create synergies that advance youth employment and career opportunities in Whatcom County.

#careergoals / #WBAyouth


Not Everyone Should Go to College


By Oren Cass for the Wall Street Journal
May 17, 2018 7:13 p.m. ET

Not Everyone Should Go to College
Vocational education won’t succeed so long as society consigns it to second-class status.

‘Nobody knows what a community college is,” President Trump said last month in Michigan. “We’re going to start using—and we had this—vocational schools.” Conflating community colleges with vocational schools is a mistake, though an understandable one. Everyone talks about better vocational programs for students who will not complete college, but prescriptions invariably focus on options for after high-school graduation.

Waiting until students are college age is too late. Elevating vocational education, and prioritizing its students, must begin with a substantial reshaping of American high schools. Vocational education will not succeed so long as culture and public policy consign it to second-class status—a dumping ground for students who interfere with what school districts consider their real mission, college prep.

But that mission ends in failure for most American students. Only 46% of Americans 25 to 29 have attained even an associate degree. Why do we design our high schools for college completers, if fewer than half of students complete college?

The problem is that schools refuse to track—to separate high-school students into different educational programs that target different outcomes. The impulse is an egalitarian one, but the insistence on treating everyone equally in high school harms students for whom the college track is not appropriate. It deprives them of schooling that could be more valuable and abandons them after graduation ill-prepared for work.

Would a noncollege track prevent some students from achieving their full academic potential? Perhaps. But the risk pales in comparison to the problem of today, when everyone is placed on a track that we know is wrong for most. A well-designed tracking system could mitigate that risk by leaving the choice to students and parents, by providing offramps from one track to the other, and by ensuring that the noncollege track is not undesirable to begin with.

How could a noncollege track be made more attractive? For starters, it could receive comparable resources. Schools lavish tens of thousands of public dollars on students who pursue college, while others, trying to find their own footing in life after leaving high school, get nothing at all. The Trump administration’s proposal to let students use Pell Grants for different forms of postsecondary training is a good start. But students on a vocational track shouldn’t have to wait until after high school for such resources.

A strong noncollege track would also allow employers to play a much larger role. School hours can be working hours—what Mr. Trump has called “earn as you learn.” But vocational students need access to this in high school if that is when their career preparation should begin.

Imagine if traditional high-school academics were compressed. Part of 11th grade would emphasize career selection and readiness, and 12th grade would mark the start of a subsidized internship or apprenticeship. Such a student could have significant work experience, certified skills, and $40,000 in the bank—before being old enough to drink. And that’s for the same cost as what Americans spend on the typical debt-laden college dropout.

With financial viability would also come cultural acceptance. The choice would come to seem normal; employers would know what to expect. Across the other developed economies of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, between 40% and 70% of secondary-school students pursue a vocational track. In Germany, business leaders often begin their careers in apprenticeships.

The current system is not really trackless; it offers a single track, tailored toward those most likely to succeed anyway. If there is to be only one track, why not switch the default? Design the local high school for the needs of the median student, who won’t complete even community college. Those aiming for college could enroll in an after-school enrichment program three towns over.

If that’s how “no tracking” looked, many of tracking’s opponents would probably come around.

Mr. Cass is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of the forthcoming book “The Once and Future Worker.”

Appeared in the May 18, 2018, print edition as ‘Not Everyone Should Go To College.’


Regenis is Converting Manure into an Environmental Success Story


By Dave Brumbaugh

The consumer knows that dairy cows are the source of many delicious and nutritious foods, including milk, cheese, and ice cream. The farmer knows that they also produce a tremendous amount of manure—thousands of gallons daily on even the smallest dairy farms.

When not handled properly, the manure’s greenhouse gasses and bacteria are harmful to the environment—and the odor isn’t too pleasant, either.

A Ferndale company has stepped up (and not in!) to those problematic matters. Regenis has made the processing of cow pies and other organic wastes into an environmental success story, creating anaerobic digesters to generate renewable energy, reduce greenhouse gasses, and virtually eliminate fecal coliform bacteria, while dramatically lessening their odor.

“With the digester and the DAF installations, Edaleen has one of the most advanced manure-treatment facilities of any dairy in the United States. Our next main focus is making clean water…”

—Eric Powell, Business Development Director, Regenis

Andgar Corporation, located in the Grandview Industrial Park just north of Ferndale off I-5, began making anaerobic digesters in 2004, with dairy farms as a target market. Four years ago, Andgar created a separate division—Regenis—to manufacture digesters. The offspring has constructed 13 anaerobic digesters and also operates and/or maintains digesters for some customers.

“They are not all on dairy farms,” said Eric Powell, Business Development Director for Regenis, “but all of them do process some amount of dairy manure. Most also process other organic waste, such as pre-consumer food waste from various food processors.”

The environmental benefits of the digesters, like the product they deal with, cover a lot of ground:

Electrical generation: A dozen of the 13 Regenis projects produce renewable electricity with a total capacity exceeding 15 megawatts an hour (MWh)—enough to power more than 9,000 homes. Unlike other forms of renewable energy that produce electricity only when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining, anaerobic digesters can make electricity 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, except for short periods of time when the engine is down for maintenance.

Greenhouse-gas reduction: Methane, a natural emission from cow manure, is 22 times more harmful to the environment than carbon monoxide, according to scientific studies. Digesters reduce the amount of methane emitted into the environment.

Bacteria Reduction: Digesters reduce the fecal coliform in manure by 99.9%, allowing dairy farmers to use separated and dried manure (called digester fiber) as bedding for the cows, rather than having to purchase sawdust or use sand. The result is a significant cost reduction for a dairy. The farms then sell any excess fiber to soil companies that use it as a replacement for peat moss. Also, farmers store processed dairy manure without fecal coliform in lagoons on their farms until they can safely apply to crops for irrigation and fertilizer.

Regenis is in the process of expanding beyond the manufacturing, servicing, and operating of digesters. Last year, the company installed a Dissolved Air Flotation (DAF) unit at Edaleen Dairy’s home-base facility north of Lynden that treats manure even more after it’s gone through the digester process.

“This system removes more than 85% of the phosphorus and roughly 35% of the nitrogen,” Powell said. “It concentrates those nutrients into a solid that can be hauled to fields farther away at a lower cost. With the digester and the DAF installations, Edaleen has one of the most advanced manure-treatment facilities of any dairy in the United States.”

Potential customers, other than dairy farms, include swine and poultry farms, food-waste producers, composting facilities, municipalities, breweries, and anyone who has a large volume of organic waste. “We want to be an agricultural wastewater-treatment provider and help our dairy, food-processing, and other agriculture customers with solutions,” Powell said.

Next on the broad horizon for Regenis, as a stalwart model for environmental stewardship? Powell said: “…Making clean water from a variety of agricultural wastes, such as dairy manure.”

Andgar Corporation (est. 1973) stands very high on the Business Pulse annual Top 100 Privately-Owned Companies in Whatcom County year in and year out, with divisions in agriculture waste solutions (Regenis), commercial metal fabrication, food processing, and residential HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning). The company name stems from co-owners Andy Mellema and Gary Van Loo.

Their statement of purpose contains unlimited vision with some unordinary phrasing. In part: “Our goal…highest quality products and superior service at a fair cost….through the application of Biblical principle….carry on Andy and Gary’s values of honesty, reliability, and professionalism….

“We may be from a small town, but we look forward to bringing you into our growing family of satisfied customers in NW Washington and across the globe.”


Rectors Vacuum Shop Celebrates 75 Years



A mainstay in Bellingham for 75 years, Rectors Vacuum Shop on Meridian offers a unique “try before you buy” policy.

“We are so proud to be celebrating our 75th year in business and honoring our loyal customers,” said Steve McCallum, Co-Owner of Rectors Vacuum Shop. “We believe that our unusual brand of personalized customer service and customer education that we offer has kept us in business for all these many years.”

Two milestone events will mark this special year for Rectors Vacuum Shop. A Miele vacuum May raffle for customers and a Sebo vacuum September raffle are two such events planned for the community this year. The public will have opportunities to visit Rectors, operate their vacuums, and ask questions about their vacuum cleaners and enter raffles to win one.

“It’s always been a tradition at Rectors to consider our customers as part of our family,” Steve McCallum added. “That is why we want to celebrate this milestone year with them and provide them with chances to win free vacuums.”

Rectors will also be offering discount specials on vacuums and vacuum accessories throughout the year to commemorate their 75th anniversary.

People on the Move…

Kevin McEntee has been appointed Sales Manager at Four Points by Sheraton Bellingham Hotel & Conference Center.

He comes to the full-service hospitality property from previous hospitality-industry management positions in Chico, California and Boise, Idaho. He will be responsible here for assisting corporate, government, medical, manufacturing, financial, petroleum, and national accounts with group-lodging needs.

“The Bellingham community has been very welcoming,” McEntee said. “It’s easy to see why so many people are involved in community events throughout the year. With all of the hotel renovations now complete, I’m excited to share Four Points and all it has to offer with our community members and visitors to Bellingham.”

Four Points General Manager John Burns said, “We’re excited to have Kevin as part of our sales team and believe his background will be very beneficial in developing the local corporate market.”

Four Points recently was completely renovated by Providence Hospitality Partners. It offers 132 guest rooms and two restaurants: Chinuk and B-Town Kitchen & Raw Bar. For more information, call 360-671-1011 or visit

Network Technician William Ashinhurst and Marketing Assistant Nicole Cortines have joined the team at Litzia, LLC, a provider of tailored information services for small- and medium-sized businesses .

Ashinhurst provides computer-network consulting, design, and support services. He has worked as an engineering technician in Seattle and a network administrator in Bellingham.

Cortines provides image promotion, product and service awareness, and campaign management. An undergraduate working toward her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Marketing at Western Washington University, she has done marketing analysis projects for Microsoft and North Coast Credit Union.

For information on Litzia’s IT and cloud services, and hardware/software, security, and business-collaboration solutions, call 360-714-0565 or visit

Bellingham business owner Nancy Leavitt celebrated her 10th anniversary as an agent for American Family Insurance in April.

To mark the milestone, Leavitt again hosted her “Quotes for Community” campaign that donates $1 to charity for each insurance quote issued through the month of June. The tally is updated each week on the office’s Facebook and LinkedIn pages.

Nonprofits who benefited from previous campaigns include Support Officers of Whatcom County, Animals as Natural Therapy, and the Technology Alliance Group of Northwest Washington Scholarship Fund.

Also, each September and October, in recognition of National Life Insurance Awareness Month, Leavitt donates $100 to the client’s charity of choice for each life-insurance policy issued.

Leavitt, a Lynden native, said, “Supporting local charities is near and dear to my heart. We’ve worked so hard and loved every minute of it, knowing it would bring security to policy holders and funds to needy Whatcom County charities.”

Daun Botta Pillo has been promoted to Executive Vice President of Snapper Shuler Kenner Insurance (SSKI), where she has been a commercial-lines agent since 2000.

With 20 years of insurance experience, Botta Pillo will oversee approximately 30 employees, while splitting time between SSKI’s Bellingham and Lynden offices. She will continue to serve as a commercial-lines agent, particularly with construction accounts needing insurance and bonding.

Botta Pillo, a University of Washington graduate, said, “One of my priorities now is finding more top-notch professionals so both of our offices can continue to grow. I’m grateful to my colleagues, including Paul Kenner, the long-time head of SSKI, for the mentoring they have provided me. And I’m glad that Paul will continue to serve his accounts for us.”

An independent agency with origins dating back to 1925, SSKI has offices at 2115 Barkley Blvd., Suite 201, in Bellingham and 501 Front St. in Lynden. For more information, call 360-354-4488 or visit

Gary Honcoop has been named 2017 Builder of the Year by the Building Industry Association of Whatcom County (BIAWC).

Honcoop founded Roosendaal-Honcoop Construction (R-HC) in 1979 with a fellow lifelong Lynden resident, Roger Roosendaal, who retired a year ago, leaving Gary as the sole owner.

The company’s most notable residential project is Semiahmoo Shore, a 46-unit development in Blaine with 14 different floor plans. It was featured in the BIAWC Showcase of Homes. Recent commercial construction projects include a high-tech propagation building for Enfield Farms/Northwest Plant Co. of Lynden and structures for Innotech Process Equipment of Bellingham, Pacific Tire Co. of Ferndale, Sarbanand Farms of Sumas, and T.C. Trading Co. of Blaine.

The company has wide-ranging experience, including design-build, high-end residential, commercial, food-processing, cold-storage, public-works, industrial, and pre-engineered steel construction. It also assists clients with pre-construction services, such as design and permitting.

Under Honcoop’s leadership, R-HC has been an active BIAWC member, supporting programs such as the annual Home & Garden Show and the Whatcom County Showcase of Homes. And the company’s employees have worked more than eight years without a time-loss injury, for which it has received several safety-record awards.