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updated 2:54 PM CDT, Jul 28, 2018

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'Tipping point' pledge for planned Bellevue arts center

A "tipping point" matching pledge of $20 million, half from the Arakawa Foundation, for the planned Tateuchi performing arts center in downtown Bellevue was announced Wednesday evening at a festive gathering of supporters at the Hyatt Regency Bellevue next to the site for the planned $200 million facility.

The $10 million pledged by Yoko and Minoru Arakawa, to name the 2,000-seat centerpiece of the center the Arakawa Concert Hall, puts the facility $122 million in cash and pledges on the way to the spring of 2018 groundbreaking of the $200 million facility, which is increasingly viewed as serving the region rather than just the Eastside.

Cathi Hatch, chair of the campaign, said the Arakawa gift, matched by $5 million each from the Freeman Family and Microsoft Challenge Matches, means "we need another $58 million to go to groundbreaking." Arakawa is founder and former president of Ninetendo.

While the facility will be the venue for many Eastside performing arts groups, the collection of Seattle arts leadership on the Tateuchi advisory board is evidence that the Center is coming to be viewed by Seattle arts organizations as an asset rather than the threat it was viewed as when it was first announced a few years ago.

The center, when completed, is viewed as complementing Seattle arts venues like McCaw Hall, Benaroya Hall, the 5th Avenue and Paramount theaters while filling a regional need by providing a more convenient venue for Eastside residents while offering an Eastside platform for Seattle arts groups.

Other significant donors were also honored at the Wednesday evening event, including the Tateuchi Foundation, for whose donation the center is named. Tateuchi board chair Alex Smith acknowledged tbe role the Bellevue City Council played with its unanimous vote in May of 2015 to provide $20 million toward construction.

The initial boost, when the center was first envisioned, came from the Kemper Freeman family committed the land where the center will be built.

" Between now And groundbreaking in the spring of 2018, our campaign committee will continue to focus on recruiting Founders Society-level donors," said Hatch, who added that donors at all levels will soon be sought, "including children with their penny jars."

The changing attitude of Seattle performing arts leaders toward a Bellevue concert center is in response to an increasing reluctancd of Eastsiders, who account for more than 50 percent of Seattle arts subscribes and Seattle ticketholders, to face the twin traffic challenges of Lake Washington bridges to Seattle and traffic tie-ups in downtown Seattle.

The strategy of Seattle arts organizations is to use the 2,000-seat center for the double benefit of attracting new audience while helping retain existing ticketholders and supporters.

The way it might work, for example, is a ticketholder for a season of 10 performances of a Seattle play, symphony or opera might wind up with seven of those in Seattle and three on the Eastside.

As I noted in a column last fall, the center isn't being done on the cheap, but its supporters like to talk about how the $200 million pricetag compares with projects like the recently opened Las Vegas center, the same eize, that had a pricetag of $400 million.
 

 
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Female entrepreneurs at Zino event and visiting Irish entrepreneurs in the Seattle area spotlight

(Editor's note: This week's Harp is actually an entrepreneur-focused column dealing with my two favorite types of entrepreneurs - women entrepreneurs and Irish ones. Both are in the spotlight with developments this week and next.)

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Seattle-area women entrepreneurs came into sharp focus Tuesday evening at the Zino Society's first ever investment forum devoted exclusively to women entrepreneurs seeking angel capital. And a band of Irish enterpreneurs takes center stage in the Seattle area next week with an array of visits to local companies and a reception hosted by Seattle's Irish mayor.

 

The audience for the Zino event at the Columbia Tower Club was evidence that female entrepreneurs as well as female investors are no longer a rare breed in this area.

 

But Zino CEO and founder Cathi Hatch noted for the audience of mostly woman that national statistics indicate that companies with at least one woman on their founding team are about 18 percent less likely to attract equity investors than their all-male counterparts.

 

As the number of female entrepreneurs guiding start-up businesses in search of capital grows, the panel of expert judges that Hatch assembled to be on hand made it obvious that entrepreneurial success stories for women is not a totally new phenomenon.

 

Fran Bigelow opened her first European-style chocolate shop in Seattle 32 years ago and has over time become known by her industry organization as "the best overall chocolatier in the United States.

 

Renee Behnke brought her retail and food background together with her husband, Karl's, business background, to launch Sur La Table almost 20 years ago and grew it into a national company that they recently sold.

 

Although since neither Bigelow nor Behnke needed start-up capital, they differed from most of the entrereneur hopefuls in attendance last night. But the successes of both gave evidence that women have all the skills necessary to build hugely successful businesses.

 

The fact there's no shortage of female entrepreneur hopefuls was pointed up by the fact a dozen companies were selected to give elevator pitches to the attendees and eight had the opportunity for five-minute pitches.

 

The winning firm was Byndyl, "a digital media and payment platform delivering payments, ads, coupons and surveys to unattended retail," has already raised money

 

As for the Irish business part of this column, next week will find a delegation of about 100 Irish entrepreneurs visiting Seattle, with the highlight a reception hosted by Seattle's Irish mayor. Ed Murray, with a couple of local Irish bankers, as well as Mick McHugh, proprietor of Seattle's iconic Irish pub among the welcoming audience.

 

All the Irish entrepreneurs visiting Seattle, as well as Vancouver next week, are winners of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year competition in Ireland, including the 2014 crop of 24 entrepreneurs.

 

Frank O'Keeffe, the E-Y Ireland partner who first envisioned the program of annual visits a decade ago, notes that while "joint ventures, new projects and investment have most certainly come out of the retreats," the goal was to boost Irish entrepreneurs to compete better at home with multi-national companies that have located in Ireland.

 

"Through our interaction with the very best Irish entrepreneurs, we began to notice the increasing threat (the multi-nationals) posed to our indigenous businesses to attract the best talent and maintain their market position," O'Keeffe explained.

 

"At the time, there was a need for a greater industry-led support system that could assist Irish entrepreneurs in growing their businesses both at home and in the global marketplace," he added.

 

"We realized that E-Y Entrepreneur of The Year (EOY) could develop beyond the award to become a strategic development programme for Ireland's leading entrepreneurs," O'Keeffe said.  

 

The entrepreneurs on the Seattle trip, which follows one last year to Chicago, Notre Dame and New York, are guiding companies from multi-million dollars in revenue to fast-growth startups.

 

John Keane, the retired Seattle-area businessman who has been the Honorary Irish Consul since 2009, describes the business connections between Washington state and Ireland as "strong and growing."

 

"That's not just because companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Paccar, Expedia have operations in Ireland, but also because there are over a dozen Irish companies that have operations in Washington state, such as Kerry Group, CRH, Sentaca, lotusworks and Sentaca," he added.

 

Most of the reception attendees are being invited by Irish Network Seattle, whose members of work in all the major business fields in the area, mainly high tech, but also in the areas like medical.

 

 "I hope the entrepreneurs will be encouraged by those they meet and what they see and hear to consider Seattle and Washington State they think of locating in America," he said.

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