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Bellevue hosts global squash sports event

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Two men who built global reputations in their respective industries have come to be viewed as the dedicated heroes advancing the sport of squash in this region by way of their financial support for the India-born queen of promoters of the sport who is making the Eastside a growing international center for squash.

The two are Dave Cutler of Microsoft, key developer of Windows NT and all subsequent Windows versions, and Robert Harris, founder, and CEO of PMI-Worldwide, Seattle-based brand and product-marketing company with offices around the globe.

Shabana Khan PMIShabana KhanTheir support has made possible the string of international squash events put on by Shabana Khan, who has become one of the foremost creators and promoters of squash events, all held in Bellevue, thus making the city increasingly known throughout the world in places where squash is a prominent competitive sport.

And again this week, Khan, with the support of Cutler and Harris, is putting on a first-of-its-kind squash event, this one at the Hidden Valley Boys and Girls Club field house, which has become her venue of choice for her events.

Cutler and Harris have decided to name the week-long world invitational squash tournament for top squash talent, six women and six men, the only event of its kind in the country, after Khan's late father.

Yusuf Khan, who brought the sport of squash to Seattle from his native India a half-century ago when Shabana Khan was still an infant.  

As one of the world's top squash professionals, Yusuf proceeded to bring Seattle to the attention of the national and international squash establishments and see two of his daughters become women's national champions. He died last October at the age of 87.  

Thus the "PMI Dave Cutler Presents The Yusuf Khan Invitational" is playing out this week with the finals Friday evening. An added attraction is what Khan has dubbed "The Tech Challenge," with eight two-person teams from tech firms in the region competing in what Khan intends to make an annual part of her tournaments in the future.

As has become the norm for Cutler's and Harris' involvement, the two are teaming up for a $150,000 donation to provide the major share of the $300,000 purse. The winners of both the men's and the women's competition will each take him $80,000.

The financial support by the two has been the key for YSK Events, the little non-profit through which Khan puts on her squash events.

Readers of The Harp will recognize that I've written about Khan before, beginning when she brought the Men's World Squash Championship to Bellevue in late 2015, first time the event was ever held in the U.S. The reason for the repeat visibility is out of a conviction that what she is seeking to do for Bellevue, and its young people in particular, merits far more attention and support from the community than she has been able to generate. 

When I first wrote about Khan, now 50 and the mother of 13-year-old emerging squash star Yasmin, I noted that she had won the U.S. women's national championship by defeating her younger sister, Latasha, who held the title, thus creating a "best in the family, best in the nation" outcome.

The PMI Cutler tourney this week follows last May's Bellevue Squash Classic, the third year Khan has put on that event as part of the PSA World Tour. It was an especially significant event and a milestone for the PSA World Tour as it was the largest ever prize-money purse for a 16-player draw.

Come fall, Khan launches her West Coast Squash circuit designed to make it easier and less expensive for parents and their children to compete at a high level and gain points toward national ranking. Two tournaments will be at the Redmond Pro Club, where Khan coaches and which has been a regular sponsor of her events. The first of those will occur in late September or early October to launch West Coast Squash. Other cities participating and holding events will be Vancouver, B.C., The Bay Area, Orange County and likely Portland.

So back to Harris and Cutler, who a decade ago was recognized as a National Medal of Technology and Innovation laureate, perhaps the most prestigious honor in the country for developers of new technology. Cutler expresses frustration at the absence of other support for what Khan is seeking to do for squash among young people in particular.

And he suggests that her involvement in the past few years may have something to do with the fact The U.S. has the fastest growing squash participation in the world, which the Sports & Fitness Association (SFIA) estimates at 66 percent growth overall since 2010 to 1.7 million squash players around the country.

Regarding Harris's support, I was struck by a previously quoted answer when I asked him why he was such a strong supporter. And his answer bears repeating and maybe echoing.

"It's pretty simple," he said. "In a world beginning to look inward rather than building international alliances and global partnerships, I believe it's increasingly important to support sports that are global in nature and connect people from around the world. This is the only way humanity and our planet is going to survive and prosper."

 
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Katrina Eileen touts shared housing as a wish-fulfilling step for at-risk youth homelessness

Like pearls on a string, those focused on doing good tend to connect and attach themselves and spawn new ideas for expanding the sphere of socially committed citizens. And Katrina Eileen Romatowski is convinced that the pearls are those from her real estate industry as well as their investors whose commitments to at-risk young people could address homelessness in unique ways.

Katrina Eileen RomatowskiKatrina Eileen RomatowskiRomatowski is a Seattle real estate agent who is creating Level Up as a non-profit that will provide what she describes as a "real home" for at-risk and foster youths who have aged out of the system. She thinks that the concept of shared housing can be a key to solutions for homelessness and that the real estate community and real estate investors are specially equipped to guide that part of the solution.

"Nonprofits providing group homes or halfway houses don't understand the business and real estate side, so they lack the tools to focus on housing," she said. "It's inexcusable that we in the industry have been silent too long on the role we can play in creating a model of structures and scale up to address homelessness."

She touts her firm, Katrina Eileen Real Estate, as the first "B Corp" in her industry in the state, meaning a for-profit business that includes positive impact on society, workers and the environment in addition to profit as legally defined goals. Forming as a B Corp (sometimes referred to as benefit corporations) allows her to focus the company on community good, not just profits.

Level Up aims to create "vibrant homes for foster kids who are in their senior year of high school and have thus aged out of the system but who can live well and finish well," says Romatowski as she guides final steps to welcome the first 10 students who will move into the first Level Up home in Edmonds by mid-August. She intends that others will follow the first house in King and Pierce County.

Romatowski's desire to provide a wish-fulfillment of home and family for young people just reaching adulthood without families, whether foster kids, orphans or homeless, guided her to the vision for Level Up and led to befriending "Wish Man" Frank Shankwitz, the creator and one of the founders of Make a Wish Foundation, a supporter.

Shankwitz, who created Make a Wish 29 years ago and whose life is featured in the movie, "Wish Man," that was released last month, is to be on hand to cut the ribbon for the Edmonds first Level Up home July 27.

And Shankwitz, who will be the featured guest at the Columbia Tower Club's "On The Shoulders of Giants" breakfast interview series that morning to share his story, is hoping to follow the shared-housing model in getting involved with services for veterans.

Shankwitz noted in a conversation we had discussing the breakfast interview forthcoming that he got a star on the Las Vegas Walk of Fame this summer between Elvis Presley and Bobby Darin. He said he's been on a plane to somewhere probably every other week promoting his book, the movie or giving speeches. Forbes Magazine has honored him as one of the 10 top keynoters. When he's not traveling, he's at home in Prescott, AZ.

It's a well-known story but one not familiar to everyone how Shankwitz, as one of the primary officers from the Arizona Highway Patrol responsible for granting the wish of a seven-year-old boy named Chris, dying of leukemia, who wanted most of all to be a police officer. In the spring of 1980, the boy was named the first and only honorary Arizona Highway Patrol officer, an honor that came complete with a custom made uniform and badge.

A few days later, Chris died. But he received a full police escort to the cemetery in Illinois where he was buried. His brief life became the inspiration for the creation of the foundation that would let children "Make a Wish."

Frank ShankwitzFrank ShankwitzRomatowski is quick to point out that the inspiration for Level Up, which involves several investors from the real estate industry, came from what she characterizes as "the miracle" of Kate's House Foundation, created by Frank and Sherri Candelario to provide safe and affordable housing for those homeless and in recovery.

The Candelarios, also real estate investors, boast having founded "a new model of shared housing to help end homelessness in the U.S.," noting their approach is identifying, buying and rehabbing homes in "superior neighborhoods to provide a lifeline for people in recovery."

"We're helping real estate investors around the country acquire homes to end homelessness and addiction in their own cities," says Frank Candelario. "We have great homes in great neighborhoods, utilizing tech-enabled all digital sober living. We use the latest in technology: computerized drug testing, smart technology for monitoring, data collection to assure that we are assisting in recovery and a highly skilled hands-on staff."

Romatowsi says the Candelarios urged her and her husband, Richard, the company COO, to use their shared-housing approach to aid talented kids moving from foster homes and orphan situations to adulthood.

Meaning rather than dealing with recovery issues, Romatowski, and her husband plan to build places where "go-getters go get," kids who, when it comes to graduation and launching into what's next, "we want them to finish and finish well," she says.

"Level Up Seattle provides these young adults with a warm community in a beautiful home where they attend school, take turns making meals and attend life-skills classes," she adds. "We also provide career development and mentorships with business and trade professionals, but importantly, we empower them so they can lift themselves up to their next level."

As Angie Christensen, Level Up executive director, put it: "We want to select motivated young adults within these vulnerable populations and equip them to achieve their personal, educational and professional goals, creating their own safety net for perhaps the first time in their lives."  

Christensen estimates that Level Up, which is seeking donations now, will need about $225,000 "to launch the model and build the scalable infrastructure." 

With the creator of the Make a Wish Foundation along with the shared-housing solution to homelessness that's been launched by the Candelarios, and now Katrina Eileen's firm and non-profit, the way may indeed be being paved to providing national tools to fight homelessness, from at-risk youth to veterans.

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Mike Kunath, 'a true Renaissance Man,' remembered, as is his table

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S. Michael (Mike) Kunath, who died in his sleep early Saturday after a nearly two-year battle with cancer will be remembered for his successful financial guidance of some of the region's most prominent business people, his active support of charitable causes and his nurture of entrepreneurs.  
 
But for many who knew him, their memories will start with his table at the Fairmont Hotel where plans for most of his business, charitable and community involvements took shape and were vetted by those gathered there.

Kunath was a fan of this column and once hired me to help him create his own blog. And he often said to me: "You should write a column about this table." So here it is, Mike: a column about the table, and the unforgettable guy who held court there for nearly a quarter century through ownership of two hotels.
 
It was always an interesting group gathered over wine at his oval table just outside the bar at the Fairmont, whether they were there for important business discussions or merely someone wandering through the hotel lobby and invited to sit down. All looked on as any newcomer was advised by Kunath, leaning to his side in his chair, in earlier years, puffing on his corncob pipe: "tell us who you are and why you are here."
 
But first briefly about his background before reflection and recollections on the man his 46-year friend and co-investor in various businesses and charitable events, Brendan O'Farrell, referred to as "a true Renaissance Man for All Seasons."
 
Kunath was the son of a diplomat and spent his growing up years being educated in various places in the world before attending the University of San Francisco as well as Seattle University from which he graduated, then got his MBA. After time as a financial advisor, he became a founding partner and principal at Kunath, Karren, Rinne and Atkin, LLC in Seattle.
 
One of the most interesting ideas to spring from the Kunath-table discussions was one of the last. It was the suit he filed in July of 2017, a few months before his cancer emerged, challenging the Seattle City Council's plan to impose an income tax on Seattle residents.
 
Kunath, known as a political moderate, was incensed at a City Council that openly, and proudly, touted the measure before cheering supporters as an effort to "tax the rich." For days, his anger at a council that had departed so far from the moderate council members and mayors of old was on display to all who visited the table. Then came the lawsuit idea.
 
Filing suit against the tax was discussed and framed in table discussions for a couple of weeks, with it being important to Kunath that his suit is the first filed (eventually two other suits were filed against the City) because he was typically certain his arguments would be more persuasive before the court.  
 
Juarez Kunath BledsoeJuarez, Kunath, BledsoeKunath's suit was filed by his attorney, Matt Davis, minutes after then-Mayor Ed Murray signed the tax into law following City Council passage. By lottery, it was the suit first destined to be heard before King County Superior Court Judge John R. Ruhl in November, but the City Council decided to withdraw the income tax plan before Judge Ruhl could hear the case and rule on it.
 
While the suit over the city income tax was the most visible, it wasn't the most impactful of Kunath's involvements. The ones that likely fit that description of "impactful" came in the '80s.


First was the effort to turn the small leukemia support event called Celebrity Waiter into something significant.
 
His longtime friend, Mike Bledsoe, recalled in a conversation after Kunath's death, how he, Kunath and their mutual friend Gene Juarez, who was also a client of Kunath's, stepped in to turn the $12,000 fundraising lunch into what became the most successful Celebrity Waiters event in the country at about $500,000.
 
"We felt we could improve on the total amount raised and have a darn good time doing it," Bledsoe said. "The more zany things we could think up, the faster the event grew."
 
"I remember Kunath convincing me to travel with him to Vancouver B.C. a few years ago to convince a group of locals there that they should create, with our help, a sister group to the Seattle Celebrity Waiters group so we could have someone to compete with," Bledsoe added.
 
It was the same threesome of Kunath, Bledsoe, and Juarez who helped fulfill the dream of the founding of Heritage College on the Yakima Indian Reservation in Toppenish by Dr. Kathleen Ross, a Catholic nun of the Holy Names order.
 
Ross planned to launch a fully accredited four year College, Heritage College, in an abandoned old Schoolhouse with the dream of bringing quality education to the Native-American students in the region.
 
"It looked like a long shot to us and so it was too big of an idea to ignore." And thus with business advice and arm-twisting of contacts for a financial contribution, coupled with Ross' vision, what has emerged in Toppenish is Heritage University. It was the Hispanic youths who have come in large numbers to Heritage, which now has branch campuses at two-year colleges in the Tri=Cities and Yakima.  
 
Back to Kunath's table, which always sported a "reserved" sign throughout the day and which was, since Kunath always picked up the tab for wine there, a significant source of revenue for the hotel.  
 
Kunath and I were the same age, our birthdays a day apart so we inevitably found time for a toast to the fact we were still here and life had been good to us the previous year. But there was no toast to our 79th this past April. 
 
Kunath OFarrell HatchKunath, OFarrell, HatchAmong the most regular of attendees at the table, always serving as both table humorist and key Kunath advisor, was Ken Hatch, the retired 30-year chairman and CEO of KIRO Inc, who died in November of 2017.
 
An example that far more than wine was shared there was the comment from his longtime friend John Oppenheimer, founder and CEO of Columbia Hospitality, the Seattle-based hospitality management and consulting company.
 
"Kunath's table at The Fairmont was such a great place for all kinds of introductions," Oppenheimer recalled. "We met our Senior VP of Marketing, who has been with us for the last 10 years, thanks to Mike's table."
 
There was a time when conversations at tables cross the city shaped the future of the region, like the one on which a napkin drawing of a space needle provided a step toward what became Century 21, the Seattle World's Fair. And many of those conversations were at the same hotel, but more likely back in the day when it was the Olympic Hotel.
 
There likely will be a final gathering at, or more likely in the room surrounding the table. And Bledsoe predicts attendees will take turns sitting in the chair at the head of the table, sipping a glass of wine and leaning forward while looking at the crowd with a Kunath grin.

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Shabana Khan's squash events drawing more attention with a focus on youth

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Shabana Khan's rise to national and global prominence as the queen of promoters of the sport of squash has come with a few giant steps while her progress toward recognition in the local community that she has put on the international squash map is happening in small steps.

One of the reasons she has gained high regard from youthful squash players, their coaches and parents are the national College Showcase that she put on last week for nationally ranked students, 16 men and 16 women, aged 15 to 18, playing before coaches of the top schools where squash is a scholarship sport. It was the fourth annual Showcase event.
Shabana Khan and Yasmine

The fact the young competitors were all from Washington and California while the coaches eyeing prospective scholarship talent were from schools like Amherst, Middlebury, Vasser, George Washington, Bates, and Brown points up the difference in focus on the sport on the East Coast and the West, including the Puget Sound area.

But another difference, one for which Khan deserves significant recognition, is the fact that similar tournaments on the East Coast cost the young competitors, or rather their supportive parents, between $3,000 and $5,000 to participate in one of the four-day events while the students competing here pay nothing.

Part of Khan's stated goal is bringing an awareness of squash to young people of all backgrounds rather than merely the children of the squash affluent, whose demographics are men and women, both players and fans, with median incomes of more than $300,000 and an average net worth of nearly $1,500,000.

A quest for awareness for youth squash is exemplified by her thus-far unsuccessful effort to convince the City of Bellevue that there should be a park for squash courts so that, as she puts it, "kids of ordinary means can learn to play without having to have their parents be members of a club."

In fact, as the mother of aspiring youth squash star, 13-year-old Yasmine, she knows the challenges of youth-squash competition.  

Readers of The Harp will recognize that I've written about Khan before. Beginning when she brought the Men's World Squash Championship to Bellevue, the first time (ever) in the U.S. The reason is because of a conviction that what she is seeking to do for Bellevue and its young people in particular merits far more attention than she is getting.

A couple of significant developments for Khan and her squash initiatives await in the coming months. One brings particular pleasure to the now 50-year-old former national women's squash champion.

That's the fact that her world invitational squash tournament in August for top squash talent, six women and six men, will be an event whose sponsors have decided to name the event, the only one of its kind in the country, after her late father. There are no other squash events in the country like it.

Yusuf Khan, who brought the sport of squash to Seattle from his native India a half-century ago and, as one of the world's top squash professionals, proceeded to bring Seattle to the attention of the national and international squash establishments and see two of his daughters become women's national champions, died last October at the age of 87.

The invitational event that will be held August 25-30 at the Hidden Valley Boys & Girls club in Bellevue will be named "PMI Dave Cutler Presents The Yusuf Khan Invitational."

The "PMI Dave Cutler" portion of the title is for the two men, both internationally known in their respective professions, who have become the financial support for YSK Events, the little non-profit through which Khan carries out her squash events.

One is Dave Cutler of Microsoft, universally acclaimed as the key technical brain behind the Microsoft Windows NT and all the subsequent windows versions. A decade ago he was recognized as a National Medal of Technology and Innovation laureate, perhaps the most prestigious honor in the country for developers of new technology.

The other is Robert Harris, founder, and CEO of PMI-Worldwide, a Seattle-based brand, and product-marketing company with offices in seven cities around the world whose corporate philanthropy has only recently begun to be recognized.

The two have come to team up for a $150,000 donation that for the past several years has allowed Khan to put up the prize money, which this year will total $300,000.

"Every player participating is ranked inside the top 10 in the world," Khan noted. 'The only one, not world ranked is our local player, Reeham Sedky, who has just recently begun her professional career."

I got to write about Sedky, though sadly it was her only local visibility, after the then 21-year-old who was born and raised in Bellevue and became the nation's best women's high school squash player as a student at Forest Ridge, upset one of the world's top women at last year's Invitational.

Sedky has begun her squash pro career after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania where she was women's national squash champion.

The fact that her father is Egyptian works for Amazon and played squash, is an example of the role the growing international diversity of the Puget Sound region can play in bringing squash, among the top sports in many countries, into greater prominence among activities for young people.

It's particularly appropriate that the PMI Dave Cutler event will be named this year for Yusuf Khan since it was 20 years ago that he and Shabana teamed to bring to Seattle the first women's world squash championship ever held in the United States.

Khan is adding a fun factor to the invitational event this year in the form of a tech company tournament that she explains will be called the Tech Challenge and will involve 12 teams, with four from Microsoft already committed. Each team of top squash players from their companies will put up $5,000 to compete.

"We need about $110,000 from the 'Tech Challenge' to fill out our $300,000 prize money," Khan said.

And a few weeks after the invitational event, Khan's plan for a new series of western youth squash tournaments called West Coast Squash will debut as a competitive Junior Squash series involving teams from Vancouver, Portland, San Jose, San Francisco, and the Los Angeles area. She said Orange County, "which has an excellent squash facility," could be added.

In the face of an apparent lack of interest, from the Eastside establishment, in what Shabana is doing for the image of the area in the global squash community and the many countries where squash is a top sport. I was struck by the answer that Harris gave me last year when I asked why he was such a strong supporter of Khan. It bears repeating here.

"It's pretty simple. In a world beginning to look inward rather than building international alliances and global partnerships, I believe it's increasingly important to support sports that are global in nature and connect people from around the world. This is the only way humanity, and our planet are going to survive and prosper."

It's a comment that leaders of the business and civic communities that have "other causes" than Shabana's might ponder.

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Port of Seattle plan, Department of Commerce Spain agreement key step toward Land of OZ

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Lisa BrownLisa Brown

As states begin to compete to create the most attractive Land of OZ to lure investors and create new businesses and jobs, the state of Washington and the Port of Seattle have taken key steps in the past few weeks that could put them at the front of the pack employing the benefits of new federal tax law.
 
OZ refers to what is officially called Qualified Opportunity Zones that come about under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The QOZ provision in the legislation approved by Congress will permit those owing capital gains tax to delay, reduce or even totally avoid those taxes by investing in special funds designed to start businesses and provide other steps to help economically distressed communities.
 
Virtually every major accounting or law firm or wealth management company in the country has been inviting clients and prospects to learn all about the details of what have become known simply as Opportunity Zones, or OZ.
 
And while the message in many of those explanatory sessions by professional firms has been the prospect to create funds for investment in real estate projects, funds could be particularly appropriate for energizing the prosperity of small and diverse firms that have not had access to equity capital to grow and expand.
 
And that's where the recent separate initiatives by the State Department of Commerce and the Port of Seattle come into play in a manner that gives this region a leg up in that competition among states for attracting new investment to job creation.
 
Ralph Ibarra 
The development for the state was Spain's first-ever Memorandum of Understanding with a state to promote economic cooperation to benefit trade relations and boost business opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses in both Spain and Washington State.  
 
The agreement was signed in Madrid March 1 between Lisa Brown, the new director of the state Department of Commerce, and Maria Pena Matcos, chief executive officer of the public agency attached to Spain's Ministry of Industry.
 
The Port of Seattle's initiative was issuing a "Request for Qualifications" for a $200 million renovation of 29 acres near Pioneer Square in Seattle to provide for the port's fourth cruise ship berth that would accommodate super-size cruise ships.  
 
That parcel, for which the Port is seeking a partner, is located within an Opportunity Zone that extends across the property on which T-Mobile Stadium and CenturyLink Field are located and extends into the International District.
 
The Port's Request for Qualifications intriguingly contains the sentence: "It should be noted that Terminal 46 is located within a Qualified Opportunity Zone," suggesting it intends to use the tax-break incentive in seeking to attract a wide array of businesses to develop on the site, or nearby.
 
So what kind of developments are being created in other regions with Opportunity Zone funds? A potentially appropriate example was the announcement by a Scottsdale, AZ, based wealth development company called Caliber of plans for a new hotel development at Tucson Convention Center, which is in a designated OZ.
 
For Ralph Ibarra, president of DiverseAmerica Network, the agreement with Spain and the Port's announcement represent important steps to dramatically benefit small and diverse businesses.    

Ralph IbarraTo Ibarra, a consultant to the public and private-sector corporations and institutions who has brought long-standing support of small and diverse business to his consulting activities,
the agreement with Spain and the Port's announcement represent important steps to benefit small and diverse businesses.  

He sees both developments as important steps"particularly appropriate for energizing the prosperity of small and diverse firms that have not had access to equity capital to grow and expand."

In fact, Commerce Director Brown said her immediate priorities include helping address the sustainability of infrastructure financing programs and enhancing the agency's outreach activities - especially with rural and underserved areas - to ensure communities in need can access Commerce programs and services.
 
The statement put out following the signing of the agreement noted that it 'builds on a foundation of approximately $9 billion in trade activities currently taking place between Spain and the State of Washington. It acknowledges common strengths in aerospace, information and communication technology, cybersecurity, clean energy technology, life sciences, maritime, agriculture, and other sectors, and formalizes plans to explore opportunities for Washington companies in the Spanish market and establish future opportunities for Spanish companies to create jobs in Washington."

Ibarra, who chairs the Washington District Export Council, suggests Opportunity Zones "hold great promise to accentuate and expedite beneficial outcomes" from the Agreement with opportunities for Washington companies in the Spanish market and for Spanish companies to create jobs in Washington.

Ibarra brings some awareness of the extent of potential represented by the state's agreement with Spain since some years ago he prepared and escorted an aerospace manufacturing firm from this state to various meetings with Spanish aerospace companies at a U.S.-Spain Aerospace Industry Summit.

"And now, whether its Spain or Washington State, any individual relationship that comes about is going to need some sort of facility, whether distribution or manufacturing, in place and that's where Opportunity Zones can come into play to facilitate those relationships," Ibarra said.
 
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Biotech veteran Rhonda Rhyne guides growing & innovative cardio-diagnostic company

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Rhonda Rhyne, whose leadership as president of an innovative cardiovascular medical device company made her one of the most honored biotech CEOs in San Diego for over a decade until she guided the sale of the publicly traded company, may be headed for a repeat performance, this one on Seattle's Eastside.
 
Rhyne is now CEO, president, and director of Prevencio Inc., a Kirkland company that has developed a test that is purported to be "significantly more accurate than stress treadmills for diagnosing obstructive coronary artery disease." She has guided the company since August of 2013, a few months after its conversion to a C corporation.
 
Rhonda RhyneRhonda RhyneRhyne's San Diego honors over 12 years at the helm of publicly traded CardioDynamics included the 2003 Entrepreneur of the Year award for medical products and Deloitte's Fast 50 Award for 50 Fastest Growing Tech/Life Science Companies in Southern California for nine consecutive years from 1999 to 2007. It was exactly a decade ago that she led CardioDynamics into a sale to Bothell-based SonoSite at a 69 percent premium.
 
This past year was one of the significant developments for Prevencio, with major presentations on its series of cardio-related tests in which Prevencio's focus has been on demonstrating improved diagnostic accuracy and helping keep patients from undergoing unnecessary, expensive, and invasive tests.
 
This year is a key one for the company as Rhyne has just returned from major presentations at a Biocom event in San Diego where Rhyne says she had an opportunity to advance discussions with potential partners and to "educate the biotech, medical device and venture capital worlds on what Prevencio is doing to advance cardiac medicine."
 
Now she heads to New Orleans late this week for sessions at the American College of Cardiology where researchers from Europe and from a major U.S. healthcare system will present accuracy studies which she says "further validate the robustness of our AI-driven, multi-protein novel HART blood tests." HART is the company's trademarked name for Heart-related ARtificial Intelligence-driven, multiprotein Tests.
 
The studies, Rhyne says, 'help drive awareness and adoption, partnerships, and eventual exit."
 
In the short term, the American College of Cardiology sessions will pave the way for the company's next fund-raising round in April when its B-1 round of $7-$9 million, which will include conversion of a $4 million note that is part of Prevencio's total to-date $11 million funding, is planned.
 
Prevencio's product explanation is complex to the layman. But Rhyne explains the company "utilizes Machine Learning (Artificial Intelligence) plus Multi-Proteomic Biomarkers plus Proprietary Algorithms to deliver cardiovascular diagnostic and prognostic tests that are significantly more accurate than standard-of-care stress tests, individual biomarkers, genetic markers, and clinical risk scores."
 
Study results announced last year, including by the European Society of Cardiology, credit Prevencio's diagnostic testing with producing promising results for an array of cardio-related diseases, including those relating to kidney disease and to peripheral artery disease (PAD) in diabetes mellitis.
 
The company's lone competitor for diagnosing coronary artery disease was a Stanford spinout whose lab tests had what Rhyne describes as "significant limitations" that led to Medicare canceling coverage late last year and thus the company went out of business after raising and spending more than $300 million.
 
"Our plans for partnering with other companies for licensing and commercialization will keep our burn rates low and facilitate partnerships, widespread dissemination, and exit," Rhyne said.
 
Rhyne's introduction to the medical instruments industry and coronary testing came early in her career when, after quickly tiring of being a pharmacist, she went to work for Quinton Instrument Co., the Bothell-based company that was a pioneering innovator in medical devices.


The devices she sold for Quinton ranged from stress treadmills to cardiac diagnostic equipment.
 
So she sports a smile when she suggests that her company is positioned to replace the diagnostic treadmill systems that were the medical devices with which she started her career in that field more than 30 years ago.
 
I asked Rhonda, during one of our interviews, why she had returned to Seattle after establishing a dominant Biotech presence in San Diego.
 
"My husband was in Seattle so after 12 years of being a couple (met, dated, engaged, and married) and not living together I thought it was prudent for our relationship and marriage," she replied.

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Cuomo blasts critics who doomed Amazon deal - "...stupid or liars..."

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New York Gov Andrew Cuomo has laid to rest any doubt that the political fallout from Amazon's decision, in the face of loud but relatively small opposition, to abandon its plan to bring its HQ2 to New York will drift across the national Democratic party landscape heading toward the 2020 elections.'
 
An open letter released last Sunday on Cuomo's web page was written by New York State Budget Director Robert Mujica who basically derided those whose opposition led to Amazon's decision as either stupid or liars.
 
As Mujica ungently said of opponents of the project who claimed Amazon was getting $3 billion in government subsidies that could have been better spent on housing or transportation: "This is either a blatant untruth or fundamental ignorance of basic math by a group of elected officials."
 
Mujica, whose letter has become fodder for blog comments across the political and economic spectrums, said there were three reasons the Amazon deal fell apart.
 
"First, some labor unions attempted to exploit Amazon's New York entry. Second, some Queens politicians catered to minor but vocal local political forces in opposition to the Amazon government incentives as 'corporate welfare.' Third, in retrospect, the State and the City could have done more to communicate the facts of the project and more aggressively correct the distortions."
 
On the third point is where Mujica took opponents of the project to task for his charge of "blatant untruth or fundamental ignorance."  
 
He explained that "The city, through existing as-of-right tax credits, and the state through Excelsior Tax credits -- a program approved by the same legislators railing against it -- would provide up to $3 billion in tax relief IF Amazon created the 25,000-40,000 jobs and thus generated $27 billion in revenue."
 
The fallout from Coumo's withering criticism of Amazon critics, through Mujica's superbly crafted narrative, coupled with the emerging influence of newly elected congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, could make New York ground zero for a major rift among Democrats, and not just those in New York.
 
Those elected officials scorned by Cuomo through Mojika's commentary, included Ocasio-Cortez, who has gathered growing support from elected Democrats on the left as well as left-leaning groups around the country, particularly after she promised that candidates like her will be on the ballot in an array of locations next election.
 
I looked through a variety of political and economic blogs about the Amazon debacle and found several that made compelling reading.

But the one that I found most compelling, though politically partisan, was from an economics blog called Marginal Revolution done by a couple of economics professors at Gorge Mason University in Virginia.
 
"I can only think that this is some sort of cognitive dissonance that prevents people of a certain politics slant from mentally processing words that go against a deeply held stereotype," wrote the prof, Alex Tabarrok. "Amazon is big. Bezos is rich. Obviously then the state gave them unique benefits. That's the only message that the left wing brain is neurologically capable of hearing, even though, in this case, it is the opposite of what happened."
 
His comment made me think his "certain political slant" likely fits both political fringes and it was then I realized it's been exactly a decade since the modern-day Tea Party came into existence, in either February or April of 2009, depending on which event its fans took to be the launch.
 
There obviously isn't going to be a liberal Tea Party, even if "neurological incapacity" can be found far out on either fringe. But what's happening in New York in the Amazon aftermath makes it clear there could be a mirror image of the Tea Party with the mirror folks shouting "yes, taxes!" in reply to the "no on taxes!" Or "more government" to"no government."
 
That's the "balance" of equally potent fringes which, even if each appeals to about 15 percent of their parties, will be reflected in pressures on the middle as the next election nears.
 
And because the liberal "Tea Party" mirror is coming about a decade on from the original, it will be affecting political positions more than in the past for Democrats. And thus it will be interesting to see how the positions of Washington State's two presidential wanna be's, Gov. Jay Inslee among the Democrat hopefuls and Starbucks' Howard Schultz as an independent, might change.

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Amazon/New York - Are the days of corporate incentives or breaks coming to an end?

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Watching the free-for-all of analysis and commentary over Amazon's misadventure romance with New York City, we're talking about the company now, now its CEO, over a second headquarters made me think of my senior-sprinter friend and author Steve Robbins. Although he is acknowledged as the most prolific author of management textbooks, he may now have an outline for one he's never written.
 
I'm referring to Amazon's unprecedented suddenly announced decision that it was no longer planning to build a second headquarters in a section of New York City's Queens neighborhood of Long Island City.  
 
I say suddenly announced because no one can be certain that Amazon's decision to turn away from New York was as quickly made as the announcement might suggest. Like the world third's richest company may have begun to have a change of heart soon after its early November announcement that unexpectedly there would another "second headquarters", adding Northern Virginia in the announcement that New York was the pick.
 
Is it possible Amazon execs hadn't thought things through about New York until Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York Mayor Bill de Blassio pointed out, as they welcomed the company, that New York is a union town? That fact had assumedly already been digested by a company that doesn't go for union organizing.
 
The business fallout from this may simmer for a time but will likely disappear. Bu the political fallout will likely continue for New Yorkers into the next general election and maybe beyond.

Meaning from a business sense, Amazon will likely be able to go on as if nothing happened. As a former top Amazon executive told me, "the world is a very big place. If one doesn't want us, others will."
 
But politically, the rift between the New York Democratic party power structure and the newly emerging powerhouse of left-wing forces, some elected and some not elected, will echo down the coming months.
 
I called my roommate from college days at Marquette, who retired after fashioning a prominent New York legal career, to ask him his thoughts.
 
"A lot of the politicians who were against the Amazon deal didn't represent the district so they had no skin in the game and Governor Cuomo is outraged at the politicians who had no constituent reason to get involved but screwed it up," he said.
 
"Regarding the idea that unions opposed Amazon, a non-union giant, coming to New York: that doesn't make sense," he said. "The municipal employees union was very opposed because they feared the multi-billion dollar package the city had put together for Amazon would come out of their salaries and future raises.
 
"But a majority of the unions are upset that Amazon walked away. Do you think any of the construction-related unions weren't excited about what the future held for them?"
 
The Amazon-New York situation represents the conundrum that areas seeking to attract new business face. If a city or state don't offer the incentives, they are often out of consideration.  If they do play the game, they are open to public pressure to back off.
 
A longtime business leader in this state, when I asked about that conundrum, told me he thinks the days of corporate incentives or breaks are coming to an end.
 
"This movement among millennials to the left is going to reset the political system, including things like corporate incentives," he said.
"The selection process was, in my judgment the height of corporate arrogance in a time when the tide is going the other way," added my business-leader friend.
 
"The variables which help strengthen public support for a company's actions are the goodwill a company builds in the community and the public support they build," he added. "Boeing has been a master at that, something they learned after the 1972 cutbacks from the demise of the SST."
 
So back to Steve Robbins and his management textbooks. I haven't seen Robbins, who moved from Seattle to Cleveland a few years ago and turned 76 last month, for a decade but was caused to recall his leaving me far behind in various 100-meter races in masters and senior games events. But fortunately, I got to talk with him after or over coffee about both writing and running.
 
I'd love to get hold of him now to get his view of the management aspects or lack thereof, that might have been in evidence in the non-dramatic drama of Amazon's decision.
 
I flipped through his nearly three dozen titles, of which he has sold 10 million copies and that have been translated into 20 languages, to see if any of the titles, all available on Amazon, might suggest he's already been there in the discussions and lessons in his management textbooks.
 
Robbins' books focus on conflict, power, organizational politics and interpersonal skills. Which of those were in evidence or absent, and to what extent, would make interesting cocktail lounge or boardroom, discussion.
 
I was intrigued at the title of one of Robbins' books: "Divide and Conquer: The ultimate guide for improving your decision making."
 
It occurred to me that the way Amazon left the New York political scene in taters definitely demonstrated an ability to divide, as was also evidenced in the embarrassing snafu of the Seattle City Council and its aborted head tax.
 
I'll leave the "conquer" to those cocktail lounge conversations.

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State offers session focusing on new tax break - Opportunity Zones

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The state Department of Commerce is convening a day-long session in Seattle next week to help an army of accountants, attorneys, developers, and investment advisors get a better grasp of the unlikely new Federal tax tool that will allow the wealthy to make money while making a difference.

That tool is the Qualified Opportunity Zone provision in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 that will permit those owing capital gains tax to delay, reduce or even totally avoid those taxes by investing in special funds designed to start businesses and provide other steps to help economically distressed communities.

What's referred to as the OZ act wasn't actually contained in the original major rewrite of the tax reform act that was crafted by congressional Republicans and the Trump Administration. Rather it grew out of a measure filed a year earlier called the Investing in Opportunity Act.

Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, who wrote The 2017 Investing in Opportunity Act measure that was filed and then forgotten in committee, gathered support from moderates of both parties in a true example of working together to revive the bill as an addition to the major tax bill.

Its inclusion in the Tax Act has attracted comments like "for investors who want to make money and make a difference," and "for investors who want to make money and do good in one fell swoop.'

Governors of the 50 states were brought into the implementation of the act by having the opportunity to designate census tracts where various business ventures would be eligible for the OZ benefits, through investment by Qualified Opportunity Funds.

The program pinpointed more than 8,500 eligible census tracks in the U.S., with 139 of them in this state. Most of the tracts where businesses and projects can be located to attract capital are single tracts but in one area in this state, 11 tracts were put together as a unit.

While the IRS must still announce final details, like who can legitimately invest in projects, interested investors and those who would like to attract investors have been poring over details of the legislation.

Sarah Lee, project director in the office of Economic Development and Competitiveness in the State Department of Commerce, who has been closely involved with Washington State's role implementing the act, told me "listening sessions" in Wenatchee, Spokane, Tacoma, and Clallam County led up to the Seattle session next week.

She invited the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco to join the Department of Commerce and the National Development Council (NDC) to plan and put on the day-long event at the Bell Harbor Conference Center.

Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib, who with the state treasurer Duane Davidson and Commerce Director Brian Bonlender took the first pass at the census tracts to include, then forwarded the list Inslee for final determination, will welcome attendees at the Bell Harbor event, in remarks expected to tout the opportunity the act presents.

Chuck Depew, senior director and West Team Leader at the NDC, said: "In the development world, you don't often meet people with high net worth looking to be involved, but that world is now going to change."

Depew provides technical assistance in project finance, development negotiation and housing finance to communities throughout the Northwest, including Utah and Wyoming and Northern California, for the NDC, which for more than 30 years has worked with local jurisdictions on multiple housing and economic development efforts.

The challenge in the program is how can Opportunity-Zone communities, rural, urban and tribal, encourage mission-driven investors, including private, community and family foundations and social impact investors to be involved.

After Washington Gov. Jay Inslee made it clear to OZ planners in this state that the native-American tribes had to benefit from the program, five tribes participated with six communities in creating an 11-tract zone on the North Olympic Peninsula.

The tribes, along with the key communities in Clallam and Jefferson counties and two port districts, have invited the public to participate and make suggestions for projects that will address economically distressed areas in the two counties in what they have dubbed the Emerald Coast Opportunity Zone.

The project to create the Emerald Coast Opportunity Zone (ECOZ) will be on display at the Bell Harbor event next week and Lee said there is already interest from the Colville Confederates Tribe in Central Washington in looking into the planning that led to the ECOZ.

The Bell Harbor gathering will feature panels of philanthropists, social impact investors, banks and lending entities as well as what is being called a "pitch fest" at which individual entrepreneurs and project innovators will have a chance to "sell" individual projects to the attendees.

Advance billing for the event suggests that Participants "will have the opportunity to work together to engage, inform, and influence key projects in shaping the future of Washington State through investing in local communities with thoughtful leadership and empowering innovative projects.

U.S. investors currently hold an estimated $2.3 trillion in unrealized capital gains on stocks and mutual funds alone-a significant untapped resource for economic development. The QO Zone legislation allows investors to temporarily defer capital gains recognition from the sale of an appreciated asset, but only if they reinvest the gains into a QO Fund.

One analysis of the tax deferral funds suggested: The new QO Funds will "democratize" economic development by allowing a broad array of investors throughout the country to pool resources and mitigate risk. That will increase the scale of investments going to underserved areas and thereby increase the probability of neighborhood turnaround."

It occurred to me that the OZ effort could provide a new recruitment tool for state and local communities since a person owing capital gains can invest those in a qualified census tract in any part of the country.

"While the state hasn't talked about using this for recruitment of companies, it makes perfect sense," Depew said after I told him that officials in Montana told me at an outreach event to Montanans who now live in the Seattle area that they are already seeking to learn how they could make that a state growth strategy.

Thus the logical next step is for states and possibly regions of multiple states, along with businesses and developers, to develop marketing programs to reach out to those seeking to figure out how to invest their capital gains.

The act specifically prohibits any of the approved funds from investing in what the act describes as "sin" businesses, a list that specifically excludes commercial golf courses, country clubs, massage facilities, liquor stores, suntan facilities, and "race track or other facilities used for gambling."

So obviously one business that won't be permitted, particularly where the tribes are involved n an Opportunity Zone, would be a new casino.
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Seattle area brain science innovators on display at Jackson Hole Global Summit

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The Seattle area's brain science leadership, specifically the Allen Institute for Brain Science and the Seattle biotech company that has become a focal point of the battle against neurodegenerative disease, is on display this week in Jackson Hole, WY, where the annual Wyoming Global Technology Summit is taking place.

Leen KawasLeen KawasLeen Kawas, CEO of Seattle-based M3 Biotechnology, and Amy Bernard, product architect for the Allen Institute, will be members of a panel moderated by former Seattleite Amber Caska, CEO of NEXT Family Office, that will explore "The New Frontier: Innovations in Neuroscience." Rachael Dunlop, Senior Research Fellow at the Brain Chemistry Labs in Jackson, WY, is the third panelist.

It's an opportune time for Kawas to be appearing before an audience that includes potential investors since her company and its novel regenerative therapies for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other neurodegenerative diseases has completed Phase 1a and 1b with its lead compound.  

M3, which has been described as being at the leading edge in the new field of regenerative medicine, is now actively recruiting Alzheimer's patients in Phase 1c and plans to begin Phase 2 trials next year.

Amber Caska 
The clinical trials that have been completed with M3's lead compound NDX-1017 have been designed to assess safety, toxicity and tolerability while evaluating a biomarker strategy for the therapy for Alzheimer's that are intended to slow or even stop the progression of the disease.

Caska pointed out to me that "The Allen Institute of Brain Science independently highlighted a lead target through separate gene studies that M3 Biotechnology was pursuing research on, showing the important role of these independent research institutes." 

In a column a year ago, as M3 began human trials, I wrote that "The manner in which Kawas, in just under four years as president and CEO of M3 Biotechnology Inc., took the young company from the lab toward commercialization and has ascended to virtually the top of the visibility pyramid in her industry is storybook material."

In fact, as I said in that Harp, Kawas, as a 33-year-old woman from Jordan, has become the new face of biotech in Washington State, and beyond, since she is in demand to be on hand for seminars, conferences and investor gatherings relating to life sciences, biotech or Alzheimer's across the country.

As Carol Criner, who has served as CEO and turnaround executive at various companies in an array of industries and is an M3 investor and advisor, told me for that year-ago column, "Now that she is a celebrity CEO, it's hard to imagine this all began a few short years ago."

"I witnessed her face the headwinds of giant egos and sexism with resilience," Criner noted. "She never gave up. Her success largely silenced a lot of vocal-doubters. I love it.  She's amazing and strong."

Amber CaskaAmber CaskaThe panel on which Kawas is featured was Caska's idea. As a transplant to Jackson Hole, she approached the organizers of the event that was created five years ago by the non-profit Jackson Hole Technology Partnership about putting together an all-female panel and they seized on the idea.

Caska is an angel investor with an impressive background, having come to Jackson Hole from the Bay Area where she had managed the family office fund for former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and his wife, Wendy, before taking the role as president and COO of the women angel organization Portfolia. Prior to that she ran Microsoft founder and pro sports owner Paul Allen's family office fund and helped guide a number of his investments, including the NBA Portland Trailblazers.

In addition to Caska's panel, the 2018 summit will feature an array of leaders of various industries and innovators on the topics of Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, Fintech, Venture Capital, Quantum Computing and Digital Healthcare Technology.

Caska isn't the only female executive with impressive credentials to have been recent newcomers to Jackson Hole.

Debbie Hopkins, who was CEO of Citi Ventures and led Citigroup Innovation, moved to Jackson Hole this year, and she also is moderating a panel, titled "High Altitude Entrepreneurship, from Founders to Funders."

"Debby and I have been brainstorming on how we could convene more diversity in leadership to discuss innovation and investment in Wyoming," Caska said.

The event itself, being held in one of the wealthiest per-capita cities in America, is a model for what could be done in other less populated states.

The Jackson Hole Technology Partnership founded the event to identify new technologies relevant to rural populations and accelerate access to those technologies on a global scale. In addition to the summit, the organization holds follow up workshops.  

The JHTP touts its focus as solving rural challenges by accelerating technologies that improve biotech and healthcare delivery, energy, information security, mobile banking, agriculture, transportation, communication, and clean water and clean air.

As Caska noted to me for this column: "Wyoming wants to attract more science, innovation, tech, and jobs here.  The Governor hosts this annual summit to convene global speakers to share innovation projects they are working on and see if there is a way to tie into partnership opportunities for the State of Wyoming."

"I think there is a great opportunity for rural areas to collaborate with innovation and education centers from around the globe," Caska said. "Many experienced professionals are moving to rural states looking for a different quality of life to that of the overcrowded cities. There is a ton of talent to be tapped and so building innovation centers in places such as Jackson Hole totally makes sense."

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Bellevue's Reeham Sedky - best college women's squash player, eyes pros

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Reeham Sedky admits she was speechless, although stunned would be a more accurate description of the fans' reaction when the college senior from Bellevue upset one of the five best women squash players in the world at the PMI Dave Cutler Bellevue Invitational squash tournament last week.

Reeham SedkyReeham SedkyThis isn't another Harp about squash but rather a column meant to convey, to those who might doubt, that the characteristics of commitment and perseverance treasured by older generations are no less evident in the generation just now coming of age.

Sedky's upset of New Zealander Joelle King might not as been as big a surprise, however, to those who've watched her progress as she became the best high school women's squash player in the nation, then on to the women's national collegiate squash title last spring as a junior at University of Pennsylvania.
 
Particularly not shocking to those aware that as a college sophomore she was honored at the U.S. Open Squash Championships with the 2016 United States Olympic Committee Athlete of the Year Award, the year she made her debut on the adult national team at 2016 Women's World Team Championships in Issy-les-Moulineaux, France.
 
Reeham: Winning the first round 

Sedky, 21, whose father is from Egypt where he played squash and now works at Amazon, was born and raised in Bellevue and attended high school at Forest Ridge, says she started playing squash when she was eight and spent two to three hours a day practicing, though there were no other girls who knew how to play squash.  
 
So, like many youngsters devoted to squash who have the support of their parents, she traveled around the country to squash tournaments where she eventually earned the title or national high school champion.
 
Sedky said of the New Zealander, "I actually had watched her play as I was growing up."
"I think she was pleased to see me win since she is supportive of the fact there are up and coming women professionals," Sedky added. "There are a lot of women my age, their early 20's, playing on the squash pro circuit."
 
Reeham Sedky competitionShe said she has known Shabana Khan, the one-time national women's squash champion who put on the Bellevue classic last week since she was 7 years old.
 
Sedky headed back to college last weekend for her senior year studying computer science. She'll be defending her national women collegiate title next spring, then plans to turn pro after she graduates. As an aside, Sedeky often practices by competing with the male squash players at UPenn.
 
Thus, since Khan plans next year to put on the round-robin classic for which last week was a first-time event, Sedky may be on display for local squash fans next year, and perhaps attract more visibility for herself, and for the event, than was apparent from the local community this time.
 
Meanwhile, Khan is envisioning a repeat of the round robin, again involving the top men and women squash professionals in the world, as a lead in to her launch in the fall of 2019 of West Coast Squash, essentially a tour of 10 western cities to showcase youth squash. She has gathered support from coaches and parents in cities across the West to launch West Coast Squash.
 
The round robin event put on at the Boys & Girls Club in Bellevue's Hidden Valley was de ja vu for those who watched Frenchman Greg Gaultier win the Men's World Squash Championship, a first time in the U.S. event that Khan put on in 2015. Winning all his matches in that tournament and all his matches last week means he's never been beaten in Bellevue.
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International talent on display in Bellevue at week-long pro squash event

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As Mariner, Seahawk and Sounder fans pour into Seattle's major sports stadiums cheering their teams on to achieve national pre-eminence this year, a sports event of world prominence is taking place this week, attracting only minor attention, at the Boys & Girls Club facility in Bellevue's Hidden Valley.

Shabana KhanShabana KhanIt's the PMI Dave Cutler Bellevue Invitational squash tournament, a round-robin event in which five men and five women, all among the world's best squash pros, are competing over the five days in an event that is world class in several ways, making the lack of visibility in its hometown disheartening.

The event has not only attracted the world's top talent but is the latest effort by Shabana Khan, one-time national women's squash champion and a member of one the best-known squash families on the planet, to develop the corporate and sponsor support needed for her squash initiatives.  

An example of the competitive value of her event and the lost fan opportunity that lack of visibility brings has been the performance of Reeham Sedky, a college student from Bellevue heading back this weekend to the University of Pennsylvania, for whom she won the national women's squash championship last spring.

Shabana decided to include her in this event with the world's best because of the fact she is a Bellevue product and to everyone's surprise, Sedky won her Monday match, upsetting one of the world's best women.

Through her non-profit YSK Events, Shabana has become perhaps the squash world's most successful female promoter of the sport and has brought significant attention for Bellevue with a sport that has been growing more rapidly in the U.S. in recent years than in any other country.  

This week's event is appropriately named for the two men, both with worldwide reputations in their industries, who have stepped up financially since the Men's World Championships to help Khan fulfill her dream.

One is Dave Cutler of Microsoft, universally acclaimed as the key technical brain behind the Microsoft Windows NT and all the subsequent windows versions. A decade ago he was recognized as a National Medal of Technology and Innovation laureate, perhaps the most prestigious honor in the country for developers of new technology.

The other is Robert Harris, founder, and CEO of PMI-Worldwide, a Seattle-based brand and product-marketing company with offices in seven cities around the world whose corporate philanthropy has only recently begun to be recognized.

But this is also an anniversary event in that Yusuf Khan 10-time all-India champion, emigrated to the U.S. in 1968 to teach tennis at the Seattle Tennis Club, bringing with him his family that then included children Asam and Shabana. Soon after arrival in Seattle, the elder Khan created the Seattle Athletic Club and made it a focal point for squash in Seattle.

Then two of his daughters became among the best in the nation with Shabana's younger sister, Latasha, several s being national women's champion before losing the title to Shabana, providing me the opportunity to joke in an earlier column, "best in the family is best in the county."

The Khan girls' older brother, Azam, also competed on the national squash circuit.
I talked with both of Shabana's key supporters to get a sense of why they have remained so faithful to her cause.

I asked Harris why he has been such a staunch supporter of Khan's, putting up $75,000 for this week's event, and he replied: "It's pretty simple. In a world beginning to look inward rather than building international alliances and global partnerships, I believe it's increasingly important to support sports that are global in nature and connect people from around the world. This is the only way humanity and our planet is going to survive and prosper."

Cutler, a devoted fan of squash and the Khans, arrived in this area in the '80s, convinced by Steve Balmer himself to leave Digital Equipment Co., whose operating system he created, to join Microsoft where he guided development of Windows NT and every major version of Windows since 1993, and more recently developed Microsoft Azure.

He regularly competed in squash tournaments before hanging up his racket in 2002 to focus his athletic activity on long-distance biking and is putting up $50,000 for this event as he has pretty routinely done for Shabana's events.

"She has some great ideas and a lot of those have been adopted by the national organization and players love to compete in her tournaments," Cutler said. "Not many people actually know what squash is, although it's a great sport for kids. And in recent years a lot of clubs have been converting racketball courts to squash courts."

"I'd like to see other people step up to help her efforts, a lot of them for young people, become more successful," added Cutler. "I tried to convince Balmer to step up but he's not a racket person."

It occurred to me after my conversation with Cutler that this search for support for Shabana's squash events isn't just about finding people who understand squash, it's about those who understand this s about supporting the internationalization of not just the Eastside but the entire region.

The numerous events she has put on in Bellevue, beginning with the Men's World Squash Championships in 2015 at Meydenbauer Center for the first time ever in the United States, have been aimed at bringing attention to squash, but with a focus on making squash attractive to young people.

When she put on the Men's World Squash Championship in late 2015, first time ever for the event on U.S. soil, Shabana charted new territory for prize money, which totaled $325,000 for the event that was held at Bellevue's Meydenbauer Center. That amount became the threshold going forward with the U.S. Open in Philadelphia the next fall boasting a $350,000 purse.

Completion of this week's event clears the way for Shabana Khan's preparation for her launch in the fall of 2019 of West Coast Squash, by which she hopes to bring stronger and more convenient focus on youth squash in an array of cities around the West where parents and coaches have endorsed her initiative.

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Could insider trading issue stir conflict of interest in congressional races?

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The insider-trading quagmire in which New York Congressman Chris Collins finds himself may be occurring at the perfect time, in the midst of an election season, to inject an issue of substance rather than merely another political issue into congressional races around the country. The question is the need for closer scrutiny of personal financial involvements of members of Congress.

BrianBairdBrian BairdCollins' troubles stem from charges by Federal prosecutors that he used his seat on the board of a small Australian drug company to tip off his son and others that the company had failed a critical human trial and that the thousands of dollars of stock they all held would be taking a disastrous hit.

That was the first time I knew, the naïve soul that I must be, that members of Congress could sit on boards of publicly traded companies, thinking it beyond question that someone assumedly serving the best interest of constituents who elected them couldn't also fulfill the fiduciary duties to shareholders that a board member has.

Brian Baird, the former Democratic Congressman from Washington's third district whose major impact was his leadership in achieving legislation that now requires members or Congress to abide by the same investor rules that govern the rest of us, thinks it doesn't even deserve to be elevated to the legitimacy of a question.

"Being a member of Congress is a full-time job," said Baird. "I put in 70 hours a week during my time in Congress and the idea that I could also fulfill a fiduciary obligation to shareholders is preposterous."

Thus the issue that Collins' apparent insider-trading transgressions opens up for injection into congressional races is a close scrutiny of all financial activity by incumbents, not just involvement on boards.

One problem is that while members of the Senate are prohibited from serving on corporate boards, members of the House are not, though they can't be compensated for serving in such roles. But while a member of Congress files a financial disclosure report each year, there's no central database where that information is available.

But Baird thinks there should be, and that it would be well if some government-watchdog organization could digest and disseminate it and thus provide the opportunity to evaluate the financial conflicts of those running for re-election. That could be a welcome factual issue to inject into those campaigns rather than merely political rhetoric. And perhaps it would impact some election outcomes, thus frightening others in Congress to shed inappropriate financial dealings.

It might be uncomfortable for some incumbent Republicans to come down too hard on questionable financial activity, given the track record of many members of the cabinet of President Trump who may have made it appear that unseemly financial activity was a requirement for selection.

But lest that come across as a political comment rather than a journalistic observation, I'll add that Democrats could also have a bit of discomfort if they are too critical of the current environment given that the "Queen of the Questionable" may be House Democratic leader and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  

No one who saw her mishandling a question in the now famous 60 Minutes segment relating to questionable investment activities by members of Congress would possibly argue with that characterization of her relating to at least past financial involvements.

Baird spent half of his 12 years in Congress in a frustrated, and futile, effort to gather support for his legislation to make it illegal for lawmakers to engage in the kind of financial transactions that those in the real world know as Insider Trading and for which ordinary people can be sent to jail. Baird and one or two supporters offered it each session but couldn't even get a committee hearing.

Then came the 60 Minutes piece by CBS reporter Steve Croft, which amounted to merely highlighting the replies of then-House Speaker John Boehner and former Speaker Pelosi to his unexpected questions about their stock transactions. Boehner merely like someone hiding from the truth but Pelosi looked, like someone simply incompetent, stuttering ..."I don't understand your question. Um, You aren't suggesting I'd ever do anything that wasn't in the best interest of my constituents...?"

Croft's reporting exposed how members of Congress and their staff traded stocks based on nonpublic information to which they had exclusive access, the very issue Baird's ignored legislation was designed to address.

The news program sparked a public outcry and lawmakers by the dozens scurried like frightened rats to get aboard as supporters of the bill amid the public outcry, and so in April of 2012, the measure titled the STOCK Act (Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge) was passed.

Despite the passage of the legislation he pushed, Baird said in an interview last weekend: "The whole issue of conflict of interest in Congress is something they have never addressed."

"I'd love to see a study about how often members or Congress excuse themselves from voting on something because of conflict of interest," he added.

And wouldn't it be heartening if the media focus on Collins' legal challenges over his financial activities led to the kind of public outcry, particularly during an election campaign, that could stir a congressional rush to get on board a reform effort as happened with the rush to pass the STOCK Act.

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Bellevue company gets rare patent win - suit against tech giants gets agency okay

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A small Bellevue-headquartered technology company has won a landmark ruling from a controversial patent-appeals board that executives and key shareholders of the little company suggest could lead to multi-billion-dollar patent-infringement settlements with some of the nation's largest tech companies.

David vs. Goliath is an overdone metaphor. But in the case of Voip-Pal.com Inc. (Voip-Pal), which has a suite of patents on technologies dealing with what are known as Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and that have been the focus of its legal battles with the likes of Apple, AT&T, Verizon and now Amazon, it may be an understated metaphor, particularly since there are multiple Goliaths.

Amazon is the latest tech goliath to be sued by Voip-Pal. The small company contends, in its June 15 suit filed in U.S. District Court in Nevada, that Amazon's Alexa calling and messaging services uses Voip-Pal's patented technologies to direct voice and video calls and messages.

The stage was set for the suit against Amazon, following suits against Verizon, AT&T and Twitter, by a decision from what's known as the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), which unexpectedly tossed out the combined effort by Apple, AT&T and Verizon to have all or parts of Voip-Pal's patents ruled invalid.

Voip-Pal has now filed $9.7 billion in lawsuits against the major companies mentioned above. And about 60 companies have received "introduction letters" advising them of the VOIP patents and that the companies might be infringing on those patents, more suits are possible. However, execs say they expect that many of those companies will merely decide to license Viop-Pal products rather than face suits, given the PTAB decision.

In fact, according to Voip-Pal president Dennis Chang, "we could make an enormous amount of revenue just licensing our patents since people have been infringing for years." Chang, who joined the company in 2009, helped guide the 2013 share-purchase acquisition of Digifonica, a small private company that built the portfolio of patents now owned by Voip-Pal.

If Voip-Pal's developments were a work of fiction, it would contain most of the dramatic elements, ranging from tension and contrast to conflict, mood and symbolism, necessary to make it a spellbinder attracting substantial interest.  

But the fact that the company is real rather than fictional sets up a different set of dramatic elements of which it is playing a part, all relating to the 2011 America Invents Act that spawned the PTAB. Those elements range from unrest in the investor and entrepreneurial communities to criticism from courts all the way up to the Supreme Court as well as potential Congressional action to change the federal Act.  

And with the proposal now gathering support in Congress that would restore health to what many are referring to as "America's crippled patent system," Voip-Pal could become the leading edge of small-companies' pushback against the perceived inequities in the current "unintended consequences" of a 2011 law.  

I first learned of Voip-Pal and its unprecedented string of patent-infringement suits from Sandy Wheeler, a significant shareholder who was co-founder and key executive of fitness-equipment manufacturer Bowflex that, through acquisition of other fitness companies, became the Nautilus Group Inc.

Wheeler, an Ellensburg resident who was key in building the Bowflex brand into the second most recognized name in the world of fitness equipment. He has since founded several other companies in addition to becoming a significant Voip-Pal shareholder.

Wheeler, a longtime friend, is not a rookie when it comes to patent-infringement legal actions since four years ago he was involved with a case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of Nautilus.

After Wheeler alerted me to the Voip-Pal story, I was intrigued, as I searched for any stories about the company or its various suits against the giants of the tech and telecom industries, that I could find little in the way of coverage and certainly not in major media. That despite the fact that the company's website is rich with news releases, video interviews and YouTube pieces and other efforts to attract coverage.

Voip-Pal stock is traded Over the Counter as VPLM, last traded at .07 and over the past 52 weeks, the stock has ranged from a penny a share to 45 cents, with the high occurring late last year after the PTAB ruling. The company has a market cap of about $125 million but that obviously ebbs and flows with the stock price.  

The Voip-Pal effort to stir greater attention clearly relates to the desire by key shareholders to see the stock begin to reflect what they view as its "true value," as the suits move toward the expected outcomes.  

Emil Malak, Voip-Pal CEO, said in a telephone interview that "given the strength of the patents, and the decision of the of PTAB, I fully expect that the infringing entities will either license or acquire the Voip-Pal technology, bringing major returns to our shareholders."

Malak, a Vancouver, B.C., investor and inventor, and other company executives feel that the PTAB decision means the major tech companies may decide that it is more logical financially to pay the licensing fees to Voip-Pal rather than face the treble damages that would be an option for the company if the infringements continue.

"After the years of developing and testing, and obtaining the related patents, Voip-Pal is ready to license or offer for sale its patented technologies," said Malak.

The three-member PTAB, frequently criticized as a tool of major companies, issued a unanimous 3-0 decision in favor of Voip-Pal's position and thus its patents stay intact, as issued and granted by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

The PTAB, whose image is as a pawn of big companies, made its unexpected decision on behalf of Voip-Pal with the potential consequence of threatening the traditional paternalistic legal interaction that has become the hallmark of patent and trademark infringement actions brought by small patent holders.

Malak, in explaining the suit against Amazon, said: "After investigating Amazon's Alexa platform and Echo line of products, our technical team has concluded that the calling and messaging functions infringe our patents."

"Amazon's foray into communications seems to be part of a larger trend of giant corporations battling for market dominance by offering Internet-based communication products that integrate with traditional telephony networks," said Malak,

The suits all stem from the fact that in 2004, Voip-Pal's now wholly owned Digifonica subsidiary, began developing, inventing and patenting many of what Malak contended are "the same communication methods that are now being employed by today's Internet giants."

It was a revolutionary idea at the time, three years before Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone, when most people were making calls using landline-based phones or cell phones, with information traveling over phone lines and cellular networks.

Malak said in our telephone interview: "We had the vision that within 10 years, the Internet would become the primary means for telecommunications," adding that his team "realized that, in the future, calls, media, and messages would be primarily routed using the Internet, with a seamless transfer to cell phones, landlines, or computers wherever necessary."

"The PTAB is a 'non-appealable' court and Apple knows that and they are not going to get any traction with their request," Wheeler told me. "They simply know that their letter request delays everything...but their days are numbered."

The PTAB itself is an interesting business story that I was surprised to find hadn't received a lot of media attention, despite negative comments by federal courts all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which, in one case, made reference to what it called PTAB "shenanigans" in its legal actions

The PTAB was formed in 2012 to implement the America Invents Act of 2011, a measure passed by Congress and signed by the president that critics have said transitioned the U. S. from a "first to invent" patent system to a system where priority is given to the first inventor to file a patent application, a system that tends to benefit large companies.

Part of the criticism that has been leveled at PTAB is what has been referred to frequently as "systemic problems," such as judges not having to disclose conflicts of interest when sitting to rule on patent-validity issues that could involve companies they previously worked for or in which they have an interest.

But in Voip-Pal's case, PTAB's apparent growing sensitivity about allegations of those systemic problems may have been beneficial to Voip-Pal's victory against Apple since the original three-judge panel appointed for the case was unexpectedly changed to a new trio of judges without any real explanation. Voip-Pal executives say the new panel, appointed from among the more than 100 patent judges that can be tapped for such cases, "gave fair review on all the merits" of the proceedings.

Meanwhile, bi-partisan legislation titled The Stronger Patents Act, which sponsors say would "restore patents as property rights and give startups a better chance to protect their property from entities with much greater resources," is likely to begin making its way through Congress.

Observers say the act, filed in both the House and Senate, is "designed to strengthen the United States' crippled patent system."

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Washington World Fellows small step toward addressing troubling state higher-ed issue

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The 15 high school students who make up the inaugural Washington World Fellows class, an unusual program conceived by Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib as what he characterizes as "an equity-focused study abroad and college readiness program," leave Saturday for Leon, Spain, where the program will be based.  

The program is the result of a partnership between the Office of the Lieutenant Governor and the statewide non-profit organization called the Association of Washington Generals, with Central Washington University as the academic partner and support from the Seahawks and the Mariners.

While the Fellows program, approved by the Legislature this year, is not limited to disadvantaged students, Habib said the students selected for the first year of the program, "bring to life the dream behind the program: connecting deserving students with opportunities they might not otherwise have."

Nearly all of the fellows, all in the 10th grade, plan to be the first in their families to attend college, and for all of them, this trip will be their first experience in overseas travel.

As Ralph Ibarra, treasurer of the Washington Generals who has worked closely with Habib on the details to get the program launched, put it: "the students selected from this program are from all over the state from high schools where they wouldn't otherwise have study abroad opportunities."

In some respects, the program is a small step toward addressing an unusual and troubling high-education dichotomy in Washington, which is one of the top five states in the nation in the percent of the adult population with college degrees but one of the worst states in the percent of students not going to college.

Dr. James Gaudino, president of Central Washington University, which as academic partner will be providing college credits to the students for their involvement, says the issue of students not going to college has troubled the state's college and university presidents.

'We don't know the reason bur we have to think that one of the things that could be going on is a lack of self-confidence, a sense of 'I don't know if I can do this,'" Gaudino said.  

Thus he sees the creation of the Washington World Fellows initiative as a "self-efficacy" effort. "We need to help the students come to believe they can do it," meaning they need to think they have the capability to go to college and get a degree.

The last legislative session passed a bill that Habib pressed for and that the Seahawks and Mariners testified on behalf of that creates sustainable future funding for the Washington World Fellows program. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Patty Kuderer,D-Bellevue, dedicates a percentage of the revenue from the future sale of specialty license plates of the two professional sports teams to support of the program.

"I'm excited that students from all over the state have shown interest in this program - from Prescott to La Push," Lt. Governor Habib said. "Study abroad changes lives. I am thrilled that this fellowship will expand opportunities for these inspirational and hardworking students."

As Habib's office explained, the study abroad experience includes a full academic schedule with an emphasis on Spanish language and Spanish politics. Courses will be taught at a college level, and students will be able to earn dual college and high school credits.  

Following the study abroad experience, the World Fellows program will provide students with college-readiness support and leadership opportunities, including help with college applications.

The Association of Washington Generals, as implementer of the Fellows effort, is a Washington state service organization founded in 1970 by a group of Seattle-area business people in alliance with then-Lt. Governor John A. Cherberg. The founding purpose of the Generals was to provide a platform to recognize the outstanding service of individuals in this state and to bring them together into an organization that enables them to "continue to serve our state."

In 2005, the Association was codified under state law by the Legislature, statutorily linking the organization to the Office of Lieutenant Governor and formally established the Generals as official ambassadors of trade, tourism, and goodwill for the state.  

The financial support of two other organizations focused on helping needy students become college ready is significant in the view of supporters of the Fellows.

One is AVID, which stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination, which has been one of the Wenatchee School District's tools to helping kids go on to college for 10 years.

The other is the College Success Foundation, which works with school districts across the state and the District of Columbia, to provide support and scholarships to inspire low-income students to graduate from high school and pursue a college degree.

AVID was founded by a San Diego English teacher in 1980 to help average kids from low-income families develop academic study and career-readiness skills. The program has since been adopted by schools in nearly every state and many countries. Tutors help students better manage their lives and time.

The College Success Foundation was founded by the late Costco executive Bob Craves and Ann Ramsay-Jenkins in 2000 to serve what they viewed as "a very vulnerable population, the underserved  - those who might not otherwise get to college."  

They founded the College Success Foundation to provide students with the inspiration, mentoring and financial supports necessary to pursue and complete a college education.

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There are still some things left to be said about Seattle's planned head tax

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As reactions to the head tax the Seattle City Council imposed on the city's largest businesses reverberate across the community, there are some realities that both supporters and opponents of the tax either missed or avoided but that may still be considered, particularly with a likely public vote in November looming.

Despite the extensive media and community groups' comments and response to the tax, which is aimed at raising almost $240 million over five years toward dealing with the cost of housing and services for the city's homeless, there were some issues and ideas possibly overlooked amid the heated exchanges between the two sides.

So as friends and associates and readers of the Harp pressed, mostly good-naturedly, with "don't you have any thoughts to share on this issue?" I decided I did.  

One was the ongoing realization during the back-and-forth rhetoric and eventual compromise negotiated by Mayor Jenny Durkan that brought the per-employee tax down to a little over half the $500 per head the City Council wanted to impose, there was no mention of the city income tax now awaiting Supreme Court decision.

So Durkan, who in laughable understatement, said it was "a longshot" as she announced last December that she was going ahead with the appeal of Superior Court Judge John Rule's decision that the tax was illegal, committed the city to pay attorney fees when we now know there are more pressing needs for that money.

Under the tax passed by the City Council last year then ruled illegal by Judge Rule. Seattle residents would pay a 2 percent tax on annual income above $250,000, while married residents who file their taxes jointly would pay it on income above $500,000.

I expected as I listened to the debate, that some business leaders might suggest "we'll accept the head tax if you agree not to pursue the income tax idea." Obviously, many of those business leaders would pay in the tens of thousands of dollars if the income tax were actually imposed. That is if they didn't decide to move from Seattle.  

And as remote as the city's chances of a favorable Supreme Court ruling are in this case, the fact is that at some point a Democratic governor and a legislature that has a sufficient Democrat majority is likely to enact a state income tax. That would likely remove the current legal prohibition against a city imposing an income tax.  

Negotiating an agreement in which the city would agree never to impose both an income tax and a head tax might be a protection against an even more business-challenging future.

But at this point, it's pretty obvious that business and other opponents of the head tax intend to put an initiative on the November ballot to have the electorate decide on the head tax.  

Dozens of businesses, including Amazon, Vulcan, and Starbucks, have already pledged more than $350,000 to a No Tax On Jobs campaign. Intriguingly, those putting up money include prominent Bellevue business leader Robert Wallace, although he has always played a leadership role in the Seattle business community as well.

Meanwhile, Pierce County elected officials have stepped up to announce a sort of reverse head tax. The group, representing a number of cities in the county, said the will be devising a plan to give businesses a $275 tax credit for each family wage job created in the county.

Since the City Council and others are making it clear that the city's ability to find the money to cope with the homeless crisis is a growing challenge, that realization should be accompanied by a commitment not to waste money on other things.

What immediately comes to mind in that money-wasting category is the $250,000-plus the city is paying in legal fees to defend City Council member Kshama Sawant in lawsuits resulting from her intemperate and insulting comments towards those she happens to disagree with.

It's "only" a quarter million dollars. But statistics on costs of providing homeless services would suggest that those attorney fees for Sawant would provide for maybe 25 or 30 homeless peoples' needs, including housing.

How about another initiative that would prohibit the city, which already pays for its own legal department, from hiring outside attorneys when a member of the City Council is sued, particularly when it's within the council members' power to avoid a suit by merely being careful about what comes out of their mouths?  

And when the city wastes millions of dollars on bike-lane overruns and transportation-cost foul-ups, the reaction to the City Council needs to become: "Your ineptitude just left dozens (hundreds) of people on the streets for another year."

When I called a friend of mine this week, he told me as he answered his cell phone that he had been listening to a CD on American history that at that moment was discussing the Stamp Act, which was the final straw for Colonists in their increasingly contentious relations with the King and Great Britain. It led to the revolution.

"Wouldn't it be interesting if the head tax somehow became the today equivalent of the Stamp Act tax in stirring some game-changing response to the city as the equivalent of "the king," he chuckled.

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Special honor for Stanton - guides WA's oldest, largest private bank

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When Washington Trust Chairman and CEO Peter (Pete) F. Stanton was honored last week in Spokane as a laureate of that community's Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame, it was appropriate recognition for the fourth generation leader of the state oldest and largest privately held commercial bank.

It was appropriate in part because, with the Puget Sound Business Hall of Fame event not held this year, for the first time since it was created in 1987, the Spokane event is the only recognition of lifetime business achievement being held in the state this year.

Stanton was honored, along with Jack Heath, Washington Trust's president and chief operating officer, and local business executives Penn Fix and Debra Shultz of Dodson's Jewelers were also honored as laureates at the Spokane JA organization's 18th annual Hall of Fame.

Natalie Vega O'Neil, President & CEO of Junior Achievement of Washington, attended the Spokane event and got her first taste of Hall of Fame events.

"It was wonderful to witness the Spokane community coming together to celebrate those who have given back so much to the region," she said. 

Stanton has guided the fortunes of Washington Trust since Pere's great-grandfather bought the bank, founded in 1902, in 1919.

Stanton was 34 when in 1990 he assumed the role of president, second youngest bank president ever in Spokane, second only to his father, Philip Stanton, who had become president of the bank in 1962 at age 31.

Pete Stanton has been chairman and CEO since 2000, the year he named Heath president.

In an interview we did a few years ago, Stanton explained the success of his bank during the 2008 to 2011 period when many other banks, including three local competitors, fell into disaster.

"When something has been in your family for four generations, stewardship becomes very important," he said.

"That doesn't mean we spend our time looking in the rearview mirror," Stanton added.
"We're focused on the future, but securing that future has always led us to have concentration limits on our lending."

It was that "limit on concentration" that allowed Washington Trust to avoid the disastrous rush into real estate and construction lending that felled a large number of banks, including three of its locally based competitors, although Stanton's bank found itself eating some bad loans.

Sterling Savings Bank, publicly traded and about twice Washington Trust's size, and American West, about half its size, ran afoul of bad loans and wound up eventually being acquired, though Sterling re-emerged under new leadership and returned to successful operation before being acquired by Umpqua Bank.

During that time of financial trauma for many banks, Stanton's bank went on an acquisition and growth path that brought it to a network of branches spread across three Northwest states. including a large and growing presence in the Puget Sound area.

Stanton suggests that Washington Trust's success is built on what he refers to as "our three pillars of real strength: commercial banking, private banking, and wealth management."

Meanwhile, while there has not been any formal announcement of the fact, the Puget Sound Business Hall of Fame is not being held this year. JA's leadership transition that brought O'Neil aboard and budgetary challenges resulted in the halt to the event created in 1987 by JA and Puget Sound Business Journal.

Because the JA organization has become Junior Achievement of Washington, its statewide role has meant that business leaders from across the state need to be considered for inclusion on the Puget Sound Business Hall of Fame. Thus far only Leroy Nosbaum, the CEO of Itron, was a Spokane business leader inducted as laureate.

And that statewide role now has prompted discussion, particularly among members of the laureate selection committee, that the Hall of Fame event, if and when it re-emerges, should be rebranded as the Washington State Business Hall of Fame.

O'Neil has indicated the array of events that JA puts on each year will be evaluated over the next few months, presumably to determine which will continue.

But she did announce that a new Puget Sound Business Hall of fame display will be unveiled soon at the World Trade Center in Seattle.

As co-founder of the event, with JA, 31 years ago and part of the selection committee since then, I've been on hand each year as the business community leadership has looked on while a new class of their most admired and successful predecessors was welcomed to the laureate ranks. Thus it's difficult for me to imagine that there won't be a 2019 JA Hall of Fame banquet.

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Bastyr, Founding First President Marks 40 Years of Naturopathic Impact

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As Bastyr University celebrates its 40thanniversary and gives special recognition to the man who founded the naturopathic school and served as its president for 22 years, there will undoubtedly by some reflection on the decades-long struggle by naturopaths for recognition and acceptance by conventional medicine.

But the growing awareness of the importance of holistic healthcare, and the expectations a more health-savvy populous has come to have, and will more so in the future, accelerate the demand for integrative medicine, a phrase that means the convergence of conventional and alternative medicines.

In addition to celebrating its founding and its founder at the May 10 luncheon at the Fairmont Hotel in downtown Seattle, Bastyr will be introducing its new president, Harlan Patterson, who was chosen by the Bastyr Board of Trustees last month to guide the school after the six-year board member stepped in as interim president last July.

Dr Joseph PizzornoDr.Joseph PizzornoPatterson brings a mainstream higher-ed background to his new role, having been Vice-Chancellor for Finance and Administration at UW Tacoma, and former Executive Director of the Washington Vaccine Alliance.

Back in 1978, with Portland-based National College of Naturopathic Medicine (NCNM) deciding to close its Seattle branch and the legislature considering the elimination of the naturopathic license, Dr. Joseph Pizzorno Jr. and two other naturopathic physicians viewed the challenges to their profession as an opportunity.

Thus the three, Drs. Lee Griffith and William Mitchell Jr. and Pizzorno, all graduates of NCNM, moved to create a new naturopathic school in Seattle, a step that not only protected the licensure in Washington State but opened doors in the naturopathic field by building the school's curriculum on a science-based foundation.

Much has happened with Bastyr as it has grown in impact on the 51-acre wooded campus on the Eastside to which Pizzorno moved the school in the mid-90s, including the launch by now-retired president Dan Church in 2012 of Bastyr's San Diego campus, making it the only naturopathic college in the State of California.

Pizzorno, during his tenure, guided Bastyr to become the first accredited university of natural medicine and the first center for alternative medicine research funded by the National Institutes of Health's Office of Alternative Medicine.

The challenge of acceptance by conventional medicine that naturopaths still often face is pointed up by the absurd encyclopedic entries by Wikipedia, entries on naturopathy. Bastyr and Pizzorno that contain not information but tasteless and ridiculous putdown. Phrases like "pseudoscience and quackery" for Bastyr and, describing Pizzorno, one of the nation's most recognized and respected naturopaths, as "promoting dangerous and ineffective treatments."

Such intentional inaccuracies apparently aren't surprising to that who note that Wikipedia not only accepts but solicits large donations from organizations or individuals who may wish to have specific entries written to their liking and approval.

"Looks like the 'Quack Busters' got to write up the Bastyr Wiki," Pizzorno told me with a chuckle. "Those of us who are advancing this medicine use the number of times they go after us as a measure of success."

"There is a small posse (some NDs suggest "army" rather than "posse") of traditionalist doctors fighting the relentless march of alternative medicine into the mainstream," he added.

Pizzorno, honored numerous times over the years, travels worldwide, consulting, lecturing and promoting science-based natural medicine and collaborative health care and is obviously quick to do pushback of those who denigrate or fail to understand his approach to healthcare.

Thus he is unabashed in his summary of the struggles of naturopathic medicine, summing it up as: "The big challenge is that natural medicine and our foundational concepts have been actively suppressed by the vested conventional medicine interests for over a century. This has meant that the social and fiscal standing of NDs has always been under attack and patient access impaired through discriminatory licensing laws and blocking insurance reimbursement."

With respect to insurance coverage, former Washington State Insurance Commissioner Deborah Senn told me that while the number of states requiring insurance coverage for alternative medicine is growing, implementation and policing remains in the hands of the State Insurance Commissioner. 

After Washington lawmakers passed a law requiring insurance coverage, insurance companies went to court to challenge the requirement and Senn, an attorney and supporter of naturopathy, went to the 9thCircuit Court to uphold the law.

An increasing awareness of the importance of diet, exercise, and lifestyle on health has drawn a growing number of people, and not just millennials, to alternatives to conventional medicine and its practitioners. And for many, the search for alternatives leads to naturopathic medicine.

It was as I pursued all my options in deciding how to deal with my prostate cancer in 2011 that I visited a naturopathic physician, Dr. Eric Yarnell, on the Bastyr faculty, and learned of artemisinin, an extract derived from an ancient Chinese herb.

I had known a little about alternative medicine, but learning of artemisinin and the fact that it was being viewed as a cancer-fighting agent caused me to want to learn more both about the herb and about Bastyr, even though I finally decided, with advise from Yarnell, interestingly, that I should have a prostatectomy.

I wrote about artemisinin (search Flynn'sHarp: artemisinin) two years ago when the 85-year-old Chinese herbalist who discovered its ability to fight malaria won the Nobel prize for medicine. It's now also being viewed as a possible agent to fight, or possibly prevent, certain cancers, attracting National Institutes of Health and state funding to explore the possibility.

I've grown more focused, in recent years, on seeking the best practices and practitioners from conventional and alternative medicines for my personal healthcare, coming to understand that I make the final decisions on my healthcare and who provides it. But I have maintained a high respect and regard for my MDs, including my long-time internal medicine doc, who knows I tell people she once saved my life, and my prostate surgeon, for whom my respect has become friendship.

In addition, I look forward to regular breakfast or luncheon meetings with a couple of the most respected medical-practice leaders in the region.

But on the alternative-care side, I have an array of healthcare providers, each highly regarded in their specialties, ranging from acupuncture to high-intensity training (search Flynn's Harp: high intensity), to Reike to Feldenkrais, all attracting increasing attention from those growing ever more attuned to health issues ranging from performance enhancement to personal awareness.

I've been intrigued by the number of friends and associates who have come to take a similar approach to their own healthcare.

And in conversations about that fact, there's inevitably been a shared frustration that our conventional docs frequently put down the value of our alternative docs and we wish that they would come to understand the value each brings to healthcare, in other words, integrative medicine.

Perhaps promisingly, conventional medicine has come up with an alternative to alternative medicine. It's called Functional Medicine and some medical doctors are rushing to get certified for the new practice model that actually borrows much from the philosophy and practice of naturopathic practitioners.

Prominent physician and New York Times best-selling author Mark Hyman calls Functional Medicine "the future of conventional medicine, available now." He notes that "it seeks to identify and address the root causes of disease, and views the body as one integrated system, not a collection of independent organs divided up by medical specialties."

But back to old-reliable Wikipedia, which sums up Functional Medicine as a "collection of totally nonsensical gobbledygook."

Intriguingly, Pizzorno has been a leader of the Institute for Functional Medicine since its beginning, serving on the board since the organization was formed, including several years as chair and now as treasurer.

Pizzorno, who also is editor in chief of Integrative Medicine, a Clinician's Journal, has for decades been advancing the healing side of medicine and advancing naturopathic medicine in an array of venues.

Building on its science-based foundation, Bastyr has been the recipient of a number of multimillion-dollar research grants from NIH. 

Grants from the NIH tied to projects involving both conventional healthcare facilities and alternative ones are likely to help move the integrative medicine needle.

An interesting one, the kind that inevitably draws chuckles from some, is a grant that teams Bastyr with UW Medicine and the University of Minnesota in a $2.5 million grant to study the potential impact of Turkey Tail Mushrooms on certain types of cancer, specifically breast cancer but also prostate cancer.

Turkey Tail mushrooms are one of the most researched and highly regarded medicinal mushrooms, with a long history of curative and medicinal use in China and Japan, having a long list of medicinal properties and health benefits. But researchers prize them most as a natural source of the anti-cancer polysaccharide (PSK).

PSK is said to fight cancer and halt tumors by inhibiting the growth of cancer cells and "stimulating a host-mediated response."

One of the best tools naturopaths have toward achieving broad acceptance is the Bastyr grads who have moved into highly prominent positions that demonstrate the effectiveness of integrative medicine, though all also have Ph.D. in addition to ND after their names.

Those include:
  • Heather Greenlee, Director of Integrative Medicine at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
  • Patricia Herman, Senior Behavioral and Social Scientist at the RAND Corporation.
  • Wendy Weber, acting director of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
  • Laurie Mischley, whose research into Parkinson's Disease, including her exploration of the novel mechanism of introducing glutathione, the brain's primary antioxidant, to the central nervous system for Parkinson's patients, has brought her attention and respect on a global level (Flynn's Harp: Laurie Mischley).

Many NDs, in seeking to establish greater acceptance with a savvier patient population, may play to the growing public realization that quantity and quality can't be effective partners in healthcare, meaning any professional who has quotas for the number of patients can be viewed as challenged to also achieve the highest quality of service.

Pizzorno says he believes that integrative and functional medicine becoming more popular "helps validate NDs. But he adds "NDs must work politically to level the playing field."
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Arizona fatality pushes discussion on autonomous vehicles

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The unfortunate accident in Tempe, AZ, March 18 when an Uber autonomous Volvo SUV struck and killed a woman who was walking a bicycle across a darkened street has stirred a strong reaction, in this state and elsewhere, from both sides in the discussion about the national push toward a likely autonomous-vehicle future.

One the one hand, supporters who have fed the vision of that possible autonomous future point to what some see as Uber's effort to produce an autonomous fleet "on the cheap," employing too few lasers and radar sensors. They argue that the careful use of sensor-device clusters to detect objects in front of and around the autonomous vehicle is a key to the safety of the driverless cars.

On the other side are those who, for a variety of reasons, would love to slow the pace of progress of the autonomous-vehicle movement. Some are obviously concerned about safety, a group more likely to be from the older generation. But others don't want the disruption of existing transportation plans, i.e. progress on rail commute.

More than a few in the Puget Sound area, for example, are fearful that the move to autonomous vehicles could have a negative effect on their "train," the network of commuter rail lines that are part of the $54 billion ST3 transit package approved by the voters in November of 2016 as an environment-protecting alternative to increasing traffic congestion. To many of its apostles, the ST3 project is like the "Holy Rail," not merely a device to slow traffic congestion.

And thus one of the concerns among autonomous vehicle (AV) advocates is that ST3 and the Sound Transit board that oversees it will come to view autonomous vehicles as a threat to completion of the rail-based plan for the region and use its power and influence to delay or stall progress. After all, most predictions about AV's are that they could come to dominate commute-hours traffic even before ST3's projected 2041 completion date.

And in fact, national transportation officials have made it clear that if autonomous vehicles move as rapidly as anticipated toward a ubiquitous presence on streets and highways, there will be an impact on planned and existing rail-transit programs.

But at this point, Gov. Jay Inslee has put the full weight of his office behind an AV future. Inslee not only moved forcefully last summer to seek to put Washington State at the forefront of states welcoming an autonomous future and issued an executive order to allow and support testing of autonomous vehicles but reiterated that commitment last week.

Inslee told leaders of technology and business at the 20th anniversary of the Alliance of Angels investment group that "The future of transportation will be in Seattle," and he elaborated by saying the region is going to be "the autonomous vehicle center of the U.S."

Inslee seemed to be pushing back not only on those seeing the challenge for the future of autonomous travel in the Tempe fatal accident but also on an op-ed piece in that morning's Seattle Times by a think-tank "fellow" named Daniel Malarkey for an organization called Sightline Institute.


In the article, Malarkey referred to the governor's support as "ill-advised" and added, "the state gains little by allowing tech companies to test on public roads and put motorists and pedestrians at risk." He said: "The governor and state legislators should focus on developing policies to enable the rapid scaling of autonomous electric fleets as soon as we know they work."
It's frankly head-scratching to figure how Malarkey's thought process led him to his conclusions about "ill-advised."

And while I'm not a fan of putting down people you disagree with, I think the Times, in providing op-ed space for an individual to share thoughts over multiple newspaper inches, should share the background of the writer to provide reader perspective.

The Times either avoided sharing or lacked the institutional memory, to include that Malarkey's initial claim to fame in Seattle was as finance director of the ill-fated Seattle Monorail Project, from which he resigned in December of 2003 after revenues fell dramatically short of his projections and costs were underestimated. He resigned and the voters in November of 2005 said by a margin of 65 percent to 35 percent that they didn't want the project to continue.

It's from among the investment community that some of the most thoughtful support for an autonomous future for this state comes.

Madrona Venture Group, Seattle's best-recognized venture firm, issued a report last September sharing the prediction that autonomous vehicles won't merely play a major role in the region's transportation future but that AVs would come to dominate travel on I-5 between Seattle and Vancouver.

The report, issued by Madrona's founder and managing director Tom Alberg and Daniel Li, predicts that AV's will first share an HOV lane, then progress to having dedicated lanes and eventually be the sole mode of transportation on I-5 during major commute hours.

It's likely that the first formal program in the state will be in the City of SeaTac, the municipality that includes Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, where the city council will be asked next month to approve a plan that would launch autonomous mini-vans on city streets.
 
The man who conceived the SeaTac program, John Niles is executive director of an organization called Center for Advanced Transportation and Energy Solutions (CATES). He is well known in the region as an opponent of Sound Transit, which he views as spending "vast sums of taxpayer money to make mobility worse," but now he wants to help SeaTac residents gain easy access to nearby light rail stations after 8 AM when the park-and-ride lots have no more spaces.
 
Niles, who helped produce the plan that he hopes the Sea-Tac City Council will endorse, as well as seek federal funding for, may be the most believable autonomous-vehicle proponent when he insists on safety first.
 
As a seven-year-old, he was run down in a crosswalk and almost killed. Thus when he says "slow speed is the way to go right now" with autonomous vehicle projects, he is totally credible.
 
"I'm not interested in testing but in deploying something," says Niles of the Sea-Tac project, which will involve vehicles already tested elsewhere and whose travels around the city will be at relatively slow speeds and constantly monitored in what he says will be "the most cautious first step possible."
 
In fact, Niles shared the conviction that Waymo, the Google autonomous-car development company, also has remote workers watching the on-street operation of its cars.
 
Waymo was spun out of Google's parent company, Alphabet Inc., and claims to have tested its autonomous vehicles in Kirkland, but more prominently in California and most recently in metro Phoenix, Arizona where more than 600 Chrysler Pacifica vans are planned to be operating by year-end in commercial robo-cab service.

One group that might be expected to be in push-back mode over the emergence of AV technology is the insurance industry as possibly expecting to lose business, but PEMCO Insurance President Stan McNaughton says he's hopeful accidents will be reduced by the AV technology.

Meanwhile, McNaughton said the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, on whose board he sits, "is putting a pile of money into the various systems, with the insurance industry building its own test centers, since at some point we will be rating these systems and we have to have a good understanding of them."

Autonomous-vehicle development has some powerful support in addition to the auto industry and tech companies who would benefit. One is Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, which points to another Arizona accident, this one involving a Google autonomous vehicle, as particularly relevant.

It was an accident in Chandler, AZ, in which a 25-year-old driver was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence after he ran into the rear of the Google car, whose driver was treated for a concussion.

The national advocacy group said the Chandler accident shows why the group supports the development of autonomous vehicles.
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Shabana Khan shifts focus: Creating a western-tournament squash tour

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Shabana Khan weathered opposition from the U.S. squash establishment when she put on the Men's World Squash Championship for the first time in this country in 2015 in Bellevue. So she knows she will face a perhaps even stronger pushback when she launches West Coast Squash, designed to bring a stronger and more convenient focus on youth squash in the West.

Khan, one-time national women's squash champion and a distant cousin of the most respected squash family in the world, plans to launch her new series of western youth squash tournaments next month.

Shabana Khan and YasmineShabana Khan and YasmineKhan's YSK Events, her company that put on the Men's World Squash event and followed that with creation of a Bellevue stop on the national professional squash tour that is similar to the pro golf tour and an event to showcase the nation's top high school squash players, is becoming a 501c3 to oversee West Coast Squash.

In fact, YSK Events is hosting a US Squash Gold tournament May 18-21 and will have the West Coast College Squash showcase for top student talent that will run concurrently with the pro event.

And she has also made her events an opportunity to showcase the Boys and Girls Club in Bellevue's Hidden Valley. 

But the reality that community and sponsor support has been lacking for Khan, despite the participant enthusiasm and parental involvement, may mean she can't afford to continue either the proof high school showcase events.

That will leave her to focus on the development of West Coast Squash for which she has had interest from teams in Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Colorado, Utah and Vancouver, B.C. in hosting tournaments.

 "We see a great opportunity to vastly increase participation numbers across all of these states by creating a program focused on providing a platform that allows them to thrive in Squash and school while not spending a ton of money on travel," Khan said.

Khan says West Coast Squash (WCS) is a competitive Junior Squash series that stresses education, sportsmanship, and competitiveness while offering a tournament structure that provides a limited amount of time away from school and multiple paths towards gaining a WCS ranking. 

"WCS will provide a platform for youth to achieve success in competitive Squash with a path to playing for Squash teams at top colleges around the country," she said.

"Because it is much easier to accrue points and enter large tournaments being located on the East Coast, where most of the tournaments are held, it puts kids who live in the East at a huge advantage to gain points, spend less on travel, and not miss as many school days," she added. 

"On the other hand, a family located on the West Coast is at a large disadvantage due cost of travel and school missed. We believe it is counterproductive for children to tell them that they must do well in school and a sport that requires them to miss multiple school days to play in a high-level tournament," said Khan. 

Squash, which is a racket sport similar to racketball, played by two or four players in a four-walled court (glass walls for most international events that are broadcast globally) using a small, hollow rubber ball. 

Squash for decades was a sport played mostly in New England, New York City and a handful of cities in the West with Seattle in the forefront of those. Squash players and fans represented a highly targeted and sought after demographic of men and women with median incomes of more than $300,000 and an average net worth of nearly $1,500,000.  

But in recent years the U.S. has been one of the three countries in the world where squash has been growing fastest in popularity. And that growth in interest has coincided with a decline in racketball, thus leaving the courts available for squash more numerous at YMCAs and sports clubs.

Khan has bitten off a challenge with West Coast Squash and will need some substantial help in meeting her financial goal.

"The target would be $100,000 to get us going but $500,000 is our ultimate goal to achieve our staffing and to have more clinics and offer scholarships to kids who will need assistance for travel and entry fees for a couple of years," she said.

But she has some innovative ideas, like "naming rights," naming tournaments after families for sponsorship fees, and using technology that would, for example, allow students to use an app to locate tournaments they might like to enter,

Her track record includes not just the men's world event in 2015 and the Bellevue pro and student events but the first-ever-in-the-US Women's World Championship that she and her father, Yusuf, put on in Seattle in 1999. 
   
Her father was nine-time squash champion in India before coming to this country to be head pro at the Seattle Tennis Club, soon thereafter establishing the Seattle Athletic Club and building it into one of the key squash locations in the West.

In fact, YSK Events, which she founded in 2015 to focus on squash events, is a family affair in several ways. She serves as chairman while sister Latasha, who was women's national champion when Shabana defeated her to take the crown, sits on the board.

It's also a family affair in that the "Y" in YSK stands for both her 11-year-old daughter, Yasmine, who was 14th in the country in her age group last year and her father, Yusuf. The "S" and the "K" are her initials.  

A search of the internet for squash and Khan turns up the fact that the list of champions over the decades is replete with those named Khan.

One entry notes: "The great Khans are the kings of squash with all of its greatest champions not only from one nation but from one single family in the nation--the Khans of Pakistan.

"That is where all this crazy stuff comes from for me," Shabana chuckled. "I am not scared of this effort I'm undertaking--well, maybe a little bit--but the family that I come from can't back down very easily."

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