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Angel-investor leaders applaud SEC's new 'accredited investor' definition

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Angel investor leaders are applauding a Securities and Exchange Commission decision that essentially adds brainpower to wealth as qualifications to be "accredited investor." The decision is seen as a key to bringing more investors to the capital market at a time when the COVID-decimated economy needs a dramatic assist, as well as in the future.
 
Those angel leaders in the Northwest and elsewhere that I reached out to for comment saw the decision as an "enlightened" action by the federal regulatory body and one likely to bring much-needed capital to early-stage companies.
 
What the SEC did earlier this month was amend its "accredited investor" definition to allow investors to qualify based on defined measures of professional knowledge, experience, or certifications in addition to the nearly four-decades-old tests for income and net worth.  
 
"For the first time, individuals will be permitted to participate in our private capital markets not only based on their income or net worth but also based on established, clear measures of financial sophistication," said SEC Chairman Jay Clayton, in a statement accompanying the August 19 announcement.  
 
An accredited investor is an individual or a business entity that is allowed to trade securities, often higher risk, that may not be registered.
 
Prior to this SEC decision, investors needed to earn at least $200,000 in annual income ($300,000 for married couples), or have $1 million in net assets, excluding their primary residence, to count as "accredited."  
 
For decades, the SEC had allowed only the wealthy to make private venture investments, largely because of their presumed greater ability to sustain losses and fend for themselves. 

After this change, having sufficient "knowledge and expertise" is all it takes.
 
"This enlightened SEC action will pave the way for thoughtful sophisticated investors to invest in the startup community and bring much-needed capital into very early-stage companies," said Bill Payne, viewed by many as the nation's dean of angel investors. Payne has not only invested in a number of Northwest startups but has launched angel-investor groups in a number of cities.
 
"There are 400 angel groups in the U.S. in all kinds of different neighborhoods: urban, rural, academic. cross-border, etc.," added Payne, who in addition to his angel-investor leadership in this country spent a year in New Zealand, at the invitation of that nation's government, teaching angel investing. "I am sure some ecosystems will choose to focus on sophisticated investors."
 
"My angel colleagues generally welcome this regulatory improvement because it will bring more business-literate shareholders to the high-risk equity sector," said longtime investment leader John Fluke, chairman of Fluke Capital, which he has guided since its founding in 1981. "And perhaps it will induce high-risk equity enterprises to develop more pragmatic and realistic business plans."
 
"That definition now includes individuals with specific investment subject-matter expertise, regardless of whether such individuals met traditional annual income and net worth criteria," added Fluke, who is now mostly involved in angel investing.
 
"I am pretty excited about this SEC action," enthused Elizabeth Marchi, whom I have described in several columns as "Montana's queen of angel investing" because she oversaw three angel groups in the state from her and husband, Jon's, cattle ranch near Polson.
 
Marchi, who now serves as the head of marketing for an interesting new White Fish-based venture fund named Two Bear Capital, said the decision "embodies Chairman Clayton's attitude that there shouldn't be arbitrary thresholds. This will help reach innovators and problem solvers beyond the ecosystem centers."
 
Richard Sudek, chairman emeritus of Tech Coast Angels, whose 400 members spread across units in five Southern California counties make it the nation's largest angel group, said the SEC decision "will likely allow significant additional investment capital to flow into an economy at this virus-impacted time."
 
"However, this decision could have an important long-lasting impact beyond the pandemic," added Sudek, who in his post-angel career helped guide creation of the Applied Innovation Center at U-Cal Irvine and serves as its executive director and Chief Innovation Officer. "It could accelerate small business starts as well as help small businesses grow quicker and larger."
 
"I do feel the expansion offers an opportunity to grow the private investment community for early-stage companies," offered Brianna McDonald, who with her husband, Nathan, guides the Northwest chapter of the international angel investor network, Keiretsu. He is CEO and managing partner and she is president of the Keiretsu Forum Northwest.
 
"As a membership organization we depend a lot on leveraging others' experiences and expertise and over the years we have called on these individuals to help with diligence, but they would do the work and not be able to participate in the investment," she said. "With the potential pool opening, we now need to put an even bigger focus on education."
 
In an example of the perpetual dynamic tension on the five-member commission over its conflicting roles of facilitating capital formation while protecting investors, the two Democrat appointees voted against the decision, saying it could leave investors vulnerable.
 
Gary Ritner, founder and president of the Puget Sound Venture Club, the Seattle angel group that celebrates its 35th anniversary this fall, suggested there was some legitimacy to the concerns of the SEC's minority.
 
"With statistics indicating that on average half of the deals that attract angel investment go broke in the first two years," said Ritner. "Long term, an investor will likely make money, but how many of this type of investor can emotionally live with the potential of the early losses."
 
But having offered those thoughts, Ritner shared with me the strongly positive reaction of the Angel Capital Association (ACA),
The North American professional organization of active accredited investors.  
 
"This action will significantly impact the availability of capital to cutting-edge innovative start-up companies that are the foundation for job creation in our nation," said the ACA.

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Could the governor's office be follow-on prize in this year's lieutenant governor race?

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The battle for the nominations for the part-time position of Washington's lieutenant governor has drawn a cluster of hopefuls based in part at least on what some pundits see as the strong possibility that the governor's office could be a subsequent prize awaiting whoever wins the post in the November general election.
 
That isn't at all what the framers of the state's constitution had in mind when they created the position of an elected official to fill in for the governor from time to time and preside over the Senate when the legislature is in session. And hang around in case the governor died or was incapacitated. Or, as with Inslee, a possible appointment to a Biden administration, should there be one.
 
That limited constitutional role made it historically a job coveted by those who first made a name outside of politics, then sought an easy ride into a job most voters likely don't really pay much attention to.
 
Thus this year is only the third time in the past century that a person running for lieutenant governor nurtures the hope that winning the job could lead to becoming the next state chief executive, sooner rather than when Gov. Jay Inslee completes the third term for which he's now running. And has promised to serve out.
 
The "sooner" looms like an apple hanging from the tree because of the much-discussed possibility that if Joe Biden is elected, he would tap Inslee.
 
The interesting side note is that by the time Biden could win office, Inslee's image could be badly tarnished as the effort unfolds to tie him tightly to the state's employment security disaster that has devastated the lives of thousands of state residents forced to wait endlessly and needlessly for their unemployment checks.
 
Inslee's protection of his employment security head Susan "Suzi' LeVine and avoidance at press gatherings about discussing the disaster and LeVine's role in it will be made an issue in the governor's race. And if Inslee's image begins to tarnish, it will be interesting to watch how the four Democrats in the lieutenant governor's race handle questions about the unemployment disaster.
 
But back to the race for the $115,000 annual salary position, a race that has attracted four Democrats, five Republicans and two Libertarians to this year's contest.
 
Three of the state's first nine lieutenant governors actually became the state's chief executive when the man who was governor died in office. One of them, Louis Hart, was elected to a full term after succeeding Ernest Lister in February of 1919, a month after Lister took office.
 
William Jennings (Wee) Coyle, a former UW football great and decorated war hero, started it all in 1920 when he parlayed his name familiarity into a landslide victory in the race for the state's second-highest elective office, openly indicating he hoped to become governor four years later.
 
Coyle was only 32, a handsome former UW star quarterback just back from the World War I battlefields when he strategized to use the lieutenant governor role to position himself to run for governor, a race he ran in 1924, but lost.
 
For most of the next 96 years, the office was held by those who had first risen to prominence beyond the political sphere.
 
It wasn't until Brad Owen, a Democrat and former state legislator from Shelton was elected in 1996 and was re-elected four times that a lieutenant governor created real importance for the position.
 
During his five terms, Owen created for the office the role of a goodwill ambassador for the state in international trade and promotion of Washington products overseas. The lieutenant governor also serves as chairman of the Joint Committee on Economic Development, Tourism and Trade. Plus Owen led trade missions to parts of the world where the title "lieutenant governor" opens doors.
 
But the history of the position has provided some interesting political lore.
 
The fact the lieutenant governor is often described as "a heartbeat away from the governor's chair" has seemed to hold little importance for Washington voters, despite those three early in the 20th century who rose to the top state office because of the deaths of the governors.
 
Colorful Victor A. Meyers, a mustachioed maestro who earned a reputation as a big-name band leader, decided to seek the office as a Democrat in 1932. He won and was re-elected four times before being defeated in 1952 by Emmett Anderson, who had gained fame as the "Grand Exalted Ruler" of the Elks.
 
Anderson, like Coyle, had hoped to use the post as a springboard to the governorship and made an unsuccessful run for governor in 1956 and lost to Albert D. Rosellini.
 
That allowed John A. Cherberg, a failed football coach at the University of Washington, to run for the job as a Democrat and win. Cherberg commenced a 32-year stand in the job that made him the longest-tenured lieutenant governor ever in the nation.
 
The most interesting effort to boost a non-politician into the job came in 1968 when then-Gov. Dan Evans and his state Republican chairman, C. Montgomery (Gummie) Johnson along with future U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton, then running for attorney general, hatched a plan to oust Cherberg from the office, which by then he had held for 12 years. The goal was to set the stage for the election of the first black man since reconstruction to become governor four years later.
 
I've written about Evans, Johnson, and Gorton seeking to boost the fortunes of Art Fletcher, a black city councilman from Pasco who had gathered some national prominence for the development of a self-help program in the East Pasco ghetto.
 
The effort by three Republican leaders, back in 1968, to create an opportunity for an African-American to have a shot at becoming governor needs to have a high-visibility role at this time, in particular, rather than being lost in Washington State history. I wrote a 50-years-on column in 2018 at Evans's suggestion, as he reminded me of "the Republican plot to get a black man a chance to be governor."
 
So Johnson talked popular and prominent hydroplane driver Bill Muncey into running for the post, once confiding to me off the record that Muncey had wanted to know what a lieutenant governor did. "Not a lot," Johnson had replied, with some honesty.
 
Fletcher won the GOP primary but failed to dislodge Cherberg in the general election. But a year later, thanks in part to the visibility Evans helped create for him, he gained a position in the Nixon Administration's U.S. Department of Labor, where he created the first Affirmative Action program
 
By the time he retired in 1988, Cherberg had built a reputation for integrity and even-handedness in his role as the State Senate's presiding officer. And with the election of Joel Pritchard, a respected Republican congressman, and former legislator, the job took on an increasingly important role that Owen continued to build on during his years in the office.
 
Incidentally, the state's top-two primary system doesn't guarantee any party a spot in the general election, so it would be possible for the votes to split in such a way that two Democrats or two Republicans could advance to the general. Election.

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Boeing board faces questions - What lies ahead? How about coming home?

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Were it not for the trauma the coronavirus is visiting on this region, the travails of Boeing's effort to restore the lost luster that made it the model for corporate success and community treasure would likely be the subject of negative conversation wherever community leaders gather.
 
Now David Calhoun, new to the Boeing CEO role but a decade on the board during which the crises within the company were being spawned with no sense the board saw anything to question now-ousted CEO Dennis Muilenburg about, is seeking to right the ship.
 
As if to prove that the board had no sense of anything amiss until the two 737 Max crashes and the challenges that have dogged the company since then, Calhoun admitted, in an interview two months after he took the reins, that things inside the company were worse than he had thought.
 
"It's more than I imagine it would be, honestly," Calhoun said, adding "it speaks to the weakness of our leadership," an indictment aimed at ousted CEO Muilenberg.  

But there are some who would suggest it might logically apply to the board. Part of a board's responsibility, after all, is being accountable to the public for the quality of services and goods delivered.
 
It's quite likely that the congressional report that scored "a culture of concealment" and "grossly insufficient oversight" was referring to more than the executives who ran the company.
 
I recall when I first heard that Boeing charged its airline customers an additional amount for installing devices that would ensure greater safety of its products, my first thought was "the board needs to determine if that's true and, if it is, simply say 'don't do that anymore."
 
But some will protest, "boards don't do that!" Tell me about it.
 
So if you haven't, it's worth looking at the board whose job it is to protect the traveling public and the customers who fly them, no less a responsibility than overseeing shareholder profits.
 
It's definitely a board that could compete admirably with other boards in "the fame game."
 
First, there is (The) Caroline Kennedy, who most recently served as ambassador to Japan, and former South Carolina governor and U.N. representative Nikki Haley.
 
The board has military star power. Adm. John Richardson was appointed to the board last year after completing a four-year term as Chief of Naval Operations, and Adm. Edmund Giambastiani Jr. former vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff and former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, is completing a decade on the board.

Board chair is Lawrence Kellner, former chairman and CEO of Continental Airlines, who has been on the board since 2011

Other board members were company chairman and CEOs, Robert Bradway at Amgen, Arthur Collins Jr. at Medtroni, Ron Williams at Aetna and Ed Liddy at Allstate president and CEO, as Lynn Good at Duke Energy and Mike S. Zafirovski, at Nortel. Susan Schwab.  
 
Professor at the University of Maryland school of public policy and the former US. Trade representative, named last year fills out the board.
 
All seem capable of more innovative action than just to name one of their own as CEO.

The fact is, the Boeing that was created in Seattle in 1916 by William Boeing and grew to become one of the most successful and admired companies in America hasn't been the same since it moved to Chicago a week before 9-11. Bean counters, represented by Harry Stonecipher who as president and CEO of McDonnell Douglas orchestrated the merger of the two companies and replaced ousted Phil Condit, took control of Boeing in 2003.

In fairness, a defense-department procurement scandal that eventually led to Condit's resignation, among other embarrassments to the company, began when Boeing was still a Seattle-based company and only exploded after the move to Chicago.

Hard to know whether the culture might have continued in Chicago if Alan Mulally, then president of Boeing Commercial, where the airplanes were made, had been named Boing CEO, which he had expected when Condit was replaced. So instead he went to Ford two years later and worked his engineering-leadership magic for a car company.

Nevertheless, what would be the reaction if that Boeing board decided on a dramatic move to prove the board members wanted a different culture and opted to return the company to its Seattle roots?

The culture shifted when the years passed with the corporate executives 2,000 miles distant from the place where the culture of Boeing's largest unit, commercial airplanes, was nurtured or diminished.

Given the corporate presence that has emerged here in the past two decades, not only in homegrown companies like Microsoft, Amazon and Expedia but expansions here by the likes of Google, a move home by Boeing could not only carry shareholder logic. It could also send a message to customers, lawmakers and employees about the desire to restore the culture and integrity that seems to have waned.

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PART 2 - A Decade of the most memorable Harps

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(This is the second of two articles in which I am offering readers of The Harp a reprise of the stories from the past decade that were most memorable to me, some of which got little in the way of broad visibility but all of which got repeated visibility here for reasons that will become obvious.)


The story that was my personal favorite was actually several Harps relating to my friend Joseph L. (Joe) Galloway, one of the best-known correspondents of the Vietnam War, who has been on the road much of the past decade doing interviews with veterans of that conflict to preserve their memories.

The interviews by Galloway have been part of the 50th Anniversary Vietnam War Commemoration to honor those who fought in that war but were never thanked when they returned to a divided nation.
 
Galloway's travels to do the interviews, mostly about two hours in length and which he told me now number about 400, embody his commitment to producing the "the body of material for future generations who want to know what this war was all about."  
 
The formal launch of the 50th Anniversary Vietnam War Commemoration was on Memorial Day of 2012 and since 2013 Joseph L. (Joe) Galloway, one of the best-known correspondents of that war, has been on the road doing interviews with veterans of that conflict to preserve their memories.

Galloway, a reporter assigned by United Press International to cover the war, was selected by the Defense Department unit charged with administering the program to do the interviews to preserve for future generations.

Galloway, decorated for battlefield heroism at the Battle of Ia Drang in November of 1965 where he was the only correspondent and joked to me that he turned in his camera and took a machine gun, spent a week doing interviews in Seattle in the spring of 2015. I had urged him to come to Seattle for a round of interviews and found KCPQ TV willing to make its studios available for his interviews. He returned to Seattle for another round of interviews two years later.

I've written several columns on Galloway and his Vietnam interviews, partly because we were UPI colleagues (he in war zones and I as a political writer and later a Pacific Coast executive for the company). But in a broader sense because of a fascination with his perspectives on the war in articles and speeches, and the import of the battle in the Ia Drang Valley that Galloway and the late Gen. Hal Moore, then a lieutenant colonel in command of the U.S. Army forces in that battle, made famous in their book and a subsequent movie.

The battle became the subject of Galloway's and Moore's book, "We Were Soldiers Once...and Young," and the resulting movie, "We Were Soldiers," as well as a second book, "We are Still Soldiers... A Journey Back to the Battlefields of Vietnam" when the two returned to the battlefield years late.

In an earlier column, I quoted Galloway about his time on the battlefield, particularly at Ia Drang: "The men I met and the time we spent together fighting for one another was a life-changing experience that transcends the bonds of friendship and brotherhood."

During one of our interviews, Galloway said of the Vietnam veterans: "They are not bitter but I am bitter in their behalf. It makes me angry that those who came to hate the war came to hate the warriors who were their sons and daughters."


It was seven years ago that I first learned of and wrote about the then decade-old commitment by Bellevue business leader and philanthropist Joan Wallace to the mostly Hispanic children in the Yakima Valley community of Granger that changed their lives and the life of their community.  

Wallace listened over Thanksgiving dinner in 2003 while Janet Wheaton, her sister in law and principal of Granger Middle School, expressed concern that the children, who had little food at home, would be going hungry without their two in-school meals a day over the Christmas holidays because the school would be out.

When Wallace returned home, an email donation request to pay for Christmas baskets of food went out to a few dozen of her closest friends and associates and soon thereafter, a non-profit named "Children of Granger" was formed.
Joan Wallace

Thus began an ongoing commitment by two women, one an educator and one a prominent Bellevue business leader. Their continuing involvement changed the future for the families in the city of 3,500 where the population is 84 percent Latino or Hispanic and 35 percent of the families live below the poverty level.

After writing the first Granger column, an annual update of the dramatic things that continued to unfold in Granger because of Wallace and Wheaton became my regular Thanksgiving offering to readers of The Harp.

Everything they did was aimed at helping kids break the poverty barrier, from giving each child in all grade levels an annual $200 "slush fund" for things like shoes and coats to giving mothers of pre-schoolers learning toys that brought grants once they had proved the value of their "Ready for Kindergarten" program.

"While doing our best to take care of the immediate needs, we also believe it is equally important to cultivate self-sufficiency and to enable these children to finish school," Wallace said.

But the most dramatic story of the impact that the two women had was with the successful campaign at the middle school five years ago to build a program to improve attendance because of its key to educational advancement. They came up with a slogan that became a mantra, "Every Child, Every desk, Every Day."

Thus in 2014, I was able to share that the little non-profit had put together a relationship with nearby Heritage University and its largely Hispanic student body and that the relationship had led to the first-ever grant to Families of Granger.

The $15,000 grant from the Yakima Valley Community Foundation, due largely to the involvement of Heritage student and mother of four Alma Sanchez, was used to implement an attendance-incentive program that Sanchez had created.

Those two things basically made 2014 the little non-profit's most important year. And there was a degree of magic in the results of Alma's idea. a quarterly incentive program aimed at perfect attendance.

Driven by the attendance-campaign slogan and the commitment of children, parents, and teachers, the school set the mark for best attendance record in the state, with an absentee rate of 4 percent, compared to a statewide average of 16 percent absenteeism, outdoing schools even in places like Mercer Island and Bellevue.  

I knew that accomplishment would go largely unnoticed by media and business leaders in Western Washington. So I met with Kemper Freeman, Pam Pearson of Q13 and Mike Patterson, since deceased, whose law firm represented a number of school districts and together we created a special award called Innovations in Education.

All involved, most especially Wallace, Wheaton, and Alma, were honored at a banquet at the Rainier Club and presented with plaques to help them remember the accomplishment that helped change a community.

The Yakima Foundation got involved with a grant for the attendance campaign and has supported the annual effort since.

Last week an email arrived from Wallace advising that the time for an exit to her active involvement in Granger had arrived. "The time has come and the path is not only clear but exciting and gratifying," she said, adding in the mail to her Friends of Granger, "together we have made a difference." She included a chart that showed "we poured $425,000 into the community."

"Friends of Granger will go back to the community to be run by a committee of teachers and community leaders," Wallace wrote.


My first column on Shabana Khan came when in 2015 when she was struggling to raise sponsor money to put on the Men's World Squash Championship at Meydenbauer Center as the first time ever for the event in the United States and I was asked to help her. I wrote a Harp then because I was intrigued about the sport and her efforts and other Harps followed as I watched her progress.

The men's world event turned out to be a success, attracting attention in all countries where squash is prominent, and within a couple of years, the 51-year-old former national women's squash champion had grown to become nationally and actually globally prominent as the queen of the promoters of the sport of squash.

That growing recognition for her efforts has come as a result of a few giant steps while to her frustration and the frustration of a few key supporters, her local visibility has come in small steps, including virtually no local media visibility.
 
Her late father, Yusuf Khan, 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. Yusuf, who died in October of 2018 at 87, saw his two daughters become women' national champions, with Shabana beating her sister to claim the national title in 2001.

She put on a squash event last August that was the first of its kind in the country as she created a world invitational squash tournament that attracted the world's top squash talent, six men and six women and was pleased to have the event sponsors name the event after her late father.

The invitational event held at the Hidden Valley Boys & Girls Club in Bellevue was 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.

Among her important innovations for the sport has been her National College Showcase 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.  
 
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.
It seems that eventually, Khan's efforts on behalf of a sport that has begun growing in this country at a rate third fastest in the world will pay off with attention and support in this region, including sponsorships dollars.


It needs to be noted that when I refer to virtually no local visibility for several of the Harp topics I feature in this decade-ending reprise, I have to single out KCPQ13 television for the manner in which the station picked up on the Harps.

The station's VP and general manager Pam Pearson and her staff seized on the opportunity to provide support for Joe Galloway's veteran interviews and news coverage through his week of conducting interviews. And the station stepped up to be a sponsor of the Innovations in Education event for Joan Wallace and Granger involves. And they did an excellent interview with Art Harrigan that must have made other stations mutter "where the hell were we?"

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A Decade of the most memorable Harps

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Few journalistic tasks could be more subjectively challenging than that undertaken by various media entities as the old year faded into a new decade and they chose the best or most important news stories of that decade past. Thus came revisiting of the education funding battle, the various clashes over Sound Transit, the drama of Amazon's quest for a second headquarters, Boeing's travails and ventures into the absurdity of the Seattle City Council's machinations. But for me the challenge was easier: choose from a decade of Harps the stories most memorable to me, some of which got little in the way of broad visibility. These are not my most personal Harps like my daughter's selection for the Oregon Supreme Court, my involvement with the rise of the young biotech company, Athira, from being its first outside investor to watching its move toward national Alzheimer's treatment visibility, or my almost yearly opportunities to compete in the World Senior Games. But ones with broad impact that deserved more recognition.


The story that may have been the most impactful on the Seattle area in several ways was about Seattle attorney Arthur Harrigan, Jr., who had key legal roles in saving two of Seattle's professional sports franchises.

Harrigan's low-visibility legal maneuvers forced absentee owners Jeff Smulyan of the Seattle Mariners and five years later Ken Behring of the Seattle Seahawks to be pressed into allowing time for local buyers to be found rather than being permitted to move the teams.

The legal confrontations with the owners of the two professional sports teams came about because Art Harrigan's law firm, now Harrigan Leyh, long represented King County on its legal issues. And the owners of both the Mariners and Seahawks came into conflict with the county because they sought to abandon the county-owned Kingdome and their leases there.

Because the Mariners' decision occurred in arbitration session rather than court battles, there was no media visibility for Harrigan's victory that required Smulyan to not only allow an opportunity to find a local buyer but had the arbitrator set a "local value" $35 million below market value for the franchise. No visibility, that is, until Harrigan shared the stories with me nearly four years ago (search Flynn's Harp: Art Harrigan).

And five years after the Mariners were saved, a series of Harrigan legal maneuvers that ended up before the State Supreme Court and eventually NFL owners, left enough uncertainty about Behring's likely ability to move the Seahawks to LA that he sold the team to Paul Allen.

Harrigan's arbitration victory with the Mariners allowed the high-visibility work of then Sen. Slade Gorton and John Ellis in landing Nintendo as the new lead owner to unfold and Paul Allen to emerge as Seahawks owner. But Harrigan deserves a moment of thanks as each Mariner season opens and when Seahawk fans gather for the first game of the year.


The story I personally found most memorable was the quest of Washington State University, President Elson Floyd, to convince a legislature that was initially reluctant to give him a hearing, to create a medical school at WSU.

Getting the 2015 Legislature to approve the creation of a new medical school at WSU, despite bitter opposition from the University of Washington and its powerful lobbying influence, was the crowning achievement of Floyd's eight years as WSU president.

It only later became known, as his battle for his medical school was being won through the tireless effort of hours of testimony before legislative committees and engaging lawmakers in one-on-one meetings, that he was waging another battle.

Floyd apparently learned early in that 2015 session that he had colon cancer, which before long he learned would likely be terminal. But he fought with equal determination for the next four months against his cancer, a battle he would lose, and for his medical school, a battle he won.

He died on June 20, 15 days before Gov. Jay Inslee signed the bill containing the first $2.5 million to launch what would soon be named The Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, which would be located in Spokane and grow to serve communities in all parts of the state.

As a member of the national advisory board for what is now the Carson College of Business, I had the opportunity to get to know Floyd from soon after his arrival and was stuck, as many others were, with his focus on his conviction about what he viewed as the job-creating mission of higher education.

"We need to communicate with the Legislature and policymakers that we understand that we are about creating jobs, about economic development," Floyd said at his first meeting with the advisory board.

Thus he transformed WSU's role as Washington's land grant university into something far broader. He stood at the national forefront of college leaders in understanding that the role of universities in economic development was destined to become the issue it has become in most states.

And the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, in August of 2017, welcomed its first 60 students to its Spokane campus.


What I describe as the most interesting business-sports story of the decade was the decision by two of the icons of the cellular-wireless era to bring their mutual love of baseball to develop alongside their affection for their wireless business.
John Stanton and Mikal Thomsen were in their 20s when they teamed up in the early '80s at McCaw Cellular to become part of the birthing of a fledgling communications technology whose growth globally they helped guide through several major companies over the next 20 years. Stanton was actually second in command at McCaw.


Now in their early 60s, both have parlayed their business success into owning and guiding professional baseball teams, a commitment both might well agree is a passion that rivals their business activities. Stanton is the majority owner of the Mariners and Thomsen majority owner of the Tacoma Rainiers, making them an anomaly in all of professional baseball since the Rainiers are the Triple-A franchise for the Mariners.  

A business focus remains, however, as they continue to manage their Bellevue-based wireless venture and investment firm, Trilogy Partnerships, formed by a collection of long-time wireless partners after the sale of their Western Wireless to Alltel Corp. in 2005.

Stanton's and Thomsen's baseball involvement extends across the state and down to the West Coast League, an amateur collegiate summer league, where they are among owners of both the Walla Sweets and the Yakima Valley Pippins.

That baseball tie began, in fact, with the Walla Walla team in 2010 when Stanton, an alum of Whitman College, where he served as member and chair of Board of Trustees, called Thomsen and advised that he wanted him to join the ownership group Stanton was forming.
 
Thomsen returned the favor in 2011 when he advised Stanton that he was fulfilling his boyhood dream of owning his hometown Tacoma Rainiers team and wanted Stanton and his wife Theresa Gillespie, to join the ownership team.
 
In both Thomsen's and Stanton's cases, their love of baseball stems from childhood memories.
 
Thomsen once told me that the opportunity to create the ownership team that bought the Rainiers was like his "dream come true." He would be owning his hometown team that he had grown up rooting for from the time his dad took him to his first game at age three. That was the year that the then-Tacoma Giants returned after a 55-year absence.
 
Stanton also recalls attending the games of his hometown team with his father. That was in 1969 when, as a teenager, he became a fan of the Seattle Pilots in their first and only year of existence and recalls crying when they left town for Milwaukee.
 
So now Stanton, who took the title of Mariners CEO for a time after the ownership group he led bought out Nintendo, then turned over that role to Kevin Mather, has returned to officing fulltime in Bellevue where he can wander into Thomsen's office any time to discuss either baseball or wireless.
 
(The second article in this two-part series on my most memorable stories of the decade will be sent tomorrow. They will include a Harp that's my personal favorite because it's about my friend and former colleague, Vietnam correspondent Joe Galloway and his interviews with Vietnam veterans. Then there's the most overlooked story of the decade: the amazing commitment by Bellevue businesswoman Joan Wallace to the children of Granger, and finally the story of the locally overlooked but globally successful promoter of the sport of squash, Shabana Khan)
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Proof of value from Opportunity Zones won't come quickly

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Any legislation created by Congress with the promise of helping the rich get richer by providing for them to help the poor is bound to be challenged from its birth, faced with a mix of believers, skeptics, opportunists, and cynics.  
 
So it is with the Qualified Opportunity Zones (QOZ) 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.
 
Ralph IbarraRalph IbarraAnd now the OZ legislation, signed into law by President Trump three days before Christmas in 2017, a sort of holiday gift to taxpayers and, significantly, a bipartisan one, is drawing a lot of scrutiny from critics who contend it is turning out to be merely a tax break for billionaires and focused far more on real estate projects than on job creation.

Supporters counter that much of the criticism has a political ring to it a year before the presidential election in which Trump could point to it as an example, albeit a rare one, of Congressional bipartisan progress.
 
Meanwhile, officials in most states, including Washington, have been slow to roll out examples and promote projects the act has made possible with its capital gains tax breaks. Nor has there been much creativity on the part of state leaders to convince some of those wealthy investors to look at potentially winning projects, or in maybe putting state funds into projects that, coupled with the tax breaks, could become attractive for major investors.
 
The "politics" accusations are coming because Congressional opponents are starting to discuss what they see as the need for changes, including a possible effort to terminate zones that are not sufficiently low income. That was one of the key criteria for census tracts to gain OZ eligibility in the original list put together by the Treasury Department.
 
A recent high-visibility example of the criticism was a New York Times article that rained vilification down on Michael Milken, alleging that he tried to take advantage of the Opportunity Zones tax incentives to enhance the value of some of his Nevada property.
 
The Times article indicates that Milken, still widely recalled more as the billionaire king of junk bonds who went to jail than remembered for his decades of philanthropy since then, sought to press the Nevada governor and state officials to get the Treasury Secretary to classify the tract as an OZ.
 
There no real evidence that Milken did that, and there was no effort to paint any of his actions as illegal even if he had.  
 
The parcel was eventually included in the eligible census tracts, despite Treasury's concern that the residents were too well off to get the designation. Once included it was selected by the governor as one of the state's Opportunity zones.
 
Ironically, that Reno area OZ parcel in which Milken owns about 700 acres, contains many of the potential job-creating aspects of what proponents of the tax break indicated they hoped would come about, including a planned tech incubator where smaller companies could set up operations and seek investors.  

My longtime Latino friend Ralph Ibarra, a fan of the Opportunity Zones idea from the outset who has delved deep into the details of the tax-break legislation, says he felt it was a "golden opportunity" to provide a chance for investors to get involved to achieve good ends.
 
"if you want to get investors to act in their enlightened self-interest you incentivize them in ways they understand and that's by offering them the opportunity to get a return," said Ibarra, who has shared several ideas on how he might get involved in ways that would generate returns for his clients and causes from OZs.
 
When I mentioned the Times Article on Milken to Ibarra, who as president of DiverseAmerica Network helps corporations with diversity issues and small businesses with access to opportunities, he said he didn't see a problem.
 
"Using your influence in that way is no different than the Port of Tacoma going to the governor and saying 'it would be helpful if you designated the Tacoma Tide Flats as an Opportunity Zone so we can attract capital to some projects.'"
 
"In fact, I did it myself when I looked at every potential opportunity zone from Seattle to DuPont, intending to try to influence the process, then went to the Lieutenant Governor's office and suggested ones I thought should be selected. I said 'respectfully here are tracts that I believe are worthy of being selected because of the lack of equity capital for small and distressed firms in those areas.'"
 
Ibarra's point was he was seeking to use his influence with the lieutenant governor because of projects he had been involved with relating to the state's second-highest elected official.


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. Thus was born the Opportunity Zones.
 
Governors of the 50 states were brought into the implementation of the act by having the chance to designate census tracts where various business ventures would be eligible for the OZ benefits, through investment by Qualified Opportunity Funds.
 
Jessie J Knight JrJessie J Knight JrA key business figure I asked about the emerging criticism of wealth-enhancing projects just getting off the ground was Jessie J Knight Jr., a retired prominent San Diego business leader closely involved with oversight of the OZ legislation and one for whom philanthropy has become a retirement focus through his family foundation, Knight's Angels.
 
Knight, a retired Alaska Airlines board member who was chairman of San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Gas Co. both subsidiaries of Sempra Energy, where he was executive vice president, said: "judging this legislation on projects already in place is short-sighted and ignorant about economic development."
 
I reached out to Knight because he is one of the national business leaders selected to serve on a task force chaired by Vice President Michael Pence and Senator Scott that is overseeing the progress of the OP-zones program.
 
"This effort can only be judged in what new investment doors are opened to the private sector in the short run, and in the longer term, what businesses and communities have been improved in years five, seven and 10 (the years in which capital-gains taxes due are evaluated for reductions)," Knight said.

An effort at work in Washington may help provide the model for how Opportunity zones can help bring progress and job creation to economically deprived areas.
A working group, that includes Chuck Depew and the National Development Council for which he is a senior director and West Team Leader, is working with local communities and has come up with some promising projects, in Wenatchee and on the Colville Reservation in Central Washington.

The involvement of the state's Native American Tribes and Opportunity Zones designated near or adjacent to them has yet to fully emerge, but will be essential to future success, Depew says.

But he cautions, with a message that critics of OZ need to digest, that projects that will attract mission-driven investors who want to do good while gaining financial return take longer to put together than the low-hanging fruit that has attracted the wealthy investors looking only to get easy tax breaks.

"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," Depew told me for an earlier column. "That takes time and resources."
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Serial entrepreneur Pete Chase carving out a key role in 5G cell technology

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Serial entrepreneur Peter (Pete) Chase is sympathetic to the pushback from communities upset about the impact of looming 5G cellular technology on their esthetics and infrastructure, but he's convinced the new company he's putting together will help ease much of that community concern.
 
Chase, whose Easy Street Solutions will be based in his hometown of Spokane, is referring to the suit filed by more than 100 municipalities around the country, including Seattle and Bellevue, against the Federal Communications Commission over its plan for the rollout of 5G networks across the country.

Pete ChasePete ChaseThe 5G stands for fifth-generation cellular wireless, which will be required in order for industry leaders AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint to develop and introduce new wireless communications platforms, including the Internet of Things (IoT). This is a transition from existing networks that will require millions of what are described as "small cell towers" placed mainly in urban areas where data usage is greatest.
 
The politics that is accompanying the emergence of the new networks is that the FCC has pre-empted the right to control how the networks of new towers come about and that has local officials up in arms because they are basically being pushed aside on details of things that could have a major impact on the communities.
 
As PC Magazine noted in an article in its August issue, "you should expect the big 5G applications to crop up around 2021 or 2022 and until then, things are going to be confusing as wireless carriers jockey for customers and mindshare."
 
Meanwhile, Chase will be seeking to attract investors as well as wireless carrier "mindshare" for a company that he says will produce towers that "will fit well into the look of the communities."
 
"What we are doing is designing a very aesthetically flexible pole, 20-to-40 feet in height and one-tenth the weight of current poles and one that allows a lot of different options," Chase explained. "These will fit well into the look of the city."
 
"The FCC and carriers need to work with cities to find solutions that make both happy," said Chase. "The big thing for the FCC is that we need to beat China to 5G and you can imagine that China is not going to spend a lot of time thinking of things like building permits," he added with a chuckle. "However, I did see that China is claiming 5G systems are up in several cities - they are definitely ahead of us at this time."
 
"You can't blame communities who feel they have the right to make their own decisions, only to watch that power taken away," Chase said.
 
"Something to note about the FCC mandate is that along with insisting that cities not slow down 5G projects, they also are capping the lease rate per site that the cities can charge the carriers, Chase added.
 
"It's an educational thing on both sides since the cities need to understand that if they want 5G in their cities, they have to work with the carriers.
 
And the carriers need to accept that they can't just start to put up ugly poles everywhere since these poles will be about 800 to 1,000 feet apart."
 
As he begins seeking investors for Easy Street Solutions, which, Chase says is a name that "addresses the issue of how do you deploy this technology and make it easy for all stakeholders," he is likely reminded of his first entrepreneurial go-round with a telecom startup, Purcell Systems.
 
That was in 2000. He was 40 and recalls with a smile that he was guided in that launch by "blind optimism" in the future of what became a $140 million revenue company as a maker of outdoor telecommunications cabinets.
 
The company was sold six years ago to NYSE-listed EnerSys, a manufacturer of batteries for various uses, for $115 million.
 
His success with Purcell earned Chase official entrepreneur status with selection as an Ernst & Young (E-Y) Entrepreneur of the Year and for several years thereafter he was a judge in the EoY competition.
 
His entrepreneur focus took Chase in an unusual direction after Purcell as he launched Columbia International Finance in Spokane to become a player in the Immigrant Investment Program called EB5 that was passed by Congress 30 years ago to stimulate the economy through investment by foreigners. The vehicle was to grant green cards to a specified number of foreigners in exchange for $500,000 invested by each foreigner in projects in this country that created at least 10 new jobs.
 
Chase said he intended to use the EB5 program, which initially and quickly turned into a real estate financing tool by developers, as what he called a "true economic development tool," focused on funding new businesses across the state rather than just real estate.
 
He applied for and was granted approval for Columbia International Finance to be a regional center, which the act decreed would serve as the vehicles to turn the investment dollars into job-creating projects.
 
He found little opportunity in Spokane but got involved in several projects in Seattle to which he directed foreign investments but laments that congressional action to raise the $500,000 investment fee to $900,000, effective Nov, 21, "is going to put the brakes on the program. It's a victim of the effort by Congress to slow applications down because they just don't want immigration."
 
So turning back to his 5G initiative, I asked Chase: "If blind optimism was the attitude you brought to Purcell, what's driving your 5-G effort?"
 
"Confident zeal," Chase replied quickly. "Nothing will stop the growth of data and the Internet of Things, but you have to have a reasonable solution to 5G deployment to pull it off. We do the extremely necessary dumb stuff to make the smart stuff work."
 
"But it's important to remember that 5G networks don't exist now, although there is certainly testing in some venues like sports arenas, so what's in play right now is a lot of marketing fluff," Chase said, adding that "real 5G is probably two years out for the average consumer."

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One of Jim Ellis' little-known contributions was helping enure a post-Pilots MLB franchise

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As state and community leaders reflect on the accomplishment and legacy of James (Jim) Ellis, who died Monday at the age of 98, one vital role he played that was little noted or known was the one helping assure that Seattle would have a major league baseball team to replace the departing Pilots.
 
Anyone who follows baseball, business or community affairs know that Jim's younger brother, John, helped Sen. Slade Gorton put together the local-ownership team that saved the Mariners in 1992 from being sold and moved.
 

Then he served as Mariner CEO through the '90s, the Mariners most success string of years.
 
Jim EllisJim EllisBut few except for maybe a handful of community and elected leaders knew the story Jim Ellis shared with me how the failure of his and Seattle business icon Eddie Carlson's community-ownership initiative to save the ill-fated Seattle Pilots paved the way for the Mariners.
 
I met with Ellis back in 2011 as the Pilots' saga was getting some renewed visibility as Jim Bouten, who parlayed his stint as a Pilot's pitcher into Ball Four, his famous inside look at the Pilots and baseball, gathered some of the players featured in the book for an anniversary.
 
Ellis recalled, in our interview, the groundswell of support that Carlson, then perhaps the most influential business figure in Seattle, mounted in the form of a community fund-raising effort to buy the franchise from its bankrupt owners and keep it in Seattle. Many knew that the idea of a Green Bay Packers-like ownership in baseball was going to be a hard sell to a group of wealthy baseball owners.
 
Ellis remembered that Carlson, who had risen from bellhop to president of the former Western International Hotels and eventually CEO of United Airlines after it bought the Seattle-based hotel chain, led the community effort. The plan was for Carlson to be chair of a publicly owned community franchise and he asked Ellis, then in his mid-40s but already a decade on as the leader of most major civic projects, to join the effort and be the team's legal counsel.
 
I asked Ellis to tell the story, some parts long were forgotten, some parts never told, about that feverish effort in the winter of 1969-70 to save Seattle's baseball team and how the story unfolded after that.  
 
Here is his account:
"We went after contributions of from $5,000 to $200,000 and raised the money the American League said it would need, and it was real money in those days. The effort drew national attention as the media made this a struggle of the little guy against the big guys. It would have been the only community-ownership in sports other than the Packers.
 
"We went back to Chicago triumphantly for the meeting and the formal vote of the American League owners and I remember (baseball commissioner) Bowie Kuhn telling us the night before that meeting that we were in. We knew we had a solid majority of support from the owners, but the league rules required that no more than three of the 12 teams in the league could vote against the plan.
 
"We were called upstairs at the hotel the previous evening for a private meeting with some of the American League owners and we thought it was to be a welcome-to-the-club meeting for us and we'd be welcomed with open arms, though there were a few questions asked that implied some reluctance about us.
 
"We were thunderstruck at the next day's public meeting, with the room at least half media, when four votes were cast against us. It was over. We had lost.
 
"We went home and Eddie called everyone who had committed and told them they no longer were committed. Bowie Kuhn called the next day and asked if we would make one more try-I think he really wanted us to succeed - but it was over."
 
Ellis recalled how he telephoned Gorton, then Washington's attorney general and later U.S. Senator to tell him they'd failed in the effort. But Gorton apparently said, "hold on, baseball told the community that if they voted to build the Kingdome, the city would have a team as its major tenant." So Gorton decided to go the legal route and brought suit against the owners.
 
But the untold story was that, for whatever reason, the American League owners who hosted Ellis and Carlson for the dinner meeting and discussion about the ownership plan secretly recorded the conversation.
 
And as with then-President Nixon's secret White House recordings, the outcome was disastrous for the recorders. Ellis recalled that once the door on the meeting is heard on the tape to close, followed by what Ellis recalls as a "minute or so of silence," one of the owners is heard to say "I guess we gave them enough rope to hang themselves."
 
So the next morning the owners voted down the Seattle plan and Gorton's suit soon followed.
 
Ellis recalls that "it became clear the jury, after hearing the tape, was going to come down on the side of Seattle, which was seeking $18 million from baseball, when the jury foreman came out to ask the judge if the jury was limited to only what Seattle was asking."
 
"So as the jury came back with its verdict, baseball's attorneys came over to our table and said, 'You don't want the money, you want a team. We'll guarantee you'll have a team.' We agreed to keep the verdict sealed unless baseball failed to bring a team to the Kingdome."
 
And so it came to pass that the franchise the city got in 1977 became the Seattle Mariners. The franchise went through a local ownership group and two out-of-area owners, all testing whether Seattle could really support major-league baseball. Then the local group put together by John Ellis and Gorton bought the team and proved baseball could work in Seattle.
 
So the facts of Mariner history are that an Ellis brother was involved significantly at both ends of the Mariners story.
 
And thus the contributions of the Ellis brothers to an array of community contributions came to include the Mariners, Jim's contribution in the realm of public-service projects that he guided and John's as CEO of first Puget Sound Energy and then the Mariners,
 
It seems somehow that an award should be created in the name of The Ellis Brothers to honor future contributors to our region, so they won't be forgotten.
 
I asked Ellis what would have happened had the effort to save the Pilots as a community-owned team been successful. He replied, "Eddie and I both felt, after it was all over, that it would have been more of a beast than we had anticipated as baseball's financial picture changed so significantly over the coming few years."

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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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Alaska Air CEO's travels bring message that attention is important to build loyalty

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If there was a need for evidence that Alaska Air Group Chairman and CEO Brad Tilden and his executive team understand that attention is a key to affection, in the form of loyalty, visits Wednesday to one of the airline's major West Coast markets following a Monday visit to one of its smallest should provide it. 

The Wednesday visit will be with a Tilden-hosted gathering of business and civic leaders in San Diego, which has become a major Alaska Airlines market where its service has grown dramatically in volume and importance since Alaska completed its acquisition of Virgin America Airlines in early 2018.

The San Diego event will follow by two days the visit by Tilden and his executives to Pullman and the Washington State University campus, where Alaska recognized important ties of a different, but no less important, kind.

The visits exemplify that affection, or regard, from its customers and the communities it serves has long been a point of pride for Seattle-based Alaska Airlines and a principal reason for the company's financial success and its ability to successfully push back against the competitive pressures from Delta Airlines over the past few years.

Tilden's San Diego remarks will amount to an update on Alaska's growing service to that city in the form of new non-stops added since the January completion of Alaska's acquisition of Virgin America, including the addition of 19 non-stop flights from San Diego this year.

Tilden and his execs who will be on hand for the event at The Prado in San Diego's historic Balboa Park want it to serve as an example of how they are working to deepen the Airline's relationship with the San Diego community.

The visit by Tilden and his team to the WSU campus Monday was for a series of events, including a prize-filled paper airplane toss, to recognize the airline's relationship with the university, which includes research there on sustainable fuels and Alaska's Imagine Tomorrow Competition.

Alaska Airlines Imagine Tomorrow is an interesting story in its own right as it challenges 9th through 12th graders to seek new ways to support the transition to sustainability. Students research complex topics related to sustainability, then innovate technologies, designs, or plans to mobilize behavior.

As Alaska's website for Imagine Tomorrow notes, students "forge connections in their communities and create positive change. In this competition, as in life, solutions are limited only by imagination."

And WSU is an important partner with Alaska through the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance with which Alaska and WSU are advancing the production and use of aviation biofuels.

Back to the San Diego visit, Tilden and his team will be providing an update on San Diego service, focused on the non-stop service additions of the past year, and discuss more broadly Alaska's West Coast growth, the strength of its presence in Southern California and its support of the community.

Alaska's San Diego passenger load has been growing an average of 13 percent per year over the past five years, including 22 percent in the past year. The airline recently announced new Spokane service and plans to add a San Diego from Paine Field when service commences next year from there. And the airline just announced the addition of service to El Paso, TX.

But underlying those statistics will be Tilden's message of the important, longstanding and growing role Alaska's business, employees and loyalty in Southern California play and how the Airline's strength in California supports strength for local business in the Pacific Northwest.

I've been intrigued to watch, in recent years as San Diego has become an important personal tie for both business and friendships, how a number of businesses in either Seattle or San Diego have reached out to open offices in the other market.

Thus Perkins-Coie, Seattle's largest law firm, opened a San Diego North County office a few years ago, as did Seattle commercial real estate firm Kidder Mathews, while San Diego is a key part of Seattle-based HomeStreet Bank's Southern California commercial banking business. Seattle

Barter company BizX expanded into San Diego in 2017, and Bastyr University in Kenmore on Seattle's Eastside became the first Naturopathic College in California in 2012 when it opened a branch campus in San Diego.

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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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