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Shabana Khan's squash events brings global visibility to Bellevue

Shabana Khan's squash events brings global visibility to Bellevue
Shabana Khan is known globally in the sport of squash, recognition earned first as a national-champion player and now as a producer of national and international events that include a series of first-time competitive gatherings, all in Bellevue over the next three months. But she faces the frustrating irony that while she is putting the name of the Eastside's largest city on the world squash map, she has generated little attention or support from the city or its leadership.
 
shabanaBut she learned Tuesday that Microsoft has decided to provide a key sponsorship that will ease but not eliminate the financial pressure, as she has raised about $250,000 of a projected $350,000 in costs.
 
The comment about "little attention or support" may seem like a harsh statement, but I've been following Shabana's squash accomplishments since a month before the Men's World Championships in late 2015 when I was asked to help direct her to individuals who might support her efforts.

And except for a donation from developer Kemper Freeman to specifically allow her to say he was a supporter, and an unsuccessful effort by City Councilman Conrad Lee to enlist council financial support for the 2015 men's event, she has gotten only modest backing, mostly "friends and family," as she puts it.

Redmond's PRO Sports, which attracts many Microsoft employees from the campus across the street and where Shabana coaches, has been a key supporter.

In the end, despite the financial challenges faced by her YSK Events company, the men's world event, put on at Meydenbauer Center, came off well, prompting expressions of gratitude from squash participants and executives who gathered in Bellevue from around the world. A Frenchman defeated an Egyptian in the final match to become world champion in a sports event as exciting and competitive as any I've witnessed.

Before getting involved with the Shabana's men's-event initiative, I had little knowledge of squash, which is racket sport similar to racketball, played by two or four players in a four-walled court (glass walls for most international events that are broadcast globally) using a small, hollow rubber ball.

Later, as I learned how many of my friends and colleagues are or were avid squash players, I was informed that squash players and fans represent a highly targeted and sought after demographic of men and women with median incomes of more than $300,000 and an average net worth of nearly $1,500,000.

The website for squash notes: "Squash players are business owners and senior executives in upper management throughout corporate America along with research physicians, architects, attorneys, and accountants."

And Forbes magazine several years ranked squash as "the number one healthiest sport."

Shabana is the kind of business-of-sports figure, a lithe 48 year old who is a former national women's squash champion and one of the best in the world in her playing prime, who would be sought out for encouragement and support in most communities for her leadership role.

Her stature on the national scene of her sport was evidenced when last October, at the National Squash Championship in Philadelphia, she was honored with the award given each year for major administrative contributions to the sport, recognition for the men's world event.

But rather than gathering support, she told me that when she went to Meydenbauer to explore holding the 2017 events there, "They were very adamant for us to move this event to Seattle or some other city."

That prompted Shabana, in seeking another site, to find the Boys and Girls Club in Bellevue's Hidden Valley area, which she enthuses turned out to be a more ideal site, one excited about hosting the events as a showcase for the four-glass-walls court in its new facility.

The capstone of the events this spring is the first Bellevue Squash Classic, the sport's equivalent of a stop on the PGA tour that will bring 16 of the top players in the world to the Pacific Northwest for a $200,000 event described as "possibly the most lucrative event in tour history."

Khan is looking for a major sponsor, as well as event sponsors, for her array of events since Wells Fargo, which had the $25,000 sponsorship and wound up with its name carried around the squash world since all the matches were streamed worldwide, has for various reasons not renewed.

The kind of community support she wishes she could find in Bellevue is something that would be a given in other communities that had the opportunity to have the brass ring as emerging center of what is becoming an increasingly popular sport in many places around the world.

And the growing popularity has apparently seen this country emerge as the third fastest-growing in the world for the sport.

"We support this opportunity to showcase the diversity and talent of these players from around the world," she said. "It's an opportunity to keep politics out and focus on the diversity that brings communities and countries to get together celebrating athleticism and skill."

"Her squash efforts represent an example of cultural experiences that deserve support," Lee said. "We don't have things that attract people from other parts of the world to share and thus this is an important opportunity, particularly the focus on events for young people."

And the focus on young people will be highlighted by the second West Coast College Showcase, a new event she created last year to expose what she describes as "unfound squash talent" to college coaches from around the country who gather to find the young people they want to recruit.

YSK Events, which she founded three years ago to focus on squash events, is a family affair in several ways. She serves as CEO while her younger brother, Murad, serves as president, and sister Latasha, who was women's national champion when Shabana defeated her to take the crown, is vice president for business development. It's also a family affair in that the "Y" in YSK stands for both her 10-year-old daughter, Yasmine, who is 15th in the country in her age group, and her father, Yusuf, who was nine-time India champion when the Seattle Tennis Club hired him in 1968 to come to Seattle to be head tennis pro. The "S" and the "K" are her initials.

I learned the import of the name Khan because of an exchange with my former UPI boss, now retired in Connecticut, who reached out to me after my first column on Shabana in late 2015 and shared that the reason I couldn't get hold of him during the afternoons, when I would call his New York office from Los Angeles was that "we were all out playing squash."

But when I was told him I was going to take some squash lessons from Shabana, he said: "Are you telling me you are going to get private lessons from a member of the Khan family? You can't know how jealous I am."
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Laureates chosen for Business Hall of Fame 30th anniversary

Screen Shot 2017 02 09 at 4.47.32 PMTwo men who teamed with close business partners to build companies that became national leaders in their industries, a member of one of Seattle's most prominent families, and a woman who guided one of the region's best-known law firms will be the 2017 honorees of the Puget Sound Business Hall of Fame. The event celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.


The four whose lifetime of contributions to business will be celebrated at the Business Hall of Fame banquet on May 4 at the Seattle Waterfront Marriott are: Judith (Judy) Runstad, Carl Behnke, Artie Buerk and Don Nielsen.

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Judy Runstad 

--Runstad, an attorney who became the first female managing partner of a major Seattle law as co-managing partner of Foster Pepper and went on to chair the Federal Reserve Board as well as serve two governors by chairing special commissions and serve on the boards of three public companies.


                                                    

behnke

 

Carl Behnke  

--Carl Behnke built the second largest Pepsi dealership in North America. Then he subsequently partnered with his wife, Renee, to create Sur La Table, which bills itself the ultimate place for kitchen exploration and discovery and had grown to one of the nation's largest specialty cookware companies by the time they sold it in 2011 to an international investment bank. Behnke's late uncle, David (Ned) Skinner, is a Hall of Fame laureate.
          
                                               

Buerk

 

Artie Buerk  https://ci4.googleusercontent.com/proxy/PwY8zeozY2N-IcCD2_ylKeRnWztoJgQEUzy1x6UO5C_9NWN4oAhHKJ3ziNyVXtXzsh48LD_Qj7IQWN4G7uMz3tQ4Q4L_qdkUhbASv83bqT-i=s0-d-e1-ft#https://imgssl.constantcontact.com/letters/images/sys/S.gif

--Buerk, who became known as the "catalyst of ventures and connector of people," had many high points in his career. But a key one was when he partnered in the late '70s with old friend Chuck Barbo to build Shurgard into a nationwide storage company. Barbo was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014.

 

Nielsen

 

Donald Nielsen 

--Nielsen, who teamed with Kirby Cramer to co-found what became the world's largest contract biological and chemical research and testing company, Hazleton Laboratories Corp. Nielsen joins Cramer, his frequent business
partner over the years, in the Hall of Fame. Cramer was inducted in 2009. 


The Puget Sound Business Hall of Fame was launched in 1987 by Puget Sound Business Journal and Junior Achievement of Greater Puget Sound to be patterned after the National Business Hall of fame that had been created a decade earlier by Junior Achievement and Fortune Magazine.

After the first Seattle event, where eight honorees included four who had been inducted into the national Business Hall of Fame so were automatic inclusions in the local Hall of Fame, I was asked by several business leaders who wondered if we would have enough prospects to carry on for very many years.

The question has been answered many times over in the three decades since then and the induction of the 2017 foursome will bring to 122 the number of business leaders who have been singled out for the honor. Past honorees have represented virtually every business sector, and while many were lawyers by profession who moved into the top ranks of business and made their impacts, Runstad is the first laureate to be honored for her contributions as an attorney.

Thus the vignettes of each of the laureates that are the feature of the banquet have, because of the extensive research that goes into each of the videos produced by KCPQ-13 as a key partner with JA and PSBJ, have contributed to an understanding of the business history of this region.

And the Q-13 videos, as well as the profiles contained each year in the Business Journal'sspecial editorial section focusing on the Hall of Fame event, represent the history of the Puget Sound business community through the collective stories of the laureates.

The laureates are chosen by a selection committee chaired by Business Journal Publisher Emory Thomas and includes JA Washington President David Moore, Q-13 Vice President Pam Pearson, as well as Neil McReynolds, John Fluke, past laureates Herb Bridge, Woody Howse and the undersigned.

Runstad served on corporate boards, a variety of gubernatorial commissions and, perhaps most prominently, was on the board, and in 1997 chaired, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. She was chair of the conference of chairs that year.

She was on the board of directors of Wells Fargo & Co., Potlatch Corp. and Safeco Corp.

She chaired two gubernatorial boards, serving as co-chair of Gov. Gary Locke's Washington Competitiveness Council, and Gov. Christine Gregoire's Global Competitiveness Council, and served as a board member of a half dozen other gubernatorial councils.  

Buerk teamed with Barbo to take a self-storage business they had, renamed it Shurgard, and built a nationwide brand, raising $750 million for expansion through what was described as "a vast constellation of brokered deals." 

He helped take the company public in 1994 then moved on, three years later co-founding the private equity firm, Buerk Craig Victor, which became Buerk Dale Victor and is now Montlake Capital. 

Despite his successes in the corporate world, many will say Buerk will be best remembered for his support of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurism. His own view is that "My whole life has revolved around startups and small businesses, the engines of the Northwest economy." 

That lifelong involvement eventually led to the entrepreneurial center at the University of Washington being named the Arthur W. Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship in honor of both his involvement and of the $5.2 million gift from the Buerks to finance its future.

Nielsen partnered with Kirby Cramer in 1969 to launch Environmental Sciences Corp., a $200,000 startup in a garage. Over the following 14 years, after moving the company to Vienna, VA., the two built what they renamed Hazleton Laboratories Corp., into the world's largest contract biological and chemical research and testing company.

They took Hazleton public in 1983 and it was purchased in 1987 by Corning, which kept Nielsen on as president until 1992, when he retired and turned his focus to education reform, which has remained his focus as he has become a sought-after opinion leader and author on education change.

Behnke, as CEO, guided ALPAC as a Pepsi dealership that, but the time it was purchased by Pepsi, had become the second largest dealership in the nation with revenue in excess of $130 million annually. Then he teamed with his wife, Renee, to build Sur La Table into a national company. He sits on various corporate boards, as well as chairing the Skinner Corporation. The names Behnke and Skinner being among the best-known business and philanthropic families in the region.

Behnke's resume is filled with community and philanthropic involvements, as is the case with the other laureates. It's important to note that laureate selections are based solely on contributions to business and the economy, since other organizations and events focus on philanthropic contributions, although community involvement is part of the life commitment of most laureates chosen over the years.

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Oregonians find little they'd like to emulate in Washington's liquor-privatization initiative

There won't be a liquor-privatization initiative on the ballot in Oregon this fall and there seems to be a growing sense that Oregonians have decided Washington voters signed off on a bad deal when they passed Initiative 1183 in the fall of 2011, taking their state out of the liquor business.

Officially, the Oregon-ballot effort died last week because major grocery chains that wanted the opportunity to sell liquor said they were giving up on any hope of collecting the necessary signatures to out the initiative before voters this fall. Those proponents of the Oregon initiative said they will continue seeking privatization of liquor sales through the Legislature or by putting a measure on the 2016 ballot.

But as Oregonians look north across the Columbia River, they apparently perceive that what Washington voters bought themselves was dramatically higher liquor taxes, a dramatic rise in alcohol-related emergency-room visits and small businesses being squeezed out of business.

When Washington voters approved the privatization of liquor sales, they did so with the promise of lower prices. Instead, they got sticker shock at the checkout counter while the state got a $200 million windfall.

Meanwhile, many of Washington's independent spirits retailers and craft distilleries, viewed as important economic engines in many local communities, were being squeezed out of the market.

And perhaps significantly, Costco, which put enough money behind the effort to pass the Washington initiative that some media stories referred to the ballot measure as "the Costco initiative," decided not to participate in the funding for an Oregon initiative campaign.

One aspect of the fallout in Oregon from passage of the Washington initiative has apparently been some change in the approach of the Oregon liquor control agency, which some have described as "loosening a bit" in its relations with private liquor sellers. Some of those retailers contacted in one survey said the agency was "doing a good job."

Plus, the agency has made friends, in part, by leaving the distinct impression that it views part of its mission as an economic development role with small businesses involved in producing or selling liquor, in marked contrast to the fact the new world liquor order in Washington has made clear that basically there are two distributors that control the flow of liquor nationally.

That prompted one Oregon observer to remark "who is likely to do a better job for consumers, the state or two big national companies?"

Meanwhile, a recent study noted just what Washington residents bought themselves by passing the initiative.

The most striking part of the study focused on the increase in alcohol-related emergency room visits in King County, which was chosen because it had the most available data. In the 16 months following liquor privatization, more than 5,500 alcohol-related visits were made to emergency rooms, 50 percent more than they expected, and an increase most significant among teens and young adults.

Plus there are now four times as many liquor outlets in Washington state as there were before the initiative's passage.

I am not really an objective observer in this discussion since I voted against the initiative, solely because I vote "no" on any complex initiative, as this one was. I have voted for only one initiative, a measure years ago that rolled back a sales-tax increase that the legislature had approved. It was a simple question: should the sales tax be rolled back.

My argument about initiatives has always been: measures that become law should emerge from the give and take of the legislative process, whereas most initiatives are basically written at a kitchen table by a half dozen people who have a cause, and a contrary voice is never permitted at the table. So a ballot measure emerges that represents only one side of an issue, And frequently hidden within its provisions is the excess that comes from single-sided discussion.

Welcome to a review of what happened with Initiative 1183.

And with respect to the view of Oregonians about what they see happening north of the Columbia River, there seems to be a growing sense that Washington residents screwed up in passing the initiative. And with that comes a satisfied sense that those Washington voters have no one to blame but themselves.

As I've noted in previous columns, the idea of writing the power of citizens to initiate legislation was considered for possible inclusions in the U.S. Constitution.

But Thomas Jefferson turned back the effort with the simple admonition that if the people had the power to legislate, governmental chaos would result.

Those who provided for the initiative process, primarily western states, weren't listening.

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