Business

Business news and features from the Puget Sound region. Stay up-to-date with the latest business news and more.

Americans craving kung pao chicken or a good lo mein for dinner have plenty of options: The U.S. is home to more than 40,000 Chinese restaurants.

One could think of this proliferation as a promise fulfilled — America as the great melting pot and land of opportunity for immigrants. Ironically, the legal forces that made this Chinese culinary profusion possible, beginning in the early 20th century, were born of altogether different sentiments: racism and xenophobia.

Apple shareholders will be voting on a proposal at the annual meeting Feb. 26. It's a proposal that the company opposes, which calls for the tech leader to increase diversity in its senior management.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Northwest Innovation Works, the Chinese-backed company that has been seeking to build one of the world's biggest natural gas-to-methanol plants at the Port of Tacoma, said in a statement that it's decided to "pause the environmental review."

"We have been surprised by the tone and substance of the vocal opposition that has emerged in Tacoma," the company said. "To force a facility on a community that does not welcome it would not be consistent with our goals."

Port of Tacoma

Projects in the works for the Pacific Northwest could turn the region into a major hub for exporting petrochemicals and products derived from fossil fuels, according to a new study from the environmental think tank Sightline Institute. 

In a few days, Apple will formulate its formal response to the federal judge's order seeking the company's help for the FBI to get inside a phone used by Syed Farook, one of the attackers in the San Bernardino, Calif., shootings.

SPEEA

Boeing engineers and technical workers have voted to accept a new six-year contract, one that the company said "helps position us for continued success in a highly competitive landscape."

The contract covers about 20,000 Boeing engineers and technical workers, mostly in the Puget Sound region. The negotiations and vote were much more peaceful this time than they were three years ago. At that time, members of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, or SPEEA, were so unhappy with the company’s proposals, they almost went on strike. 

Thousands of small investors who lost some or all of their savings when a large bank in Spain failed in 2012 may now get their money back. Bankia, which needed a $19 billion bailout just one year after its initial public offering, announced the surprise move Wednesday.

Here's a little secret: It's possible to go online and buy a knockoff — a generic version of the drug Adderall, a fake "North Face" jacket or "Gucci" handbag. Now, we're not telling you to do it. But a big reason you can, it turns out, is that major banks in China are willing to handle the money.

Guerilla Marketing

Say you want Beats by Dre headphones. You don't want to pay Beats by Dre prices. Type in the brand name in a search engine and add words like "cheap," "super-sale."

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

About 20,000 Boeing engineers and technical workers, most of them in Washington state, have just a couple more days left to vote on a new six-year contract. The head of their union, the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), says the negotiations that led to the tentative contract agreement mark a shift in Boeing’s approach to labor issues. 

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Boeing shares dropped almost 7 percent after Bloomberg reported the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the company’s accounting. 

According to the story, which cites unidentified people "with knowledge of the matter," securities regulators are looking into how Boeing has accounted for costs and expected sales of its 787 Dreamliner and the 747-8 jumbo jet. Spokesmen for Boeing and the SEC declined to comment. 

Deep in the heart of the arcane laws that give farmers a helping hand, there's something called "crop insurance." It's a huge program, costing taxpayers anywhere from $5 billion to $10 billion each year.

It's called an insurance program, and it looks like insurance. Farmers buy policies from private companies and pay premiums (which are cheap because of government subsidies) to insure themselves against crop failures and falling prices. It's mainly used by corn, soybean, cotton and wheat farmers. Defenders of the program call it a safety net.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Boeing Commercial Airplanes Chief Executive Ray Conner told employees during a webcast that the company will cut an undisclosed number of jobs as a way to reduce costs. 

"We will start reducing employment levels with executives and managers first," the company said in a statement. "We will also use attrition and voluntary layoffs. As a last resort, involuntary layoffs may be necessary."

Elaine Thompson / AP

Seattle was the first big city to adopt a $15 minimum wage law, and now there’s new research on how that’s affected the prices we pay at stores and restaurants.

University of Washington researchers are doing a multi-year study to analyze economic impacts of the wage hike. They started tracking consumer prices last March, right before the first wage hike to $11 an hour.

BASF / Flickr

On Wednesday, Tacoma residents will get another chance to weigh in on a plan for what could become the world’s biggest methanol plant. A lot of people have raised concerns about potential safety hazards posed by methanol itself and the process of refining it from natural gas.

Last November, Amazon did the unthinkable for an online retailer known for undercutting brick-and-mortar bookstores: It opened a walk-in store in Seattle. Now, there's talk that Amazon plans hundreds of them.

On an investor call Tuesday, Sandeep Mathrani, CEO of mall operator General Growth Properties, said: "You've got Amazon opening bricks and mortar bookstores, and their goal is to open, as I understand, 300 to 400 bookstores."

Intel has a new report out today. It's not about semiconductors. It's about diversity: how Intel is doing when it comes to women and underrepresented minorities on its staff. The results are mixed — some strong and some, frankly, failures. Still the sheer amount of information is exceptional, and a direct challenge to other Silicon Valley giants who've chosen to hide their data.

Be Engineers About Diversity

Let's start with some numbers.

A memo from congressional investigators sheds new light on the inner workings of Martin Shkreli's Turing Pharmaceuticals after the company jacked up the prices of a decades-old drug used to treat AIDS patients.

The House Committee on Oversight and Investigations is looking into Turing and other drug companies' price increases. This memo, released Tuesday, includes excerpts from the company's internal documents and emails.

BP Earnings Plunge 91 Percent In 4th Quarter

Feb 2, 2016

Global oil and gas price drops have shattered BP's profits.

The British energy giant said Tuesday that its fourth-quarter "underlying replacement cost profits" (or net income) dropped 91 percent. Profits fell to $196 million, compared with $2.2 billion in the year-ago quarter.

The full-year figures were somewhat less dramatic: 2015 profits amounted to $5.9 billion, down from $12.1 billion the previous year. That's a 51 percent drop.

"Full employment" is a phrase economists use to explain how the job market recovers from a recession. We'll be hearing this phrase a lot as the Labor Department releases the latest jobs data on Friday. It's expected to show that employers added even more workers in January.

But the phrase doesn't tell the full story for millions of Americans either still out of work or who are looking for something better than part-time work.

What is full employment and what does it mean?

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Editor’s Note: This story works best as an audio experience, so we urge you to take a listen.

What if you poured your energy into becoming an opera singer, but then became famous for doing the voice of a computer in a blockbuster video game?

That’s the unexpected twist in Ellen McLain’s career. She’s performed countless roles in operas in Seattle and Tacoma and acted in many Seattle theaters.

But now the thing she’s most famous for is doing the voice of GLaDOS, the sweet-sounding but passive-aggressive computer in Valve’s hit video games Portal and Portal 2.

Xerox will be splitting into two companies — one dedicated to document management, including the printing and copying technology that made Xerox's name, and another for business process outsourcing.

The split will be completed by the end of the year. The names of the two companies, as well as their leadership structures, have yet to be determined, Xerox says.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Boeing says it plans to reduce the production rate of its 777 wide-body jet, one of the company’s biggest sources of cash, to seven per month next year from the current rate of 8.3 per month.

“As a result of the rate change, we expect some impact on employment and will do our best to mitigate that by placing employees in other jobs across Boeing,” Boeing spokesman Doug Alder said in an emailed statement. “We are still studying how many roles may be impacted.”

The National Football League signed a five-year, $400 million contract with Microsoft in 2013 that gives teams custom Microsoft Surface tablets to use in training and, more importantly, on the sidelines during nationally televised games.

Coaches and players use the tablets to review plays and analyze data in real time — or at least that's how it's supposed to work.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

The city of Tacoma’s first public meeting about plans for the world’s largest methanol plant drew a much bigger crowd than expected. 

One fire marshal estimated that a thousand people showed up. Some couldn’t get into the main room or an overflow room because those were already full. 

Eugene Hoshiko / AP

Starbucks shares fell about 4 percent after the close of regular trading on Thursday after the company reported fiscal first-quarter results. 

In China, sales growth at the company's stores that have been open at least a year showed a slowdown, adding to recent concerns about the health of that country’s economy. 

Business travelers increasingly are relying on Uber and other ride-hailing services, often more than car rentals or taxis, according to new data.

Say you land at Chicago O'Hare International Airport. You've got a work meeting 20 minutes away. You might head to the rental desk to pick up a car. Or, you might call an Uber instead.

"More transactions coming through our system are in Uber than there were in all the rental car transactions," says Bob Neveu, CEO of Certify, a company that businesses use to book travel and track receipts.

SounderBruce / Flickr

Tacoma workers will be entitled to a minimum wage of $10.35 starting Feb. 1, up from the state’s current wage floor of $9.47. It’s the first of several hikes that will gradually phase in a $12 minimum wage approved by voters in November.  

IAM District 751

A group of Democratic lawmakers in the Washington House of Representatives is trying again to link Boeing’s tax break to the number of jobs the company keeps in the state. This time, they’ve won support from two Republicans: Rep. Cary Condotta, who represents the Wenatchee area, and Rep. Richard DeBolt from Chehalis.

Port of Tacoma

A Chinese-backed group wants to build what they say would be the world’s biggest methanol plant at the Port of Tacoma, raising lots of concerns among nearby residents, who will have a chance to weigh in on the project at a scoping meeting this Thursday. 

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