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Minnesota-based 3M announced in November it would close its 3M Digital Signage location on Bainbridge Island at the end of December. The Bainbridge office employs 31 people and has been a big contributor to many local nonprofits.

3M Digital Signage specializes in interactive kiosks and digital signage hardware, software and network management. It got its start in 1997 as Mercury Online Solutions Inc., which later also acquired FRED Systems Ltd. Founder John Eisenhauer moved Mercury from Seattle to Bainbridge Island in 1999.

Mercury Online Solutions, which had customers worldwide, was named the No. 1 fastest-growing privately held company in Washington in 2004, up from No. 13 spot two years earlier. It also held the 46th spot on the Inc. 500 list in 2003 — a year when the company had revenues of $16 million (from just under $1 million in 2001), according to a 2005 press release. read more »

Tax Planning

Net revenues by local jurisdictions 2013The topic of an online sales tax is as old as e-commerce itself and has been debated in Congress for years. Currently, there’s no federal law requiring online and mail-order retailers (collectively called remote sellers) to collect taxes from customers in those states where the companies have no physical presence. Shoppers have become savvy too: Many drop by their local retailers to window shop, then order online to take advantage of the tax-free buying.

Many states, including Washington, have a so-called use tax — imposed on tax-free purchases that would normally have a sales tax — but compliance is usually voluntary. read more »

Cover Story

Scott McFarlaneSales tax is not exactly a popular topic at cocktail parties, but mention the two words to Scott McFarlane and his eyes light up. He could probably talk about it all day — and even make it interesting.

McFarlane has plenty to be excited about when it comes to sales tax and the company he co-founded, Avalara. A leading provider of sales-tax automation services, Avalara has been on various “fastest-growing company” lists for several years and has been growing its customer base by leaps and bounds.

The latest such recognition came from Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500 list, which ranks the 500 fastest-growing companies in the technology, media, life sciences, telecom and clean technology sectors. read more »


Kobo e-readers are displayed at Liberty Bay Books in Poulsbo. (Tim Kelly Photo)Suzanne Droppert sells an e-reader that starts with ‘K’ at her bookstore … but it’s not that one.

The owner of Liberty Bay Books in downtown Poulsbo has embraced e-books, especially when customers purchase them for a Kobo e-reader.

The store started carrying Kobo products last year, and has new versions of the Canadian company’s Glo and Aura e-readers and Arc 7 tablet in stock for this holiday season. read more »


Sue’s Lavender and More, a home-based business located in Manchester, has plans to expand to keep up with the growing demand for vegetable starts and lavender plants.

The business started in 2009, and sold at one local farmer’s market. Since then, Sue’s Lavender has expanded to four farmer’s markets, plus community fairs, festivals and shows in the area. Each market season, the requests increase for vegetable starts and lavender plants.

Because of the region’s short outdoor growing season, the business needs to install a greenhouse, and is asking the public and customers for assistance through contributions to a Kickstarter fundraising campaign. read more »


State Rep. Larry SeaquistOLYMPIA — State Rep. Larry Seaquist (D-Gig Harbor) is calling for the Tacoma Narrows Bridge to be included in the gas tax dealmaking.

“We are paying 100 percent of the bridge costs,” the 26th District representative said. “If we are going to raise gas taxes, part of that must be used to restore simple fairness to our bridge users.”

“We were the state’s tolling guinea pig,” Seaquist said. “One of the big lessons in tolling is that the cost of these mega-projects needs to be spread fairly.”

In 2002, the Legislature appropriated $849 million to build the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge. The state paid for the construction costs through bond sales, which are being repaid through toll collections. read more »


Cyber Monday sales surged, sending online shopping toward a single-day record as Amazon.com Inc. and EBay Inc. siphoned consumers from brick-and-mortar stores.

Online sales Dec. 2 rose 21 percent from 2012, International Business Machines Corp. said in a statement. Retailers catering to smartphone and tablet users benefited the most, with mobile traffic accounting for 32 percent of site visits, a 45 percent gain from last year.

E-commerce is projected to be the bright spot of an otherwise tepid holiday season marked by the first Black Friday-weekend spending decline since 2009. While Internet sales may climb as much as 15 percent, more than three times faster than overall retail growth, they still account for just 14 percent of the total, according to the National Retail Federation. read more »


The number of U.S. residential building permits issued in October surpassed 1 million, the highest level in five years, the Commerce Department reported last week.

Building permits in October were up 6.2 percent from September, reaching 1,034,000, government figures show. That’s up 13.9 percent from October 2012.

Data for the number of housing starts were not included with the report because of the partial government shutdown last month. The release of those figures has been pushed to Dec. 18.

Nonetheless, the building-permits data are a good barometer of the state of residential construction, which has been strong over the past year. read more »


Now that SeaTac city voters have given them a pay raise, some airport workers already are entertaining hopes of a better lifestyle.

To some airport workers, the nationally watched minimum wage increase that goes into effect Jan. 1 - assuming it withstands legal challenges and a recount — could change everything from weaning their families off the local food bank to being able to afford housing closer to where they work.

“I wouldn’t have to take a two-hour commute,” said Eric Frank, a baggage handler who lives in the Pierce County town of Lakewood, an hour each way by bus from the airport.

Elections officials certified the 77-vote victory margin for the SeaTac minimum wage measure on Nov. 24, but business-led opposition groups are seeking a recount and challenging the measure in court. read more »

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