County’s economy takes two steps forward, one back

  • Mike Benbow / Herald Columnist
  • Sunday, May 30, 2004 9:00pm
  • Business

There was some interesting economic news last week that could be a sign of an improving Snohomish County economy.

And there was also some bad news indicating that we’re still not out of the woods.

Let’s look at the good news first. Two companies headquartered in Snohomish County have picked up businesses elsewhere in acquisitions that should make them stronger.

Everett’s Cascade Bank has taken over Issaquah Bancshares in a $30 million deal that will help the bank expand to eastern King County and increase its assets to more than $1 billion.

Bothell’s SonoSite has bought up SonoMetric Health Inc. of Salt Lake City, Utah, a company that makes cardiovascular screening software that should improve SonoSite’s heart ultrasound devices.

Acquisitions aren’t all that unusual.

Every day, some company around the globe is trying to gobble up another one to get bigger and stronger than the competition. But they still aren’t that common in Snohomish County – at least for us to be the gobbler as opposed to the dinner.

“Ten years ago, on the rare occasion that it happened, if a Snohomish County company was in the news in an acquisition, it was always the local company being taken over by some company located elsewhere,” said Tim Raetzloff, owner of Abarim Computer in Edmonds. “Now there is a reasonable chance that the deal will be with the local company as the acquirer.”

Raetzloff, a former stockbroker, has been following such things for a long time. He has established and maintained the Abarim Snohomish County Stock Index, which tracks the performance of publicly traded companies that are headquartered here.

The acquisitions are more than just a sign of improving clout for a few local companies. They also signal improvements in the economy.

For the past two years, mergers and acquisitions have been scarce because of the recession. But improvements in the balance sheets at Cascade and SonoSite have allowed them to set their sights on growth, and that’s good news.

Of course, two separate events in a single week don’t indicate a trend. But the wire services recently reported that mergers are picking up in other parts of the country as the economy improves, so it’s certainly a good sign.

And the darker news last week was the announcement that today is the last one for the Marina Village Inn on Everett’s waterfront. For its first 17 years, the inn was a popular spot for business travelers. And the conference center added later was also popular for local business events.

But the owners said business plummeted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and never returned to an acceptable level.

That certainly is not a sign that the local business community is rebounding strongly.

And continued high unemployment – the county jobless rate was in at 6.8 percent in April – is an even more solid indicator that the local economy is still sputtering.

But the acquisitions were good news, and they could be signs of more good news to come.

Mike Benbow: 425-339-3459;

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