2005: Great year for news, and a great year for the BBJ

   Wow, what a year.
    Just like the business community, the BBJ had its share of “hellos and goodbyes” in 2005; two much-beloved, award-winning reporters who had been with the paper for years, Dave Gallagher and Vanessa Blackburn, left the paper to take on new challenges — Dave as the new business editor at the Herald, and Vanessa as marketing guru for her father’s company, Blue Future Filters. Between the two of them, this duo accounted for five Society of Professional Journalists awards in the past three years alone, the gold standard of excellence in the journalism profession.
    Luckily for both the readers and the always-worried publisher of this paper, Bellingham is quite a lure, and the BBJ’s reputation for editorial competence (and only one deadline a month) is an attractive draw as well, and we’ve been able to reload with a couple of real gems. Just as Vanessa was moving on, The Seattle Times’ three-year program was ending — and former WWU j-school grad JJ Jensen was looking to come back to our neck of the woods. The timing couldn’t have been better.
    We filled the second piece of the puzzle this fall when Kenny Brown joined the staff. Kenny, a graduate of the University of Colorado and Boston University, has covered Capitol Hill for a daily in Connecticut and interned at magazines like People and Paddler.
    Both JJ and Kenny bring a fresh voice and new set of eyes to the business scene; 2006 should be a great year for our readers. Thanks guys, for your hard work!
    Thankfully, the best pair of salespeople in Whatcom County, Joe Beaulaurier and Jackie Reed, have not only remained in place but have grown the paper and their own books of business. Their efforts have resulted in the highest gross for the paper since 1999. Well done!
    I would be remiss not to also thank our hard-working graphics/production/web guru, Sean Echelbarger, whose tireless efforts result in great-looking ads, a fabulous Web site, and great artistic vision and direction for the paper.
    In a time when local publication after local publication is either ceasing publication, plunging itself into debt, or tearing itself apart from the inside (or in the one case, all of the above), the BBJ continues to sail through profitable waters, moving forward with bold plans to bring you more content through a variety of delivery methods — both print and a combination of online methods such as BBJ Online (www.bbj-online.com) and our E-Journal (www.businessjournal.org/ejournal).
    You seem receptive to these new ideas, so we’ll keep throwing spaghetti on the wall in 2006 and let you tell us what sticks.

Bringing you the news you wanted, first
   Our strength at the BBJ continues to be reporting and news gathering. it’s what you expect from us, and it’s what we’ll work hard to continue to bring you. Yes, Darth Gallagher’s defection to the Dark Side (just kidding, Dave) means there’s a new gunslinger in town — but that’s good for everyone involved, especially you, the reader. Competition for news is very healthy, and makes everyone push just that little bit harder — and what a fascinating year for news it has been for our little city by the bay.
    When the editorial staff got together to discuss our annual Top 10 list (see page B2), I can honestly say that half the stuff in that list wasn’t even on our radar at this time last year — the high-rise explosion is a great example. We had a number of huge projects announced in 2004 that made the Top 10 last year, projects that kept upping the ante for the “biggest residential project in city history” title. But the high rises planned for the city this year dwarf those buildings, and one thing that is certain is that the downtown is undergoing a rapid transformation.
    Like them or not, these fingers of concrete and steel are harbingers for the health of this community. It wasn’t that long ago that Rick Westerop’s redevelopment of the Flame Tavern site was hailed as the first new downtown building in 30 years — but now look at what has been built, or is in planning or permitting, in the three years since that project took flight. That list includes the four high rises now in permitting, all of which are at least 14 stories tall.
    What Bellingham will look like in, say, two years is anybody’s guess —but it will almost certainly have reasonable facsimiles of these buildings in place. Again, if just viewed as the proverbial “canary in the coal mine,” the fact that these projects are even being considered points to the fact that the city is growing and prospering.
    The past year was also an interesting one for the New Whatcom development area (the former G-P site), as plans were floated and summarily trashed by citizen outcry, and the Waterfront Advisory Group and Bellingham Bay Foundation continued their overwatch of the Port/City efforts there.
    Master planning should begin in earnest this year, giving us a clearer idea of what will eventually fill this massive space.
    Despite the occasional squeal of outrage from one sector or another, the direction this massive project is moving in seems to be a good compromise between some of the extremes (from “make the whole thing a park” to “keep it all heavy industrial”) being voiced by parties that stand to benefit greatly from one of these scenarios.
    One development to watch closely will be startup Western Air’s announcement that it will begin jet service linking Bellingham to parts unknown — but not Seattle. We fervently hope their plans do indeed come to fruition.
    Here’s hoping you had a successful 2005 at your business — and will have more of the same in 2006. The local economy appears stable, and Bellingham should continue to be a great place to both live and do business.
    My one resolution for the coming year is to meet more of you and hear about your businesses. If you’ve got the time for a cup of coffee, so do I.
    E-mail me at bbjedit@businessjournal.org — the first cup is on me.

John Thompson is publisher and editor of The Bellingham Business Journal. He can be reached by calling 647-8805,
or via e-mail at bbjedit@businessjournal.org.

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