Another year, another BOL


It’s that time of year again when we put to bed our big project for the year: the Book of Lists.

The Book of Lists is an annual supplement to the BBJ, and it takes months of preparation. We start in the summer by calling each and every business that was on last year’s lists, and then cull through the phone book, the Internet and our own collective institutional knowledge to try to add anyone we left out. Starting last year, we also have forms on our Web site where companies can submit their information for our consideration, and we call them as well to make sure our data is current.

This is no light undertaking, as we end up calling many more businesses than the 500 plus that end up in the book. Because for every top 10 or top 20 list, there are another 10 or 20 or more businesses that we gathered data on.

The danger in a project like this is we have thousands of places where error can come in. With each of the more than 1,000 phone numbers and the hundreds of addresses, names, employee numbers, etc., there is the possibility that at some point along the line, the information became corrupted.

Luckily for our readers, we take this job very seriously, and we double/triple check everything to make sure we have it right. That said, every year I get a stream of e-mails and phone calls with questions as to why someone was left off a list or where we got the information.

We get the data from a variety of sources, but mostly from the businesses themselves. We also gather data from official state or federal government Web sites, such as the FDIC. Since we rely so heavily on information provided directly from businesses, however, we must take their word that the information they give us is correct. We cannot go to each and every business to count employees, for example. We must trust that they are telling the truth.

Now that we have been doing this for several years, the Bellingham business community is starting to get used to getting our phone call every year. For the first several years, it took explaining that we were not selling them anything, that this was a free service, and that we were getting their information out to everyone on our subscription list. Now most businesses enjoy the opportunity to get their name out there and are eager to participate.

We are pleased with this year’s book, as we have added two new lists — printers and financial advisers — and the book is bigger and better than ever.

And talking of readership participation, in this issue you will also find our Reader’s Choice ballot on page 15. This is your opportunity to provide your feedback and reward the best businesses in town.

Every year a few businesses embrace the awards with gusto and get as many people to nominate them as possible. Although some may think that this is cheating, I say go for it. As long as you have an original signature on each and every ballot, go ahead and encourage your customers to fill out a form and send it in. You can be sure that your competitors are doing so.

We will publish our results in the February issue. Let the games begin!


Vanessa Blackburn is the editor and publisher of the Bellingham Business Journal. She can be reached at


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