Seattle’s Holland America Building Large Ship in Italy

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

Cruise Line Holland America is one of seven major cruise lines that contribute to Seattle’s booming cruise industry that sends waves of profit throughout the city. Each year the Seattle cruise industry generates more than 3,000 jobs and close to $4 million in annual business revenue. Recently Holland America announced that it will be introducing a new cruise ship to its Seattle fleet which is expected to arrive sometime in February of 2015.

The ship, which will be Holland Americas biggest ship yet, is currently being built at Fincantieri’s Marghera shipyard in Italy. Being over 99 thousand gross-tons, the new cruise ship is expected to board 2,650 guests. “As the largest ship ever built for Holland America Line, the vessel features many innovations and new features, and we’re excited to see it all come together over the next year and a half,” said Stein Kruse, president and CEO of Holland America Line, in a statement. This new addition for Holland America is expected to bring even more business to the Seattle area due to its size and by being the 16th addition to Holland America’s fleet.


Nordy’s Canada Bound

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

Nordy’s (the US nickname for Nordstrom retailer) is heading north of the border. The Seattle-headquartered company has spent nearly two years prepping for the opening of a flagship store in Calgary, Canada. Nordstrom’s has been cautious with their new market entry and taken lessons from Target’s recent opening of 140 stores in Canada. Instead of an expedited presence that may leave shelves empty of products, Nordstrom will opt for a 6 store expansion strategy over the next 36 months. With high luxury comes the high price of expansion. Red ink will flow with Canada operating losses expected to be at 35million in 2014. Once fully operational with 10 department stores and 20 of its Rack outlets the bottom line predicts 1 billion in annual revenue.

Who is spearheading this expansion? The President of Nordstrom Canada is Karen McKibbin. Alongside her are five seasoned “expat” Nordstrom veterans that will open the store in Calgary. Other managers will be Canadian and have recently had homegrown HQ training in the greater Seattle area. It’s yet to be seen how the Canadian market will respond to a retailer obsessed with customer service as the selling-point rather than frequent discounting of prices. Nordstrom’s is banking on the higher spending habits per Canadian consumer and appreciation of quality will have locals calling them ‘Nordy’s’ in no time.


German Company Opening Facility in Everett

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Greater Seattle is currently undergoing a region-wide initiative to attract more Foreign Direct Investment, in partnership with JPMorgan Chase and the Brookings Institution. One advantage we have already is being home to some of the top global brands in the world, which draws individual talent and businesses who hope to become partners, suppliers, distributors, etc etc.

No company does it better than Boeing, whose significant manufacturing presence here has drawn hundreds of aerospace and advanced manufacturing companies from all over the world to Greater Seattle. The latest company to do so is Kuka Aerospace, a German robot maker. Kuka announced plans to open a 29,000 square foot plant in Everett next to Boeing, which will employ up to 75 people and function as a maintenance and service center.

Part of the reason for Kuka’s move to Everett is because it has partnered with Boeing on building a robotic system called the Fuselage Automated Upright Build (FAUB). In laments terms, FAUB will have robots install fasteners to the fuselage, previously done by hand, maximizing efficiency during production. Robots already are involved in key parts of the Boeing plane assembly process, such as the painting of the plane.

We welcome Kuka Aerospace to Everett!


Local gourmet popcorn company in demand worldwide

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Apples, cherries, wine, chocolates, almond roca, and of course coffee are some of the many food and beverage items our state produces that are in high demand all over the world. And now we can add gourmet popcorn to the list. KuKuRuZa, a Seattle gourmet popcorn company headquartered in the International District, is finding that its popcorn is greatly desired overseas. It’s newest store in Tokyo, Japan has been hugely successful, so much so that the average wait is 2 hours and customers are offered tickets with a specific time to return.

The company has also franchised with Saudi Arabia and Egypt thanks to persistent requests by Middle Eastern investors – opening three stores in Riyadh and three stores in Cairo respectively. The owner of KuKuRuZa, Grant Jones, noted that they were careful in choosing overseas partners that already had experience in franchising American products and brands. He also works with these overseas stores in testing new flavor ideas – one of the Cairo stores helped develop an Egyptian mango flavor.

Congrats to KuKuRuZa on its international success. It makes this writer want to wander a couple blocks to their 3rd and Pike location to see what all the fuss is about…



Costco opening third store in the State of Victoria, Australia

Monday, August 11th, 2014

Costco, the sixth largest retailer in the world which was founded in Seattle and is currently headquartered in nearby Issaquah, is expanding in Southern Australia. It will open a store at the Moorabbin Airport in Melbourne, which is located in the state of Victoria in Southeast Australia. The Planning Minister of Victoria, Mr. Matthew Guy, announced that the store will create around 400 jobs, noting that “It is great news for Melbourne’s south and east and it again shows that Victoria is doing exceedingly well in confidence and economic growth…”

This will be the third Costco in Victoria, which already has opened successful stores in the suburbs of Docklands and Ringwood in Melbourne. Melbourne is the capital of Victoria and second most populous city in Australia. Mr. Guy explained in his remarks that Costco was concentrating its investment efforts in Victoria because “They see it as a strong and growing market.”

Australia is one of Costco’s fastest growing markets outside of the US. At the end of 2013, more than 100,000 members signed up for Costco in Melbourne and Sydney. As a result Costco decided to funnel $110 million to its Australian operations. In addition to the 3 stores in Melbourne, it has 2 stores in Sydney and one in Brisbane.


Boeing partners with South Africa for new biofuel source

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

A Boeing airplane, run on tobacco? This surprising and innovative concept is going to be put to the test, as Boeing announced yesterday a new partnership with South African Airways and SkyNRG, a sustainable jet fuel maker, to turn Solaris tobacco plants into jet biofuel.

Tobacco has an understandably negative perception as the primary ingredient in cigarettes, which have been banned on airplanes in the U.S. for decades. So it’s an interesting idea that the plant can be put on airplanes again in a much different and more positive, environmentally-friendly way. The idea is to partner with South African tobacco farmers and use the seeds from a hybrid tobacco plant called Solaris to produce oil. The oil can then be developed into a biofuel. “By using hybrid tobacco, we can leverage knowledge of tobacco growers in South Africa to grow a marketable biofuel crop without encouraging smoking,” said South African Airways Group Environmental Affairs Specialist Ian Cruickshank, in a press release.

The Solaris plants are currently undergoing tests in South Africa. Boeing hopes that with continued tests and new manufacturing processes, the entire plant can be used to make biofuel rather than just the seeds.


Microsoft’s Cortana Going Global

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

Microsoft, who’s Windows Phone has provided much competition for opposing companies such as Samsung and Apple, has recently come out with the new Windows Phone 8.1 with a new digital assistant feature called “Cortana”. What’s particularly special about this new feature is that now it will be available internationally, beginning with China and the U.K.

Cortana will specifically cater to the countries in which it is used. For example in China where it is nicknamed “Xiao Na” the application will develop specific features for China such as a different visual appearance, animations, and sounds. Most importantly “She supports Chinese (Mandarin) in voice, text, and speech. She also has specialized suggestions tuned specifically for people living in China, like air quality information in weather cards, information about driving restrictions, and the ability to track local TV shows and celebrities. She can look up English words in the Bing Dictionary for people looking to brush up on their English”, stated Joe Belfiore, Microsoft’s vice president.

Cortana has also tailored to support the United Kingdom’s grammar and “Bing-provided” local data anywhere from business information to weather to sports updates. It has also adopted a local English accent depending on where you are located in the UK. While these factors are very important, Cortana also provided a hands-free option for phones that are connected to Bluetooth in cars. While China and the UK are test countries, Cortana is also expected to reach other countries such as Australia, Canada and India in the near future.  It is expected that this new and improved Windows Phone 8.1 will give Apple IPhone’s and Google devices a run for their money.


Rhapsody to Expand in Europe, Latin America

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Phone users in Europe and Latin America will soon have the option to sing along to tunes from Rhapsody, a Seattle-based online music store that pioneered the streaming on-demand music industry back in 2001. Today, Rhapsody has over 2 million paid subscribers and has discovered a new innovative business model to help drum up more business.

Last month, the company partnered with Bellevue-based T-mobile to offer its service at a reduced monthly fee of $4.99 (normally $9.99). The deal, called Rhapsody unRadio, has been a success and has led Rhapsody to pursue partnerships with international mobile companies. Rhapsody announced today that it plans to partner with SFR, France’s second largest mobile carrier, to offer their subscribers its service called “Napster Decouverte” (Rhapsody acquired Napster in 2011) for 3.95 Euros. It also announced a partnership with Telefonica Movistar, which has mobile customers in Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay. “Our recently launched radio service underscores our commitment to giving mobile music fans even more ways to discover and download great music,” said Paul Springer, SVP Americas and Chief Product Officer of Rhapsody International.

Rhapsody is a spin off of Seattle’s RealNetworks, which itself was founded by an ex-Microsoft executive. Another example of how Microsoft is truly an anchor company for the ICT industry in our region!



Seattle Cloud Software Company’s EU Project a Success

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Socrata, a Seattle-based cloud software company, has been having a busy and productive year. The company has been working with the European Commission on an open-data presentation project which was completed last week. The end result is an online data portal that visualizes the European Union Cohesion Policy funding program. Specifically, the portal allows EU citizens to better see and understand how 50 billion euros worth of investment is being used in each member state for infrastructure and environmental projects, using easy-to-use country specific maps, charts, and graphics.

This successful open-data project with the European Commission is a big deal for the Seattle company which has been expanding internationally more than ever. In the first quarter of this year, seven of Socrata’s 22 newest customers were from outside the US. And there are more opportunities to continue working with the EU as well as other government agencies around the world. “This partnership has tremendous potential, because the European Commission clearly understands that government in the 21st century can use open data to provide increased connection and quality of life for the people they represent and serve.” says Socrata founder and CEO Kevin Merritt.

Congrats to Socrata – another win for Greater Seattle’s world-renowned ICT industry!


Seattle’s Sensoria acquires new Italian investor

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Sensoria, a wearable technology development company based in Redmond, has just received a Series A Investment from Reply SpA, a design and digital media communications firm in Italy. In a new deal announced last Thursday, Reply SpA will acquire a 20% interest in Sensoria and will provide $5 million in funding for product development.

Sensoria specializes in developing products that using textile sensors to collect biometric data on the wearer – such as heart rate, step counting, calories burned, speed, and distance – which is then sent to a smartphone app in real time. The technology can even go so far as to detect your running form and give tips for how to improve it. So far Sensoria has created socks, T-shirts, and bras that have this embedded technology. It can be used by both amateur and professional athletes.

The partnership with Reply SpA will allow Sensoria to continue product development and testing with their European partners. The Italian company is particularly interested in improving upon Sensoria’s open development platform. “We are extremely excited to closely partner with Sensoria who has built the first truly open, wearable development platform…Together we can leverage the power of the Sensoria Developer Kit to reach out to business and technology leaders and deliver unique, meaningful and quantified experiences for our enterprise customers in an increasingly broader range of industries.”