WBA hosts a business conference at Silver Reef Casino

by Steve Guntli


The Northwest Business Expo and Conference is coming to the Silver Reef Casino on Thursday, October 23.

Speakers, vendors and experts from the business community throughout Whatcom County will attend the expo, which is slated to run from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Silver Reef Event Center. This is the expo’s 28th year in Whatcom County.

The keynote speakers will tackle a range of issues that affect the Whatcom County business world, from the impact of industrial facilities at Cherry Point to the best way to provide employees with healthcare.

At 11:30 a.m., two Washington specialists will examine the Cherry Point issue. Dr. William Beyers, a professor of economics from the University of Washington and Dr. Hart Hodges, assistant professor of economics from Western Washington University, will comment on an independent study they conducted in conjunction with the Whatcom Business Alliance (WBA).

The study focused on measuring the economic impact of the industrial work that occurs at Cherry Point, and the roughly 250 businesses in the area that rely on the region, which is the only area in Whatcom County that has been zoned for heavy industrial work.

At 2 p.m., a number of experts will roll out the WBA’s new employer healthcare plan. The new plan was developed in conjunction with insurance specialty company The Hecht Group. The health care plan was designed using Bellingham Cold Storage, an industrial warehouse company on Roeder Avenue in Bellingham, as its model.

Bellingham Cold Storage has slashed more than $5 million from their insurance budget over the last several years by switching to a self-insurance model and opening  their own in-house employee clinic. Bellingham Cold Storage CEO Doug Thomas will be on hand to explain the fine points of the program and discuss how other businesses could implement the idea.

In addition to Thomas, Stacey Loucks, an expert in the Affordable Care Act with Employee Benefit Management Services in Billings, Montana, will speak about how to meet the requirements of Obamacare, and Tricia Hecht-Glad, president of the Hecht Group, will discuss the WBA’s new market-based healthcare plan.

At 4 p.m., Bob Pritchett, founder and CEO of Faithlife Corp. (formerly Logos Bible Software) will deliver the keynote address and discuss his company’s unconventional management style. Employees at Faithlife, the fastest-growing employer in the county, are asked to self-manage their time, including projects, deadlines, work hours and vacation time. The company also puts an emphasis on healthy living, providing an in-house gym and providing free bikes and kayaks for employees to get outside on their lunch breaks.

More than 60 vendor booths will be set up in the event center between noon and 5 p.m., with representatives from throughout the county in attendance, including the Blaine Chamber of Commerce. The expo will conclude with the WBA President’s Club Leadership Reception, a mixer and buffet for all in attendance.

The Whatcom Business Alliance, Business Pulse Magazine and eCigExpress are cosponsoring the event. The speech programs are free to attend for all Whatcom Business Alliance members and $25 for any non-members. The reception at the end is free to everyone.

Those attending the speeches will need to reserve a space online ahead of time. For more information or to register for the event, visit whatcombusinessalliance.com.

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