WW woman garners airline ticket for upbeat Facebook post

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A Walla Walla woman's Facebook post about her positive experience at the Walla Walla Regional Airport has landed her a round-trip ticket to any destination in the continental United States.

Sharon Schafer was the first of what will be two recipients of an Alaska Airlines ticket as part of a promotion on the airport's Facebook page.

Schafer was selected as the winner by airport Manager Jennifer Skoglund and recognized at the Port's Thursday meeting. Follower's of the airport's Facebook page were asked to post their experiences and comments about flying from Walla Walla for a chance at a free ticket.

Schafer, a teacher for Washington Virtual Academy, said she has to fly to Seattle for work-related meetings in that area every one to two months.

"It works great to catch the early morning flight out of Walla Walla to zip over to Seattle for the meetings," she wrote in her post. "It only takes a few minutes to get to the airport, check-in goes quickly, and the parking is free. The rates are very reasonable too. In fact, it costs my school more than twice as much to pay for my car mileage to drive to Seattle than it does to fly me to Seattle -- and they also don't have to pay for a hotel when I fly!..."

More than 30 stories had been posted for the contest. Another winner is expected to be chosen later, Skoglund said.

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A new artists' colony is coming to life off Dell Avenue.

The Port of Walla Walla is receiving more interest for the old storage buildings expected to become a cluster for artisan workers and entrepreneurs.

"This thing is really starting to catch on fire," Port Executive Director Jim Kuntz said Thursday.

Four 1,000-square-foot buildings previously used for storage have been converted into workspace for small cottage industries at a rate of $350 per month. All four buildings have already been committed to tenants. Two of the four were originally reserved by local businessman Craig Keister, who owns a downtown Walla Walla antiques shop, and who presented the artists' colony concept to the Port as an idea. However, as word has traveled about the spaces and demand has built, Keister may be giving up on of those spaces for a neighboring tenant.

Kuntz said in addition to Keister, who builds furniture, other tenants lined up include a sculptor, a tenant who makes fishing lures and a woodworking expert.

The Port is also in negotiations with the Walla Walla Foundry for a more than 6,000-square-foot production shop at the 1310 Dell Ave. property, Kuntz said. The foundry has a large order to fill and needs the production space, Kuntz said. He said discussions have centered around a six-month lease with one six-month renewal option. Commissioners unanimously authorized Kuntz to move forward with that agreement.

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Columbia REA has slightly delayed its purchase of the Port of Walla Walla's Melrose Avenue property for its new Walla Walla location.

The Dayton-based rural electric cooperation was initially expected to close its $5.3 million purchase of the roughly 88,000-square-foot building complex at the end of September. The co-op exercised its option to extend when environmental testing found asbestos and some petroleum at the site.

The property was initially home to Strauser Manufacturing and later Key Technology. Plans are in place to clean up the asbestos and proceed with further soil testing at the property. The current closing date is set for Nov. 30.

Columbia REA has said it plans to relocate much of the equipment stored at its Dayton location to the Melrose property. The headquarters would remain in Dayton, where the co-op started in 1939. The new site is intended to help the operation be more centrally located where the brunt of its growth has taken place in recent years.

Strictly Business is a local business column. Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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