Treasury Department to unload Banner stock at public auction

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The U.S. Treasury Department plans to sell its stake in Walla Walla-based Banner Corp. in an auction this month, according to a report from Bloomberg.

Banner preferred stock was acquired by the Treasury Department through the Troubled Asset Relief Program during the financial crisis.

Preferred stock in Banner and five other banks also acquired during that period will be sold at public auctions on or about March 26, Bloomberg reported.

A modified Dutch auction methodology reportedly will be used during the sale. The auctions will also include the department's stakes in First Financial Holdings Inc. of Charleston, S.C.; MainSource Financial Group Inc. of Greensburg, Ind.; Seacoast Banking Corp. of Stuart, Fla.; Wilshire Bancorp Inc. of L.A.; and WSFS Financial Corp. of Wilmington, Del. Houlihan Lokey Capital Inc. is the Treasury's financial adviser on the transactions.

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Have friends or family coming in from the Seattle area next month?

If they book a flight before Monday they could get a sweet deal from Alaska Airlines.

The carrier is offering discounted flights from Seattle to Walla Walla between April 8 and April 22. Some of them are as low as $69 one way if reservations are made before Monday. The discounted prices will be in place during the fifth annual Feast Walla Walla event downtown.

The airline also continues to waive fees for the first case of wine per passenger brought back from Walla Walla on its flights. For more details, visit alaskaair.com.

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Roger Esparaza, a licensed real estate broker for Williams Team Homes, is expanding his sales reach.

Esparza recently earned his Oregon Real Estate Brokers License. He is now licensed to sell real estate in Washington and across the state line in Oregon. He is based in the Walla Walla office at 126 E. Alder St.

Williams Team Homes also hangs its Oregon brokerage license on Highway 11 in Milton-Freewater, according to the announcement. To reach Esparza, call 301-1575.

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Abajian Toyota-Scion is revving up for baseball season.

The Walla Walla auto dealership has signed on as a founding partner of the Walla Walla Sweets in an agreement that secures an exclusive relationship between the team and the dealership, according to an announcement Wednesday.

As the exclusive auto partner, Abajian Toyota-Scion will have "dominant brand throughout the ballpark." A new Abajian Guest Services booth is also being constructed for the 2012 season just inside the gates at Borleske Stadium. The booth is intended to reinforce the commitment to customer service -- both from Abajian and the Sweets.

"It's wonderful to be such an integral part of bringing summer baseball back to Borleske Stadium," said Gary Hanson, one of the owners of Abajian Toyota-Scion, in a prepared statement. "Providing great family entertainment for our community is something on which we place great value. Our relationship with the Sweets is rewarding on many levels, and we are fortunate to have such a quality organization representing our community. "

Other elements from the partnership will include the use of Abajian vehicles to guide the Sweets floats through Walla Walla parades, as well as an official Sweets truck for Sweet Lou to use pre-game. Increased signage, print and radio pieces will also be seen and heard. The Sweets start the 2012 season June 1.

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Walla Walla Clothing Co. is planning a Spring Extravaganza celebration this weekend.

The downtown Walla Walla retailer will host a daylong sales event to kick off spring.

The event runs 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday at the store, 103 E. Main St. Drawings for T-shirts and a pair of jeans will be part of the event, as will a gift for all those who attend. A 10 percent discount will also be offered on all denim, T-shirts and shoes. For more details, call 525-4783.

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

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