Ashley Gross

Business and Labor Reporter

Ashley Gross is KPLU's business and labor reporter, covering everything from Amazon.com and Boeing to garbage strikes. She joined the station in May 2012 after working for five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.

She studied history at Brown University and earned a master's in international affairs at Columbia University. She grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She lives in West Seattle with her husband and two sons.

One of Ashley's most memorable moments in radio happened several years ago in Northwest Alaska: "I was visiting an alcohol and drug rehab program in the tiny village of Selawik. It helps Alaska Natives recover by helping them get back in touch with their subsistence lifestyle. It was spring, which meant the river was still frozen - barely. We went out on snowmachines to go ice-fishing, but late in the day, as we headed back, the river had melted to the consistency of a Slurpee. It was a harrowing ride and a good lesson in trust - I rode with my eyes closed, clinging for dear life to the woman driving. A week later, three people drowned trying to ride a snowmachine over that river, and that's when I realized just how dangerous life in rural Alaska can be."

Ways To Connect

Atomic Taco

Bus riders in Pierce County face dramatic cuts to service if voters reject a ballot proposition to hike the sales tax. Opponents are fighting hard against the measure, saying it would make Pierce County’s sales tax the highest on the West Coast.

If you ask people in downtown Tacoma how they feel about paying more in sales tax, you hear a common refrain.

"The sales tax is pretty high as it is, and I think it will be hard for people to swallow," said Michele Anderson.

Population growth triggered changes to Washington’s political map. This week, KPLU is looking at two districts with the most dramatic changes - the new 10th Congressional district, which takes in Joint Base Lewis-McChord and our state capitol, and the first Congressional district, a seat Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee used to hold.

soumit

Amazon.com recently gobbled up more than $1 billion dollars’ worth of real estate in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood. The company is growing like crazy – we’ll hear on Thursday how fast quarterly sales and profit are growing. 

It’s spread way beyond retailing – the latest is that Amazon is functioning like a bank – lending money to its third-party merchants. It's just one of the many ways in which Amazon is flexing its muscles. 

Washington state depends on exports – but the world’s many languages can be a barrier. Executives from 31 countries are gathering in Seattle this week to talk about translating everything from instruction manuals to smartphone apps.

To hear the complete story, click on the "listen" button above.

Andrew Buckingham

The Seattle-based coffee chain Tully’s says it’s going to reorganize under chapter 11 bankruptcy. Tully’s has long struggled to find a profitable niche amid fierce competition from its hometown rival Starbucks. A string of CEOs tried and failed to turn the company around.

Scott Pearson has been at the helm for a year and a half. He says expensive leases signed in the boom years have weighed the company down. Competition has also hurt.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Washington voters are weighing whether to become the first state to legalize marijuana. All this week in our series "If it’s legal: Five ways legal pot could affect your life," KPLU reporters have been imagining what the future could look like if it passes. Today, we check out the night-life scene, which could include a new version of BYOB – Bring Your Own Brownie. 

Say we fast-forward into the future. The legalization measure has just gone into effect. Where will people use marijuana? Will the guy you pass walking his dog be smoking a joint? Will you see people at a bar sharing their pot brownies?

Hawkins Multimedia

Trade is even more important to Washington state’s economy than previously thought. A new report says 40 percent of jobs in the state are connected to exports and imports.

A lot of that trade, of course, stems from very expensive airplanes produced and shipped from Washington. But the new report from two trade booster groups sheds light on other parts of our state’s economy connected to trade - like international tourism.

Joe Mabel

Update: A potential strike by longshoremen in the Pacific Northwest has been temporarily averted, according to a spokesman for the grain terminal operators.  The terminal operators have been trying to reach a new contract with longshoremen at six ports in Washington and Oregon.

Pat McCormick of the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers' Association, which represents the terminal operators, says the two sides have agreed to continue talks into mid-October even though the contract expires this Sunday.

The Associated Press

Some Boeing retirees fear they could be in danger of losing their medical coverage under a new contract the company has proposed to its engineers' union, SPEEA.

Update 9-26 – Boeing sent out the following response this morning by email: "Boeing has no plans to eliminate retiree medical benefits for current retirees. If we’d had the opportunity to discuss our proposal with the union, we could have clarified that we did not intend to change the status quo with respect to retiree medical benefits. Regrettably, SPEEA has chosen to sensationalize the issue and cause unnecessary concern."

IsoSports

Now that the Seattle City Council has given the green light for a $490 million NBA arena, investor Chris Hansen has to find a team to play there.  We know Seattle's not getting the Lakers or the Heat. So which teams are likely prospects to move here?

Kurt Badenhausen, who covers the business of sports for Forbes, recently analyzed the NBA field to come up with a list of possibilities. Top among them is the Sacramento Kings.

New figures on poverty from the Census Bureau show big differences between counties in Washington state.

Counties in the Puget Sound region had a lower poverty rate than the nation as a whole in 2011. The rate for counties around Seattle didn’t change much compared with 2010.

It’s a different story in other parts of the state. Franklin County in eastern Washington had a 30 percent poverty rate – twice the national rate.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

One of the hardest things about starting a company is getting someone to bankroll your idea. Venture capitalists are only interested in companies they think will have explosive growth, like Google or Amazon in their infancy. And getting a bank loan these days can be tough.

Some pioneering Seattle investors have stepped into that void. They’ve come up with a new way of funding startups, and they’re helping to get some creative companies off the ground. 

Andrew W. Sieber / Flickr

An aviation analyst says some Boeing engineers and technical workers are preparing for a work slowdown amid increasingly contentious contract negotiations. The union, called SPEEA, is telling members to reject Boeing’s offer, saying the raises the company is offering are disrespectful.

The Associated Press

Boeing has delivered a contract proposal to its engineers, and an analyst says they may be disappointed. The long-awaited proposal offers pay increases that are less than half what the union wanted.

The city of Seattle wants to crack down on problem rental buildings by requiring landlords to register and get inspections of their units. Tenants’ advocates say they’re hopeful the new system will mean fewer people living in unhealthy or dangerous housing.

Jonathan Grant runs the non-profit group Tenants Union of Washington State. He says he hears from tenants all the time about the poor conditions of their apartments.

KPLU

Seattle has a new deal for a sports arena to house NBA and NHL teams. If the full council approves the agreement later this month, lead private investor Chris Hansen will then face the possibly tougher job of getting a deal for the teams.

The revised deal has been officially announced by members of the Seattle City Council and addresses concerns by the Port of Seattle and others that traffic generated by events there would clog up the SoDo area.

Seattle councilmembers Sally J. Clark, Tim Burgess and Mike O'Brien made the announcement.

Robert Scoble / Flickr

Overall, job growth remains disappointingly slow – the unemployment rate remains stuck above 8 percent. In computer-related fields, though, jobs are going unfilled.

Unemployment in computer and math jobs is a measly 3.4 percent. Companies like Microsoft and Expedia say one remedy is immigration reform, and they’re hopeful Congress will pass a new act to break the logjam.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Seattle’s oldest public housing project, Yesler Terrace, is headed for a massive redevelopment, and that means years of upheaval for its 1,200 residents. At least they’re guaranteed some kind of housing. Others are not so lucky. The poor economy has made a chronic shortage of subsidized housing in Seattle even worse.

Diane Rivers is one of the people who's been trying for years to find a permanent home that she can afford.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Update: The Seattle City Council unanimously approved the redevelopment of Yesler Terrace.

“By building a mixed-use community at Yesler Terrace we can improve the quality of life for very low income families and create new affordable housing opportunities,” said Mayor Mike McGinn in a press release. 

Andrew W. Sieber / Flickr

The union representing Boeing engineers and technicians has filed an unfair labor practices complaint against the company, charging that Boeing is trying to muzzle its union members as contract negotiations heat up.

The complaint filed yesterday with the National Labor Relations Board in Seattle says Boeing has threatened union members with discipline if they speak to each other about wages, hours and working conditions.

Boeing spokesman Tim Healy said the company hadn't yet seen the complaint, but he disputed the union's claim, saying no one from Boeing told employees not to discuss working conditions or wages with each other.

Based on book sales, Republicans are dominating Democrats in most of the country (including Washington state), according to a new “election heat map” created by book retailer Amazon.com.

Mastering the export business can be tough – especially for a small company. Now there’s a new push to help local entrepreneurs sell more stuff overseas.

Loyalty cards have long given discounts to shoppers who sign up, but stores are increasingly offering personalized discounts tailored to each customer's shopping patterns.

Those tailored discounts mean someone standing in front of you at the supermarket checkout line might get a lower price on the exact same gallon of milk that you're buying.

A 'Secret Deal'

Heather Kulper is one of those people who really wants to get a good deal. She's a mom in a suburb north of Seattle who writes a blog about coupon clipping and saving money.

kingcountyparks

The dream of a bike trail stretching from Renton to Woodinville has moved one step closer to a reality. The Port of Seattle commission today voted to approve a $15 million sale of former rail land to King County.

There have been a few glimmers of hope lately for the U.S. economy, such as a better-than-expected jobs report. But local economist Dick Conway  says there’s even more reason for optimism for the Puget Sound region. 

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Big changes are likely in store for Seattle’s oldest public housing project. A total overhaul of Yesler Terrace, just up the hill from downtown, will create a mini-city of high-rise apartments and an office tower. The Seattle city council on Wednesday is holding its last public hearing on the redevelopment of Yesler Terrace. 

Kumar Appaiah / Flickr

Jill Geisler became a TV news director at the age of 27. She didn't know a whole lot about managing people, and she had to learn by trial and error. Now, Geisler is a leadership trainer with a new book out on how to inspire and motivate staff. It's called “Work Happy: What Great Bosses Know.”

In her interview with KPLU, Geisler put forth five strategies for becoming a better boss:

GAbriel Spitzer / KPLU

Teamsters who drive yard waste and recycling trucks for Waste Management in the Seattle-Everett area of Washington have voted to accept a new contract.

Thursday's vote ends a strike that disrupted garbage pickups for more than a week.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

The King County Council approved an agreement with the investors who want to build an NBA arena in the SoDo district of Seattle. The council voted 6-3 to ratify the "memorandum of understanding" and "interlocal agreement," documents which define the terms of the arena deal.

"There is intrinsic value in this arena," said county councilmember Julia Patterson. She added that she had voted against Seattle's other sports arenas in the past, when she was in the Washington State Legislature, but voted yes on this deal.

In opposition, councilman Pete von Reichbauer said transportation issues had not been resolved. 

"If you build it, they will come – they can't come if they're stuck in traffic," he said.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

For many people in King and Snohomish counties, garbage and recycling are not getting picked up because of a strike that began Wednesday. Recycling drivers walked off the job over what they say are unfair labor practices by the company, Waste Management. Garbage haulers also stopped work today in solidarity.

Waste Management says about 220,000 households face disruptions if the strike continues. Parts of northern and central Seattle are not affected because another company, Cleanscapes, hauls garbage there.

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