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

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.

Neerav Bhatt

There’s been growing speculation lately that Amazon has a smartphone in the works. But why?

It’s a crowded market out there in smartphone land. There’s a whole bunch of phones based on Google’s Android software, there’s the Microsoft Windows phone, and of course, Apple’s iPhone.

Also, a small sampling of people on a downtown Seattle street didn't show a whole lot of interest in an Amazon phone.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

Home prices have dropped almost 30 percent from their peak in Seattle, but there are still a lot of people who can’t afford to buy a home in the city. Now, a new program is tackling that problem by converting foreclosed homes into affordable housing.

Under the program, you could buy a house for $85,000 less than what it’s worth - if you make below a certain income threshold.

Andy Karnopp / Guidant Financial

The summer Olympics kick off in London on July 27th. But while the world’s best swimmers and sprinters get ready, office workers here are not to be outdone. They’re going for the gold in the name of that corporate buzzword – team-building.

Thomas Hawk / Flickr

Claiming town cars are breaking the rules, Seattle taxi drivers are threatening to stop taking passengers to Sea-Tac Airport.

Mike Kelley

A new professional basketball and hockey arena in Seattle could steal tax dollars from neighboring communities. That’s according to the analysis of University of Washington geography professor Bill Beyers, who has spent a lot of time studying the economic impact of professional sports.

Beyers has done previous analyses about the Mariners and Seahawks, as well as KeyArena.  As part of an expert panel, Beyers presented his initial thoughts on the proposed NBA and NHL arena to the King County Council.

Boeing had a triumphant announcement today - a big order from United Continental for its 737 narrow-body airplanes, which are made in Renton. United is buying 150 737s, Boeing's popular single-aisle jet. Two-thirds of those planes will be the newest version – the 737MAX, which Boeing announced last August.

Boeing was rushing to catch up with its rival Airbus, which had already announced hundreds of orders for its new narrow-body plane, the A320neo. Randy Tinseth is a vice president of marketing for Boeing.

camknows

Battle lines are being drawn between people who want a new basketball and hockey arena in Seattle and people who don’t. A town hall meeting at North Seattle Community College at 7:00 pm on Tuesday, July 10th, will give people a chance to speak out on the proposal. 

One issue likely to come up is whether the city is even big enough to support six professional sports teams.  The plan would add an NBA team and possibly an NHL team to the city's pro sports landscape of Seahawks, Mariners, Storm and Sounders. 

sea turtle

Amazon.com says it’s helping sponsor the fireworks display at Seattle’s Lake Union. It’s a first for the company, which drew criticism in a Seattle Times article for a lack of philanthropy around the city.

clidstrom

Boeing says the world will need 34,000 new airplanes over the next 20 years, mostly driven by increasing demand from Asia.

Boeing has to plan 20 years down the line in an industry where designing and building a plane can take almost a decade. The company says it expects airlines will want even more single-aisle airplanes, like its 737s, which are made in Renton.

Thomas Hawk

Bellevue-based T-Mobile USA says Chief Executive Phillipp Humm is leaving to join his family back in Europe. An analyst says Humm was probably tired of the parent company not investing enough in its U.S. subsidiary.

Humm was appointed CEO of T-Mobile USA less than two years ago by its parent, Deutsche Telekom. Then, a few months later, AT&T announced that it was buying T-Mobile. That deal ultimately unraveled after the federal government challenged it.

Kerry Lammert / Flickr

J.P. Morgan Chase’s recent multi-billion dollar trading loss has knocked the bank far down the list of world’s most respected companies, according to the financial magazine Barron’s.  

That just adds to the company’s already tarnished reputation in the Northwest because of the way it took over Washington Mutual in a fire sale during the darkest days of the financial crisis in 2008. And that animosity is warranted, one expert says.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

The number of apartments being built in downtown Seattle has jumped almost 10-fold compared with two years ago, suggesting the city’s downtown core is in the midst of a rebound.

The first condo building to start construction in five years also recently broke ground in the city's Denny Triangle neighborhood. That's another sign that the market may be beginning to revive, after the real estate crash brought condo construction to a halt.

Shibby777

If you’ve been following the gloomy economic news, you might be surprised that lots of Washington stocks have been doing quite well this year.

Top of the pack so far this year? Expedia, the travel web site company based in Bellevue. Expedia stock has soared 66 percent so far this year.

What’s going on? Dan Su is an analyst with Morningstar who covers Expedia. She says the company has been overhauling its web sites to make them more user-friendly and to better compete with rival Priceline.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

I just moved here from Chicago, and there’s one thing that has been bugging me – the way people park.

In some ways, Seattleites seem to really follow the rules. People don’t jaywalk, for instance. So why do so many people park on the wrong side of the street?

In my neighborhood in West Seattle, near Alki Beach, cars are parked higgledy-piggledy. Nose to nose, tail to tail. The streets are really narrow, and traffic runs in both directions, so I can understand the temptation to just zip into an empty spot, no matter which side of the street it’s on.

Read more on I Wonder Why ... ?

Tax Credits

The interest rate on a 30-year mortgage recently dropped to a record low. That’s great news for people buying a home or refinancing. But not everyone is thrilled about low interest rates. For retirees, Bellevue financial advisor Michael Boone says low interest rates are "incredibly destructive."

Take David Lee. He's 59 years old, getting close to retirement. When he first set up his retirement plan decades ago, he says he was told he’d earn 10 percent interest and he’d have enough to buy another house when he retired. So much for that.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

The long goodbye to Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct has begun.

With some ceremonial scoops of dirt, officials today began digging a pit for the giant machine that will chew up the earth under Seattle like a massive termite creating the deep-bore tunnel.

AmyHH

Starbucks is thinking beyond cake pops and pumpkin scones. The coffee giant says it’s spending $100 million to buy a company called Bay Bread in San Francisco. It’s an acknowledgement that the company’s baked goods have lagged behind the quality of its coffee.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

"It's a buying frenzy. That's why I came - I wanted to see it on the first day. How could I miss it?" - Kyle Johnson outside a Costco in Seattle

The state of Washington has officially bid good riddance to its state-run liquor stores. About five times as many stores will now sell hard liquor, and the new law that went into effect today means shoppers can head to supermarkets to buy vodka or rum. It’s a welcome change for some people, like Alyssa Royse.

Ashley Gross / KPLU

A huge shift takes place tomorrow when we’ll be able to walk into a Fred Meyer or Safeway and walk out with a bottle of gin. But if you walk out without paying, beware. You may trigger an alarm. 

It's just like when you buy a pair of jeans and the clerk snaps off a security tag so you don’t beep when you exit the store. Now when you go buy a bottle of booze, you may see something similar. The device is like a thick plastic sheath that covers the top of the bottle, and it’s designed to make thieves think twice.

Could a new basketball and hockey arena hurt ticket sales for other teams in the city? That’s what some King County officials are worried about. The fear is that Seattle could end up with too many big-time sports teams and that there wouldn’t be enough entertainment dollars to go around.

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