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In Brief 

by Inlander Staff

Blast off at the Davenport -- SPOKANE -- It's here again, the area's young and hip business networking and technology fair, Launch Pad 4.0. This time, it's filling up the Davenport Hotel on Friday, with an event focused on venture capital, finding jobs and entrepreneurial success stories.

"The overlying theme is to have an event that brings people together in business, education and technology," says Bill Kalivas, one-third of the team behind Launch Pad.

As something new, there will be business forums throughout the day, beginning with a presentation for displaced high-tech workers at noon.

"It's about retraining and about helping people find new careers," says Kalivas, who's also vice president of INTEC, which hosts this forum.

At 1:45 pm, there's a venture capital forum planned, featuring investors from across the state.

"Three of the top venture capital firms are coming over from Seattle to Spokane for the first time," says Kalivas. "Tom Simpson of Northwest Venture Associates is really the reason we can pull this off."

At 3:30 pm, there's a panel discussion featuring entrepreneurial stories, all the way from Avista and World Wide Packets to brand-new startup companies.

The tradeshow starts at 5:30 pm, with keynote speaker Sen. Maria Cantwell.

"There are more than 35 exhibitors at the trade show, and we expect somewhere between 800 and 1,000 people to show up," says Kalivas.

Finally, at 7:15 pm, the fun will begin -- this is the part that'll remind you that this is not your dad's tradeshow.

"What makes us different? It's the energy we generate. And we have music, food and, well, alcohol," says Kalivas, crediting co-founders Rob Brewster and Elizabeth Byrd for putting together such a dynamic business event.

All forums and the business tradeshow are free at the Davenport Hotel, on Friday, Nov. 8, beginning at noon. No registration is necessary. Call: 747-7905.

Cuts in Health -- SPOKANE -- The Spokane Regional Health District announced on Monday which programs are getting the ax on Jan. 1, 2003.

Health District staffing levels will be cut by 10 percent, with some positions being completely eliminated and others having their hours cut. What's going to hurt the most is the loss of the three programs that will be eliminated.

The Senior Wellness program -- which serves about 125 seniors annually -- will be gone. The Guild School -- serving more than 200 families with developmentally challenged children -- will lose the two nurses who currently do the first home visits. Funding for the Regional Outreach through Peer Education (ROPED) program is getting completely cut as well.

The cuts are necessary, according to the Health District, because it has lost $1.1 million of its discretionary budget for 2003. Most of the Health District's funding is earmarked or categorized to go toward certain areas, but the discretionary budget is a portion that can be applied where public health specialists need it.

"We will continue to actively seek alternative revenue sources to minimize any further reduction in valuable public health services," says Dr. Kim Marie Thorburn, health officer of the Health District.

But the executive director of the Guild School, Dick Boysen, says the Health District needs to reexamine its priorities.

"They just care about clean water, clean air, disease and bio-terrorism," says Boysen. "For the health district to think that we, a nonprofit organization, should be funding a health function is just not right." He adds that the Guild School obtained the original grant that made the hiring of the nurses possible, and received very short notice that the positions were now disappearing.

"We were called in the last week of September," says Boysen. "In early October, they said unless you can come up with $68,000, this is what's going to happen."

Being a nonprofit organization, the Guild School, like many such social and health programs, doesn't have a secret stash of cash somewhere.

"We have great fundraising activities and abilities," says Boysen. "We are going to forge ahead the best we can."

Warm News -- SPOKANE -- Natural gas consumers in both Washington and Idaho can look forward to lower heating bills this winter. Consumers in Idaho will see their bills go down 15.6 percent, while those in Washington can cut a check that is 17.4 percent smaller than last year.

The cuts are possible because the wholesale price of natural gas has dropped. Avista Utilities does not make any profit off the cost of natural gas.
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