Tuesday, August 4, 2020
Aug. 4, 2020

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In Our View: Cheers & Jeers: IPO a hit; Woodland off-base

The Columbian

Cheers: To ZoomInfo. It can be difficult to find positive business news during this time of COVID-19 and economic shutdowns, so let’s celebrate ZoomInfo Technologies. The Vancouver-based data-marketing company enjoyed a successful initial public offering this week as it began trading on the Nasdaq under the symbol ZI.

ZoomInfo raised $934 million, nearly doubling what it hoped for when it filed for an IPO in November. “We’re thrilled to be one of the first tech companies in the United States to go public since the pandemic,” CEO Henry Schuck said. Schuck founded the company as DiscoverOrg in 2007 and has built it into one of Vancouver’s largest employers.

Jeers: To the Woodland City Council. Council members have passed a resolution, by a 4-3 vote, “urging the mayor to reopen the city of Woodland.” Councilors want to be a “sanctuary city” against state restrictions on businesses and gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic.

The problem is that the resolution is an empty promise to local businesses, which still would be subject to financial penalties should state officials opt to enforce shutdown orders. As Councilor Monte Smith, who voted against the resolution, said, “I don’t want to give false hope to a business that they can reopen without having some sort of penalty towards them.”

Cheers: To public transit. C-Tran officials have received a pleasant surprise with quick federal approval of $24.9 million for the agency’s Mill Plain bus rapid transit project. Officials say about half the necessary funding is already in the bank and the federal contribution is the final big piece of the puzzle. The line will run from downtown Vancouver to a new terminus in east Vancouver, joining the Fourth Plain Vine line that opened in 2017.

The coronavirus pandemic and economic shutdown have caused a decline in the use of public transit, but the project will help the region prepare for the future. Completion of the project is years away; ideally the economy will be up and running by then, and public transit will be an essential part of getting people to and from work while helping to reduce carbon emissions.

Jeers: To unemployment fraud. The scope of the fraud remains unclear, but state officials now believe they were scammed out of between $550 million and $650 million in phony unemployment claims in recent months. Washington is not the only state to be scammed by specious claims, believed to be spearheaded by a group operating out of Nigeria, but the fraud is particularly embarrassing for a state that prides itself on being tech savvy.

Officials say they have recovered about $333 million by working with banks, and hope to recover more. But with many legitimate claims waiting to be filled, the situation is maddening.

Cheers: To helping out. Bill Gianukakis, owner of Billy Blues Bar & Grill in Hazel Dell, is providing assistance for some of the musicians who perform at the venue during normal times. The Billy Blues Musicians Community Relief Fund accepts donations for local musicians and matches them. “We’ve been supporting five musicians with $175 each, every week,” Gianukakis said.

Independent contractors such as musicians are among the hardest hit by the economic shutdown. Not only has their source of income been eliminated, but they do not have employer-provided health care. “You should see the raw emotion and the genuine sincerity of the people we support,” Gianukakis said. “Some of them are worried where their next meal is going to come from.”