The Best and Worst of Business 2009

Remembering the good news and bad in a year we won’t forget.
By Leslie D. Helm, Chris Winters, Talia Schmidt, Kate Vesper, David Volk, Randy Woods, Elizabeth Economou and Art Thiel |   December 2009   |  FROM THE PRINT EDITION
Illustrations by Mark Brewer

check-cashing services," she says. The result of her efforts is the newly expanded Express Credit Union, a 75-year-old financial institution with 1,400 members. Under the guidance of the Medina Foundation, McKay helped broaden Express' business model to include lending services for moderate- to low-income customers, making it the only credit union to provide such assistance in King County. Working closely with BECU (the former Boeing Employees Credit Union) and eight nonprofit service providers, McKay helped set up 16 satellite offices, staffed with BECU customer service reps, in communities traditionally underserved by banks.

The new Express, says McKay-who at one time directed the Craig and Susan McCaw Foundation and managed Seattle's Team Read tutoring program-is another step in her lifelong goal of eradicating the root causes of poverty. "We saw a huge gap in affordability of financial services," she says. It looks like Express is helping to close that gap. In its first three months after relaunching, Express signed up 500 new members and now has more than $9 million in assets. During the next five years, McKay expects Express to serve between 6,500 and 7,000 low-income members. —Randy Woods


Best Turnaround: Dendreon

Seattle biotech firm Dendreon has been through good times and bad. But the company got the news it needed and possibly secured its future in April, when it announced that its first drug out of the pipeline, Provenge, was shown to help men with prostate cancer live longer.

The reaction was immediate. Dendreon's stock shot up to $20 from $8 per share the first day after the news was released (it's now around $30, as Seattle Business goes to press). The company launched a clinical trial for a cancer drug in pill form, raised close to $200 million in a follow-up stock offering, announced it would build a manufacturing plant in Atlanta and submitted its final application to the Food and Drug Administration to sell its drug commercially.

This from a firm that had unfavorable results from its Phase I trial, a stock trading under $2 a share in 2002 and no future. But the results came in and, eventually, Dendreon showed long-term survivability rates were higher with Provenge and was able to expand its trial to 500 men, the critical stage that ultimately vindicated the business. Throw in some politicking on the FDA's 2007 advisory panel and there were enough ups and downs to make Dendreon stockholders reach for the

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