Nonprofit Company Winners



Some may be surprised to learn that the leadership strategy behind Valley Medical Center—which serves a population of nearly 600,000 and employs close to 3,000 people—originated with a receptionist at a hat factory in St. Louis.

The receptionist was the mother of Rich Roodman, Valley Medical Center’s CEO, who has built his career around kindness.

“My mother had a lot of different bosses—those who were nice and who valued folks, and those who were a pain in the butt,” says Roodman, who adds that his mother came to appreciate the nice bosses and would work hard to please them. The not-so-nice bosses? Let’s just say they might find themselves waiting a little longer for their requests.

“It’s a lesson my mom taught me,” says Roodman. “Being nice to people is a core value.”

Founded as Valley General in 1947, Valley Medical Center has experienced tremendous growth, especially in the past seven years. A bond levy passed in 2003 funded a $200 million construction program that expanded the hospital’s birth and surgery centers, and added a new seven-story emergency services tower. The comprehensive community hospital main campus sits on 45 acres in Renton, and the center oversees 23 owned and operated clinics.

Keeping the lines of communication open among all levels of employees has been a focus at VMC. Employees hear about upcoming company events, policy changes and construction updates through direct mail to their homes and emails to their workstations, and over the airwaves via big-screen TVs throughout the hospital and its clinics. Three or four times a year, Roodman and COO Paul Hayes host a live forum at which employees can learn about hospital goals and new services, and also ask questions directly.

“Folks enjoy getting to have some face time with the folks in the corner offices,” Roodman says. —S.B.C.

Second Place: Job Satisfaction

Spokane’s Career Path Services provides free job-placement assistance to both job seekers and employers. So it’s no surprise that the organization, which is funded entirely by local, state and federal grants, knows how to treat employees well. Its workers receive an exceedingly generous simplified employee pension plan, two annual retreats and a compressed four-day work week. A multidude of employee-wellness programs—including entering a team in the annual Bloomsday 12-kilometer run—makes for a happy, healthy workforce. —N.H.

Third Place: IT'S A THREE PEAT

With 10 locations and 150 providers in the greater Seattle area, Pacific Medical Centers is one of the region’s largest health-care networks. It’s also one of the best employers in the industry. PacMed has placed in the top three in this category for three consecutive years. The company’s workers rave about the many continuing education opportunities and tuition reimbursement provided by the organization, the unusually open lines of communication between employees at all levels and the numerous charitable projects available to employees. —N.H.

Paying the Price for $15 an Hour

Paying the Price for $15 an Hour

With the economy soaring, it’s hard to gauge the effectiveness of Seattle’s minimum-wage hike. Some small-business owners remain dubious.
When the Seattle City Council passed the $15 minimum- wage ordinance in June 2014, David Lee, founder and CEO of the Field Roast Grain Meat Company, was not happy.
“The minimum wage hurts businesses like ours that compete on a national level,” says Lee, who believes it makes employers feel “cheap” and weakens “the goodwill that bound employers to employees.”
Even so, reflecting the mixed feelings of many Seattle businesses that want to do the right thing even as they struggle to survive, Lee decided to raise the minimum pay of his workers more than 20 percent — to $15 an hour — this fall, years before he was required to do so under the law.
“I wanted to get it behind me,” he explains.
Under a complex, multitiered system, Seattle companies with more than 500 employees must begin paying a $15-per-hour minimum wage starting in January. Companies with fewer than 501 employees  have until 2019, unless, like Lee, they provide health care or other benefits, in which case the $15 minimum wage rule applies to them beginning in 2021. Lee says his decision will cost Field Roast $300,000, about a quarter of its total earnings in 2015.
Ivar’s Seafood increased prices by 21 percent in 2015 to cover an increase in employees’ minimum wages to $15. The company didn’t have to start paying $15 an hour until next year, but Ivar’s President Bob Donegan believed it was the right thing to do. The decision helped resolve long-standing tension between lower-paid workers in the kitchen and wait staff who received much higher wages thanks to tips. Donegan says most patrons continue to tip even when they are told gratuities are now included in their bills.

A CASE OF COMPRESSION: Lynn Stacy unwraps grain meat for sausage products at Field Roast,
which has a flatter pay structure because of its higher minimum wage.

Some companies, however, remain concerned that the higher minimum wage could still hurt them. BrightStar Care, which offers home care and medical staffing in most states, is operating at a disadvantage because of the minimum wage, says CEO Shelly Sun. “Our Seattle franchise has only about 50 employees,” Sun notes, “but it’s being treated like a big business.”
Because Seattle treats the franchised operation of a national chain as if it were a large business, BrightStar will have to pay $15 an hour as of January, whereas some of its competitors with similar employee numbers in Seattle may not have to pay that much until 2019. Sun says a consequence may be reducing the size of the Seattle franchisee’s staff, which could have implications for clients.
Meanwhile, the national restaurant chain Buffalo Wild Wings says it is hesitant to expand in Seattle because the high minimum wage makes it economically inefficient to hire and train inexperienced workers. Still, what was once considered a movement isolated to “liberal” western cities like Seattle and San Francisco has gained sufficient momentum nationwide to be included in the national platform of the Democratic Party this election season. 
Thanks to Seattle’s strong labor market — the unemployment rate in the Seattle metropolitan area was 4.4 percent in July (compared to 5.8 percent statewide) — the higher wages have had little negative effect on the economy.
A report released in July by the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Policy and Governance concluded that the new minimum wage law hasn’t had a lot of upside, either. Since a strong labor market would have increased wages in any case, the study concluded, only a quarter of the recent gains could actually be attributed to the minimum-wage law — a little more than a few dollars a week. 

Revisiting the minimum-wage story | Seattle Business magazine examined the minimum-wage issue in its May 2014 issue, just as the Seattle City Council was considering an ordinance raising the minimum hourly rate to $15 in a gradual process over several years, depending on a company’s size. This is the magazine’s first follow-up since passage of the minimum-wage law.