Tom Banse

Regional Correspondent

Tom Banse, KPLU’s and N3’s Regional Correspondent, roves the Northwest to report on broad themes and telling details. His topics run the gamut from business to the environment and human interest. Home base is in Olympia, a legacy of a previously held state government beat from 1991-2003. Although he grew up in Seattle, Tom's radio career began by chance in Minnesota at Carleton College’s student radio station. Tom's memorable moment in public radio: "I am indebted to many people for tips and tutelage, but certainly some of the bluntest -- at times unprintable -- guidance came from NPR correspondent Nina Totenberg. I interned at NPR in 1989 and was privileged to keep Nina's chair warm at the U-S Supreme Court or at the high-octane Iran-Contra trial of Oliver North, wherever she wasn't at the time. Heady stuff for a tenderfoot reporter."

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Equity Crowdfunding
11:03 am
Sat January 18, 2014

Olympia Mulls Crowdfunding Of Equity Shares In Biz Startups

FILE - Here are some examples of funding portals that could connect entrepreneurs with small investors.

Federal securities regulators recently cleared the way for small, Kickerstarter-style campaigns for startups to sell shares. But many entrepreneurs view the federal process as too cumbersome. Now, Washington state lawmakers are contemplating a state-only version to help small businesses raise capital more easily.

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Big Picture In Small Places
9:43 am
Thu January 16, 2014

Researchers Detect and 'Count' Fish From Just A Glass Of Water

Sardines, tuna and turtles are among the species in the Monterey Bay Aquarium Open Sea tank where scientists successfully used the latest DNA techniques as a new way to tally the fish in the tank.
Randy Wilder Monterey Bay Aquarium

It's not something we often think about, but as we go about daily life, we're constantly shedding little flakes of skin. So are animals and fish. This fact now makes it possible to estimate which species are most plentiful in a lake or bay.

University of Washington professor Ryan Kelly is jazzed.

"This is about the coolest project I have been involved in,” Kelly said.

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Winter Olympics
5:01 am
Tue January 14, 2014

Northwest Ski Towns Stock Olympic Teams Well Beyond USA

Jasmine Campbell, left, is most likely to receive the one slot in Sochi allocated to the U.S territory. Sun Valley Ski Academy graduate (2013) Veronica Gaspar is seen on right.
John Campbell

Next month, Sochi, Russia will host athletes from more than 85 nations at the Winter Olympics. Some of those countries might surprise you. They get no snow or have no mountains.

Remember the Disney movie "Cool Runnings?" It immortalized the Jamaican bobsled squad. Team Jamaica is coming back for more this year.

And so is the U.S. Virgin Islands. The U.S. territory will likely be represented by a Whitman College student who calls Sun Valley, Idaho home.

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Immigration & Emission
7:01 am
Sun January 12, 2014

Immigrant Investors Could Finance Green Trucks For Green Cards

FILE - Truck driver Earliest Madir inspects his truck while waiting for a load at a truck stop Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, in Atlanta.
David Goldman AP Photo

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has approved an unusual way for prospective immigrants to earn a U.S. green card and permanent residency. They can loan money to independent Northwest truckers who want to upgrade to less-polluting rigs.

The idea was the brainchild of Bellingham immigration attorney David Andersson and a cross-border association of state Legislatures and parliaments called the Pacific Northwest Economic Region.

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Olympic Hopefuls
11:29 am
Mon January 6, 2014

Cross-Country Ski Duo Bring Sibling Power To Winter Olympics

U.S. Ski Team teammates and siblings Sadie and Erik Bjornsen.
Robert Whitney

Athletes headed to next month's Winter Olympics in Russia can be expected to leverage any advantage that nature or nurture provides, though only a select few could bring the advantage of having a sibling teammate.

Siblings Erik and Sadie Bjornsen grew up in Washington’s Methow Valley, flanked by former Olympic skiers as neighbors. An enviable 120-mile Nordic trail system starts practically at their doorstep.  

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On Perseverence
4:29 pm
Tue December 31, 2013

A Modern Greek Saga: Sisyphus And The Ivy

Volunteer Kevin Head clears ivy in the pre-dawn darkness.
Tom Banse

Some causes just seem hopeless some days. Like world peace. Or ending poverty. Or in a different vein, getting rid of non-native plants.

But you've no doubt met people who insist on tackling intractable problems here locally and around the world. One particularly dedicated fellow wages a solo fight each weekday morning against English ivy.

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Olympic Hopefuls
1:32 pm
Mon December 30, 2013

January Full Of Excitement, Stress For NW Olympic Hopefuls

Slalom specialist Hailey Duke of Sun Valley, Idaho.
Tom Banse

The month of January promises to serve up lots of excitement, angst and pressure for the many Olympic hopefuls from the Northwest. They’ve got about three weeks left to qualify for a spot on the U.S. team bound for the Winter Olympics which begin in Russia in early February.

More than two dozen skiers, snowboarders and skaters from Oregon, Idaho and Washington have a plausible shot at making the U.S. Olympic team in 2014. Relatively few American athletes have secured their Olympic berths so far. Most slots are still up for grabs.

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Jobless Rate
1:28 pm
Wed December 18, 2013

Washington Unemployment Drops, But Economic Weakness Still Seen

File image
Mike Groll AP Photo

The unemployment rate in Washington dropped a notch in November. New numbers released by the state Wednesday peg the jobless rate at 6.8 percent — down from a flat 7 percent the previous month.

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Electric Cars
1:01 pm
Tue December 17, 2013

Government Fleets Soon To Include More Fully-Electric Cars

Commuter Steve Marsh, left, of Kent, Wash. was honored Monday as the first in the nation to log 100,000 miles on an all-electric Nissan Leaf.
Tom Banse

Just like consumers who postponed new car buying during the recent recession, so did government agencies put off vehicle replacements. But now procurement officers are getting busy again. In this buying cycle, every Western state is under a directive to buy alternative fuel vehicles and to reduce fossil fuel use.

The legislation or executive order always comes with a caveat: do so, except when it's not economically or logistically possible. A western Washington driver is showing what is possible when you push an electric car to its limit.

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Northwest Farmers
1:41 pm
Fri December 13, 2013

Big Jump In Use Of Temporary Foreign Farmhands In 2013

File image
J. Scott Applewhite Associated Press

Northwest farmers hired significantly more foreign guest workers this season under a special immigration program. Farms in Washington state accounted for most of the increase in this region, followed by Idaho. Oregon farmers tend not to use the special visa much.

Farmers worried about having enough hands to process labor-intensive crops can hire temporary foreign workers after they prove they can't find anyone in this country. The guest workers recruited here through this legal avenue mostly come from Mexico.

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Natural Gas
3:07 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

Utilities Want to Offer Natural Gas Truck Refueling, Competitors Object

This is Washington's first LNG refueling station, opened in Sumner by Blu LNG.
Tom Banse

Natural gas is cheaper and burns cleaner than the gasoline or diesel that goes into most vehicles. Those are two reasons trucking fleet operators in the Northwest are showing growing interest in filling up with natural gas instead of diesel.

The problem is there are very few filling stations for natural gas. Now several big utilities in this region are asking to get into this line of business. But the proposed expansion comes with some controversy.

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habitat restoration
10:31 am
Wed December 4, 2013

Timber, Enviro Groups to Try Collaboration in Olympic Forest

A logging truck is seen near Port Angeles, Wash.
Brewbooks Flickr

Timber industry and environmental groups will make a stab at collaboration to boost both logging and habitat restoration in the Olympic National Forest.

The Congressman from Washington's Olympic Peninsula announced that effort Tuesday. It's modeled on successful collaborations elsewhere in the Northwest, including the Colville and Siuslaw National Forests.

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Fuel economy
4:47 pm
Mon November 25, 2013

State Ferry System Sets Course to Convert to Cheaper LNG Fuel

Schematic showing LNG fuel tank retrofit atop a Washington state ferry.
Washington State Ferries

The nation's biggest ferry system is setting a course to convert some of its fleet from diesel to natural gas propulsion. This month, Washington State Ferries formally asked the U.S. Coast Guard to review the proposed changeover. The latest move is another example of fleet operators in the Northwest taking a hard look at cheaper fuel.

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Geronimo!
10:03 am
Fri November 22, 2013

Daredevils Woo Twin Falls to Recreate Evel Knievel Jump

This photo shows Snake River Canyon. Evel Knievel’s 1974 launch ramp is the hump on the rim, top right.
Tom Banse

A passel of daredevils is aiming to succeed where the king of stunt performers once famously failed. They want to attempt Evel Knievel's jump over the Snake River Canyon.

But first, one of the modern stuntmen has to secure the rights to both a launch and a landing spot on opposite sides of the canyon near Twin Falls, Idaho. That has the potential for another wreck in the making, a bureaucratic one that involves the wooing of the Twin Falls City Council.

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economic recovery
3:10 pm
Wed November 20, 2013

New Data Points Show 'Soft Patch' in Hiring, Slow Overall Growth

Washington state hit a soft patch in hiring and saw slow overall growth, according to two new data points released Wednesday.

Washington state's unemployment rate essentially held steady at 7 percent from August through October. Federal government furloughs delayed the release of the data last month, which resulted in the release of two sets this month.

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