Dr. Robert Fairbanks is treating patients at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center’s radiation oncology center next to the hospital’s main campus as part of a new partnership between St. Joe’s and Cancer Care Northwest.

Physician joins St. Joseph’s cancer treatment team


A radiation oncologist, Fairbanks joins a team that includes radiation therapists and medical physicist Doug Heidorn.

Fairbanks has worked at Cancer Care Northwest for the past 20 years in the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene areas and is the radiation oncology research director for Cancer Care Northwest.

He completed medical school and a transitional residency at Tulane University Medical School in New Orleans before finishing a radiation oncology residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He has previously been an associate professor at Texas A&M Medical School.

CCI/Speer thanks community with turkeys and hams

Lewiston ammunition manufacturer CCI/Speer is going to give away 500 hams and 100 turkeys Tuesday at the Southway Boat Launch on a first-come, first-served basis.

Half of the meat will be distributed in a session that starts at 3 p.m. and the remainder will be given away in a session that begins at 5 p.m.

“The CCI/Speer team is thankful for such a wonderful community, which provides us with our employees as our greatest resource,” according to a news release about the event. “We would like to give back to this great community.”

Insurance provider promotes executive

BOISE — Regence BlueShield of Idaho has promoted Tara Harrison to director of public affairs and government relations.

Physician joins St. Joseph’s cancer treatment team


In her new role, Harrison will oversee all Idaho intergovernmental relations activities, including those with the executive branch, Legislature and Department of Insurance, while also overseeing business liaison efforts.

“We’re ecstatic to have someone of (her) caliber assume leadership of this key function for us,” said Regence BlueShield of Idaho President Mark Ruszczyk in a news release. “The skills, insights and passion she brings to the role will enable us to accelerate our efforts to transform health care through the thoughtful development and application of innovative policy solutions.”

Harrison said she is grateful to the opportunity to take this next step in her career.

“This remains a dynamic time for the broad health care industry, and I relish being able to leverage my background in public policy, government operations and issues advocacy to help advance the interests of all Idahoans for ever-improving health care experiences,” she said.

Harrison has been active in public policy and advocacy for more than 15 years, having worked with all levels of government, from municipal to international, and having served in all three branches of government.

She most recently served as Regence BlueShield of Idaho’s regulatory affairs senior specialist, advising on high-priority issues, including surprise billing, data interoperability, consumer price transparency and the company’s COVID-19 response.

Prior to joining Regence, she counseled the Utah Legislature as a staff attorney for health and human services and served as a U.S. diplomat, working on health and human services matters with China and the European Union. Harrison was awarded that State Department’s Meritorious Honor Award for her work in China.

In addition to her insurance background, Harrison is an expert in policy regarding social determinants of health as they affect individual and public health, including homelessness, migration, suicide prevention and adverse childhood experiences. Her priorities include driving policies that make high-quality physical and mental health care accessible to individuals and families to improve their health outcomes and quality of life.

Harrison received her bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University and her law degree from the University of Utah. She clerked for Matthew B. Durrant, chief justice of the Utah Supreme Court.

Port of Whitman County recognized for internet innovations

COLFAX — The Port of Whitman County received the 2021 President’s Port of the Year award from the Washington Public Ports Association.

The southeastern Washington port was selected from 75 ports in the state, being chosen for its statewide leadership in constructing open-access, dark-fiber-optic internet networks, according to a news release from the Port of Whitman County about the honor.

The port installs the infrastructure for the networks, then leases their capacity to telecommunications providers, who all pay the same price to use them regardless of their size.

The port is working to enable broadband in five Whitman County communities, Rosalia, Garfield, Oakesdale, Palouse and Tekoa, and extend fiber an additional 41 miles to rural areas. The project is scheduled for completion this month and connects more than 150 businesses and 1,386 homes to broadband infrastructure.

The port also received a $1.7 million grant from Washington State’s Community Economic Revitalization Board to design and construct a fiber-to-the-premises network around Pine City and Malden. Fires in September 2020 nearly destroyed the towns, ravaging more than 15,000 acres and 80 percent of the homes.

The effect of the port’s broadband work extends beyond Whitman County. The Port of Whitman County leads Petrichor Broadband LLC, a municipal corporation formed by six Washington ports in 2020. The other founding members include Port of Kalama, Port of Ridgefield, Port of Skagit County, Port of Bellingham and Port of Pasco. Petrichor Broadband provides consulting and network management services to public agencies seeking to expand broadband infrastructure to previously underserved areas of Washington.

Petrichor had a profit margin from its inception by filling a critical role, assisting other ports, tribes, counties, cities, public utility districts, and industrial development zones in expanding broadband access to their communities, said Jean Ryckman, a Port of Pasco commissioner, in the news release.

The effort originated in 1998 when the port, led by the late Commissioner John Love, started lobbying for new state broadband legislation. In 2000, Substitute Senate Bill 6675 was signed into law. The landmark bill authorized ports and public utility districts to build broadband infrastructure and offer wholesale telecommunications services.

Economic development groups look for solutions to worker shortage

A partnership between Clearwater Economic Development Association and Valley Vision in Lewiston has created a new organization called the Inland Northwest Workforce Council to help ease an ongoing employee shortage in north central Idaho and southeastern Washington.

The council is seeking solutions in four areas — career and technical education awareness within schools; employer needs; the needs of educational institutions that train employees; and entrepreneurship and support for home-grown companies.

The group meets at least monthly. CEDA is applying for grant money to support one or more full-time employees for the council. CEDA and Valley Vision are accepting applicants to serve on the council at scottc@lewiston.com or dsmith@clearwater-eda.org.

Ammo subscriptions coming soon

A number of employers and economic development groups have agreed to serve on the council formed by CEDA and Valley Vision. They are Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories in Pullman and Lewiston; Hillco Technologies in Nezperce; Idaho Forest Group in Lewiston and Grangeville; Walla Walla Community College; Southeast Washington Economic Development Association; Lewis-Clark State College; Catalyst Medical Group/Valley Medical Center in Lewiston; University of Idaho; Vista Outdoor in Lewiston, Idaho Department of Labor; Lewiston Independent School District No. 1; Asotin County; U.S. Department of Agriculture; Ida-Lew Economic Development Council; and Palouse Pathways, a not-for-profit group that helps high school students in the region prepare academically for college and find ways to afford tuition.

Columbia Pulp helps develop soil stabilization and dust control agent

DAYTON — A wheat straw pulp company in southeastern Washington has formed an agreement with a Colorado business to introduce a new product.

Straw pulp plant running again

Columbia Pulp, headquartered in Dayton, and GMCO, based in Rifle, Colo., are collaborating on the processing and sale of “an innovative,” chloride-free, soil-stabilization and dust-control agent under GMCO’s IntergriBlend brand, according to a news release from Columbia Pulp.

The product was developed by GMCO with Columbia Pulp’s biopolymer chemistry platform, which uses a natural plant extract derived from the wheat straw pulping process, according to the news release.

GMCO got its start in the early 1960s on the western slope of Colorado and initially developed a niche in products that perform well on roads in the tough conditions at higher elevations. It specializes in environmentally friendly and naturally derived road maintenance products.

Columbia Pulp describes itself as the only business in the nation that makes pulp from a raw material other than wood, using wheat straw that is generally considered to be waste. Its mill near Starbuck employs almost 100 people. The pulp is sold to businesses that turn it into office paper, food containers, paper bags, paper cups, paper plates, paper towels, facial tissue and toilet paper.

Williams may be contacted at ewilliam@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2261.