Looking back on 2010, what do you think were the biggest losses to the community? Here are my top 5.
1. Closure of Washington First International Bank
Washington First International Bank (WFIB), which was founded by Elizabeth and Arnold Huang two decades ago, was closed. This was a shock. WFIB was the first commercial bank owned by Asian Americans in Washington state. However, in 2010, 250 shareholders lost millions of dollars overnight.
With headquarters in California, East West Bank bought WFIB’s four branches. It had already acquired two branches of United Commercial Bank. At first, East West said there wouldn’t be layoffs; however, in November, it consolidated its six branches into four, closing down its Federal Way and Chinatown/International District (ID) operations.
We don’t know how many bankers lost their jobs — maybe dozens. As a newspaper, we lost two loyal advertisers. As a community, we lost a network of financial resources and two supporters of many community events.
2. Ouch! Amazon leaves the ID
The Amazon crowd loved to dine in the ID. However, when Amazon moved to Lake Union, many ID restaurants experienced a drop in business. Amazon would not disclose the actual number of staff members who left PacMed, on 12th Ave. S., and the Union Station buildings, on 6th Ave. S. Some speculated that it could have been as many as 3,000 employees.
3. Sen. Claudia Kauffman defeated
Sen. Kauffman was the first and only Indian American female elected to the Washington legislature. In November, a Republican defeated her. We lost a friend and community ally. Thank you, Claudia, for all that you have done for us.
4. Bye-bye restaurants
Restaurants are crucial to the well-being of this community. They provide revenue for our state and many jobs for our community members. Some long-time institutions like China Gate Restaurant, Todai, and V Garden Restaurant disappeared this year. The first two closures were due to a lack of business.
The third was due to a fire. V Garden has now reopened at the Great Wall Mall. The old China Gate and V Garden spaces are currently vacant.
Todai has been replaced by a new tenant, Pink Restaurant.
5. Loss of key figures
We were elated when Don Wakamatsu being appointed as the Seattle Mariners’ manager two years ago. He was the first Asian American to break the glass ceiling in baseball. Our joy proved to be short-lived, as he was fired earlier this year.
Ted Choi Tam, a notable figure in the Asian community and the Republican party, died this year. Many folks didn’t always agree with Ted, but he did some amazing work for the community. His contributions included the formation of Kin On Nursing Home and the Seattle Chinese Chamber of Commerce.
He was able to attract great speakers to the Chamber’s monthly luncheon. Attendance records were frequently broken while he was running the program. When he debated with Democrats, he was passionate about his Republican causes and beliefs. He never gave an inch to his opponents.
Another tragedy occurred in the community when a mentally unstable person shot his own father on Beacon Hill. The father was known as a thoughtful and decent man.
Three out of the five on my list are related to job loss. I hope those of you who have lost your job in 2010 will find one in 2011. Next week, I will write about what we’ve gained. Send me your lists too. I’d like to read them. ♦