New Seasons’ store plans draw opposition; benefits of investment deal for the state is promoted.

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New Seasons, the Portland-based small-format grocer that emphasizes regional, organic food, hasn’t even opened its first store in the Seattle area and already there’s opposition.

In a recent letter to the Sound Transit board, several labor and advocacy groups opposed the possible selection of New Seasons as anchor tenant for a development at the Capitol Hill light-rail station on Broadway.

The groups criticized News Seasons’ working conditions, citing news articles about the grocer’s “anti-union climate” and health and safety violations records.

The groups said that “access to jobs for low-income communities and opportunities for locally serving businesses” should be high priorities for the development project, and they proposed local grocers Metropolitan Market, PCC and Central Co-op as examples of stores they favored.

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Gerding Edlen, the Portland company developing the mixed-use retail and housing project, said Thursday “we do not have a deal with any particular anchor tenant at this time.”

Capitol Hill Blog, which first wrote about the issue, said a Gerding Edlen partner confirmed it was talking with New Seasons but that no final decision has been made.

A New Seasons spokeswoman said Thursday the grocer is “interested in that site. It would be a potentially great fit. But there is no news to announce at this time.”

CEO Wendy Collie added that “we always put our people first and are proud to offer a progressive, comprehensive benefits package.”

Sound Transit said it “does not involve itself in tenant selection by the developer. … The Sound Transit Board chose the developer based on the strength of their proposal, which includes more than 400 new apartments with a significant portion of those being in the affordable housing category.”

New Seasons, which has 18 stores in the Portland-Vancouver area, plans to open its first Puget Sound-area store on Mercer Island this fall and a second store in Ballard in the fall of 2017.

Its workers are not unionized.

Grocery stores in this area include both union and nonunion operations. Among the unionized grocers are Kroger (owner of Fred Meyer and QFC), Albertsons, Safeway, Haggen, PCC, Central Co-op and Metropolitan Market. Among those that are not are Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, WinCo, Target and Wal-Mart.

It’s not the first time a nonunion grocery has run into attempts to block its development in labor-friendly Seattle.

In 2013, then-Mayor Mike McGinn sided with the grocery workers’ union and ordered the Seattle Department of Transportation to recommend denial of a key alley vacation needed for a Whole Foods development in West Seattle to move ahead.

Then-State Sen. Ed. Murray, now Seattle mayor, criticized McGinn’s move, saying the mayor lacked the authority to intervene in the project.

The City Council eventually voted to approve the mixed-use project that includes the Whole Foods store, and construction started in late 2014. The West Seattle Herald reports the project will be complete in 2017.

— Janet I. Tu: jtu@seattletimes.com

Investment deal for state touted

As far as trade agreements go, the Trans-Pacific Partnership has been getting all the attention while another deal, focused on another hemisphere, brews in the distance: the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

A British trade representative visited Seattle this week to talk up the importance of the deal for state residents and businesses.

Martin Donnelly, permanent secretary of the United Kingdom’s Department for Business Innovation and Skills, said the proposed TTIP agreement between the United States and the 28 member states of the European Union could create an estimated 17,000 net jobs in Washington and increase its exports to the European Union by 26 percent.

Trade between the United States and Europe makes up about 45 percent of the global gross domestic product and close to a third of all global trade.

Donnelly told a World Affairs Council forum in Seattle on Wednesday that through actions such as eliminating tariffs and aligning standards and regulations, the TTIP would spur economic development on both sides of the Atlantic.

Manufacturers now often have to go through numerous regulatory systems in different countries for the same product. Carmakers, for example, must crash test cars in different countries to prove they are safe. If the United States and Europe shared more regulatory processes, Donnelly said, perhaps a carmaker wouldn’t have to replicate the process.

That isn’t a deal-killing burden for huge companies like Boeing, Donnelly said, but streamlining regulatory processes could make a difference for small and mid-size companies that don’t have the expertise or manpower to do all the legwork.

Washington is home to dozens of companies, in sectors from agriculture to medical devices, that would like to sell more goods or services overseas.

The European Union is already an important trade partner for Washington. European countries snapped up 10.7 percent of this state’s exports in 2013 worth about $8.6 billion.

European firms employ close to 40,000 people in the state. British employers alone have about 14,000 workers in Washington, among them Rolls-Royce, maker of plane and boat engines; HSBC bank; and Hornby Hobbies, a toymaker with its U.S. headquarters in Fife.

Negotiations on TTIP have been going on since 2013. Proponents of the deal want to see the deal finalized before President Obama leaves office, although consideration from Congress would likely not happen until next year.

— Blanca Torres: btorres@seattletimes.comInformation from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.