The new Radio Yakima headquarters is surrounded by windows.
Those windows give anyone passing by the corner of North Third and A streets a clear view of popular radio personalities, such as Cherry FM morning show hosts Brian Stephenson and Lou Bartelli, while they are on air.
That’s a contrast to the tucked-away west Yakima building near Chesterley Park that had housed Radio Yakima’s six stations: county stations KXDD-FM and KCTR-AM; oldies station Cherry FM (KARY-FM); variety hits station Bob FM (KRSE-FM); urban contemporary station Hot 99.7 (KHHK-FM); and talk radio station Talk 980 K-USA (KBBO-AM).
Radio Yakima’s new 6,000-square-foot downtown location is exactly the visibility that owner Jim Ingstad wanted.
“You almost become part of Yakima’s DNA,” he said about moving downtown. “It brings you closer to the city and what’s going on.”
The new headquarters, whose cost was in the seven figures, is one of several investments Ingstad has made in the Yakima radio station group since purchasing the stations, along with several in the Tri-Cities, for $6.7 million in January 2012.
The stations had been owned by Seattle-based New Northwest Broadcasters, which was in receivership and selling its stations to pay creditors.
Ingstad, a 53-year-old, second-generation radio owner based in Fargo, N.D., saw the stations’ potential.
“They had a wonderful nucleus of people — you had (operations manager) Dewey (Boynton) and (market manager) Kelly (Gasseling) and good sales people,” he said. “They just needed the financial backing.”
Ingstad is well-regarded in the industry for his “live and local” philosophy.
Ingstad’s acquisition in May of several radio stations in Fargo, N.D., which occurred after he sold other stations in the area, was met with mostly positive reviews.
“Jim sets the pace for still doing radio right,” said radio consultant Jon Quick, who has worked with Ingstad in the past, in online comments for a recent article in Radio Ink, a trade publication. “Live and local. Investing in great people and treating them right. A strong commitment to news and touching the community.”
It’s a refreshing change from the corporate owners’ cost-saving measures, which resulted in staff cuts and more syndicated programming, he said.
For Ingstad, quality local programming is needed for radio stations to remain viable.
“With all the increased competition (from) Pandora, satellite and those other things, what’s going to keep us in the driver’s seat is being local, local, local,” he said. “We want to talk about what’s going on in Yakima or else we’re nothing more than a big jukebox.”
And a key part of that vision is giving autonomy to local staff, he said.
“I really have two jobs,” Ingstad said. “To buy (stations) at a fair price and to put the right people in place. If you do those two things right, it’s pretty simple.”
Gasseling said she’s seen the benefits of that philosophy.
In the last year, Radio Yakima has hired several new employees, including a third morning show host on Hot 99.7’s morning show, and more sales staff.
Radio Yakima has received new equipment, such a new transmitter for Bob FM, new vehicles and a new computer system that allows staff to operate stations from anywhere in its new building.
All the new investments have been a morale booster, she said.
“To have an owner who is just that way, just makes you want to do better at your job,” Gasseling said.
• Mai Hoang’s Reporter’s Notebook is published Mondays in the Marketplace section. To reach her, call 509-759-7851 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.