Alaska Air Group earnings soared in 2014

Alaska and Horizon passengers contributed to a record year the Medford airport.

Alaska Air Group, whose Horizon Air unit handles more than half of the passenger activity at the Medford airport, said it made $148 million, or $1.11 per share, in 2014. That’s nearly a 90 percent jump over 2013′s net income of $78 million, or 56 cents per share.

The Seattle-based company announced a 20-cent per share dividend for the fourth quarter, up 60 percent from its third-quarter dividend, to shareholders of record on Feb. 24.

Alaska Air Group said during 2014 it awarded a record $116 million in incentive pay to employees, or more than one month’s pay for most employees. Over the past five years, employees have earned more than $473 million in incentive pay, averaging 8.7 percent of annual pay.
In addition to signing a five-year agreement with Alaska Airline’s flight attendants in December, the company inked a six-year contract with Horizon’s aircraft technicians and fleet service agents in June and a four-year deal with Horizon’s dispatchers last April 2014.

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Staying on the subject of airlines, United Airlines today reported a $1.97 billion profit in 2014, an increase of 89 percent year-over-year, or $5.06 per share.
That excludes an $834 million special item, knocking down net income to $1.13 billion, or $2.93 per diluted share
During the fourth quarter, UAL reported bottom-line earnings of $28 million or $0.07 per diluted share.

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Sportsman’s Warehouse said it will open its seventh Oregon store in Albany later this year, and ninth new store overall in 2015. This store will be located in the Albany Plaza Shopping Center.

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Walla Walla, Wash.-based Banner Corp., parent company of Banner Bank and recent purchaser of AmericanWest Bank, said its net income in the fourth quarter of 2014 was $12.2 million, or 63 cents per share, compared to $11.6 million, or 60 cents per share, for the fourth quarter a year ago.
For all of 2014, Banner Corp.’s net income increased 17 percent to $54.6 million, or $2.82 per share, compared to $46.6 million, or $2.40 per share, in 2013.
The acquisition of American West Bank and six branches of Siuslaw Bank were major events in 2014 for the bank, CEO Mark Grescovich said.
“We believe these achievements, taken together, will result in a transformational year for Banner in 2015,” he said in a statement this week.said “We will have the opportunity to deploy our super community bank model throughout a strengthened presence in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, and enter into attractive growth markets in California and Utah.”

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1-800 Flowers on New York’s Best Companies to Work for list; Harry & David you’re on the clock

On Tuesday, The Ohio State University’s banner waived over Harry & David’s headquarters along Hwy. 99, following the Buckeyes’ 42-20 victory in the national football championship game.

Employees at the company’s Hopewell Campus in Hebron, Ohio, whose team made good on their wagered honor, get to gloat for an entire week before the flag is lowered and life moves on beneath a regular old State of Oregon.

Now there is pressure of another kind, this time from the parent company, 1-800-Flowers.com. The Long Island-based firm, which acquired Harry & David last year, was named one of 65 employers to make the New York State Society for Human Resource Management’s “Best Companies to Work for in New York State.” 

The annual “Best Companies to Work for in New York State” award is based on ways a company benefits the state’s businesses, economy and workforce. The HR managers consider company policies, practices and demographics. In addition, employees fill out an engagement and satisfaction survey focusing on corporate leadership and planning, corporate culture and communications, work environment, training and development, and pay and benefits.

Of course, Harry & David has won lots of awards over the years, but hasn’t been on Oregon Business Magazine’s “Best Companies to Work for” list. The gauntlet has once more been laid down.

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Lithia Motors scored big in the Automotive News/PricerwaterhouseCoopers 2014 Global Automotive Shareholder Value Awards.

Awards are bestowed based on the highest shareholder returns for one-year and three-year periods among global vehicle manufacturers, global automotive suppliers and U.S. automotive retailers.

Lithia Motors scored big in the three-year category based on the value of a $100 investment. The metric compares relative returns generated by different companies, taking into account changes in share prices, dividends and other distributions as well as stock buybacks or splits.

The Medford-based auto retailer posted a 309 percent return over three years, while earning a PricerwaterhouseCoopers Value Index rating of 116 percent, the highest of any winner.

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Oregon in step with national foreclosure data

Oregon is right in line with the national 0.8 percent year-over-year decline in foreclosure inventory, according to the latest  findings by real estate data provider CoreLogic.
Overall, Oregon’s foreclosure inventory is 1.7 percent, a little above the national 1.5 percent figure. However, the state’s 3.7 percent serious delinquency rate is lower than the national average of 4 percent.
CoreLogic reported more than 41,000 completed foreclosures nationally in November, down from 46,000 in November 2013, a year-over-year decline of 9.6 percent and off 64 percent from the peak of completed foreclosures in September 2010. The Irvine, Calif., company noted that on a month-over-month basis, completed foreclosures were down 12.6 percent from the 47,000 reported in October.
Completed foreclosures are an indication of the total number of homes actually lost to foreclosure.

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U.S. import prices fell 2.5 percent in December, the largest one-month decline since a 4.6-percent drop in December 2008, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.
Import prices have not risen any month since an 0.3 percent bump in June and fell 7.3 percent during the second half of 2014. The price index for imports decreased 5.5 percent overall in 2014, the biggest calendar-year drop since falling 10.1 percent in 2008.

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The U.S. Agriculture Department is expanding its Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program for crops that historically have been ineligible for federal crop insurance.
Part of the 2014 Farm Bill, there are new coverage options when natural disasters affect specialty crops such as vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, floriculture, ornamental nursery, aquaculture, ginseng, honey, syrup, and energy crops.
Previously, the program offered coverage at 55 percent of the average market price for crop losses that exceed 50 percent of expected production. Producers can now choose higher levels of coverage, up to 65 percent of their expected production at 100 percent of the average market price.

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The Green Transportation Summit and Expo, which bills itself as the Pacific Northwest’s largest alternative fuels
and transportation summit, is scheduled April 21-22 at the Portland Expo .
Private and public fleet operators, industry experts and government agencies will convene to explore and discuss bio fuels, hydrogen, compressed natural gas, liquified natural gas, renewable natural gas, propane and electric vehicles.

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Spending on arts and cultural still on the rise

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis said spending on arts and cultural production continues to rise.
The report, released Monday, show the art sector’s gross domestic product contribution grew 3.8 percent, or $25.8 billion in 2012. As a result, the arts sector accounted for 4.3 percent of GDP, and an output of $698.7 billion, of GDP.
Arts and cultural production sector employment, taking into consideration all jobs, ranging from dancers to architects involved in production, provided 4.7 million jobs in 2012. The BEA said the core ACPSA
industries contributed one million jobs, while the supporting industries contributed 3.5 million jobs. The advertising industry was the primary core contributor, producing more than 1.3 million jobs, while the government accounted for 1.1 million jobs in supporting industries.
At the risk of appearing cynical, the rise of spending on the arts appears to be an insider’s game.
The wealthy develop non-profit arts foundations to underwrite performances and exhibitions few outside their class can afford to attend. Along with IRS write-offs, they’re showered with perks they really don’t need.

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Former Meier & Frank stores avoid Macy’s hit list

Major retailers are coming to grips with the fallout of an apparently disappointing holiday shopping season.
Online buying continued taking its toll and even the extra disposable dollars from lower gas prices didn’t seem to help expectations.
Cincinnati-based Macy’s announced a string of store closures, as well as two strategic openings, Thursday. None of the former Oregon-based Meier & Frank stores which are now part of the chain will close.
Soon-to-be-shuttered are: Metro Center, Phoenix, Ariz. (107,000 square feet; opened in 1973; 88 associates); Cupertino Square Mall, Cupertino, Calif. (177,000 square feet; opened in 1997; 111 associates); Promenade (192,000 square feet; opened in 1993; 112 associates); Promenade (furniture gallery), (81,000 square feet; opened in 1993; 19 associates), Woodland, Calif.; Gulf View Square, Port Richey, Fla. (84,000 square feet; opened in 1981; 78 associates); Northland Center, Southfield, Mich. (504,000 square feet; opened in 1954; 170 associates); Wendover, Greensboro, N.C. (141,000 square feet; opened in 2002; 83 associates); Ledgewood Mall, Ledgewood, N.J .(73,000 square feet; opened in 1994; 79 associates); ShoppingTown Mall, DeWitt, N.Y. (120,000 square feet; opened in 1993; 94 associates); Rotterdam Square, Schenectady, N.Y. (120,000 square feet; opened in 1995; 98 associates); Kingsdale Shopping Center, Columbus, Ohio (108,000 square feet; opened in 1970; 115 associates); Richmond Town Square, Richmond Heights, Ohio (165,000 square feet; opened in 1998; 105 associates); Upper Valley Mall, Springfield, Ohio (156,000 square feet; opened in 1971; 79 associates); Southland Mall, Memphis, Tenn. (150,000 square feet; opened in 1966; 112 associates).
Those stores accounted for approximately $130 million in annual sales.
The company is was restructuring merchandising and marketing functions at Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s as well. It will alter merchandising-related functions in local districts, hoping to improve its ability to localize assortments.
On the plus side, a three-story Bloomingdale’s of 150,000 square feet will be added in an expansion of Westfield Valley Fair Shopping Center in San Jose. The opening is targeted for the fall 2017
Macy’s will build a new 155,000-square-foot store on two levels to replace its existing 136,000-square-foot Westfield Century City location in Los Angeles. The existing Macy’s will be closed in January 2016 and razed to accommodate new development in the mall with the new store opening November 2016.

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One Frenchman’s perspective on Jan. 7 attack

I met Bernard Martoia a few years back while hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail. I’ve kept in touch with Martoia, who provides a wonderful stream of images from his hikes across North America.
Martoia was a member of the French staff at the United Nations and has been posted at several government offices during his career.
He sent out this note Wednesday evening. I thought it would be worth sharing his thoughts.

Dear friends,
Unfortunately, the slaughter of Charlie Hebdo journalists was predictable. Muslims do not have our sense of humor. The prophet Mahomet cannot be mocked, hence the slaughter in Paris where the killers claimed in the street that the prophet has been avenged.
The day before this slaughter was published a novel called “Submission” by Michel Houellebecq, in which the author described our submission to Islam after a general election where a Muslim candidate is democratically elected president in 2022. I immediately bought the book and started reading it. Unfortunately, the fiction is
already overtaken by the reality. The submission will arrive sooner in Europe. Christians and others believers will be subdued to the sharia. 7000 French Jews left France to Israel in 2014, more than the double in 2013. No doubt that the exodus will accelerate tomorrow.
There are many reasons for this chilling death of Western Europe. I will name a few of them.
- The radicalization of Muslims since the founding of the society of the Muslim Brothers in Egypt in 1928.
- The political correctness invented in the Californian universities in 1970 where it became forbidden to say things, which are offensive to minorities. The philosophical anomie forbids describing the reality, namely the jihad (war religion) where the conquest of the world is explicitly announced. The unrelenting attacks are the acts of “isolated” or “disorderly” people. The moto is that “Islam is a religion of peace, love, and tolerance.” “Please don’t amalgamate Muslims and Islam!”
- The invasion of Europe by asylum seekers (1) fleeing the Middle East and Africa wars, and the frightening demographic trend of Muslims born in Europe.
- The international conventions, which tie us.
- The cowardice of our political leaders.
Unfortunately, the United States of America are also threatened to become a Muslim republic one day. Check this chilling map of the second largest religion in your state made by the Washington Post on June 4, 2014.

www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2014/06/04/the-second-largest-religion-in-each-state/
Only Russia will stand on his two feet in the future. Democracy is too weak to resist this global trend.
However, there is a doctrine, which might save us. It was invented by the American diplomat George Kennan in a cable to the State Department in 1946. Kennan was working at the Moscow embassy at that time. The “containment” policy prevented the spread of communism abroad. It should be applied to Islam today. We are told by our leaders and media that people of different races and religions can live in peace together. However, a multicultural society is a permanent source of conflicts.
In his prophetic book “The Clash of Civilizations and the remaking of World Order” published in 1992, Samuel Huntington responded to his former student Francis Fukuyama’s book “The End of History and the Last Man.” He argued that the primary source of conflicts in the future will be along cultural and religious
lines. He was absolutely right.
(1) In his book published in 1973, the French novelist Jean Raspail prophesied with accuracy the invasion of Europe by boat people.

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Bear Creek Plaza next up on the market

While the new Medford Center ownership was checking its math and tallying up refurbishing costs, Bear Creek Plaza shopping center quietly went on the block a few months ago.
Bear Creek Ventures of Malibu, Calif., which acquired the shopping center on the southeast corner of Biddle Road and East McAndrews Road in 2007, is asking $25 million to $28 million — significantly more than the $22.175 million LBG Real Estate of Los Angeles paid Kimco Realty for Medford Center.
Medford Center boasts 335,000 square feet of leasable space versus 188,000 square feet at Bear Creek Plaza.
So why is Bear Creek Plaza fetching potentially 20 to 25 percent more than Medford Center ?
While Medford Center had infrastructure issues, suggesting it need a lot of physical updates, to go with leasing issues, Bear Creek is fully leased, including a batch of recent long-term renewals. The traffic counts are also the kind that cause retailers to drool.
The leases and location, in center of Medford’s commercial activity hub give the Bear Creek Ventures a lot of leverage.
“Highway 62 might have a higher traffic count, but a lot of that is pass through traffic,” said Tom Fischer of Coldwell Banker Commercial NW.
As a result, Bear Creek Plaza will likely more than double the $66 per square foot LBG Real Estate paid for Medford Center.
“The $66 per square foot,” Fischer said. “Was about right for what they have been getting, or not getting, in (lease) income. For someone to come in and buy at that price and then be able to fix it up and lease it at current market rates; that was a good buy.”

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Costco closed Thanksgiving, but Nov. sales grew

Costco reported November sales of $9.43 billion, an increase of seven percent from $8.79 billion in 2013.
It didn’t even take staying open Thanksgiving Day for the Issaquah, Wash.-based warehouse retailer to thrive.
For the 13 weeks ending Nov. 30,  Costco reported net sales of $28.73 billion, an increase of 7 percent from $26.80 billion over a year ago.
Excluding negative impacts from declining gasoline prices and foreign exchange, Costco said its sales grew 8 percent in November, but the 7 percent figure held up for the 13-week period.

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Steven Perlberg of the Wall Street Journal, notes Next Issue Media, a subscription service giving readers access to as many as 145 magazines for a monthly fee, has closed a $50 million financing round with KKR.
The private-equity group is hoping that magazine readers will line-up for subscriptions in the manner music-lovers have with Spotify, book-readers to Oyster, and TV-watchers to Netflix.
Next Issue Media has quietly gained more than 150,000 subscribers, who can pay $9.99 a month for publications including Vogue, Esquire, and Fortune. For another $5 weeklies such as the New Yorker and Sports Illustrated are available.
Publishers receive a portion of the revenue based on how much time readers spend with their content.

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Mobile shopping continues to make inroads

Mobile and online fraud prevention firm iovation.com reported 37 percent of retail online transactions from Black Friday to Cyber Monday were made from mobile phones and tablets.
A year ago, online retail purchases made from mobile devices accounted for 33 percent of sales.
Last week, iovation found mobile devices were used for 38 percent of transactions on Black Friday, 40 percent on the following Saturday and Sunday, 30 percent on Cyber Monday, and 44 percent the weekend before Black Friday, Nov. 22 and 23.

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The latest Credit Managers’ Index  from the National Association of Credit Management indicated how fragile economic progress can be.

The reading dropped from 57.0 to 55.8, taking the index back to levels not seen since February and March when the economy was in the middle of a significant first-quarter recession. While the reading wasn’t as low as September’s reading of 54.9, it was lower than all but three of the last 12 months.

The worry is that credit will tighten, the NACM said. On a brighter note, bankruptcies are not creating a major drag.

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Thoughts from an analyst who is bullish on Lithia

Simeon Rusanov, a fund manager for Lancaster University Investment and Finance Society in the United Kingdom, is flat out a believer in Lithia Motors.
Blogging for Seeking Alpha, a financial and investing website, Rusanov concluded a lengthy, detailed analysis thusly:

“To sum up, I am bullish on the automotive sector due to favorable economic conditions. I believe that Lithia Motors has good, if not the best, chances to capitalize on the current oil price and record sustainable long-term growth. Lithia Motors’ share price has been significantly depressed due to some short-term factors including downgrading of earnings guidance last quarter. This gives potential investors a great chance to enter into a long position, hoping that Lithia Motors won’t miss its lifetime opportunity.”

Lithia shares rocketed to a series of all-time highs a few months ago, dropped precipitously, and has regained stability in the $70-$75 range.

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Consumers can’t seem to figure out if things are getting better, or not.
The Rasmussen Consumer Index, which measures consumer confidence on a daily basis, held steady at 104.2 today. Consumer confidence is down one point from a week ago, up eight points from a month ago, and down six points from findings three months ago.
The Rasmussen Investor Index rose one point to 121.3 on Tuesday. Investor confidence is up two points from a week ago and 11 points from a month ago, but down ten points from three months ago.

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