No certainty when it comes to economic news

Alaska Air Group, Boise Cascade and Umpqua Holdings all report second quarter earnings on July 24. Given today’s news from MicroSoft, 18,000 layoffs, and the national housing construction report, new starts down 9.3%, it will be interesting to see how this Northwest trio does.


The Oregon Department of Revenue has mailed letters to taxpayers in possession of refund checks that haven’t been cashed as a reminder to redeem these checks prior to October.
Checks are void after two years and sent to the Department of State Lands.
If a letter is received, cash it immediately. If the check has been lost or was never received, taxpayers should sign the notification letter and return it to Revenue to have the check reissued.
Last year, Oregon taxpayers were notified about more than $1.85 million in uncashed refund checks. This year, close to 2,000 notification letters were mailed.
Visit to get tax forms, check the status of your refund, or make tax payments; or call 1-800-356-4222 within Oregon; or email,

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More radio stations, fewer AMs than 30 years ago

Inside Radio reports a continued decline in licensed AM radio stations. The number of licensed AM stations fell to their lowest level in more than three decades during the first half of 2014. At the same time the total station number hits another new all-time high:15,425.
It appears the YouTube generation is in love with HD everything, making AM stations a tougher sell.

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Alaska Airlines said today it will be the first carrier to get Boeing’s innovative Space Bins for its fleet of 737s. The larger overhead bins have a similar look and feel to the Boeing Sky Interior pivot bins yet hold more bags.

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Utilities preparing a wintry blast for your wallet

Here’s the essence of what could be best described as an unwelcome announcement today from the Oregon Public Utility Commission:

Natural gas prices are likely headed higher this fall according to officials with Oregon’s three regulated natural gas providers. That was the message they delivered to the Commission during the annual Gas Outlook on Tuesday.
Pressure is being put on natural gas prices by an extremely cold winter that has depleted reserves, and a shift to natural gas from coal to generate electricity said company officials.
“We are at our lowest gas storage levels since 2003,” said NW Natural’s Randy Friedman.
NW Natural expects their increase in middle single digits. Avista Utilities predicts an increase of 8 to 10 percent. And Cascade Natural Gas said it should be in the same range as the others.
Oregon’s natural gas companies get their supplies of gas from Canada and the Rocky Mountain region.
Each year the Commission reviews the gas costs proposed for recovery from customers by each Oregon gas company both to ensure the costs are reasonable and prudent, and that the company has taken all actions available to it to keep these costs as low and stable as possible. If the Purchased Gas Adjustment(PGA) functions as designed each core customer pays only actual gas costs, with no mark-up or profit for the company.
Oregon’s natural gas companies will send their requests to the Commission Aug. 1. After the Commission evaluates the requests, new rates will take effect Nov. 1.

The view from here:
Start saving up now for a winter of discontent.

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Avista gets $3.2 million battery research grant

Avista Corp. has picked up a $3.2 million grant from the state of Washington to research how to integrate power generated from intermittent renewable sources such as wind and solar into the electrical grid.
It was part of $14 million series of matching grants awarded by Gov. Jay Inslee’s Clean Energy Fund.
While it may not have any immediate, near-term, or even local impact on Avista’s Natural Gas customers in Southern Oregon, the research may lead to long-term energy solutions in many places.

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Foreclosures fall; Oregon not out of the woods

With the exception New York and the District of Columbia, double-digit year-over-year foreclosure declines were the norm in May.
According to real estate analytics firm CoreLogic every state posted double-digit year-over-year declines in completed foreclosures.
For the 12 months ending May 2014, Oregon saw 4,121 foreclosures, down from 5,140 the preceding 12 months.
Oregon, however, still retains a relatively high mortgage payment delinquency rate of 4.1%

Market Watch takes a look at the big box hardware store giants Lowe's and Home Depot.

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There are flight delays and real flight delays

Next time the ticket agent or TSA screening lines slow you en route to your destination. Think about this band of weary flyers, who have to wait another 86 years.


So how does Oregon stack up when it comes to touring via automobile. WalletHub put the Beaver State through a series of 21 measures, comparing it with the rest of the union to see which state offers the most enjoyment and the least damage to one’s wallet. Driving costs, lodging prices, traffic safety, weather and attractions were all part of the analysis.

Somebody loves us, however, because WalletHub corornated as the best state for road trips.

Oregon ranked No. 7 for its attractions, 34th for low-price 3-star hotels, 44th for average gas price (No surprise for those of us trying to cope year-round with fuel costs.), fourth for per capita nightlife options, 12th for per capita miles traveled (Probably would be higher on the list if it weren’t for price of those miles.), per capita car thefts, third for Scenic Byways (There’s always one nearby in Oregon.), 31st for correlation between historical high temperatures, July 1- Aug 31, and the ideal 75 Fahrenheit; and No. 1 for driving laws (Not sure if this is a good or bad thing.)

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SOREDI 27th Annual Meeting

SOREDI’s Annual meeting underway at Inn at Commons.

Bill Thorndike, SOREDI Board President, introducing an array of dignitaries Matt Stephenson, Chief Operations Officer at Rogue Credit Union will become the board president.

In the past year, SOREDI has loaned $1 million to nine businesses to fund expansion.

SOREDI has pushed to extend enterprise zones in Jackson County, hoping to add Gold Hill, Phoenix and new property in Central Point.

Any eligible business in the area should have access, Fox said.


Mike Koch of AmericanWest Bank: Our economy depends on our ability to create jobs. Companies featured during the meeting are often start-ups.

SOREDI Executive Director Ron Fox: In the past year, SOREDI has assisted nine companies, receiving tax incentives to invest $63 million in capital improvements, creating 400 jobs.


PROSPER AWARDS: Four business and inspiration award.

Ingenuity Award: Highway Products in White City, started in 1980 as a trucking company.

Tenacity Award: MasterBrand Cabinets has grown from 300 to 450 employees in Grants Pass in the past year.

Collaboration Award: Quantum Innovations, a participant in Southern Oregon High Performance Enterprise Consortium leader from Central Point.

Prosperity Award: Oregon Shakespeare Festival, a long-time non-profit that has expanded beyond Ashland and investing with a facility in Talent.

Inspiration Award: Dean Wendle, helped found SOREDI in 1987 and was an early board president.

National marketing effort, Southern Oregon Edge is unveiled.

Appeal made to share personal stories about conducting business in Southern Oregon.

Speakers: Brad Niva, Rogue Wilderness Adventures, Grants Pass.

In the U.S., 98% of companies have fewer than 20 employees. Reworked business plan this past year.

“We were on the brink of crash and burn.” Then Niva met with SOREDI and made advancements.

How I got Laura Bush to take a trip: “You Answered the phone.”

Niva got into an additional business, Wine Hopper in 2010 and more recently acquired a charter transportation service with a 40-passenger bus.

Craig Bramscher of Brammo: I’ve given a lot of presentations, tired of talking how we started. Talked to a businessman in China. Starting 20-person businesses. This isn’t all about work, but work is the life blood that makes everything else go around. 10 reasons Brammo is in Southern Oregon — Great people, great weather, great cost of living, great support from government, great place to start and raise a family, community support for our business, great roads for our motorcycles, cost effective facilities, overall cost of doing business. His presentation was capped by a series of of still photos of the region’s lifestyle.

So far, Bramscher has raised $80 million for the business and attempting to raise $30 million more.

Brfamscher: As Brammo hits its stride I want to figure out how to bring in more business to Southern Oregon.

Looking to bring $35 million through an EB-5 Foreign Investment center.

Jeff Blum, Procare Software: Company’s 50 employees are skilled labor earning an average salary of more than $75,000. Biggest density of 25,000 users are from outside Oregon, bringing new money into Jackson County. Had no trouble finding people for company’s needs.

Looking for good people, Blum said, don’t necessarily need the degree.

Jay Cross of Webster Global Site Selectors suggests any win in the region is a win for the region.

Let the community sell itself, let small business leaders answer the questions. Build the brand and the region.

“You can’t underestimate the importance of people going to your website; the more likely you will be able to talk with them directly.”

Infrastructure and cost structure are important.

Every project is important, Cross said, the one you are working on is the most important.





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Lithia Motors’ big deal has analysts talking

Auto industry broker Haig Partners’ First Quarter 2014 Blue Sky Report capitalizes on Lithia Motots’ recently announced acquisition of fellow auto retailer DCH as an indicator more big deals are in store for the industry this year.
“The market for dealership sales is quite robust,” Haig Partners report. “Dealership values are at the highest level ever, the pace of acquisitions is accelerating, and the Lithia deal is proof that very large deals are possible in this environment. Buyers remain bullish on the future of auto retail and are seeking acquisitions of all sizes to boost their growth.


The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index, which increased in May, improved again in June. The Index now stands at 85.2 (1985=100), up from 82.2 in May.
The monthl Consumer Confidence Survey, based on a probability-design random sample, is conducted for The Conference Board by Nielsen.


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Trips of a lifetime may not be worth a life of debt

If it costs more than you got in your pocket —  or bank account —  to take a vacation, the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies suggests you stay close to home this summer.
The AICCCA wants to avoid problem vacation debt that shows up at its members’ doors every fall. The association offers three ways to avoid running into more debt:
Review how much you’ve got holed away for your vacation then make a budget. Calculate what you will have saved before your scheduled vacation and then plan your trip and activities based on that total.
Balance expectations with your budget. A Hawaiian vacation may sound great, but if your wallet is thin, try visiting a beach closer to home. AICCCA says you might even be able to upgrade your lodging or add an excursion to the trip by staying closer to home.
Yes you can stay home and still have fun. Should you find that your budget simply won’t allow traveling for vacation, the association says simply take time off from your daily routine. Become a tourist in your own locale and take advantage of the cultural and venues that are in your own back yard.
AICCCA counselors are available nationwide with free budgeting advice at 866-703-8787.

So what were these folks, and other analysts, saying about Lithia Motors six years ago?

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Discount and dollar customers running on empty

The final line of a dispatch in Tuesday’s San Francisco Business Times: That means there are too many retailers chasing after customers with too few dollars.

The story is about what many of us knew as the “Canned Food Store” on Stewart Avenue for many years here in Medford before it took on the more respectable moniker of “Grocery Outlet.”

Going back to the final sentence, my interpretation is simple: The lower-middle class which frequents such stores has been pretty well shaken down by inflation, government and private equity. To wit: Not long ago we called them five-and dime stores; check out current interest payments on the national debt; and remember who took Harry & David in Chapter 11 and made Musician’s Friend disappear.


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    Greg Stiles

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