When it comes to summer road trips, we’re No. 1

A new study has determined Oregon is the best state to take a summer road trip.
Not surprising, but definitely a bone of contention for naysayers from other states.
WalletHub’s Best & Worst States for Summer Road Trips weighed 20 components in three broad categories and ranked the Beaver State No. 1 ahead of  Nevada, Minnesota, Washington, and Ohio. At No. 50 is Connecticut, trailing North Dakota, Delaware, Mississippi, and South Dakota.
Oregon ranks No. 3 for Fun & Scenic Attractions, No. 4 for Road Conditions & Safety, and No. 32 for Driving and Lodging Costs.
Well, who’s to argue about the Oregon Coast, Crater Lake, Weird Portland, Autzen Stadium, Hayward Field, incredible state parks and Shakespeare. I don’t know how many of those actually were considered by WalletHub.
I’ve got a pretty good idea about road conditions and safety. Having grown up on the Oregon Coast, I know an average of 35 mph is about as fast as it gets between Memorial Day and Sept. 30. Unless, you’re just begging for a head-on it’s awfully hard to do much damage going 20 mph up or down the coast.
Of course in Portland, automobiles can’t go much faster than 10 mph as they dodge cyclist whizzing by from all directions — never mind the red lights and “Stop” signs. Even on the open roads and freeways, no state mandates slower speeds than Oregon, so the only thing you really have to worry about are tractor-trailers crawling up mountain passes at 15 mph.
Where Oregon ranks below average is driving and lodging costs. In Portland, where most of our visitors spend a few nights, the average stay costs $123.66 (way more than the typical wage earner makes in a day), and that’s before the obligatory transient tax. State Park camping fees are high, especially when you tack on the reservation charge on top of the advertised rate. But in this case, you usually get all you pay for, and sometimes, more. Fuel taxes push Oregon’s prices well above the driver-friendly states.
In the driving and lodging category, WalletHub considered gas prices, toll costs, car repair costs, the price of three-star hotels, amping fees, and the number of lodging units (campgrounds, hostels, condominiums, villas, lodges) per 100,000 residents.
When it came to road conditions, per capita vehicle miles, population Density, driving laws, road quality, bridge quality, fatalities per 100 Million vehicle miles, car Thefts, and violent crime.
Attractions took into account National Park units per 100,000 square miles, number of attractions, nightlife options per 100,000 residents, Scenic Byways, summer weather, and accommodation and food services establishments per 100,000 residents.
In just one component, “Most Scenic Byways” did Oregon rank in the Top 5 or Bottom 5, tying Utah for No. 3.

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Former DCH vice chairman departs Lithia Motors

Former DCH Auto Group vice chairman is leaving Lithia Motors on July 1.
Automotive News reports Susan Scarola,  one of the most high-profile women in auto retailing played a pivotal role in bringing the high-volume import retailer into Lithia’s fold last year. Since the deal was closed in October, she has been Lithia’s  ”industry ambassador.”
“Susan was an invaluable part of the combination of the two organizations, and she was intending to retire after the combination,”  Lithia CEO Bryan DeBoer told Automotive News. “Her role was to find a suitor for DCH, make sure it went well and mentor it for a short period of time.”

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The mafia and Las Vegas have long been linked in truth and fiction.
Now the Dutch Mafia is head to Vegas.
As is usually the case when Grants Pass-based Dutch Bros. opens a drive-thru in a new market it makes a big splash. That’s the case in the latest once again. Here’s a report from Eater Vegas about the new location at 2840 E. Tropicana Ave.

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What Walmart wants, Walmart gets even if it has to barge in the back door. That’s what a coalition of non-profit organizations are alleging in a complaint filed with the Internal Revenue Service.
Here’s what The Washington Post reports about alleged inappropriate activity by Walmart Foundation after  San Francisco Jobs with Justice, Respect DC Coalition, New York Communities for Change, and similar organizations filed a complaint.

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Spoof call of the day.org, or something like that

We all get those nauseating calls from non-existent entities, with spoof numbers either belonging to someone else or no one at all.
Today I returned a call, via my work line, after one spoofer left a voice mail left a number about a fraud investigation. One never knows these days when we might get a mea culpa from a bank or credit card company, so I called the number starting with a Seattle area code.
Officer “Finley” or something along those lines answered, his voice was garbled as was every thing he said subsequently, The one thing I could figure out, was that he assured me if was indeed a spoof call, not from his agency. I’m not sure, but it sounded like he was in the audit department and was getting a barrage of calls from people responding to the spoofer voicemails.
It’s the admission price we pay for living in the digital age, wired, connected, and virtual.
Strangely spoofers remain at large, unaccountable, and apparently, not on the top of agency wishlists.

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Check out online rentals prior to hitting the road


The rise of online vacation rental sites has provided greater access to affordable stays.
Better Business Bureau says there are risks consumers need to understand as well.
Operations such as Airbnb, VRBO and FlipKey supply an array of possibilities, but travelers may want to give some of them a pass during their planning.
Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington says it received more than 37,000 inquiries from potential travelers looking for companies to help plan their trips.
The BBB suggests reading reviews, looking for a minimum of three on a given unit with no negative posts. Take a careful look at the photos posted, the bureau suggest professional photos with watermarks will provide the best insight.
Understand there may be transient taxes on top of the advertised price as well as service charges, cleaning fees and security deposits. It’s a good idea to talk with the host ahead of time, asking about cancellations policies and other details.  Websites don’t necessarily perform background checks on rental site hosts, so it’s up to you to do your due diligence.

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A mobile communications trade association says half of the motor vehicles sold this year will have Internet capability and 10 years from now, it will be standard on all cars.
Here is a report from Inside Radio.

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One person’s high-speed data plan is another’s tortoise.  With more and more people working from home, or remotely, broadband speed is more important than ever and will continue at an increasing rate. The Economic Times takes a look at the issue.

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An indepth look at public solar projects

Even on a cloudy day, solar panels are collecting rays.
Here’s the first in a series of reports by the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Local Self-Reliance, discussing public solar efforts, the opportunities and barriers. Many of the targeted areas are in the West and Southwest, including Oregon.

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Consumer Federation of America reported 20 percent of Americans know that low credit scores are likely to increase the finance charges on a $20,000, 60-month car loan by more than $5,000. Moreover, more than two-fifths  incorrectly think that the additional charges would be less than $3,000.
Following its fifth-annual national credit score survey, CFA noted understanding the cost implications of low scores for auto loans remains very low. The percentage of those who know that multiple inquiries about getting credit lower one’s FICO or VantageScore credit scores never lower these scores during a 1-2 week window.

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GasBuddy reported Medford’s average retail pump prices remain the same as last week, averaging $3.11 per gallong on Sunday, according to a survey of 64 gas outlets. The national average that edged up 0.4 cents per gallon in the past week to $2.75. (Wouldn’t it be nice to be average?)
GasBuddy indicated pump prices were 80.1 cents per gallon lower than a year ago and are 13.7 cents per gallon higher than a month ago. The national average has increased 14.8 cents per gallon during the last month and stands 92.8 cents per gallon lower than this day one year ago.

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Cash deals for homes inches toward normal levels

Investors made their play in the years after the real estate bubble collapsed pushing huge volumes of distressed housing on to the market.
Cash sales generated to a great degree from investors reallocating funds, are settling down as the real estate market heads toward a normal cycle.
Real estate data and analytics firm CoreLogic reported cash sales are on course to account for one in four home sales by mid-2018.
CoreLogic reported cash sales made up 37.9 percent of total home sales nationally in February, declining from 40.6 percent a year earlier. The Irvine, Calif., firm said year-over-year share of cash sales has dipped 26 straight months, dating back to January 2013. Month over month, the cash sales share fell by 1 percentage point.
In Oregon, February cash deals made up 29 percent of housing transactions. In California, 28 percent of the deals were for cash and in Washington 27 percent. However, in Idaho, the figure was 44 percent.
Core Logic said cash sales share peak January 2011, making up 46.5 percent of home sales nationally. Historically, cash deals accounted for approximately 25 percent of sales. At the same rate as reported in February, the trend line would be the same prior to the bubble in three years.

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1-800-Flowers.com SEC filing provides peek into Harry & David revenue and cost figures

Harry & David’s parent company, 1-800-Flowers.com provided better insight into its performance in a government filing today.
Harry & David produced net revenue of $319.9 million and operating income of approximately $41.6 million during the first three quarters of fiscal 2015, Sept. 30-March 29.
The floral, food and gift company, based on Long Island, N.Y., said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, those figures don’t necessarily indicate results Harry & David would have realized had it continued to operate as a stand-alone company due to integration activities since it was acquired last fall.
Harry & David’s operating expenses declined by $14 million during the first nine months of the fiscal year. However, there was a non-recurring acquisition cost of $11.9 million and integration costs of $2.1 million.
1-800-Flowers has pegged the value of Harry & David’s goodwill at $38.6 million, primarily related to synergistic value created in operating costs and revenue growth opportunities, enhanced financial and operational scale, and other strategic benefits.
“It also includes certain other intangible assets that do not qualify for separate recognition, such as an assembled workforce,” according to the filing.
Harry & David was instrumental in the growth of online and telephone sales orders to 2.722 million from 2.211 million during the quarter, and 9.233 million from 6.735 million during a nine-month period.

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Feeling like a few days in Italy? Medford/Jackson County Chamber has trip planned just for you

The Chamber of Medford/Jackson County has a nine-day journey to Italy in the works, including stops in Sister City Alba and Milan, site of the World’s Fair that opened last weekend.
The Medford contingent will take in the International White Truffle Festival in Alba and visit Lake Como in the Alpine foothills  north of Milan.
Chamber President and CEO Brad Hicks said the venture is an opportunity not only to learn about the Italian business climate and exchange ideas.
The cost of the trip is $3,399 per person, covering all expenses but a few meals. The Oct. 8-16 trip begins and ends at the Medford airport.
For information, call Eli Matthews at 541-608-8526 or email eli@medfordchamber.com

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West Coast ports are operating at a normal pace, which means imports are streaming in faster than U.S. companies can ship goods overseas.
The Commerce Department  reported the largest monthly trade deficit  increase in more than 18 years Tuesday. The March deficit mushroomed 43.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted $51.37 billion, the largest deficit reading since October 2008.
Because imports are removed from economic growth measures, it’s quite possible  revised government estimates due later this month could fall into negative territory.

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Erickson signs construction, firefighting and logging deals, but investors remain a tough sell

Investors remain a tough sell for Erickson, but the aviation services firm has managed to find a couple new customers.
The now Portland-based company, whose roots and employee base remain in the Rogue Valley, announced a new contract today following a renewals with the U.S. Forest Service and a Canadian firm earlier this week.
Philipines road and bridge builder Cavite Ideal International Construction and Development Corp., and Asia Aircraft Overseas Philippines have hired Erickson to provide heavy-lift aviation services in support of the Angat Dam project in the Norzagaray municipality in Bulacan Province, on Central Luzon Island, Philippines. Erickson said it will perform the jobs between April and June.
On Tuesday, Erickson said it renewed contracts with the Forest Service and Canadian aerial heavy lift company Helifor, a subsidiary of Columbia Helicopters.
CEO Jeff Roberts, who took leadership of Erickson when Udo Rieder stepped down last month, said the project is good fit for the company and will allow it expand its Pacific Rim presence.
“We are known for our unique capabilities and experience with precision external load operations, including the transportation and placement of unwieldy materials across difficult terrain in hard to reach locations,” Roberts said in a statement. “Asia is a burgeoning global market, and we’re glad to bring the skills and experience of our pilots and crews to this important infrastructure project.”
This agreement guarantees the use of an S-64E Aircrane in support of a crucial water diversion project, which will ensure water is accessible to hydro-electric facilities supporting Manila and the surrounding rural area. The aircraft will be deployed to move equipment and materials required for the construction of a tunnel to divert 5 million gallons of water daily from the Sumag River to the Angat Dam, augmenting the area’s water supply.
The Forest Service renewal keeps multiple S-64 Aircranes available throughout the 2015 North American fire season, which is anticipated to be expansive due to drought conditions. Erickson said the deal provides predictable income and consistent cash flow.
The timber harvest work with Helifor Canada continues a 25-year relationship for year-round activity in British Columbia. Erickson keeps an S64-E, its pilots, crews, field maintenance support parts, and components inventory on hand.
“These agreements help provide stability to our recurring base of business and reflect our successful previous performance,” Roberts said.
In February, Erickson shed 150 jobs mostly at two Rogue Valley locations where the company’s manufacturing and maintenance work is centered. The firm presently has about 850 employees globally.
Erickson shares have traded as high as $19.25 in the past year, but have plunged below $4 of late. As of 9:45 a.m. shares were trading at $3.72, down 10 cents.

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Nothing succeeds like … a good wine promotion

Oregon wines will fly free on Alaska Airlines for another two years.
The Oregon Wines Fly Free program, encouraging passengers traveling from Oregon on Alaska Airlines to check a case of Oregon wine for free, has been extended through 2017.
Backed by the Oregon Wine Board, Travel Oregon and Alaska Airlines, Oregon launched a trial program in September 2013. Today, more than 300 Oregon wineries participate.
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan passengers departing from Medford, Redmond, Eugene, and Portland airports, as well as nearby Walla Walla, Wash., can check one case of wine at no cost. Inbound visitors receive complimentary tastings at participating wineries by showing their Alaska Airlines boarding passes within a week of arrival.
The Oregon Wine Board reports nearly 5,000 cases have flown out of the state thanks to the program.

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