It’s back, back, back, back to school time

Those trips to Bi-Mart, Target, Freddy’s and Rogue Valley Mall are in the rearview mirror, well mostly.

My daughter begins her final year of college next month, which creates a checklist all of its own.

Back-to-School sales begin within a week of Sirrius XM plays America’s annual anthem “School’s Out” for the thousandth time.

Much of America is back in school, but here in Oregon we generally wait for Labor Day to come in go before shewing the kids back to the classroom.

I’m guessing there are plenty of parents who have procrastinated, putting off the dreaded back-to-school shopping tour.

I’m sure there are plenty of good excuses:

    • “Haven’t put the camping gear away yet.”
    • “The smoke from all those fires is too thick.”
    • “It’s too hot to shop.”
    • “Have you seen my lawn?”
    • “I have to wait for payday.”
    • “My benefits ran out.”
    • “My boyfriend’s car broke down.” 
    • “I can’t find my lottery ticket.”

For those of you who have succumbed to the inevitable and mapped out your clothing and supply journey, I’m curious about your strategies. How much you’re willing to spend vs. how much you end up spending. What you will and won’t do for your kids?

Let me know at Twitter at, on Facebook at or emailing me at

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In the end, you pay for those mega endorsements

I’ll be the first to admit it, I don’t get it.

And I will repeatedly say, I don’t get it.

Sports wear maker Under Armour has reportedly offered Kevin Durant $265 million to endorse its brand.

That’s more than Jeff Bezos paid for The Washington Post. That’s almost as much money as the New York Yankees threw away to sign Alex Rodriguez for 10 years of off-the-field distractions in 2007.

Durant is an NBA star, I’ve never seen him play in person and probably haven’t seen more than 15 seconds on television. I still prize my five minute-chat with Elgin Baylor as a kid and have Wilt Chamberlain’s scrawl in my autograph book, but I long ago lost interest in the NBA when the playoffs stretched into the summer because television networks had little else to offer.

What I don’t get is a clothing manufacturer, which sells a very fine product, throwing money at some rich guy thinking that will make me want to pay five or six times the worth of the product.

Full disclosure: I own and love a 10-year-old Under Armour garment that is showing its age. I don’t need such garments to be cool like some over-priced celebrity; the shirt keeps me warm on cold days. I don’t like spending money on clothes to begin with, so assuredly my wife or kids bought it — hopefully from a closeout rack.

But why do Nike, Adidas, Under Armour, et al throw millions of dollars away on marketing? Or better yet, why in a nation where more and more people can’t make ends meet, do consumers reward these companies by spending three or four times the value of the product?

I can already hear the derisive jeers and sneers from the marketing professors and the investors who benefit from the tried and tested endorsement ruses.

But I just don’t understand why so many people mindlessly play the game and pay hundreds of dollars for shoes, shirts and shorts. In the end, it’s not Nike or Under Armour paying for the mega endorsements, it’s you.


Family Dollar has swatted away Dollar General’s bid, sticking with Dollar Tree deal. Family Dollar didn’t want to mess with possible anti-trust issues.


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So how would you define ‘solopreneur’?

If you are an entrepreneur or sole proprietor, this might be for you.
Author Jackie B. Peterson will address the opportunities for what she calls solopreneurs during a Southern Oregon University Small Business Development Center symposium Sept. 30 at the Higher Education Center in downtown Medford.
Peterson defines solopreneur as an individual business owner whose work cannot be replicated, such as an artist, photographer, consultant, web designer, author, healer, or massage therapist.
Peterson suggests solopreneurs need to be the business and do the work they
love, rather than hire others to do it for them. The issue confronting such people, however, is they are generally told to build a staff.
Instead, Peterson argues solopreneurs should focus on a deep and narrow niche, fend off mission creep, develop a business mindset, create cash flow, understand their target buyers and market every day.
The even runs 1-4 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 30, and the cost is $39.


Auto safety regulators unveiled a plan for requiring cars to have wireless gear that will enable them to warn drivers of danger on Monday.
The vehicle-to-vehicle transmitters and software will cost an estimated $341 to $350 per vehicle in 2020, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a report.


Lithia Nissan is holding a job fair, Thursday, Aug. 21, in anticipation of moving into its new home at the Oregon Auto Mall on Grumman Drive later this year.
The event runs 3-7 p.m. at its present 600 N. Central Ave. dealership.
The company will meet candidates for sales, detail, technicians, and administrative roles. Applicants do not need experience.

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Big boy investors chasing after Grocery Outlet

Back in June, we passed along early rumblings of Grocery Outlet putting itself up for sale.
At the time, it was reported that the company could fetch as much as $1 billion. That figure now appears to be on the conservative as private equity firms with more than $1 trillion at their combined disposal are looking to snap up new opportunities.
According to published reports, it’s just a matter of time before private equity buyers such as Bain Capital, Hellman & Friedman LLC and Roark Capital Group devour the the Berkeley, Calif.-based discount grocer, which has operated here for 30 years.
The Wall Street Journal reports suitors with first-round bids under $1.1 billion weren’t asked back to the second round.


A majority of Hispanics (55%) surveyed in a nationwide study for Wells Fargo Bank said they agreed that “raising and investing in kids is the best retirement plan.” Nearly one in four said they plan to rely on family members to make ends meet in retirement.
Those sentiments underscore the findings by Versta Research, showing 45% of Hispanic respondents said no one ever taught them about saving and investing (versus 31% of U.S. investors overall), and three out of four (76%) wish they had learned more about managing money when they were growing up (compared to 61% of U.S. investors overall).

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AmericanWest owners seeking ways to cash out

Private equity shows know no passion for products and services, it simply demands a high rate of return with little consideration to anyone or anything else.
Harry & David (Wasserstein & Co.) and Guitar Center (Bain Capital) are local examples of what happens once private equity firms sink their teeth into an otherwise good thing, generally founded by entrepreneurs who had a passion.
Private equity seeped into the banking industry during the throes of the Great Recession. Sterling Financial Corp., Cascade Bancorp, and SKBHC Holdings, among others saw massive infusion from funds looking for big returns.
Private equity likes to acquire, gut, and sell.
When Umpqua Holdings acquired Sterling Financial a pair of private equity investors needed to sell their shares in order to realize their goals. That meant Umpqua had to authorize the sale of 15 million shares worth $243 million.
Those funds, no doubt, will be used to acquire other businesses or assets; jobs will be lost and more profit extracted.
SKBHC Holdings LLC, which operates AmericanWest Bank, which assumed control of PremierWest Bank in April 2013, is now looking for payday of its own.
Financial news service Bloomberg reported last week that SKBHC, which is backed by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Oaktree Capital Management LP, is considering a sale or initial public offering after being approached by a potential buyer.
According to Bloomberg, SKBHC received unsolicited interest from Irvine, California-based Opus Bank. Its banking assets could sell for as much as $700 million.
Bloomberg said Private equity-backed banks that raised money during the downturn have been increasingly seeking to sell or go public to return money to investors. CIT Group Inc. agreed to buy OneWest Bank, backed by billionaires John Paulson and George Soros, for $3.4 billion this month.
SKBHC Holdings CEO Scott Kisting, the one-time co-head of global banking for Merrill Lynch & Co., raised $750 million from GS Capital Partners, and other investors including Oaktree in 2010 to buy failed U.S. banks.
SKBHC paid $6.5 million for the assets of bankrupt AmericanWest Bank in 2010. It bought PremierWest for $20 million, plus paying off the defunct institution’s $41.4 million government TARP loan.


Boeing had a big July with 324 orders, the most ever in a single month.

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Study finds Oregon’s exports slow to recover

Demand for Oregon products hasn’t kept pace with the rest of the country, following the Great Recession.
An economic analysis by Beacon Economics found the state’s share of total U.S. exports has declined in recent years.
During the decade prior to the downturn,1997 to 2008, Beacon Economics discovered Oregon’s average real growth for exports was nearly 7 percent annually compared to just over 4 percent nationally. However, post recession, Oregon’s export growth has averaged just 2 percent annually versus 3 percent in the U.S.
The findings based on data extracted from Foreign Trade Division of U.S. Census Bureau, show Oregon’s export share fell from 1.5 percent in 2008 to 1.2 percent.
Authors Partner Christopher Thornberg and Eric Meux point to reduced personal computer demand as a key element in the decline. Semiconductors from Intel Corporation are one of highest valued exports for the state, and as the popularity of smartphones and tablets has increased demand for PC chips, particularly from China, Oregon’s largest trading partner, has dampened, they said.
On a more positive note, during the first five months of 2014, Oregon’s exports increased in real terms by 14 percent over 2013 exports, surpassing the national figure of 3.3 percent.


Meanwhile, consumers apparently are brimming with confidence.
The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index increased in July with the Index rising to 90.9 (with 1985 serving as the bench-mark 100), up from 86.4 in June.
The Present Situation Index increased to 88.3 from 86.3, while the Expectations Index rose to 92.7 from 86.4 in June.
It was the third consecutive month the outlook improved and it now stands at its highest level since October 2007 (95.2).
Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at the Conference Board, said strong job growth helped boost consumers’ assessment of current conditions, while brighter short-term outlooks for the economy and jobs, and to a lesser extent personal income, drove the gain in expectations.

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Biomass One among USDA’s chosen sites

Biomass One LP on Avenue G in White City is one of 36 energy facilities in 14 states designated by the U.S. Agriculture Department to accept biomass deliveries through the Biomass Crop Assistance Program.
Biomass owners who supply such facilities may qualify for delivery assistance starting this week.
The Ag Department said half of the $25 million per year authorized for BCAP is available each year to assist biomass owners with the cost of delivery of agricultural or forest residues for energy generation.
Other Oregon companies included in the program are: The Gilcrhist Division of Interfor Pacific Inc.; Ochoco Lumber’s Malheur Lumber unit in John Day; Roseburg Forest Products; and Seneca Sustainable Energy LLC of Eugene.


Major cities tracked in the Case-Shiller Home Price Indices plateaued, and even slipped, in many markets.
Housing Wire
Nationally, 14 of 20 major metros saw an 0.3 percent month-over-month decline from April with only Charlotte and Tampa posting gains.
Housing Wire reported lower-priced homes and appreciated more quickly than expensive homes.
The good news for Rogue Valley is that four markets critical to local sales were among the nine nationally that have seen double-digit, year-over-year gains. San Francisco (15.4%), San Diego (12.4%), Los Angeles (12.3%), and Portland (10.0%) also scored double-digit increases in May.


And this from AAA Oregon/Idaho, the national average for regular unleaded fell a nickel this week to $3.52 while Oregon barely moved down to $3.93.
Here in Jackson County, the average is $3.95, down 8 cents from a month ago, but more than 3 cents higher than this time last year.

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Dollar Tree ready to scoop up Family Dollar

When all is said and done, maybe they’ll call it the Family Tree.
With the dollar buying significantly less each turn of the calendar, it makes plenty of sense for heavyweights of the dollar-store to combine their resources.
Dollar Tree announced its plans today, concerning a $9.2 billion cash-and-stock deal, including debt assumption.
The acquisition creates will create a discounter with 13,000 stores in 48 states and five Canadian provinces, with sales exceeding $18 billion and more than 145,000 employees.
Dollar Tree is the nation’s biggest operator of fixed-price point stores, selling everything for $1 or less. It has three stores in Medford, as well as locations in Ashland, Central Point, and White City, along with two in Grants Pass. Family Dollar is among the top multi-price point stores. Dollar Tree said it intends to retain and to grow each of its brands and the Family Dollar brand.
Dollar Tree targets customers primarily in suburban areas and Family Dollar targets low- and lower-middle income households through its urban and rural locations. The deal will enable Dollar Tree to serve a broader range of customers and deliver even greater value to them.


In the the wake of United Express pulling out of  Klamath Falls and Modesto, Calif., earlier this year, another Northern California community is mulling its prospects should United Express depart. Here’s a report from the Chico Enterprise-Record.


While Lithia Motors has upped its expansion profile with the announced deal for DCH Auto Group, its competitors are not idling at the corner market.
Asbury Automotive Group, the nation’s seventh-largest auto retailer — one notch above Lithia Motors — plans to double its pace of acquisitions during the next 18 months.

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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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    Greg Stiles

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