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.

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.


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.


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.


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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Medford Center no longer a “forgotten child”

The sale of Medford Center, announced Tuesday, received applause from commercial real estate brokers.

Tom Fischer of Coldwell Banker Commercial NW in Medford thinks LBG Real Estate Companies princpals Leslie Lundin, Doug Beiswenger and David Goldman are the right people at the right time for Medford Center.

“Doug and those guys have done turnarounds of shopping centers in the past, and I think they are well-suited for the task at Medford Center,” Fischer said.

New Hyde Park, N.Y.-based Kimco Realty acquired Medford Center eight years ago as part of $4.1 billion deal with Pan Pacific Properties. But the global real estate giant treated the 55-year-old shopping center as an afterthought at best.

“Kimco always treated Medford Center like a forgotten child,” Fischer said. “They were never really on site and never quick to give attention

(LBG Real Estate) have a history that is much better. They are better in keeping contact with tenants and to be more aggressive to make it an active center. I see it as a definite positive move. They have plans and are excited about what Medford Center can be. I think it’s a great plus for a center that has been dealing with neglect.”


The National Independent Automobile Dealers Association reports its member dealers were wary of the nation’s economic direction leading up to the midterm elections, delaying plans to expand their businesses in the third quarter.

NIADA’s Third Quarter Member Business Confidence Survey showed member dealers expected to expand their business fell 5.9 percentage points from the second quarter to 26.3 percent, while those expecting to hire new staff dropped 6.3 points to 26.7 percent.

In addition, 11.9 percent fewer dealers said they expected their retail sales to grow in the upcoming quarter, 16.7 percent fewer expected their cash flow to improve, 14 percent fewer expected customer traffic to increase and 9.2 percent fewer expected economic conditions to improve.


The Oregon Small Business Association reports there are plenty of job openings in the northern part of the state.

The association reports Portland could see more than a thousand new jobs added to its economy from Aruba Networks, ShopKeep, eBay, Under Armour, CarMax, Fred Meyer and Cabela’s.


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Buffett buys into auto retailing à la Lithia Motors

Warren Buffet, through Berkshire Hathaway and its vast holdings, touches just about every life in the country.
If you doubt it, when you’re writing those monthly electric bill checks you’re adding to Buffet’s billions.
Now the Oracle of Omaha is buying into the auto retailing market.
That could make things more interesting for Lithia Motors, which just closed its deal purchase DCH Auto Group Inc. DCH operates 27 dealerships in Southern California, New Jersey and New York. Combined with its exisiting 101 operations Lithia now has a hand in 128 locations nationwide.
Combined with DCH sales, Lithia Motors is now a $5 billion-plus firm and the eighth-largest U.S. retailer with plenty of upside.
Asked about Buffett’s entry into auto retailing, Lithia Chairman Sid DeBoer saw the move as a reassuring pat on the back.
“It confirms what we have known for years,” DeBoer said. “Auto retailing is a great business.”
Berkshire Thursday agreed to buy Van Tuyl Group, the fifth-largest auto dealership firm with 78 dealerships from California to Florida.
As has been the case with the DeBoer family, Buffett said in a CNBC interview he anticipates plenty of family-owned dealerships are ripe for the picking.

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So just what will those investigative law firms find beneath the Harry & David rock pile?

I find it downright hilarious when attorneys start pointing fingers at attorneys.

When you consider who ended up holding shares of the rebirthed Harry & David Holdings three years ago, it is nearly laughable to read the spate of law firm announcements, couched with all-due-indignation, how they are investigating Harry & David’s sale to 1-800-Flowers.com.

As an example:

Levi & Korsinsky is investigating the Board of Directors of Harry & David Holdings Inc. for possible breaches of fiduciary duty and other violations of state law in connection with the sale of the Company to 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc.”

If such law firms are concerned about the (poor) widows and orphans holding shares, they shouldn’t be. The over-the-counter shares were held primarily by former Wasserstein & Co. investors (some of them holding law degrees themselves). Those are the same folks who sunk Harry & David under impossible debt, dumped its pension program and jilted mom and pop vendors here in the Rogue Valley with the blessing of a Delaware Bankruptcy Court judge.

So one can only conclude the financial world equivalent of ambulance-chasing lawyers automatically launch “investigations” every time a Wall Street deal occurs.


 Every time I attend an Internet security, digital security or scam security conference, I am reminded: There are two types of people, those whose personal/business stuff has been hacked, and those whose personal/business staff will be hacked in the near future.

To wit, here is a New York Times pieces detailing what the Home Depot security breach means to its customers.


Dust in the wind: Nothing lasts forever…

In this case, the idea that you can flip the switch and lights will come on or microwave reheat the leftovers may soon be passé.

There are plenty of contributing factors, and this Portland Business Journal reports addresses part of the equation.

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