Costco teams up with Citi for its next credit card

After ditching AmEx as a co-branded credit card partner in February, Costco Wholesale said today it has a new partner — Citi, the largest global issuer of consumer credit cards

The new deal means, Costco will now accept Visa, but not American Express, after a 15-year run.

Costco said implementation of the agreements is subject to the purchase of the existing co-brand credit card portfolio by Citi.

Under the terms of the agreements Citi will be the exclusive issuer of Costco’s co-brand credit cards and Visa will replace American Express as the credit card network for Costco in the United States and Puerto Rico beginning April 1, 2016.

Costco said members will be sent transition information in coming months.


Associated General Contractors of America reports construction spending rose a bit year-over-year in January. That follows a decline in December off a six-year high.

AGC said it is eyeing the possibility of continued improvement with trepidation if Congress and the Obama Administration fail to fund highway spending.

 ”The generally positive trends are obscured by an unreliable estimate for residential improvements which purportedly shows a huge downturn that is inconsistent with other data,” Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist.

Construction spending in January totaled $971 billion at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, 1.1 percent lower than in December but 1.8 percent higher than in January 2014.


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Alaska Airline, brimming with confidence, adding six extended-range Boeing 737s by 2016

Alaska Airlines’ decision to purchase six extended-range Boeing 737s won’t likely mean changes here in the Rogue Valley, but its shows the Seattle-based outfit is confident more passengers will be booking flights.

Alaska said today the Boeing 737-900 Extended Range aircraft are valued at $594 million, according to Boeing’s current list price. Chances are, however, the firm cut a much better deal. Four of the aircraft are scheduled for 2016 delivery and two in 2017. All told Alaska has ordered 79 jets from its neighbor.

Of course Alaska’s Horizon Air unit flies Bombardier Q400s into Medford. There are 51 currently in service with another expected to take flight this year.
Alaska notes it operates one of the “youngest fleets in North America” and will continue to get better fuel economy as it continues replacing older planes.


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An empire built on a plastic-block foundation

You and your children have played with them, designed whole new worlds with them and dreamed about what might be.

They are Lego blocks and components.

Lego has now surpassed Ferrari as the world’s most powerful brand, according to Brand Finance, as measured by its Brand Strength Index. Lego is joined by PWC, Red Bull, McKinsey, Unilever, L’Oréal, Burberry, Rolex and Nike.

Moving from plastic building blocks, to digital games and theme parks, the Danish firm soared to new heights with a big-screen hit:

The Lego Movie, which has reeled in a half a billion dollars since its 2014 release.

Beyond the power rankings, there are two other categories on the brand horizon: Most valuable and fastest growing.

Not surprisingly, Apple is the most valuable brand, followed by Samsung, Google, Microsoft, Verizon, AT&T, Amazon, General Electric, China Mobile and Walmart. When it comes to gobbling up financial territory, Twitter, Baidu, Facebook, Chipolte, Humana, Priceline, Alibaba, Lego, China Merchants Bank, and HCL. That last one is an India firm.


Carestream has installed new air handling and filtration systems at its White City plant to prevent contaminants from damaging its coating work.





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Aussies send Erickson’s Elvis into retirement

Word comes from the Land Down Under that New South Wales has sent Elvis, a regional folk hero, to pasture.

Elvis, of course, is the Erickson (formerly Air-Crane) S-64 helitanker that famously came to the rescue of firefighters during a little more than 13 years ago.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Australian state is opting for a large tanker airplane, capable of carrying 10,577 gallons of water or retardant — triple the capacity of one of Erickson’s heavy lift helicopters. It’s also 20 times the capacity of the average aircraft in the NSW Rural Fire Service’s fleet.

Erickson S-64 helicopters made a splash in Australia for a decade. Now Australia firefighting units have found alternative response aircraft.

Erickson S-64 helicopters made a splash in Australia for a decade. Now Australia firefighting units have found alternative response aircraft.

Wildfires tore through parts of Australia at the end of 2001 and beginning of 2002. An Erickson S-64 swooped into rescue 14 bush firefighters a few days after helping fend off a 300-home subdivision in north Sydney’s  Kurrajong Heights.

If its helicopters are no longer needed in parts of Australia, that’s not a good sign. Rumors have flown about in recent days that Erickson, which was headquartered in Central Point until 2009, plans layoffs in its Rogue Valley locations.


Oregon is not far from Top 10-status when it comes to tax rates for small businesses.

The Tax Foundation has released its annual rankings, and Oregon came in No. 12. Two states bordering Oregon are in the Top 10: Nevada at No. 3, and Washington at No. 6. California is No. 48.


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Southern Oregon Business Conference 2014: Gross, unadulterated enthusiasm

Thursday's Southern Oregon Business Conference at the Inn at The Commons in Medford

Adam Cuppy, chief operating officer at Coding Zeal in downtown Medford,  is both an evangelist for Southern Oregon and passionate pursuer of solving problems for clients. Coding Zeal is a web and mobile applications agency.

Gross, unadulterated enthusiasm is Cuppy’s catch phrase.

Why set up shop in the Rogue Valley?

“It  wasn’t a question of ‘let me evaluate the validity of moving here, Bend or somewhere else,’ ” Cuppy said. “That stuff, of course comes to mind. It all has to do with accessibility. If I want to be in San Francisco, the people I want to work with are more accessible, Portland more accessible. But my values are not to making money, it’s living the life I want to live. I’m more driven to wanting to live here. So then it’s ‘Can you make it work here? Well, Why not? There are 200,000 people living here, I only need that big (holding fingers slightly apart) of a percentage of it.

“We deal in fewer transactions with super-huge numbers. There are benefits to that and also a lot of pros and cons. A brick –and-mortar store where the average sized transaction is $20, that 200,000 becomes really important.  For us, we deal in less than 20 money transactions a month, but that total is very high.

“We didn’t do a very good job initially, and asked is this right place. But I don’t think that was the issue. If you are focusing on the logistics right out of the gate you’re going to miss the most important part of starting a business. You are trying to solve a problem. If you focus on the why, you are going be passionate and you are going to drive something forward. Passionate people begat energy and passionate people will drive more passionate people and people seeing that passion will reward you with more money.”

We have a deep interest in how the Internet of things will change.

“Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it also changed the world,” Cuppy said.

The tipping point for great innovation and entrepreneurs emerge when opportunity matched with economic viability, attractiveness, growth capacity are  coupled with regional development, location and recreation, and education.


Copier paper, film and then medical diagnostic images have all been part of Carestream’s existence in White City.

In 1964 it began as 3M, now in under its Onyx ownership, the plant is part of technology involving flexible screens.

“Quantum dots is the next wave of technology if you’re into high-definition TV,” said Mike Tylutki Carestream’s White City site manager.

Recruiting difficult is here, but expanding local technology base will help.


Linx Technologies owns the only elevator in Merlin.

The Internet of Things is Latif’s subject. Companies use Linx’ technology in developing their technology.

Linx makes three products in faub’s used for bank entry systems and the inward workings for boat trolling motors.

The defnition: Sensors, actuators, data communications and intelligence that go into products from the Internet.

“My wife says the thermostat acts like it has a mind of its own, I tell her that’s the point,” Latif said.

The connections are so cheap that you can connect any device for free, through your home Internet. Your TV, your refrigerator, your washing machine. Samsung says 100 percent of products will have Internet connections in five years.


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Radio Shack mall leases could be in demand

Radio Shack may be crumbling financially, but its shopping mall storefront leases have value.

Instead of shedding tears over the potential demise of another legacy retailer, upstarts and growth companies queuing up to snap potential leases, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.


Consumer confidence is at its highest level since August 2007, according to the Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index, which jumped sharply in January following an upward swing in December.
The monthly survey, based on a probability-design random sample reflects what consumers buy and watch.
The Index base-lined at 100 in 1985 now stands at 102.9, up from 93.1 in December.
” A more positive assessment of current business and labor market conditions contributed to the improvement in consumers’ view of the present situation,” said Lynn Franco, economic indicators director at the Conference Board. “Consumers also expressed a considerably higher degree of optimism regarding the short-term outlook for the economy and labor market, as well as their earnings.”

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Mobile ordering may become norm at Starbucks

Starbucks mobile ordering headed this way later this year.

If you aren’t already one of Starbuck’s mobile app customers, chances are you will be some time later this year.

After a test run in Portland, the Seattle-based global coffee company with multiple locations in the Rogue Valley, is planning to extend the service to 600 West Coast locations.

What’s more, reports Fast Company 16 percent of Starbucks sales are now done using mobile payment apps.

It’s unclear if this will set off an industry-wide standard

“This is actually something that we are always looking into,” Dutch Bros. spokesperson Jennifer Wheatley said. “At this point we do not have a plan to move forward.”


SeaTac Airport is 55 times larger in terms of passenger count than the Medford airport and the trend lines point to the Northwest’s largest hub to get even busier with more international departures.
Crosscut examines how the competition between Delta Alaska is pushing the record-breaking numbers.


Erickson Inc. shares have fallen on hard times, tumbling as low as $6.28 in recent days.

But the Portland-based aviation firm, with heavy-lift helicopter manufacturing, maintenance and research facilities outside Central Point and the Medford airport, has apparently staunched the bleeding. Shares traded above $20 in early 2014, but slipped below $10 in November.

Earlier this month, the company announced a new ferrying contract with a Brazilian firm doing offshore oil exploration. After spending last week below $7, Erickson picked up steam and were trading for $7.27 at 10:30 a.m. (PST)


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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.


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.


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.


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, 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.


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.


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.


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.


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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