Judge tells pilots to keep Allegiant airborne

Call it a near miss.
Allegiant Air pilots were set to go on strike today. Meaning flights from Medford to Las Vegas and Los Angeles would have been cancelled because the Las Vegas-based travel company didn’t have enough back-ups available.
The pilots union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 1224, announced Wednesday it’s veteran pilots would not fly because the discount carrier failed to restore benefits taken away during the economic downturn.
However, Judge Gloria Navarro of the U.S. District Court in Nevada approved Allegiant’s request for a temporary restraining order against the Allegiant pilots.
She said he strike would likely prove to be illegal and that it would cause irreparable harm to the discount carrier. Allegiant operates about 175 flights a day, and a strike would have cost the airline $7.7 million a day, according to court documents.
Allegiant’s base fares are bargains, but ups the ante for seat assignments, putting bags in overhead bins, soft drinks and water.
Although a strike may not have ended the current run of record months for the Medford airport, it would have messed up Easter vacation plans for hundreds of local residents.
Airport Director Bern Case said he didn’t recall a strike cancelling flights in his nearly two decades in Medford.
“The last labor issue I remember was very much before I came to this airport,” Case said.


Sticking with the airline industry, Alaska Air Group unit Horizon Air, Medford’s market share leader, reported a 7.0 percent system-wide increase in March traffic on a 5.1 percent increase in capacity from March 2014. The carrier said it had a 1.4 point increase in load factor to a March record of 81.3 percent. Horizon also reported 85.9 percent of its flights arrived on time in March, compared to the 85.4 percent a year earlier.

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State senate president says there will be no minimum wage increase during 2015 session

State Senate President Peter Courtney unequivocally said Thursday a $15 hourly wage bill won’t make it to the floor this session.

Speaking to members of several Southern Oregon chambers of commerce, Courtney said he will take heat from his own party, but his mind is made up.

“I have said, and this has gotten me in trouble,” the Marion County Democrat said. “I’m not going to do minimum wage this session. I will not do minimum wage, and I’m a Democrat and that has not endeared me to my family.

“I support minimum wage, and I said at the campaign when I ran for re-election,” Courtney said. “I’m going to do the sick leave thing, but I’m not going to do minimum wage. I’m being vilified, and that’s OK because as a Democrat that’s a litmus test, and I think word has gotten out that Peter doesn’t want to do minimum wage. The reason is, I do think you have to be careful about how far you go with these things because of small business owners and economics of small businesses.”

He said there will committee hearings, but it won’t come to the floor.

“That’s a tough statement to make, but I made it here,” Courtney said. “I will deal with the heat .”

Courtney, however, is still championing Senate Bill 454, which mandates statewide sick pay by employers.

Even without support of the senate president, who determines which bills make the floor, the minimum wage could wiggle its way to reality, Grants Pass Republican  Sen. Herman Baertschiger Jr., told the chamber groups, adding a lot of dead bills are exhumed and attached as riders near the end of the session.

“The speaker (Tina Kotek, D-, Portland) wants it more than she wants to breath,” Roseburg Republican Jeff Kruse told the business leaders when asked about the matter.

Medford/Jackson County Chamber CEO Brad Hicks said his organization is relieved to hear Courtney’s position.

“We’ve already seen Seattle create a lot of ex-workers and an exodus of small businesses with their new $15 minimum wage,” Hicks said. “That is the type of hit a slowly recovering Oregon economy can hardly bear. Nobody wants Oregonians to flourish and hold family wage jobs more than chambers of commerce across this state, but prosperity by government edict is no way to achieve that goal.”




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Rep. Mike McLane, northeast Jackson County

Just before heading out of town, Minority leader Mike McLane told business leaders from Southern Oregon, what they have heard repeatedly:

“To be blunt, business is suffering a death by a thousand cuts,” McLane he said.

He said HB 2386, sent back to committee earlier in the day, the form in which it was sent to the floor was really shocking,” he said. “There are no rights until it reached the courts and no attorney’s fees recoverable, even if you prevail. It was an absolute bulling tactic.”

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Duane Stark

Freshman state Rep. Duane Stark (R-Grants Pass) said the first two-plus months of his first term in Salem have produced a powerful impression.

“It reminds me of my first varsity football game,” Stark, a Hidden Valley High School graduate told members of three Southern Oregon chambers of commerce. “The very first play of the game I catch the ball and someone creams me. I’m lying there seeing stars, that’s what it is like coming up here and being part of the minority. The other thing is that if feel like I’ve jumped in the Rogue River and am swimming up the rapids, where you are swimming as hard as you can and going backwards. One of my biggest goals is to help stop bad things from happening.”

Stark is a member of the Consumer Protection and Government Effectiveness committee which is formulating changes to the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program.

“I have this impression of where we should be in helping people and where we are, and there is a huge divide in between them. There is no way in this session that we can close that gap.”



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Betsy Earls, VP and Counsel, Associated Oregon Industries

Members of the three Southern Oregon chambers of commerce continue to hear from legislators and industry insiders.

Two minority reports, the result of both Democrat and Republican opposition have for now stalled a House Bill 2386, which authorizes the Bureau of Labor and Industry to issue potentially unjustified cease and desist orders to employers creating costly legal costs. As a result, the bill was sent back committee Thursday morning.

“The  speaker (Tina Kotek) decided to send back for further work,” said Betsy Earls, vice president and counsel for Associated Oregon Industries who has lobbied to down-size the bill, which will likely get passed in some form.

“The most important piece was tremendous effort by chambers and employers to the Legislature,” Earls said.


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Sal Esquivel

In addressing members of  three Southern Oregon chambers of commerce at the state capital, Rep, Sal Esquivel (R-Medford) said it was important for employers to write to Democrats Peter Buckley and Alan Bates, expressing their thoughts on an array of Democrat legislative initiatives ranging from wage claims liability and mandatory paid sick leave to increased minimum wage and prevailing wage requirements in enterprise zones.

Redundant messages, he said, were


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Manufacturing leads Oregon’s export expansion

Recent Commerce Department export data showed Oregon’s international economy is maintaining momentum, but isn’t firing on all cylinders.

After soaring in December, the state’s export growth cooled in January while outpacing the previous year’s activity.

Los Angeles-based Beacon Economics reported Oregon exporters shipped $1.67 billion worth of goods in January, an 8.9 percent increase over January 2014, and a continuation of the near record high export levels. The nation as a whole, however, saw a 4.7 percent decline in the value of goods exported in January.

Factoring for inflation the gains in January become even larger, Beacon Economics reported. So in real terms, Oregon’s exports increased 17.1 percent%.

“The U.S. trade deficit has widened sharply in recent months but this is not due to a collapse in export activity,” said Christopher Thornberg, Beacon Economics founder. “It is because of a spike in import demand driven by accelerating consumer and business spending here in the U.S.”

Manufacturing propelled January, shipping $1.25 billion of goods, a 14.5 percent year-over-year increase. Meanwhile non-manufactured goods, such as agricultural products and raw materials, slumped 6.4 percent to $245.2 million.

Ashleigh Baumann, who acquired fashion retailer Urban Minx in the Rogue Valley Mall at the end of 2014, is relaunching the shop this week.
Baumann is holding a grand reopening 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday.

Alaska Airlines begins daily nonstop service between Seattle and New York’s JFK airport starting Sept. 16.

Alaska presently flys twice-daily routes to nearby Newark. However, JFK is the main hub for international flights in the Big Apple and will make for better connections.

The airline is holding “A Weekend in New York” sweepstakes on its Facebook page for residents of Alaska, Washington, Oregon and Idaho, 18 and older.

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Cash deals for homes remains in decline

Real estate analytics firm CoreLogic reports cash sales made up 35.5 percent of  home sales nationally in December, down from 38.5 percent in December 2013.

The year-over-year share has fallen each month since January 2013, making December the 24th consecutive month of declines. The Irvine, Calif., firm  said the peak occurred in January 2011 when cash transactions made up 46.5 percent of total home sales. Prior to the real estate bust, the cash sales share of total home sales averaged approximately 25 percent. Should the cash sales share continue to fall at the same rate that it did in December 2014, the share should reach 25 percent in mid-2017.

While Portland Metro area cash sales declined nearly 10 percent in December, accounting for just over one in five house sales, the statewide figure for Oregon was 26 percent.

CoreLogic notes cash sales share comparisons are best suited for year-over-year analysis because of the seasonality of the market.


The Conference Board Employment Trends Index jumped 6.7 percent in in February to 127.76, up from 127.62  in January.

The bump was the 14th straight, and the longest consecutive positive stretch in 30 years.

“Strong job growth and the rapid decline in the unemployment rate are likely to continue, and acceleration in wage growth is just a matter of time,” said Gad Levanon, Managing Director of Macroeconomic and Labor Market Research at The Conference Board in a statement.

The index surge was driven by percentage of firms with positions unable to fill immediately, the ratio of involuntarily part-time to all part-time workers, real manufacturing and trade sales, industrial production, along with job openings.


We may be seeing Dollar General stores in the Rogue Valley sooner than later.

The Goodlettsville, Tenn.-based competitor of Dollar Tree has opened its first two Oregon stores in Brookings, where it built a 9,000-square-foot shop along U.S. 101, and Winston.

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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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