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Bootsma family sells two Baker City motels

After looking at motels along the Oregon Coast, in Seattle and Boise, the Singh family of Omak, Wash., chose to buy the Eldorado and Rodeway Inn motels in Baker City.

“I like the potential of the ones in Baker City the best,” said Rajbir Singh, who bought the two motels along with his brother, Sukhvinder Singh, and another relative, Majit Singh, for $1.8 million on June 21.

The lodging businesses were previously owned by the Bootsma family of Baker City.

Singh said Baker City’s location, along Interstate 84 between the Elkhorn and Wallowa mountains, along with the town’s authentic western ambience, appeals to him. The Western heritage was also one of the things that attracted the Singh family to invest in Omak, a Northern Washington town that’s home of the Omak Stampede Rodeo and World Famous Suicide Race.

“I like small towns. It is more comfortable to be in small towns,” Rajbir Singh said.

Singh said he and his Seattle Realtor were acquainted with the Bootsma family, who sought to sell the motels after the death of John Bootsma in January.

Data center job requires some heavy lifting

It took a crew of nine and a 35-ton crane to lift an 8,200-pound generator into place to provide backup power for a third-floor data center under construction at the 10-story Baker Tower building in downtown Baker City.

Getting the generator in place Tuesday  was no easy task, said Mike Jenson, who owns Michael E. Jenson Construction of Baker City and is foreman for the data center project.

To support the generator, workers welded a frame of steel I-beams.

The low-boy truck from Redmond Trucking used to haul the generator to Baker City was too wide to fit in the alley behind Baker Tower, where electrical wires had been moved to accommodate the crane.

So the generator was lifted first off the low-boy and onto a smaller truck that fit in the alley.

Even after all that, more electrical wires crossing the alley had to be moved to clear a safe path for the crane.

Data center to open in Baker Tower

Richard Chaves and his partners are investing $1 million to launch Synergy Data Center and Services in the historic Baker Tower building, with hopes of eventually bringing 100 high-tech jobs to Baker City.

Chaves said three Oregon companies, including his own, Chaves Consulting of Baker City, along with Arikkan Inc. of Salem, and Sace Inc. of Bend, are forming Synergy Data Center and Services (Synergy DCS).

Through Synergy DCS, the partners will be investing about $1 million in Phase I of the project, which involves installing 42 racks, each with 36 computer servers, and related equipment needed to get the data center up and running on the third floor of the Baker Tower.

The 10-story structure, built in 1929 at the corner of Main and Auburn and known originally as the Hotel Baker, is the tallest building east of the Cascades.

Investors: It's a great time to start a business


Baker City Herald

In small towns across America, changes in the global political climate and economy are spurring demand for all manner of local products, according to “angel investors” who spoke at the June Pubtalk earlier this month in Baker City.

“We’ve had the worst recession since the 1980s, and there’s been a structured shift in the economy,” said Wayne Embree, one of three investors who participated in the panel discussion at Quail Ridge Golf Course.

“Large companies laid off a lot of people who will never go back, but a lot of jobs sent overseas are coming back. It has to do with changing ideas about buying local, national pride and things like that. This is the perfect time to be an entrepreneur,” Embree said.

Joining Embree, who’s the founder and managing partner in Reference Capital and Cascadia partners, were: Jim Noonan, managing director of R4 Funding LLC and president of Pivot Point Capital Corp.; and Linda Weston, who started the Portland Power women’s professional basketball team in 1996 and has been president and executive director of Oregon Entrepreneurs Network since 1999.

“You can build world-class companies anywhere,” Embree said. “The key is understanding what customers want and how to get it to them. We work with people who have an idea, but don’t have the money, experience or know-how to run a successful company.”

Ecology and economy, hand in hand

Report finds that watershed restoration projects can benefit the environment as well as the local economy

Environmental benefits have long been the focus of forest and watershed restoration projects, but a new study unveiled during a recent meeting of the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board in Baker City sheds light on economic factors, including the creation of 163 full-time jobs with watershed councils across the state.

 “We’ve come a long way from the volunteer watershed boards and part-time or volunteer directors we had 10 years ago,” said Cassandra Moseley, a representative director of the Ecosystem Workforce Program (EWP) at the University of Oregon, which conducted the economic analysis.

In addition to jobs and watershed councils and soil and water conservation districts involved in planning, applying for grants, awarding grants and overseeing forest and watershed projects, much of the on-the-ground work is carried out by contractors, which benefits local economies and small family businesses even more than traditional public works projects such as building highways and bridges, according to Moseley’s report.

She said 188 of 190 contractors interviewed by EWP that contracted to do forest and watershed restoration work identified themselves as small family businesses averaging between two and seven employees.

Ski Anthony Lakes owners want Baker County to take over resort

County Commission Chairman Fred Warner Jr. says county will ‘look really hard’ at the proposal

Baker County officials are considering a proposal from the owners of Ski Anthony Lakes for the county to take over the resort’s lease and assets and operate the ski area this winter.

Fred Warner Jr., chairman of the Baker County Board of Commissioners, told members of the Baker County Economic Development Commission Tuesday that “we haven’t agreed to anything yet.”

“The Anthony Lakes group has brought this up,” Warner said. “They want it done. The county has agreed to look really hard at it and come up with a plan of action.”

Ski Anthony Lakes is located on public land managed by the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, in the Elkhorn Mountains about 34 miles northwest of Baker City.

The resort owns the buildings and other facilities.

Bill Junnila, who manages the resort, said its owners submitted the proposal to the county.

New owners take over at Elkhorn Title in Baker City

The ownership has changed but the name on the sign, and the services geared to the needs of Eastern Oregon clients, remain the same at Elkhorn Title of Baker City.

The new owners include Russell and Sharon Lester, their daughter, Kris Walker, and son-in-law, Ben Case.

The family members are also partners in ownership and/or management of Eastern Oregon Title in La Grande, and Pioneer Title in Walla Walla.

“The purchase of Elkhorn Title expands their footprint in Eastern Oregon. It just made sense for all parties,” said Joel Winchester, a senior title officer and manager at Elkhorn Title.

He said the company’s roots go back to the second-oldest business in Baker City.

Money available for small businesses

Small business owners and entrepreneurs preparing to start a business can triple their savings, up to a maximum of $10,000 over three years, under a savings incentive program available through the Northeast Oregon Economic Development District.

“We have received a new round of funding and have $72,000 in matching funds available this year,” said Annie Thompson, an NEOEDD spokeswoman.

For every dollar saved by qualified entrepreneurs and small business owners who sign up under the Individual Development Account program, NEOEDD provides up to $3 in matching funds, Thompson said.

“Imagine how that money could change your business — or your business dreams,” Thompson said.

Radio Shack wants to return to Baker

Radio Shack is searching for an entrepreneur to open a franchise store in Baker City this summer.

“The population of Baker City is one of the largest in Oregon where we don’t have a Radio Shack store,” said Bill Bartels, area developer for new Radio Shack stores.

Baker City had a Radio Shack outlet in the Pocahontas Road building that also housed Lumbermens, but that store closed in 2009 when Miller’s Home Center bought Lumbermens.

Bartels traveled from his corporate office in Waterford, Wis., last week to visit Baker City and meet with members of the Baker County Chamber of Commerce, local bankers and the media to spread the word and gauge public support for opening a new Radio Shack store in town.

“We talked to some chamber folks, and to some bankers in town, and they are very encouraged about Radio Shack wanting to open a store in Baker City,” Bartels said. “We’d like to get something going this summer.”

HBC hands out awards

After a comedy routine by Whit Deschner that kept the crowd in stitches, Jimmy Chan’s restaurant was named Business of the Year and Jeff Nelson was named Volunteer of the Year Thursday night at the annual Historic Baker City Inc. awards.

“Whit Deschner was hysterical. He kept us all laughing. He warmed the crowed up. He was a highlight of the evening,” said Ann Mehaffy, HBC executive director.

Other HBC awards included the Community Partnerships Award presented to the Baker Economic Resource Alliance; the Physical Improvements Award went to Larry and Rosemary Abell for their work on The Pythian Castle; the Downtown Success Story Award went to Dick and Marge Haynes of the Short Term Gallery; and the Stepping Up to the Plate Award went to Terry and Dan McQuisten, owners of the Eltrym Theatre.

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