Chamber of Commerce director says some businesses reported banner sales despite the national recession
The recession of 2009 turned out to be a Chicken Little story of
sorts in Baker County, with strong tourism sales making up for declines
in other sectors of the economy, according to the Baker County Chamber
Chamber Director Debi Bainter said many businesses experienced a
slow start in 2009, but ended up beating their 2008 sales figures.
“June through August were strong tourism months with high visitor
numbers at the Chamber of Commerce and up at the National Historic
Oregon Trail Interpretive Center,” Bainter said.
Gift shops at both the Interpretive Center and the Chamber of
Commerce had banner sales months through September, and business didn’t
slow until snow began to fall and visitor numbers dropped, Bainter said.
“I have heard from more than one business that (2009) was their best year yet,” Bainter said.
“Baker County’s (non-seasonally adjusted) unemployment rate has not
risen above 10 percent during this recession, proving our mix of retail
and manufacturing businesses are appropriate,” Bainter said.
Governor’s order encourages state to move offices and schedule meetings in historic downtowns such as Baker City’s, but Kulongoski says state officials will rely on local residents for suggestions
It’s up to local officials, including those in Baker City, to
provide data on historic districts or buildings where state agencies
could have their offices or schedule meetings under the auspices of an
executive order signed Wednesday by Gov. Ted Kulongoski.
“Maintaining attractive and vibrant towns and cities — and
preserving their history — has always been part of our character.
Today, we add a new way of making it part of the mission of state
government,” Kulongoski said prior to signing the executive order.
The order directs state agencies to strive to locate offices in
historic downtown areas when it fits with the agency’s mission and is
The order also encourages state agencies to schedule meetings and conferences in historic downtown buildings.
“When we re-use historic buildings, we preserve their landmark
qualities for the next generation. Historic buildings are non-renewable
resources that should be conserved just as passionately as our natural
resources,” Kulongoski said.
He said the order is also designed to give an economic boost to historic downtowns.
“Through the Oregon Main Street program — which is managed by our
State Historic Preservation Office — we are partnering with local
communities to rebuild downtowns, not just as tourist attractions — but
as real centers of commerce and government,” Kulongoski said.
Roger Roper, deputy state historic preservation officer, said the
Historic Preservation Office is the lead agency charged with
implementing Kulongoski’s executive order.
Roper said the order seeks to simplify the site selection process so
agencies will call the historic preservation office in the initial
stages of selecting sites.
Owners say they’ve been operating the ski resort at a small but consistent loss since they bought it in 1998
With almost 5 feet of snow on the slopes, the triple chairlift is
running and the cross- country trails are groomed and ready for skiers
at Ski Anthony Lakes.
Although some fees have gone up at the resort, it’s still a bargain
among Northwest ski areas, said general manager Bill Junnila.
“The biggest change is in the all mountain ticket prices, which went
up from $35 to $39,” Junnila said. “That’s the main one. The rest are
“Even with the increases we are still substantially under the cost
to ski as our nearest competitor — Bluewood ski area outside Dayton,
Wash., at $42,” he said.
Junnila said the season pass prices won’t change for this year, but will increase for the 2010-11 season.
The resort’s owners said the price increases were necessary to reverse their small, but consistent, operating losses.
“We just recognized that we have been losing money on the resort for
the past 10 years, and we decided we had to do something to stem the
losses,” said Lee Kearney of Vancouver, Wash., who owns the ski area
along with his wife, Connie, and partners, Kim and Dana Kutsch of
Jefferson, Ore., and Parke and Gail Ball, also of Vancouver, Wash.
“It isn’t losing a huge amount of money. It almost breaks even, so the fee increases are minimal,” Lee Kearney said.
While the three families own the resort buildings, chair lift and
business, they lease the property from the U.S. Forest Service.
Lee Kearney said all of the owners have strong ties to the ski resort and to the Baker area.
Don McClure says his Baker City store is healthier and will remain open
LA GRANDE — Don’s Jewelry, a well-established retail business in La
Grande’s downtown, will shut its doors by the end of the year.
Owner Don McClure said he is closing the store he has operated at
1216 Adams Ave. since the late-1990s for a variety of reasons,
including sluggish sales during the current economic downturn.
McClure’s Baker City jewelry store will remain open. He said running two stores at once proved too much.
“Due to these poor economic times and some health issues, I’m left
with no other option but to downsize and simplify by closing the
original La Grande location and focusing my efforts on the Baker
store,” McClure said. He said he has developed high blood pressure
which, fortunately, is “very treatable.”
McClure was born in Milton-Freewater and moved with his family to La
Grande in 1971. In 1975, the family moved to Newberg. McClure graduated
from Newberg High in 1976.
DURKEE — At the Hungry Redneck Cafe, one of two businesses left in
Durkee, Bozcho “Bo” Lettunich has seen his sales drop more than 30
percent since officials at the nearby Ash Grove Cement plant announced
plans to lay off 68 of the factory’s 116 workers in mid-December.
“I have fewer customers coming in from Ash Grove. People are scared.
They don’t know what will happen with these layoffs,” Lettunich said.
The Ash Grove plant is one of the larger private employers in Baker County.
In Durkee Valley, about 23 miles southeast of Baker City along Interstate 84, it’s very nearly the only one.
Durkee also has a post office, the Hungry Redneck Cafe and the combination Nyssa Co-op and Durkee General Store.
Lettunich said business was pretty brisk during the first three
years after he opened the Hungry Redneck in a building that formerly
housed a restaurant called the Wagon Wheel.
“I had 18 to 20 Ash Grove workers who were regulars. They came in almost every day after the shift change (at 4 p.m.),” he said.
The deadline is fast approaching for employers or workers in Baker,
Union and Wallowa counties to apply for job training grants available
through the Training Employment Consortium.
Applications must be submitted by Wednesday, Nov. 25, to be eligible
for a share of $54,000 in matching grants for employers in the three
counties to train their existing workers to improve skills or advance
to higher-paying positions, or for matching scholarships available
directly to workers wanting to get training to advance to a
higher-paying occupation or position.
Business owners Linda Hudson and Marilyn Spicer presented at November PubTalk
A new business called Ideal Partners In Home Care is providing
services to make it easier for the elderly or people with health
problems to stay in their homes.
The business, operated by Linda Hudson and Marilyn Spicer, was
featured during the last PubTalk meeting of the year Thursday night at
Crossroads Carnegie Art Center.
Twitter and Facebook Web sites provide venues for promoting business
as well as personal connections, but Linked-In and Constant Contact are
the preferred sites for professionals who spoke during the last PubTalk
meeting of the year.
During the Thursday evening PubTalk at the Crossroads Carnegie Art
Center, professionals versed in the ins and outs of using social and
business networking sites described how they use Facebook, Twitter,
Linked-In and Constant Contact to promote their career objectives,
market companies, products or services, promote events, seminars,
workshops and keep in contact with business associates and potential
Baker City’s reputation as an eclectic destination for tourists,
particularly those interested in history, gained a boost recently with
attention from Oregon’s largest newspaper, as well as a pair of
magazines and a travel Web site.
Local attractions and businesses have been highlighted on the
Vintage Road Trip Web site, in Portland Monthly and Wine Press
Northwest magazines, and by columnist Gerry Frank in The Sunday
The business earned the Excellence in Family Business award from OSU
Sid Johnson & Co. of Baker City is one of six Oregon companies
and three individuals receiving recognition from the oldest family
business awards program in the nation – Oregon State University’s
Austin Family Business Program’s Excellence in Family Business Awards.
OSU’s College of Business announced the awards for 2009 Thursday.
Winners and finalists will be formally recognized at an awards dinner
Nov. 19 at the Oregon Zoo.