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Grumpy’s happy to stay east of the freeway

J.R. and Dana Streifel’s vehicle repair shop is one of several businesses in a commercial area east of Interstate 84 that Baker City annexed a couple years ago

Editor’s Note: Starting with today’s issue, the Baker City Herald looks at changes taking place on “The Other Side of the Freeway.” The series begins with a look at the recent move and expansion of Grumpy’s Repair and continues next week with a look at planned moves of car dealerships away from 10th Street and downtown Baker City to the east side of Interstate 84.


For J.R. Streifel, the economic downturn that has dampened sales of homes, new cars and consumer products has turned out to be a boon for his auto and truck repair business.

“With the economy like it is, I think people are holding off on buying new rigs and they’re choosing to fix up and hang onto the ones they’re driving a little longer,” said Streifel, owner of Grumpy’s Repair.

Grants lend a cool new look to downtown

Donations from the Leo Adler and Robert W. Chandler funds help several business owners install awnings

Canvas awnings sewn and installed by Greg and Les Pointer of Ne-Hi Enterprises are sprucing up downtown buildings thanks in part to matching grants administered by Historic Baker City Inc.

“We have approved matching grants for several awnings as part of our Destination Downtown grant program,” said Ann Mehaffy, HBC program manager.

Terrific Tuesday has fast start

 Business owners say the promotion brought in lots of customers

“It was crazy. It was like Christmas. It was one of the best days we’ve had all year,” is how Jacki Adams, owner of The Sycamore Tree, described Tuesday’s launch of the Terrific Tuesdays downtown shopping promotion.

Adams is is co-chair of the Terrific Tuesdays campaign, which is designed to lure shoppers downtown with drawings for merchandise, prizes and gift certificates of $10, $20, $25, $50 or $100 at 26 downtown businesses and a few in other areas of town every Tuesday during the summertime.

Baker City’s final Hallmark moment

Barb and Betty’s Hallmark closes, and all that’s left to sell are the shelves

Barb Ackerman, left, and Betty Dahlen recently closed their Hallmark store on Main Street in Baker City. (Baker City Herald/Kathy Orr)
Thanks for the memories.

Barb Ackerman and Betty Dahlen wrapped up their going-out-of-business sale March 13 and now they’re busy dismantling and selling the shelves, card racks and other remnants of Barb and Betty’s Hallmark Store on Main Street in Baker City.

“It takes quite a bit to take the store down. We spent the last four or five days tearing down the fixtures and getting them out,” Dahlen said.

Help for small businesses

Two workshops planned

To help keep the local economy strong and ensure that Baker City’s businesses thrive during the challenging national economic times, several community-based groups are working together to offer help and sponsor workshops.

These programs are designed to strengthen local businesses, keep independent business owners competitive, and draw customers into the shopping district with special events, according to Ann Mehaffy, program director of Historic Baker City Inc.

Program helps unemployed to become self-employed

Program pays unemployment benefits to would-be entrepreneurs

During economic downturns people in the middle to upper wage brackets, especially college-educated older workers in diminishing professions, often have the most trouble landing a job.

Unemployment statistics show workers in higher-paying skilled positions are more likely to exhaust their unemployment benefits, and ultimately wind up in lower paying occupations.

However, a little-used Self Employment Assistance program at the Oregon Employment Department offers workers who fit that profile the chance to receive unemployment benefits while they start a business of their own.

State program makes it easier for employers to avoid layoffs

Use of WorkShare, which pays partial unemployment to workers whose hours are cut, has increased tenfold in one year

With the economy sliding into deeper into recession in Baker County and around the state, participation is soaring in a previously little-used Oregon Employment Department WorkShare program that allows employers to cut workers’ hours instead of laying them off.

“It’s been one of those programs underutilized in the past, and use has just skyrocketed,” said Tom Fuller, Employment Department communications director.

Landowners optimistic about biomass

A study presented to the Baker County Small Woodlands Association last week showed a biomass-fueled power plant, together with a wood pellet factory and firewood operation, could provide a consistent market for wood wastes generated on private and public forests.

Ben Henson, CEO of Renewable Energy Solutions in Wallowa, said the study concluded that there’s plenty of woody biomass available in Baker County and within 35 miles to supply a $9 million, three-part project.

It would consists of a 1-megawatt gasification power plant that would use 35,000 green tons of wood a year, a 20,000-tons-a-year pellet mill and a firewood operation producing 2,000 cords of firewood annually.

Local bank, credit union say lack of bailout helped, not hurt

Out of seven banks and one credit union that have branches in Baker City, just two businesses — Community Bank and Old West Federal Credit Union — haven’t received federal bailout money.

Officials at Old West Federal Credit Union (which isn’t eligible for the federal aid) and Community Bank credited their financial stability to their focus on using money deposited locally to make loans to local individuals and businesses, rather than investing in national or international sub-prime markets.

“We haven’t participated in the federal bailout, nor would we be eligible,” Old West President Ken Olson said. “I’m confident Old West can continue successfully without participating in the federal bailout.”

Keeping workers can save money, officials say

Even during a recession, striving to retain good employees is a smart investment for businesses and agencies due to the high turnover costs and the shortage of qualified workers, according to the Oregon Employment Department.

The cost of replacing workers varies depending on the the level of training and skill the job requires.

Although fast food restaurants, as an example, often thrive in a high-turnover environment because of the ease of training and deep pool of workers to draw from, recruitment and training costs in other industries can cost businesses tens of thousands of dollars, said Malcolm Boswell, a workforce analyst with the Employment Department.

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