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
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
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
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.
Barb and Betty’s Hallmark closes, and all that’s left to sell are the shelves
Thanks for the memories.
Barb Ackerman, left, and Betty Dahlen recently closed their Hallmark store on Main Street in Baker City. (Baker City Herald/Kathy Orr)
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
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
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 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
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
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.
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.”
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
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.