Reorganization efforts that helped double gift shop sales and restore
the Visitor’s Center management contact were featured at Wednesday’s
open house at the Baker County Chamber of Commerce.
Executive Director Debi Bainter said the Chamber is wrapping up a
successful autumn of changes highlighted at the open house, when
visitors and chamber members toured the relocated gift shop and a new
business conference center, and saw other changes.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., also stopped by to visit.
Planning is also under way for the Jan. 17 Chamber awards banquet,
which honors Oregon’s Sesquicentennial (150th birthday) with a Western
pioneering heritage theme of “Happy Trails.”
Bainter said the Chamber is looking for businesses wishing to a table
for the banquet. Table decorating takes place Friday Jan. 16 from 4
p.m. to 8 p.m., or Saturday Jan. 17 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The Baker School Board’s Tuesday night work session took on a holiday
air accented by the red sweaters, blouses and shirts of about 20
members of the district’s classified staff.
Bus drivers, cooks and maintenance workers and paraprofessionals turned
out for a presentation by Victor Musial, the Oregon School Employees
Association’s director of field operations. Musial traveled to Baker
City to give the association’s perspective of contracting services
currently provided by district employees.
“We were there in support of what Victor was presenting to the board,”
said Ruth Woodworth, a Baker Middle School librarian and president of
the Baker Chapter of the Oregon School Employees Association. “We
wanted to show the faces of the people affected by contracting out.”
Musial told the board that the association had developed a PowerPoint
presentation to address the issue after losing hundreds of jobs across
the state to contracting.
“InSource Oregon was designed to educate people up front,” he said. “Everybody’s a stakeholder.”
The Northeast Oregon Economic Development District is seeking nominations for the second-annual Entrepreneur of the Year awards.
The awards give Baker, Union and Wallowa county residents the chance to
recognize entrepreneurs or business owners who have contributed to the
vibrancy of the community, said Lisa Dawson, NOEDD executive director.
“Entrepreneurs add value and vitality to our communities with no
guarantee of emotional or monetary payoff,” Dawson said. “We are
devoted to offering citizens the opportunity to show their appreciation
Julie Mullen, project coordinator, said a winner will be chosen from each of the three counties.
Debi Bainter, executive director for the Baker County Chamber of
Commerce, said the 2008 Entrepreneur of the Year award for Baker County
will be presented at the chamber’s Jan. 17 awards banquet, along with
legacy awards, Business of the Year and other awards.
Ski area, local businesses banking on a blizzard
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.
It looks like a winter wonderland on the drive to Ski Anthony Lakes, but the snow isn’t deep enough to open the ski runs. (Baker City Herald/Ed Merriman)
Those lyrics from a traditional Christmas song reflect the hopes of Ski
Anthony Lakes staff and ski shop owners in Baker City whose sales are
lagging due to lack of snow.
Last year was a good year, with enough snow at Ski Anthony Lakes, the
resort in the Elkhorn Mountains about 35 miles northwest of Baker City,
to open runs Thanksgiving weekend.
But with snow slower to arrive this year, Bill Junilla, the resort’s
general manager, said he’s now hoping for enough snow to open on Dec.
“We’ve got 10 inches of snow on top right now, and there’s some storms
and colder weather forecast this weekend and into next week, so we’re
shooting for a Dec. 13 opening,” Junilla said during a Wednesday
interview at the ski resort.
The National Weather Service’s seven-day forecast for the Elkhorns
calls for snow showers on Sunday, then a chance of snow, ranging from
20 percent to 50 percent, through Thursday.
Junilla and Perry Batten, the new mountain manager at Ski Anthony
Lakes, said they’re eager see the empty chairs on the idle ski left
filled once again with skiers riding from the base elevation of 7,100
feet — highest among Oregon ski areas — to the upper runs which top out
at 8,000 feet.
Demand for cement drops, but production shift helps Durkee plant
Despite plunging demand for cement due to the
nationwide housing slump and global economic downturn, the Ash Grove
Cement Co. plant in Durkee is benefitting from a shift in production
from an older plant in Idaho.
Ash Grove Cement’s plant in Durkee is one of Baker County’s larger private employers. (Baker City Herald/Ed Merriman)
Terry Kerby, manager of Ash Grove’s Durkee plant about 25 miles
southeast of Baker City, said production of clinker material used to
make cement is being shifted from the Inkom, Idaho, plant to Durkee.
That shift in production will help keep the Durkee plant running closer
to its optimum capacity and keep the plant’s 116 workers on the payroll
earning base pay of $19 to $26 an hour, or $32 to $40 per hour with
benefits, Kerby said.
Most of those workers live in Baker County, with a smaller number commuting from neighboring Malheur County.
Media reports citing recession have risen to unprecedented volume during past three years
Baker County business owners criticized the
national media last week for a barrage of reports which some contend is
contributing to a decline in consumer and business confidence, and
deepening the recession.
Numbers compiled from a Google Internet search for the words “economic
recession” lend credence to the concerns raised by Baker City business
owners Marilyn Shollenberger of Marilyn’s Music; Denzil Robbins of
Robbins Farm Equipment; Ted Hausotter of Natural Structures; Ryan
Chaves of Kicks Sports Wear; and others, including Jake Jacobs,
business retention specialist with the Baker City and County economic
So far, business owners say, Baker County has avoided the worst effects of the national economic downturn
The recession of 2008 appears to be more talk than substance, according to some local business owners.
Ryan Chaves, owner of Kicks Sports Wear in Baker City, holds a Christmas ornament that shows the building where his business is located. Chaves contends businesses can thrive even during recessions if they stock merchandise that local customers want. (Baker City Herald/Ed Merriman)
“Baker City is really fortunate in that we haven’t been hit near as
hard as bigger communities because we have that home town feeling. We
try to help each other,” said Ken Gross, manager of the Home
Furnishings Liquidator store in Baker City.
While sales are down a little this fall, Gross said business at the
furniture store always drops off this time of year and then picks up
again between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“A lot of people in this community own their own businesses or work for locally owned businesses,” Gross said.
A $2 million grant could create new markets for Baker County private forest owners
A $2 million grant is breathing life into
planning for a new sustainable wood products industry in Baker County
capable of providing income for woodland owners and low-cost power,
heat, wood pellets and firewood to the community.
During a meeting of Baker County Small Woodlands Association Thursday,
Nils Christoffersen, executive director of Wallowa Resources, presented
a preliminary report and recommendations for using the anticipated $2
million in grant money to help fund development of a wood-fired
gasification plant, a wood pellet mill and firewood production.
The preliminary cost estimate for all three options totals about $9 million.
Payments to woodland owners who supply the material are projected at
about $1 million per year, based on a price of $25 per green ton for
wood delivered to a site in Baker City, plus a $10 tax credit per green
ton for the renewable energy portion of the projects.
Steve Brocato will go over the city’s books with the 14-member budget board on Thursday evening
The city of Salem’s general fund is more than 10 times the size of Baker City’s.
Yet at $1 million apiece, each city has about the same size ending-fund balance — the city’s savings account.
That’s an example of the message — conservative budgeting leads to good
results — that Baker City Manager Steve Brocato wants the Budget Board
to hear Thursday when the board, which is composed of the seven city
councilors and seven appointed members, meets for its fall budget
The public meeting begins at 6 p.m. in council chambers at Baker City Hall, 1655 First St.
Despite dire economic forecasts in the national and global financial
sectors, job creation is up and unemployment is down in Baker County,
making the 2008 recession seem tame, so far, compared to some past
recessions, according to the November Eastern Oregon Labor Trends
While job losses typically pile up during a recession, so far in 2008
the total number of people employed in nonfarm jobs is up slightly in
Baker County compared to 2007, which was a record year for job
expansion in the county, according to Jason Yohannan, regional
economist at the Oregon Employment Division’s La Grande office, and
author of Eastern Oregon Labor Trends report.