Almost 60 Union County businesses receive loans

LA GRANDE — Almost five dozen Union County businesses received Paycheck Protection Loans through Umpqua Bank.

The bank recently reported about 45 of the forgivable federal loans, which are part of the stimulus package known as the CARES Act, went to businesses in La Grande and allowed more than more than 750 people to return to their jobs or keep working.

La Grande businesses received $5.2 million in PPP loans, and about $300,000 more when to other businesses in the county, according to the bank’s press release. Statewide, Umpqua helped businesses secure $750 million in loans so they could continue paying employees during the COVID-19 crisis.

According to the federal Small Business Administration, which administers the loans, the latest round of PPP provided more than $3.2 billion to 35,751 businesses in Oregon. Through May 1, the program provided more than $6.8 billion in loans to 49,853 Oregon businesses.

Joseph Branch Railriders under new ownership

JOSEPH — Joseph Branch Railriders has new owners.

Robert and Tia Nichols of Joseph announced last week they purchased Joseph Branch Railriders from founders Kim and Anita Metlen of Imbler.

Robert Nichols began his railriding career as a guide in August 2016, served as the branch manager from 2017-19 and purchased Joseph Branch Railriders in January. Joseph Branch Railriders will continue to offer two, four and six-hour round trip pedaling adventures on the Wallowa Union Railroad.

According to the press release from the Nichols, the Metlens started a national trend when they opened the Joseph Branch Railriders in 2014. The Metlens will continue to operate the Oregon Coast branch at Bay City and Wheeler. The Metlens also founded the Vance Creek Railriders near Shelton, Washington.

The Joseph Branch Railrider headquarters is at 501 W. Alder St., Joseph. For more information, visit

Dinner cruise a chance to get out, support businesses

WALLOWA COUNTY — Inspiration from Wup Winn’s Facebook post has led to the Wallowa County Dinner Cruise Night to help locals get out after being shut in during the coronavirus pandemic and to help local businesses.

Tuesday was Wallowa’s turn for the dinner cruise. The plan is to do it next week — Tuesday, May 19 — starting in Joseph, according to co-organizer Laina Fisher. Participants are urged to call ahead to their favorite restaurant to order a meal or snacks at a store from 6 to 8 p.m. Pick up your order and enjoy some limited socialization, she said.

The following week will be Enterprise’s turn.

“This will give local eateries a shot in the arm mid-week even if it’s just a soda pop to enjoy while watching cars go by,” she said. “Buy a little bit of fuel from the filling stations, park on Main Street — skip a spot to keep our distancing — and enjoy your dinner while watching some cool rides.”

Winn wrote there will be a dedicated page on Facebook with updates on cruise night.

Terminal Gravity gives to help food bank

ENTERPRISE — Terminal Gravity Brewery & Pub is donating 1% of all packaged beer sales to the Wallowa County Food Bank during May, said Grady Nelson, TG’s marketing manager.

“The reason is our community here in Wallowa County inspires us and is really important to who we are,” Nelson said in a press release. “We want to do our part to give back during these difficult times, and say thank you to everyone who has been supporting us.”

Proceeds from six-packs — or larger — sales at grocery stores, liquor stores and other establishments where TG’s beer is available will go to the food bank. Terminal Gravity exports its beer from the county to stores all across Oregon, western Idaho and southeastern Washington, Nelson said.

Terminal gravity is open for takeout from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday.

La Grande, Baker City employees among Banner Bank’s best

LA GRANDE — Banner Bank announced eight of its Eastern Oregon Banner employees received the Banner’s Best award, representing the highest level of recognition in the company.

Wallene Daggett, senior personal banker at the La Grande branch, and Mary Jo Talbott, senior teller at the Baker City branch, received the award, along with Bibiana Cisneros and Blanca Maldonado, tellers at the Umatilla branch; Randi Garrett, assistant vice president and branch manager, Umatilla/Boardman/Stanfield branches; Steve Campbell, vice president and senior relationship manager, Eastern Oregon Commercial Banking; Cristina Aguilar and Liz Nunez, tellers at the Boardman branch.

The bank in a press release reported the award recognizes employees for surpassing their individual professional goals in 2019, demonstrating excellence within their professions and exemplifying outstanding service.

“During challenging times, and perhaps especially during such times, it’s important to honor those who exemplify our value proposition of being connected, knowledgeable, responsive,” said Mark Grescovich, Banner Bank president and CEO, in a press release. “It is my pleasure to recognize our Banner’s Best employees for delivering outstanding service to our clients, communities and one another.”

Fewer than 4% of all Banner employees receive the award.

For 130 years, Banner Bank has been offering a wide variety of financial services and products to individuals and small- and medium-sized businesses. To learn more, visit Banner Bank at

Online roundtable addresses remote decision-making

ENTERPRISE — The Northeast Oregon Economic Development District is inviting nonprofit leaders to the next roundtable discussion about the value of diversity, equity and inclusion.

The online event runs from 9 a.m. to noon June 3; cost to attend is $5 per person. Participants will need a computer with internet, video and audio. Register at

The online roundtable, led by Alexis James, is entitled “Establishing and Maintaining Trust: How to Connect and Speak up in Virtual Spaces When Working with Remote Decision-Making.”

Participants will identify challenges to inclusive decision-making, and learn about tools they can use to encourage more equitable and innovative practices. The online training also will use a digital platform that offers virtual “breakout” rooms, allowing for small group discussions.

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