Points of the Day

May 3, 2010

G.I. Joe's gears up for resurgence

After going under last spring, Oregon retailer G.I. Joe's is eyeing a comeback under a seasoned team of company veterans.

The former executives are hoping to reconnect with the community while facing down the increasingly competitive retail landscape that the company struggled with before.

"We're going back to the auto and boat parts and fishing and hunting gear," said Ron Menconi, former senior vice president of marketing and merchandise who started with the original company at 16. "'The lower prices every day.' The G and the I. Everything like it was before the financial firms got involved."

And, as the G.I. implies, the new company is prepared for battle on several fronts. It faces increased retail competition, must win over younger shoppers and may have to fight for the name it needs to bring back its base.

Read the full story at OregonLive.com.

New measures would boost schools

Two measures going on the primary ballot in May will provide some relief for Oregon schools and colleges, and won't cost taxpayers anything in the short run.

Measures 68 and 69 are focused on helping with construction and adjusting rules on how money can be borrowed and spent.

Measure 68, endorsed by both the Eugene and Springfield school boards, offers schools help with construction in two ways.

First, it expands the definition of “capital costs,” allowing school districts for the first time to use voter-approved capital bond funds for items such as desks, computers, textbooks and even land. The new definition would apply to bonded indebtedness incurred on or after Jan. 1, 2011.

Read the full story at The Register-Guard.

Flooring company fears yuan adjustment

Wellmade Floor Coverings Inc. exports more than 600 shipping containers of bamboo flooring products a year from its factory in China to its sales base in Wilsonville.

But the company worries its stateside sales will suffer if the U.S. convinces Beijing to let the value of the Chinese yuan rise against the dollar.

Anger is building in Congress over the yuan, which Western economists say may be undervalued by as much as 40 percent. U.S. officials maintain the artificially weak currency gives China an unfair advantage in world trade, effectively subsidizing Chinese exports and taxing goods it imports.

The conflict could conceivably escalate into a trade war, with both sides slapping tariffs on imports. But Beijing and Washington have shown restraint so far. U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who visited Beijing for talks recently, has delayed a report on whether China manipulates its currency.

Read the full story at OregonLive.com.

Businesses target fair trade niche

Awareness and acceptance of fair trade are growing among American consumers, and more retailers nationwide are incorporating fair-trade practices.

The trend is prevalent among Oregon businesses as well, with companies like Eugene's Mountain Rose Herb participating in TransFair USA's "Fair Trade Certified" program.

“It was really hard to formalize social accountability in the 1980s,” co-owner Shawn Donnille said. So as TransFair USA, the leading independent, third-party fair-trade certifier in the United States, gained traction in the 1990s, “we thought it was the perfect fit to formalize our social accountability program,” he said.

About 30 of Mountain Rose Herb’s 40 varieties of tea carry TransFair USA’s “Fair Trade Certified” seal — a black-and-white figure holding baskets in both hands. It indicates that a product has met international fair trade standards for fair prices, fair labor conditions and environmental sustainability.

Read the full story at The Register-Guard.

Hard road ahead for Schrader

Rep. Kurt Schrader faces several challenges as he goes up for re-election, his inexperience and declining Democrat fortunes among them.

But Schrader is handling the campaign calmly and says he understands the limits of his newcomer position.

He's a self-described pro-business moderate in a chamber that is generally considered liberal and free spending. That's one reason a Washington Post/ABC News poll released Wednesday found the most "anti-incumbent electorate" since 1994. His voting record backs it up, with Schrader voting liberal 63.8 percent of the time, second-lowest among Oregon Democrats behind only the enigmatic Rep. Peter DeFazio.

Schrader's moderate-to-slightly conservative posture on fiscal matters, along with his attention to issues such as agriculture and small business should help him in a district with few large cities and lots of open space, independent election analysts say. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report lists the 5th District as "lean Democratic," which is encouraging if you're Schrader. But the margin is only 1 point, which highlights the volatility and danger he faces.

Read the full story at OregonLive.com.