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Biz Beat 5-1-2014

Whole Foods has its eyeballs on Eugene again, but no $8 million taxpayer-subsidized parking garage will be attached this time to get folks riled up. The Texas-based corporation tried to build at the same location just south of Ferry Street Bridge in 2006. We noted then that the chain averages $537,000 in sales per store each week. Even half that sales volume in Eugene would have an impact on established local stores, but Safeway, Albertson’s and Trader Joe’s are also chain stores, and the Natural Grocers chain is building on the north side of the bridge at the old Red Lion site. We are more concerned about the impact on smaller, independent grocery stores such as Kiva, Sundance and Market of Choice. Will Whole Foods try to wrangle some kind of subsidies or tax breaks from the city? We appear to be pushovers for such pressure. And we are concerned about what the store will look like and how it will affect pedestrian, bike and auto traffic in that key location. Do we trust city planners? Planners recently bent over and allowed Capstone to erect an uninviting concrete fortress downtown. 

Nearly 100 McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center workers, elected leaders and community members rallied last week for “good jobs and quality patient care.” Hospital caregivers who are members of SEIU Local 49 have been in contract negotiations with hospital management for six months. “The most recent available data shows McKenzie declaring a profit three times higher than the state average,” reads a statement from the union. “Despite these profits, the hospital has recently laid off workers while remaining caregivers continue to face rising health-care costs and eroding benefits.” A federal mediator is now involved in negotiations.

Negotiations are beginning with School District 4J and the Eugene Education Association. The two sides will exchange first contract proposals from 4 to 8 pm Thursday, May 1, and the session is open to the public. Track progress (hopefully) and find a meeting schedule at eugea.org or at 4j.lane.edu. 

In other labor news, a coalition of unions, community groups, student groups and social justice organizations will host the third annual May Day Solidarity Fair from noon to 5 pm on Saturday, May 3, at Central Park in Corvallis. Music, art, food and a broad spectrum of activist conversations will be “celebrating the broader labor movement and all struggles for social, economic and environmental justice.” Free. Contact Tony or Lisa at anarres@peak.org or find the event on Facebook.

Startup Weekend events will begin Friday, May 2, at the UO EMU building. Local CEOs, founders and “startup veterans with track records building and selling companies will be there to assist you in pursuing your own success,” according to organizers. Find details at eugene.startupweekend.org or call (503) 539-8014.

Mid Lane Cares, a nonprofit serving the Fern Ridge community, will host Project Community Connect from 11 am to 3 pm Saturday, May 3, at the Olivet Baptist Church, 88150 2nd St. in Veneta. The event is a one-day, one-stop opportunity for anyone in need to receive free medical and dental services, haircuts, social services referrals, a hot meal and more. Families are welcome and child care and face painting will be provided. See midlanecares.org or call 935-4555, ext. 102.

Mountain Rose Herbs is organizing the second year of the Free Herbalism Project with a celebration from 11 am to 5 pm Sunday, May 4, at Mount Pisgah Arboretum. The free event is a benefit for Occupy Medical and the American Herb Association and will feature a plant walk, lectures, workshops and information booths. See mountainroseherbs.com. 

May is Historic Preservation Month and a reception, presentation and tour are planned at 7:30 pm Sunday and Monday, May 4-5, at the nonprofit WOW Hall, 291 W. 8th Ave. The WOW Hall, aka Community Center for the Performing Arts, is undergoing a restoration project funded in part by the Oregon Cultural Trust, the Kinsman Foundation, the Historic Street Lamp Restoration Project, the UO Archives and others. Call 912-4721, email jpincus24@gmail.com or visit wowhall.org.