– August 23, 2014

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gordonwebster Gordon Webster - Publisher
gordonwebster Gabriel Dillard - Managing Editor

Latest Local News

Written on 08/22/2014, 2:46 pm by Business Journal staff
Legendary crooner Tony Bennett has been added to the lineup of this year's Big Fresno Fair. Bennett will close out the fair's run on Oct. 13.
Written on 08/22/2014, 10:46 am by Business Journal staff
Central California Legal Services will present its Champions of Justice Awards Oct. 9 to those who have defended the causes of low-income individuals. The organization gives out the awards every year in praise of individuals or agencies working on behalf of those who lack access to legal representation. Those being honored advocate on a range of legal issues low-income individuals struggle with every day, including school suspensions, deceptive foreclosure companies who prey on homeowners, conditions faced by low-wage workers and reuniting families. In addition to the Champions of Justice awards, Central California Legal Services will also present its Ronald M. George Equal Justice Award to California Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont). Also, the Fresno County Bar Association's Executive Director Bobbie Lee will be honored with the newly established Friend of Justice Award. This year's Champions of Justice recipients will be honored during CCLS's Champions of Justice Reception taking place Oct. 9 from 5 to 8 p.m. at The Grand, 1401 Fulton St., in the 10th floor ballroom. Tickets and sponsorships are available by contacting Luisa Medina at or (559) 570-1242. The Champions of Justice honorees this year are: • Roland Barnett• Attorney Peter G. Fashing• Louise Farley, field representative for State Sen. Anthony Cannella• The Reedley Police Department• CCLS attorney Ofra Pleban• Chava Glassberg, volunteer with CCLS• Hon. Robert H. Oliver of the Fresno County Superior Court• The Legal Aid Society's Employment Law Center
Written on 08/22/2014, 9:44 am by Business Journal staff
Fresno State's Gazarian Real Estate Center has announced dates for its fall speaker series. The first event in the series will take place Wednesday, Aug. 27 and focus on the retail side of the school's Campus Pointe project. Tracy Kashian and Nick Kazarian of Lance-Kashian & Co. will keynote the event and give a presentation on The Square at Campus Pointe.  Construction began on the first phase of the project in February and once completed, it is expected to be the largest mixed-use public-private partnership in the California State University system. An estimated $250 million will have been invested in The Square by the private sector. The Aug. 27 talk will be from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the University Business Center. The event is free and open to the public but registration is required by the Aug. 25 deadline. The first 44 people to register will be provided with a free lunch.  Future events in the Gazarian Speaker Series include:  Sept. 24, 11:30 a.m.: Darius Assemi, president of Granville Homes (Westlake Village) Oct. 17, 8 a.m.: 2014 Housing Market Symposium featuring economist Selma Hepp Nov. 12, 11:30 a.m: TBA The series is funded by Dr. Arnold and Dianne Gazarian and the Craig School of Business Real Estate program in order to provide information on real estate markets to the community, students and faculty. 
Written on 08/22/2014, 9:42 am by Ben Keller
Bakery and cafe chain Panera Bread will open its newest Central Valley location later this year in Porterville, sharing space in a new building along with Me-N-Ed's Pizza. The building is under construction in the Target-anchored shopping center at the southwest corner of Henderson Avenue and Prospect Street. When complete, Panera will occupy 4,200 square feet of the 7,350 square-foot space, including a drive-thru, while Me-N-Ed's Pizza will take up the remaining 3,150 square feet. Doug Cords, broker with Commercial Retail Associates, represented owner Grand Prospect Partners in leasing out the new building to Panera and Me-N-Ed's. The goal, he said, is for both tenants to be open by this year. Paden & Bletscher Construction of Fresno is the contractor on the project. Panera Bread also has two locations in Fresno and one each in Clovis, Hanford and Visalia. Me-N-Ed's has more than a dozen restaurants throughout the Central Valley.
Written on 08/22/2014, 8:45 am by John Lindt
It’s better times for California’s ethanol producers, with investment dollars flowing into technology to make production plants more efficient and diverse in the feedstocks they accept. “We are just about there,” said Paul Koehler, spokesman for Sacramento-based Pacific Ethanol, referring to the long-time effort to begin making ethanol from farm waste and nonfood feedstock instead of corn. One of the benefits of cellulosic ethanol is that it reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent over reformulated gasoline. Some feel cellulosic ethanol's potential is vast, noting that the Department of Energy has identified 1.3 billion tons of harvestable cellulosic biomass in the US that could be used to meet more than one-third of domestic transportation fuel demand. A new local collaboration could hit the sweet spot when it comes to ethanol production. Plan in worksLast December, New York-based Sweetwater Energy and Pacific Ethanol agreed that the biofuel maker would buy industrial cellulosic sugars from Sweetwater to be produced at a new facility next to one of its ethanol plants. It was originally envisioned to be located at the Pacific Ethanol plant in Stockton. But in the past week, Pacific Ethanol decided to launch the venture at the  Madera location, using ample land the company owns next to the facility to build a new plant that will supply the waste-based sugar for up to 3.6 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol annually. “We are in the permitting stage for Sweetwater, who will design and build their plant over the next 24 months and be in operation by the end of 2016,” Koehler said. Industrial sugars are said to be six times as efficient as corn in making ethanol. Koehler expects the new plant will employ 20 to 30 people. “The Sweetwater platform furthers our initiative in producing next-generation fuels such as cellulosic ethanol while providing additional flexibility in sourcing, reducing feedstock costs and enhancing plant operating margins,” said Pacific Ethanol CEO Neil Koehler. Edeniq partnershipIn a second cellulosic initiative Pacific Ethanol is working with Visalia-based Edeniq to use its patented enzyme that would convert corn stover to ethanol. Edeniq announced just weeks ago the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision that corn kernel fiber qualifies as a cellulosic feedstock under the renewable fuel standard program regulations. This rigorous determination will allow Edeniq’s PATHWAY Platform to be used by customers to produce cellulosic ethanol inside corn ethanol plants. Edeniq’s patented PATHWAY Platform combines its CellunatorTM technology with an enzyme cocktail to break down corn kernel fiber, releasing cellulosic sugars into the fermentation process. Corn kernels contain approximately 13 percent cellulosic fiber that remains unconverted in a typical ethanol plant. “Cellulosic ethanol produced from corn kernel fiber is one of the fastest and most cost-effective ways to improve the efficiency and sustainability of the ethanol industry in the United States,” said Brian Thome, President and CEO of Edeniq. More Madera investmentPacific Ethanol’s Paul Koehler said the Madera plant is also installing corn oil manufacturing equipment by the end of this year. The process converts a by-product into a valuable feed. Koehler also said Madera will install technology to make another feed product — Kornplex — on a small scale to start. Koehler added Pacific Ethanol is studying possible cogeneration at its plants to make electricity. ”We are a steam hog,” joked Koehler. All this investment is happening in Madera, a plant that had been idled for five years and was only restarted earlier this year after a major retooling. Back to profitability Pacific Ethanol this week released its second quarter fiscal results, with net sales of $321.1 million, compared to $233.8 million last year. A record total gallons of 132.2 million gallons was sold, compared to 101.2 million in the same quarter last year. Gross profit for the quarter was $33.6 million, up from $7 million during the second quarter of 2013. The report says” the improved gross profit is a result of significantly improved production margins and corn oil production. Operating income was $29.3 million, up from $3.8 million during the same three months of last year. Net income attributable to common stockholders was $15.3 million, or 68 cents per diluted share. During the same quarter of last year, Pacific Ethanol reported a net income available to common stockholders of $700,000, or 7 cents per diluted share.” During a call to discuss the results, CEO Neil Koehler noted the company has continued to perform exceptionally well: “The plants are operating at excellent margins, our marketing business continues to grow in both gallons sold and overall margin contribution, and we are reinvesting capital in our core production business to further reinforce our market position,” he said.
Written on 08/21/2014, 2:02 pm by Business Journal staff
Valley lodges continued to ride on summer's busy travel season in July, with revenues up nearly $1 million in both the Fresno and Visalia areas. According to a monthly lodging report by STR, the average occupancy rate in the Fresno area stood at 63.4 percent in July. That's up from 61.6 percent in June and slightly above 61.3 percent in July 2013. The average daily rate for a room in the area fell from $86.06 in June to $84.70 in the latest month, still above to $81.31 a year ago. The supply of rooms increased from 307,200 to 317,440 in the month. Fresno area lodges also reported increased revenues of $17.06 million in July compared to $16.3 million the prior month and $15.81 million last year. Tulare/Visalia area lodges saw the average occupancy rate rise to 80.3 percent in July compared to 76.2 percent in June and 74 percent last year. The area's average daily rate stood at $90.58 in the month compared to $91.09 in June and $87.38 a year ago. There were 167,555 rooms available in the Tulare/Visalia area in July, up from 162,150 in June. Revenues also increased, going from $11.26 million in June and $10.83 million a year ago to $12.19 million in July. Statewide, the average occupancy rate stood at 81.5 percent in July, up from 78 percent in June and 80.3 percent a year ago. The average daily rate for a room in California increased to $150.63 in the month compared to $142.95 in June and $139.97 in July 2013. With a combined supply of just more than 15.63 million rooms in the month, lodges in the state reported revenues of around $1.92 billion in July, up from $1.68 billion the month before and $1.74 billion the year before.
Written on 08/21/2014, 1:37 pm by Business Journal staff
WNC, a national real estate investor, announced today the completion of a 47-unit affordable housing community in Tulare. The company provided $6.4 million in low-income housing tax credit equity to fund the project. Kaweah Management Company and the Pacific Companies helped develop the property at 1500 Aspen Avenue.  “We are pleased to deliver The Aspens, a high quality, yet affordable housing option to the families of Tulare that are most in need,” Michael Gaber, WNC executive vice president and chief operating officer, said in a statement.  The property is available to families earning 30 to 60 percent of the area's median income and has both two and three-bedroom units. On-site amenities include a swimming pool, clubhouse with community room, children's playground, picnic area, computer lab, central laundry room and on-site management.  “We couldn't be happier to work with our development partners, including the Pacific Companies, the City of Tulare, the Housing Authority of Tulare County and Rabobank,” Gaber said.  Based in Irvine, California, WNC is a national investor in real estate and community development initiatives. Since being founded in 1971, the company has acquired more than $6.3 billion in assets from a more 1,200 properties across the country. WNC has facilitated the development of 17 low-income community projects since 2000. 
Written on 08/21/2014, 1:24 pm by Business Journal staff
Longtime travel marketing expert Rhonda Salisbury will take over as the new CEO of the Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau in Madera County beginning Sept. 1, the organization announced today. Salisbury replaces current CEO Dan Cunning, who will stay on as the new director of special projects development after leading the organization for the last six years. Prior to joining the Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau in 2011, Salisbury endorsed Madera County tourism in various capacities over the last 30 years, including her work for a number of properties like The Pines Resort at Bass Lake and Paradise Springs north of Oakhurst. During her time as director of marketing with the visitors bureau, Salisbury has overseen a number of initiatives to promote the Yosemite area to travelers. Among them was the creation of the first annual Yosemite Festival in Oakhurst Community Park to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Yosemite Grant by Abraham Lincoln. She also helped land the "Lure & Lore of Yosemite" collection of historic Yosemite memorabilia on display at the Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau lobby in Oakhurst through Dec. 31. Salisbury played a key role in developing the award-winning Majestic Mountain Loop in partnership with the Visalia Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Fresno Yosemite International Airport. Launched in January 2013, the promotion offers visitors a comprehensive guide and three-itinerary of California's three national parks. Besides her position at the visitors bureau, Salisbury currently serves as secretary/treasurer of the High Sierra Visitors Council, chair of the Yosemite Grant 150th Anniversary PR/Communications Committee and an ambassador for the California Travel Association. She was previously on the board of directors for the Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce and the Bass Lake Chamber of Commerce. The Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau manages one of 85 Tourism Business Improvement Districts in California, funded by local hotels via a 2 percent assessment on room nights. In June, the Madera County Board of Supervisors voted to renew the county's TBID for another 10 years to generate around $450,000 annually for marketing activities that promote the mountain area.
Written on 08/21/2014, 12:58 pm by Business Journal staff
The Fresno Regional Foundation announced the opening of its 2014 Environment Grant Cycle, offering $275,000 to community benefit organizations in Fresno, Tulare, Madera, Merced, Kings and Mariposa counties. Of the total, $225,000 is earmarked for nonprofit groups working on smart growth strategies to advance public health, social equity, environmental sustainability and economic growth. Grants range from $5,000 to $50,000 and can be one or two years in duration. Another $50,000 is earmarked to fund programs that focus on restoration of the San Joaquin River. The grants range from $10,000 to $50,000 for one year and are made possible by the Edward K Martin Family Fund. Environment Grants Information Sessions will take place in-person Tuesday, Sept. 9 at 11 a.m. at the Fresno Regional Foundation office at 5250 N. Palm Ave in Fresno, or via webinar on Wednesday, Sept. 10 at 11 a.m. For more information about the Environment grant cycle and to sign up for an information session, visit and click on Environment.
Written on 08/21/2014, 10:10 am by Business Journal staff
Fresno State will be providing 1,200 students with tablets and training this semester as part of President Joseph Castro's new DISCOVERe program. The students enrolled in the program will each receive $500 from a Fresno State Foundation grant to purchase a tablet. Students can choose between an iPad Air (iOS), Asus MemoPad (Android) or Lenovo Thinkpad (Windows) and each tablet comes bundled with one year of 4G Internet provided by AT&T. Training on how to use the tablets as well as laptops and smartphones will also be offered at the new DISCOVERe Hub that opens today on the first floor of Fresno State's Henry Madden Library. The program was among the first initiatives Castro announced when admitted as Fresno State's newest president last August. Castro said the program is the first step in replacing costly textbooks at the university while better training students for careers that are becoming increasingly dependent on technology. The effort comes out of Fresno State's new Tablet Program Taskforce chaired by Provost Dr. Lynnette Zelezny after investigating several successful tablet initiatives at other higher education institutions. Following special training over the past spring and summer, 33 faculty members at Fresno State will now teach a variety of courses incorporating tablet technology.

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