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– April 18, 2014

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Written on 04/17/2014, 4:38 pm by Business Journal staff
fresno-state-included-in-green-college-guideFor the third consecutive year, Fresno State was named by the Princeton Review as one of the most environmentally responsible colleges in the U.S. and...
Written on 04/17/2014, 2:03 pm by Business Journal staff
Homes sales increased throughout the San Joaquin Valley in March although activity was still sluggish compared to last year. According to a new report from the California Association of Realtors, home sales increased 16.6 percent in Fresno County during the month but dropped 19.1 percent year-over-year. The price of a median home in Fresno County stood at $202,100 in March, up 10.9 percent from $182,270 the prior month and 25.9 percent from $160,510 a year ago. Sales in Tulare County climbed 30.5 percent in the month but fell 15.1 percent compared to last year. The county's median home price inched up 1.3 percent to $165,380 over January's $163,330. That's also up 20.2 percent over $137,560 a year ago. Kings County made even more progress. Sales grew 38.6 percent in March but slipped 4.8 percent from last year. The median home price in the county stood at $179,230 in the month, down 1.8 percent from $182,500 in February but up 22.8 percent from $146,000 a year ago. Madera County saw its sales drop by 18.5 percent in March and 21.4 percent from last year. However, home prices in the county picked up in the month to $190,000, up 28.8 percent from February's median price of $147,500 and 39.7 percent from $136,000 in March 2013. Fresno County's unsold inventory index, or number of months to deplete the supply of homes at the current sales rate, stood at 5.2 months in March, down from 5.8 months in February but up from 3.8 months a year ago. Tulare County's index dropped to 4.7 months compared to 5.9 months in February but picked up from 3.2 months in March 2013. Kings County's inventory stood at 3.2 months in March, down from 4.4 months in February but a little better than 2.7 months a year ago, while Madera County home supply improved from 3.9 months in February and 3.5 months a year ago to 4.3 months in March. Statewide, home sales totaled 367,000 units in March, up 1.4 percent from 361,790 in February but down 12.3 percent from 418,310 a year ago. "While the demand for housing was up from February, the market is taking a hit from lower housing affordability compared to a year ago, which led to a decline in home sales from last year," said C.A.R. President Kevin Brown. "Moreover, concerns over tighter lending standards and increased borrowing costs are also contributing factors to the sluggish market as they both negatively impact the bottom line of home buyers who obtain financing through mortgages."
Written on 04/17/2014, 1:58 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — Tens of thousands of spring-run Chinook salmon are being released into the San Joaquin River, marking a major milestone in the federal plan to restore native fish populations to the state's second-longest river. The Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released 54,000 hatchery-produced salmon into the river from a site near Fresno on Thursday. Though environmentalists are celebrating the release, federal water managers say the state's drought means not all of the fish will return to spawn. The San Joaquin River carried the continent's southernmost salmon run until the Friant Dam was built above Fresno to capture its water for crops. The restoration effort is the result of a 2006 legal settlement that ended a decades-long legal tussle between farmers, environmentalists and the federal government.
Written on 04/17/2014, 1:48 pm by Business Journal staff
Central Valley Community Bank increased its earnings by nearly 50 percent in the first quarter over the same period last year. The Fresno-based bank reported revenues of $2.62 million, or 24 cent per share, for the three months ended March 31. That's up 46.7 percent compared to $1.78 million, or 18 cents per share, for the first quarter of 2013. The bank attributed much of the increase to a higher net interest income in 2014 due to the collection of non accrual loans totaling $1.62 million, which resulted in a recovery of interest income of $721,000. Net interest income before the provision for credit losses during the first quarter of the year was $10.09 million compared to $6.85 million the year before. The bank also increased its assets from $870.42 million in the first quarter of 2013 to $1.13 billion in the latest quarter. Non-performing assets decreased 35.93 percent over the year to $4.98 million. Deposits increased 33.89 percent from $735.73 million to $985.05 million, while loans were up 31.6 percent from $390.67 million to $514.38 million. Shareholders' equity increased by 5.1 percent since December to $6.13 million President and CEO Dan Doyle said asset quality ratios have continued to improve with the reductions in non-performing loans and the overall increase in total loans from the bank's recent acquisition of Visalia Community Bank last July. He added, however, that the bank continues to feel the impact of low loan demand and a low interest rate environment driven by the Federal Reserve's influence on the control of interest rates, as well as strong competition for loans throughout the San Joaquin Valley. "The current concern for the Central Valley's food and agriculture-related industry is the reduced supply of and demand for affordable water," said Doyle, who retires at the end of the year to be replaced by veteran banker James Ford. "This is the third year with below-average snow and rainfall, which is negatively affecting agribusiness as a whole, including those employed directly or indirectly in the service business supporting this critical industry in our region."Established in 1979, Central Valley Community Bank has 21 full-service branches from Sacramento to Visalia. The bank also operates commercial real estate lending, SBA lending and agribusiness lending departments.
Written on 04/17/2014, 1:45 pm by Business Journal staff
The Fresno metropolitan area had some of the highest home price and inventory increases in the country, according to a report by Realtor.com. The National Housing Trend Report for March 2014 showed the median list price of a home increased 5.3 percent in March over the year before, going from $189,800 to $199,000. Out of 146 metros evaluated in the report, the Fresno metro had the eighth highest increase in the country. Prices increased 17.4 percent in the area over the last year from a median price of $195,800 to $229,900. That's behind metros like Houston growing 18.5 percent, Denver at 20.1 percent and No. 1 Stockton-Lodi at 38.9 percent. Housing inventory also grew over the year before, rising 9.5 percent nationwide to 1,841,844 homes listed on Realtor.com. Going from 1,946 homes listed on the website in March 2013, the Fresno area has since climbed to 3,049 listings in the latest month. That's an increase of 56.7 percent, just sixth behind Nashville, Tenn. (56.8 percent), Orlando, Fla. (56.8 percent), Bakersfield (57.3 percent), Orange County (63.5 percent) and Stockton-Lodi (68.6 percent). The median age of inventory increased 22.9 percent across the country over the last year with homes now 102 days on the market on average. In the Fresno metro, the increase in inventory meant homes spent an average of 61 days on the market in March. That's up 45.2 percent from a year ago, 12th behind areas like Springfield, Ill. increasing by 57.3 percent, Stockton-Lodi by 60 percent, Oakland, Calif. by 80 percent and Rochester, N.Y. growing the most by 98.4 percent. According to Realtor.com, a real estate listing service offered by Move, Inc., home sales activity remains sluggish but added inventory may mean more affordable prices in many markets for the first-time and move-up homebuyers alike. "Bidding wars in many markets last year frequently elevated offer prices beyond the reach of first-time buyers who could scarcely save for the down payment," said Steve Berkowitz, CEO of Move, in a release. "While inventory is still low, the continuing annual lift in the number of homes on the market that we've seen over the first months of 2014 is an indicator that buying conditions this year may be notable improved from the frenzied pace of last spring."
Written on 04/17/2014, 11:25 am by Business Journal staff
The rightful leaders of the tribe that runs the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino in Coarsegold is still in doubt pending an order today by the Interior Board of Indian Appeals to have an administrative judge weigh in on the years-long dispute. The decision follows a letter by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in February stating that it would work with the tribal council elected in December 2010 to administer housing funds, operate federal service programs and carry out government relations with the tribe. Reggie Lewis, chairman of that tribal council and current head of the Chukchansi Economic Development Authority tasked with overseeing the casino's finances, praised the position. However, another faction led by Tex McDonald now running the day-to-day operations at the casino quickly sought to reverse the decision through the Interior Board of Indian Appeals, referencing the latest Dec. 7 election as its claim to tribal leadership. The IBIA's order delays the immediate effect of the Bureau of Indian Affairs' February decision until an administrative judge sorts out the merits of each council and decides which group of the Chukchansi Tribe the federal government will conduct business with. Leadership of the tribe has been in dispute since a December 2011 tribal election, leading to two factions laying claim as the rightful council.
Written on 04/17/2014, 9:51 am by Business Journal Staff
Zocalo Public Square will present the discussion “Will Obamacare Fail Fresno?” at 7 p.m. April 30 at Frank's Place at Warnors Center for the Performing Arts, 1432 Fulton St. in Fresno. Zócalo Public Square is a not-for-profit daily ideas exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.  In Fresno County, approximately 200,000 people did not have health insurance before Obamacare. But the county is struggling to enroll people in the new exchanges. And while some low-income residents are signing up to participate in the Medi-Cal expansion that comes with the new law, it’s unclear whether many Fresno doctors will accept new Medi-Cal patients. Fresno County, which has a history of resisting state and federal social programs, may not build the infrastructure needed to handle a greater volume of enrollments. Why has Fresno been so challenging for Obamacare, and what can communities and local governments do to make it easier for people to receive these new benefits? Will newly insured people who have never had health insurance be able to get the care they need? Fresno County Department of Social Services Deputy Director Deborah Martinez, Centro La Familia Executive Director Margarita Rocha and Clinica Sierra Vista Deputy Chief of Programs Kevin Hamilton visit Zócalo to discuss whether Fresno will be able to complete this transition to Obamacare, or whether the region could be left behind by this historic change in healthcare.
Written on 04/16/2014, 10:15 am by Business Journal staff
A national search for the new dean of the Lyles College of Engineering at Fresno State ended when interim dean Dr. Ram Nunna was selected for the position on a permanent basis. Nunna has been a faculty member at Fresno State since 1998 and interim dean at the Lyles College of Engineering since August 2010. Prior to his current job, he served as associate dean and chair of Fresno State's Department of Electric and Computer Engineering. "Dr. Nunna has done an exceptional job leading the Lyles College of Engineering," said Fresno State Provost Andrew Hoff, announcing Nunna's appointment. "He has forged a number of significant partnerships that will benefit the college in the years to come. I am certain the Lyles College will thrive under his leadership." Nunna is currently a member of Fresno State President Joseph Castro's Commission on the Future of Agriculture, the DISCOVERe tablet initiative and the university's Task Force on Internationalization. He previously served on the President's Commission on Human Relations and Equity, the Grants Research Advisory Board, the Academic Senate's GRaduate Committee and Academic Policy and Planning Committee. Nunna earned his doctoral and master's degrees in computer engineering from the University of Louisiana, Lafayette, and a bachelor's degree in electronics and communication from Bangalore University in India. One of eight academic colleges at Fresno State, the Lyles College of Engineering offers six nationally accredited degree programs in civil engineering, computer engineering, construction management, electrical engineering, geomatics engineering and mechanical engineering. The college also offers graduate degrees and options in civl engineering, computer engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and water resources and environmental engineering.
Written on 04/15/2014, 1:59 pm by Business Journal staff
Completion rates dropped throughout California's community college system, a testament of the five years of deep budget cuts that stifled opportunities for students. According to the Student Success Scorecard released by the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office, only 48.1 percent of community college students who enrolled in 2007 transferred or received a degree within six years. That's down from 50.7 percent of students who enrolled in the previous six-year cohort. The figures were an even lower 40.5 percent for those entering college unprepared in math or English as opposed to 70.2 percent who did not need to take remedial education. At Fresno City College, which enrolls around 16,408 full-time students, the six-year completion rate was 41.7 percent overall for those that enrolled in 2007. That compares to 45.5 percent for 2006 enrollees and 47 percent for those that enrolled in 2003. College of the Sequoias, with some 14,000 students, went from a 47.2 percent six-year completion rate for new students in 2003 and 47.7 percent for 2006 enrollees to 42.8 percent for 2007. Reedley College, with nearly 17,700 students, stood at a 46 percent six-year completion rate for 2007 enrolled students. That's down slightly from 46.5 percent for students enrolling the year before and 47.6 percent for those that signed up in 2003. Porterville College, serving around 5,000 students, dropped from a 51.9 percent for 2006 first-time students to 45.2 percent for new students in 2007. That's still up from the 43.7 percent rate for 2003. West Hills College Coalinga, enrolling nearly 4,400 students, had a student success rate of 45 percent for 2007 enrolled students, down from 53.6 percent of new students in 2006 and 49.4 percent for those beginning classes in 2003. West Hills College Lemoore, with around 5,700 students, had a six-year completion rate of 42.5 percent for new students in 2007, down from 48.3 percent for the 2006 cohort. The Student Success Scorecard, available on the college chancellor's website at scorecard.cccco.edu/scorecard.aspx, includes measures such as persistence, career technical education courses taken, and the need for remedial education. The numbers are also broken down by age, sex, rate and ethnicity. Community College Chancellor Brice Harris said much of the decline in completion rates is due to the recession and budget cuts that led to 20 percent fewer credit classes throughout the 112 college system. "Students with goals of transferring competed for fewer seats at California State University and University of California," Harris said, in a  release. "Sadly, the only transfer activity that increased was for students who could afford to go out of state." However, the rate of students persistent past the first year of their education increased, as did the rate of students who completed 30 units.
Written on 04/15/2014, 12:00 pm by Business Journal staff
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. paid more than $302 million in property taxes and franchise fees across its service territory, boosting revenues for cash-starved Valley counties. The company, which provides gas and electric service to 15 million Californians, paid $158 million in property taxes to 49 counties and 243 cities in which it operates. The payment, covering the period from January 1 to June 30, is in addition to the year's first property tax installment of $158 million paid in December. PG&E's entire property tax bill for the 2013 fiscal year totaled nearly $317 million, an increase of $11 million over the previous year. Fresno County took in $11.85 million of the latest property tax installment, up from $11.45 million last year, followed by Madera County with $1.68 million, up from $1.6 million. Kings County got $974,557 of the total, up from $900,000 the year before, and Tulare County received $389,583, down from $401,058. In addition, PG&E completed its 2013 franchise fee payments to cities and counties this month. The fees, which give the utility the right to use public streets for gas and electric facilities, totaled more than $144 million, an increase of almost $8 million from the previous year's payments. Of that, $40 million was for natural gas facilities and equipment and nearly $104 million was for electric infrastructure. A recent economic impact report showed that PG&E contributed $22.2 billion of economic activity and supported nearly 71,600 jobs in its Northern and Central California service area in 2012.

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