– March 4, 2015

Latest Local News

Written on 03/04/2015, 10:31 am by Business Journal staff
Fresno Pacific University (FPU) will host the George Fox University Doctor of Educational Leadership (Ed.D) beginning this spring. The doctorate is geared...
Written on 03/04/2015, 10:08 am by Business Journal Staff
For the 15th consecutive month, the San Joaquin Valley Business Conditions Index tallied a positive reading of the Valley economy. But the February index came in at 52.9, slipping for the third straight month from the record high of 59.9 recorded in November 2014. An index reading greater than 50.0 indicates an expansionary economy over the next three to six months, said Dr. Ernie Goss, research faculty with the Craig School of Business at Fresno State. “Much like the national economy, the San Joaquin Valley economy is expanding at a solid pace. Based on our surveys over the past several months, that growth should remain positive for the next three to six months,” said Goss. Last month, businesses in the area reported on the impact of the West Coast dock disputes that significantly slowed shipping activity in and out of the western U.S. About 27 percent of firms reported negative impacts on sales as a result of the port slowdown. And 55 percent of firms said the port slowdown negatively impacted company purchases of inputs and raw materials and supplies. The index, produced by the Craig School, is considered a leading economic indicator and is compiled from a survey of individuals making company purchasing decisions in Fresno, Madera, Kings and Tulare counties. The index uses the same methodology as that of the national Institute for Supply Management. Other survey findings in February showed the region’s hiring gauge remained above growth neutral, despite slipping to 51.1 in February from 52.3 in January. Goss points to the port slowdown as a cause of the decline. “Due to shipping issues tied to West coast dock disputes, firms expanded employment at a much slower pace in February. The recent settlement of the dock labor issue will put the region back on a healthier employment growth path,” he said.     The prices-paid component of the index, which tracks the wholesale cost of purchased raw materials and supplies, slid below growth neutral last month, to 47.9 from 54.9 in January. Goss said he does not expect deflation or declining wholesale prices, but believes the inflation reading will trend lower in upcoming months.     And economic optimism, captured by the business confidence index, sank to 54.8 in February from January’s much stronger 64.2 and Goss believes the port slowdown also had an impact on last month’s business confidence reading.
Written on 03/04/2015, 9:31 am by Business Journal staff
A low-power radio station dedicated to classic hits from artists like Frank Sinatra and Barbara Streisand launched in Fresno County last month.  KJOI 104.3 FM transmits over the airwaves via its radio tower in Biola, the small farming community west of Fresno. The tower has a range of 12 miles, but in a prepared statement, owner Jim Zahn said the nearby raisin growers are perfect for the station's demographic.  The radio station is operated by Western Education Alliance, a nonprofit Zahn founded in 1996 while developing an educational station for West Hills College Coalinga. The station offers commercial-free programming and is supported by listener donations.  While the station's radio tower has a limited range, Zahn has partnered with Cocola Broadcasting to rebroadcast the audio over the air on digital television station KHSC 16.1 in the Fresno market. Zahn has previously partnered with the company and owner Gary Cocola on the broadcasts for several television stations including KMSG Channel 59 in the 1980's. "I've known [Cocola] since the third grade. We went to school together at St. Theresa's," Zahn said. "We were both fascinated by radio." Listeners can also access KJOI through a stream on its website or via the Tune-In free app for Apple and Android smartphones. 
Written on 03/04/2015, 8:51 am by Business Journal staff
Registration is now open for the second annual West Hills Metric Century cycling event on March 21.  The event will have several course options including a fun ride, a mini-metric and the full 100 kilometer, or 61 mile, distance. Courses begin and end at the West Hills College Coalinga (WHCC) campus located at 300 Cherry Lane and all proceeds will go towards student programs at the college. The school is co-sponsoring the event with the Fresno Cycling Club.  "Now that this has become an annual event I want to see it grow as a fundraiser for scholarships and other student needs at the college," said Carole Goldsmith, WHCCC president.  The route will take riders up Los Gatos Creek Park Road, past oil derricks and fields and through winding hilly terrain to the San Benito County line and back.  "The last couple of miles of the ride before reaching the county line will offer some tough 8 to 12 percent grades," said Tom Kulikov, committee member.  WHCC will provide a secure "valet" bike service, three rest stops and an after-ride meal featuring tri-tip beef, chicken and a full salad bar. Special gift bags will be given to the first 100 metric and mini-metric participants who register online and 20 additional prizes ranging in value from $20-$250 will be awarded in a drawing.  Online registration will continue through March 20 and riders can sign in at the event on March 21 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. All riders must be on the road by 10 a.m. Fees to register for the event are: $45 for the 61-mile Metric Century ride; $35 for the 40-mile Mini-Metric ride and $15 for the 17-mile fun ride.  Members of the student government will also conduct a companion walk/run event for students without bicycles or helmets. 
Written on 03/04/2015, 8:48 am by John Lindt
The Visalia City Council has begun closed-door real estate negotiations with a Los Angeles hotel developer to build a new hotel near the Visalia Convention Center. The council is talking to hotel developer Remo Pizzichemi, vice president of operations for The Welcome Group, based in Encino California. The company owns and operates a handful of hotels around the country including two in Sacramento. Their hotel brands vary from Hilton and Holiday Inn to Hampton Inn and others. Downtown Visalia already has two major hotel properties near the convention center, including the 195-room Marriott and the 72-room Comfort Suites. Long discussed is the possibility of adding more overnight rooms near the convention center that could help the city accommodate larger conventions. Asked if he could comment, Mayor Steve Nelsen said he could not except to confirm “there is a hotel interested in coming downtown.” Indeed, Nelsen said there has been a recent uptick in interest by hotel developers in Visalia. Plans have been filed for new hotels on Plaza Drive and another on Cypress Avenue off Akers Street. But Nelsen would like to see more. “I have always wanted to see a hotel out by the sports complex on Highway 63, and we have always talked about bringing in another hotel around the Convention Center in Downtown,” he said. In addition he said the city owns other properties near downtown that would work. Some of these properties are also on the closed-door agenda this week, without revealing the identity of the other negotiating party. “There are lots of moving parts right now, and I think something is going to happen,” Nelsen said. Details are not set, but one concept is in order to make room for a new hotel, the city might relocate the planning department to clear a site on the east end of the convention center and make it available for a ground lease. In addition, the lease might include the parking lot on the east end. The idea may have both support and opposition. “I do think we need more hotel rooms near the convention center,” said hotelier Anil Chagan, who owns several properties in town. “The problem is we can’t accommodate some of the larger conventions because we don’t have enough rooms within walking distance of the convention center.” But Chagan adds: “I don’t like the idea of the city being involved because that competes with private enterprise.” With the Marriott and Chagan’s Comfort Suites, there are two large hotels downtown already. The city might play a roll clearing the land and leasing it to a developer. While the practice may have been controversial 25 year ago,  today it is common, even typical around convention centers in cities from Dallas to Casper from Newport Beach to Grover Beach. There are some 5,600 rooms in the greater Visalia/Tulare/Porterville metro area. Bed tax monies in Visalia total about $2.2 million a year and growing. In the past year, Smith Travel says this metro area’s “rooms sold” are up 6.1 percent and revenue per available room is up 10 percent. On Plaza Drive, developers have filed plan for a new Residence Inn. Even earlier, a plan for a Holiday Inn Express near Adventure Park had been floated. Chagan says the “investment atmosphere in Visalia is good right now,” and he would not be surprised if a number of deals were done. Sequoia Park visitation is helping to drive the increase, and Chagan “hopes that in 2015 the economy in Europe” allows this key segment in the Visalia tourist market to continue to grow. In a related matter, the city plans to spend about $4 million this year to upgrade the convention center.
Written on 03/03/2015, 11:56 am by Business Journal staff
Acclaimed actor Viola Davis has canceled her announced appearance at September's Central California Women's Conference due to a scheduling conflict. Davis, star of ABC's How to Get Away with Murder, was scheduled to discuss the issue of hunger at the annual conference. She announced via Twitter she would be unable to deliver the talk due to a filming conflict. "I wish you all continued success in your fight against hunger," Davis wrote on Twitter. Davis recently announced winning the role of Amanda Waller in the upcoming DC Comics super-villain movie Suicide Squad. Shooting for the movie will take place in Toronto through September 2015, according to published reports. The women's conference wrote a note via Facebook confirming the cancellation. Organizers said they are working to quickly find a new celebrity keynote speaker for the Sept. 22 event in Fresno.
Written on 03/03/2015, 11:38 am by Business Journal Staff
Home prices in Fresno, including distressed sales, increased by 6.9 percent in January 2015 compared to January 2014, according to a report released today by CoreLogic. On a month-over-month basis, Fresno home prices, excluding distressed sales, increased by 0.9 percent in January compared with December 2014. In Madera, home prices, including distressed sales, rose by 9.5 percent in January 2015 compared to January 2014. Excluding distressed sales, the year-over-year increase in Madera was 10.6 percent according to the report. On a month-over-month basis, Madera home prices, including distressed sales, increased by 0.2 percent in January 2015. In the Visalia-Porterville area, home prices, including distressed sales, increased by 3.1 percent in January 2015 compared to January 2014. On a month-over-month basis, Tulare County home prices, including distressed sales, increased by 0.6 percent in January 2015. In the Hanford-Corcoran area, home prices, including distressed sales, increased by 6.8 percent in January 2015 compared to January 2014. On a month-over-month basis, Kings County home prices, including distressed sales, increased by 1.6 percent in January 2015. The report is the latest evidence that the Central Valley is outpacing many other parts of the county in terms of home sales price appreciation. According to the report, average U.S. home prices nationwide rose by 5.7 percent in January compared with January 2014. “House price appreciation has generally been stronger in the western half of the nation and weakest in the mid-Atlantic and northeast states,” said Dr. Frank Nothaft, chief economist at CoreLogic. “In part, these trends reflect the strength of regional economies.” Anand Nallathambi, CoreLogic’s president and CEO, predicts home prices “will continue to rise throughout the year and into 2016. A dearth of supply in many parts of the country is a big factor driving up prices,” he added.
Written on 03/03/2015, 9:46 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — A 9-year-old Fresno girl has won the 14th annual National Elementary School Spelling Bee. Her winning words: "hydrofoil" and "paucity." Ananya Vinay outspelled 34 other students in grades three to five to take the top spot at the event in Long Beach. Last year she placed fifth. The Fresno Bee reported Monday ( ) that the fourth-grader at Fugman Elementary School took home a $1,000 prize. The event is modeled after the Scripps National Spelling Bee held annually in Washington, D.C., but is geared toward younger students. The second place winner was a 10-year-old from Riverside who misspelled "medallion."
Written on 03/03/2015, 9:17 am by Business Journal Staff
The Edison High School Academic Building won the Excellence in Design award from the Coalition for Adequate School Housing and American Institute of Architects’ California Council. The award was presented to Darden Architects and Fresno Unified School District at the 2015 Coalition for Adequate Housing’s annual convention, held Feb 25 in Sacramento. Tony Avila, the project architect, Marty Dietz, Darden Architect’s managing principal and Jeff Friesen with FUSD accepted the honor at the convention. The excellence award in the “new built” category, the most prestigious honor given at the organization’s annual gathering, recognizes a building’s superior design, functionality sustainability and positive impact on the community. The EHS Academic Building, completed several years ago, features a modern, sleek exterior supported by bright yellow pillars and a dramatic glass-walled entrance. “We are very proud of this award and I am sure FUSD is too,” said Phil Dietz, Darden’s marketing director.
Written on 03/03/2015, 9:05 am by Business Journal staff
The Healthy Smiles Mobile Dental Foundation has received a $103,000 grant to help provide ongoing oral health services to more than 2,500 underserved children in Fresno, Kings, Madera and Merced counties. The Cigna Foundation is providing the "World of Difference" grant to help the Healthy Smiles Mobile Dental Foundation bring its mobile dental-office van to more than 75 rural and inner-city communities. The grant will help cover oral health supplies, sealants that prevent decay on primary molars and other expenses. “Every day, our dental professionals see children who are experiencing tooth decay and gum disease — health challenges that are completely preventable. We are excited to be joined by Cigna and the Cigna Foundation to expand our services so that more children of all backgrounds can enjoy smiles that last a lifetime,” said Tai Hartman, executive director for Fresno-based Healthy Smiles Mobile Dental Foundation.

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