– January 25, 2015

Latest Local News

Written on 01/23/2015, 1:43 pm by Business Journal staff
Fresno County's unemployment 11 percent last month, down from 12.1 percent last year and the lowest December rate since 2007.
Written on 01/23/2015, 1:30 pm by Business Journal Staff
Frenos State's announced today that its International Center for Water Technology (ICWT) received a $1.12 million grant from the Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board (FRWIB) to continue its research and partnership with industry and government agencies.  "We're excited to continue to support economic development in the Central Valley through expansion of the water cluster and water technology activities," said Daniel Clawson, project manager for ICWT. "This funding will allow our staff to continue to encourage new innovation and technology in all segments of the water field." The commitment follows a five-year grant from the FRWIB and comes in the form of a $124,541 grant with options through 2019. If all options are renewed, the school said the contracts will total $1.12 million.  ICWT has worked with 35 companies over the last year and a half and is one of several water research organizations located on the Fresno State campus, including the Center for Irrigation Technology, California Water Institute and Water, Energy and Technology Center.  Fresno State is also a partner in the Blue-Tech-Valley initiative, bringing the university, water agencies and private industry together for water research. 
Written on 01/23/2015, 10:15 am by Business Journal staff
The First 5 Fresno County Commission voted this week to approve the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission's management and operation of a licensed child development center to be housed in downtown Fresno. First 5's $15-million Lighthouse for Children facility is currently under construction, and will house the child development center when completed in March. The center will provide full-day child care services to an estimated 84 children — 60 preschool-aged, 16 toddlers and eight infants. It will feature a total of six classrooms. Once the center opens, it will take a few weeks to a few months to go through the licensing process, with enrollment to occur soon after. First 5's decision comes as the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission celebrates its 50th anniversary with a yearlong celebration. The nonprofit community action agency will hot a variety of events to discuss topics such as economic development, poverty, early childhood education, microfinance and human trafficking. Some of the nationally recognized speakers confirmed for the various events include: • David Bradley, National Community Action Foundation
 • Mark Pinsky, Opportunity Finance Network, President & CEO
 • Laurie Jackson, National Safe Place Network, President & CEO
 • Yasmina S. Vinci, National Head Start Association, Executive Director • 
Dorothy Stoneman, YouthBuild USA, Founder & CEO • 
Colonel James D. McDonough, Jr., Syracuse University – Institute for Veterans and Military FamiliesFor more information, visit
Written on 01/23/2015, 10:05 am by Business Journal Staff
The California Association of Realtors (CAR) is reporting that distressed home sales in the Central Valley decreased last month compared to December 2013.  In Fresno County, distressed homes accounted for 19 percent of total single-family home sales in December, down from the 24 percent reported in December 2013. Month-over-month there was a slight increase, however, as distressed sales accounted for 16 percent of total sales in November 2014.  Year-over-year distressed home sales in Kings County also dipped, with CAR reporting 26 percent in December 2014 compared to 28 percent the previous year. Distressed sales increased month-over-month, with only 17 percent reported in November 2014.  Both Tulare and Madera County saw year-over-year and month-over-month decreases for distressed home sales, according to CAR. Madera County distressed home sales represented 13 percent of total sales last month compared to 14 percent in November 2014 and 20 percent in December 2013.  Distressed home sales comprised 16 percent of total sales in Tulare County in December, compared to 17 percent the previous month and 26 percent in December 2013.  Statewide, the number of distressed sales recorded by CAR in December, 10.2 percent, was down from a year ago, when the share was 15.6 percent. 
Written on 01/22/2015, 4:27 pm by Hannah Esqueda
Local senior housing groups and retirement homes are busy making plans to meet increased market demand as the baby boomer generation quickly approaches the 65 and older age designation. “The silver tsunami of baby boomers is coming and we want to be ready for it,” said Jessica Lopez, executive director with The Terraces at San Joaquin Gardens in Fresno. The non-profit facility managed by the American Baptist Homes of the West is located in north Fresno and has more than 400 residents ranging from 68 to 102 years old. Lopez said that for too long the senior care industry operated in a reactionary way, building new housing, updating facilities and offering services only after a demonstrated demand. As the largest generation in decades ages, that sort of mentality will no longer be effective. “We had this hodgepodge of services built for what was needed in the moment,” Lopez said. “We’ve more recently switched to a pre-emptive approach.” Anticipating the needs of senior citizens is particularly vital to retirement facilities in California, as the state has one of the largest senior citizen populations in the country. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Aging, over half of the nation’s 65 and older population is concentrated in 12 states, including more than 4.6 million in California. By 2040, an estimated 79.7 million seniors are expected to live in the U.S. and they are predicted to increasingly seek assisted-living facilities as they age. Retirement facilities need to prepare as today’s senior citizens have a different set of needs and desires than previous elderly generations. Lopez said that meeting those expectations was at the forefront of The Terraces recent $121-million redevelopment project. The project began more than five years ago and was planned with input from many of the facility’s residents. The redevelopment has helped convert most fourplexes into duplexes while also adding more housing units to the 25-acre property, giving seniors more private space. Prior to the project, most buildings hadn’t been updated since the 1960’s. The renovation and addition of amenities like new dining options, gym, salon, spa, theater and library have all helped to do away with the institutional feeling, said Celeese Kai, community relations manager at The Terraces. Now, the property seems to have more in common with a college campus than a retirement facility, a key factor in helping to meet the needs of residents. “We really set a goal of creating a lifestyle of successful aging,” Lopez said. “We’re not a place where folks are here to grow old, we’re here for them to grow better.” Unlike traditional retirement facilities, The Terraces is a continued care retirement community, offering several stages of independent and assisted living, including memory care services. Kai said that by offering various levels of assistance, the facility is able to serve the needs of residents as they age, ensuring they can comfortably remain in the same place for the entirety of their retirement. “Essentially it means they don’t have to keep moving as their needs change. We provide an easy transition between the communities,” she said. Resident comfort is expected to be a major factor when baby boomers make their decision on where to spend their golden years. That’s why the luxurious lifestyle offered by Oakmont of Fresno has already appealed to so many within the Fresno area.   The facility won’t open until March but is already at 60 percent capacity for it’s 75,000-square-foot community. Oakmont will have 56 assisted living and 23 memory care units with floor plans ranging from 400 to 1,192-square-feet. “With the baby boomers coming we wanted to open this location and prepare,” said Valerie Epps, executive director of Oakmont of Fresno. “It’s helping to pave the way for that generation.” Founded by the Gallaher family, Santa Rosa-based Oakmont Management Group operates 15 luxury senior living centers throughout California and has assisted in the development of 40 retirement homes throughout the western United States. The facility at 5605 N. Gates Ave. will be the group’s first in the Central Valley and Epps said Oakmont chose to open in northwest Fresno after seeing a growing need for retirement housing in the area. “Our market research showed that this particular part of Fresno is underserved for seniors,” she said. “And there are currently no other luxury senior housing developments in the surrounding area.” By offering services like an on-site concierge physician, diabetic treatment program with nurses and a dietician and rejuvenation area, Oakmont ensures that seniors will be able to relax while also taking care of their medical needs. Additional amenities include a full fruit orchard, dog park, movie theater, chauffeur service and meals prepared by a local fine-dining chef. “It’s almost like being on a cruise ship,” Epps said. That cruise ship experience comes at a price however, and living arrangements run from $2,295 to $7,895 a month depending on which floor plan a resident chooses. Most seniors coming to Oakmont are making the decision with their families and about half are coming directly from another retirement facility, Epps said.   While The Terraces would not disclose their pricing options, Kai said the nonprofit does offer benevolent care for seniors who want to continue their stay but have run out of funds. In addition, most residents have come to the retirement facility on their own initiative and enter into the independent living program. “Our residents are planners. They’ve been through this with their own parents and know the process. They want to take care of it themselves so their kids don’t have to,” she said.
Written on 01/22/2015, 3:12 pm by Business Journal staff
Premier Valley Bank announced record earnings of $7.2 million for 2014, up 10 percent from the year prior. Income for the fourth quarter was $1.7 million, down slightly from $2 million in the fourth quarter of 2013. “We are pleased to report that 2014 was the most profitable year in the history of the Bank, the fourth consecutive year we have been able to make this statement," said J. Mike McGowan, president and CEO, in a statement. "These results have allowed us to increase our quarterly cash dividend from $.07 per share to $.08 per share and actively maintain our Share Repurchase Plan, under which the Bank is authorized to repurchase PVLY shares from shareholders who may wish to sell. "With the fundamentals in place and with local economic conditions continuing to improve, somewhat along the lines as other areas in the state of California, the outlook for 2015 and beyond is promising, indeed," he added.
Written on 01/22/2015, 1:32 pm by Business Journal staff
The Greater Fresno Area Chamber has released its 2014 report card of local elected officials and their business-related votes. On the Fresno City Council, Clint Olivier of District 7 was the only member to garner a perfect score, voting with the chamber on 10 key votes, including bus rapid transit, Fulton Mall street restoration, the 2035 General Plan Update and relocation of the Brenntag Pacific chemical warehouse. Steve Brandau of District 2 and Lee Brand of District 6 garnered a 90-percent score, with Brandau deviating from the chamber by supporting bus rapid transit and Brand by supporting the 2035 General Plan, according to the report card. Paul Caprioglio receive an 80-percent score, while Blong Xiong of District 1, Oliver Baines of District 3 and Sal Quintero of District 5 received 70-percent scores. Up in Sacramento, Senator Andy Vidak (R-Hanford) received the sole perfect score based on 17 key votes including paid sick leave, the water bond and driver's licenses for undocumented residents. Senator Tom Berryhill (R-Twain Harte) received a score of 82 percent, followed by Assemblymember Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) with 76 percent, Senator Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres) with 70 percent and Assemblymember Henry Perea (D-Fresno). The chamber gave Gov. Jerry Brown a score of 47 percent. Report card for Fresno City Council members: Report card for state elected officials:
Written on 01/22/2015, 11:21 am by Business Journal staff
Scott Sample will retire this spring from his position as Madera District Fair's CEO — a job he's held for nearly 20 years. During his tenure, Sample has managed operations of the fairgrounds, its annual four-day fair, 200-plus events each year, a flea market, race track and a lease agreement for The Commons at Madera Fair shopping center. Sample identified the 27-acre shopping center deal as the most notable of his accomplishments with the fair. The 300,000 square-foot project is anchored by retailers including Lowe's, Marshalls and Big 5 Sporting Goods. The public-private partnership between Newman Development Group and the Madera District Fair is a first of its kind for the state. “Our team is perhaps most proud of this endeavor because there hasn’t been any other fair that has taken on a partnership of this magnitude. Most importantly, the shopping center has given the fair financial security for years to come. Not to mention it has helped create local jobs and provide tax revenue for the city," Sample said in a statement. Sample is a Valley native, and perhaps best known as the traffic helicopter reporter "Captain Scotty" on local radio stations KMJ 580AM and KSKS 93.7FM. In fact, when Sample became CEO of the fairgrounds in 1995, he was still delivering traffic reports from the sky in the morning before heading to work at the fair. Sample will official retire in April. The Madera District Fair Board is currently accepting CEO applications and hopes to have the position filled by April 1. For application information, go to
Written on 01/22/2015, 10:55 am by Business Journal staff
When it comes to economic growth in 2014 — specifically in jobs — the Fresno area stood out on a global stage, according to a new report from the Brookings Institution. The Washington, D.C.-based think tank's Metropolitan Policy Program released findings that Fresno ranked 49th out of the world's 300 largest metropolitan areas based on per-capita gross domestic product (GDP) and employment growth. Macau, China was the world's top-performing city. Fresno was one of only four U.S. metro areas ranked among the 60 fastest growing metro economics worldwide. Austin and Houston, Texas and Raleigh, North Carolina were the other three. The report found that between 2013 and 2014, Fresno's employment grew by 4.5 percent to a total of 374,710 people. But in that same period, Fresno's GDP per capita fell by nearly 1 percent to $47,174. Fresno's GDP, or production of goods and services, was valued at $45.5 billion last year, ranking it 241st in the globe. The Brookings report also evaluated the extent to which the 300 metro areas have recovered to 2007 levels of income and employment. In the U.S., 32 out of 80 metros have fully recovered. Fresno is one of the 57 percent of North American metros that have yet to do so. The report evaluates Fresno as partially recovered.
Written on 01/21/2015, 4:48 pm by Business Journal staff
Fresno's United Security Bancshares, parent company of United Security Bank, reported net income of $6.2 million for 2014, down 14 percent from 2013. For the fourth quarter of 2014, United Security Bank reported $1.5 million in net income, down from $2.9 million the same quarter in 2013. Dennis R. Woods, president and Chief Executive Officer of the bank, stated: "2014 was an exceptional year for us with the termination of all formal regulatory agreements. We grew our loan portfolio over $60 million and continued to see positive momentum with reductions in non-performing assets and a year-over-year increase of 20 percent in core earnings. We are well positioned going into 2015 for continued success." The regulatory agreements Woods referenced date back to 2010, when the company entered into a formal written agreement with the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco intended to improve the overall condition of the bank through measures including increased board oversight, monitoring of asset quality and prohibition of capital-reducing measures, including cash dividends.

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