– April 19, 2015

What do you think of all the national attention to California's drought?


gordonwebster Gordon Webster - Publisher
gordonwebster Gabriel Dillard - Managing Editor

Latest Local News

Written on 04/17/2015, 2:00 pm by Business Journal staff
Sierra Bancorp, parent of Porterville-based Bank of the Sierra, announced a regular quarterly cash dividend of 10 cents per share.
Written on 04/17/2015, 10:46 am by Business Journal staff
Valley unemployment rates were mostly down in March, and remained on a downward trend year-over-year. Fresno County's March unemployment rate was 11.2 percent, down from 11.6 percent in February and below 13.9 percent a year ago. Month over month, nonfarm employment grew by 2,600 jobs while 500 farm jobs were lost. Educational and health services had the largest month-over gain of 1,200 jobs. Year over year, total industry employment rose by 12,000 jobs, bolstered by 14,500 nonfarm jobs minus 2,500 farm jobs. Tulare County's unemployment rate was 13.2 percent in March, down from 13.4 percent in February and below 15.9 percent a year ago. Farm jobs decreased by 2,000 last month, while nonfarm industries added a net 200 jobs. Year over year, 1,400 farm jobs were lost while nonfarm industries added 2,900 jobs. Madera County's unemployment rate increased to 11.5 percent from 11.2 percent last month, though it was below 13.2 percent a year ago. Month over month the farm industry shed 2,300 jobs, while nonfarm industries lost 100 jobs. Year over year, the farm indusrty lost 500 jobs while the non farm sector gained 100 jobs. Kings County reported a March unemployment rate of 11.9 percent, down from 12.2 percent last in February and below 14.6 percent a year ago. Month over month, farm industries gained 100 jobs while 200 nonfarm jobs were lost. Year over year, the farm industry netted 100 jobs while nonfarm industries gained 800 jobs.
Written on 04/17/2015, 10:17 am by Business Journal staff
Fresno Pacific University has moved its spring 2015 commencement ceremony to the Selland Arena due to a record number of graduating students.  The university estimates that approximately 570 students from the traditional program, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary will be eligible for the ceremony. The event will take place at 7 p.m. on May 8.  “Commencement is always a great day, and this year is especially thrilling because we have more graduates than ever ready to step into positions in the Valley and beyond,” said Stephen Varvis, university provost and senior vice president. Juan Martinez, vice provost and academic director of the Hispanic Center at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, will deliver the keynote speech. Martinez is a member of the university board of trustees and has international experience and Central Valley ties.  In the past, university commencement ceremonies have been held on-campus. 
Written on 04/17/2015, 8:59 am by Business Journal staff
Local Girl Scout Isabella K. set a new personal record this cookie-selling season, moving 2,556 boxes and winning the title of top cookie seller in Fresno County.  This season’s total was an improvement from her 1,940 figure last year, and placed Isabella among the top 108 sellers in the Central California South district. The district covers five counties: Fresno, Kern, Madera, Kings and Tulare.  Ariana of Troop 3049 was the top seller in Kings County, selling 1,300 packages of cookies. Annalise of Troop 2641 took home the honor in Madera County, moving 1,570 boxes while Ariel of Troop 2713 earned the top cookie-selling title in Tulare County with 2,700 packages. Kern County’s Hailey A. of Troop 376 claimed the top spot in the region, selling 6,115 packages of cookies.  The girls joined more than 100 other local Girl Scouts who earned the title of Super Seller Secret Society Honors (SSSSH). The self-named organization includes Girl Scouts who sell more than 1,000 packages of cookies. 
Written on 04/16/2015, 3:46 pm by Business Journal staff
The Madera County Sheriff's Office announced Thursday that Sharlane Smith, co-owner of Smith Manor Grace Chapel in Madera, was arrested on numerous counts of fraud. The arrest follows weeks of investigation into allegations that Smith Manor was intentionally overcharging the County of Madera for coroner services. The sheriff's office alleges Smith intentionally added charges to the county's monthly bill for services that were not provided. Since 2007, Smith Manor has held the county's coroner contract for services including transportation, storage, autopsy facilities and dispositions of deceased people, according to the sheriff's office. An employee answering the phone at Smith Manor this afternoon said she was instructed to tell people inquiring about the charges that they "don't know anything." The sheriff's office said a search warrant was served on the business March 31, and several employees were interviewed but no one was taken into custody. The sheriff also seized numerous business records. The sheriff said it appears the fraudulent billing took place "over a period of many years." Coroner contract services have been reassigned to other local entities until another provider is found, according to the sheriff's office. “This case is particularly troubling due to the blatant theft and violation of trust by the vendor, as well as how long they were able to continue this deception despite monthly review of the billings by staff members," said Madera County Sheriff Jay Varney in a statement. "We will be reviewing this process and implementing safeguards to prevent future abuse of this kind." About a year ago, the family of Wrainey C. Farmer — who died April 11, 2013 — sued Smith Manor with allegations that it mistakenly embalmed and displayed another man in Farmer's favorite suit and tie during a scheduled viewing April 17. Later in the day, Farmer's body was displayed in an open casket without the consent of the Farmer family, according to a complaint filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court. "The body of Mr. Farmer was presented in a grossly mutilated and distorted form," according to the complaint. "Mr. Farmer looked like a drowning victim. This was the last memory the Farmer Family had of Mr. Farmer."
Written on 04/16/2015, 10:14 am by Business Journal staff
Tulare Regional Medical Center will host a grand-opening celebration today for its new West Street Community Health Center.  The facility at 325 N. West St. in Tulare, is meant to improve access to health care for members of the city’s westside community and will have a special focus on geriatric services.  “There is growing need for health-care services and our integrated delivery system is laser-focused on meeting our community’s health care needs,” said Dr. Benny Benzeevi, chairman for HealthCare Conglomerate Associates (HCCA).  The organization manages Tulare Regional and its health care district and worked closely with the city of Tulare to install a new bus stop directly adjacent to the clinic. Grand-opening festivities will begin at 5 p.m. and include a live broadcast from La Preciosa radio, a Zumba demonstration from Evolutions Fitness & Wellness Center, a taco truck and free prizes.  HCCA will host a similar grand-opening ceremony for its new community health center in Earlimart next week. The clinic is located on the campus of Earlimart Elementary School and is the first school site-based community health care center in Tulare County.  The grand opening celebration for the Earlimart Community Health Center will be at 5 p.m. on April 23. 
Written on 04/16/2015, 10:12 am by Business Journal staff
Communities First Financial Corp., parent company of Fresno First Bank, announced net income of $646,000 for the first quarter, up nearly 9 percent from last year. “We are pleased to report our best quarterly results in the Company’s history,” statedRick Whitsell, president and CEO of Communities First. “Q1 2015 continues our story ofgrowth, improved earnings and credit quality. Our Board and associates are workinghard every day to add new clients and enhance shareholder value.” In addition, total assets grew to $265.3 million in the quarter, compared to $253.7 million on Dec. 31, 2014 and $220 million on March 31, 2014. Founded in 2005, Fresno First Bank trades on the OTCQX Marketplace under the symbol CFST.
Written on 04/16/2015, 10:06 am by Business Journal staff
(AP) — A judge has sentenced an 18-year-old man to 120 days in jail for clubbing 925 Foster Farms chickens to death in Fresno last year. The Fresno Bee reports ( ) the judge also ordered Gabriel Quintero to enroll in anger management and drug treatment programs and to take mental health counseling once he is out of jail. He also has to pay Foster Farms $4,620 for the dead chickens. Authorities say Quintero and two boys, ages 15 and 17, broke into a Foster Farms chicken shed in Caruthers and used a golf club and other weapons to kill the chickens on Sept 20. The juveniles were taken to the Juvenile Justice Center and faced similar charges. Because they are minors, the juveniles weren't identified and their court proceedings were kept confidential. ___Information from: The Fresno Bee,
Written on 04/16/2015, 9:53 am by Business Journal Staff
Drip irrigation manufacturer and distributor Netafim is expanding its Fresno-based operations with the opening of a new 102,000-square-foot distribution center at 1550 North Peach Ave. Company officials said the new facility is designed to “handle the increased demand for [the company’s] industry-leading drip irrigation products.” To commemorate its 50th anniversary — and the opening of its new Fresno center — the company will hold an open house and ribbon cutting ceremony on April 22 from 3 to 4 p.m. at the distribution center. At the event, Netafim USA CEO John Vikupitz will talk about the expansion as well as the company’s ongoing commitment to doing business in Fresno and helping Valley farmers maintain production in the face of the state’s prolonged drought.  A number of local and state officials are also expected to attend the event. Netafim’s pioneering drip irrigation products were originally developed in the 1960s by a group of Israeli farmers as a solution to the lack of quality water for food production. Today, the company is a dominant player in the global micro-irrigation industry, controlling more than one-third of the worldwide market. The Netafim International Group currently operates in 130 countries and has more than 3,000 employees. Netafim USA is headquartered in Fresno, with a corporate office located at 5470 E. Home Ave.
Written on 04/16/2015, 8:46 am by Business Journal staff
Proteus Inc. will host a series of community forums this spring to discuss needed services for families and neighborhoods in the Central Valley.  Attendees will have the opportunity to provide input on barriers low-income community members face and to assist in identifying programs which can address those barriers. The forum results will be used to guide and help the nonprofit bring new services to communities.  “Community forums are designed to listen to the community and collect information on their perceived needs. The community’s input is very helpful as we plan programs for the future,” said Jesus Gamboa, chief operations officer for Proteus.  Forums will take place in the following Proteus offices: • Delano Service Center, 1816 Cecil Ave., Delano, at 3 p.m. on April 17. • Kerman Service Center, 437 S. Madera Ave., Kerman, at 5 p.m. on April 17. • Dinuba Service Center, 400 W. Tulare Suite C, Dinuba, at 5 p.m. on April 21. • Porterville Service Center, 54 N. Main St., Porterville, at 5:30 p.m. on April 21. • Selma Service Center, 3706 McCall Ave., Suite 116, Selma, at 4:30 p.m. on April 23.  • Hanford Service Center, 216 W. 7th St., Hanford, at 7 p.m. on May 6.  • Visalia Service Center, 224 N.W. 3rd, Visalia, at 5 p.m. on April 28.  Proteus is a private nonprofit, community-based organization with more than 45 years experience serving farmworkers and other low-income residents throughout the Central Valley and Southern California. The organization offers programs in adult basic and vocational education, job training, employment-related services, energy assistance, gang prevention and childcare. 

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