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– July 24, 2014

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Written on 07/24/2014, 11:30 am by Business Journal Staff
Netafim USA, a Fresno-based irrigation company, will present a Farm Grown Central Valley Water Forum Aug. 29 at Chukchansi Park prior to the Tacoma...
Written on 07/24/2014, 11:27 am by Business Journal staff
A recent Firebaugh High School graduate is the recepient of a full-tuition technical school scholarship as part of a contest sponsored by Dirty Jobs television show host Mike Rowe. Colton Stuhr is one of 33 winners of the mikeroweWORKS/UTI Scholarship contest. Stuhr will receive the scholarship to the auto and diesel programs at the Sacramento campus of Universal Technical Institute. Stuhr submitted an application as well as a video making a case for why he deserved to win the scholarship. More than 270 finalist videos were posted on UTI's Facebook page for public voting, with Stuhr garnering 464 votes. The value of each scholarship is about $30,000, with the 33 winners receiving a total of $1 million in scholarship money. In his video, Stuhr talks about his love of working with his hands, helping his grandfather fix tractors, old pickups and even diesel trucks. He also enrolled in his high school's automotive program, learning skills he has used to fix his own 1992 Ford F250 truck. He graduated this year with plans to become a mechanic. "It's what i want to do with my life, and UTI is where i need to be to start that," Stuhr said in his video. MikeroweWORKS is the foundation started by Rowe to help people train for technical jobs such as automotive repair.
Written on 07/24/2014, 11:20 am by Ben Keller, Business Journal staff writer
Another vacant lot is getting new life in downtown Fresno as Pyramid Homes makes progress on a 16-studio apartment project at Divisadero Street and College Avenue. Pyramid Homes began construction around eight weeks ago on the 6,000 square-foot project sited on a dirt lot at 1102 E. Divisadero Street. The apartments, dubbed Courtyard Studios, will feature a pair of two-story studios near the street and another 14 single-level units measuring 400 square feet each toward the back. Massoud Assemi, president of Pyramid Homes, said he is expecting a lot of interest from downtown Fresno's creative and tech-oriented class when the new studios finish up some time before the end of the year. "It's meant for singles," Assemi said. "I think we need to do stuff like this to build downtown up." The apartments will be managed by Granville Realty. Assemi said each unit will rent for around $600 to $700 a month. Pyramid Homes and Assemi's son, Reza Assemi, were also the developers behind several other residential projects in downtown Fresno's cultural arts district, including the Pearl Building, Vagabond Lofts, H Street Lofts, the Iron Bird Lofts and Studio 64.
Written on 07/24/2014, 11:16 am by Business Journal staff
Hefty fines aren't the only thing awaiting drunk drivers in Fresno. A new list also showed car insurance rates in Fresno among the highest in the country after a DUI conviction. The list, compiled by consumer information website NerdWallet, ranked 150 of the nation's largest cities in order of the most fatal alcohol-related car accidents. Fresno came in at No. 7 with 0.1614 crashes per 1,000 residents from 2010 to 2012, 80 in total and twice as many per capita as the national average. Topping the list was San Bernardino with 0.4368 crashes per 1,000 residents for a total of 92 during the sam period. But crashes weren't the only consequence, as Fresno drivers charged with a DUI found insurance premiums climbing 137.87 percent. While the average Fresno driver pays $887.93 for car insurance each year, that amount increases to $2,112.10 after a DUI. Using data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, NerdWallet's analysis also showed 10,322 people were killed in alcohol-related vehicle accidents in 2012 alone. The cost of drunk driving is estimated at $199 billion each year in the U.S., including fines, court costs and increases in car insurance premiums. The national average annual car insurance premium increase after receiving a DUI is 75.3 percent a year, or around $857.53. Six of the 10 cities with the most fatal-alcohol related car crashes per capita are cities where drunk drivers see relatively low car insurance rate increases, like No. 2 Mobile, Ala. with a 46.98 percent increase and Tulsa, Okla. with a 42.34 percent increase.
Written on 07/24/2014, 8:10 am by Business Journal Staff
Johnson Capital, a national real estate capital advisory firm in Sacramento, has arranged a $6.67 million loan for a buyer to purchase the 192-unit Willow Lakes Apartment Homes in Corcoran. The loan is secured by the apartment complex. Housing Solutions LLC of Martinez, Calif. is the buyer. Lanford Tobe, senior vice president of Johnson Capital, hooked up with Streamline Realty Funding in New York, which provided the loan under its bridge loan program. The seller, Willow Lakes RECA LLC, which purchased the complex from the bank after it was foreclosed on, refurbished the apartment complex before putting it up for sale. The apartments remained open during the transition. The purchase was made possible by a three-year, interest-only, non-recourse loan that includes two one-year extension options. The loan amount represents 85 percent of the purchase price and has an interest rate in the low 5 percent range. "This 85 percent loan-to-value loan is a great example of the low-cost, short-term bridge loans that we can now arrange for multifamily investors,” Tobe said. “Since 25 percent to 30 percent down is the norm and financing in the Central Valley towns near Fresno is limited, we are very pleased to arrange a purchase transaction that required only a 15 percent down payment.” The property, Willow Lakes Apartment Homes, was built in 1987 and is a townhome apartment community situated on 16.87 gated acres in a private park-like setting. The property consists of one-story flats, two-story townhome-style buildings and a central one-story clubhouse with a new fitness room. Willow Lakes features three lakes with fountains as well as many willow trees throughout the property. The unit mix is comprised of 37 one-bedroom units, 117 two-bedroom units and 36 three-bedroom units. The complex includes two swimming pools and a spa.
Written on 07/23/2014, 4:06 pm by Business Journal staff
The Riverbend Golf Club in Madera County has changed its name to the Dragonfly Golf Club as part of a major expansion and upgrade that also includes new golf carts and membership opportunities. Located east of Highway 41 on Avenue 12, the golf club has been undergoing several changes in the last few months under President of Operations Gene Gabelmann. "Golf is an activity for all ages and skill levels," said Gabelmann, in a release. "We want Dragonfly to be a place where enjoyment goes beyond the score of the day." Among the changes are 75 new golf carts with onboard GPS touch screens, improvement to golf course conditions, water feature renovations and a remodel of the clubhouse. Members are also benefiting from new reduced golf cart fees, up to seven-day advance reservation for walking and riding rates and Monday-through-Friday play for weekday members. As well, there are new new men's, ladies, twilight and corporate leagues and a new golf performance institute for all ages to learn and excel at the game. The Super Monday summer play deal charges a fee of just $35 to play, including the golf cart. Golfers can even get food prepared for them or on the links when they order through the touch screen display on the golf cart. Future plans include a major expansion of existing facilities, a monumental entry structure, a way-finding system and grounds upgrades.
Written on 07/23/2014, 3:18 pm by Business Journal staff
Poindexter Nut Company will hold a job fair July 28 in Reedley as the company looks to fill around 75 positions in advance of the harvest season. The job fair, being held in partnership with the Economic Development Corporation serving Fresno County, will last from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Reedley Workforce Connection office at 1680 E. Manning Ave. Applicants are asked to bring a resume or other information to fill out an application. Poindexter Nut Company is seeking more than 75 seasonal and full-time workers. Positions available include sanitation, sorters, forklift operators, material handlers and stackers and truck drivers. Those hired following the event will work at the company's newly expanded walnut processing plant located at 5414 E. Floral Ave. in Selma. More information about the company or the recruitment fair can be found by calling the Fresno County EDC at (559) 464-5550. Established in the 1969, Poindexter Nut Company now employs more than 400 employees seasonally and process some 45 million pounds of walnuts a year that are exported to more than 45 countries.
Written on 07/23/2014, 2:09 pm by Business Journal staff
IFCO Systems, a Florida-based supplier of reusable plastic containers and pallets, will join Fresno's manufacturing sector when it moves into a 204,000 square-foot building on Elm Avenue this summer. Headquartered in Tampa, Fla., IFCO Systems supplies and sanitizes reusable plastic containers for the fresh food industry from more than 210 locations worldwide. Having operated in Fresno once before, the company will rejoin the Central Valley's fresh food sector, leasing a facility at 2855 S. Elm Ave. from Fresno Investments LLC, a division of The Buzz Oates Group of Companies based in Sacramento. Representing Fresno Investments, Nick Audino, senior vice president with Newmark Grubb Pearson Commercial, said IFCO Systems plans to be in the building some time in September or October, employing around 50 workers. With more than 180 million reusable plastic containers in circulation, IFCO Systems is the leading provider of reusable plastic containers to the fresh food sector worldwide. Established around 20 years ago, IFCO Systems is owned by supply-chain logistics company Brambles Limited based in Sydney, Australia.
Written on 07/23/2014, 1:23 pm by Chuck Harvey
A decline in farm workers from Mexico has some Fresno-area farmers investing in automated harvesters and planting crops that are less labor intensive, such as almonds. As another alternative, some farmers are simply cutting back on the crops they grow in response to labor shortages and lack of water. Mexican labor availability is on a sharp decline, not just because national immigration reform has stalled, but also because Mexican farm owners are enticing workers to stay home. With fewer farm workers and lack of a new immigration policy, the days of manual labor-intensive farming are dwindling, leading to a new day of robots and harvesting machines. However, industry experts don’t see automation and machines taking over San Joaquin Valley crop harvest operations completely. “You can’t mechanically pick cucumbers,” said Manuel Cunha Jr., president of the Nisei Farmers League in Fresno. He added that most tree fruit, including apricots, is much too sensitive to be picked by machine. But more harvest machines are appearing on farms as worker numbers come up short. Changes in agriculture practices are expected to require a new age of ag education. Currently the U.S. agricultural education system trains farmers and food-system workers in higher-tech systems, but farm workers are primarily left out. A recent study by the University of California, Davis, found that Mexico’s fresh produce sector is expanding, adding workers and paying more in wages. Meanwhile the number of ag workers available in Mexico is falling, down 25 percent from 1995 to 2010, the study reported. So U.S. ag operations will have a tougher time finding workers. This is despite a 20 percent growth in pay for farmworkers in the U.S. since 2007 to nearly $11 an hour. Data from the study shows that while Mexico’s farm labor supply is declining, the demand for labor on Mexican farms is rising. The study, conducted by Professor J. Edward Taylor and PHD student Diane Charlton of the Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics, concludes that U.S. growers must shift to less labor-intensive crop production. It also suggested seeking migrant workers from countries other than Mexico or investing in labor saving agricultural technologies and management practices. It is quite a shift for California farms. Only 2 percent of the state’s hired farmworkers are U.S. born and most are from Mexico. With farmworker numbers also falling in Mexico, the country now depends on farm laborers coming up from Guatemala. The study pointed out that Mexico is in the transitional phase of being both a farm labor exporter and importer. The country had about 8.6 million farmworkers in 1997, but the number has steadily dropped to 6.1 million in 2010. The farm labor supply from rural Mexico is decreasing by 12,800 people annually, which works out to be a 0.15 percent decrease in the Mexican farm labor supply each year working in Mexico or the U.S. The study found that U.S. and Mexican farmers now compete for the dwindling supply of farmworkers. Cunha said he disagrees with the study’s finding that Mexican farms will persuade more of the country’s farm workers to stay at home. He said economic conditions in Mexico took a turn for the worse about two months ago and that will make working there less advantageous. The U.S. also attracts farm workers from Central America, Cunha said. Cunha pointed out that one of the problems the U.S. faces is an aging workforce. He said many of today’s farm workers are approaching age 60. Younger laborers are less attracted to farm work, Cunha said. But in terms of pay, U.S. farms will continue to lead the way, Cunha said. He pointed out that pay for farm workers in Mexico has grown from about $9 a day to about $30 a day. But it is well below what they can earn in the U.S. Still, finding enough farm workers to get through the long season remains difficult. Barry Bedwell, president of the California Grape & Tree Fruit League in Fresno, stressed the need for immigration reform that allows Mexican farmworkers to earn legal status. Bedwell said he doesn’t disagree with the findings of the study. But the current system is not working, he said. He said the H2A visa program is too slow to handle the large numbers of workers needed in the U.S. Bedwell agreed that more mechanism is needed in the farm industry. But farmworkers will also continue to be vital, he said. The UC Davis study found that with fewer workers available, demand will increase for more skilled workers to handle mechanization and more productive labor planning and practices. With rising worker productivity will come a demand for higher wages. That could be good for rural communities, the study determined. As for ways to improve the farm labor supply in the U.S., the study found that legalizing Mexican farm workers is not a good option. Taylor and Charlton pointed out that legalization will increase workers’ economic options in the United States and that makes farm workers more mobile. They said farm work traditionally has been a first stop for new immigrants, who move on to non-farm jobs when they are able. Cunha said he questions that finding. “You have got to have a good guest worker program,” he said. Cunha added that it is important for workers to be able to go home and visit their families in the off-season. “They way it is now, that doesn’t happen,” he said.
Written on 07/23/2014, 11:22 am by Business Journal Staff
On Thursday at the Fresno Food Expo, Fresno-based P*DE*Q will be launching a PIZZA*Q line, comprised of pizza dough and pizza crust and four types of take ’n’ bake pizzas: cheese, pepperoni, pepperoni sausage and vegetable. P*DE*Q and its flagship product, P*DE*Qs, a gluten-free Brazilian-inspired tapioca-based cheese bread, was launched at the first Fresno Food Expo in 2011. The company has since embraced each following event as an opportunity to diversify its product offerings, while continuing to pursue more ambitious gluten-free products and business development objectives. This time around, P*DE*Q has become a brand with a line of products beyond P*DE*Qs. “Our customers have shared some of the challenges they face because either they or a family member has special dietary needs,” said Flavia Takahashi-Flores, owner of P*DE*Q in a release, “Many times, when you have a gluten intolerance, you are excluded from fully enjoying birthdays, holidays, and other special occasions.” P*DE*Q has already changed that with its P*DE*Qs and intends to change it even further by bringing more full-flavored gluten-free goodies to the dinner table. “The PIZZA*Q dough ball is a very unique product. It has the ability to be stretched and worked in to any form — pizza, flat bread, calzones, breadsticks and more,” Takahashi-Flores said. “Our gluten-free dough provides the same experience as a regular, wheat-based pizza dough ball and this allows a family that has a loved one with gluten intolerance to once again enjoy a pizza night together and make their own creation.” Besides being gluten and wheat-free, the PIZZA*Q dough ball is also dairy, corn and soy free. The product line is produced in a dedicated gluten-free facility. “Our third year at the Fresno Food Expo is a celebration of the evolution of every segment of our business,” Takahashi-Flores said. “Our alliance with Wawona Frozen foods has increased our manufacturing capacity. We now have two P*DE*Q stores that sell our products directly to customers.” With P*DE*Q’s operational infrastructure in place, Takahashi-Flores believes P*DE*Q is primed for expansion. “We have an array of gluten-free products, from cupcakes to breads, cookies and crackers,” she said. “We will continue to launch products and product lines based on our customers feedback, with the intent of large scale manufacturing.” Takahashi-Flores said the launch of PIZZA*Q as the company’s first step toward more P*DE*Q products at the dinner table. “Ultimately, it is our goal to continue to be a relevant brand, with flavorful products, that anyone would enjoy,” she said. The Fresno Food Expo public event runs from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday at the Fresno Convention Center, 848 M St. in Downtown Fresno. P*DE*Q will be located at booth 59.

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