TODAY

– January 25, 2015

Valley hospitals get nod for maternity care

Fresno's Saint Agnes Medical Center recently received an honor from Healthgrades for its maternity care — the seventh straight year to receive the recognition.

Saint Agnes received the Healthgrades Maternity Care Excellence award. It was the only Fresno hospital to receive the award, which was also given to Madera Community Hospital and Tulare Regional Medical Center.

Healthgrades is an online resource for information about physicians and hospitals viewed by more than 224 million visitors.

Latest Local News

Written on 01/23/2015, 3:57 pm by BRADLEY KLAPPER, 
MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN, Associated Press
(AP) — After a euphoric month that left Americans dreaming of holidays in Havana and Cubans imagining U.S. products at their corner stores, the first real...
Written on 01/23/2015, 2:09 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — A California law that took effect last year is making it harder for parents to opt out of vaccinating their children — an issue that has taken new prominence as the state deals with an outbreak of measles. State figures show personal-belief exemptions for kindergarteners dropped from 3.1 percent in 2013 to 2.5 percent last year. A Los Angeles Times analysis published Friday found the rate also fell in school districts with high numbers of unvaccinated kindergarteners. The law requires parents claiming a personal-belief exemption from vaccines to have a signed form from their doctor. Public health officials have worried about the re-emergence of vaccine-preventable diseases like measles and whooping cough due to unimmunized schoolchildren. A measles outbreak that originated at Disneyland last month has sickened six dozen people in six states and Mexico, with the majority of infections in California. The vast majority of those who got sick had not gotten the measles-mumps-rubella, or MMR, vaccine. While still a scourge in many corners of the world, measles has been all but eradicated in the U.S. since 2000 because of vaccinations. But the virus has made a comeback in recent years, in part because of people obtaining personal-belief exemptions from rules that say children must get their shots to enroll in school. Others have delayed getting their children vaccinated because they still believe now-discredited research linking the measles vaccine to autism.
Written on 01/23/2015, 1:51 pm by STEVE ROTHWELL, AP Markets Writer
(AP) — The stock market moved lower Friday, snapping four days of gains, as U.S. companies turned in mixed results for the fourth quarter. Shares of tissue and diaper maker Kimberly-Clark dropped after the company's earnings fell short of expectations. UPS slid after it cut its earnings outlook. KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index slipped seven points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,055 as of 3:20 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 92 points, or 0.6 percent, to 17,721. The Nasdaq composite bucked the trend. It rose seven points, or 0.2 percent, to 4,758. EARNINGS RUSH: Corporations are reporting fourth-quarter results. While oil earnings are expected to weigh on results, companies in the S&P 500 index are still expected to increase profits by 4.1 percent, according to data from S&P Capital IQ. That's slower than the 4.9 percent increase in the same period a year earlier. TOUGH YEAR AHEAD: Kimberly-Clark, which makes Huggies diapers and Kleenex tissue, reported a fourth-quarter loss of $83 million. The company also forecast lower sales in 2015. The stock dropped $7.29, or 6.1 percent, to $111.69. DELIVERING BAD NEWS: UPS said it was hurt by the huge cost of guaranteeing punctual deliveries over the holidays. That forced the shipping company to cut its outlook for the year. UPS hired more workers and boosted capacity at its facilities during the busy holiday season to avoid a repeat of 2013, when shippers struggled with a deluge of orders. The stock slumped $10.90, or 9.5 percent, to $103.34. EUROPE FACTOR: On Thursday, global stocks rose sharply after the European Central Bank announced that it would buy 60 billion euros ($68 billion) of government and corporate bonds each month at least through September 2016. The 1.1 trillion euro program signals the willingness of the ECB to boost the economies in the 19-nation euro currency alliance. EUROPEAN TRADING: France's CAC 40 jumped 1.93 percent and Germany's DAX rose 2.1 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 added 0.5 percent. STARBUCKS EARNINGS: Starbucks quarterly earnings soared 82 percent as the coffee chain attracted more customers over the holidays, thanks to its expanded food and drink menu. The company's stock jumped $5.38, or 6.5 percent, to $88.12 Friday. HOT BOX: Shares of Box, a data storage company, surged 68 percent as the company debuted in the market. Box gained $9.56 to $23.56. THE QUOTE: U.S. stocks should give investors returns of 8 to 9 percent this year, says Paul Christopher, Head of International Strategy, Wells Fargo Investment Institute. Stocks will likely benefit from rising consumer confidence, as a drop in gasoline price leaves people with more money. "We think that the positives outweigh the negatives and it should be an occasion for buying," said Christopher. BOND TRADING: In government bond trading, prices rose. The yield on the 10-year government bond fell to 1.83 percent from 1.86 on Thursday. CURRENCIES: The dollar continued to strengthen against most major currencies. Against the euro, the dollar traded at $1.1265 from $1.356. The euro is trading at its lowest against the dollar in more than a decade. The U.S. currency slipped slightly against the Japanese yen, dropping to 117.81 yen from 118.56 yen the previous day.
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. Year over year, farm employment fell by 800 jobs while non-farm employment expanded by 8,400 jobs. Educational and health services employment saw the largest year-over gain with an additional 2,900 jobs. Professional and business services increased by 1,900 jobs, while construction gained 1,200 jobs. Tulare County's December unemployment rate was 12.7 percent, down from 13.6 percent a year ago. Farm industry employment increased slightly year-over-year, while non-farm jobs received a 1-percent boost. Madera County posted a 10.5 percent unemployment rate in December, down slightly from 10.8 percent a year ago. Farm jobs increased by 7.1 percent on a year-over basis, while non-farm employment fell 1.7 percent. Kings County's unemployment rate was 11.6 percent in December, down from 12.8 percent a year ago. The farm industry lost 1.7 percent of its jobs while the non-farm industry grew by nearly 1 percent. California's December unemployment rate was 6.7 percent, down from 7.9 percent last year.
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, 10:44 am by TOM RAUM, Associated Press
(AP) — Union membership in the U.S. is down slightly, making up just over 11 percent of the workforce last year. That's a drop of 0.2 percentage points from the year before. The Labor Department says public-sector workers have the highest union membership rate at nearly 36 percent. That's more than five times higher than membership of private-sector workers at less than 7 percent. Workers in education, training and library jobs and in protective service jobs have the highest unionization rate, at 35 percent. Earnings were higher for union members last year, at $970 a week versus $763 a week for non-union members. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says the report suggests that with 58 months of consecutive job growth, "workers made great strides and confronted great challenges."
Written on 01/23/2015, 10:43 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — More than $300,000 in world-class wine stolen from a famed Napa Valley, California, restaurant has been recovered from a private cellar in North Carolina. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports (http://bit.ly/1EBrXkQ ) that the wine was stolen on Christmas Day from the French Laundry restaurant, which is rated three stars in the Michelin guide and has twice been named the best in the world by Restaurant Magazine. Napa County sheriff's Capt. Doug Pike says it's unclear how the 76 bottles of mainly rare French wine ended up in Greensboro. No arrests have been made. Pike says the stolen wine included Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, a single bottle of which can cost up to $10,000. Winery owners use laser and digital technology on its corks and capsules to curb counterfeiting and theft. ___Information from: The Santa Rosa Press Democrat, http://www.pressdemocrat.com
Written on 01/23/2015, 10:40 am by SCOTT MAYEROWITZ, AP Airlines Writer
(AP) — Apparently, airline passengers aren't buying enough garden gnomes, superhero pajamas and heated cat shelters. SkyMall has filed for bankruptcy. The quirky in-flight shopping catalog has been a mainstay on airlines for more than three decades. Passengers with nowhere to go would pull it from the seatback and flip through the pages. While flying high over Iowa, they could dream about owning a $16,000 multisensory home sauna or maybe just a grill spatula with a built-in flashlight for $29.95. But in recent years, passengers have found other distractions. More planes have seatback TV screens. The federal government now allows us to keep Kindles and iPads on during the entire flight. And most jets in the U.S. now have Wi-Fi meaning passengers can chat with friends back home or actually do work.
Written on 01/23/2015, 10:30 am by Leah
General Director Fresno Grand Opera What we do: Fresno Grand Opera is a professional opera company that produces and presents world class performing arts for the residents of Fresno and California’s entire Central Valley region. It provides educational as well as career development opportunities for young artists and serves as a catalyst and resource for the cultural growth of Central California. Education: Bachelor of Music from CSU Stanislaus in Turlock, CA Age: 33 Family: Single, no children. How did you become executive director of the Townsend Opera in Modesto at age 26?I began working in my field as an intern with the Modesto Symphony Orchestra (MSO) when I was in college, and was fortunate to have multiple professional opportunities with the MSO when I finished my degree. I spent time working in development, facility operations and orchestra management before becoming director of development of the MSO when I was 24. After spending 18 months in that role, I was hired by Townsend Opera in February 2008 to replace the founder of the company, who was battling lung cancer at the time and would ultimately pass away seven months later. What are the duties of an opera company’s general/artistic director?The general director of an opera company serves as the CEO of the organization while guiding the artistic vision of the company. It is an interesting combination of business acumen and artistic programming. In my role, I am responsible for programming and casting the company’s artistic activities, fundraising, guiding our marketing efforts, overseeing upwards of 75-100 contract employees and advocating for the art form in our community. How did you become general director of the Fresno Grand Opera?In planning for the 2014/15 season, Townsend Opera and Fresno Grand Opera developed an artistic partnership to co-produce the two operas seen in each community. When the artistic partnership was finalized, I was approached by the FGO board of directors and asked to replace founding General Director Ron Eichman, who had been looking to leave the company after 16 years to work on a new project in the community. I view my assuming this position as a further extension of what I believe is a smart artistic partnership between the opera companies of our two communities. Can you tell us a little about the Opera Remix Initiative, and if we can expect to see some of that in Fresno?Opera Remix was created in 2011 to experiment with how opera can connect with a 21st century American audience. As much as I adore the art form, I believe opera lacks cultural relevance in our country, and my goal is to try to find ways for our company to better connect with and serve our community. We have experimented with a number of different ideas and projects under the auspices of Opera Remix, some with great success and others not. But we are constantly working to make opera more relevant in our culture. I am personally very driven by my desire to better connect opera to my time and place in the world, so I anticipate Opera Remix will be a part of my work in Fresno as well. What are some other new things Fresno opera fans can expect under your leadership?I think there are two areas where we will see some new things happening. First, I imagine we will start to explore different kinds of repertoire that are new to the company. We have done a lot of the 19th century Italian operas over the years, so I would like to see us explore some of the American operatic repertoire. There has been a lot of great opera written in this country in the last 20 years, and I would like to see our company begin to explore that a little bit. Second, I believe we will start to find new ways to add value to our community through the work of the opera. There are a lot of organizations that serve the less fortunate in our community and I would like to see the opera partnering with them to improve people’s lives through the arts. What are the challenges and opportunities of overseeing two separate opera companies?There are some significant opportunities as a result of overseeing two separate opera companies. First and foremost, our companies become much more sustainable as we continue to navigate the post-recession economy. There are also a lot more opportunities to do different kinds of projects that might have been beyond the grasp of one of the companies individually. We are also gaining national attention for our opera companies by exploring this new management model, as this has potential to be implemented in other places around the country. There are definitely challenges as well, both personal and structural. I like to be deeply involved in every aspect of what our companies do, which becomes much more challenging when overseeing two companies. There is also the geographic limitation of not being able to be in two places at the same time. Technology makes it very easy to work remotely, but there is no replacement for being physically present at all times. What was the best advice you ever received?Follow your heart and chase your dreams. You’ll never be disappointed. What are your roots in the Central Valley?I was born and raised in Fresno, and have never lived outside of the valley. I attended Easterby and Centennial Elementary Schools, Computech Middle School, Edison High School and Fresno City College. My entire family lives in Fresno. My mom is the principal of Fort Miller Junior High School, my uncle is the principal of McLane High School, and my dad works for Mitchell Aire, a locally owned air conditioning company in Fresno. What was your very first job and what did you learn from it?My very first job (which continues as a hobby to this day) was refereeing soccer.  In that job, I learned how (and continue to learn how) to deal with all kinds of people, personalities and cultures in all kinds of different situations. There is a lot of intensity in the game of soccer, and I have learned the subtle art of conflict resolution in my time on the soccer field. What do you like to do in your spare time?Oddly enough, I referee professional and Division 1 college soccer as a hobby. I played soccer at the collegiate level and began refereeing soccer when I was 14 years old. I now referee in the second division professional league in this country and referee in all of the Division 1 conferences on the West Coast, including the Pac 12, Mountain West, Big West, and Western Athletic conferences.
Written on 01/23/2015, 10:27 am by Hannah Esqueda
In 2015, real estate developers are increasingly selecting smaller Fresno County communities and parts of the South Valley for future homebuilding projects.Many local homebuilders have either broken ground or opened new developments outside the City of Fresno’s sphere of influence during the last few months.“We held the grand-opening event for our Avalon Quarter development in Visalia just last week and we have already sold 11 homes in the development,” said Paul Castanos. He recently took over as owner of Wathen Castanos Homes during a leadership transition between the family members.The 55-home development is the company's third in Visalia in several years, a result of the growing demand for new housing coupled with an abundant supply of land in the city, Castanos said.“We realized the potential in Visalia since we had already been in Hanford and Lemoore,” he said. “We knew that [Highway] 198 makes it very convenient to get around in that region and thought it would be a good location.”Based in Fresno, Wathen Castanos was the fourth-most active homebuilder in the Central Valley last year, according to Construction Monitor building permit records. The company has already established a reputation for itself among the Fresno and Clovis communities. When developing in Visalia however, Wathen Castanos had to start from scratch and do several community outreach projects in order to help build awareness within the South Valley.“We really wanted to let people know who we are and that we are committed to the communities we build in,” Castanos said. “We've been pleased with the local response and I think people know who we are now.”The company's acquisition of Mangano Homes last year also opened up the South Valley market and San Luis Obispo areas and provided the developer with more land. Now, the company is poised to open a fourth development in Visalia in February. Pre-sale for homes in the 60-home Oak Run project in northwest Visalia will begin next month and feature 1,500 to 2,200-square-foot homes beginning in the low $200,000s.Woodside Homes of Fresno was also among the most active homebuilders last year. The company has just finished building its 111-unit Kensington Estates development in Fowler. The properties range from three to six bedrooms and 2,258 to 3,517 square feet with prices running between $284,990 and $359,990.“[We] chose to build in Fowler because we knew we could offer beautiful homes on large lots with large backyards,” said Chris Williams, president of Woodside Homes of Fresno.Finding enough land is expected to become increasingly important to developers as the City of Fresno's General Plan update takes effect. The plan was approved by city leaders last month and seeks to limit development at the city's edges, renewing focus on infill projects at the city's core.Williams said that while there is still great demand for new housing within the city, he has seen very little market demand for infill developments. Like most developers, he said it is too soon to say whether or not the General Plan will deter him from building new communities within Fresno.Infill development and the revitalization of downtown continue to be on the agenda for Granville Homes and its GV Urban division. The homebuilder is expected to open its Brio on Broadway, multi-family housing project in downtown in early March. The 52-unit project offers residential units on multiple levels ranging from 602 to 2,173 square feet that partially overlook a new park planned along Fulton Street, said Lisa Boyles, spokesperson for Granville Homes. An 800-square-foot commercial space will also be leased as part of the development. GV Urban also recently broke ground on The Lede, a 2.3-acre development on Van Ness Boulevard and Calaveras Street. The project will feature one and two-bedroom live/work townhomes and is scheduled to open early next year. Castanos said his company is also looking to develop infill projects and was lucky to acquire two land parcels in southeast Fresno near Fowler and Belmont Avenues. The developer plans to turn the land into two separate 35- and 27-unit housing developments. The Creekside Villa project will be located in the Fancher Creek area. “As much as we’d like to develop some new lots, we want to help the city,” Castanos said. “We’re trying to embrace what Fresno is doing with their general plan for growth and development.”But developers are eager to continue developing in the north side of town and Boyles said Granville has plans this year to continue its Via Fiore development at Copper River Ranch in northeast Fresno as well as the La Ventana development west of Highway 99. Castanos said his company is also eager to break ground in northwest Fresno and said that while he understands the desire for infill, he would still like the city to be open to future development in that part of town.“It’s kind of the only direction left to go,’ he said. “You run into the San Joaquin River north towards Madera and if you go east it’s all mostly developed.

Latest State News

Written on 01/23/2015, 2:09 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — A California law that took...
Written on 01/23/2015, 10:43 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — More than $300,000 in...
Written on 01/23/2015, 8:19 am by JUSTIN PRITCHARD, Associated Press
 (AP) — Labor strife at seaports along...
Written on 01/23/2015, 8:09 am by ALICIA CHANG, AP Science Writer
(AP) — A major measles outbreak traced...

Latest National News

Written on 01/23/2015, 3:57 pm by BRADLEY KLAPPER, 
MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN, Associated Press
(AP) — After a euphoric month that left...
Written on 01/23/2015, 1:51 pm by STEVE ROTHWELL, AP Markets Writer
(AP) — The stock market moved lower...
Written on 01/23/2015, 10:44 am by TOM RAUM, Associated Press
(AP) — Union membership in the U.S. is...
Written on 01/23/2015, 10:40 am by SCOTT MAYEROWITZ, AP Airlines Writer
(AP) — Apparently, airline passengers...