TODAY

– January 29, 2015

Some employers embrace, encourage March Madness

Pitting salespersons against each other in a bracket format, placing a television in the food court and openly watching the games as a group are all part of the tactics local managers utilize to make sure March Madness is an opportunity instead of a distraction.

Every year, research firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. releases a study reflecting dollar impact nationwide of employees viewing the NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship tournament through online streaming services instead of working. Last year that estimate was $175 million. 

The Fresno Grizzlies minor league baseball club turns March Madness into a revenue builder by openly encouraging competition amongst its inside sales staff by creating a March Madness bracket of its 15-20 ticket account executives. 

“Let’s face it we all check our phones for results and this way we actually get business results from March Madness,” said Chris Kutz, Grizzlies’ media relations coordinator.

The employees advance by bringing in more revenue from season tickets sales than their opponent in that given period of time.

Just like the basketball tournament, the club seeds its salespersons and the insanity of upsets is bound to happen every year.

Not only do the Grizzlies’ employees fill out their brackets for the action on the court, but the action in the office.

“Its fun because some of them will get offended if you don’t pick them and they feel they have to prove their worth against people that doubted them,” Kutz said.

Kutz said his pick for the sales champion is Chris Cox and he’d like to see Miami win on the court.

For Zach Navo, owner of Navo Financial, Inc. in Visalia, his solution is simple — he just watches the games with his staff on the TV in his office.

“It’s an insurance office — it gets monotonous if you don’t keep it active,” Navo said.

Many of his employees are big sports fans, so March is an exciting time of year.

“Everyone loves to watch it and everyone has their team and we talk the smack to each other,” Navo said.

Moe Bagunu, the general manager of the Manchester Center in Fresno, said he hasn’t seen the tournament become a detriment to the mall’s productivity, but in the past he’s used the distraction to lure costumers in.

Previously, when Bagunu managed the Arden Fair in Sacramento, he had a big screen television placed in the food court for the customers to watch. The staff would also update a large bracket as soon as the games were completed.

 “It was great because while the wives were shopping, the guys would hang out in the food court and watch the games,” Bagunu said.

Revered sports business columnist Daren Rovell questioned the authenticity of the study by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. in 2011 in an article for CNBC (now he is employed by ESPN).

“The horrible assumption that the firm makes is that it assumes that every minute we are ‘working,’ we are productive, which of course is not true,” Rovell wrote. “Every day is filled with moments that we are doing something that our employers technically might not be paying us for.”

Although not directly mentioning Rovel, last year the research firm essentially responded by saying “lighten up.”

“Statisticians, economists, academia and college basketball fans will likely scoff at that estimate, and rightfully so,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, in the annual report. “It is to be taken with a grain of salt, as it is meant to be a tongue-in-cheek look at how technology continues to blur the line between our professional and personal lives.”

However he also insisted there is value in the study for both employees and employers.

“It’s an opportunity to remind workers that practicing some moderation in their March Madness viewing will go a long way toward keeping managers off their back,” Challenger said. “Meanwhile, it is equally important for employers to cut workers some slack, particularly in an economy that has left many workplaces understaffed and overworked.”

For the entire tournament, an average of 1.1 million viewers logged on to watch online broadcast every day last year, which was a 10 percent decrease from the year before. About 473,000 of those viewers are using a mobile device.

--

This story was originally published in the March 8 print edition of The Business Journal. Don't get your news a week late. Subscribe today.

How often do you shop at Sierra Vista Mall in Clovis?

Blogs

gordonwebstergordonwebster Gordon Webster - Publisher
gordonwebstergordonwebster Gabriel Dillard - Managing Editor

Latest Local News

Written on 01/29/2015, 8:14 am by CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER, AP Economics Writer
(AP) — The number of people seeking unemployment aid plunged last week to the lowest level in almost 15 years, a sign hiring will likely remain...
Written on 01/29/2015, 8:12 am by CANDICE CHOI, AP Food Industry Writer
(AP) — Hershey has a sudden hankering for protein, with plans to add jerky to its lineup. The maker of sugar-high inducing treats like Reese's, Kit Kat and Twizzlers says it's buying Krave Jerky for an undisclosed sum. Krave, based in Sonoma, California, positions itself as a premium jerky with no artificial ingredients and comes in flavors like black cherry barbecue, basil citrus and lemon garlic. Michele Buck, president of Hershey North America, said in a phone interview with The Associated Press that the company plans to continue expanding its offerings across the "snacking continuum" through acquisitions and in-house development. While The Hershey Co. is already strong player in sweet treats, the Krave deal is intended to give it a foothold in snacks people see as healthy fuel. The push to expand beyond impulsive sweets comes as Americans' addiction to snacking grows. Rather than sticking to three meals a day, people are increasingly grazing on smaller bites around the clock. The trend has prompted Dunkin' Donuts to position its fried-chicken sandwiches as snacks, and Taco Bell to introduce a "Happier Hour" for people looking for a late afternoon pick-me-up. In the packaged food universe, the nation's snacking habit is blurring the lines between what qualifies as an indulgence versus nourishing fuel, prompting food makers to market snacks with nutritional benefits like fiber. Protein in particular has become a desirable ingredient, which in turn has helped boost jerky sales. "We know consumers have an interest in portable and protein-based nutrition," Buck said. Last year, jerky sales in the U.S. totaled $1.41 billion, according IRI, a Chicago-based market researcher. That's up 13 percent from 2013 and 22 percent from 2012. Meanwhile, Hershey on Thursday reported fourth-quarter sales and profit that missed Wall Street expectations and lowered its earnings and revenue outlook for the year. In a note to investors, J.P. Morgan analyst Ken Goldman wrote that the Krave deal "perhaps indicates that Hershey is less enamored of candy's growth potential than it previously was." He noted that indulgent snacks like chocolates and cookies generally underperformed categories like trail mixes, nuts and meat snacks. Jon Sebastiani, who founded Krave in 2009, sees even more growth potential for the jerky market by improving the category's image. As such, Krave notes that its products do not contain nitrates or artificial flavors, and that they're lower in salt and cholesterol than competing jerkies. "It's very inviting to a female consumer," Sebastiani said. Sebastiani, who will continue to lead the unit and report to Buck, said sales for Krave Jerky have been growing at triple digit rates. Last year, he said sales totaled $36 million. The company's offerings are expanding, too. Capitalizing on the desire for protein, Sebastiani said Krave plans to launch a "meat bar" later this year to compete with granola bars found near supermarket checkout aisles. As for any potential pairings between Krave and Hershey products, Buck said there are no plans but didn't rule out the possibility. "Who knows what will come down the pike?" she said.
Written on 01/29/2015, 8:05 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — A measles outbreak whose spread originated at Disneyland has grown to 95 cases. The California Department of Public Health tells the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday that 79 of those in infections are in California and 52 of them can be linked directly to Disney Parks. The rest are in Michigan, Arizona, Utah, Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Nebraska and Mexico. The new overall figure shows eight more cases than the 87 confirmed earlier this week. Measles has been spreading since an outbreak linked to Southern California's Disney parks last month. Most of those infected were not vaccinated officials have urged people to get the measles shot. The U.S. experienced a record number of measles cases last year, with 644 infections from 27 states despite being largely eliminated in 2000.
Written on 01/29/2015, 7:56 am by LISA LEFF, Associated Press
(AP) — Charles H. Townes, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist who helped create the laser that would revolutionize everything from medicine to manufacturing, has died. He was 99. Townes had been in poor health before his death on the way to an Oakland hospital Tuesday, officials at the University of California, Berkeley, said. "Charlie Townes had an enormous impact on physics and society in general," Steven Boggs, the chairman of the physics department at Berkeley, said Wednesday. The invention he's known for paved the way for other scientific discoveries, but also has a huge array of applications today: DVD players, gun sights, printers, computer networks, metal cutters, tattoo removal and vision correction are just some of the tools and technologies that rely on lasers. "I realized there would be many applications for the laser," Townes told Esquire magazine in 2001, "but it never occurred to me we'd get such power from it." Townes was also known for his strong spiritual faith. A devoted member of the United Church of Christ, Townes drew praise and skepticism later in his career with a series of speeches and essays investigating the similarities between science and religion. "Science tries to understand what our universe is like and how it works, including us humans," Townes wrote in 2005 upon being awarded the Templeton Prize for his contributions in "affirming life's spiritual dimension." "My own view is that, while science and religion may seem different, they have many similarities, and should interact and enlighten each other," he wrote. Townes was a faculty member at Columbia University when he did most of the work that would make him one of three scientists to share the 1964 Nobel Prize in physics for research leading to the creation of the laser. The others were Russian physicists Aleksandr M. Prokhorov and Nicolai G. Basov. Townes' research, the basis of which he often said came to him like a religious revelation, applied the microwave technique used in wartime radar research to the study of spectroscopy, the dispersion of an object's light into its component colors. He envisioned that would provide a new window into the structure of atoms and molecules and a new basis for controlling electromagnetic waves. His insights eventually led to the first laser. Born on July 28, 1915, in Greenville, S.C., to Baptist parents who embraced an open-minded interpretation of theology, Townes found his calling during his sophomore year at Furman University and went on to earn a master's degree from Duke University in physics and a doctorate at the California Institute of Technology. He married his wife, Frances Hildreth Townes, in 1941, and during World War II designed radar bombing systems for Bell Laboratories. Three years after he joined the Columbia faculty in 1948, Townes had his inspiration for the laser's predecessor, the maser, while sitting on a park bench in Washington, waiting for a restaurant to open for breakfast. Scientists were stumped about ways to make waves shorter, but in the tranquil morning hours the solution suddenly appeared to Townes, a moment he famously compared to a religious revelation. Townes scribbled a theory on scrap paper about using microwave energy to stoke molecules to move fast enough to create a shorter wave. In 1954, that theory was realized when Townes and his students developed the maser (microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation). Demonstrating that masers could be made to operate in optical and infrared capacities, Townes and his brother-in-law, the late Stanford professor Arthur L. Schawlow, jointly published a theory in 1958 on the feasibility of optical and infrared masers, or lasers. A laser controls the way that energized atoms release photons, or light particles. Today, they perform tasks ranging from cutting metal to vision correction and tattoo removal, but its inventors say they didn't foresee any of that. "I realized there would be many applications for the laser," Townes told Esquire magazine in 2001, "but it never occurred to me we'd get such power from it." Others built the first working lasers, but Townes shared the Nobel Prize in 1964 with the two Russians for his work leading to its creation. "I feel that very rarely have I done any work in my life," he told Esquire. "I have a good time. I'm exploring. I'm playing a game, solving puzzles, and having fun, and for some reason people have been willing to pay me for it. Officially, I was supposed to retire years ago, but retire from what? Why stop having a good time?" Townes was named a full professor at Columbia in 1950 and later served as chairman of the university's physics department. He was appointed provost and physics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1961, and in 1967 he joined the faculty at Berkeley. In 1966, he published an article entitled "The Convergence of Science and Religion" in the IBM journal THINK. The difference between science and religion "are largely superficial," he wrote, "the two become almost indistinguishable if we look at the real nature of each." In an era when many scientists steadfastly avoided ties to religion, the views expressed in the piece were seen as blasphemy by people in both communities. Over the years, he wrote and spoke often on the subject, and in 2005, he won the Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities. The award, billed as the world's richest religion prize, was worth more than $1.5 million, and past recipients have included Mother Teresa. "Many people don't realize that science basically involves assumptions and faith. But nothing is absolutely proved," Townes said at the time. "Wonderful things in both science and religion come from our efforts based on observations, thoughtful assumptions, faith and logic." Townes lived in Berkeley and is survived by his wife and four daughters, Linda Rosenwein, Ellen Townes-Anderson, Carla Kessler, and Holly Townes.  
Written on 01/29/2015, 7:51 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — NASA has scrubbed the launch of an Earth-observing satellite because of wind conditions over California. The Soil Moisture Active Passive satellite had been scheduled for launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base before dawn Thursday, but upper-level winds exceeded limits for the Delta 2 rocket. The launch has been rescheduled for Friday morning. The $916 million mission, managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is designed to track the amount of water locked in soil.
Written on 01/28/2015, 3:18 pm by FENIT NIRAPPIL, Associated Press
(AP) — California health officials on Wednesday declared electronic cigarettes a health threat that should be strictly regulated like tobacco products, joining other states and health advocates across the U.S. in seeking tighter controls as "vaping" grows in popularity.The California Department of Public Health report says e-cigarettes emit cancer-causing chemicals and get users hooked on nicotine but acknowledges that more research needs to be done to determine the immediate and long-term health effects. "E-cigarettes are not as harmful as conventional cigarettes, but e-cigarettes are not harmless" said California Health Officer Ron Chapman. "They are not safe." New generations of young people will become nicotine addicts if the products remain largely unregulated, Chapman said. Last year, 17 percent of high school seniors reported using e-cigarettes, known as vaping, according to the report. "Without action, it is likely that California's more than two decades of progress to prevent and reduce traditional tobacco use will erode as e-cigarettes re-normalize smoking behavior," the report says. E-cigarettes heat liquid nicotine into inhalable vapor without the tar and other chemicals found in traditional cigarettes. A cartridge of nicotine can cost anywhere from $5 to $20 dollars and can be reused over extended period of times. California banned the sale of e-cigarettes to minors in 2010, but the report raises concerns about the products appeal to children with flavors such as cotton candy and gummy bear. Reports of children under 5 with e-cigarette poisoning jumped from seven in 2012 to 154 last year. The California report says e-cigarettes emit as many as 10 toxic chemicals, but advocates say there is no evidence those substances are released at dangerous levels. "Despite the health officer's false claims, there is ample evidence that vaping helps smokers quit and is far less hazardous than smoking," Gregory Conley, president of the e-cigarette advocacy group American Vaping Association, said in an email. "Smokers deserve truthful and accurate information about the relative risks of different nicotine products, not hype and conjecture based on cherry-picked reports." Health officials called for restrictions on the marketing and sale of e-cigarettes, protections against accidental ingestion of liquid nicotine and an education campaign on the dangers of using e-cigarettes. A state senator introduced legislation this week that would regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products and ban their use in public places such as hospitals, bars and schools. A similar bill was defeated last year over opposition from tobacco companies. Chapman, the health official, would not take a position on legislation, but said his department would be rolling out an e-cigarette awareness campaign with possible television and radio advertisements. E-cigarettes have become more visible as they grow in popularity and commercials for the products air in places where traditional cigarette ads have been banned. Businesses related to e-cigarettes, including vaping lounges, are rapidly popping up in cities across California. Geoff Braithwaite, co-owner of an Oakland store that sells liquid nicotine for e-cigarettes, said he understands the need to restrict vaping in public and prevent sales to minors. He says his customers are longtime smokers who should be able to get a nicotine buzz without the harshness of a regular cigarette. "Nicotine has all this stigma attached solely to the medium we used to use," Braithwaite said. "When you try to outright ban e-cigarettes, you're lumping in the solution with the problem." Other states, including Oklahoma, Tennessee and Arkansas, already have issued advisories cautioning the use of e-cigarettes. Legislatures have been exploring restrictions on e-cigarette marketing, adding childproof packaging requirements and imposing taxes to discourage use. "Health officials want to be proactive on this important public health issue," said Lisa Waddell, who leads community health and prevention at the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. "The issue of real concern here is we really don't know everything that's in these products, and you are seeing the rise of use of these products in our children as well of our adults."
Written on 01/28/2015, 1:37 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — The U.S. stock market is slumping at the close as oil falls to its lowest level in nearly six years. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 195 points, or 1.1 percent, to close at 17,191 Wednesday, near its low point for the day. The Standard & Poor's 500 slid 27 points, or 1.4 percent, to 2,002. Energy companies fell the most in the index, losing 4 percent. U.S. crude dipped $1.78 to close at $44.45 a barrel, its lowest level since March of 2009, after the Energy Department reported that inventories rose to their highest levels ever recorded. Investors weighed the latest policy statement from the Federal Reserve. The central bank reiterated Wednesday it would remain "patient" in raising rates, and it outlined a brighter view of the economy.
Written on 01/28/2015, 1:20 pm by Hannah Esqueda
The Fresno Housing Authority (FHA) and city leaders celebrated the grand opening of its CityView housing development today with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.  The 45-unit project features studio, 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom apartments ranging in size from 413 to 955 square feet. It is designed for young professionals who work in the downtown area and also offers 3,000 square feet of commercial retail space.  Located on the site of the former Droge Building on the northwest corner of Van Ness Avenue and Inyo Street, the development is a major accomplishment for the City of Fresno and its revitalization efforts, said Mayor Ashley Swearengin.  "This is one of the hottest locations downtown," she said. "This truly is becoming an anchor in all that is happening in downtown Fresno." The development offers residents easy access to downtown business and restaurants, public transportation hubs and Chukchansi Park, said Preston Prince, executive director and CEO of FHA. While the agency had to demolish the Droge building during the construction process, he said the new development features artwork celebrating the rich history of the location.  The project was a public-private partnership between the FHA and several investors with PNC Bank owning the majority of the development. The group has worked with the FHA for the last 12 years and provided $3.8 million in equity for the project, said Matthew Harrington, vice president and regional manager of originations at PNC.  "The Fresno Housing Authority is very much an innovator," he said. "We look forward to future partnerships with FHA and in the City of Fresno." Local firm Ashwood Construction built CityView while Sacramento-based Mogavero Notestine Associates designed the project.  Many of the units have already been leased and future tenant Jackie Anaya said the project has already had a positive impact on her family's restaurant across the street. Her family has owned and operated Joe's Steakhouse in downtown Fresno since 2005. "Ten years ago we never imagined looking across the street and seeing a building this beautiful," she said. "Now we're going to be able to serve dinner six nights a week instead of five because there will be residents down here who we can serve."
Written on 01/28/2015, 12:22 pm by Gabriel Dillard
Fresno Chaffee Zoo's annual Super Bowl prediction is going to the birds this year. After two consecutive years of wrong predictions, Siabu the orangutan is getting benched this year in favor of Lazarus, a white-faced whistling duck. The pick will take place Friday at 1:30 p.m. in the zoo's rainforest lawn. A zookeeper will guide Lazarus between two team blankets representing the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots. The blanket Lazarus is drawn to first will constitute his pick. Since at least 2010, Fresno Chaffee Zoo has used much the same technique to get an orangutan to make the prediction: • Siabu in 2014 — Denver Broncos (wrong) • Siabu in 2013 — San Francisco 49ers (wrong) • Alex in 2012 — New York Giants (right) • Alex in 2011 — Pittsburgh Steelers (wrong) • Siabu 2010 — Indianapolis Colts (right) I don't know about you, but that's a respectable track record. But it doesn't appear anti-primate sentiment led to the duck call. Lazarus is an imprinted duck, meaning he's especially comfortable in front of people. So while visitors had to watch Siabu and Alex make their picks from outside the orangutan enclosure, visitors will actually be able to meet Lazarus and his keeper after Friday's pick. White-face whistling ducks are also an abundant sub-Saharan African and South American species, so his pedigree is also a good tie-in to the zoo's upcoming African Adventure exhibit to open in October.
Written on 01/28/2015, 11:34 am by KRISTEN WYATT, Associated Press
(AP) — Tourists who fly to Colorado to try legal pot can forget about buying souvenir boxer shorts, socks or sandals with a marijuana leaf on them when passing through the Denver airport. The airport has banned pot-themed souvenirs, fearing the kitsch could taint the state's image. Marijuana possession and any pot-related advertising were already forbidden. Airport executives extended the ban this month after a retailer sought a free-standing kiosk to sell the boxer shorts and similar items that played off Colorado's place as the first state to allow recreational marijuana sales. Airport officials feared the souvenirs would send the wrong message. "We don't want marijuana to be the first thing our visitors experience when they arrive," airport spokesman Heath Montgomery said. The spurned retailer is mulling a lawsuit, noting that the souvenirs are legal and that the airport already has a large exhibit celebrating craft brewers, whose product, like marijuana, is legal only for people 21 and older. "Why is everybody so riled up about the picture of a plant?" asked Ann Jordan, owner of High-ly Legal Colorado, which makes the shorts, socks and "pot flop" sandals that are already sold in Denver-area music stores. But it's unlikely that Jordan would have a strong claim. Airports have broad discretion to control concession operators, and they can limit free-speech activities, such as handing out brochures. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that airport terminals are not public forums, siding with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey against a religious group that wanted to distribute pamphlets. The legalization measure approved by Colorado voters in 2012 allows any property owner to prohibit possession of pot, and airports in Denver and Colorado Springs do. Violators face possible civil citations. Denver International Airport has given no possession citations since legalization, Montgomery said. Last year, 29 people were caught trying to board planes with marijuana. In each case, police declined to issue citations, and the passengers were allowed to board planes after throwing out the weed. In Washington state, the only other state with recreational marijuana sales, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport does not ban pot possession or marijuana-themed souvenirs, Sea-Tac spokesman Perry Cooper said. Colorado's smaller airports don't ban marijuana-themed souvenirs, either. Montgomery said the Denver airport has a special obligation as the gateway for many thousands of visitors to the Rocky Mountain region. "Frankly there's a lot more to Colorado than pot," Montgomery said. Jordan considers the souvenir ban an example of long-standing fear surrounding marijuana. The airport's beer exhibit consists of an entire walkway devoted to an exhibit titled "Colorado on Tap: The State of Brew Culture." It features pub glasses, beer labels and T-shirts from the state's 250 or so craft brewers. Gov. John Hickenlooper is quoted in the display extolling Colorado as "a mecca for quality beer." "If you're opposed to drinking and you walk down (the walkway), you just ignore it," Jordan said. Airport officials, she said, "just haven't come to grips that this is a whole new world and they need to adapt." The airport policy bans depictions of the marijuana plant, items with the word "marijuana" and the sale of publications devoted expressly to pot. But airport officials concede they can't keep out the ubiquitous "Rocky Mountain High" puns and other slogans. Said Montgomery: "There's only so much we can do."

Latest State News

Written on 01/29/2015, 8:05 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — A measles outbreak whose spread...
Written on 01/29/2015, 7:56 am by LISA LEFF, Associated Press
(AP) — Charles H. Townes, the Nobel...
Written on 01/29/2015, 7:51 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — NASA has scrubbed the launch of...
Written on 01/28/2015, 3:18 pm by FENIT NIRAPPIL, Associated Press
(AP) — California health officials on...

Latest National News

Written on 01/29/2015, 8:14 am by CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER, AP Economics Writer
(AP) — The number of people seeking...
Written on 01/29/2015, 8:12 am by CANDICE CHOI, AP Food Industry Writer
(AP) — Hershey has a sudden hankering...
Written on 01/28/2015, 1:37 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — The U.S. stock market is...
Written on 01/28/2015, 11:34 am by KRISTEN WYATT, Associated Press
(AP) — Tourists who fly to Colorado to...