– March 28, 2015

Food bank to receive $45K from Walmart

The Community Food Bank got 3,442 votes from Walmart's Fighting Hunger Together campaign.The Community Food Bank got 3,442 votes from Walmart's Fighting Hunger Together campaign.The Community Food Bank of Fresno will receive $45,000 as part of Walmart's Fighting Hunger Together initiative.

In all, 40 organizations across the country will split up $3 million in total grants as part of the campaign that had Facebook users voting through "likes" for the organization they thought would do the most good in alleviating hunger.

The Community Food Bank received 3,442 votes, coming in at 11 out of 100 food banks and partner feeding agencies to be selected.

Forty of those organizations, including Community Food Bank, will receive $45,000 each while another 60 are set to receive $20,000.

The grants are intended to support efforts like local backpack programs that provide meals to children at their schools and programs to teach families how to grow their own healthy foods.

Last year, the Fresno Community Food Bank received $50,000 from the Fighting Hunger Initiative, which was first launched in 2010 as a $2-billion commitment by Walmart to help fight hunger in America.

The Community Food Bank, established in 1992, serves 160 thousand people every month and distributes 22 million pounds of food every year through shelters, churches and other partner agencies.


Do California's new water restrictions go far enough?


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Latest Local News

Written on 03/27/2015, 4:21 pm by George Lurie
With the announcement this month that the American Legion will move its national headquarters from the Bay Area to downtown Sanger, the east Fresno County...
Written on 03/27/2015, 4:20 pm by George Lurie
Maxco Packaging is set to kick off a $1.3 million plant expansion that will add 36,000 square feet to its current 150,000-square-foot facility on Zediker Avenue in Parlier.“The expansion will allow us to put more equipment in our existing plant and use the additional space as a warehouse for our inventory of paper stock,” said company owner Max Flaming.Mark Chin of Fresno is performing the engineering work on the project and Wesley Isaac of Reedley-based Wes Isaac Construction will serve as the general contractor.Isaac has been involved in a number of larger projects around the South Valley area, including construction of a handful of Red Carpet car washes and several structures at Ruiz Foods in Dinuba.Concrete work should begin in late April, Flaming said, and the project is scheduled for completion by the end of August.The company will not be hiring additional employees as part of the expansion but Flaming said current employees “will get extra hours” in the fourth quarter of this year and the first quarter of 2016 as new packing equipment comes online.Maxco develops and manufactures corrugated fresh produce containers.The family-owned company has been in business since 1972 and is a major supplier to the area grape and tree fruit industries. “We’re strictly fresh packers,” said Flaming, who started the business while still a student at Fresno State, gluing labels on wooden boxes and then selling them to local farmers.Today, the company works with many of the big-name growers around the Valley.All of Maxco’s corrugated containers are “100 percent recyclable” and the company is a member of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition.Being environmentally conscious has always been part of Maxco’s business plan, Flaming added.In 2011, Maxco built a 1-megawatt photovoltaic solar system to power its packaging facility, offsetting about 50 percent of the facility’s energy needs.The solar generation facility, named Maxco’s Solar City, is situated on a 4-acre parcel next to Maxco’s packaging plant.The PV modules are non-reflective and convert sunlight into direct current electricity, generating approximately 1,684,070 kWh AC per year, the equivalent offset of about 1,209 metric tons of CO2. “It speaks directly to our mission of providing truly sustainable products to our customers,” said Mark Flaming, Maxco’s vice president of sales and operations — and Max Flaming’s son. With more than 400 employees working for the company during peak production periods, Max Flaming said his operating strategy is simple: “We hire the best, let them do what they do best and grow.”In 1978, Maxco opened a machinery division, building erectors for the boxes the company sold.Now selling to customers throughout the U.S., Maxco’s bliss box erectors are used primarily for fruit packaging while the company’s tray and RSC erectors are used across a wide variety of industries.Flaming said the company’s commitment to constant innovation has “played a major role” in Maxco’s growth.“We’ve developed packaging advances like the Quad-Wall box, the MX Convertible lid and the LTS (Long Term Storage) System with Madguard recyclable protective coating, a sustainable alternative to long-term conventional packaging,” Flaming said. “As we design and field-test experimental prototypes, we consult with our customers and help them navigate the requirements of current packaging regulations,” he added.“Business is good,” Flaming said. “But it would be better,” he added, if the recent labor-related slowdown had not hit West Coast ports.“That really hurt a lot of our growers,” he said. George Lurie |  Reporter can be reached at:490-3464 or e-mail
Written on 03/27/2015, 4:18 pm by Hannah Esqueda
Months after asking city officials to help even the playing field between ride-sharing services and traditional cab companies, Fresno taxi drivers say they have yet to see any changes.“We are very disappointed with the way the city is taking this case,” said Mario Soto, owner of Fresno Cab. “They originally said they would have something for us after the new year, but here we are at the end of March and there’s still nothing.”Mark Standriff, director of communication for the City of Fresno, said the city is monitoring the situation between the taxi industry and ride-sharing services as it plays out in Sacramento. He said the city has had no updates for the taxi industry since they initially expressed concern last year. “We’re waiting to see what happens at the state level,” he said. That answer doesn’t drive straight with local taxi operators who say the problem has only grown worse in recent months. Since Uber and Lyft came to town, Soto said he has noticed an increase in unregulated taxis hanging around the Tower District and other night-life scenes, waiting to pick up riders. “They are painted to look like taxis but they don’t have any city permits. They see that the city isn’t doing anything about unregulated taxis and they think they can get away with it,” he said. “Why are we paying money to the city for the protection to operate and they don’t even have our back?”Soto said he regularly meets with representatives from nearly a dozen cab companies including Yellow Cab, Taxi Latino, Taxi Azteca, Yosemite Taxi and Taxi America. The competing companies are mostly in agreement that it’s up to the city to deal with the problem caused by Uber and Lyft entering the Fresno market. Since the Bay Area companies came to town, Soto said he has seen a 50-percent decrease in his profits because of low ridership numbers. “It’s frustrating to be sitting outside of Greyhound or the airport for three hours, waiting for one rider,” he said. “And by the time someone comes out, they are just waiting because they have already called Uber.”He contends that the main problem is that companies like Uber and Lyft call themselves ride-sharing services, but actually operate like a taxi company. The pretense allows them to get by city regulations, putting legitimate taxi services at a disadvantage. “Why doesn’t Uber need fingerprints for the city, or pay taxes to the city or have vehicle inspections like we do?” he said.  Those measures are all required by the city before taxi companies, drivers and vehicles can operate within Fresno, said Connie Alfaro, revenue supervisor for the city’s business and tax division. The taxi code has not undergone significant changes since 2006 and includes regulations ranging from driver hygiene and behavior to drug testing and background checks.Adhering to taxi regulations costs time and money, with drivers paying several hundred dollars in annual fees to the city in addition to the $4,000-$5,000 cost of commercially insuring each vehicle every year, Soto said. While the taxi group said it initially had several meetings with city administrators and council members, these talks have grown scarce and the business owners are more often greeted by closed doors. Al Maaki, owner of the Yellow Cab Company in Fresno, has been in the industry for 30 years but said he fears many companies will go out of business before the city does anything about the situation. He said many drivers are considering taking legal action against the city unless they see some progress.“Nothing is getting done,” he said. “[The city] is supposed to be helping us but they don’t even know what’s going on.”He said last time the owners group sat down with a city official was when Fresno City Council Member Clint Olivier invited them to his office last month. “He is really trying to help us out, but there are others who won’t even meet with us. [Olivier] is really a nice man and he’s really busting his back for us, but his hands are tied,” Makki said. The city forcing services like Uber and Lyft out of the Fresno market is unlikely, said Olivier, and the only solution he can think of for the problem is for the city to help local taxi drivers be more competitive with the Bay Area companies that pay locals to drive.During his most recent meeting with taxi owners, Olivier said he offered to draft a proposal abolishing regulations for the industry. All city regulations would be dropped, including cab age requirements, interior maintenance rules and city inspections. Only the basic state regulations for taxis would remain in effect, he said. “There seems to be some division and it’s not what [the owners] want. If I’m going to bring anything with the taxis forward, I want their support. I want them to have my back,” he said. Taxi drivers are in agreement that the deregulation offer doesn’t go far enough though, Soto said. He stresses that while there is some division within the industry, most taxi drivers want to see a completely level playing field within Fresno. That would require either all companies offering a taxi service to be held to the same regulations, or none.“We are tired out it. We were here before Uber came to town,” he said. “We’re not going to be able to survive like that.” Hannah Esqueda  |  Reporter can be reached at:490-3461 or e-mail
Written on 03/27/2015, 4:16 pm by Leah
Owner/Dealer Operator  Mercedes-Benz of Fresno What we do: Sales, service and parts of Mercedes-Benz and Sprinter vehicles Education: Graduate of McLane High School, 198328 years of auto business experience Age: 49 Family: Married to Wife Katie for 22 yearsSon Matthew, 18Daughter Diana, 16   How did you come to your position as owner of Mercedes-Benz of Fresno?I was recruited to be the general sales manager by Asbury Automotive Group (a publicly traded company) in August of 2003 and promoted to general manager in February of 2004. Asbury then divested all of their dealerships west of Texas starting in 2009. I was able to help put a partnership group together and we purchased our dealership in May of 2011. How have you seen the local market change over the years?I’ve been fortunate enough to work at only two dealerships in 24 years. I started my career selling Mitsubishis in 1987 at Michael Automotive, joined Honda North as finance manager in 1991 and was later promoted to sales manager, arriving at Mercedes-Benz of Fresno in 2003. I would say the biggest change has been how people shop, viewing thousands of vehicles anywhere, anytime from their smartphones, versus physically going lot to lot, car to car.   How has the experience of owning a dealership differed from your time as general manager?A lot less sleep! Seriously, I really love what I do. Having a Mercedes-Benz dealership in the town I was born and raised in and being able to connect and give back our community is truly a blessing! What have been some of your proudest accomplishments with Mercedes-Benz of Fresno?Winning the “Best of the Best Dealer Recognition Award” from Mercedes-Benz USA rates very high on my list. It’s not a popularity contest — the standards of winning are very high and very few ever accomplish that feat. It says a lot about how our great team of employees strives to take care of our customers each and every day! What goals do you still have for the dealership?Besides always striving to be the best? Being named by Automotive News as one of the top 100 Dealerships to work for in the United States would be very meaningful to my wife Katie and me. Are there any new programs or services you’re planning to introduce in the near future?I encourage everyone on our team to contribute their ideas to how we can be more customer-driven. One of those ideas is a new concierge program, sort of like at a hotel or resort, where we help guide customers through whatever they need that makes owning a Mercedes-Benz what they thought it would be and more — even when they are not driving! Stay tuned, because it’s going to change the landscape how luxury vehicles are sold and serviced in the valley. You were recently named president of the Fresno-Clovis New Car Dealers Association. What are some of your responsibilities in that role? I just lead what’s already a strong group of dealers who want to give back and always have. We strive to be our best to get consumers to buy locally from us so we can continue to give back and help our community that supports us. How was last year for your business?We actually had a great year in 2014, up over 33%. Our product line-up from Mercedes-Benz has never been better — including being more affordable and appealing to first-time luxury buyers.  That, and putting more energy into customer service at every step, has kept us strong.    Who has been a mentor for you and what did you learn from him/her?Danny Herwaldt, for sure. Danny and his father Lou owned Herwaldt Automotive Group/Mercedes-Benz of Fresno and sold to Asbury Automotive in 2003. Danny’s leadership style has influenced me the most with his ability to keep God and family first and still be an effective business person. He really taught me the importance of taking care of not only customers but our employees and community as well. What was your first job and what did you learn from it?At the age of 16, I was a short order cook at the Fresno State cafeteria. It taught me to work hard, be on time and juggle many different things at once. What do you like to do in your spare time?Being outdoors is a must. I am an avid golfer and also enjoy tennis, road biking, swimming and cooking up some great food on the BBQ with friends and family at the end of a great day!
Written on 03/27/2015, 4:12 pm by Hannah Esqueda
Expansions, mergers indicate a dynamically growing sectorEmployment surveys and job reports have traditionally drawn attention to the lack of science, engineering, technology and math (STEM) degrees held by Central Valley residents. However, recent activity by local technology companies suggests the industry is experiencing a steady growth spurt.Nearly a dozen locally-based technology firms have announced acquisitions or mergers throughout the past year and several national companies have expanded to the market.“The tide is rising on technology in the region,” said J. Colin Petersen, president and CEO of Clovis-based J – I.T. Outsource. His company is entering its twentieth year and recently acquired AR Technologies, a Clovis-based web development firm, now known as ARTCO by J. The acquisition will allow both companies to offer more business technology services to clients and Petersen said he is excited to expand further into the health care industry.“We will be offering more documentation services for the [Health Insurance Accountability and Protection Act] and other financial requirements,” he said.The acquisition has already expanded the company’s workforce to 12, and Petersen said he expects to add another 18 jobs within the next year and a half. In the past, these slots may have been hard to fill without looking beyond Fresno, but Petersen said he is confident the company can find employees who are already based locally. This level of optimism was lacking from last month’s Brookings Institute report on advanced industries and technology employment. According to the study, Fresno ranks 95th out of the top 100 metropolitan areas for advanced industry, with workers in the data processing and information services sectors accounting for just 3.2 percent of the general workforce. The study also found that Fresno has few workers who hold high-skill level STEM degrees compared to other regions throughout the country. “College degrees can show a baseline of knowledge and certain soft skills, but it’s really about a candidates ability to roll with the punches,” Petersen said. “This industry is really a daily quest to solve problems.”Layne Lev, senior partner with Hundred10 Design in Fresno, agreed and said his company generally looks to a candidate’s project portfolio when making hiring decisions. “Degrees are fine but we’re much more interested in their capabilities,” he said. Founded in 2007, Hundred10 specializes in Web design and development for corporate clients like Netflix, and Cisco Systems. Last summer, the group merged with Ignition Labs, another Fresno-based Web technology firm, and the group now employs a total of eight designers and coders.Most of that talent was recruited locally, and Lev said it’s typically hard for Fresno technology firms to be competitive with Silicon Valley and Bay Area companies with vast resources. “We try to focus more on people who have roots already in the Central Valley,” he said. “Sometimes it’s easier to look for another company with a similar mentality and do a merger rather than compete for the same jobs.”Petersen agreed, but said the Fresno market has one important advantage over those tech hubs — the region’s cultural diversity. The area’s diverse population allows companies to choose from a larger cross section and find top talent.“The development community is less homogenous than other parts of the nation,” he said. “Fresno has the talent and lately they’ve been wanting to stay here and help build up the community. They’re not all going to run away to different markets.”Building up the local technology industry has been the focus of Bitwise Industries since it began operation in Fresno in 2012. The company opened with the mission of providing training, education and support services for some of the area’s smaller technology companies in order to help grow the market. This summer the company will open its second office, bringing an additional 300 jobs to the downtown area. Jake Soberal, CEO of Bitwise, said the company's new 50,000-square-foot facility is already fully leased, with 70 percent of the office space going to locally based technology firms. Companies relocating to the area will fill the remaining 30 percent.Fresno’s central location in California has long been an appeal to companies looking to expand their West Coast reach, but Gary Stahl, senior managing of operations at Lightning Source Inc., said the company was also drawn to the area because of the large talent pool. “We’ve hired new associates locally and are pleased that the majority of our associates live and work in the Fresno area,” he said in an email. Lightning Source, part of Nashville-based textbook publisher Ingram Content Group, opened its commercial printing facility in southwest Fresno last fall, creating two dozen new technology jobs. The Fresno location uses print-on-demand technology to print texts that are then distributed throughout California, the West and Canada. Ingram’s decision to open its second and only California Lightning Source location in Fresno offers some validation to local technology companies who have long believed in the potential of the region. “There’s really a groundswell of geniuses yet to be discovered here,” Petersen said. “I think people are really going to be surprised in a few years when they finally realize how much growth is here.”
Written on 03/27/2015, 4:02 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — President Barack Obama says the White House will open next month's annual Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day to children whose parents don't work in the building. He's also asking private businesses to include kids who are left out of the experience because they don't have a workplace to visit. Obama says in a video released Friday that aides are working with the Boys and Girls Club and the District of Columbia's Child and Family Services Agency to invite kids from Washington to join the children of White House staffers on April 23 to learn what it's like to work at the White House. A highlight of Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day under Obama has been a question-and-answer session with first lady Michelle Obama.
Written on 03/27/2015, 3:13 pm by FENIT NIRAPPIL, Associated Press
(AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Friday that speeds up $1 billion in water infrastructure spending amid the worst drought in a generation, although much of the plan was drawn with future dry years in mind. "This funding is just one piece of a much larger effort to help those most impacted by the drought and prepare the state for an uncertain future," Brown, a Democrat, said in a statement. But he added that no area of the state has rain in the forecast "and every Californian must be doing their utmost to conserve water." The bills he signed, AB91 and AB92, will offer some aid to residents hurt by the drought, but the vast majority is expedited spending on water infrastructure. The projects will take months or even years to make a difference in California's vast water delivery system, which is struggling under a fourth year of little snow and rain in the nation's most populous state. Nearly two-thirds, or $660 million, of the water package goes to shore up flood protection structures to prevent mudslides and sudden storms from overtaking communities. Voters first approved this spending in 2006 after Hurricane Katrina. Another $267 million from a water measure approved at the ballot last year would help boost local water supplies. It would fund grants for water recycling programs and help small and poor cities provide drinking water by funding new wells and wastewater treatment facilities. Lawmakers said they need to kick start water projects early, especially as fear mounts that California is in the middle of a long-term "megadrought." "Part of it is about preparing for tomorrow and the continuing drought if it gets worse," Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, said after the vote Thursday. "I hope this is not the new normal, but we need to act as if it is." Republican lawmakers, who mostly supported the $1 billion plan, say the best way to deal with California's long-term water woes is by speeding up construction of reservoirs. Voters last year approved $2.7 billion for water storage as part of a sweeping bond measure, but the state won't start funding projects until 2017. "We have to work together to expedite projects that will increase long term supply," said Assembly Minority Leader Kristin Olsen, a Modesto-area Republican.
Written on 03/27/2015, 2:47 pm by Business Journal staff
The Madera County Auditor-Controller announced today that the Board of Supervisors has filed its financial statements with the state before the required March 31 deadline for the first time in at least 15 years. In the past, Madera County has been criticized for not completing the annual audit on time, with files arriving up to a year late in some cases.  "That era is over," said Todd Miller, Madera County auditor-controller. "Our County staff stepped up and completed two years work in the past nine months, spending their evenings and weekends in the office." Miller made the announcement during the Board of Supervisor's meeting today, thanking the county for helping him obtain needed resources in the auditor-controller department. Late audits have previously delayed funds flowing to the county, while grant money has been lost or not applied for.  "This accomplishment is important to the people of Madera County," he said. "On-time audit reported mean enhanced cash flows to the county and should improve the county's credit rating."
Written on 03/27/2015, 2:15 pm by 
SUDHIN THANAWALA, Associated Press
(AP) — A jury says a prestigious venture capital firm did not discriminate or retaliate against a female employee in a case that drew attention to gender imbalance and working conditions for women in Silicon Valley. The jury in San Francisco reached the verdict Friday in the lawsuit filed by Ellen Pao against Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. The case shined a spotlight on the technology and venture capital sectors, where women are grossly underrepresented. Industry consultants said the case had sparked some companies to re-examine their cultures and practices for potential gender bias. Jurors heard conflicting portraits of Pao during closing arguments. Her attorneys said she was an accomplished junior partner who was passed over for a promotion and fired because the firm used different standards to judge men and women. A lawyer for Kleiner Perkins countered that Pao failed as an investor at the company and sued to get a big payout as she was being shown the door.
Written on 03/27/2015, 1:21 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — Google is teaming up with Johnson & Johnson to build robots that can help surgeons in the operating room. The alliance announced this week dovetails with two of Google's initiatives beyond its main business of Internet search and advertising. Google has been investing in medical research aimed at extending lives and in robotic technology that can free up humans to do other things. The companies will try to engineer robotic technology that will reduce patient trauma and accelerate post-surgery healing. Google will work with Ethicon, a medical device company owned by Johnson & Johnson.Financial terms of the deal aren't being disclosed. Johnson & Johnson's innovation center in California negotiated the partnership with Google, which is based in Mountain View, California.

Latest State News

Written on 03/27/2015, 3:13 pm by FENIT NIRAPPIL, Associated Press
(AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown signed...
Written on 03/27/2015, 2:15 pm by 
SUDHIN THANAWALA, Associated Press
(AP) — A jury says a prestigious...
Written on 03/27/2015, 1:21 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — Google is teaming up with...
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(AP) — Apple CEO Tim Cook is joining a...

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