– March 1, 2015

Stocks slide as impasse over budget deficit looms

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 185 points, while the S&P 500 fell 19 points and the Nasdaq closed down 37 points.The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 185 points, while the S&P 500 fell 19 points and the Nasdaq closed down 37 points.(AP) — Investors drew little hope Wednesday for a quick compromise in U.S. budget talks after President Barack Obama insisted that higher taxes on wealthy Americans would have to be part of any deal.

Stocks fell sharply, and even a signal from the Federal Reserve that it could launch a program in December to speed job growth failed to encourage investors. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 185 points.

Obama made clear he would seek higher tax revenue from the wealthiest Americans, which faces opposition among some Republicans in Congress. Obama said that a modest increase on the wealthy "is not going to break their backs."

"The Street was looking for him to say some magic buzzwords about avoiding the 'fiscal cliff,' about cooperation," said Sal Arnuk of Themis trading, a New Jersey brokerage. Instead, Arnuk said, the remarks were "unyielding."

The "cliff" is a package of tax increases and government spending cuts that will take effect Jan. 1 unless Obama and Congress reach a deal first. They would total about $700 billion for 2013 and could send the country back into recession.

Stocks have fallen steadily since voters returned Obama and a divided Congress to power Nov. 6. The Dow has fallen 675 points, or 5.1 percent, including three daily drops of more than 100 points.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index has dropped 5 percent in that time, returning to where it stood in late July.

"Investors' hopes that the election would end uncertainty remain unfulfilled," said Lawrence Creatura, a portfolio manager at Federated Investors in Rochester, N.Y. "It's very tough to determine what happens next."

Obama said Wednesday that he would not to cave to Republicans who have pressed for tax cuts first passed by President George W. Bush to be extended for all income earners.

Obama has long opposed extending the cuts for families making more than $250,000 a year, but he gave in to GOP demands in 2010, when the cuts were up for renewal. They were extended two years.

The president also met with business leaders Wednesday to discuss the economy.

Obama is to meet Friday with Republican House Speaker John Boehner and the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell. They are expected to designate aides to begin the search for a compromise on the budget.

Boehner and McConnell have said they won't agree to raise tax rates for the wealthy. They have said they are willing to support raising overall tax revenue as part of a deal that also makes changes to the government's largest benefit programs.

There are ways to increase tax revenue from the wealthy without raising rates, including limiting tax deductions, but the path to compromise is unclear. Obama sidestepped a question about insisting on higher rates for the wealthy.

"I just want to emphasize I am open to new ideas if the Republican counterparts or some Democrats have a great idea for us to raise revenue, maintain progressivity, make sure the middle class isn't getting hit, reduces our deficit," he said.

On Wednesday, the Dow dropped 185.23 points, or 1.5 percent, to 12,570.95. The S&P fell 19.04 points, or 1.4 percent, to 1,355.49, and the Nasdaq composite declined 37.08 points, or 1.29 percent, to 2,846.81.

Indexes are still up on the year, though they have pared gains since reaching four-year highs. The S&P has fallen 7.5 percent since its Sept. 14 peak, and the Dow has fallen 7.6 percent, more than 1,000 points, since its Oct. 5 peak.

Among individual stocks, Abercrombie & Fitch, which sells teen clothes, bucked the trend of a declining market and was by far the best-performing stock in the S&P 500.

Abercrombie jumped $10.54 to $41.92 after reporting that its international business was thriving and that its net income soared 40 percent in the most recent quarter, more than financial analysts were expecting.

The Commerce Department said that Americans cut back on spending in October, suggesting that many are still cautious about the economy.

Sales dropped 0.3 percent last month after three months of gains. That was worse than analysts had been expecting, according to FactSet, a provider of financial data.

The government also said auto sales fell 1.5 percent, the most in more than a year. Sales may have been hurt by Superstorm Sandy.

The Federal Reserve released minutes of its October meeting and suggested that it may replace a soon-to-end program of buying U.S. government bonds to lower long-term interest rates and spur job growth.

Under an existing program, known as Operation Twist, the Fed has been selling $45 billion a month in short-term Treasurys and using the proceeds to buy an equal amount of longer-term securities.

The Fed minutes showed support among "a number of" Fed policymakers to replace Twist with another program of long-term bond purchases when it ends in December.

The purchases are intended to lower long-term borrowing rates to encourage spending and strengthen the economy. The hope is that more hiring would follow. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was unchanged at 1.59 percent.

Among other stocks making big moves:

— Cisco Systems, the world's largest maker of computer networking equipment, gained 81 cents, or 4.8 percent, to $17.66. Cisco said late Tuesday that its earnings rose 18 percent in the latest quarter and that U.S. companies are starting to spend again.

— Mosaic, a company that mines for potash, a key ingredient in fertilizers, slipped $1.65, or 3.3 percent, to $49.10 after saying that international demand for its product had weakened and that it was lowering its sales forecasts.

— Advanced Micro Devices, a chipmaker, slumped 16 cents, or 7.7 percent, to $1.93 after the company denied a report that said it was considering a sale. The stock has lost about 77 percent since March because of dwindling sales.

— Facebook jumped $2.50, or 12.6 percent, to $22.36. Wednesday was the expiration of a so-called lockup period that prevents insiders from selling stock immediately after a company goes public. About 850 million shares are being freed for sale.


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Latest Local News

Written on 02/27/2015, 4:31 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — Two lawsuits target the maker of a medical scope linked to the outbreak of a superbug at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.
Written on 02/27/2015, 2:36 pm by Hannah Esqueda
Fresno-based advertising company Culinary Competitions International (CCI) is currently in talks with several different cable channels to distribute its international commodity-centered television show “Global Bites.”The show has already begun filming, and CCI President Peter DeYoung said the advertising agency signed restaurateur and celebrity chef Fabio Viviani as program host. Viviani has made appearances on cooking shows such as “Cutthroat Kitchen” and “Top Chef” and hosted his own web program on Yahoo.“For us to be able to partner with him, it’s a really big deal,” DeYoung said. “This will take us national in no time.”So far, he said the Travel Channel, Food Network and Yahoo have all expressed interest in the show but are waiting to see 12 episodes before signing a distribution deal. The premise of the program is to highlight CCI clients and introduce their commodities to the international market. The California Fig Advisory Board was one of CCI’s first clients to participate in the program, and DeYoung said the group requested the show be filmed in Tokyo and Hong Kong to help introduce its product to Asian markets. During the program, Viviani and clients will meet with chefs in the chosen market to host cooking competitions, exhibitions and other activities aimed at drawing attention to the selected commodity and how it can be used in regional dishes.“We already have some experience doing this years ago for the California Table Grape Commission,” DeYoung said. “In 2005, we hosted a beverage competition in Mexico and other markets.”While CCI has been in existence for the last decade, he said it wasn’t until last year that the brand became its own company. Previously, it had been a division within his other firm, Alliance Advertising and Public Relations, which was founded in 1999. “These recent moves with ‘Global Bites’ are really kind of like our coming-out party,” DeYoung said. While the first few episodes are with clients based locally, he said the company is open to featuring clients from all over the world. CCI is currently in talks with the European Union. Future episodes are expected to be shot in Columbia, Peru, the United States and China. “The world has become a much smaller place in recent years, and we’re really seeing increased demand for exposure in international markets,” he said. “There are few, if any, [public relations] firms doing what we’re doing.” Meathead Movers comes to townA San Luis Obispo-based moving company focused on harnessing the strength of student athletes recently expanded to cover the Central Valley by opening an office in northwest Fresno. Meathead Movers opened its Fresno office at the beginning of February and has already handled several dozen jobs in the region. The company has hired nine student athletes from local colleges including Fresno State and Fresno City and relocated seven other employees to help start the Central Valley office.Aaron Steed, co-founder of Meathead Movers, said the office will handle jobs from Stockton to Bakersfield, and the company is looking to recruit more college students. “We’ve already met with the wrestling coach at Fresno City College, and we have plans to sit down with the athletic director at Fresno State next time I get back to Fresno,” he said. “We’re interested in figuring out how we can help support the local college athletic programs.”Steed said the company was initially drawn to the Central Valley because of how important college athletics are to the community. He is confident the region will be a good fit for his business model.Steed started the company with his brother Evan in 1997 while still in high school, and said the business is designed to help student athletes workout, get paid and learn new business skills. “We consider ourselves to be the ultimate stepping-stone job,” he said. “We definitely don’t see ourselves as employing career movers.”The company recruits hardworking, clean-cut and drug-free athletes and offers pay incentives to movers who get positive customer feedback or finish a job without breaking any items. Steed said members of the Meathead team jog when not carrying items in order to save customers time and money. Employees also receive extensive training and have access to the office on-site gym and student study center.  In addition to the Meathead moving service, the company offers Princess Packing, a high-end packing and un-packing assistance service. “The brand is like Disney princess meets Martha Stewart,” Steed said. Both divisions are open to male and female student athletes, and employees are given management training and encouragement towards reaching their long-term career goals. Since the company relies on the strength of its student-athletes, Steed said preventing injuries is a top priority. Employees who have had a tough day or intense workout are encouraged to take advantage of the company’s massage therapy services and will do light work around the office during their shifts. “The safety of our employees is important, and we make sure to have the appropriate size team for each job,” he said. An artistic good timeVisalia’s art scene received a new venue earlier this month with the grand opening of Blending Palettes. The studio serves as both a creative space and wine bar where guests can receive painting lessons while enjoying a few drinks.“It’s just a fun place where customers can come and have a good time,” said Chevella Mack, owner of Blending Palettes. “No artistic experience is necessary.”She said the community response so far has been very positive, and classes were sold out for the grand opening over Valentine’s Day weekend. The studio is currently open Wednesday through Sunday with most classes held in the evenings. The facility is able to host parties and children are welcome during daytime hours. “Visalia has such a great art community. We currently work with four local artists to teach classes,” Mack said. Rates vary by class, but are usually $35 for a two and a half hour session, or $45 for a three-hour course. Participants are encouraged to show up 15 minutes before class time in order to relax and get a drink before the lesson starts. All the wine served is from local vineyards and a portion of Blending Palette’s proceeds go toward the local art scene. While she has no professional art training, Mack said she has always loved painting and was inspired to open the business after moving to Visalia from the South.“My husband and I visited a similar business once when we were in Tennessee and I thought it would be a great addition to the Visalia community,” she said. Pardini’s big gameJeff Pardini, general manager for Pardini Concessions, recently gained even more catering management training when he helped with concessions at the Super Bowl earlier this month.  Pardini said he was invited to participate in the event at the University of Phoenix Stadium by friend and former colleague Ken Wilson. While there, Pardini helped manage the catering services for VIP suites and other high-level groups. “It was a great experience, and it was really cool to see what goes into it,” he said. “There was so much going on and I’m glad I got a chance to manage some of it.”Several years ago, Wilson worked for Pardini’s Catering and Banquets in Fresno and helped with its catering contract with Fresno State Athletics during the 2009 season. He is now the general manager of Rojo Hospitality Group, which handles catering for the stadium in Arizona. While Pardini attended the event on his own, he said the experience provided valuable training and thinks it will help with the catering service’s new contract with Fresno State that runs through the end of 2018. The company’s contract officially began at the start of last football season, and Pardini’s is now responsible for all concession services at Bulldog Stadium, Beiden Field and Bulldog Diamond. Hannah Esqueda  |  Reporter can be reached at:490-3461 or e-mail
Written on 02/27/2015, 2:32 pm by George Lurie
Vintage is the new black.That’s how a growing number of shoppers — and shop owners — are describing the Valley’s burgeoning vintage scene. From downtown Fresno and the Tower District to Clovis and beyond, shops selling vintage — often one-of-a-kind — clothing, jewelry, furniture and decorative items are increasingly popular among both the bargain-hunting crowd and those looking for distinctive, one-of-a-kind “treasures.”“With vintage, you’re going to get your money’s worth,” said Yoshi Toi, considered by many to be the godfather of the vintage movement in Fresno.Toi, who owns and operates Yoshi Now! at 648 Broadway in downtown Fresno, has been a mainstay of the area’s garage sale and estate sale scene for nearly two decades.Toi has been so successful selling vintage inventory at his Broadway location that he now holds unadvertised, weekend-only sales at the Nabisco Building on E Street.Those sales draw, on average, about 400 shoppers every weekend, Toi said.“It all happens through word-of-mouth,” he said. “I unlock the gate and people just start streaming in.”Many of the shoppers at Toi’s weekend sales are other vintage dealers or storeowners in the area who stock their own businesses with inventory purchased from Toi.With more than a million items stacked, piled and crammed into the cavernous warehouse, some shoppers spend hours picking through the selection of tools, personal memorabilia, clothing, paintings, furniture and more odds and ends from every corner of the world than even Toi can categorize.Toi conducts business in a casual and friendly manner from a cluttered desk in the middle of the warehouse. “My prices are always negotiable,” he said. “I want people to walk away feeling like they got a good deal.”Vintage stores sometimes get confused with thrift stores, but Toi said there is a big difference between the two.“Thrift shops take in donations. We don’t operate that way,” Toi said. “Everything in our store is hand-picked.”Toi buys, on average, two or three estates a week. So customers who visit the warehouse on a regular basis “can always find new and interesting stuff,” he said.For today’s 18 and 20 year olds, clothing and furniture from the 1990s is vintage, Toi said. “But our best customers tend to be between 25 and 45. They’re pretty smart, financially, and think they’re getting their money’s worth” buying vintage.Some vintage stores, especially the smaller ones, showcase a quirkier, more distinctive inventory that is often a direct reflection of the owner’s personal tastes.For more than three years now, Alvaro Romero has run Misc. Trading Co., also located downtown at 2017 Tuolumne St. “I only buy and sell what I like,” Romero said. “I’m very particular about what comes into the store.”Modern Farm, located next door to Romero’s store, is another popular vintage shop that specializes in mid-century — 1950s and 1960s era — furniture and artwork.Romero also holds monthly “pop-up” sales on the sidewalk outside his storefront. The next one is scheduled for March 21.Like Toi, Romero spends a lot of time shopping for his inventory at area estate and garage sales. He also buys from private individuals.Romero credits mainstream design and fashion publications for helping to popularize the vintage movement. The television show Mad Men, which is set in the 1960s, has also helped to fuel interest in home décor and clothing now labeled “mid-century modern,” he added.A number of other area vintage stores have become popular with shoppers. Those include Bubble Vintage at 1436 N. Van Ness, Vintage Closet Tower at 212 E. Olive Ave., The Hoot Nest at 1427 Kern St., Bebe O’s at 1130 N. Wishon Ave., iKlectic Muse! at 548 E. Olive Ave., New Vision at 2569 W. Shaw Ave. and Evolve Vintage at 900 N. Fulton St.Wit’s End Vintage and Collectibles, tucked away in the corner of a small strip mall in Clovis, is another favorite among vintage shoppers.On the third Saturday of every month, Wit’s End hosts a parking lot flea market where buyers and sellers often swap vintage items.On April 25, Yoshi Now! will celebrate its tenth anniversary with a massive flea market in its Broadway parking lot.“My customers buy our stuff and then repurpose it to match their clothing or personal decorative styles,” Toi said. “It looks good. And they think, ‘We can use it for two or three years and if we don’t like it anymore, we can sell it and get most if not all of our money back.’”“You can’t say that about the stuff you buy at Walmart,” Toi added. “So how can you lose?” George Lurie |  Reporter can be reached at:490-3464 or e-mail
Written on 02/27/2015, 2:30 pm by George Lurie
In a speech earlier this month honoring Fresno’s Economic Opportunities Commission, Mayor Ashley Swearengin said the city is currently in the midst of a major transformation.“We’re writing the worst to first story right here in Fresno,” the mayor said.Some may have written off the remark as wishful thinking or politically motivated boosterism. “For decades, Fresno has been a punch line, a city maligned for everything from its smog and crime to its hot weather and reputation as a bastion of the un-hip,” said a 2009 USA TODAY story headlined ‘Fresno, Calif., rebrands itself but shuns labels.’But in recent months, Fresno has been garnering considerably more positive headlines. Comeback storyDr. Ernie Goss, a research faculty member at the Craig School of Business at Fresno State, said the city is in the midst of a robust economic expansion.“Fresno is definitely coming back,” Goss said. “Right now, the Fresno/Clovis area’s economic recovery is outpacing much of the rest of the country.”The San Joaquin Valley Business Conditions Index, a leading economic indicator of the health of the area’s economy, has shown a positive reading for 14 consecutive months.Goss, who compiles the index, said the March report could show a “slight downturn” due to the impact of the West Coast port slowdown, especially in the ag and manufacturing sectors.“But it will likely be just a small hiccup,” he predicted.Meanwhile, Goss noted that non-farm employment in the area “is at the highest level ever.”“It was a long trek downward, but things have clearly turned around,” he added.Whether the turn around is sustainable — or what Wall Street calls a “dead cat bounce” — remains to be seen.A report issued this week by commercial real estate powerhouse Colliers International is definitely bullish on the city’s future. Noting that despite a lack of inventory, commercial office sales have been “extremely active” over the past year in the Fresno/Clovis market, the report concluded: “We’re off to a strong start for 2015 and are confident the coming year will build upon the momentum created over the past two years.” Bullet-train boostWith Fresno at the epicenter of what will be the largest public works project in U.S. history — construction of the California bullet train — transportation-related construction should be one of the major drivers of economic activity in the area for years to come.“Construction employment is still not back to pre-recession levels,” Goss said. “But it’s been improving steadily and once high-speed rail construction begins later this year, it should shift into a much higher gear.”The first segment of the $68 billion rail line will run directly through central Fresno and many believe the project, which includes construction of a new downtown station — and possibly, a heavy maintenance facility in the area — will be the catalyst to finally spark downtown revitalization.“I think people are definitely feeling much more optimistic about the Valley economy in general right now,” said Al Smith, president and CEO of the Fresno Chamber of Commerce.Like many, Smith believes water remains the Valley’s greatest challenge. “Passage of the water bond was a big step forward,” he said. “But the water wars between environmentalists, business people, farmers and fisherman are still hurting everybody. And right now, farmers are at the short end of the stick.”Smith has lived in the Valley since 1988 and ran the CBS radio stations at Radio City for 16 years before taking the helm at the chamber in 2005. “While our economy is becoming somewhat more diversified, the Valley is still very dependent on ag,” he said. So addressing the “vital need” for additional water storage will continue to be “our area’s biggest challenge.” Downtown is keyFresno has one of the highest concentrations of poverty of any city in the U.S., and much of the blight is concentrated in the downtown area. Like Mayor Swearengin, Smith believes downtown revitalization is key to the city’s future.“Some people don’t realize how many heads and beds we’ve already got downtown right now,” said Smith, who is a big proponent of converting the pedestrian-only Fulton Mall back to a two-way street. “Those who haven’t been downtown in a while may be a little apprehensive about visiting,” Smith said. “But if they can drive past restaurants and shops and the beautiful artwork that’s already there, they will probably be more inclined to stop and check it out.”Smith also believes Fresno will be positively impacted by people and businesses fleeing the increasingly higher cost of living and doing business on the coast.“Coastal communities are pricing themselves out of the living wage market,” he said. “If we can get the revitalization process moving along, the downtown area could really benefit” from the influx of former coastal residents, Smith added. “If you’re looking at real estate and at the cost of square footage, downtown could be very enticing. But we need to create the amenities there first in order to attract the development.”Smith believes the area’s medical and military facilities could also be big drivers of future growth.Outside investmentOne very positive sign for the Valley in 2015 is the continued recovery of the residential real estate market. Area home values, down by as much as 60 percent during the 2008-09 recession, have recovered nicely and are approaching pre-recession levels.A report released in February by real estate tracking company CoreLogic showed average home prices in the Fresno area increased nearly a full percentage point more than the national average over the past year. Lately, investors in other parts of the state, especially Southern California, have started pouring money into the area.Earlier this month, Highpoint Capital Group, a Los Angeles-based private real estate firm, purchased three high-profile Shaw Avenue shopping centers and immediately announced plans to renovate them.Another Los Angeles-based investment group, SunPac Financial, announced in mid-February it plans to merge with Fresno’s Security First Bank in order to expand lending activities in the Fresno market and Southern California.“The trend is definitely upward,” said John Stewart, president and CEO of Pearson Realty. “There’s a lot of money on the sidelines and a lot of it is starting to come into play.”Stewart added that 2014 “was the biggest year we’ve ever had for farm and ranch sales.”Other recent business headlines confirm Fresno’s economic recovery is gaining steam:• Sacramento Container in Kingsburg is in the midst of a $3.75 million plant expansion that will bring 40 new jobs to the area.• Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby confirmed earlier this month that it was actively seeking a location to open their first Fresno store.• The local homebuilding industry has come roaring back to life, with area-based builders like Wathen Castanos, San Joaquin Valley Homes and Smee Builders pulling hundreds of new permits up and down the Central Valley.“I think folks in other parts of the country still think of California as Los Angeles, the Bay Area and maybe San Diego and Sacramento,” Smith said. “Otherwise, it’s as if the Central Valley doesn’t exist.”Smith believes that Fresno, despite recent progress, remains “an easy target. We still take a lot of shots from the late night television comics,” he said. “The perception remains that we don’t have a lot of education or culture here.”“But we’ve got a great symphony and a great opera too,” Smith said. “The truth is that there are a lot of good things going on in this community right now.” George Lurie |  Reporter can be  reached at: 490-3464 or e-mail
Written on 02/27/2015, 2:28 pm by Leah
General Manager Eagle Mountain Casino What we do: Indian gaming. Education:  Bachelor of business administration from Kent State University, Kent, Ohio - Class of 1989 Age: 47 Family: Engaged - 4 children Tell us a little about your career leading to your recent promotion to general manager of Eagle Mountain Casino.I’ve been in the gaming industry for the past 24 years. I’m originally from Pennsylvania and got my start in Lake Tahoe. Over the course of my careers, I’ve worked at 10 casinos, with 5 being Native American casinos. I started as a front desk clerk / concierge and moved in to marketing management. I’ve worked all across the country, specializing in marketing and sales, but have always been involved in the overall operational day-to-day functions. What are your duties as a casino general manager? I like to think that my main job as Eagle Mountain Casino’s general manager is to be best team leader I can be. To always be on the lookout for ways to improve our guest’s and team member’s experience.   Describe the Eagle Mountain Casino experience to folks who may have never visited before.We’re a full-service casino with fantastic food, fun promotions and great headline entertainment. We do all of this at a “value proposition.” Our guests know that we offer the best prices around for all of our products/services, whether it is the frequent payouts on the casino floor, the generosity of our player’s club, the low ticket prices for our headline entertainment or even the affordable prices at our restaurants. Our guests are “value conscious” so we make sure that we always offer a great time at a great price. How has the casino enriched the lives of the Tule River Indian Tribe?The tribe has been fortunate enough to receive an annual distribution that has enhanced the livelihood of its members and brought a quality of wellbeing to family. It has provided stable employment which in turn has provided a better quality of life and self-sufficiency. The tribe has also set their education program as a top priority, as it enables and enriches the lives of its future generations. In doing so, this program provides an after school study program, tutoring service and full ride college scholarships. Other use for gaming revenues include tribal government operations or programs, the general welfare of the tribe and its members, economic development, charitable organizations, operations of local government agencies and the above mentioned per capita payment. Has the closure of Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino in Coarsegold (two hours to the north) had any impact on Eagle Mountain Casino?  First of all, it is a rather sad situation and our hearts go out to the employees and the tribal members that have gone through this traumatic experience. It really hasn’t affected us at all. The only positive might be that guests and potential guests might see or hear our advertising a little more with less ads cluttering the media. What are some of the community causes that Eagle Mountain Casino supports?Aside from tribal causes, casino revenues also go toward businesses and non-profits throughout the Tule River community as well as neighboring cities in Tulare, Kern and Fresno counties. Thousands of dollars have been given annually to recipients such as The Wounded Heroes Fund, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Bakersfield Homeless Shelter, American Cancer Society, Ruiz 4 Kids, St. Jude, Habitat for Humanity, Knights of Columbus, Porterville Adult Day Services, Helping Hands of Porterville, Tule River Scholarship Fund, Honor Flight for Kern County, Relay For Life, Wounded Warriors Project, California State University of Bakersfield, Tulare County Fair, Family Services Justice Run and the Tule River Education Center. Though we are a smaller gaming venue than surrounding Indian casinos, we pride ourselves on being able to give back generously to our local communities. What is in the future for Eagle Mountain Casino? Our future is bright! We will continue to offer the best value for our guests’ and potential guest’s disposable income. We strive to always provide the most enjoyable guest experience as well as being an employer of choice. What are your roots in the Central Valley?I’ve lived here for 5 years and I plan on staying here until I retire with my soon to be wife. What was the best advice you ever received?To always try your best at everything you do. Never do anything “half-way.”  If it’s not worth your best effort than why are you doing it? What was your very first job and what did you learn from it?I was a sales associate at the Gap when I was in high school. I remember learning about the importance of interacting with customers and co-workers. Not only can it make or break the company financially, but also personally in your enjoyment of your work life.
Written on 02/27/2015, 2:25 pm by Hannah Esqueda
The rise of social media and new technology has led many companies to increasingly rely on sleek new digital marketing techniques. However industry experts warn that it’s too soon to write off more traditional strategies like outdoor advertising.Marketing campaigns on billboards, car-wraps and exterior signage are all important pieces of the advertising puzzle, according to those in the industry. The more pieces a company uses, the more successful their campaign will be, said Casey Lamonski, marketing innovator with Five Creative Group in Fresno. “Print and billboard ads are still needed, even in our digital world,” she said. The advertising company handles brand creation and digital product design for its clients, but often gets requests for billboards and other print media. Currently, Lamonski said she has several clients with billboards along Highway 99 and one off Highway 41 near River Park. Having signs near popular exits and shopping centers can help draw a lot of attention to a business, and she said companies are often willing to pay top dollar for a better billboard spot. “It really varies depending on the location of the sign, and most of the time, businesses will already have a specific advertising program already in mind,” she said. The sustained local interest in outdoor advertising mirrors national trends. Out-of-home advertising was a $1.64 billion industry during the third quarter of 2014, according to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America. That revenue pushed outdoor marketing up 1.5 percent compared to the same time period the previous year, marking the eighteenth consecutive quarter of growth for the industry. Exterior marketing is all about getting as many eyeballs to read your message as possible, and Kim Duchscher, sales representative with A List Banners, said outdoor marketing strategies are particularly relevant to the Fresno-Clovis market. “Outdoor advertising like magnetic decals and car-wraps are really successful here,” she said. “People drive back and forth all the time in Fresno and Clovis and that repeated exposure from when you’re stuck in traffic is really valuable.” The novelty factor of outdoor advertising can also be advantageous. Fresno-based Boling Air Media is seeking to bring aerial advertising back to the Central Valley and recently debuted its 105,000-cubic-foot thermal air ship during the World Ag Expo. The company made nine flights over the grounds during the three-day event, exposing nearly 100,000 people to its advertising message encouraging attendees to “Eat Pistachios.”“The reaction from the crowd was astonishing, Everybody would stop and look up when they saw it flying overhead,” said Chris Boling, president of Boling Air Media. “People in cars would even stop and pull over to take pictures of the ship flying by.”The bright red ship, named Airship Alex after Boling's oldest son, is roughly the same size as the Goodyear Blimp. Vinyl banners can be placed on either side of the aircraft’s slip, allowing for nearly 4,000-square-feet of advertising space. The company worked with locally based American Pistachio Growers on its first campaign, and Boling said it is already working on several more programs, including two national and three regional appearances. “You can expect to see Airship Alex in the Valley again this year, and specifically within the Fresno market,” he said.A List Banners created the vinyl banners used by Boling during its maiden flight, and Duchscher said the service is one of the most popular requests the company receives. Since the recession, many local businesses have clamped down on their marketing budgets and are seeking more cost-effective means of reaching customers.“We still have a depressed economy here. A lot of local small business owners might not be able to spend money on a television or radio advertisement, but they can invest in a sign or banner,” she said. Outdoor marketing can also be used across all types of industries and are usually embraced by mom and pop businesses because it’s less daunting than planning web design or writing a script, Duchscher said. “People are more willing to try decals on cars or windows when they are new to advertising,” she said. Lamonski agreed, and said that unlike social media and digital technology, billboards and other outdoor marketing techniques are easier to engage in for companies across all industries. Restaurants, manufacturers, real estate developers and even nonprofits can all reap the benefits of the tried-and-true advertising methods. “It's really across the board. I don't see it going away anytime soon,” she said.
Written on 02/27/2015, 1:30 pm by The Associated Press
The stock market is closing lower following news that U.S. economic growth slowed more sharply than previously estimated in the final three months of the year. The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 82 points, or 0.5 percent, to 18,132 Friday. The Standard & Poor's 500 fell six points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,104. The Nasdaq lost 24 points, or 0.5 percent, to 4,963. The S&P 500 ended February with a gain of 5.5 percent, its best month since October 2011. The Commerce Department said the economy grew at an annual rate of 2.2 percent in the fourth quarter, less than last month's estimate. J.C. Penney slumped 7 percent after the department store chain reported a loss. Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2 percent.
Written on 02/27/2015, 1:18 pm by Business Journal staff
Valley Commerce Bancorp, parent of Valley Business Bank, announced a cash dividend of $233,000 for the first quarter of 2015.  The dividend amounts to $0.08 per share and will be paid on March 27 to shareholders of record as of March 5. Valley Commerce Bancorp trades on Nasdaq under the symbol VCBP.  The company enjoyed its fourth-straight year of record annual earnings in 2014, reporting a net income of $4.3 million.  Founded in 1996, Valley Business Bank is a commercial bank with banking centers in Visalia, Tulare and Fresno as well as branches in Woodlake and Tipton. 
Written on 02/27/2015, 1:17 pm by Business Journal staff
Premier Valley Bank's board of directors has announced a cash dividend of eight cents per share. The dividend is payable to shareholders of record on March 9 and will be distributed on March 13. The cash dividend totals $984,000 and indicates a yield of 5 percent. Premier Valley Bank stock is traded on the Nasdaq under the symbol PVLY.  "We are pleased to announce our nineteenth consecutive cash dividend, clearly reflective of Premier Valley Bank's sustainable financial performance," said J. Mike McGowan, president and CEO of Premier Valley Bank.  The bank is a full-service institution with locations in Fresno, Madera County and San Luis Obispo. 
Written on 02/27/2015, 1:10 pm by CANDICE CHOI, AP Food Industry Writer
 (AP) — At a taco shop in Southern California, milkshakes are served in mason jars and a chalkboard menu lists "The 1%er" made with lobster meat. The logo is a pink skull and instead of buzzers, customers are given license plates so servers can identify them when bringing out orders. Nowhere is it evident that the U.S. Taco Co. is an outpost of a chain better known for cheesy gut bombs: Taco Bell. Major companies are testing whether it would pay to tuck away their world famous logos in favor of more hipster guises: PepsiCo, for instance, introduced a craft soda called Caleb's last year and McDonald's opened a cafe that lists lentils and eggplant on its menu. The stealth efforts reflect the pressures on the country's biggest food makers, which are contending with the surging popularity of smaller brands that position themselves as decidedly less corporate. For big food companies, the low-key efforts are a way feel out changing tastes and cozy up to new customers, particularly those in their 20s and 30s. Among that age group, marketing experts say there's a growing preference for qualities like "real" and "authentic." Additionally, millennials aren't as impressed by big brands when it comes to food, and instead take pride in discovering and sharing new places and products with friends on social media networks. As such, Allen Adamson of Landor Associates, a brand consulting firm, said companies should keep the images for their latest efforts smaller and more niche: "You don't want to scream from the mountain top that you're Pepsi." Unlike Pepsi cola — which has suffered sales declines since 1998, according to Beverage Digest — PepsiCo's Caleb's Kola comes in a glass bottle and is sweetened with cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup. There are no signs the drink is from the maker of Mountain Dew and Gatorade, and the bottles bear the words "Honor In Craft." Nick Hammit, who heads Caleb's Kola at PepsiCo, said Caleb's was the creation of a group of "Kola Nuts" at the company who were passionate about making a cola that "takes pride in every little aspect." McDonald's also decided not to use its name recognition when it opened The Corner late last year. The restaurant in Australia has a minimalist white exterior and serves dishes like Moroccan roast chicken, chipotle pulled pork and lentil and eggplant salad. The only sign it's owned by McDonald's is the "McCafe" in small print at the bottom of the restaurant logo. McDonald's spokeswoman Becca Hary said in an email the location is a "learning lab" for testing "new and different food and beverages never before seen in our restaurants." The Corner comes as McDonald's suffers ongoing sales struggles, with global sales down 1 percent last year at established locations as customer visits declined in regions around the world. For its part, Taco Bell said in an emailed statement that U.S. Taco's opening was the result of a "segmentation study" that found some people just don't want to eat at traditional fast-food chains. So instead of trying to win them over with Taco Bell, a team known as "intrapreneurs" at the company came up with an entirely separate concept, which charges about $3 to $4 per taco. The shop in Huntington Beach, California caught the attention of Christina Kaoh, a 30-year-old research coordinator who was in the area paddle boarding with friends. "I figured it's going to be a hip version of tacos," Kaoh said. She only learned it was owned by Taco Bell after reading an article that mentioned the link in Mother Jones. Kaoh said she wouldn't go back since she tries to support independent establishments, and didn't particularly enjoy the food. The ownership of smaller brands by major corporations isn't a deal breaker, of course. In the beer industry, Anheuser-Busch InBev in 2006 created Shock Top. Harry Schuhmacher, editor of Beer Business Daily, said most people probably don't realize it's owned by the maker of Bud Light. Even if they did, he said it wouldn't matter now that Shock Top is established enough to have its own following. In other cases, companies acquire smaller, fast-growing rivals to tap into trends. But acquisitions can be costly and come with risks, particularly at a time when food trends seem to be changing at an accelerating pace. By developing a brand in house, companies can test the waters without making as much of a financial commitment. If they're lucky, it takes off and becomes a hit. Still, the manufacturing of authenticity can get clumsy. Yum Brands, the parent company of Taco Bell, as well as KFC and Pizza Hut, last year opened a Vietnamese sandwich shop in Dallas, Texas. The shop's red star logo — a common symbol of communism — immediately upset the local Vietnamese community. A food blogger for the Orange County Register called the goof by Yum "unbelievable," noting that most the Vietnamese living overseas are refugees from the Vietnam War and hate the country's communist government. Yum quickly apologized and removed the logo.

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