– October 31, 2014

Stocks close higher on Wall Street; Sonic soars

(AP) — Stocks are closing higher on Wall Street as the market shrugs off a two-day decline.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose eight points, or 0.4 percent, to close at 1,865 Tuesday.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 91 points, or 0.6 percent, to 16,367. The Nasdaq composite rose eight points, or 0.2 percent, to 4,234.

Drive-in restaurant company Sonic jumped 11 percent after posting strong sales gains despite the cold winter weather. Spice maker McCormick rose 6 percent after reporting higher earnings.

Three stocks rose for every two that fell on the New York Stock Exchange. Only one of the 10 industry sectors in the S&P 500 index fell.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note climbed to 2.75 percent.

If restaurants raised prices 10% to pay for higher minimum wages, would you dine out less?


gordonwebstergordonwebster Gordon Webster - Publisher
gordonwebstergordonwebster Gabriel Dillard - Managing Editor

Latest Local News

Written on 10/31/2014, 11:45 am by hannahesqueda
Local sandwich chain Daeli Delicious is going through a growth spurt as six new locations are opening in the Central Valley this fall and several more are...
Written on 10/31/2014, 11:44 am by Associated Press
(AP) — Virgin Galactic has reported an unspecified problem during a test flight of its SpaceShipTwo space tourism rocket. The company tweeted Friday morning that SpaceShipTwo was flying under rocket power and then tweeted that it had "experienced an in-flight anomaly." The tweet said more information would be forthcoming. Kern County Fire Department reports it is heading to a location in the Mojave Desert. California Highway Patrol Officer Darlena Dotson says the agency is responding to a report of a crash in the Cantil area. SpaceShipTwo has been under development at Mojave Air and Spaceport in the desert northeast of Los Angeles. SpaceShipTwo is carried aloft by a specially designed jet and then released before igniting its rocket for suborbital thrill ride into space and then a return to Earth as a glider.
Written on 10/31/2014, 11:43 am by ben
The Fresno Monsters hockey team may soon have a new venue to play games when a planned 1,800-seat arena is built at the Gateway Ice Center.But hockey is just one program proponents hope to expand when the 44,000 square-foot multi-purpose facility comes to fruition at Marks and Clinton avenues.Plans to expand the Gateway Ice Center have been a dream for the last 15 years. It wasn’t until the impending closure of the underperforming facility last year that the local nonprofit Lace ‘Em Up Foundation formed with the aim of purchasing the rink from longtime owner Bob Glassman.Now with a feasibility study underway by Firland Management, the nonprofit hopes to double the space as a larger attraction the whole Valley can enjoy for activities both on and off the ice.“There’s lot of opportunity for kids in west Fresno to have somewhere to go after school and hopefully we can tie it with the school districts here and start up some programs,” said Bryce Dale, Fresno Monsters general manager and one of 10 board members running the Lace ‘Em Up Foundation.Besides hosting local kids’ hockey teams as well regional and statewide tournaments, Dale mentioned many other uses during the summer months when the ice is removed and 20,000 square feet of concrete is left open for youth sports leagues like basketball, volleyball and indoor soccer.Among them, Dale said, Children’s Hospital Central California’s Adaptive Sports Program began using the Gateway Ice Center around six weeks ago to give individuals with physical and health impairments the opportunity to play sports that they normally couldn’t.For one thing, he said, the new ample sheet of ice and 29-foot high ceilings will provide enough viewing capacity to accommodate anywhere from 600 to 1,000 people. That’s a much larger draw compared to the Gateway Ice Center’s smaller practice rink where the junior hockey team has played for the last two seasons since ending its relationship with Selland Arena in downtown Fresno.“We had about 650 people come to our games on a regular basis (at Selland). Here, it’s a zoo,” Dale said. “We have a first place team this year and are pretty excited about hockey moving forward.”Planners also envision the facility will be used for live entertainment events, trade shows, banquets, fundraisers and other large gatherings.In addition to community functions, Dale cited some economic benefits to the area as well, including 20 new employees that could be hired to staff the arena.“It would also bring a lot of part-time jobs for events,” Dale said. “It’s a great opportunity for a lot of people to pick up some part-time work.”While still in its conceptual stage, some of the features in mind for the planned arena include luxury suites, a concourse and mezzanine, concessions stands, LED video scoreboard and a press box.The building, to be constructed at the west wall of the current Gateway Ice Center, would also be equipped with a highly efficient dehumidification system needed to maintain low temperatures and filter the air.Further conservation will come by use of reclaimed water, while the current Gateway Ice Center will share a new entrance with the facility creating flow between the two playing surfaces.As well, the new facility will share the existing ice system and add solar panels to the roof, leading to an estimated 94 percent reduction in current energy costs.Jeff Blair, facilities manager for the Gateway Ice Center, said talks have already begun with several designers and contractors and the goal is to break ground on the project at some point next year. However, a lot of that will depend on fundraising efforts, kick started so far by local groups like Children’s Hospital Central California and Big Brothers Big Sisters.Bob Glassman and the ownership group have been especially supportive, Blair said, having worked closely with the foundation to hone its vision and spending $170,000 remodeling the current sheet of ice.“This place does not make a lot of money. It’s a break even facility,” Blair said. “But the owners want to see ice sports stay in the community. They have been more than gracious keeping this place open.”Other local partners donating and helping spread the word about the new arena include the America Red Cross, Saint Agnes Medical Center, the Boys and Girls Club of Fresno County, the Marjaree Mason Center and the Poverello House.Those wishing to donate to the cause can do so by visiting the Lace ‘Em Up Foundation website at an exact amount is still a long way off, Dale said the estimated cost of the new arena is around $10 million, helped in large part by the federal New Market Tax Credit program designed to spur revitalization efforts of low-income and impoverished communities.Once money is received from the program, Dale said the Lace ‘Em Up Foundation can assume ownership of Gateway Ice Center, leaving them to fill the gap with fundraising. The foundation is also putting out requests right now as it seeks to secure naming rights for the new facility.First opened in 1995, the Gateway Ice Center now sees around 150,000 come through its doors each year for birthday parties, corporate events, hockey games and other skating outings. Blair said the new arena is expected to increase attendance while providing other needed perks to the city.“The amount of visitors you can get with a two-sheet facility is enormous,” Blair said. “And that also brings a lot of money to the area from out of town. They have to eat and they have to stay in a hotel. They have to get gas and their kids will want snacks. That’s all local tax money being brought in from somewhere else.” Ben Keller  |  Reporter can be reached at:490-3465 or e-mail
Written on 10/31/2014, 11:41 am by hannahesqueda
As more Americans gain insurance coverage through work, employers are increasingly turning to wellness-based incentives and other health care programs to help keep their staff healthy. According to a 2014 study by Fidelity and National Business Group on Health, corporate employers are expected to spend an average of $594 per employee on wellness programs this year. That’s up 15 percent from the average of $521 per employee in 2013 and nearly double the amount reported in 2009.While the upfront costs may seem steep to some, health care providers say employers who invest in their workers’ health end up saving in the long run.“Studies have shown that chronic conditions — including diabetes, asthma and obesity — can add about $3,600 a year per person to employer health care costs,” said Smita Rouillard, assistant physician-in-chief for Access and Health Promotion at Kaiser Permanente Fresno, in an email. Treatment for those chronic conditions accounts for more than 75 percent of all health care spending in the United States, she said. Employers who encourage their employees to make healthier choices and get exercise can often see a reduction in cost and an improvement in employee health. Kaiser Permanente offers a range of corporate wellness programs to businesses that use their insurance. From scheduling office deliveries of fresh fruit, hosting flu clinics and even offering wellness coaching resources — the programs can be as in-depth as employers want.  The health care company can also create custom health care plans to fit the specific needs of businesses.Rouillard said that Kaiser Permanente can work with larger companies, 100 employees or more, and use electronic medical records to create detailed medical snapshots and figure out which health or lifestyle areas need the most attention. “For example, if there are a large number of smokers, it makes sense to offer in-house smoking cessation programs. If a large number of employees are overweight, there are programs focused on healthier eating,” she said. Kaiser Permanente has offered a workplace wellness program to employees since 2002 and even has a farmer’s market every Wednesday at the Fresno facility. This year, the company also began offering incentives to employees who complete a total health assessment questionnaire. “The goal is for 75 percent of the Northern California region’s 40,000 employees to complete the total health assessment by year’s end,” Rouillard said. According to the Fidelity study, cash or gift card incentives are common traits of corporate wellness programs and Ethan Dunne, human resource manager for Self-Help Enterprises, said the business helps offset gym membership fees to help encourage active lifestyles for its employees. “We find that it helps a lot of folks get started with the commitment if we help out and reduce the fees,” he said.The nonprofit began the program years ago and has recently expanded to cover up to $20 a month for employee membership fees at several local gyms. Dunne said between 50 and 75 percent of Self-Help employees now have gym memberships. In addition, the company recently began offering weekly yoga classes at the office and averages about a dozen people in attendance. Several employees suggested the idea for the class and Dunne said management thought it was a great idea. Office vending machines were also replaced this year to include fresh fruit, nutrition bars and baked chips. So far the response to the replacement of greasy chips and candy has been positive, Dunne said.“I think we’ve gone through the stock in those machines faster than ever before. It’s even on an honor pay system and it’s being going very well,” he said. Since the company is based in Visalia, Dunne said Self-Help is also able to take advantage of several city-sponsored health initiatives including an annual corporate game competition. The city event is designed for local businesses to compete and includes a 5K run. Dunne said the company fields a team every year and enjoys participating in the events. Self-Help employees are also encouraged to participate in the city’s “Vi-cycle” program as an effort to be more active and be more environmentally healthy. Nathan Garza, natural resource conservation technician for the city of Visalia, said the program began in 2008 as a way to cut down on emissions in the downtown area. “We had quiet a few bicycles that would come in as city property every year,” he said. “Whether they were left behind by riders on buses or what, they were just left over.”The city now collects the bikes and sends them to Corcoran State Prison for the inmates to refurbish and repair before selling them to local businesses for $25 each, Garza said. All the proceeds go back into the program to help pay for future repairs. In the first year of the program the city sold 30 bikes and the number has steadily increased every year since. The program has become so popular with local businesses that there is now a wait-list for the next batch of bikes. “We want to let staff use them to run quick errands around the downtown area so we can decrease the number of cold-runs with their cars. Basically, the first couple minutes you run your car are when your vehicles is emitting the most pollution,” he said.The Vi-cycle program’s primary goal is to create a healthier environment but also helps to encourage more physical exercise, Garza said. In response to the program’s popularity, the city has installed additional bike racks, updated bike lanes and added lighted bike-paths throughout the city. According to the Fidelity study, the percentage of companies offering some type of lifestyle management program — weight management, stress management or physical activity — is expected to increase from 57 percent in 2009 to 74 percent this year. For health care and human resource professionals, this increased commitment to employee health can only benefit businesses in the long run. “It’s the right thing to do, to try and take care of your employees. They are the number one asset of your company,” Dunne said. Hannah Esqueda  |  Reporter can be reached at:490-3461 or e-mail
Written on 10/31/2014, 11:35 am by Leah
CEO Seal Rite Paving and Grading What we do:We build roads, streets, bridges and parking lots. Education:High school diploma,three years of college at Fresno State Age:48 Family:Married 25 years to Gina; Children: Tedi 24 (married), Caz 20, Karli 18, Kesli 16 What was your first business and how did you come to establish that? Seal Rite Paving and Grading was the first business, I started with a 55-gallon drum and a mini pickup. I did my first three jobs for free to figure out how to do it and then by word of mouth it began to come to fruition. Besides Seal Rite Paving & Grading and Crazy Horse Car Wash, what are some other businesses you founded in Fresno? Salt Water Croc, which owns apartments and homes for rentals, Empire Storage, which is a self-storage facility, PaintBrush assisted living center, which is currently under construction and I farm pistachios and almonds. I love to farm. There is something about farming that brings a person to put his faith in God for his crops. To dig into the dirt with your hands and realize from this soil comes the food of the nation is humbling. What would you say are the greatest challenges to business owners like yourself right now? Regulation. Hands down! We need less government running our companies. There is no way I could have started today what I did 25 years ago. Why are you running for Trustee to the Fresno Unified School District and what are your goals if elected? Our children need a better shot at the American dream of raising a family, having a good job and contributing to our neighborhoods and that all begins with education. My goal is to raise graduation rates, re-institute career technical education and have students become excited about learning. When somebody moves to Fresno, I want them say, "I only want Fresno Unified." What do you bring to the position from your experience as a businessman? Hopefully a fresh set of eyes. The ability to problem solve that only business people know, because their lives depend on solving problems and making solutions. Personally, I have learned more from failure than success but I think we have a higher calling to educate our kids and eliminate poverty. They go hand in hand. What should our politicians do to improve our local or national education system? Get out of the way. We have some great teachers and excellent educators that need the reins freed up so they can do what their heart inspired them to do and that’s TEACH! What is the importance of vocational training to students and how would you work to implement such programs? This is the basis of my platform. We must bring back career technical education. The next Facebook should be coming out of Bullard High School. We should be partnering with companies and businesses like Bitwise or Grundfos Pumps, Agriland and teaching our kids real trades and family feeding skills. These are great jobs and will insure employment for years to come. The Fresno Teachers Association is in favor of this and so is the administration, so why are we not doing it now? I will implement this STAT. What are some ways local businesses can support our schools and students? My hope is that we get local successful businesses to participate in vocational education. I also hope they participate in granting scholarships for scholars with character. It has been impressive to watch the Smittcamps do what they have done. Earl Smittcamp was a true pioneer in many ways. He will be missed. What skills do you think will be the most important for the next generation of job seekers and business leaders? A great work ethic will almost always win the day and add to those skills the ability to dream and you have a successful enterprise. What was your first job and what did you learn from it? My first PAYING job was working for my Uncle Jim in the lighting business, putting up fans and fixing electrical lamps. He was a tough employer, I would ride my bike at 6:30 a.m. every morning from my grandmother’s house three miles to his house and he would drive me to work with him. If I was late, he would leave without me. That only happened once. I later worked for my dad and I soon figured out that my uncle was too easy on me. What are your roots in the San Joaquin Valley? My family has been here in the Valley almost 100 years. They originally were farmers and then later my grandfather was chief probation officer for the County of Fresno. I still come in contact with people who tell me my grandfather helped keep them on the straight and narrow. We can learn so much from our past. What do you like to do in your spare time? I love to fly. I have been flying for a few years now so every chance I get I am in the cockpit. I also enjoy helping out non-profits. I have been involved with a few of them. All that being said, what I enjoy the most is being in the company of my wife and children. She is the calm to my storm.
Written on 10/31/2014, 11:29 am by gabrieldillard
The City of Kingsburg will once again host a business plan contest with the winner receiving $25,000 worth of goods and services to help start a business.It is the second year of The Launching Pad contest, which will culminate with three finalists pitching their business ideas to a panel of local judges during Kingsburg’s Swedish Festival on May 16, 2015.Contestants have until Dec. 1 to fill out a short application for the contest. A panel will review the application and select up to five semi-finalists to receive help in preparing their own business plan. From there, three semi-finalists will be selected to pitch their business in front of a live audience May 16, with the winner announced that day.Sherman Dix, a member of the Kingsburg Economic Development Committee, created the program.Economic Development Coordinator Jolene Polyack said in a statement, “Sherman’s contest is perfect for Kingsburg.  We focus on fostering the small start-up businesses and this contest is a way to get the word out that we really do want those types of businesses here in Kingsburg.Starting a new business can be daunting. If we help navigate would-be owners through the maze of start-up bureaucracy, they can shift their attention to the actual business itself and increase their odds of success.”The rules for the contest include• Future business must be located in the City of Kingsburg• Applicants must be 18 or older• No home-based businesses, winner must occupy a commercial space• Must be a new business to Kingsburg (expansions from other cities do qualify)• Top 3 must be willing to present their idea to a panel in front of a live audience The goods and services to be received by the winner are nearly all donated from local Kingsburg businesses. They include pay roll service for one year, printing services, business cards, software program, accounting services, business consultation and a free Kingsburg Chamber of Commerce membership for a year.Links to the application may also be found at the City of Kingsburg’s website:  www.cityofkingsburg-ca.govKingsburg residents Kim Regier and Diana Weston won the inaugural business plan contest with their business, Matt i Dalen (Swedish for “Heart of the Valley”). The pair have opened a storefront in Kingsburg featuring handmade products and foods from all over the Valley, including furniture, candles, paintings and jewelry to cookies, spices, soaps and jams.Javier Garcia and Misty Almendarez, finalists in last year’s contest for their Sports Fan Barbershop, have also opened their business in Kingsburg. Venture forum Nov. 6The Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Fresno State and the Central Valley Fund have joined forces again to host the 9th Central Valley Venture Forum Nov. 6 in Fresno.Réal Desrochers, head of private equity for the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, and Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno) will each deliver a keynote address.Desrochers’ talk is entitled “Investment Opportunities in California and Around the Globe. Where is CalPERS allocating capital over the next 24 months?” Costa’s talk will discuss “Election Impacts for Business — 2015 and Beyond.”The forum will also feature a panel discussion titled “California and Mexico Trade and Investment — The Central Valley Secret.” Other sessions will cover how to raise investment capital in the Valley.The event will also feature the annual Valley Entrepreneur Showcase, when five new or early-stage businesses will give a pitch to a panel of investors in hopes of winning a “best in show” award.This conference provides the only venue in the Central Valley for growth companies to demonstrate their readiness for private equity investment,” said Tim Stearns, executive director of the Lyles Center, in a statement. “Entrepreneurs can learn and make valuable connections in this powerful yet informal setting.”Pasadena-based tequila company PaQui Tequila was crowned the winner of the 2013 Entrepreneur Showcase.In the ancient Aztec language, PaQui means “to be happy.”
Written on 10/31/2014, 11:24 am by Associated Press
(AP) — Authorities say safety netting could have prevented the death of 64 birds at a Southern California solar energy plant. The Riverside Press-Enterprise ( ) says the birds died this month at the Genesis solar plant near Blythe after getting mired in wastewater evaporation ponds that contained an oily toxic chemical. The California Energy Commission says safety netting designed to keep birds away from the plant was destroyed by high winds in August and never replaced. Roger Johnson, who oversees environmental compliance for the commission, says new netting's been ordered but won't be installed before year's end. However, authorities say the 10 acres of ponds are being drained and people stationed around them to keep the birds away.
Written on 10/31/2014, 11:22 am by Leah
Some 724 private residential wells in Tulare County have gone dry this year, says an October 21 Drought Task Force report heard by the Tulare County Board of Supervisors this week.The pace of well failure in the county has increased this month with numbers climbing around 40 percent since the first of the month as the long hot summer has dragged on.As much as 75 percent of the dry wells are in the Porterville area hard hit by plunging ground water levels and plenty of rural wells.Private wells along the Tule River east of town have been particularly affected with flows on the river in the past few years minimal.The status report also says 291 households in the county are receiving bottled water deliveries. The task force is monitoring well drilling with new permits issued for 1,476 new wells, up around 54 percent. The county has distributed 52,000 food baskets since it was formed in March.The small town of Seville has benefited through the coordinated effort with bottled water, a grant for new storage tank and a new well. The US Department of Agriculture has also helped with more than $4 million to a score of rural county towns to dig new wells. Cameron Creek and Farmersville each received grants. The county is looking for mobile shower and laundry units for people affected by the water shortage. Currently some households have only the option to take sponge baths.
Written on 10/31/2014, 11:21 am by gabrieldillard
An environmental group last week released documents it contends show the federal government and Westlands Water District nearing a settlement of litigation regarding drainage problems on the Westside of the Valley.The California Water Impact Network (C-WIN) issued a press release headlined “Obama selling out California to Westlands Water District” on Oct. 16 which claims that the Obama administration had reached a settlement with Westlands that would forgive $360 million in debt, continue the flow of subsidized water to the district and allow it to continue to pollute state waterways.It also released a document dated Dec. 6, 2013 laying out principles of a settlement agreement between the United States and Westlands.Gayle Holman, public affairs representative with Westlands Water District, said last week that no final agreement had been struck.“Until something has been finalized, it’s very inappropriate to comment,” Holman said.Holman did dispute C-WIN’s assertion that Westlands discharges tainted runoff into Central Valley waterways.“That is badly misinformed,” she said.Westlands quarrel with the federal government stems from what it sees as the Bureau of Reclamation’s obligation to provide an adequate drainage system for irrigation runoff in the Westlands Water District during construction of the San Luis reservoir in the 1960s.As part of the proposed settlement released by C-WIN, Westlands would let the government off the hook for providing drainage service in exchange for forgiving capital debt obligations reported to be about $360 million.Westlands would also agree to retiring about 100,000 acres of land within its service area and capping its contract deliveries of 1.1 million acre-feet of water from the Central Valley Project at 75 percent.This year, users south of the Sacramento San Joaquin River Delta received a 0-percent allocation from the Central Valley Project.As C-WIN points out, the settlement is still subject to approval by Congress. But California Sen. Dianne Feinstein is expected to “shepherd” the proposal through Congress, according to C-WIN.“This ‘settlement’ is essentially a wish list by Westlands,” said Tom Stokely, spokesperson for C-WIN.“It is crony capitalism at its worse, and it demonstrates once again the corrosive power of money and corporate influence in Washington,” he added. Gabriel Dillard  |  Editor can be reached at:490-3467 or e-mail
Written on 10/31/2014, 11:20 am by Associated Press
(AP) — A Southern California woman has been charged with helping bilk Medicare out of $22 million by billing for unnecessary care. A federal indictment unsealed Thursday charges Angela Avetisyan of Glendale with fraud and conspiracy. A Los Angeles doctor, Robert Glazer, was previously charged. Authorities say Avetisyan was Glazer's office manager and co-owned a Los Angeles home health care agency. The indictment alleges that the two created phony prescriptions and documents used to bill Medicare for home health services, hospice services and items such as power wheelchairs that were unnecessary or never delivered. The indictment says documents also were sold to providers who billed Medicare, which paid out some $22 million. A message left for an Angela Avetisyan in Glendale wasn't immediately returned. Glazer's office number is disconnected.

Latest State News

Written on 10/31/2014, 11:44 am by Associated Press
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Latest National News

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