– March 4, 2015

Brick closing doors, temporarily open for private events

Brick Restaurant, Bar & Nightclub in downtown Fresno announced it will be closing up because the owner of the building is being foreclosed upon. 

Brick, located near the intersection of Van Ness Avenue and Inyo Street across from the Fulton Mall parking terrace, had been under different management and known as Austin’s and Heroes at different times.

We had a lot of nice feedback from customers but with the uncertainty around the foreclosure/sale of the building, we thought it best to step back,” the restaurant posted on its Facebook page.

However it also noted it will be available for private events until Nov. 30.

Brick was owned by Kyle Kirkland and general managed by Erin Cathcart.

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Written on 03/04/2015, 10:36 am by JONATHAN FAHEY, AP Energy Writer
(AP) — Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson expects the price of oil to remain low over the next two years because of ample global supplies and relatively weak...
Written on 03/04/2015, 10:34 am by CANDICE CHOI, AP Food Industry Writer
(AP) — McDonald's says it plans to start using chicken raised without antibiotics commonly used in humans, and milk from cows that are not treated with an artificial growth hormone. The company says the chicken change will take place within the next two years. It says suppliers will still be able to use a type of antibiotic called ionophores that keep chickens healthy and aren't used in humans. The milk change will take place later this year. Many cattle, hog and poultry producers give their livestock antibiotics to make them grow faster and ensure they are healthy. The practice has become a public health issue, with officials saying it can lead to germs becoming resistant to drugs so that they're no longer effective in treating a particular illness in humans. Chipotle and Panera already say they serve chicken raised without antibiotics, but the announcement by McDonald's is notable because of its size; the company has more than 14,000 U.S. locations. Chipotle has nearly 1,800 locations, while Panera has almost 1,900 locations. "This really does move the ball quite a bit," said Gail Hansen, a senior officer with the antibiotic resistance project with The Pew Charitable Trusts. Hansen noted that ionophores, the antibiotics that will be allowed by McDonald's, are not considered medically important for humans. Marion Gross, senior vice president of McDonald's North America's supply chain, said the change will cost the company more but noted the increase won't necessarily be passed on to customers because several factors are used to determine restaurant prices. "I think you will hear more from us as it relates to our food," Gross added. The announcement comes as McDonald's Corp. struggles to transform its image amid intensifying competition from smaller rivals positioning themselves as more wholesome alternatives. The company has long battled negative perceptions about its food, but that has become a bigger vulnerability as more people shift toward options they feel are made with ingredients that are higher quality or meet standards on social responsibility. After seeing customer visits to U.S. stores decline two years in a row, McDonald's had recently hinted changes could be on the way. Franchisees were told of the upcoming chicken and milk announcement Tuesday night at a "Turnaround Summit" in Las Vegas. Scott Taylor, a McDonald's franchisee who was at the conference, said ingredients are "becoming more and more important" to customers. And he said the company was suggesting it needs to "be where our consumers want and need us to be." "You're going to see more stuff like that in the future," Taylor said. In a statement, chicken supplier Tyson Inc. said it looks forward to working with McDonald's to meet its new standards. Tyson noted it has reduced the use of antibiotics effective in humans by more than 84 percent since 2011. Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said selling milk produced without rBST was a good step because the artificial growth hormone can cause health problems in dairy cows. As McDonald's fights to hold onto customers, the company has also made a number of leadership changes, admissions of shortcomings and declarations that changes are in the works. The pressures reached the top of the company in late January, when the company said CEO Don Thompson would be replaced by Steve Easterbrook, its chief brand officer. The CEO change officially took effect this week, and Easterbrook was at the franchisee summit in Las Vegas.
Written on 03/04/2015, 10:31 am by Business Journal staff
Fresno Pacific University (FPU) will host the George Fox University Doctor of Educational Leadership (Ed.D) beginning this spring. The doctorate is geared towards K-12 administrators and those who want to go into higher education, particularly the student life and financial aid fields.  The partnership between the two private Christian universities is designed to help maximize accessibility for working professionals interested in the degree. Doctoral candidates in the program will complete classes online during the fall and spring semesters with summer sessions offered in a hybrid format of three weeks online and a two-week campus residency at FPU. George Fox University (GFU) faculty will travel to Fresno each summer from the main campus in Newberg, Oregon. Candidates will choose from one of three concentrations including instructional design and development for grades preschool through college and administration for preschool to grade 12.  FPU currently provides all services not directly linked to the admissions and academics of the program but will eventually develop an elective track for the doctorate. The doctoral program builds upon the university's master's degree and reputation in the field of public education and will cost $716 per unit, with an estimated four years to completion. The Ed.D program has a 91 percent graduation rate. Key dates for the program include: • Admissions deadline, April 1 • Interview day, April 18 • Online class start, June 8 • Orientation, June 21 • Residency dates, June 22-July 3
Written on 03/04/2015, 10:08 am by Business Journal Staff
For the 15th consecutive month, the San Joaquin Valley Business Conditions Index tallied a positive reading of the Valley economy. But the February index came in at 52.9, slipping for the third straight month from the record high of 59.9 recorded in November 2014. An index reading greater than 50.0 indicates an expansionary economy over the next three to six months, said Dr. Ernie Goss, research faculty with the Craig School of Business at Fresno State. “Much like the national economy, the San Joaquin Valley economy is expanding at a solid pace. Based on our surveys over the past several months, that growth should remain positive for the next three to six months,” said Goss. Last month, businesses in the area reported on the impact of the West Coast dock disputes that significantly slowed shipping activity in and out of the western U.S. About 27 percent of firms reported negative impacts on sales as a result of the port slowdown. And 55 percent of firms said the port slowdown negatively impacted company purchases of inputs and raw materials and supplies. The index, produced by the Craig School, is considered a leading economic indicator and is compiled from a survey of individuals making company purchasing decisions in Fresno, Madera, Kings and Tulare counties. The index uses the same methodology as that of the national Institute for Supply Management. Other survey findings in February showed the region’s hiring gauge remained above growth neutral, despite slipping to 51.1 in February from 52.3 in January. Goss points to the port slowdown as a cause of the decline. “Due to shipping issues tied to West coast dock disputes, firms expanded employment at a much slower pace in February. The recent settlement of the dock labor issue will put the region back on a healthier employment growth path,” he said.     The prices-paid component of the index, which tracks the wholesale cost of purchased raw materials and supplies, slid below growth neutral last month, to 47.9 from 54.9 in January. Goss said he does not expect deflation or declining wholesale prices, but believes the inflation reading will trend lower in upcoming months.     And economic optimism, captured by the business confidence index, sank to 54.8 in February from January’s much stronger 64.2 and Goss believes the port slowdown also had an impact on last month’s business confidence reading.
Written on 03/04/2015, 9:31 am by Business Journal staff
A low-power radio station dedicated to classic hits from artists like Frank Sinatra and Barbara Streisand launched in Fresno County last month.  KJOI 104.3 FM transmits over the airwaves via its radio tower in Biola, the small farming community west of Fresno. The tower has a range of 12 miles, but in a prepared statement, owner Jim Zahn said the nearby raisin growers are perfect for the station's demographic.  The radio station is operated by Western Education Alliance, a nonprofit Zahn founded in 1996 while developing an educational station for West Hills College Coalinga. The station offers commercial-free programming and is supported by listener donations.  While the station's radio tower has a limited range, Zahn has partnered with Cocola Broadcasting to rebroadcast the audio over the air on digital television station KHSC 16.1 in the Fresno market. Zahn has previously partnered with the company and owner Gary Cocola on the broadcasts for several television stations including KMSG Channel 59 in the 1980's. "I've known [Cocola] since the third grade. We went to school together at St. Theresa's," Zahn said. "We were both fascinated by radio." Listeners can also access KJOI through a stream on its website or via the Tune-In free app for Apple and Android smartphones. 
Written on 03/04/2015, 8:51 am by Business Journal staff
Registration is now open for the second annual West Hills Metric Century cycling event on March 21.  The event will have several course options including a fun ride, a mini-metric and the full 100 kilometer, or 61 mile, distance. Courses begin and end at the West Hills College Coalinga (WHCC) campus located at 300 Cherry Lane and all proceeds will go towards student programs at the college. The school is co-sponsoring the event with the Fresno Cycling Club.  "Now that this has become an annual event I want to see it grow as a fundraiser for scholarships and other student needs at the college," said Carole Goldsmith, WHCCC president.  The route will take riders up Los Gatos Creek Park Road, past oil derricks and fields and through winding hilly terrain to the San Benito County line and back.  "The last couple of miles of the ride before reaching the county line will offer some tough 8 to 12 percent grades," said Tom Kulikov, committee member.  WHCC will provide a secure "valet" bike service, three rest stops and an after-ride meal featuring tri-tip beef, chicken and a full salad bar. Special gift bags will be given to the first 100 metric and mini-metric participants who register online and 20 additional prizes ranging in value from $20-$250 will be awarded in a drawing.  Online registration will continue through March 20 and riders can sign in at the event on March 21 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. All riders must be on the road by 10 a.m. Fees to register for the event are: $45 for the 61-mile Metric Century ride; $35 for the 40-mile Mini-Metric ride and $15 for the 17-mile fun ride.  Members of the student government will also conduct a companion walk/run event for students without bicycles or helmets. 
Written on 03/04/2015, 8:48 am by John Lindt
The Visalia City Council has begun closed-door real estate negotiations with a Los Angeles hotel developer to build a new hotel near the Visalia Convention Center. The council is talking to hotel developer Remo Pizzichemi, vice president of operations for The Welcome Group, based in Encino California. The company owns and operates a handful of hotels around the country including two in Sacramento. Their hotel brands vary from Hilton and Holiday Inn to Hampton Inn and others. Downtown Visalia already has two major hotel properties near the convention center, including the 195-room Marriott and the 72-room Comfort Suites. Long discussed is the possibility of adding more overnight rooms near the convention center that could help the city accommodate larger conventions. Asked if he could comment, Mayor Steve Nelsen said he could not except to confirm “there is a hotel interested in coming downtown.” Indeed, Nelsen said there has been a recent uptick in interest by hotel developers in Visalia. Plans have been filed for new hotels on Plaza Drive and another on Cypress Avenue off Akers Street. But Nelsen would like to see more. “I have always wanted to see a hotel out by the sports complex on Highway 63, and we have always talked about bringing in another hotel around the Convention Center in Downtown,” he said. In addition he said the city owns other properties near downtown that would work. Some of these properties are also on the closed-door agenda this week, without revealing the identity of the other negotiating party. “There are lots of moving parts right now, and I think something is going to happen,” Nelsen said. Details are not set, but one concept is in order to make room for a new hotel, the city might relocate the planning department to clear a site on the east end of the convention center and make it available for a ground lease. In addition, the lease might include the parking lot on the east end. The idea may have both support and opposition. “I do think we need more hotel rooms near the convention center,” said hotelier Anil Chagan, who owns several properties in town. “The problem is we can’t accommodate some of the larger conventions because we don’t have enough rooms within walking distance of the convention center.” But Chagan adds: “I don’t like the idea of the city being involved because that competes with private enterprise.” With the Marriott and Chagan’s Comfort Suites, there are two large hotels downtown already. The city might play a roll clearing the land and leasing it to a developer. While the practice may have been controversial 25 year ago,  today it is common, even typical around convention centers in cities from Dallas to Casper from Newport Beach to Grover Beach. There are some 5,600 rooms in the greater Visalia/Tulare/Porterville metro area. Bed tax monies in Visalia total about $2.2 million a year and growing. In the past year, Smith Travel says this metro area’s “rooms sold” are up 6.1 percent and revenue per available room is up 10 percent. On Plaza Drive, developers have filed plan for a new Residence Inn. Even earlier, a plan for a Holiday Inn Express near Adventure Park had been floated. Chagan says the “investment atmosphere in Visalia is good right now,” and he would not be surprised if a number of deals were done. Sequoia Park visitation is helping to drive the increase, and Chagan “hopes that in 2015 the economy in Europe” allows this key segment in the Visalia tourist market to continue to grow. In a related matter, the city plans to spend about $4 million this year to upgrade the convention center.
Written on 03/04/2015, 8:13 am by DERRIK J. LANG, AP Entertainment Writer
(AP) — Sony plans on putting its virtual-reality headset on consumers' noggins next year. The gaming and electronics company announced Tuesday at the Game Developers Conference that its VR system nicknamed Project Morpheus will debut in the first half of 2016. Sony Corp. originally unveiled a prototype of the headset at last year's gathering of video game developers. The headset works in tandem with Sony's PlayStation 4 console and camera by covering users' vision and simulating virtual worlds on screen. Sony flaunted an updated version of the VR headset prototype at Tuesday's event. While it largely resembles the prototype introduced last year, the new version redistributes weight toward the back of the user's head and features a screen that can slide back and forth to accommodate eyeglasses. The new prototype also features a larger 5.7-inch OLED screen that displays nearly a 100-degree field of view and is capable of rendering imagery at up to 120 frames per second. There are nine LED lights on the headset's exterior that are to track movement. No price was announced. "Our goal with VR is to deliver a sense of presence, making the player feel as though they've stepped inside the world of a game," said Shuhei Yoshida, president of Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios. "The new Project Morpheus prototype brings us closer to that goal, as it improves the visual experience and tracking accuracy, both of which are critical to achieving sense of presence." The company showed off the new prototype at Tuesday's event with four technical demonstrations, including a game that utilized a pair of PlayStation Move controllers to simulate a shootout inside a lavish building in London and a more passive presentation that featured tiny robots responding to users' movements. Sony is among several gaming and electronics companies working to bring VR into homes. HTC and Valve announced plans Sunday to release its Vive VR system to consumers later this year, while Oculus VR has yet to reveal when its Oculus Rift headset will be available to consumers.
Written on 03/04/2015, 8:10 am by CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER, AP Economics Writer
(AP) — U.S. businesses added more than 200,000 jobs in February for the 13th straight month, a private survey found. It was the latest sign that strong hiring should boost the economy this year. Payroll processor ADP said Wednesday that companies added 212,000 jobs last month, a solid gain, though down from 250,000 in the previous month. January's figure was revised up from 213,000. The figures come just before Friday's government report on the labor market, which economists forecast will show an increase of 240,000 jobs, according to a survey by data provider FactSet. The unemployment rate is expected to fall to 5.6 percent from 5.7 percent. The ADP numbers cover only private businesses and sometimes diverge from the government's more comprehensive report, which includes government agencies. A burst of hiring in the past year has lifted the number of Americans earning paychecks, and a sharp drop in gas prices means those paychecks can buy more goods and services. That has accelerated U.S. economic growth and encouraged companies to add jobs at a steady pace. Still, February's hiring was the slowest in nine months, according to the ADP data. Most economists have expected a slight slowdown, however, after a run of huge job gains. Employers added 423,000 jobs in November, and more than 1 million from November through January, the fastest three-month pace since 1997. More than 3 million people have been hired in the past 12 months. "Job growth is strong, but slowing from the torrid pace of recent months," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics. "Job gains remain broad-based, although the collapse in oil prices has begun to weigh on energy-related employment." Moody's Analytics helps compile the report. Those job gains are lifting consumer spending, which rose in last year's fourth quarter at the fastest pace in four years. Spending grew at a solid 0.3 percent rate in January, after adjusting for prices, which fell. Zandi also said heavy snow and unseasonably cold weather in the Northeast may have dragged down hiring last month. Still, he expects the economy to grow 3 percent this year, a level consistent with hiring of about 250,000 a month.
Written on 03/04/2015, 8:07 am by JOSH BOAK, AP Economics Writer
(AP) — U.S. services firms' activity rose at a slightly faster rate in February, powered by hotels, restaurants and wholesalers. The Institute for Supply Management said Wednesday that its services index rose to 56.9 in February, up from January's reading of 56.7. Any reading over 50 indicates expansion. The survey suggests further growth in employment and imports, as a strong hiring streak over the past year has bolstered consumer spending. "The bottom line is that the US economy remains in good health," said Paul Dales, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics. The ISM is a trade group of purchasing managers. Its survey of services firms covers businesses that employ 90 percent of the American workforce, including retail, construction, health care and financial services companies. Fourteen sectors reported growth in February, while four said activity lessened. In addition to hotels, restaurants and wholesalers, the sectors reporting growth include real estate, utilities, agriculture and financial sectors. Activity dropped for mining, construction and arts and entertainment. The decline in oil prices has hurt business for firms involved in drilling and construction. "Business conditions are seeing less money being spent on capital projects by the major oil companies," one construction firm said in the survey. Yet retailers countered that cheaper gasoline has boosted sales, helping to expand an economy where nearly 70 percent of all activity comes from consumer spending. The ISM survey indicated that many companies faced pressures because of the backlog caused by the West Coast port labor dispute, a contract disagreement that was largely resolved last week. The economy grew at an annual rate of 2.2 percent in the October-December quarter after climbing at a strong 5 percent rate in the summer. Even though overall growth slowed at the close of 2014, hiring has enjoyed a hot streak. Employers added roughly 1 million jobs between November and January, hiring at levels that economists say should support growth at an annual rate between 2.5 percent and 3 percent. Economists surveyed by the data firm FactSet expect the employment report being released Friday to show job gains of 240,000 in February.

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