TODAY

– December 25, 2014

Truck emissions inspectors scour Fresno area

California Air Resources Board inspectors check a truck engine for compliance with the Truck and Bus regulationCalifornia Air Resources Board inspectors check a truck engine for compliance with the Truck and Bus regulationTeams of inspectors from the California Air Resources Board were in Fresno today checking big rig engines for compliance with the agency's Truck and Bus regulation.

The regulation requires all trucks in the state to have 2010 model year engines or the equivalent particulate matter (PM) retrofits by 2023.

Beginning January 1, heavy duty diesel trucks with engines dating from 2000 to 2004 are required to have soot filters, making them 2010 equivalent for emissions.

Working with the California Highway Patrol, teams of CARB inspectors set up five locations in the Fresno area to stop passing truck drivers for a check of their equipment. Inspectors checked for emissions control labels, exhaust smoke and other signs of excess emissions.

CARB's Public Information Officer Karen Caesar said the average person may not always notice, but 2010 or equivalent engines reduce emissions by 85 percent when compared to 2000 engines.

"Diesel engines last forever and when you have truck 30 to 40 years on the road, it's not good for the air," she said.

Trucks originating outside of California are also subject to the regulation, she added, so the agency is working hard to make sure truck operators everywhere are informed about the requirements and get into compliance.

"These regulations are important and compliance is not optional," she said. "We have to let these folks know and give them the information."

The latest checkpoints were one of dozens that go on throughout the year in California but the first this year for the Fresno area.

Last August, similar teams were set up at 40 different weigh stations, distribution centers and other locations throughout the state to inspect some 4,000 trucks as part of the "Gear Up For Clean Trucks" campaign.

From that effort, CARB noted a rate of 80 percent of trucks compliant with the regulation either through diesel soot filters or new and upgraded engines.

When truck operators aren't in compliance, penalties start at a minimum of $1,000 per violation per month and will increase significantly over time. Non-compliance can also result in a registration block by the Department of Motor Vehicles on the truck or having the vehicle impounded by the CHP until it in compliance.

Small fleets with three or fewer trucks can delay compliance until January 2014 by reporting their truck information to CARB.

More information on how to comply with the Truck and Bus regulation as well as incentive money is available at ARB's TruckStop website at arb.ca.gov/truckstop or by calling 1-866-6-DIESEL (634-3735).

California is home to 200,000 trucking business and 450,000 registered heavy duty diesel trucks.

Trucks and buses account for about 32 percent of the statewide emissions of NOx and about 40 percent of diesel PM emissions.

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Written on 12/24/2014, 12:36 pm by Hannah Esqueda, Business Journal staff writer
The family of an 85-year-old woman has filed a civil suit against San Joaquin Valley Rehabilitation Hospital in Fresno alleging elder abuse, negligence and fraud. The complaint, filed by law firm Garcia, Artigliere and Medby on behalf of the woman's family, says the woman was assaulted and neglected by hospital staff during her stay in October and seeks damages for what attorneys claim was the hospital’s failure to prevent the assault and attempts by the administration to cover up the incident. The suit, filed Nov. 20 in Fresno County Superior Court, names the hospital, several top administrators and parent company Vibra Healthcare as defendants in the case and seeks damages for elder abuse, negligence, negligent hiring and supervision, assault and battery and fraud. According to the complaint filed by the Los Angeles-based law firm, the woman checked into San Joaquin Valley Rehabilitation Hospital on Oct. 6 for outpatient care following surgery at Saint Agnes Medical Center for her fractured leg. The woman said a male staff member sexually assaulted her on Oct. 14. She reported the incident to several family members who then alerted hospital staff and the Fresno Police Department was called. The Business Journal does not typically identify alleged victims of sexual abuse. Despite the civil suit claiming the hospital staff member was arrested, Sgt. Daniel Macias with the Fresno PD said that no arrest was made in connection to the incident. However, the department did investigate the incident and forwarded the case to the District Attorney's office on Dec. 12. Darlene Perez, a spokesperson with the DA, said that as of Dec. 17 no charges had been filed in connection with the case. San Joaquin Valley Rehabilitation Hospital CEO Mary Jo Jacobson said she could not say whether the man identified in the lawsuit as the alleged attacker is still employed with the hospital due to employee privacy issues. She did, however, deny claims that hospital staff failed to properly report the incident. Jacobson said hospital administrators reported the incident to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) within 24 hours, well within the five-day window she said the department requires of medical facilities. “There was absolutely no cover-up,” she said. “We did report the incident to not only one but two outside entities.” Scott Sandow, a spokesperson with the CDPH, said that a complaint was filed with the department by SJV Rehabilitation Hospital on Oct. 15 and an onsite visit was made on Oct. 16. The department concluded its investigation on Nov. 17 and found the complaint to be unsubstantiated.    Stephen Garcia, senior partner with the law firm Garcia, Artigliere and Medby, said through email that the CDPH response was unsatisfactory since the department failed to include either his law firm or the alleged victim in their investigation. “The CDPH didn't follow their own protocol or guidelines,” he said. “Which is why the lawsuit was ultimately filed.” The lawsuit further claims that the staff member who allegedly attacked the woman was known by San Joaquin Valley Rehabilitation Hospital administrators to have “poor performance issues and dangerous aggressive propensities.” The suit also claims that the hospital failed to properly care for the elderly patient or protect her from the attack by consistently understaffing the facility and failing to adequately train staff. Jacobson said allegations that the hospital knew the alleged attacker was dangerous are untrue and that it is hospital policy to conduct thorough background checks on all employees prior to hiring them. In addition, she said the hospital checks staff names against the Office of Inspector Generals' List of Excluded Individuals and Entities each month. She also disputed the claim that San Joaquin Valley Rehabilitation Hospital is understaffed, saying the hospital staffs according to state regulations, which require a licensed nurse-to-patient ratio of five to one for medical, surgery or specialty care units. Jacobson also said that after the alleged attack, the hospital provided the patient with a private nurse in order to provide one-on-one care. In the complaint, however, the elderly patient said hospital staff moved her to an isolated room after the alleged assault, where she failed to receive proper care. “[The patient] was not comfortable with that decision which had been unilaterally made by the hospital without consulting her family about it first,” the suit reads. Jacobson disagrees and said that the woman remained in her original room but her roommate was moved out in order to provide her with more privacy. Hospital administrators thought that this would help make the patient more comfortable, she said. “We did not place the patient in isolation,” Jacobson said. However, once in the private room, the claim states that hospital staff ignored her calls for assistance and locked her in a wheelchair in order to prevent her from moving on her own. While Jacobson denied the claim that staff ignored any calls for assistance, she did say that wheelchairs are sometimes locked in order to keep the patients safe. “The brakes need to be on so patients don't slip,” she said. When the woman’s family complained to hospital administrators about the neglect, the suit alleges they were told the hospital had “too many other patients to attend to.” It goes on to say that on Oct. 20 the woman was transferred to The Terraces at San Joaquin Gardens without explanation from the hospital. Citing patient privacy concerns, Jacobson said she could not discuss where or why the patient was moved but that all decisions regarding patient health and treatment are made in consultation with the patient and their family. Garcia said he and his client don’t approve of how the San Joaquin Valley Rehabilitation Hospital administrators handled the incident. Among those specifically named in the lawsuit was former CEO Edward Palacios, who died unexpectedly in November. While Garcia said the suit against Palacios is now likely to be dropped, he still plans to hold the hospital and Vibra Healthcare responsible for their alleged mistreatment of his client. His law firm has offices in several states and has built a reputation through their work with elderly abuse claims, he said. The firm has had 25 cases in the Fresno area over the years and has obtained several multi-million dollar verdicts from jury trials, he said. While this is not the first civil complaint Garcia's firm has handled against San Joaquin Valley Rehabilitation Hospital, he said it is the first to name Vibra Healthcare as a defendant. The complaint alleges that as the parent company, Vibra knew about and managed the corporate behavior and policies at the hospital and is therefore equally responsible for the alleged abuse. Jacobson said she doesn't understand the lawsuit since the hospital boasts very high patient satisfaction ratings, with more than 90 percent reporting a positive experience with the facility. She said the hospital has long enjoyed a good reputation in the communities it serves and has locations in Fresno, Oakhurst, Clovis and Selma.
Written on 12/24/2014, 12:21 pm by Business Journal staff
Fresno-based American Pistachio Growers has partnered with beer giant Anheuser-Busch to save consumers money when they buy their products together. From Dec. 29 through March 2015, those who buy a 5 ounce or larger package of American Pistachio Growers member brand pistachios can save up to $6 at participating stores when they purchase a 12-pack or larger of Michelob ULTRA beer. Any one of six coupons and states where they're accepted can be found on the American Pistachio Growers' website at www.americanpistachios.org/ULTRA. Four coupons worth $6 and $4 are redeemable via mail-in rebate. One coupon knocks of $2 with a beer and pistachio purchase and another saves $1 instantly on a pack of pistachios, compliments of Michelob ULTRA. "This is our first initiative at point of sale to identify and promote pistachios grown and processed by the hundreds of members that make up American Pistachio Growers," said Judy Hirigoyen, vice president of global marketing with American Pistachio Growers, in a release. "It is a strong nationwide rollout, with a leading retail partner, and more than 19,000 stores participating, including supermarkets, mass market retailers and drug stores." Formed out of the former Western Pistachio Association in 2011, American Pistachio Growers (APG) is a non-profit voluntary agricultural trade association representing more than 600 members in California, Arizona and New Mexico with the goal of increasing global awareness of American-grown pistachios.
Written on 12/24/2014, 11:48 am by Business Journal staff
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Written on 12/24/2014, 11:06 am by Business Journal staff
Valley counties are getting a healthy boost in revenues with Pacific Gas & Electric Co.'s latest property tax payments across its service territory. The company, which provides gas and electric service to 15 million Californians, recently paid $172 million in property taxes to the 49 counties and 243 cities in which it operates. The payment, covering the period from July 1 to December 31, is in addition to the year's first property tax installment of $158 million paid in April. Total payments for the tax year of July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015 will be $344 million, an increase of $27 million over the prior fiscal year. Fresno County took in $12.93 million of the latest property tax installment, up from $11.85 million last year, followed by Madera County with $1.76 million, up from $1.68 million. Kings County got $1.22 million of the total, up from $974,557 the year before, while Tulare County received $455,315, up from $389,583. PG&E invested more than $5 billion this year to enhance and upgrade its gas and electrical infrastructure across Northern and Central California. Among them is the recently completed $28.5 million state-of-the-art electric distribution control center that opened in Fresno in October. PG&E expects to open two more control centers in Concord and Rocklin. Of that, $40 million was for natural gas facilities and equipment and nearly $104 million was for electric infrastructure. A recent economic impact report showed that PG&E contributed $22.2 billion of economic activity and supported nearly 71,600 jobs in its Northern and Central California service area in 2012.
Written on 12/24/2014, 10:23 am by Ben Keller
While not the Mecca of software developers and innovators that made the Silicon Valley famous, the Central Valley fostered its own underground of ambitious and tech savvy entrepreneurs in 2014.One company that attracted a lot of attention was Bitwise Industries. Since opening its first office at San Joaquin and L streets in downtown Fresno last summer, the group has provided a space for dozens of software developers to hone their coding and create useful products for the app-hungry community.Even more tenants are in line early next year when Bitwise moves into a vacant 52,000 square-foot building at the northeast corner of Mono Street and Van Ness Avenue.The company, founded by former attorney Jake Soberal, also instructs budding coders through its Geekwise Academy and connects established companies to qualified programmers through its Shift 3 division.Some techies even earned special recognition during the annual 59 Days of Code in Fresno. Although wrapping up its fifth and final year, the contest gave its top award to One Sense, a mobile app that helps trade show organizers connect with attendees.Fresno technology solutions provider BCT Consulting had a good year as well, making both MSPmentor’s annual list of the world’s top 501 managed service providers and also landing on Inc.com’s 5000 list of the fastest growing private companies in the U.S.Fresno-based ticketing solutions company VisionOne went even more global in November after being purchased by Accesso Technology Group of London for $33 million, bringing its cloud-based ticketing software system ShoWare to nearly a dozen additional venues by year’s end. Even local governments tapped into the tech community, with the cities of Fresno and Clovis coming together to put on its Hack 4 Change event allowing Web designers to come up with Internet-based solutions to societal challenges.Compared to most regions of the state, however, the Central Valley was found to be lagging in its use of broadband Internet access. A new report by the Public Policy Institute of California showed just 60 percent of residents in the region were able to access broadband at home compared to 92 percent in the San Francisco Bay Area, 89 percent in the Orange County/San Diego area and 86 percent each in the Inland Empire and Los Angeles.
Written on 12/24/2014, 10:22 am by Gabriel Dillard
Central Valley sports and entertainment isn’t a news category where much changes from year to year. But 2014 proved to be an outlier, and perhaps the year’s biggest stories involved the Valley’s entertainment landscape.One of the year’s biggest stories is definitely the closure of Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino in Coarsegold. The casino has been closed since the beginning of October when a group of armed men led by one of the tribe’s leadership factions violently stormed the casino complex in search of documents.It appears a federal judge will not allow the casino to reopen until all of the factions work out a solution to their disagreements. The casino employs around 1,000. Only a small skeleton has been employed there maintaining the facility during its closure.The results of a casino audit released in October found a nearly $50 million fund deficit that hasn’t been accounted for.Downtown Fresno’s Chukchansi Park is one of the community organizations and causes that are supported by the Chukchansi Tribe. The downtown stadium used to be the home to the Triple-A affiliate of the World Champion San Francisco Giants. But the organization in September announced it would sever ties with Fresno in favor of Sacramento. Starting in 2015, the Fresno Grizzlies will be the affiliate of the Houston Astros — a move that had many “fans” scratching their heads.Also on the casino front, voters in November rejected a state gaming compact for a planned Casino along Highway 99 in Madera County. The move is expected to only delay the project a decade in the making by the North Fork Rancheria Band of Mono Indians.Voters were more receptive to extending for 10 years the Fresno County sales tax measures that provides millions of dollars for operations and planned expansions at Fresno Chaffee Zoo.Also on the animal front, Valley-bred horse California Chrome electrified the racing world this summer with his Triple Crown try, snagging Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes wins but coming up shot at the Belmont Stakes in June.
Written on 12/24/2014, 10:20 am by Gabriel Dillard
Throwing in some controversial measures, plans and an election year, it was a busy 2014 for government in the Central Valley.Most recently the Fresno City Council passed a 2035 General Plan update that focuses more on infill development. The measure passed despite opposition from two members of the council as well as from local developers and even smart-growth proponents.It was a victory for Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, who couldn’t claim the same for her state controller run as well as a plan to raise water rates to help pay for infrastructure improvements.The city has hosted a number of forums on the mayor’s water plan in recent months, with the council approving in November a vote by Fresno water users on rate increases.Swearengin’s Business Friendly Fresno task force announced progress this year in its efforts to make the town user-friendlier for new or expanding businesses. Much of the effort centered on making it easier and quicker to secure city permits for business projects.It was a close call for Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno), who nearly lost his seat to challenger Johnny Tacherra. It wasn’t much of a contest for the challengers of Devin Nunes (R-Tulare), who was recently named chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.Another race that polarized the Fresno business community was the Fresno Superior Court judgeship battle between Rachel Hill and Lisa Gamoian, with Gamoian ultimately coming out ahead.Good news came out of Lemoore with the announcement the Navy would based its West Coast fleet of F-35C aircraft at its naval base in the South Valley town.
Written on 12/24/2014, 10:18 am by Leah
As long as we are taking a look back at the year, here are some of the more colorful and insightful responses published as part of this year’s executive profiles. — Editor Gabriel Dillard Darren Gold,President and Chief Executive Officer,Heald College (February 7) For-profit college institutions have been criticized over how they state the value of their programs in the actual job market. How do you respond?This criticism is one of my main frustrations and what I spend a lot of time talking about internally and externally. The notion that the tax status of an organization is somehow incompatible with an organization’s ability to deliver value and fulfill a social mission is unfair and inaccurate. There are for-profit companies that are not delivering value, but there are plenty of non-profit organizations that are also failing to do so. We need to move past this unfair bias against for-profit companies, and instead focus on the real issue: Our state has a growing need for skilled workers and we are failing to educate enough of them.  This is what we focus on every day at Heald.   Eric Johnson,Owner,E.R. Johnson Consulting (March 11) What are your roots in the Central Valley? My roots here are deep. My father’s family is part of the Swedish Colony that settled on the east side of Fresno before the city was founded. My mother’s family is part of the Volga German group that settled on Fresno’s west side in the early 1900s. My wife’s family traces to people who settled in the Millerton area during the Gold Rush period. We’re staying local. Alicia Rios,DirectorCalifornia Centers for International Trade Development (CITD),State Center Community College District (May 9) What was the best advice you ever received? My grandmother, who will be 100 years old in 2015, came here from Mexico at the age 20 and always told us “el que trabaja duro buenas cosas seguirán,” which means work hard and good things will follow. This very basic advice is completely true, as we’ve all followed her words and feel blessed with the results of our hard work. Kristine Walter,Owner,Wheelhouse Strategies (May 2) What was your first job and what did you learn from it?That I needed to learn another skill other than making pizza. It was a disaster. Javier Gomez,Chief Operations Officer,F&M Restaurants, Inc. (May 30) What do you attribute to your success as a business owner? Dedication to being out there with your people. My managers are the ones making the business happen. I look at myself as a coach on the sidelines talking to them. Every other Tuesday we talk about successes and opportunity and discuss where we need to be. Any issue that comes up, and they’re the first ones to tell me this coupon doesn’t work, this promotion doesn’t work. I give credit to my mangers. They’re the ones out there dealing with customers, dealing with vendors. I tell them ‘I’ll take you the distance. You handle the business as high as you can’ and ‘don’t let the business manage you. Manage the business.’ Phil Owens, Area Manager,BBSI in Fresno (June 6) What are your roots in the Central Valley? I’m a Valley guy! My great grandparents came here during the “Okie and Arkie” migration, and our family settled between Fresno and Visalia. In my early years I felt the need to get out of Fresno and did so for 20 plus years; however, Fresno’s tether is only so long and eventually brought me back to raise a family. In all my travels, I can think of no better place to raise a family. I love it here! Dr. Lynnette Zelezny,California State University, Fresno,Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs (July 4) What do you like to do in your spare time?  I love to dance, read, hike, sail, travel (goal to visit all 50 states) and go to the movies. I’m a huge classic movie fan. My mother in-law was in “Singing in the Rain.”J. Colin Petersen,President/CEO,J-I.T. Outsource (Formerly The Geeks Computer Service) (August 1) What was your first job and what did you learn from it?My first real job was throwing the Fresno Bee when I was 14. I learned the value of “putting it on the porch.” The Bee didn’t insist I do it for every client, only those who requested it. I learned that if I simply put it on the porch for everyone, I would have happy customers. It’s the simple service details that make all the difference. Flindt Andersen,Founder & Executive Director,P.A.I.N. - Prescription Abusers In Need (August 8) When did you know it was time to get help?After a 20-year addiction, I finally realized that I was going to die if I didn’t get help but I didn’t know what to do. I had been to several inpatient and outpatient facilities and always failed. I had cried wolf so many times before that no one would have believed me if I told them I was really serious this time about getting clean. After my open-heart surgery in 2000, I continued using painkillers for another year. I now had a valid reason to keep using and of course the doctors kept giving me as much as I wanted. Then came 2001, I weighed 155lbs and looked like I had incurable cancer. Fortunately for me, my best friend took a hard stand with me and got me into the Betty Ford Treatment Center. It saved my life. But as anyone who works a serious recovery program will tell you, it is always up to the addict to get clean and sober and stay that way. Family and friends can only do so much. Jane Olvera Quebe,President,JP Marketing (September 5) What was your first job and what did you learn from it? When I was 12, my Uncle Carlos hired me to pack stone fruit at a tiny shed in Dinuba. The fruit would come in buckets, unwashed, un-sized and still warm from the hot summer sun. I was paid 22¢ a box to do this sweaty, back-breaking work for 4 summers and I vowed that I would be the first in my family to attend college and secure a career working with my mind.    Virna L. Santos,Partner,Santos & Santiago Law Group, LLP (October 24) What is the best advice you ever received?I received the same great advice from my parents and from my mentor, [Supreme Court] Justice Sonia Sotomayor: act with humility and treat others with dignity and respect, no matter their station in life.  

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