The Focus

Local Covered California HMO, PPO plans ranked

Nearly 3.4 million previously uninsured Californians signed up for health care coverage during last year's open enrollment period. While this year's open enrollment is several months shorter — enrollment opened on Nov. 15 and ends Feb. 15, 2015 — Covered California has set its sights on reaching the remaining 1.7 million uninsured Californians.

Westlands opens water wallet for Huron

Westlands Water District is pitching in to make sure the City of Huron is able to meet the town’s water needs.

The Westlands board recently voted to make emergency water available to the Western Fresno County city of under 7,000 people.

Assessor floats changes to Fresno County’s Williamson Act

Fresno County Assessor Paul Dictos spends a lot of time thinking about the Williamson Act, and he believes he has found a way to make it work better for family farmers.

Dictos has completed a draft proposal that aims to redistribute tens of million of dollars among Fresno County landowners who participate in the program, which gives farmers a break on their property taxes as long as the property is involved in producing food or fiber.

Central Valley represented with Energy Star-rated buildings

While Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification is an ideal way to prove a building’s green status, many property owners are content to show energy efficiency through an Energy Star rating.
Developed in 1992 by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Energy Star rating system has become a stamp of superior energy performance for banks, schools hospitals, retail stores, offices and several other types of buildings, though it may be more well-known to consumers as a ratings system for home appliances.

Kings County: Economic growth via the skies

A number of factors look to prep Kings County for some economic growth in the year ahead.
Perhaps the most anticipated new development follows a recent decision by the U.S. Navy to base a total of 100 F-35C aircraft at Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore. The new aircraft, made up of seven Navy Pacific Fleet Squadrons and one Fleet Replacement Squadron, will arrive in phases beginning next year to replace 70 aging F/A-18 Hornets currently on location by 2028.

Fresno County: Rail work, other factors drive optimism

Local economic development professionals see bright skies ahead for Fresno County in 2015, but the lack of rainclouds could signal continued trouble.
When it comes to the nonfarm economy, most agree the Valley is continuing on a positive trajectory. The unemployment numbers bear that out. In September, Fresno County’s jobless rate reached 9.5 percent — the first single-digit unemployment rate in six years.

Bank beefs up cyber security as threat level rises

In the wake of a high-profile security breach, Fresno’s United Security Bank has adopted tighter security measures in hopes of protecting customers.

The move comes as the banking and retail industries focuses its attention to cyber security as more hacking incidents emerge compromising millions of customers.

United Security Bank agreed in June to pay $350,000 to Bakersfield oil company TRC Operating Co. to settle litigation stemming from a 2011 cyber fraud incident. Dennis Woods, president and CEO of United Security Bank, said the bank has taken on additional security measures to protect corporate customers that frequently use the online money-wiring system.

Restaurateurs ponder European-style service fee instead of tips

What if restaurants eliminated tipping in favor of charging patrons a flat service fee? 

That's a question some local restaurant-owners are pondering as a way of dealing with increasing minimum wage in California. 

“I'm very interested to see if anyone in the Fresno community has considered it or would be able to pull it off,” said Chris Mariscotti, owner of The Vineyard restaurant in Madera.

Event, competition promotes business plans, pitches

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.

How business owners can harness social media opportunities


In the digital age, social media sites like Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook have begun replacing traditional marketing methods. The websites allow business owners to instantly connect with potential customers for free. But while advertising on social media is less complex, business leaders warn that it can be a double-edged sword.