The News

Sizzling market for gourmet burger chains

Two new Habit Burger Grill locations are coming to the Valley. Leases have been signed for a 2,400-square-foot location in Hanford and a 2,400-square-foot facility in Bakersfield.
The Hanford restaurant will be at the southwest corner of 12th Avenue and Lacey Boulevard in the same shopping center as Lowe’s, Target and Michael’s. The Bakersfield restaurant will be at the northwest corner of the California Avenue and Easton Drive in the same shopping center as Starplex Cinemas and Burlington Coat Factory.

Full-scale retail project slated for Madera Ranchos

The Madera County Board of Supervisors is set to vote next month on the first full-scale commercial development in the fast-growing Madera Ranchos area.
Up until now, the residential island between Highway 41 and 99 has been home to only a handful of shops and restaurants serving the community.

Hinds Hospice updating its Fresno home

Work has begun on a $250,000 remodel at the Hinds Hospice Home in Fresno. The project will bring the home up-to-date on several safety and technology issues and should be completed by January 2015.
“We need to do this in order to make sure we stay abreast of current licensing requirements,” Amy Tobin, chief executive officer of Hinds Hospice, said.

Fresno trucking firm celebrates half century

Fifty years since bringing its first load to the door, one of the Valley’s largest trucking companies still holds to its tagline “Bill Ritchie standing by” to sum up its home delivery service.
Even now with seven facilities in three states and a fleet of some 75 trucks, Ritchie Trucking of Fresno has never lost that niche, becoming the name consumers trust to haul and install all kinds of appliances to homes or businesses overnight.

Growers see bright side of net energy metering aggregation

Solar companies in California are picking up new customers this year thanks to a new state rule allowing single solar systems to run off multiple electric meters.
The trend is even more apparent in the Central Valley where farmers and ranchers have wells, pumps and other equipment spread out across a number of parcels, all tied to separate electric meters.

Bitwise’s SHIFT3 matches coders, employers

When people think of Fresno, a high-caliber technology workforce is not usually what comes to mind. Local group Bitwise Industries is working to change that, however, and founders say technology is one of the first things that people should associate with the city.
The technology hub has pushed for greater recognition of homegrown talent since it’s founding in 2013. The group has its headquarters in Downtown Fresno’s Mural District and has tasked itself with offering an innovative space for the local technology industry to thrive.
“It really is a human objective. We chose Fresno because this is the place that we care about,” CEO Jake Soberal said.
Soberal has been vocal about Bitwise’s goal of helping to rebrand the city as a technology hub and center for innovation. By offering collaborative workspace, coding classes and mentorship opportunities, the company aims to change the conversation and show companies near and far that Fresno has what it takes to compete.
In order to do that, Bitwise knew it had to first draw attention to local talent and resources unique to Fresno. This has been best accomplished via the company’s SHIFT3 Technologies. The program acts as matchmaker for local developers looking for freelance work and companies seeking extra manpower.
“It’s one of those things where you run into people and they don’t think you can produce high-quality products,” Bitwise Chief Technology Officer Irma Olguin said. “We want to show that we absolutely can produce world-class things here in Fresno.”
Currently, Olguin said Shift 3 has a pool of 300-500 local programmers who have experience in coding and website design. Each programmer brings his or her unique skill set to the table and when a company reaches out to SHIFT3 for a job, the group is able to filter through their local database and see who is best qualified.
“Most are coming from either word of mouth or they’ve taken a few courses through Geekwise Academy,” Olguin said. “If they’re still a little bit green we’ll suggest they take another course or pair them up with one of our senior developers.”
While the program is willing to hold their hand a little bit, most developers have plenty of experience and are just looking for a way to connect with potential employers. Olguin said she and Soberal have worked hard to make industry connections and spread the word that Fresno is open for business.
Their efforts seem to have paid off, and Olguin said SHIFT3 has worked on nearly 30 projects for both local and national companies, some of which even Olguin was surprised to hear from.
“We were contacted by a casino franchise from Texas for some work and I didn’t know how they had heard about us, but they said they saw something online,” she said.
Like most freelance matching programs, the SHIFT3 projects programmers work can be either short-term or long-term. Occasionally, a freelancer will even find a permanent position working for the company but that depends on whether the company and freelancer have the same goals, Olguin said.
“It’s nice when it happens but we want to make sure the freelancer doesn’t get into a situation they are not comfortable with,” she said.
Most of the feedback SHIFT3 receives is positive however and freelancers and companies alike both seem to enjoy the opportunity.
“Every single time that we place [freelancers] there’s a lot of relief on both sides,” Olguin said. “The company is usually relieved they don’t have to pay to hire a head hunter and the freelancers are excited to get work.”
While freelancing technology work is a common trend in places like Silicon Valley and the Bay Area, Olguin said it is a particularly important resource for Fresno.
By providing local programmers with a fairly steady stream of SHIFT3 work opportunities, Bitwise is helping to stop the brain drain. Local workers with technology skills have a reason to stick around in Fresno and feel less inclined to look for work in Portland or San Francisco. This retention of local talent is a crucial step towards evolving Fresno into a mecca for the tech industry and Bitwise expects companies to follow suit.
While Olguin said it would be nice for Fresno to one day be as recognizable within the technology industry as other cities, she thinks the community has an advantage in its culturally diverse workforce which will set it apart from the rest of the pack.
“No where else are you going to find the diversity we have here in the Central Valley. It’s just the natural order of things,” she said.
Less-than-diverse workforces have been problematic for technology companies big and small, and reports released earlier this year revealed that not even tech’s heavy hitters like Google and Apple were immune. But it’s not something Bitwise has had to worry about, Olguin said. Her own Web-design company, Edit LLC, has a 50/50 split between minority and white employees and boasts an equal number of men and women.
This level of diversity is still uncommon within the industry and Olguin said it’s just another reason companies should begin looking to Fresno for their technology needs.

Hannah Esqueda  |  Reporter can be reached at:
490-3461 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

SPCA sniffs victory in Rachael Ray challenge

Linda Van Kirk, executive director of the Central California Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), said something remarkable happened between June and August of this year.
No animals were euthanized at its facility just north of Highway 180 on Hughes Avenue.
Not one.

Fresno to host first martial arts hall of fame event

Local martial arts expert David Johnson wants to put Fresno on the map when he inducts renowned leaders in hand-to-hand combat into the area’s first martial arts hall of fame Oct. 12.
The black tie event, beginning at 7 p.m. at the Holiday Inn near Fresno Yosemite International Airport, will see around 15 becoming the first of an elite group of martial arts experts and others who have worked tirelessly to promote the art of self-defense throughout the world.

Community college program preps courses for drought displaced

Several community colleges in the Central Valley are busy developing training courses as part of a new state program imparting skills to workers displaced by California’s ongoing drought.
The program began with $1 million in federal disaster aid the state Legislature provided to the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency in March to help rural communities hit hardest by the drought.

Three years later, Warner Co. wraps up bankruptcy

Three years after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the Warner Company’s case has finally closed. Court records show the final trustee report was filed earlier this month.
The 144-year-old Fresno jewelry store filed for bankruptcy on Sept. 20, 2011 but the case dragged on for several years, Michelle Meister said. Meister is an assistant trustee in the trustee office assigned the case.