Weekly Issues

Employment legislation; forecasting the drought

Today is the state Legislature’s deadline for bills to pass the house in which they were introduced. A number of “job killer” bills — as designated by the California Chamber of Commerce — are in contention. And one local legislator has taken aim at the rules governing professional licensing.

Visalia Civic Center plan wins backing

The majority of the Visalia City Council is backing a preliminary plan put forward by Councilmember Greg Collins to lay out the new Civic Center facing a planned park and waterway.
The council earlier this month approved the location of the first building in the East Downtown plan. The Visalia Emergency Communications Center (VECC) along School Street will cost $15 million and be completed by December 2015.

Climate change has water experts concerned

Speaking at the recent Water Technology Conference in Clovis, national, state and local water and sustainability experts warned that time is running out to replace Valley groundwater supplies that have been lost because of drought and overdraft.
They warned that climate change could lead to longer drought periods in the Central Valley and that it would become more difficult to obtain water from distant locations.

Quench thirst, give back

Family embraces charitable snow cone biz

It was more than just seeing happy crowds enjoying tasty cups of shaved ice that drew Fresno residents Ray and Amanda Asklof to Kona Ice.
As the new Valley franchise of the Kentucky-based snow cone chain, driving around Fresno and Madera selling America’s favorite frozen treat was a literal chance to give back to the community.

Earl "Sticks" Brown

Earl-Sticks-Brown-Portrait-1Owner / CEO
Sticks Brown Group / Radiant Ride

EDUCATION: BA Communications, University of the Pacific

AGE: 57

FAMILY: Married to Ruth, with two adult children

Tell us about Radiant Ride.
Radiant Ride is a vehicle appearance maintenance program for new car buyers. What makes our program unique is our all-inclusive coverage. We cover the costs for most cosmetic repairs as well as surface protection damage. Today’s consumers keep their cars longer, so maintaining a vehicle’s appearance is more important than it was in the past.

Nonprofit vs Community Benefit Organization

Sector seeks to move past ‘nonprofit’ moniker
There’s a movement afoot locally to change the way people talk about the nonprofit sector, in the most literal sense of the word.
Many of the region’s top nonprofit professionals feel the phrase “community benefit organization” more accurately represents what the industry does.

Alicia Rios


California Centers for International Trade Development (CITD)
State Center Community College District

What we do:
The California Centers for International Trade Development (CITD), a division of State Center Community College District, works year-round to fulfill its mission to promote the state’s international trade competitiveness, assist exporters and importers, and advance economic and job growth.

Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with an emphasis in International Business (1999) from California State University, Fresno.

Many nieces and nephews, ranging in age from 4 months to 22 years.

What are your roots in the Central Valley?
I’m proud to say I was born and raised in Hanford and earned my Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with an emphasis on International Business from California State University, Fresno. As a Valley resident, I am very familiar with the many agricultural assets located within the Central Valley and as such, I’m constantly working with our CITD team to involve and engage the rural areas within the Valley in new and exciting exporting opportunities.

City of Fresno dives into needed sewer system upgrades

Sewer construction and repairs are plunging ahead as the City of Fresno upgrades an aging system that has been in place 100 years or more in some parts of the city.
Kevin Norgaard, Fresno’s supervising professional engineer, said downtown sewer lines were installed in the 1890s and most don’t last more than 130 years.

Group pushes Hong Kong export opportunities

Local food producers, processors and winemakers gathered for a networking luncheon in downtown Fresno last week to learn how to break into the potentially lucrative export market including sales to Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland.
Attending Hong Kong trade shows and breaking into that market is considered a means of finding customers in other parts of Asia. “You can use Hong Kong as a springboard,” said Stella Poon, director of the Los Angeles office of Hong Kong Trade Development Council.
She said that for instance, now is a good time to explore Vietnam as a growth market. Coffee sales are strong there.
But the initial push is to develop roots in Hong Kong.
Poon said Hong Kong has made it easier to sell vintage California wines there. “Hong Kong has removed import duties and taxes for wine,” Poon said. “So wine is doing very well.”
Hong Kong has opened 100 wine stores and tasting rooms, Poon said.
She added that food producers can find many resources to promote their products in Asia including product magazines, exhibitions and trade shows. She encouraged producers to attend the Hong Kong Trade Development Council Food Expo held in August.
Last year the event attracted 1,159 exhibitors.
The event is held at the Hong Kong Convention Center. “It is next to the harbor,” Poon said.
The expo showcases bakery products, beverages, health drinks, coffee, biscuits, snacks, confectionary items, canned frozen and processed foods, dairy products, fruits and vegetables, health foods, organic foods, rice, noodles and pasta, sauces and seasonings and seafood.
Also speaking at the luncheon, Alicia Rios, director of the California Centers for International Trade Development at State Center Community College District, encouraged producers to contact the Foreign Agricultural Service for information and assistance in developing export sales. She said the GAIN (Global Agricultural International Network) program could be especially helpful.
It provides insight and analysis from FAS's overseas offices on issues affecting agricultural production and trade.
Other programs of interest include WUSATA (Western United States Agricultural Trade Association) and The USDA’s Branded Program.
WUSATA helps companies increase their opportunities to reach 95.5 percent of the world’s consumers in the global marketplace. It helps food and agricultural companies based in the Western U.S. explore, enter and expand into international markets through cost effective marketing programs and services.
The Branded Program, funded by the US Department of Agriculture’s Market Access Program, provides assistance to small food and agricultural companies in marketing their products overseas. Qualifying companies can receive as much as 50 percent in cost reimbursement on eligible promotional expenses.
The networking luncheon also focused on the logistics of exporting to foreign destinations. Glen Roberts, director of U.S. Export Assistance Center in Fresno, explained how the center helps in trade counseling.
Services include help in developing a business plan, determining what types of licenses would be needed to ship certain goods and documenting what is being shipped.
The center also helps in finding export partners.

Valley Rally’s team members win cruise

It’s more than just hungry customers flocking to Rally’s restaurants throughout the San Joaquin Valley.
Last month, the burger-and-fry chain honored the local franchise by sending nine general managers on a Caribbean cruise enjoyed by just a handful of elite owners across the country.