– April 25, 2015

Latest Local News

Written on 04/24/2015, 11:19 am by Business Journal staff
Meathead Movers has partnered with the Marjaree Mason Center (MMC) to provide moving services for victims of domestic violence in Fresno County. 
Written on 04/24/2015, 9:07 am by Hannah Esqueda
The popularity of electronic cigarettes has grown rapidly over the last few years, prompting health care organizations to issue warnings about the potential dangers of the product and causing at least one local community to try and reign in the market’s growth. “The [tobacco] industry has been shifting dramatically in recent years,” said Ken Grey, city manager in Selma. “The city is studying this and investigating what changes might be made in our ordinances.” The Selma City Council recently approved an ordinance calling for a moratorium on the establishment of any new smoke or vapor shops within city limits. The 10-month ban is meant to allow city officials time to research potential hazards and change the language of its existing laws monitoring the industry. Currently, Selma requires any business selling tobacco products to obtain a special permit. City officials hope to broaden the language of the ordinance to also include businesses selling electronic cigarettes, which they say, are heavily marketed towards teens and young adults. “There is growing public concern for these products being advertised to youth,” Grey said. “We’re still in the phase of collecting information about this.” The moratorium received little public comment when it was passed, but local tobacco shop owners say they think the law is unnecessary. “It’s not fair to think that we’re targeting minors,” said Tejinder Singh, owner of Cigarette Outlet. “We have every age of customer who smokes the vapor products because they are not as bad as cigarettes.” Singh’s shop has been around for more than a decade but began carrying vapor supplies a few years ago in order to keep up with changing tastes in the market. Electronic cigarettes, or vapor pens, use flavored juice containing nicotine and are often thought of as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes since they contain fewer chemicals. Public health agencies throughout the state warn that this perception is flawed however, and say the products pose a particular risk for young adults who enjoy the candy-flavored juice. The California Department of Public Health recently released a report highlighting areas of concern regarding electronic cigarettes, including the highly addictive nature of nicotine and the presence of toxic chemicals in secondhand emissions. The department’s report also found a sharp increase in usage of vapor pens among California teens and young adults in recent years, prompting the organization to launch its first ad campaign warning against electronic cigarettes last month. The commercials specifically criticize the industry’s appeal to minors and the addictiveness of vapor products. But city and state laws controlling the tobacco industry already prevent the products from falling into the hands of minors, Singh said, and Selma’s concerns that electronic cigarettes are readily available to minors are unrealistic. He said no one under the age of 18 is allowed to come inside his store. “It’s up to [the city] but I don’t think this is a good plan,” he said. “I’m not sure if they’re looking to shut down old businesses or keep out the new ones.” Jawad Subeh, owner of Selma’s Finest Hookah and Tobacco, agreed and said he thinks the ban is discriminatory. The city already requires tobacco businesses to get a special permit and any additional requirements concerning vapor products would be unfair, he said. Despite the city’s claims about health concerns, Subeh said he does not see any reason for the community to be worried about vaping hazards. The products have only been around a few years and he is skeptical that is enough time to prove a specific connection to cancer. “You can go outside, smell the air and get cancer,” he said. Since opening in 2013, Subeh said 60 to 70 percent of his business is from vaping product sales, and 80 to 85 percent of vaping clients are return customers. The popularity of the products within the community has prompted him to look into opening a second location, which would include a vaping lounge. If the city is successful in updating its special permit requirements to include vaping language, Subeh and other business owners would need to meet additional steps before opening any new vapor shops. The requirements would be among the strictest in the region. Other cities, including Fresno, have regulations prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to minors but do not currently require any additional licensing for businesses to sell the product.   “There is zero intent to infringe on the free trade,” Robertson said. “We just want to be diligent and look at the definitions of operations to make sure there are no gray areas.” More research is necessary in order to understand the full effects of the electronic cigarette trend, said Leila Gholamrezai-Eha, health educator with the Fresno County Department of Public Health. As the items continue to grow in popularity, more local governments will need to deal with the issue specifically. “While Selma is the first in our county [to do this], we’re anticipating seeing more,” she said. Grey agreed and said the city will work with its contacts at the League of Cities to hear from other communities and see what they are doing on the issue. “I’m suspicious that we will find there are a number of communities reacting to this [industry],” he said. “Public concern is growing.”
Written on 04/23/2015, 3:46 pm by Business Journal staff
The Friant Water Authority announced today that longtime General Manager Ron Jacobsma has stepped down. The split, termed an "amicable agreement" with the authority board of directors, comes as a number of member agencies withdraw from the authority in the face of a second year of zero Bureau of Reclamation supplies. Jacobsma has served as general manager for the past 11 years, first joining the authority's predecessor agency, the Friant Water Users Authority, in 1989 as controller. The authority recently announced a reorganization that split the general manager's duties into two roles by creating a new CEO position. Jacobsma was to report to the CEO. The authority said Jacobsma will be on leave for the next 30 days but will be available to assist staff with on the transition. Eric Quinley, operations manager, was appointed acting general manager.
Written on 04/23/2015, 3:35 pm by Business Journal staff
Fresno's Premier Valley Bank announced first quarter earnings of $2.2 million, up 25 percent from $1.7 million a year ago. At March 31, total assets stood at $647 million, up from $581 million on March 31, 2014. J. Mike McGowan, president and CEO, said in a statement: “Following another record year, with 2014 being the most profitable year in the history of the Bank, first quarter 2015 earnings were up 25% compared to last year’s comparable quarter.  In addition, our quarterly cash dividends and share repurchase programs continue to be indicative of our high confidence level in the future of the Bank”.
Written on 04/23/2015, 2:14 pm by JEFF KAROUB, Associated Press
(AP) — Federal agricultural officials announced Thursday voluntary programs and initiatives for farmers, ranchers and foresters meant to build on President Barack Obama's efforts to combat global warming — and don't require congressional approval. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack unveiled the plans at Michigan State University, where Obama signed the sweeping farm bill into law last year. The efforts, many of which have their roots in that law, aim to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions, boost carbon capture and storage and come with various enticements, including grants, low-interest loans and technical assistance. Vilsack said that the agriculture industry accounts for about 9 percent of U.S. emissions, adding that compares favorably with the rest of the globe but can be improved. "American farmers and ranchers are leaders when it comes to reducing carbon emissions and improving efficiency in their operations," he said in prepared remarks. "We can build on this success in a way that combats climate change and strengthens the American agriculture economy." Before the event, Vilsack said officials "want to do this in a way that will help not only the environment but also improve agricultural productivity with improved yields, and we can also improve the bottom line of producers with greater efficiency." Obama administration aides have said the issue of climate change became even more attractive after the November election, because the Democrat has considerable leverage to act without Congress. Such actions, though, have drawn fierce objections from Republicans and the energy industry. Specific actions include reducing the unnecessary use of fertilizer and methane emissions from cattle and swine, reforesting areas damaged by wildfire and disease and encouraging tree planting in urban areas. For methane reduction in particular, the federal program promotes installing more anaerobic digesters, which use naturally occurring bacteria to break down organic waste to produce biogas, a fuel similar to natural gas. Vilsack's department estimates that if all steps are followed, it would reduce emissions and enhance carbon sequestration by roughly 120 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent — akin to taking 25 million cars off the road a year. Already, Obama has moved to cut U.S. emissions through tougher fuel economy standards and has set a target of reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions by up to 28 percent below its 2005 level by 2025. Last year's landmark agreement that commits the U.S. and China — the No. 1 and No. 2 greenhouse gas emitters — to dramatic action on carbon emissions in the coming years drew sharp criticism. Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma who's the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, called that agreement "hollow and not believable," and has previously vowed to block Obama's moves. White House senior adviser Brian Deese said although there's "a lot of focus on climate change here in Washington," the issue becomes less rancorous and political elsewhere. "One of the things that is striking when you get out into different parts of America and you talk to people about their business, communities and how a changing climate is affecting the way they do business, the issue is not partisan, it's practical," he said, adding that the many of the steps being taken by the USDA stem from the farm bill passed with bipartisan support. ___Online:Details:
Written on 04/23/2015, 11:56 am by Business Journal Staff
The Fresno County Bar Association will host its third-annual Law Day At Courthouse Park on May 6 from noon to 1:30 p.m. The event, which is free and open to the public, will take place at Courthouse Park in downtown Fresno and typically draws hundreds of attendees. Law Day At Courthouse Park provides “a forum for citizens to learn about legal resources and groups that exist to assist in protecting their rights and obtaining justice,” stated a release issued by the bar association. Law Day activities include panel discussion between judges and lawyers on local radio and television stations and information booths to give members of the public helpful information about the court system.  “This is going to be a very exciting opportunity for the residents of Fresno County, designed to connect citizens with legal professionals, restorative justice experts and many other passionate organizations,” said Mark Cullers, board member of the Fresno County Bar Association. “Awareness regarding equity and protection of rights will always be a key concern and our hope is to provide resources that make each easier to understand and obtain.” A variety of community groups and businesses are partnering with the Fresno County Bar Association to bring this event to Downtown Fresno, including Central California Legal Services, San Joaquin College of Law, Marjaree Mason Center, Fresno County Probation Crime Victim Assistance Center, Fresno County Public Defender’s Office, Fresno County Superior Court Self-Help Center, Mental Health Systems, FCBA Attorney Referral and Information Service, Better Business Bureau Mediation, EEOC, Dept. of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, Fair Housing Counsel of Central CA, Fresno Barrios Unidos and Breaking Free Wellness Center.
Written on 04/23/2015, 11:51 am by Business Journal staff
The State Center Community College District (SCCCD) has successfully refinanced $61.6 million in outstanding general obligation bonds to save $8.3 million over the next 16 years.  The bonds were approved by voters in 2002 to finance the acquisition, construction and modernization of select SCCCD properties. The bonds were issued with an average original interest rate of 5 percent but refinanced to 2.8 percent with a final maturity in 2031.  According to a press release from the district, interest rates in the municipal market were near a 30-year low when SCCCD refinanced through the 2015 General Obligation Refunding Bonds.  As part of its preparation in selling the 2015 Refunding Bonds, the district’s credit quality was reviewed by Moody’s Investors Services and Standard & Poor’s. The rating agencies confirmed SCCCD’s “Aa2” Moody’s rating and “AA-“ by Standard and Poor’s.
Written on 04/23/2015, 11:47 am by Business Journal staff
The Greater Reedley Chamber of Commerce will host its 2nd-annual Reedley Business Expo this evening from 5-7 p.m. at the Reedley Community Center California Room. The expo will host 47 Reedley-area businesses that will be showcasing their products and services and connecting with potential customers. Attendees will be able to sample food and enter for door prizes. Countywide Shredding will also be on hand to assist with document shredding for all attendees. The cost is $2 per person. For more info, contact the chamber at (559) 638-3548.
Written on 04/23/2015, 11:43 am by Business Journal staff
The number of single-home distressed home sales in the Central Valley tapered off in March, mirroring a statewide trend, according to new data from the California Association of Realtors. In Fresno County last month, 14 percent of total sales were of distressed inventory, compared to 16 percent in February and 22 percent in March 2014. Eighteen percent of sales last month in Tulare County were distressed, compared to 21 percent in February and 21 percent a year ago. In Madera County, 11 percent of sales were distressed in March, down from 14 percent in February and 14 percent a year ago. Kings County's distressed sales rate was 21 percent in March, down from 22 percent in February and 28 percent a year ago. In California the combined share of all distressed property sales fell, down from 10.9 percent in February to 9 percent in March. Distressed sales made up 12.5 percent of total sales a year ago.
Written on 04/23/2015, 10:55 am by Business Journal staff
Wienerschnitzel has announced that its inaugural Hot Dogs for Homeless Tour will make a stop in the Central Valley, visiting Visalia’s Redwood High School and the Bethlehem Center food pantry. The tour is a partnership with the national Skate for Change movement that encourages youth to give back to the homeless and less fortunate in their communities.  Josh Schmitz, chief marketing officer for Skate For Change, said the 'Wienerbago' is expected to arrive at the high school sometime tonight.  The group will grill hot dogs and give away merchandise to students before heading to the Bethlehem Center tomorrow afternoon. At the center, Skate for Change and Wienerschnitzel personnel will provide hot meals, warm clothes and distribute hygiene kits.  “During the tour, we’re committed to feeding as many homeless as possible, empowering students to do extraordinary things and simply making a lasting impression on anyone we come across,” said J.R. Galardi, chief visionary officer for Wienerschnitzel and son of restaurant chain founder John Galardi.  The month-long philanthropic tour began at the end of March in Texas and is expected to wrap up in Las Vegas later in April. 

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