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– September 16, 2014

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Written on 09/16/2014, 10:14 am by Business Journal staff
Four candidates for Fresno County Supervisor positions will square off in a forum at Fresno City College at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 24. 
Written on 09/15/2014, 1:46 pm by Chuck Harvey
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation will likely ban some chemicals that are high in volatile organic compounds, including pesticides used on almonds, pistachios, walnuts, citrus, grapes, alfalfa and cotton. The ban would take effect from May to October 2015 and 2016 in parts of the San Joaquin Valley. The specific areas affected include San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, and Tulare counties and parts of Kern County. Almonds — a highly valued-crop planted heavily in recent years — could be hardest hit by the restrictions. Already weakened somewhat by drought and water shortages, almonds and other nuts could face an onslaught of destructive spider mites without the pesticides. Grapes could also be hard hit by spider mites. Cotton could be damaged by whiteflies. Dan Munk, University of California farm advisor based in Fresno and specializing in cotton, said it will be difficult changing formulations and products and getting the same results. “It is a concern,” he said. Munk said it is likely some products will be banned. “And for some we don’t have information on new formulations,” he said. Munk added that it could lead to a population explosion of pests in cotton, grapes and almonds.It could be a serious problem both from a crop and economic standpoint, Munk said. Almonds alone had a statewide gross value of $4.8 billion in 2012-13. Gurreet Brar, Fresno-Madera cooperative extension advisor for University of California, specializing in nut crops, said almonds are more prone to problems in drought years. He said that spider mites have been a serious problem in some groves this season. However, he pointed out that growers will not be totally empty handed in the fight against spider mites. “Spider mites can be kept low through biological control,” he said. He said another kind of mite actually feeds on spider mites. The Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) reports that the volatile organic compounds restrictions are needed in order to comply with the Clean Air Act. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are gases that can combine with other substances in the air to form ground-level ozone. Ozone can damage lung tissue, cause respiratory illness and harm farm crops. Statewide, pesticides account for about 2 percent of all VOCs. DPR has preliminary data that shows that the VOC emissions in 2013 slightly increased.  Consequently, more restrictions are likely to ensure growers don’t exceed goals for next year. The restrictions are mandated by regulations that are part of the State Implementation Plan under the Clean Air Act.  The restrictions will likely mean that pest control advisers cannot recommend and growers cannot use high-VOC products containing abamectin, chlorpyrifos, gibberellins, or oxyfluorfen. Abamectin helps control insect and mite pests in fruit, nut, vegetable and ornamental crops. Trade names include Zephyr, Abba, Abathor, Affirm, Agri-Mek, Avid, Dynamec and Epi-Mek. Chlorpyrifos is a pesticide used around the world to control insect pests. It helps to control aphids, whiteflies and other pests in row crops and nut orchards. Gibberellins are plant hormones that regulate growth and influence developmental processes in plants. The hormones are important in improving size of table grapes. Finally, oxyfluorfen is a selective pre- and post-emergent herbicide used to control certain annual broadleaf and grassy weeds in vegetables, fruit, cotton and ornamentals. It comes in concentrated and granular formulations. All of the products are considered VOCs in their current formulations. As part of the State Implementation Plan for the Clean Air Act, DPR is required to publish an inventory of VOC emissions from pesticide products each year and achieve specified emissions levels. DPR’s preliminary 2013 data for the San Joaquin Valley shows that pesticide VOC emissions were above 17.2 tons per day or 95 percent of the required limit. Therefore the State Implementation Plan requires that certain uses of designated high-VOC products are prohibited for the upcoming year.
Written on 09/15/2014, 12:17 pm by Business Journal staff
Visalia's first El Pollo Loco restaurant will be officially welcomed to the city with a ribbon-cutting ceremony scheduled this week. Although the restaurant opened in early August, El Pollo Loco staff and management will be present during the ceremony to offer city leaders and media a tour of the chain's newest location at 3704 S. Mooney Blvd. The restaurant is best-known for it's signature citrus-marinated, fire-grilled chicken and has several locations throughout the Valley, including Fresno and Hanford.  In a prepared statement about the opening, El Pollo Loco communication staff said the restaurant is committed to giving back to the local community and will host fundraisers contributing to local schools and non-profit organizations. 
Written on 09/15/2014, 11:10 am by Business Journal staff
Students and staff from the Academy for Civic and Entrepreneurial Leadership (ACEL) were honored over the weekend with the Civic Learning Award of Distinction at the Reagan Library in Southern California.The award, co-sponsored by Chief Justice of California Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, went to 13 high schools in the state this year to recognize exemplary civic learning and service. Five schools were recognized in the award's merit category while three earned the award of excellence. ACEL, which is the first high school in Fresno County to receive the civic learning award, was one of three high schools this year to earn the award of distinction. As part of the award, ACEL received a visit from an appellate court justice and a plaque, which 35 students and staff accepted this weekend at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California. The selection was based on ACEL's project-based learning program that has students gaining academic knowledge through service projects that improve the community.Some of those projects have included:• Students volunteering with Fresno Habitat for Humanity to support community events and build a playground in Southwest Fresno. • Students volunteering for Green 360 Careers, a partnership with WestEd and PG&E. Students map and share information on emerging green jobs, using a graphic information system. • Physics class students working with PG&E advisors to learn to do energy audits. • Students working with the Tribal Chair of the North Fork Mono Tribe on watershed restoration projects on the San Joaquin River. • Students building a vegetable garden in Chukchansi Stadium and giving tours to demonstrate how fans can grow their own food at home. • The ACEL Save Your Life team produced videos to inform teenagers about the dangers of depression, alcohol and drugs. ACEL, housed in the former Met Museum building at 1913 Tulare St. in Fresno, is beginning its 7th year of giving students an alternative to traditional education.The free public charter high school operates under the Fresno Unified School District.
Written on 09/15/2014, 10:08 am by Associated Press
(AP) — Two raging wildfires in California forced hundreds of people to evacuate their homes, including one near a lakeside resort town that burned nearly two dozen structures, many of them homes.The blaze, sparked Sunday afternoon near a foothill community south of the entrance to Yosemite National Park in central California, prompted authorities to evacuate about 1,000 residents out of about 400 homes, Madera County Sheriff's spokeswoman Erica Stuart said. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said flames damaged or destroyed 21 structures. The Fresno Bee reports one neighborhood was hit especially hard, with several homes turned to ash and smoldering embers. "This is gut-wrenching," CalFire Battalion Chief Chris Christopherson told the newspaper. "It makes you sick." Flames were already bearing down as some people fled. "My wife and I looked back and saw our backyard was burning," 72-year-old Joe Cunningham told the Bee. "So we didn't take much time. She drove one car, I drove the other car, and we just left." It wasn't immediately clear exactly how many of the burned structures were homes. The fire started off a road outside of Oakhurst, near Yosemite National Park, and made a run to Bass Lake. Stoked by winds, it quickly charred at least 320 acres, CalFire spokesman Daniel Berlant said. The lakeside area is a popular destination throughout the year. There were no reports of the blaze, which is 20 percent contained, affecting the park. The destructive fire led Gov. Jerry Brown to secure a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cover 75 percent of the cost of fighting the fire, state officials said. Further north, a wildfire about 60 miles east of Sacramento forced the evacuation of 133 homes. El Dorado County sheriff's officials said residents of an additional 406 homes were being told to prepare to flee. Berlant said the blaze started in a remote area Saturday but exploded on Sunday when it reached a canyon full of thick, dry brush. It has blackened 4.7 square miles and was 10 percent contained. Meanwhile in Southern California, evacuation orders for 200 homes in Orange County's Silverado Canyon were lifted late Sunday as firefighters contained 50 percent of a wildfire. The residents were evacuated after the fire broke out Friday. The U.S. Forest Service downgraded the fire's size from 2 ½ square miles to 1 ½ square miles due to better mapping of the blaze. Six firefighters have suffered minor injuries, many of them from heat exhaustion as the region baked under triple-digit temperatures. A heat wave was expected to last through Tuesday in Southern California, and a smoke advisory was in effect for parts of Riverside and Orange counties.
Written on 09/15/2014, 10:04 am by Associated Press
(AP) — Dominion Resources is planning to buy two solar projects in California. The Richmond -based energy company announced the agreement with EDF Renewable Energy on Monday. The deal is expected to close next year. The projects in Kings, Kern and Marin counties in California would add 42 megawatts of solar power to its portfolio. Both projects are expected to enter service in the first half of 2015. One of the projects, the Cottonwood project, has solar sites located in Kings, Kern and Marin Counties and has secured a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA), interconnection agreements and engineering, procurement, construction (EPC) contracts. The company anticipates that the 24-megawatt solar energy facility will come online in the first half of 2015. Another, dubbed the Catalina Solar 2 project, is located in Kern County and has secured a 20-year PPA, an interconnection agreement and an EPC contract. The 18-megawatt solar energy facility is expected to enter service in the second quarter of 2015. The Catalina Solar 2 project, located in Kern County, has secured a 20-year PPA, an interconnection agreement and an EPC contract. The 18-megawatt solar energy facility is expected to enter service in the second quarter of 2015. Dominion says the acquisition will bring the company's total contracted solar portfolio to 274 megawatts with facilities in California, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana and Tennessee. The company also has several smaller solar projects for up to 30 megawatts planned or completed in Virginia. Dominion Resources Inc. is one of the nation's largest producers and transporters of energy.
Written on 09/12/2014, 4:19 pm by Business Journal staff
The Big Fresno Fair announced its 2014 Hall of Fame inductees and Community Champions Awards recipients.Now in its 8th year, the fair's Hall of Fame honors individuals who have shown exemplary support and passion to making the Big Fresno Fair better. The inductees will be recognized with their names displayed on the Hall of Fame Wall at the fairgrounds and on an official Big Fresno Fair Horse & Jockey Bronze statue. The Community Champions Awards, now in its 7th year, goes to individuals who have given of themselves to make Fresno County better as a whole. Each recipient will receive a special Community Champions Awards plaque at the fair's opening ceremonies in October, while their names will also be displayed at the fairgrounds. Individuals for both the Hall of Fame and Community Champions Awards were nominated by community members, Big Fresno Fair staff or past board of directors and voted on by the current board in August. The 2014 Hall of Fame inductees are:• Carol Chandler• Carol Blasingame• Mr. and Mrs. Loui Brosi, Jr.• Stephen J. Chambers• Alvin Quist The recipients of the 2014 Community Champions Awards are:• Mark Thompson with the volunteer award• Phyllis Jensen Craigan with the humanitarian award• Perry Huffman with the special award• Jerry Turner with the special award
Written on 09/12/2014, 4:11 pm by Business Journal staff
The Fresno Regional Foundation has hired a new CEO to replace Dan DeSantis, who departed in June after nine years at the helm of one of the Valley's largest community benefit organizations. The Fresno Regional Foundation (FRF) board has selected Hugh Ralston, president and CEO of the Ventura County Community Foundation, said David Johnson, interim CEO of the FRF. “We are thrilled to have Hugh join our efforts,” said Carole Andersen, chair of the FRF board of directors in a statement.   Ralston, who begins his work in Fresno at the end of October, was hired as CEO of the Ventura County Community Foundation (VCCF) in 2003. He announced his resignation in May, capping a period of record growth where assets quadrupled to $135 million. “It is a privilege to be selected by the Fresno Regional Foundation board as its next CEO,” said Ralston in a statement. “This area of our state is part of the next great chapter of the California dream, and I am thrilled to be working with the board and staff to explore and realize its ambitions for this region and for the work of the foundation.” Ralston, 56, has 16 years as an international, corporate and private banker for Security Pacific and JP Morgan, according to a bio on the VCCF website. Ralston also spent four years as executive director of the Catholic Education Foundation in Los Angeles and 15 years as a director or trustee for a variety of organizations including Scripps College in Claremont, California, the San Francisco Theological Seminary and the Workforce Investment Board of Ventura County. Ralston earned a B.A. cum laude from Amherst College and a MALD from The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, a joint program of Tufts and Harvard universities, with concentrations in international law and U.S. diplomatic history. He is an ordained elder in the Presbyterian Church and sings in the Los Robles Master Chorale. He joins FRF on the heels of a banner 2013, with $7 million in gifts and $6.5 million in grants awarded. FRF had $65 million in gross assets at the end of last year.
Written on 09/12/2014, 2:28 pm by Business Journal staff
Fresno Pacific University President Dr. Pete Menjares announced his resignation effective Sept. 11, citing a desire to be closer to family and explore new opportunities in Southern California.Menjares was appointed as the 11th president of the private Christian university in March 2012, replacing Dr. Merril Ewert who retired after 10 years on the job. Prior to that, he worked for 16 years as a teacher and administrator at Biola University, another Christian university in La Mirada, California. At Fresno Pacific University, Menjares has been involved in several new initiatives, including a new scholarship between West Fresno Ministerial Alliance, a new health administration degree and thelaunch of the university's first business contest focusing on social enterprises. Under his watch, the university improved its budget from $51 million in the 2013-14 fiscal year to $54 million in the latest year. As a result, the Board of Trustees set an enrollment goal to grow from 3,460 students to 5,000 studying on the main campus in Southeast Fresno and regional centers in Merced, North Fresno, Visalia and Bakersfield by 2018. Plans are also underway for a $8-to-$12 million fine arts center on campus. Fresno Pacific also recently jumped two spots to 40th best western regional universities by U.S. News & World Report. Menjares' wife, Virginia Menjares, served as ambassador for the university, working with students, staff and others within the Fresno Pacific community. Menjares also has a daughter, Nicole, and son-in-law Jonathon, as well as three grandchildren, Jonah, Jase, and Eden. "We have resigned our positions at Fresno Pacific and look forward to the next season of life that God has purposed for us,” Menjares said in a release. “The university is well-positioned for a very bright future under the leadership of an extremely competent team of vice presidents and other senior leaders. Virginia and I wish the people of Fresno Pacific and the Valley—many of whom have become trusted and lifelong friends—the very best. The last two years have blessed us in many ways, and for this we are thankful.” Fresno Pacific's Provost Dr. Stephen Varvis will direct day-to-day university operations. The Board of Trustees will address future leadership of the university at a special meeting Sept. 16.
Written on 09/12/2014, 1:49 pm by Business Journal staff
The California Board of Equalization reported taxable sales for the second quarter of 2013, with considerable increases throughout the San Joaquin Valley. Fresno County taxable sales totaled $3.195 billion in the second quarter of 2013, up 5.7 percent from $3.023 billion in the second quarter of 2012. Tulare County saw its taxable sales improve 6.9 percent in the year from $1.395 billion to $1.491 billion. Madera County was up 5.1 percent from $354.27 million to $372.33 million while Kings County's sales rose 7.9 percent, going from $347.52 million to $375.13 million. Among cities, taxable sales in Fresno were up 3.18 percent in the year to $1.74 billion while Clovis improved 11.9 percent to $383.01 million. In Visalia, sales jumped 7.5 percent to $616.12 million while Tulare's sales went up 5.7 percent to $216.67 million and Porterville's rose 3.6 percent to $127.51 million. Madera saw its sales rise 6.6 percent in the year to $157.04 million while Hanford increased by 4.7 percent to $187,734 million Statewide, taxable sales totaled $146.55 billion in the second quarter of 2013, an increase of 5.2 percent over $139.307 billion in the same quarter the year before. Nonstore retailers saw the greatest jump in sales, with transactions up 103.1 percent to $1.755 billion. Motor vehicle and parts dealers followed with an 11.3 percent increase to $17.161 billion, while building materials and garden equipment supplies went up 8.6 percent to $8.043 billion and clothing and clothing accessories stores rose 6.6 percent to $8.277 billion. The BOE's data on taxable sales can be found at www.boe.ca.gov/news/tsalescont.htm.

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