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– December 21, 2014

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Latest Local News

Written on 12/19/2014, 1:41 pm by Business Journal staff
Fresno-based agricultural software company Lotpath has been named a finalist in an accelerator program funded by venture capital firm Silicon Valley...
Written on 12/19/2014, 1:20 pm by Business Journal staff
The Fresno City Council approved the city's 2035 General Plan update last night, spelling out goals and guidelines for growth in the next 20 years. Passing in a 5-2 vote, only Councilmembers Steve Brandau and Clint Olivier were against adoption, asking for more time to review the plan. The general plan, which hasn't been updated in 12 years, is required by law to be updated periodically to reflect population growth and physical changes that occur through development. In it are a number of strategies to enhance economic development, increase public utilities and services, add transportation and infrastructure, improve health and wellness and provide for parks and schools. Also contained in the more than 600-page plan is a focus on greater infill development and higher density within the city in order to contain urban sprawl and increase investment in deteriorating neighborhoods, as well as to comply with SB 743 calling for more transit-oriented infill projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in California. As far as housing goes, the plan accommodates an increase of 76,000 residential dwelling units by 2035 beyond the 191,000 today to handle an estimated 771,000 residents by that time. That includes an additional 9,000 in and around downtown, 7,700 in established neighborhoods south of Shaw Avenue, 6,400 in neighborhoods north of Shaw and 6,000 in bus rapid transit corridors along Shaw and Blackstone avenues, as well as another 2,500 just east of the Fresno Yosemite International Airport. In outward growing areas, the plan calls for another 10,500 units southwest of downtown, 17,000 northwest of downtown, 8,900 east of Temperance Avenue and 6,000 south of Jensen Avenue. At full buildout of the city's sphere of influence is expected to bring the total to 336,000 residential units in Fresno. With the new general plan in place, the city council will also be tasked with updating its development code within the next 90 days, a process long overdue since it was last updated in the 1960s.
Written on 12/19/2014, 11:57 am by Business Journal staff
Employment fell throughout the Central Valley in November as more farm laborers found themselves out of work. According to data released by the state Employment Development Department, Fresno County's unemployment rate stood at 11.2 percent in November, up from 10.2 percent in October but less than 12.2 percent a year ago. Fresno County lost a total of 6,000 jobs from October to November, with farm employment dropping 5,500 and nonfarm industries receding by 500, ending at 360,000 total jobs in the county. Manufacturing decreased by 1,600 jobs, while government, construction and leisure and hospitality all edged down by 200 jobs each. However, the trade, transportation and utilities sector moved up by 1,800 jobs in the month. Tulare County saw its unemployment rate increase from 11.7 percent in October to 12.3 percent in the latest month. Both were down from 13.1 percent in November 2013. Although nonfarm industries gained 1,100 jobs in the month, farms lost 1,200 jobs, ending at a total of 147,700 jobs in the county during November. Trade, transportation and utilities had the biggest gains at 700 new jobs, followed by 400 more in the professional and business sector and 300 in government. Manufacturing lost 200 jobs in the county, while mining, logging and construction was down by 200. Madera County had an unemployment rate of 10.7 percent in November, up from 8.9 percent in October but below 11 percent a year ago.
 Farms lost 1,500 jobs in the month as nonfarm industries fell by 700, leaving a total workforce of 45,700 in November. The government sector shrank by 900 jobs and leisure and hospitality by 100. Professional and business services gained 100 jobs in the month, as did trade, transportation and utilities and the information sectors. Kings County'a unemployment rate increased to 11.7 percent in the month, up from 10.7 percent in October but down from 12.7 percent last year. Farms shed 300 jobs during the month as nonfarm industries had no change overall, leaving the county with a total of 43,600 jobs. Although the county's manufacturing sector had 400 fewer jobs in November, trade, transportation and utilities picked up 300 and government added 100. California's unemployment rate decreased to 7.2 percent in November compared to 7.3 in October and 8.4 percent a year ago. The U.S. rate was unchanged in the month at 5.8 percent, down from 7 percent in November 2013.
Written on 12/19/2014, 10:30 am by Business Journal staff
After nearly closing due to recessionary pressures, Sierra Meadows Golf and Country Club in Awhahnee announced it would stay open after an agreement by members to increase fees. According to a report by Sierra News Online, Sierra Meadows owner Robert Bard earlier had announced that the 18-hole golf course in the foothills would close Dec. 15., citing severe drought and economic hardships in recent years. However, after several club members formed the Save Sierra Meadows committee, a ballot was sent out to all members offering a proposal that would keep the golf course open until April 30. Under the agreement, effective Jan. 1, all members will now pay $20 per round in cart fees, an amount that will be capped at $100 per person for five rounds, Sierra News Online reported. For individual members playing six rounds or more per month, there will be no additional cart fee, as the cart fee will then be included as part of the monthly dues. The added fee is on top of current monthly dues. Current monthly membership can range from a low of $60 per month for an Individual Social membership, to $340 per month for an Associate Golf membership. Initiation fees range from $300 for Social to $8,500 for a Full Golf Membership. Members are now hoping a buyer or new owner will step in to keep the golf course going by the busy season, which lasts from May to October. Sierra Meadows Golf and Country Club, located at 46516 Opah Drive in the Madera County community of Ahwahnee, opened in 2004 following designs by professional golfer Alan Thomas. The course stretches across 142 acres with 6,270 yards of golf play. The country club portion includes a full-service bar, cafe, golf shop and provides a venue for weddings and other events as well as an RV park for travelers.
Written on 12/19/2014, 9:40 am by Business Journal staff
Adventist Health is investing $13.3 million to expand services at its medical center in Selma.  The funding was approved earlier this week and will be put towards a six-bed intensive care unit, seven additional emergency beds, an isolation room, a cardiac catheterization lab and surgery department upgrades at the hospital.  Adventist administrators said the new services are designed to help community members access medical care closer to home and will allow the organization to better serve patients. The ICU and emergency plans for the site have already been approved by the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development and plans are in the works for surgery department upgrades and the cardiac catheterization lab, said Nina Plata, vice president of AMC-Selma.  Adventist Health also has several other upgrade projects planned for its various Central Valley locations, including equipment and computer system upgrades in Reedley, a $10 million Fowler medical plaza, and a $40 million Family Birth Center in Hanford. Both the Fowler and Hanford projects are in conjunction with Valley Children's Healthcare.  AMC-Selma, along with the site in Hanford, received a national Women's Choice Award for Emergency Care and ranked among Healthgrades' America's Best 100 Hospitals in general surgery in 2014. The Selma emergency department cares for about 140 patients throughout the region daily and averages 12-minute wait times for patients to see a health care provider. The hospital performs more than 300 surgical procedures a month.  Since the Roseville-based Adventist Health is a non-profit corporation, its expansion projects will not require any funding from public taxes. 
Written on 12/18/2014, 4:24 pm by Business Journal staff
Premier Valley Bank announced that its quarterly cash dividend payable to shareholders of record on Dec. 29 will increase 14 percent compared to last quarter. The dividend of eight cents per share totals about $983,000 based on the recent trading price of common stock. The dividend will be distributed on or about Jan. 8, 2015. J. Mike McGowan, president and CEO, stated: “We are pleased to announce our eighteenth consecutive quarterly cash dividend, indicative of Premier Valley Bank’s sustainable financial performance. The recurring quarterly dividends, along with our share repurchase plans, are reflective of the Board of Directors’ continued confidence in the future of the Bank.” 
Written on 12/18/2014, 3:31 pm by Business Journal staff
United Security Bancshares, parent company of United Security Bank in Fresno, announced it will issue a 4th quarter stock dividend of 1 percent to shareholders. The dividend, which applies to shareholders of record as of Jan. 9, 2015, will be paid out on Jan. 21, 2015. With just more than 15.27 million shares outstanding, the payout totals approximately $840,000. This marks the 25th consecutive quarterly stock dividend since United Security Bank initiated them in 2008 United Security Bancshares announced a net income of $1.7 million for the third quarter, down from $1.85 million for the same quarter in 2013. Established in 1987, United Security Bank serves the San Joaquin Valley with 13 banking locations from Campbell in the Bay Area south to Bakersfield.
Written on 12/18/2014, 1:58 pm by Business Journal staff
Ray Arthur, head of the Fresno Film Commission for the last eight years, announced he'll be retiring on Dec. 31. Appointed to lead the newly created Fresno Film Commission in December 2006, Arthur was responsible for promoting filming opportunities specific to the City of Fresno and helping filmmakers arrange shooting locations and production crews and streamline permitting processes for films. During his time with the commission, Arthur, one of 300 film commissioners worldwide, was instrumental in facilitating more than 200 film productions in Fresno, generating an estimated $4.5 million in local disposable income and an additional $13 million in rollover revenue. That success continued even at the close of 2009 when city funding was eliminated for the office and Arthur was able to transfer the Fresno Film Commission to its current home under local nonprofit Creative Fresno. Since then, the Fresno Film Commission has been an entirely volunteer effort, according to Arthur. Prior to coming to Fresno, Arthur was the executive director of the Ridgecrest Area Convention and Visitors Bureau in Kern County and film commissioner of the Ridgecrest Film Commission since 1992. That was a leap from where his career began as a radio broadcaster 44 years ago, later managing two radio stations in Ridgecrest. With his departure as film commissioner, Arthur said he believes the City of Fresno will be handling all film inquiries in-house. He now plans to spend more time with his wife Emma, three daughters and grandchildren. Arthur, 63, will continue his full-time position as a project manager with the City of Fresno's Department of Public Utilities and remain active in the community through Creative Fresno, the City’s Public Television Joint Powers Authority and the Fresno Filmmakers Alliance.
Written on 12/18/2014, 1:55 pm by Business Journal staff
Elizabeth Dooley, CEO of Educational Employees Credit Union of Fresno, was appointed as the newest member of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco’s Community Depository Institutions Advisory Council (CDIAC). The Twelfth District CDIAC serves as an important source of information on the ability of community depository institutions to support local markets in the Federal Reserve's nine-state Twelfth District. Members of the advisory council provide observations, opinions and advice to management of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and members of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. Other new members appointed to the council include: Gregory Garrabrants, president and CEO of BofI Federal Bank, San Diego; Alan Horner, chairman, president and CEO of First Federal Savings Bank of Twin Falls, Idaho; and Matthew Packard, president and CEO of Central Bank, Provo, Utah. Janet Garufis, president and CEO of Montecito Bank & Trust in Santa Barbara, was appointed as chair of the council. Dooley has been the president and CEO of Educational Employees Credit Union (EECU) since December 2007. Prior to joining EECU, Dooley was appointed to the position of deputy commissioner of Credit Unions for the California Department of Financial Institutions by Governor Gray Davis, continuing her service under Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Dooley, also a member of the State Bar of California, earned her bachelor's degree in economics from Mills College in Oakland and her juris doctor degree from Western State University College of Law in Fullerton.
Written on 12/18/2014, 12:44 pm by Business Journal staff
A Visalia man has pleaded guilty to a foreclosure rescue scheme that caused losses of more than $2.5 million for victims. Juan Ramon Curiel, 36, pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and bankruptcy fraud through his business, Star Reliable Mortgage, with offices in Bakersfield, Visalia and Salinas. A partner in the scheme, Santiago Palacios-Hernandez, 45, of Salinas pleaded guilty last week to the same conspiracy charge. Between August 2010 and October 2011, Curiel and Palacios-Hernandez offered clients a purported "loan elimination" program they promised would enable homeowners to own their homes free and clear of any loans or mortgages. The pair charged upfront fees from $2,500 to $4,500, plus monthly fees, and told clients to stop paying their mortgage. The pair then filed various fraudulent documents at county recorders' offices in an effort to "cloud" the home's title by replacing legitimate trustees with fictitious trusts. Because the foreclosures were stalled, clients continued to pay monthly fees to Star Reliable Mortgage, but many ended up eventually losing their homes to foreclosure. The pair admitted in their plea agreement that their conduct caused losses of more than $2.5 million. Curiel also admitted in his plea deal to fraudulently filing bankruptcy for one of his clients. Curiel and Palacios-Hernandez are scheduled to be sentenced in Fresno on March, 9, 2015. The maximum penalty for the conspiracy to committ mail fraud charge is 30 years in prison and a $1-million fine. Curiel also faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the bankruptcy fraud conviction.

Latest State News

Written on 12/19/2014, 1:29 pm by RONALD BLUM, AP Sports Writer
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Written on 12/19/2014, 1:25 pm by 
JAKE COYLE, AP Film Writer
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Latest National News

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