– July 24, 2014

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Latest Local News

Written on 07/24/2014, 8:10 am by Business Journal Staff
6-67m-loan-arranged-for-corcoran-apartmentsJohnson Capital, a national real estate capital advisory firm in Sacramento, has arranged a $6.67 million loan for a buyer to purchase the 192-unit...
Written on 07/23/2014, 4:06 pm by Business Journal staff
The Riverbend Golf Club in Madera County has changed its name to the Dragonfly Golf Club as part of a major expansion and upgrade that also includes new golf carts and membership opportunities. Located east of Highway 41 on Avenue 12, the golf club has been undergoing several changes in the last few months under President of Operations Gene Gabelmann. "Golf is an activity for all ages and skill levels," said Gabelmann, in a release. "We want Dragonfly to be a place where enjoyment goes beyond the score of the day." Among the changes are 75 new golf carts with onboard GPS touch screens, improvement to golf course conditions, water feature renovations and a remodel of the clubhouse. Members are also benefiting from new reduced golf cart fees, up to seven-day advance reservation for walking and riding rates and Monday-through-Friday play for weekday members. As well, there are new new men's, ladies, twilight and corporate leagues and a new golf performance institute for all ages to learn and excel at the game. The Super Monday summer play deal charges a fee of just $35 to play, including the golf cart. Golfers can even get food prepared for them or on the links when they order through the touch screen display on the golf cart. Future plans include a major expansion of existing facilities, a monumental entry structure, a way-finding system and grounds upgrades.
Written on 07/23/2014, 3:18 pm by Business Journal staff
Poindexter Nut Company will hold a job fair July 28 in Reedley as the company looks to fill around 75 positions in advance of the harvest season. The job fair, being held in partnership with the Economic Development Corporation serving Fresno County, will last from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Reedley Workforce Connection office at 1680 E. Manning Ave. Applicants are asked to bring a resume or other information to fill out an application. Poindexter Nut Company is seeking more than 75 seasonal and full-time workers. Positions available include sanitation, sorters, forklift operators, material handlers and stackers and truck drivers. Those hired following the event will work at the company's newly expanded walnut processing plant located at 5414 E. Floral Ave. in Selma. More information about the company or the recruitment fair can be found by calling the Fresno County EDC at (559) 464-5550. Established in the 1969, Poindexter Nut Company now employs more than 400 employees seasonally and process some 45 million pounds of walnuts a year that are exported to more than 45 countries.
Written on 07/23/2014, 2:09 pm by Business Journal staff
IFCO Systems, a Florida-based supplier of reusable plastic containers and pallets, will join Fresno's manufacturing sector when it moves into a 204,000 square-foot building on Elm Avenue this summer. Headquartered in Tampa, Fla., IFCO Systems supplies and sanitizes reusable plastic containers for the fresh food industry from more than 210 locations worldwide. Having operated in Fresno once before, the company will rejoin the Central Valley's fresh food sector, leasing a facility at 2855 S. Elm Ave. from Fresno Investments LLC, a division of The Buzz Oates Group of Companies based in Sacramento. Representing Fresno Investments, Nick Audino, senior vice president with Newmark Grubb Pearson Commercial, said IFCO Systems plans to be in the building some time in September or October, employing around 50 workers. With more than 180 million reusable plastic containers in circulation, IFCO Systems is the leading provider of reusable plastic containers to the fresh food sector worldwide. Established around 20 years ago, IFCO Systems is owned by supply-chain logistics company Brambles Limited based in Sydney, Australia.
Written on 07/23/2014, 1:23 pm by Chuck Harvey
A decline in farm workers from Mexico has some Fresno-area farmers investing in automated harvesters and planting crops that are less labor intensive, such as almonds. As another alternative, some farmers are simply cutting back on the crops they grow in response to labor shortages and lack of water. Mexican labor availability is on a sharp decline, not just because national immigration reform has stalled, but also because Mexican farm owners are enticing workers to stay home. With fewer farm workers and lack of a new immigration policy, the days of manual labor-intensive farming are dwindling, leading to a new day of robots and harvesting machines. However, industry experts don’t see automation and machines taking over San Joaquin Valley crop harvest operations completely. “You can’t mechanically pick cucumbers,” said Manuel Cunha Jr., president of the Nisei Farmers League in Fresno. He added that most tree fruit, including apricots, is much too sensitive to be picked by machine. But more harvest machines are appearing on farms as worker numbers come up short. Changes in agriculture practices are expected to require a new age of ag education. Currently the U.S. agricultural education system trains farmers and food-system workers in higher-tech systems, but farm workers are primarily left out. A recent study by the University of California, Davis, found that Mexico’s fresh produce sector is expanding, adding workers and paying more in wages. Meanwhile the number of ag workers available in Mexico is falling, down 25 percent from 1995 to 2010, the study reported. So U.S. ag operations will have a tougher time finding workers. This is despite a 20 percent growth in pay for farmworkers in the U.S. since 2007 to nearly $11 an hour. Data from the study shows that while Mexico’s farm labor supply is declining, the demand for labor on Mexican farms is rising. The study, conducted by Professor J. Edward Taylor and PHD student Diane Charlton of the Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics, concludes that U.S. growers must shift to less labor-intensive crop production. It also suggested seeking migrant workers from countries other than Mexico or investing in labor saving agricultural technologies and management practices. It is quite a shift for California farms. Only 2 percent of the state’s hired farmworkers are U.S. born and most are from Mexico. With farmworker numbers also falling in Mexico, the country now depends on farm laborers coming up from Guatemala. The study pointed out that Mexico is in the transitional phase of being both a farm labor exporter and importer. The country had about 8.6 million farmworkers in 1997, but the number has steadily dropped to 6.1 million in 2010. The farm labor supply from rural Mexico is decreasing by 12,800 people annually, which works out to be a 0.15 percent decrease in the Mexican farm labor supply each year working in Mexico or the U.S. The study found that U.S. and Mexican farmers now compete for the dwindling supply of farmworkers. Cunha said he disagrees with the study’s finding that Mexican farms will persuade more of the country’s farm workers to stay at home. He said economic conditions in Mexico took a turn for the worse about two months ago and that will make working there less advantageous. The U.S. also attracts farm workers from Central America, Cunha said. Cunha pointed out that one of the problems the U.S. faces is an aging workforce. He said many of today’s farm workers are approaching age 60. Younger laborers are less attracted to farm work, Cunha said. But in terms of pay, U.S. farms will continue to lead the way, Cunha said. He pointed out that pay for farm workers in Mexico has grown from about $9 a day to about $30 a day. But it is well below what they can earn in the U.S. Still, finding enough farm workers to get through the long season remains difficult. Barry Bedwell, president of the California Grape & Tree Fruit League in Fresno, stressed the need for immigration reform that allows Mexican farmworkers to earn legal status. Bedwell said he doesn’t disagree with the findings of the study. But the current system is not working, he said. He said the H2A visa program is too slow to handle the large numbers of workers needed in the U.S. Bedwell agreed that more mechanism is needed in the farm industry. But farmworkers will also continue to be vital, he said. The UC Davis study found that with fewer workers available, demand will increase for more skilled workers to handle mechanization and more productive labor planning and practices. With rising worker productivity will come a demand for higher wages. That could be good for rural communities, the study determined. As for ways to improve the farm labor supply in the U.S., the study found that legalizing Mexican farm workers is not a good option. Taylor and Charlton pointed out that legalization will increase workers’ economic options in the United States and that makes farm workers more mobile. They said farm work traditionally has been a first stop for new immigrants, who move on to non-farm jobs when they are able. Cunha said he questions that finding. “You have got to have a good guest worker program,” he said. Cunha added that it is important for workers to be able to go home and visit their families in the off-season. “They way it is now, that doesn’t happen,” he said.
Written on 07/23/2014, 11:22 am by Business Journal Staff
On Thursday at the Fresno Food Expo, Fresno-based P*DE*Q will be launching a PIZZA*Q line, comprised of pizza dough and pizza crust and four types of take ’n’ bake pizzas: cheese, pepperoni, pepperoni sausage and vegetable. P*DE*Q and its flagship product, P*DE*Qs, a gluten-free Brazilian-inspired tapioca-based cheese bread, was launched at the first Fresno Food Expo in 2011. The company has since embraced each following event as an opportunity to diversify its product offerings, while continuing to pursue more ambitious gluten-free products and business development objectives. This time around, P*DE*Q has become a brand with a line of products beyond P*DE*Qs. “Our customers have shared some of the challenges they face because either they or a family member has special dietary needs,” said Flavia Takahashi-Flores, owner of P*DE*Q in a release, “Many times, when you have a gluten intolerance, you are excluded from fully enjoying birthdays, holidays, and other special occasions.” P*DE*Q has already changed that with its P*DE*Qs and intends to change it even further by bringing more full-flavored gluten-free goodies to the dinner table. “The PIZZA*Q dough ball is a very unique product. It has the ability to be stretched and worked in to any form — pizza, flat bread, calzones, breadsticks and more,” Takahashi-Flores said. “Our gluten-free dough provides the same experience as a regular, wheat-based pizza dough ball and this allows a family that has a loved one with gluten intolerance to once again enjoy a pizza night together and make their own creation.” Besides being gluten and wheat-free, the PIZZA*Q dough ball is also dairy, corn and soy free. The product line is produced in a dedicated gluten-free facility. “Our third year at the Fresno Food Expo is a celebration of the evolution of every segment of our business,” Takahashi-Flores said. “Our alliance with Wawona Frozen foods has increased our manufacturing capacity. We now have two P*DE*Q stores that sell our products directly to customers.” With P*DE*Q’s operational infrastructure in place, Takahashi-Flores believes P*DE*Q is primed for expansion. “We have an array of gluten-free products, from cupcakes to breads, cookies and crackers,” she said. “We will continue to launch products and product lines based on our customers feedback, with the intent of large scale manufacturing.” Takahashi-Flores said the launch of PIZZA*Q as the company’s first step toward more P*DE*Q products at the dinner table. “Ultimately, it is our goal to continue to be a relevant brand, with flavorful products, that anyone would enjoy,” she said. The Fresno Food Expo public event runs from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday at the Fresno Convention Center, 848 M St. in Downtown Fresno. P*DE*Q will be located at booth 59.
Written on 07/23/2014, 11:16 am by Business Journal staff
Distressed home sales in the Valley changed relatively little in June, but the rate was down significantly from what it was this time last year. According to the California Association of Realtors, distressed sales, which includes short sales, sales of bank-owned properties and other foreclosures sales, stood at 17 percent of all home sales in Fresno County in June.That's flat from May but down from 36 percent a year ago.Distressed sales were also unchanged in Tulare County at 21 percent, slightly below 27 percent in June 2013.Madera County saw its distressed sales drop from 19 percent in May to 15 percent in June, both well below the 33-percent share last year.Kings County also had a drop, with distressed sales falling from 44 percent a year ago and 31 percent in May to 25 percent in the latest month.Statewide, distressed sales made up 9.7 percent of all homes sales in June, down from 10.8 percent in May and 20.3 percent a year ago.The share of real estate-owned sales, including bank-owned homes, went down to 4.4 percent compared to 4.7 percent in May and 6.8 percent in June 2013.Short sales dropped from 5.6 percent in May and 12.9 percent a year ago to 5 percent in the latest month.Equity sales, or non-distressed home sales, stood at 90.3 percent in June, up from 89.2 percent the prior month and 79.7 percent last year.Housing inventory increased for all homes in June. The unsold inventory index or real estate-owned homes, or number of months to deplete the supply of homes at the current sales rate, went from 2.3 months in May to 2.4 months in June.The index for short sales rose from 4.3 months in May to 4.8 months in June, while the index for equity sales rose from 3.7 months to 3.8 months.
Written on 07/23/2014, 10:31 am by Business Journal staff
A former IRS employee was arrested Tuesday morning in Parlier for allegedly stealing personal information from coworkers in an attempt to make $1.2 million in fraudulent credit card charges. Viririana Hernandez, 30, was arraigned in Fresno County Superior Court along with co-defendants Roberto Martinez, 33, Lilliana Gonzalez, 32, and a fourth defendant, Daniel Miranda, 25, who is awaiting to be arraigned. The defendants were all charged with taking part in the identity theft scheme. Conspiracy and bank and wire fraud were also listed among the charges in a 23-count indictment by a federal grand jury in Fresno returned on July 18. According to the indictment, the conspirators opened credit card accounts of around 160 victims using Hernandez' access to the personal information of employees with the IRS, where she worked since 2006. The accounts, obtained from June 2012 to January 2014, were then used to buy goods and services at locations throughout the Fresno area, as well as in Modesto and Riverside County. The fraudulent credit card charges are estimated to have totaled approximately $1.2 million. If the defendants are convicted, they each face a maximum statutory penalty of 30 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The case is a product of an investigation by the United States Postal Inspection Services, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration and the Fresno Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Michael G. Tierney is prosecuting the case.
Written on 07/22/2014, 1:49 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — Wawona Packing Co. is recalling specific lots of its fresh peaches, plums, nectarines and pluots sold nationwide over concerns of possible listeria contamination. Wawona Packing Co. President Brent Smittcamp said in a statement that he is not aware of any illnesses caused by the fruit, and the voluntary recall was announced after consulting with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The recalled fruit was packed and shipped to retailers including Costco Wholesale Corp. and Trader Joe's from June 1 through July 12, Wawona Packing said. The recall came after internal testing at the company's packing house in Cutler, a community in Tulare County. Anybody who has the recalled fruit should discard it, the company said, adding that it wasn't known where the contamination originated. The recalled fruit was shipped directly to retailers and wholesalers, who resell the products. The company issued the recall because it doesn't know all of the companies that bought fruit from its wholesalers. More information including lot codes, labels and pictures to identify the possibly contaminated fruit, is at Wawona's website, . Consumers can also call 888-232-9912. Listeria can cause serious illness and even death for sensitive groups, such as children, the frail and the elderly. Healthy people may suffer flu-like symptoms, such as high fever, headache, nausea and diarrhea. It can cause miscarriage and stillbirth for pregnant women, the company warned. After discovering the contamination, Wawona said it shut down its packing lines, retrofitted some equipment and sanitized the facility. Subsequent tests have been negative for the bacteria. Clovis-based Wawona Frozen Foods is a separate company and is not involved in the recall.
Written on 07/22/2014, 12:27 pm by Business Journal staff
The City of Fresno has stepped up its conservation measures in response to the ever-receding groundwater levels. Speaking at a well site on Ventura Street east of downtown, City Manger Bruce Rudd announced the initiation of Fresno's Stage 2 water shortage contingency plan. As part of Stage 2, outdoor irrigation will be limited to two days a week during the summer for residents and prohibited during winter months. Fresno officials will also increase water waste monitoring to ensure that city watering schedules for buildings, parks and medians follow the new Stage 2 rules. As well, the city will intensify its conservation public awareness efforts and media campaigns to prepare the community for the Stage 2 restrictions directed by the State Water Resources Control Board. Fines for outdoor overwatering will remain at $45 per day, although the city has the authority to discontinue water services after the fifth citation. That's still not as stringent as it could be, as the State Water Board last week gave cities the ability to levy fines of up to $500 a day for water wasters, along with several other restrictions. "While we have already implemented a strong water conservation program, we continue to experience a dramatic drop in our groundwater level," Rudd said. "This ongoing reduction, combined with elimination or reduction of our surface water allocations and coupled with the State Water Board's directive, requires that we elevate our Water Shortage Contingency Plan to a Stage 2 level." The new rules, which go into effect Aug. 1, supersede the city's current Stage 1 water conservation plan, which restricts outdoor irrigation to three days per week in the summer and one day per week in the winter. Car washing under Stage 1 is also limited to a bucket only with a hose equipped with a shut-off nozzle for quick rinsing. Thanks to the city's year-round conservation policy, water usage in Fresno has dropped by more than 20 percent since 2008. Water usage dropped by 10 percent alone from January to May this year over the same period in 2013. Even still, Fresno's groundwater table continues to recede, having already dropped by more than 300 percent in the last 70 years.

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