– December 19, 2014

Tulare County new car sales up since recession

New vehicle registration has revved back since the Great Recession in Tulare County, mirroring a trend seen across the nation.

“We’re not all the way back from the high during the 2005/06 period,” said Don Groppetti, the county’s largest auto dealer.

Still, the improvement is dramatic.

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Latest Local News

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...
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, 3:20 pm by Gordon M. Webster
According to the California Chamber of Commerce, US companies face a $1 billion tax hike in the New Year thanks to Congressional inaction on a key trade program. The Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program eliminates import taxes on designated products from 130 developing countries around the world. It expired 16 months ago — the longest lapse in its nearly 40 years of existence, according to the CalChamber. CalChamber wrote a letter to Congress, along with more than 600 companies and associations, asking House and Senate leaders to renew the program before the end of the year. CalChamber's Susanne Stirling confirmed in an email that the measure wasn't taken up before Congress ended its session. "I hope the next Congress will be a good session for trade issues — Including GSP and Trade Promotion Authority," wrote Stirling in an email. The result of the lapsed program has been laid-off workers, delays in new hires, cut worker benefits and increased taxes of more than $850 million. Let's hope the next Congress can get its act together to pass a measure that not only helps American companies, but also gives a leg up to developing markets around the globe.
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, 1:19 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — The Dow Jones industrial average had its biggest day in three years, soaring more than 400 points as the stock market extended a rally into a second day. The Dow closed up 421 points, or 2.4 percent, to 17,778 Thursday, its largest gain since December 2011. The Standard & Poor's 500 gained 48 points, or 2.4 percent, to 2,061. The Nasdaq composite climbed 104 points, or 2.2 percent, to 4,748. The market built on its surge from the day before, when the Federal Reserve indicated it was in no rush to raise interest rates. Oracle led a rally in technology shares after the business software maker reported earnings that were better than expected. Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.21 percent.
Written on 12/18/2014, 1:04 pm by 
(AP) — IRS Commissioner John Koskinen says budget cuts just enacted by Congress could delay tax refunds next year. At a news conference Thursday, Koskinen said taxpayer services will be hurt, and fewer agents will be auditing returns. He said about half the people who call the agency for assistance won't be able to get through to a person. Congress cut the IRS budget by $346 million for the budget year that ends in September 2015. The $10.9 billion budget is $1.2 billion less than the agency received in 2010. The cuts come as the IRS is starting to play a bigger role in implementing President Barack Obama's health law. For the first time, taxpayers will have to report on their tax returns whether they have health insurance.
Written on 12/18/2014, 1:02 pm by BRADY McCOMBS, Associated Press
(AP) — A Utah judge has appointed a board of trustees to sort out the redistribution of more than 700 homes in a polygamous community on the Utah-Arizona border where Warren Jeffs' sect is based. State Judge Denise Lindberg's order Wednesday gives the panel limited power, though. The five-person board still must get final approval from the court in deciding who should get which homes. Many are expected to have multiple claims from people who have at one point lived in or worked on a house. The creation of the board is another vital step toward the state's long-held goal of returning the homes and a scattering of property — estimated to be worth more than $100 million — to community members. The homes have been in state control since 2005 due to allegations of mismanagement by Jeffs and other sect leaders. Many people remain followers of Jeffs but a growing number in the community have left or been kicked out. Recently, two dozen families were given deeds to their homes — a first in the community. Since the trust was created by the fundamentalist Mormon sect in 1942, church leaders held the deeds while others lived in the homes. Meanwhile, others are being evicted for refusing to pay a $100-a-month occupancy fees for years, depriving the trust of more than $4 million. Lindberg also decided to keep the same person to oversee the trust despite the man's recent plea of no contest to prostitution charges. Attorneys general in Utah and Arizona asked for Bruce Wisan, an accountant who was appointed to manage the trust after the state took it over in 2005, to be removed and be replaced by former Utah Lt. Governor Val Oveson. Lindberg said Wisan's personal issues have not affected his work with the trust. She said his knowledge and familiarity with the issues outweigh any benefits from handing the reigns over to Oveson. Three of the board members Lindberg picked have already served as advisers to Wisan and the trust: Deloy Bateman, Margaret Cooke and Don Timpson. The other two — Greg Barlow and Arnold Richter — are new. Lindberg said she plans to name four more people to the panel at some point to create a nine-person board to represent more community interests. Terms will be capped at six years. None of the board members are current followers of Jeffs' sect, known as The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or FLDS. That's because their jailed leader has made it clear they are not to participate. Jeffs is in a Texas prison, where he is a serving a life sentence for sexually assaulting underage girls he considered brides. The Utah Attorney General's Office said it's pleased with Lindberg's decision to appoint the board. "We feel it will give those most affected the strongest representation in making these difficult decisions," spokeswoman Missy Larsen said in a statement. The FLDS is a radical offshoot of mainstream Mormonism whose members believe polygamy brings exaltation in heaven. Polygamy is a legacy of the early teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but the mainstream church and its 15 million members worldwide abandoned the practice in 1890 and strictly prohibit it.
Written on 12/18/2014, 12:58 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — California's chief utility regulator is expected to address allegations of backroom dealings with the state's largest utility on Thursday when he presides over his last voting meeting of the five-member commission. California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey is due to chair the meeting amid an ongoing scandal over secret emails exchanges that show a cozy relationship with Pacific Gas & Electric Co. executives. Peevey is retiring at the end of the year after completing two six-year terms. Peevey has been under fire in connection with a series of emails describing alleged secret negotiations between him and others at the commission and executives with PG&E. The utility and others began releasing the emails in July. PG&E Vice President Brian Cherry said in a Jan. 14 email that California Public Utilities Commission member Mike Florio said he would write a favorable opinion for a proposed gas rate if PG&E did not like one written by another member of the panel. Florio issued a statement Wednesday denying Cherry's account. "I categorically deny that I ever offered to sponsor an alternate decision if PG&E 'didn't like' the proposed decision," Florio wrote. "I never stated that my colleague 'lobbied' me to be assigned to the case, nor did I ever suggest that I would 'mentor' my colleague. Such insinuations are insulting and do not reflect the relationship we have as colleagues." Previous emails released by PG&E show company executives sought — and obtained — the administrative law judge they wanted in the gas rate hike case. Peevey, a former president of Southern California Edison Co., and Florio also were included in those email negotiations. Florio has recused himself from the rate case. State regulators last month fined PG&E and required its shareholders to cover as much as $400 million of the planned gas rate increase because of the backroom negotiations between the utility and regulators.
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 12/18/2014, 12:58 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — California's chief utility...
Written on 12/18/2014, 12:44 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — Two more former employees of...
Written on 12/18/2014, 12:40 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — The circus will stop coming to...
Written on 12/18/2014, 12:38 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — Authorities say thousands of...

Latest National News

Written on 12/18/2014, 1:19 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — The Dow Jones industrial average...
Written on 12/18/2014, 1:04 pm by 
(AP) — IRS Commissioner John Koskinen...
Written on 12/18/2014, 1:02 pm by BRADY McCOMBS, Associated Press
(AP) — A Utah judge has appointed a...
Written on 12/18/2014, 10:12 am by ERIC TALMADGE, Associated Press
(AP) — If the U.S. government's claim...