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– April 24, 2014

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Latest Local News

Written on 04/24/2014, 10:43 am by Business Journal staff
The race for Fresno City Council's District 1 seat heats up May 8 with a candidate forum at Fresno City College.
Written on 04/23/2014, 1:11 pm by Business Journal staff
The Fresno County Superior Court is seeking 19 citizens who will effect changes to local government through their service on the grand jury. The Fresno County Grand Jury investigates and reports on civil matters dealing with Fresno County government. Grand jurors serve a one-year period with an option to apply for an additional consecutive term. Each will devote up to 80 hours each month to grand jury business, receiving nominal compensation for their service, plus mileage reimbursement. Grand Jury applications will be accepted until May 2 for the 19 that will serve as jurors from July 2014 through June 2015. Applications are available at www.fresno.courts.ca.gov or by calling the Fresno County Superior Court Juror Services Manager at (559) 457-1605.
Written on 04/23/2014, 11:21 am by Business Journal staff
The number of those with a college degree remained dismal in the San Joaquin Valley, even as much of the nation saw more positive numbers, a new report showed. Released by Indiana-based nonprofit Lumina Foundation, "A Stronger Nation through Higher Education" revealed that 39.4 percent of working-age Americans (ages 25-64) held a two- or four-year college degree in 2012. That's up from a rate of 38.7 percent in 2011 and 37.9 in 2008. Among young adults ages 25 to 34, the rate was even higher at 40.9 percent. In California, the share of those 25 to 64 with a degree stood at 39.7 percent in 2012 for a total of 20,180,391 degree holders. That's up from 38.9 percent in 2011 and 38.6 percent in 2008. In Fresno County, however, the rate dropped from 27.9 percent in 2011 to 27.56 percent in 2012, among the lowest for large metropolitan areas in the nation after Riverside, Bakersfield and McAllen, Tex. Tulare County was even lower with a rate of 21.23 percent in 2012, followed by Madera County at 21.21 percent and Kings County at 20.44 percent. Alameda County had the highest degree attainment rate in California at 50.35 percent while Merced County had the lowest with a rate of 19.91 percent. Madison, Wisc. topped the large metro areas in the nation with a rate of 55.5 percent, up from 54.81 percent in 2011. Despite the increase in the degree attainment rate, Lumina Foundation reported that enrollment throughout the nation decreased from 2012 to 2013, from 18 million to 17.7 million. However, the number of associate and bachelor's degrees awarded increased 150,000 to 2.8 million. The organization releases the report every year as it pushes its Goal 2025 aiming to increase the percentage of American with high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by 2025. In order to reach that goal, Lumina Foundation urges a redesign of America's higher education system starting with its Degrees Qualification Profile, a framework that higher education institutions can use to develop degrees with measurable learning outcomes that fit the current job market.
Written on 04/23/2014, 11:12 am by Business Journal staff
Distressed home sales continued to fall in March, replaced by a more stable real estate market throughout the Valley and state. According to the California Association of Realtors, distressed sales, which includes short sales, sales of bank-owned properties and other foreclosure sales, stood at 22 percent of all homes sales in Fresno County in February. That's down from 29 percent in February and 41 percent a year ago. Distressed sales in Kings County went from 36 percent in February and 54 percent a year ago to 28 percent in the latest month. In Madera County, distressed sales dropped by an even larger margin, going from 30 percent in February and 54 percent last year to just 14 percent in March. Tulare County saw a slight bump, going from 18 percent to 21 percent in the month. That's still well below the 38-percent share in March 2013. Of the 38 counties that submitted data, 30 reported declines in the share of distressed sales. Statewide, distressed sales made up 12.4 percent of all homes sales in March, down from 15 percent the month before and 28.2 percent a year ago. The share of real estate-owned sales, including bank-owned homes, went down to 5.4 percent compared to 6.3 percent in February and 10.6 percent in March 2013. Short sales dropped from 8.2 percent in February and 17.2 percent a year ago to 6.6 percent in the latest month. Equity sales, or non-distressed home sales, stood at 87.6 percent in March, up from 85 percent in February and 71.8 percent a year ago. Housing inventory contracted in March. The unsold inventory index for real estate-owned homes, or number of months to deplete the supply of homes at the current sales rate, went from 3 months in February to 2.8 months in March. The index for short sales went from 5 months to 4.7 months, while the index for equity sales fell from 4.8 months to 4 months.
Written on 04/23/2014, 11:03 am by Business Journal Staff
Saturday is cleanup day for Fremont Elementary School, thanks to local Comcast employees and their families. The volunteers will join with students and parents to spend the morning planting, installing benches, painting, landscaping and cleaning up the grounds at the school located at 1005 W. Weldon Ave. in Fresno. Cleanup will take place from 8 a.m. to noon. Members of the community are invited to participate, but must register at: www.comcastinthecommunity.com. This volunteer effort is part of the 13th “Comcast Cares Day,” the largest single-day corporate volunteer effort in the United States.  This year, the company expects more than 80,000 Comcast and NBCUniversal volunteers to participate in over 700 projects across the country and around the globe.  To date, more than half a million volunteers have contributed more than 3 million volunteer hours since Comcast Cares Day started in 2001.  In California, more than 4,000 Comcast employees, their families and friends will do volunteer work at 16 schools or community-based organizations affected by budget cuts in California.
Written on 04/23/2014, 10:24 am by Business Journal Staff
Kennedy Funding Financial of Englewood, NJ has helped complete a $5.28 million loan by Tulare Lender, LLC to Tulare Bethel Housing, Inc., an affiliate of the Bethel Assembly of God in Tulare, for commercial and residential construction in Tulare. The three-year interest-only financing is secured by a first lien on two parcels of land totaling 33.74 acres in Tulare. One parcel, totaling 4.74 acres along Tulare's North M Street, is currently under contract and is scheduled to close in July. The remaining 29 acres were acquired by the church in three separate transactions between 2010 and 2012. "The parcels have a mix of commercial and multifamily residential zoning and are proposed for a large senior housing, religious and community use development," said Kevin Wolfer, president and CEO of Kennedy Funding, a direct private lender, in a release. The proposed project consists of five buildings designed to complement each other in design and function. Phase one will consist of three buildings: A 96-unit apartment building with a swimming pool, meeting room, and library; a 30-unit assisted living residence; and a 20,000-square-foot clubhouse that will serve as a community center with a variety of services including a food bank and thrift store. The clubhouse will act as an emergency building for the local Red Cross. The second phase will consist of a 72-unit, three-story apartment building offering meals and hotel-type maid service. Finally, a 57,000-square-foot convention center will be utilized for services of the Bethel Assembly of God, as well as concerts, small conventions and school gatherings. It is designed to seat 900 with long-term plans for an expansion to seating for 2,000. "The City of Tulare recently approved and provided funding to complete an overpass and interchange project that will greatly enhance local access to the site from State Route 99 at Cartmill Avenue," Wolfer said. "That is particularly important in light of the proposed development."
Written on 04/23/2014, 9:45 am by Business Journal staff
More available rooms kept the Valley's lodging industry on solid footing in March, even as overall occupancy and room rates slipped from the month before. According to a monthly lodging report by STR, the average occupancy rate in the Fresno area stood at 56.9 percent in March. That's down slightly from 57.5 percent in February but above 55 percent in March 2013. At $79.41, the average daily rate for a room in the area fell from $84.05 but picked up from $76.51 a year ago. With the supply of rooms increasing to 318,990 in the month, Fresno area lodges reported combined revenues of around $14.41 million in March compared to $13.89 million the prior month and $13.47 million in March 2013. Tulare/Visalia area lodges saw the average occupancy rate slip from 56.3 percent in February and 55.9 percent a year ago to 55.5 percent in the latest month. The area's average daily rate spiraled down to $79.28 after hitting a record $98.65 in February but remained above the $75.82 rate of a year ago. While the supply of rooms in the area also climbed to 175,429 in the month, combined revenues dropped to $7.72 million compared to $8.79 million in February. That's still up from $7.44 million in March 2013. Statewide, the average occupancy rate stood at 72.9 percent in March compared to 70.4 percent the prior month and 70.3 percent a year ago. The average daily rate in California also picked up, going from $131.96 in February and $124.97 last year to $133.34 in the latest month. With a combined supply of just more than 15.57 million rooms, lodges in the state reported revenues of around $1.51 billion in March, up from $1.3 billion the month before and $1.36 billion a year ago.  
Written on 04/22/2014, 1:52 pm by Business Journal staff
Known for its selection of fondue dishes, the Melting Pot Restaurants is recruiting franchisees in Fresno as it expands its footprint throughout the U.S. and Canada. Founded in 1975, the company already has 135 restaurants in North American and more than 25 new locations in development. Now, the Melting Pot is looking to grow even more, with plans to add additional restaurants in Fresno and in Little Rock, Ark., Hartford, Conn., Des Moines, Iowa, New York City, Chattanooga, Tenn., Charleston, S.C. and Portland, Maine, as well as Houston and El Paso, Tex. The company is also focusing its expansion efforts in cities across Canada, including Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. The fondue franchise expects to sign a number of new franchise agreements before the end of 2014 and open at least four new restaurants by 2015. Franchisee candidates should have a credit score of 650 or higher, a minimum net worth of $750,000 and liquid assets of at least $325,000 per unit. Depending on the real estate site selected, franchisees can expect the total investment for one restaurant to be approximately $970,195 to $1,417,195. Single-restaurant and multi-restaurant franchise opportunities are available with an initiative franchise fee of $45,000 per unit. Those interested can apply or find out more by visiting www.meltingpotfranchise.com or contacting Ashley Pollard, franchise development manager at apollard@meltingpot.com or 1-800-783-0867 ext. 152. The Melting Pot restaurants offer an upscale dining experience featuring a wide array of entrees that are combined with dipping sauces, as well as cheese fondues, salads, fine wines and chocolate fondue desserts.
Written on 04/22/2014, 1:28 pm by Business Journal staff
An amusement park ride operator was fined more than $100,000 by Cal/OSHA for running two faulty rides at the Big Fresno Fair last October. Butler Amusements, based in Beaverton, Ore., operated the Giant Wheel and Flying Bobs rides at the fair from October 1 to 13. Following a confidential tip about safety, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal/OSHA, conducted an inspection during the fair revealing that 12 bolts associated with the support leg flanges were missing on the Giant Wheel. The inspection also found that the Flying Bobs ride was missing all of the lower cross bracing used for structural support. Butler Amusements stopped the rides after a representative accompanying the investigator was made aware of the potential hazard. However, the inspection turned up three violations of California's public safety regulations, each carrying a $33,750 penalty for a total fine of $101,250. Among them were the company's failure to maintain amusement ride equipment according to the manufacturer's safety recommendations, failure to ensure proper installation of all fastenings and use of the rides without necessary supports. "Thankfully these violations were found before anyone was hurt," said acting Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum, in a release. "Nevertheless, when amusement park machinery is used without strict attention to safety requirements, citations will be issued."
Written on 04/22/2014, 12:05 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — Clovis officials have agreed to review the business license of a coffee shop that features baristas in bikinis. The Bottom's Up coffee shop in Clovis has run into opposition from some residents. One of those residents, Candice Eslick, presented the City Council with a petition on Monday. Eslick said she wants the shop to move its menu inside. The menu has racy names, and Eslick said she's seen young children reading it and taking photos next to the baristas. The Fresno Bee reports (http://bit.ly/1icOtmn) that the council agreed to look into that issue and the shop's business license at its May 19 meeting.

Latest State News

Written on 04/24/2014, 10:00 am by The Associated Press
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Written on 04/24/2014, 9:54 am by MARTHA MENDOZA, OSKAR GARCIA, Associated Press
(AP) — A security video shows the...
Written on 04/23/2014, 11:49 am by Associated Press
(AP) — The University of California has...
Written on 04/23/2014, 11:47 am by Associated Press
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Latest National News

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