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New Kern Venture Group Brings Angel Investing to Our Region

New Kern Venture Group Brings Angel Investing to Our Region
jp lake headshot

For the 1878 Paris Exhibition, a couple of highly prominent chaps named J.P. Morgan and Spencer Trask decided to back a crazy idea called “electricity” that was being pitched by none other than Thomas Edison. His brilliant concept was made possible by these early angel investors. Without their extra capital, we might all still be in the dark.

And it’s a powerful tool. Companies like Uber, Google, Twitter, eBay, Apple, Kinko’s, Starbucks and Amazon all got their start or grew with the help of angel investors.

Angel investing is a process whereby private investors inject capital for startups in exchange for ownership equity or convertible debt. It often works like the popular television show “Shark Tank,” but without all of the cameras and hoopla. It’s as simple as groups of real investors funding promising new businesses.

Angel investment funds are located all over the world, and many can be found up and down the California coast. They pool money together and then allocate it to new businesses.

Just imagine you’re a local startup entrepreneur in Bakersfield. You have an exciting idea that you think the market will embrace, but you don’t have access to enough capital. You’ve tapped out your friends and family with small investments, but you need larger sums to get your idea off the ground. What do you do? Most people would either quit or look to a city with stronger startup culture and established funds — places like Palo Alto, Santa Monica, San Diego and San Francisco. The investors there would most likely require you move to their area where they could oversee your progress. This, of course, results in fewer talented entrepreneurs in Kern County and more in places that are already swarming with them. It’s a gain for their local economies and a loss for ours.

This setup also keeps Bakersfield off the investor circuit, removed from the map of places entrepreneurs dream of seeding and growing their ideas.

According to my own research, Kern County has never hosted an organized group of angel investors. But despite his busy schedule and long list of commitments, local business owner John-Paul (“J.P.”) Lake is working to change all that. He is chief operating officer of a hedge fund and manages real estate for his family’s large business, Rain for Rent. The company rents equipment for handling problems with liquids and has 70 global locations. He serves as a trustee for the Panama Buena-Vista Union School District, among other community involvements. His varied business background, deep understanding of our region and local relationships make him the perfect person to bring this platform to Kern County, which will open up access to capital for people with great ideas.

As Lake explains, Kern County has historically been a place where pioneers and risk-takers get their start. Our community has a rich history of innovation in industries like agriculture, oil, gas, renewables and aerospace technology. And now we have another exciting opportunity to pioneer new industries in our region, he notes.

He’s working with a group of local investors to create a fund, called Kern Venture Group, that will provide capital to qualifying startups and existing small businesses.

Lake founded the group with David Higdon, a local business owner with a lot of startup experience as the former president for Ellis Energy Investments.

“I believe that human talent, skill, creativity and passion are equally distributed around the globe,” he explains. “I know there are bright young people who have ideas and want to start a business, but some ingredients are not in place to do that as quickly here. They often leave our community for places where they have a better chance to get their business off the ground.”

I applaud Lake and Higdon for their efforts. The impacts of an angel investment fund will be farther reaching than one might even imagine. Kern Venture Group could help encourage open-mindedness about business opportunities in new industries, increase the local risk tolerance, support an ecosystem to nurture entrepreneurs and their ideas, change the dynamic and help diversify our economy, encourage innovation and push our business community to recognize the value of human capital, not just hard assets. As a result, an angel fund creates a stronger future for our region as a whole.

To seek funding through this group, an entrepreneur with an idea or existing business will reach out to them through the website, kernventuregroup.com. Proposals will be reviewed by a screening committee. Once approved, proponents will present their idea to the full investor group with a 15-minute pitch. Investors will have time to ask questions. The reviewers will take a vote. If successful, the pitch goes to the investment committee. This group will take a deep dive, complete their due diligence and negotiate terms. The committee will take one more vote. If a proposal passes, the managing partners will finalize the investment. The goal is for the fund to raise $2 million to $4 million locally. The plan is to make 15 to 20 investments in this first round.

Eager entrepreneurs are already primed to begin the pitch process. Potential candidates include the owner of a popular local snack food brand who is ready to take his business to the next level with more capital, and locals with ideas for businesses in the oil and gas industry.

Hunting for the elusive unicorn takes a volume of investments and a higher tolerance for risk; the Silicon Valley culture didn’t get that way by chance. One might argue that Silicon Valley’s success was aided by its proximity to San Francisco. But I would argue that the ecosystem created there could exist anyplace in the United States. This “magic” was created with concerted effort and many different components connecting together over time. The area is known for embracing a culture of openness and a free exchange of ideas, but it was not always so. This mentality is much less common in many parts of the country, but why couldn’t we bring a bit of that magic back to Bakersfield?

Angel investors in Silicon Valley know that for every 5,000 crazy ideas, there are some really good businesses waiting to be uncovered and perhaps a few golden opportunities, billion-dollar diamonds-in-the-rough. And for every successful business that is started or grown, many more jobs result. With a higher risk comes a higher reward, both for successful business owners, their investors and the community as a whole.

Angel investors are critical initiators of startups and job creation. Establishment of the Kern Venture Group is a crucial component to creating a local innovation ecosystem and could help usher in a new era of economic growth.

https://www.bakersfield.com/news/new-kern-venture-group-brings-angel-investing-to-our-region/article_c7d804cc-8c86-11e8-bfba-aff42f46b35e.html

The Table Mountain Rancheria is building a new casino, hotel and entertainment venue


An artist’s rendering depicts a new casino and hotel tower proposed by the Table Mountain Rancheria near Friant. The building would nearly double the gaming floor space of the existing Table Mountain Casino. Table Mountain Rancheria

BY ROBERT RODRIGUEZ AND TIM SHEEHAN

June 07, 2018 04:30 PM

The Table Mountain Rancheria, home to one of the region’s oldest gaming centers, is building a new casino, hotel and entertainment venue, according to an environmental report.
The proposed project will nearly double the amount of gaming floor space to 110,000 square feet, plus add a 151-room hotel with resort-like amenities. The hotel will rise 14 levels, with a restaurant on the top floor.
Inside the hotel will include a fitness center, spa, salon, six conference center meeting rooms and a child care/kids activity center. A new special event center with 1,500 seats will be used for monthly concerts, banquets, and private events.
Dan Casas, the tribe’s attorney and spokesman, said the existing casino, built in 1987, was due for an upgrade. Although a popular place to gamble, people complained about the smoke and the low, 8-foot ceilings.
The new casino will be built just west of the current one and will have an more open feel, be more energy efficient and feature a state-of-the-art ventilation system .
“We wanted to build something that will be able to sustain the tribal community for future generations,” he said. “And we also want to stay within the confines of our promise to keep this on our own land.”
Construction is expected to begin by the spring of 2019 with completion by 2020-21. The older casino will be used for tribal offices.
A larger casino and hotel will also mean more jobs. The project will add 454 jobs for a total employment o f 1,454 workers.
Casas said it has taken several years to complete the environmental review for the project. People interested in viewing the document can find it here. Public comments on the document will be accepted until June 28.
One potential concern for nearby residents is the amount of vehicle traffic. Currently, the busiest day of the week for the casino is Saturday, generating 3,795 cars daily. The proposed project is estimated to produce 7,755 cars a day.
A public meeting will be held on June 28 at the Ramada Inn, 3224 E. Shaw Ave. Fresno. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. and will run until the last comment or 9 p.m.

Artist lofts project to begin construction in Stockton

The MediCo Dental building in Downtown Stockton is the site for the new Medici Artist Lofts.

A groundbreaking for a new artist-inspired project will be held May 31 in Stockton.

The Medici Artist Lofts, a mixed-income apartment building with commercial space, will break-ground this week at was once the MediCo Dental building.

“We are excited to expand on the success of our Cal Weber 40 project, providing much needed housing in San Joaquin County—specifically to those who want to live in Downtown Stockton,” said Chris Flaherty, chairman and CEO of 3 Leaf Holdings, a partner in the project along with the Housing Authority of the County of San Joaquin and DFA Development.

The project, expected to be completed by fall of 2019, is geared toward artists, offering space for receptions, galleries and 34 residential units.

“The Housing Authority is excited to be a part of the revitalization of Downtown Stockton,” said Peter Ragsdale, executive director of the Housing Authority. “Medici Artist Lofts will be transformative in its adaptive, mixed-use rehabilitation of the iconic Medical/Dental Building. This project will change the conversation around what is possible when partnerships are struck to help solve the affordable housing crisis in California.”

Six of the units will be offered at market rate, and 28 will offered at “affordable rent subject to income limitations,” according to the Housing Authority.

Similar projects in cities like Fresno have found success in bringing more residents to dwell in downtown regions undergoing revitalization efforts.

The groundbreaking will take place at 7:30 a.m. on May 31 in the lobby of the MediCo Dental building. Business leaders and community members are encouraged to attend the event.

https://cvbj.biz/2018/05/29/artist-lofts-project-to-begin-construction-in-stockton/

California isn’t growing, but the Valley sure is

Modesto touting its new “opportunity zones”

Central Valley Business Times

April 16, 2018

  • Central Valley city now has 17 areas with designation
  • Nationally, there is $6.1 trillion in capital gains that could be invested

Companies looking to establish a new operation should look to its 17 federally-designated opportunity zones, the city of Modesto says in a new promotion. It says it has four ways to take advantage of the new zones. On April 9, the U.S. Department of Treasury certified 17 census tracts in the Modesto area as opportunity zones. Any investment purpose that stimulates economic activity in these census tracts may participate in the program, the city says. It says there are four primary groups that may be particularly interested in this recent announcement:

  • Investors that want to defer gain from a recent sale and obtain tax-free appreciation from its investment in an Opportunity Fund (O-Fund), which can reduce capital gains tax by up to 15 percent;
  • Sponsors that want to form and operate an Opportunity Fund;
  • Property owners with assets located in Opportunity Zones, and,
  • Developers and business owners that desire to start-up or expand in an Opportunity Zones

Nationally, there is $6.1 trillion in capital gains that could be invested in Opportunity Zones, which could make this effort the largest community development program in the nation’s history, Modesto says. The Treasury Department is now finalizing Opportunity Fund guidelines and rules. Interested parties can use this time to become informed about Opportunity Zones and network to develop Opportunity Zones concepts and opportunities for their communities, the city says.

The Council of Development Finance Agencies offers a comprehensive set of resources. Click here: www.cdfa.net/cdfa/cdfaweb.nsf/resourcecenters/iioa1.html

Enterprise Community Partners Inc. provides a policy overview and anticipates implementation timing. Click here: www.enterprisecommunity.org/download?fid=8856&nid=6212

http://files.constantcontact.com/2cb20f61601/4c0e8495-01e9-4972-9694-b050b89aec64.pdf

2018 Sequoia Regional Economic Summit

We are presenting a streamlined format based on feedback from previous years.  Chris Thornberg will be the primary speaker, with a few (no more than a few!) 5 minute economic updates.
 
Doors Open/Breakfast Buffet: 7:30 AM
Program Kick Off: 7:45 AM
Adjournment: 9:30 AM

Gas supplier building new facility at Port of Stockton

STOCKTON — A well-known national company that supplies industrial, specialty and medical gases announced Tuesday it will construct a new production facility at the Port of Stockton before the end of the year.

Airgas USA LLC plans on subleasing property from existing port tenant Pacific Ethanol along Navy Drive, where it will build a plant producing liquid carbon dioxide. The process involves using CO2 byproduct from Pacific Ethanol’s production facility.

The CO2 that Airgas produces will support the manufacturing of dry ice used in a variety of applications from water treatment and food chilling to freezing systems, brewing and winemaking, the company said in its statement.

Up to 30 people will be needed to operate the new Stockton facility, working in manufacturing, distribution and management, according to Airgas spokeswoman Kim Menard.

When asked about the cost of the project, Menard responded: “It is our company policy to not disclose project costs.”

She said construction is scheduled to start “soon” and the facility is expected to be up and running sometime in the second half of this year.

Once the Stockton plant is operational, the company said Airgas will have three “strategically located” plants producing CO2 throughout California.

Upon learning of the Airgas announcement, Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce President Diane Vigil said, “Any new commerce that comes to our community and generates jobs is great. I’m excited about this opportunity.”

Airgas, based in Radnor, Pennsylvania, is a subsidiary of Air Liquide that bills itself as a worldwide supplier of gases, technology and services for industry and health. Air Liquide is headquartered in Paris.

CAR: Housing sales up in state, Central Valley

By Marc Lutz

The California Realtors Association recently reported that California’s home sales were up in February this year by 5.4 over the same time last year. The Central Valley market has fared a bit better despite a lack in inventory.

According to CAR, the sales of existing, single-family detached homes in the state was at an annualized rate of 422,910 in February. That number represents what the total number of homes sold for all of 2018 if rates match what was sold in February.

“February’s solid market performance was likely fueled by rising interest rates, which motivated buyers to rush in and close escrow before rates move even higher as they’re anticipated to do in the coming months,” said Steve White, president of CAR, in a statement. “Despite losing ground in January, February’s strong sales gain more than covered the loss, resulting in a 1.1 percent increase so far this year.”

Sales of existing, single-family homes in the Central Valley were up 6.3 percent year-over-year. The San Francisco Bay Area saw the greatest gains with a 7.1 percent increase over February 2017.

Although newer homes continue to be built in the Central Valley region, industry experts have reported a lack of existing inventory, which can lead to more demand and higher prices.

“Home prices across the state continued to grow in general, especially in the Bay Area region, where seven of nine counties posted double-digit annual increases and five of nine counties surpassed their previous peak prices,” said Leslie Appleton-Young, CAR senior vice president and chief economist. “What’s more, with single family home prices rising rapidly out of reach, buyers increasingly turned to condominiums, which pushed the median price of condominiums to a new record high.”

AT $10M, BOB SMITTCAMP COMMITS COMMUNITY MEDICAL’S LARGEST CASH GIFT

Image via Clark Construction

Published On February 27, 2018 – 12:30 PM
Written By Gabriel Dillard

Business owner and philanthropist Robert E. Smittcamp has given $10 million to benefit the neuroscience department at Community Medical Centers — representing the largest single cash gift for the Fresno-based health care system, according to hospital officials.

The gift will be used toward recruiting “world class” neurosurgeons; education, training and retention efforts for department nurses and clinicians; new technological advancements and establishing the Central California Neuroscience Institute at Community Regional as a leader in neurological specialties, according to a statement from Katie Zenovich, Community Medical Centers vice president for corporate development and chief development officer.

“We are so grateful to Bob,” Zenovich said. “His leadership in philanthropy will help us do much more to save and improve lives for decades to come.”

Combined with a 2016 gift to Community Medical Centers, the Smittcamp Family Foundation has contributed more than $11 million to the neuroscience program.

The first son of Earl and Muriel Smittcamp, founders of Wawona Frozen Foods, Robert — known around town as Bob — serves as chairman and CEO of food ingredient company Lyons Magnus.

A message Tuesday morning seeking comment from Smittcamp was not returned.

Community Medical Centers released the following statement from Smittcamp:

“We are impressed with the ambitious vision and leadership of Community Medical Centers and their rapid growth over the last decade,” Smittcamp said. “However, additional growth and recruitment of world-class neurosurgeons is still required to ensure the success of this service line. I am hoping this new gift will accelerate the hospital’s plans in this critical service area that affects so many Valley families.”

“I’ve become knowledgeable about Community Medical Centers over the past decade and concluded that it’s the charity where I can make the biggest difference, for the most people, for the greatest number of years,” Smittcamp added. “This is the Valley’s main hospital system, and I hope many others will join me in helping to grow its capabilities.”

Community Regional Medical Center’s Downtown Fresno campus is the home of the Central California Neuroscience Institute.

https://thebusinessjournal.com/10m-bob-smittcamp-commits-community-medicals-largest-cash-gift/

Report: Central Valley home prices up year-over-year

 Marc Lutz

 

A recent report has shown home prices throughout the Central Valley to be up over the same time last year, but those prices might be coming down.

In its December 2017 data report, CoreLogic, an analytics and data provider, stated that home prices nationally were up 6.6 percent in December over the same time in 2016.

Locally, home prices in Stockton-Lodi and Modesto were also up. In Stockton-Lodi, prices increased by 7.8 percent year-over-year. In Modesto, prices were up 9.1 percent year-over-year. Those prices include distressed sales.

From November 2017 to December 2017, prices increased by 0.5 percent in Stockton-Lodi and decreased 0.4 percent in Modesto.

“Home prices continue to rise as a result of aggressive monetary policy, the economic and jobs recovery and a lack of housing stock. The largest price gains during 2017 were in five Western states: California, Idaho, Nevada, Utah and Washington,” said Frank Martell, president and CEO of CoreLogic in a press release. “As home prices and the cost of originating loans rise, affordability continues to erode, making it more challenging for both first-time buyers and moderate-income families to buy. At this point, we estimate that more than one-third of the 100 largest metropolitan areas are overvalued.”

Thirty-five percent of the metropolitan areas with the overvalued housing markets have prices that are 10 percent above a long-run sustainable level, CoreLogic reports.

“The number of homes for sale has remained very low,” said Dr. Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic. “Job growth lowered the unemployment rate to 4.1 percent by year’s end, the lowest level in 17 years. Rising income and consumer confidence has increased the number of prospective homebuyers. The net result of rising demand and limited for-sale inventory is a continued appreciation in home prices.”

Report: Central Valley home prices up year-over-year