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AMAZON QUIETLY EXPANDS WITH 2ND FRESNO FACILITY

Published On January 28, 2019 – 10:20 AM
Written By David Castellon

You may not have noticed, but Amazon quietly expanded its footprint in Fresno late last year.

The new facility has likely created upwards of 400 new jobs, as evidenced by a permit filed with the city.

Over the summer, Amazon laid a big, obvious footprint in the city by opening its newly built 855,000-square-foot fulfillment center in the south end of the city, off Central and Orange avenues.

By its sheer size and the large Amazon logo on its front, the building is hard not to notice. But what you many not have noticed is a not nearly as big, nondescript building amid other industrial buildings less than three miles to the north, in the 2300 block of Cedar Avenue.

In front hangs a small banner sign, and you might have to stop your car and get out to read “DELIVERY STATION” across the top with the Amazon logo beneath it.

This delivery station is one of more than 75 the online giant operates around the country, most fairly close to their fulfillment centers as one of the many methods used to get goods ordered from those centers to homes and businesses.

Many of those goods are shipped via the U.S. Postal service and large private shippers, FedEx and UPS among them.

But for shipments that are close to the fulfillment centers where the packages originated or are routed through them, Amazon often trucks those goods to the company’s delivery stations. From that point, they’re sorted and distributed for delivery, either by local package-delivery businesses contracted to do the work or by private drivers contracted to work through Amazon Flex, an Uber-like service in which people schedule their spare time to make $18-$25 an hour delivering Amazon packages using their own cars.

A company official said hundreds of full-time, part-time and contracted people work at the leased Fresno facility but declined to offer a specific number.

The building is owned by Anheuser-Busch wholesaler Donaghy Sales. A development permit filed by Donaghy indicates a 373-stall parking lot is being built at the site.

https://thebusinessjournal.com/amazon-quietly-expands-with-2nd-fresno-facility/https://thebusinessjournal.com/amazon-quietly-expands-with-2nd-fresno-facility/

Winery amid latest growth spurt


December 15, 2018

|John Rieping

John Rieping/The Madera Tribune
From left, Quady Winery controller Doug Dennis, marketing manager Colin Hough, and winemaker Darin Peterson stand in a warehouse built in 1983 and designed by San Francisco architect Stanley Saitowitz and winery founder Andrew Quady.

On April 14, 1984, Quady Winery officially broke ground on phase one of its new facility designed by San Francisco architect Stanley Saitowitz and vintner Andrew Quady.
According to the Madera T

ribune, the new building would allow the family winery to bottle its wines year-round, instead of only in winter and spring, thus tripling output. But it was just the first of several phases planned, and the design of Quady and Saitowitz wouldn’t be fully realized until 1998.


Now the winery is more than halfway through a new series of expansions that may be complete as early as 2021.


“We’re in year three of a five-year expansion project where we’re growing the winery from roughly 70,000 cases to 160,000 cases” of annual production, said Doug Dennis, controller of the winery.


“We were about 110 (thousand) last year,” explained marketing manager Colin Hough. “We did about 130 (thousand) this year.”


“And even more next year,” predicted winemaker Darin Peterson, who said 85-90 percent of the grapes used in the wines are Madera grown, though some grapes come from as far away as Manteca.


“Obviously Darin has his work cut out for him making the wine, finding the grapes, and maintaining the rigorous standards that we have,” said Hough about the rapid growth. “And that’s of utmost importance to us.”


This year, the winery finished building a 22,000-square-foot warehouse. Rather than emphasize “visual impact” as with the winery’s earliest expansion, the trend now is using technology “to make a huge impact on how productive the business is,” Dennis said.


To beat the heat, the new warehouse is covered in 500 white panels that are each four inches thick, and beside it sits a “heat exchanger” with about 28 times the cooling capacity of a typical home air conditioner, as estimated by the U.S. Department of Energy.


Part of the warehouse holds 350,000 gallons of moscato wine in towering metal tanks, and is cold enough to develop indoor fog on rainy days. “You could not see the ceiling it was that foggy,” said Dennis. “I’m not exaggerating.”


The tanks are individually temperature controlled.


“The whole goal is to keep stuff stable, chilled and under control” for slow fermentation, said Peterson. “The consequence of that is this whole thing draws down” temperatures inside and outside the tanks, “and eventually the chilling power of the (ammonia) glycol (cooling) system will keep the rest of the building cool as well.”


The winery may add three more wine tanks in the next few years, resulting in about 360,000 more gallons in capacity.


“The (180,000 gallon) tank we’re putting outside is basically 32 feet in diameter by 35 feet tall,” said Dennis. “It will dwarf these” indoor tanks. “As soon as the weather breaks and we get a few dry days, we’ll start on the foundation. It will probably be serviceable in a March-April time frame.”


Not yet finished, the warehouse will eventually feature five offices, a laboratory, a cafe-like break room, a conference room, restrooms, and an observation deck.


The Quady family has tried to make its latest expansions “green,” according to Dennis. The LED lighting of the warehouse only consumes about 500 watts, he said, and office area sensors will adjust light intensity based on “whether someone is in the room, how bright it is outside,” etc. Photovoltaic solar cells able to generate 300 kilovolts sit on winery buildings to help power the facilities. In the future, a Tesla Powerwall to store energy may be added, which would allow the winery to be more electrically self-sufficient.


All the recent expansions are, of course, not without cost.


“It’s a pretty big, seven-digit investment,” Dennis said. “I think this building, when it’s completed with the tanks, will be $3.5” to $4 billion.


Dennis said they’re looking forward to putting the current expansions behind them and enjoying the benefits.


“A project of this scope is not for the faint of heart … It’s a dance that you really have to do,” he said, “and it has to be well orchestrated and coordinated, especially to do it in a timely fashion as we’re finding out three years into the expansion project.”

http://www.maderatribune.com/single-post/2018/12/15/Winery-amid-latest-growth-spurt

New fertilizer plant opens in Turlock

Central Valley Business Times

• Darling Ingredients plant to make organic fertilizer

• Will target California and other Western markets

An organic fertilizer production facility is being opened inTurlock by Darling Ingredients Inc. (NYSE: DAR) of Irving,Texas.The facility is located on a 21-acre site and will have the ability to make 35,000 tons of fertilizer a year. It will be marketed under the brand name Nature Safe Natural & Organic Fertilizer.The new plant will also provide 4,500 tons of storage capacity to meet the needs of organic growers operating in California and the West. the company says.

Darling has been making its organic fertilizer at its original Henderson, Kentucky, plant since the early 1990’s, where it will continue to produce for customers in the rest of the country. The company says the strength of the organic fertilizer market in the western U.S. has it working on plans to double the new Turlock plant’s production capacity by end of year 2019.

The company is focused on a growth strategy in California where it can leverage Darling’s diverse supply of animal feed ingredients, says Mike Manning, Darling’s vice president of organic fertilizer and innovation. With long-established rendering facilities in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Fresno and Turlock that produce feather meal, blood meal, and meat &bone meal, the company is able to produce the high quality organic fertilizers with cost-effective proficiency, he says.

When the new Turlock plant begins production in January, it will bring on a new management team. West Regional Commercial Business Manager Dan Rodriguez will develop go-to-market strategies. Kevin Van Dewark has joined Darling Ingredients as plant manager for the new Turlock fertilizer plant, and Mayra Pena will be its new office manager.

https://files.constantcontact.com/2cb20f61601/6163f145-feb6-4eac-92f4-3a0b89e1b400.pdf

2019 REGIONAL ECONOMIC FORECAST: FRESNO COUNTY


An aerial view shows two current buildings at the Gap campus near Fresno Yosemite International Airport.

Published On November 23, 2018 – 7:00 AM
Written By Gabriel Dillard

By nearly every metric — employment, wages, farm receipts, home prices, construction — 2018 proved a banner year for Fresno County’s economy.

And in the opinion of economists, economic development professionals, industry advocates and more, the good times are expected to continue into 2019, even though a number of negative factors may loom over the horizon.

In Fresno, 2018 was a pivotal year that saw California’s fifth-largest city join the ranks of other e-commerce hubs. Fulfillment centers for Amazon and Ulta came online, bringing Mayor Lee Brand even closer to his goal of creating 10,000 jobs in two terms.

Gap was another large acquisition for Fresno. The San Francisco-based retailer announced it would locate an e-commerce fulfillment center in Fresno at its existing campus near the Fresno Yosemite International Airport. The decision will create at least 515 full-time employees and generate $80 million in capital investment.

While the Gap distribution center will ramp up over three years, the move has already proven fruitful in the jobs department. Gap last month announced plans to hire 1,127 seasonal workers in Fresno

There are also some bright spots when it comes to the development of more shovel-ready industrial land, which has been a problem for site selectors in the past. The 63-acre Palm Lakes Business Park near the airport recently welcomed its first tenants. Closer to the Amazon and Ulta sites in south Fresno, Caglia Environmental’s proposed 110-acre industrial park won council approval this year, but still faces a challenge to its environmental impact analysis.

While continuing to market to e-commerce operations, Fresno economic developers are shifting their sites to tech companies that may be considering moving some of their operations out of the expensive Bay Area. Larry Westerlund, Fresno’s director of economic development, recently said in a public talk that closing the skills gap with our local workforce would net the well-paying jobs Fresnans hope for.

Speaking of technology, Clovis— Fresno County’s fastest growing city — should next year see a major new project at its Research and Technology Park near Temperance and Alluvial avenues. Construction for the College of Osteopathic Medicine in Clovis started this year. As part of California Health Sciences University, the 100,000 square foot facility would be the Central Valley’s first medical school when it is finished by next year, with classes set to start in 2020.

Clovis Community Hospital is also expected to start adding additional facilities next year. More industrial space is also primed next year for the Clovis Industrial Park and Dry Creek Industrial Park.

“It’s really encouraging to see that commercial industrial demand going in Clovis,” said Andy Haussler, Clovis economic and community development director.

Fresno County farms continue to comprise one of the most valuable farming areas in the world, though a number of factors justify calling the current market conditions “stable,” said Ryan Jacobsen, CEO and executive director of the Fresno County Farm Bureau. Water supplies and labor availability have been perennial issues, but now tariffs on crop exports to countries such as China add a new layer of concern. 

One of the Valley’s top crops is the prime focus of those tariffs, and a potential source of pain in a protracted trade war.

“Nuts leads the list, but there are many others. Fresh fruits, vegetables and milk are not far behind,” Jacobsen said. “We haven’t felt the ramifications yet, but we don’t know how long this issue will continue to go on, or if it will get worse before it gets better.”

High-speed rail construction activity will continue in Fresno County in 2019, and Lee Ann Eager, president and CEO of the Fresno County Economic Development Corp., is bullish on the county’s chances of landing a rail heavy maintenance facility. She recently said she has heard rumbling the site could be chose in early 2019. It would add an estimated 1,500 new jobs, which is why bid packages from areas around Chowchilla, Madera and Hanford are also in the running.

The small communities along Highway 99, such as Fowler and Selma, continue to see new development that should stretch into 2019. Eastside communities including Sanger, Reedley and Parlier are also seeing activity. Impoverished Westside communities continue to face challenges, but the recreational pot industry has created bright spots in communities that have welcomed it, namely Coalinga and Mendota. Cannabis-related industrial development will ring in the New Year in those towns.

A potential market slowdown does weigh on the minds of economists and economic developers, some of whom — namely in Fresno — have described a rush to build to beat a downturn. Haussler with the City of Clovis has a background in economics and calls himself a “armchair Wall Street Journal reader. He thinks 2019 will continue to see the good times roll.

“I’m seeing a lot of projections coming into fruition,” he said. “I’m pretty bullish.”

But, he added, 2020 may be a different story. It’s just too far out to know for sure in this time of uncertainty.

Grants help fuel business growth in Fresno

Tuesday, November 13, 2018 06:57PM

At Heartbeat Boxing near Downtown Fresno, there’s no shortage of quick feet, fast punches and passion.

“November was our three-year anniversary, we’re just looking to build out business bigger and stronger,” said Gilbert Ruiz, Heartbeart boxing owner

Owner Gilbert Ruiz is proud of the facility growth at Los Angeles and Van Ness. He’s also had some business help from small business advocates and experts from Access Plus Capital.

“They’ve just been a big coach in starting our business from our business plan to projecting where our business is going to go to secure loans and future loans, because we are growing, we are growing very rapidly.” Ruiz said.

Recently, Access Plus Capital was awarded a Go-Biz grant from the Governor’s office, which gave out $17 million statewide.

Access Plus Capital received more than 100,000. About 70 percent of loans given out are to minority owned businesses.

“It’s going to help us expand our support to businesses, especially on the pre-loan side. We work with businesses at no cost to the businesses to help them with their business plan or marketing or finance. It’s going to allow us to do more support particularly to small businesses in our rural communities,” said Tate Hill, Access Plus Capital senior manager.

Access Plus also received another major national grant from Chase Bank and the Central Valley Community Foundation called Pro Neighborhoods.

The $5 million grant will help support small businesses in a variety of ways, but to support neighborhoods with housing and small business development. About $2.5 million will be lent out and focused in urban areas.

“Impacting low-income neighborhoods and neighborhoods that have been environmentally and economically challenged,” Hill said.

Companies that are interested in the funding and resources can reach out to Access Plus Capital. Officials say programs like this help boost business in the Valley.

Cafe Smitten breaks ground on southwest Bakersfield expansion

“It was a dream” to expand to another location, she said, and the southwest seemed an easy choice.

“We were drawing a lot of customers from the southwest to downtown,” she added. “It just felt like a natural progression.”

The new location, simply named Smitten, is scheduled to open in fall of 2019 on a property immediately north of the existing Grand Island Village shopping center at the northwest corner of Ming Avenue and Buena Vista Road. Grand Island Village, a property Bolthouse began to develop in 2010, currently has tenants that are mostly independently owned and operated.

Seven Oaks does have coffee houses but none of them are independents, noted Bolthouse Properties’ senior vice president of development, Bruce Davis. He said bringing in Smitten will give customers a new option for quality food, good service and a positive customer experience.

“That translates no matter where you go,” he said.

Shai Bitton sees Smitten adjusting well to the distinctions between downtown and Seven Oaks. For one thing, it will be easier moving into a built-to-suit space rather than a 100-year-old building that required significant adaptation, he said. There’s also less need in southwest Bakersfield to generate foot traffic.

“Over here you have the feel of a big-city small coffee shop,” he said. “In the southwest it’s a different feel.”

Angel Hansen and Nicole Miller, both of whom had driven from Tehachapi Tuesday to eat at Cafe Smitten, agreed the business has something special to offer. Hansen praised its calming atmosphere, “decent prices” and nourishing food.

Miller also complimented the menu, with its organic and freshly prepared items, and expressed an appreciation for the many plants and aesthetically pleasing design. She said she hopes the company is able to maintain those qualities as it expands.

Merced may become part of a mega-region

Central Valley Business Times

Sept. 23, 2018

  • Would be one of 21 counties centered on Silicon Valley
  • “It’s not just about creating a bedroom community here”

A 21-county mega-region, centered on Silicon Valley, would incorporate many northern Central Valley counties and perhaps mean one of the biggest economic boosts to the Valley in its history.

“Today we are focusing on the economic potential of building greater interconnectedness, which would have major benefits to both regions,” says University of California, Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland. “It’s not just about creating a bedroom community here. We will be attracting businesses and industries that will help lift Merced, the Valley and the state.”

The proposed Northern California “mega-region” would connect the Central Valley to the Bay Area and Silicon Valley, according to Bay Area Council President Jim Wunderman. In all, 21 counties would be grouped into four regions: Bay Area, Sacramento Area, Norther San Joaquin Valley and Monterey Bay Area.

The mega-region would possess one of the fastest-growing economies in the nation and allow for more interconnectivity and innovation, he says. Mr. Wunderman says projects like high-speed rail would help create stronger and more profitable partnerships for the entire mega-region.

“When you look at the Central Valley and the Bay Area, you think of separate places that are far away,” Mr. Wunderman says. “Once that transportation connection is complete, the game is going to change.”

He cited Merced as a potential hub because of its proximity to where the proposed high speed rail line would connect from north and south to the Bay Area.

http://files.constantcontact.com/2cb20f61601/922a98e4-a025-4ffa-83e6-94afee083081.pdf

FRESNO STATE RANKED AMONG NATION’S TOP 25 UNIVERSITIES FOR THIRD STRAIGHT YEAR

The newest national ranking of the top universities in the United States shows Fresno State is delivering on its mission to boldly educate and empower students for success. For the third consecutive year, Fresno State is among the nation’s best at combining academic excellence with economic opportunity.

Washington Monthly, a D.C.-based magazine known for its annual rankings of American colleges and universities, announced Aug. 27 that Fresno State placed No. 24 on its list of the top national universities.

Fresno State was selected alongside seven Ivy League institutions, including top-ranked Harvard University; six University of California campuses; and MIT on the list. Fresno State ranks 12th among the 17 public institutions included in the rankings.

“Fresno State is proud to once again represent the California State University system in the top 30,” University President Joseph I. Castro said. Among more than 400 American Association of State Colleges and Universities members, Fresno State is the only to make Washington Monthly’s top 30. Fresno State and Utah State University (No. 12) are the only Mountain West Conference schools to make the list.

Washington Monthly has been ranking colleges and universities for 13 years with what it calls “a different kind of college ranking” focusing on three equally-weighted criteria: social mobility, research and public service. The rankings are “not based on what colleges do for themselves, but on what they do for their country,” recognizing universities that “push the boundaries of scientific discovery and provide paths to opportunity for the next generation of low-income students.”

Fresno State was also the No. 2 school in the national university category in commitment to spending federal work-study funds on public service. At Fresno State, almost 70 percent of work-study funds go to service. The University was ranked No. 4 nationally in the net price of attending after subtracting grants and scholarships.

Fresno State, as a University that enrolls many first-generation college students and helps them graduate, was cited last year by Washington Monthly for its “stellar graduation rate relative to other colleges with a similar admissions profile.” The magazine also said Fresno State’s “net price of attendance (what students pay after scholarships are deducted from tuition) is among the very lowest nationwide.”

Castro said Fresno State’s continued presence in the rankings alongside such prestigious universities nationwide demonstrates the potential and value of the University when students, faculty and staff are all working together toward improving graduation rates and making an impact in the Central Valley and beyond. About 80 percent of Fresno State graduates stay and work in the Valley.

“These types of national distinctions are possible when we choose to be bold in all that we do at Fresno State,” Castro said. “Every day on campus and in the community, we encounter students and alumni who are using the opportunities provided at Fresno State as a launching point to advance in their lives and achieve their goals. That happens with thousands of graduates each year and the result is a more prosperous region.”

In May, Fresno State celebrated its largest graduating class ever with more than 6,000 students earning degrees. Enrollment at Fresno State this fall is at an all-time high of more than 25,200 students, and more than 80 percent of those students are from the Central Valley.

Fresno State was reclassified as a Carnegie doctoral university in 2016, meaning it was reviewed the past three years with the nation’s top doctoral granting institutions rather than the top master’s universities. Fresno State offers doctoral degrees in nursing, physical therapy and educational leadership.

Last year, Fresno State ranked No. 17 on Washington Monthly’s list, and it was No. 25 in 2016.

Washington Monthly 2018 Top 30 National Universities:

  1. Harvard University
  2. Stanford University
  3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  4. Princeton University
  5. Yale University
  6. Duke University
  7. University of California, San Diego*
  8. Georgetown University
  9. University of California, Los Angeles*
  10. University of California, Davis*
  11. Texas A&M University, College Station*
  12. Utah State University*
  13. University of Pennsylvania
  14. Columbia University in the City of NY
  15. University of Washington*
  16. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill*
  17. University of Florida*
  18. University of California, Berkeley*
  19. Brown University
  20. University of California, Irvine*
  21. Brigham Young University
  22. University of Wisconsin, Madison*
  23. Dartmouth College
  24. California State University, Fresno*
  25. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor*
  26. University of Illinois at Chicago*
  27. University of Notre Dame
  28. University of California, Riverside*
  29. University of Utah*
  30. Augusta University*

You’ve Heard of Berkeley. Is Merced the Future of the University of California?

By Jennifer Medina

July 19, 2018

MERCED, Calif. — As he walks to class at the University of California, Merced, Freddie Virgen sees a sea of faces in various shades of brown. He is as likely to hear banda corridos blaring out of his classmates’ earphones as hip-hop. With affectionate embraces, he greets fellow members of Hermanos Unidos, a peer support group for Latinos that is one of the largest student organizations on campus.

“When I looked at other campuses, I would find myself feeling that I didn’t belong, like I’d stick out,” he said. “This was the only place where I saw so many students I could connect to, who would get where I was coming from. Even if it felt like academic shock, it wouldn’t feel like culture shock.”

In the decades since a ballot measure banned affirmative action in California’s public institutions, the University of California has faced persistent criticism that it is inadequately serving Latinos, the state’s largest ethnic group. The disparity between the state’s population and its university enrollment is most stark at the state’s flagship campuses: at University of California, Los Angeles, Latinos make up about 21 percent of all students; at Berkeley, they account for less than 13 percent.

But at Merced, the newest addition to the 10-campus University of California system, about 53 percent of the undergraduates are Latino, most closely mirroring the demographics of the nation’s most diverse state.

Merced lacks the same national reputation for academic excellence as other campuses in the University of California system. It has the highest acceptance rate by far (70 percent compared with 16 percent at U.C.L.A.), and some students across the state do not see it as in the same league as the other campuses. Graduation rates have consistently been lower than at any other campus in the system: 45 percent of freshmen who entered in 2009 had earned a degree four years later, compared with 65 percent at San Diego and 76 percent at Berkeley.

Merced has yet to hire the star faculty found at other U.C.s and has a much smaller graduate program. The college does not attract the state’s top-scoring applicants when it comes to test scores and grade-point averages. Eligible students from California who are rejected from other University of California campuses are often funneled to Merced, which offers them a spot even if they have not applied. But more than 90 percent of those students rejected the offer, according to a 2016 state audit.

During student orientation each summer at Merced, parent workshops are offered in Spanish. Each year, there are large celebrations and altars for Día de los Muertos and performances from the campus ballet folkorico. Study session snack binges often include tostilocos, corn chips or Cheetos smothered in chamoy, a sticky salty-sweet sauce made popular in Mexico.

Tatiana Acosta with her mother, Enedina, during a visit home to Fresno. Ms. Acosta is the first person in her family to go to college.CreditMax Whittaker for The New York Times

Merced, which opened its doors in 2005, is an outlier in other ways, too. The campus draws students from all over California, but almost none from other states or countries. Nearly three-quarters of students are the first in their families to attend college.

And whereas other campuses are situated near the state’s big urban centers, Merced sits in the middle of California’s Central Valley, a vast agricultural region that has long been one of the poorest and overlooked parts of the state. In the early 2000s, state leaders focused on opening a campus there to serve a region that lagged far behind in educational attainment.

“More Latinos than ever are trying to go to college and they are largely not represented in the state’s elite public university system,” said Audrey Dow, the senior vice president at the Campaign for College Opportunity, which has pushed for more Latinos and students from California to be admitted. “Half of all school-age children are Latino, so it’s the future we’re looking at. If we don’t improve these numbers quickly, a significant population will continue to be shut out.”

Now, more than any other campus, Merced is pivoting to serve a new generation of students. If California hopes to address the vast gap between rich and poor, students such as Mr. Virgen will need to earn college degrees. It is something of a paradox: the future of the state depends on whether the University of California can grow to be more like Merced, and the future of Merced depends on whether it can grow to be more like other campuses.

Surrounded by vast green fields on every side, with cows meandering by a small lake, the campus evokes a kind of isolation that is compounded by the long stretch of highway that needs to be traversed to find it. For students coming from cities like Los Angeles and Oakland, it can either feel like relief or a painful shock.

Mr. Virgen, a psychology major, often thinks the remoteness deepens the relationships among students.

“Here, you don’t feel like you’re in exile from your community, which could lead to all kinds of mental health issues,” said Mr. Virgen, who was born in Los Angeles after his parents emigrated from Jalisco, Mexico. But he does worry that entering graduate school or the professional world, where he may encounter far fewer Latinos, may be jarring. “That’s one of my fears. Latinos aren’t very well represented in the professional work force now compared to whites. So will I be in for a culture shock then?”

Latinos make up the majority of students at fewer than two dozen four-year public colleges nationally, including the University of Texas at El Paso and Florida International University in Miami. Latinos are also the majority at a handful of campuses and make up nearly 40 percent of all students in the California State University system, which is larger and less selective than the University of California. Merced was not specifically intended as a predominantly Latino school, but many students, professors and administrators see the campus demographics as a point of pride that drew them there.

Though he rarely spoke Spanish with his friends in Los Angeles, growing up in Koreatown and attending high school in Silver Lake, Jason De Leon, 20, finds himself using it far more often at Merced, where he is majoring in cognitive science. When he meets someone and picks up that they know the language, he will likely pepper his sentences with “pues” and “oye.” When he was setting up an event on campus and needed help, he shouted out to a group of friends the same way his grandmother used to call out to him: “Ven! Ayúdame!”

“It worked, it grabbed their attention,” said Mr. De Leon, whose parents immigrated from Guatemala in the 1990s. “That kind of stuff happens all the time. Some of it is being homesick, some of it is slang and some things just make much more sense in Spanish.”

Although Latinos are the dominant culture on campus, there have been signs of discomfort in recent years, as the national debate over immigration arrived on campus.

A sign in support of undocumented students at Merced.CreditMax Whittaker for The New York Times

Earlier this year, the College Republicans set up a table on campus with signs that said “I love undocumented firearms” and “Ice Ice Baby,” referring to the acronym for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. There was also a phone number posted for students to call federal immigration authorities

The signs prompted weeks of protest by Latino students. Dorothy Leland, the chancellor, issued a statement in March saying that she was troubled that anyone would wish harm on undocumented students and “would deliberately introduce added stress and anxiety into their fellow students’ lives.”

The incident also prompted renewed calls for a student center on campus that would have dedicated spaces for Latino student groups.

In part, Latinos make up the majority of students at Merced because many have no other choice in the University of California system. The system promises to admit all students who graduate in the top 9 percent of their local high schools, but that is no guarantee that they will receive a spot at the most competitive schools, like U.C.L.A., Berkeley or San Diego. Often, students who are rejected elsewhere are sent to less-sought-after campuses such as Santa Cruz, Riverside, and Merced, all of which have the highest percentages of Latino students.

The campus is also attracting students from the surrounding Central Valley, many of whom considered other University of California schools out of reach and applied specifically to Merced. The number of applicants from the Central Valley to the U.C. system have more than doubled since the Merced campus opened, many the first in their families to take that step.

As a child in Fresno, Tatiana Acosta did not know anyone who had attended college, other than her teachers. Her mother has spent years working in a packing plant, filling small boxes with figs. Her grandfather, too, had held down mostly low-wage jobs in the agriculture industry after moving to the Central Valley from Nayarit, Mexico.

But in her sophomore year of high school, Ms. Acosta was recruited to an Upward Bound program, run by Merced to help high school students get into college. She spent several nights in the dorms at Merced that summer with other low-income students from Fresno, which is about an hour’s drive south.

“Before that, I was not doing anything good, I was not on the right path,” Ms. Acosta, 19, said one recent evening. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life or even if I was going to finish high school. But I started connecting myself with people who wanted to see me succeed. It made me want something better for myself.”

To improve the graduation rate on campus, administrators say they are trying all sorts of strategies for getting first-generation students not only to enroll, but to earn diplomas.

Ms. Acosta has struggled to juggle her family life back home with her new life on campus. Last fall, after her older sister was sentenced to several months in jail, her mother was often lonely and depressed, so Ms. Acosta felt obligated to visit. But Ms. Acosta struggled to stay on top of her school work, and ended up nearly failing a course in math and had to repeat a writing class. By the spring semester, Ms. Acosta, who is majoring in management and business economics, told her mother that she could visit only once every two weeks for a night at a time.

“She didn’t want me to just leave her,” she said. “It was very hard to explain to my mom that this wasn’t aout me not wanting to see her, but about doing what I came here to do.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/19/us/university-california-merced-latino-students.html

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