This Visalia company is one of three paper straw manufacturers in the U.S.

VISALIA, Calif. (KFSN) — At Kaweah Container, corrugated boxes are the bread and butter of the business.

They’ve been making them for decades, shipping them to customers in California and the west coast.

But last year, the family-owned Visalia company saw a global trend, identified a need, and decided to start manufacturing a new product — paper straws.

“Kaweah Container might be new to straws but we’ve used paper to make quality products for nearly 30 years,” the company says in their promotional YouTube video.

“Single-use plastic products including straws have kind of fallen out of favor and people were trying to be more environmentally conscious,” said president Rob Reeves.

The equipment came in last fall, and after months of research and development, shipping started in late February of 2019.

President Rob Reeves says it’s been a challenge, but a fun one. He added that the response so far has been positive.

“The paper straws that are out there on the marketplace now, a lot of people would probably agree they’re just not very good,” Reeves said. “So our goal was not only to make a paper straw but to try to make a better paper straw.”

Brian Johnson: “What’s a better paper straw?”

“Well our goal is to make something that lasts the lifetime of your drink, not the lifetime of the planet,” he said.

Reeves says Kaweah Container is one of three paper straw manufacturers in the country, and they’re the only one in California.

But he believes they can do it better than the rest.

One reason? They print them with this machine-an HP T400, which can put any kind of image you want on your straw.

“We use a thermal inkjet process so it creates a vapor bubble inside the printhead, and thus expelling the ink from the printhead, and that’s how the ink gets transferred to the paper,” said manufacturer Reg Phillips.

A slitter machine then cuts the paper down into smaller strips and it heads to Kaweah Container’s straw machines.

The straws are more than just eco-friendly. The materials in them are safe.

“It should be regulated and it’s not,” said the vice president of operations, Erin Jennings. “And it was extremely important to us that we worked with vendors who wanted to come up and help us develop an FDA approved product.”

Sequoia Brewing Company and the Visalia Rawhide are just a couple of the companies who have invested in these straws.

For more information, you can go to kcstraws.com

On The Road: Agritourism — discover the history of agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley

By Tim Viall, Special to The Record
Posted May 13, 2019

Residents of San Joaquin County live in, arguably, the most productive agricultural region in the world. But, as cities expand, farming and food production is pushed further each year into the countryside; many residents seldom think where that food on the table comes from, much less how it is harvested and produced.

To understand the agricultural underpinnings of our county, make your first stop the San Joaquin Historical Museum at Micke Grove Park south of Lodi. The museum story begins with an expanded Native Peoples Gallery, offering insight into the Native Americans who have been living in what is now San Joaquin County for more than 13,000 years.

The museum traces the Miwok- and Yokuts-speaking people, all with rich cultures and lifestyles. Native peoples here put up the greatest resistance to the Spanish-Mexican missions and fought battles with the largest army formed in Spanish-Mexican California. Videos bring to life the intricacies of traditional basket making, acorn preparation, deer hunting and native life.

An interactive circular display allows visitors to listen to recorded messages. In one recording, Glen Villa Jr. (Northern Miwok/Plains Miwok) tells about the First People and a traditional creation narrative. Another recording shares a traditional Yokuts story, told by Sylvia Ross (Chukchansi Yokuts), a third of the Indian freedom fighters led by Estanislao, for whom the Stanislaus River and county were named.

These exhibits work well with the other exhibits in the Erickson Building, and visitors can go in chronological order from the Native peoples who first inhabited the area, to an exhibit on the early trappers and the founding of French Camp, the first non-Indian community. Continue on to an exhibition on the early American settlers, then on to exhibits on the Gold Rush, a hands-on children’s gallery, and the adjacent Weber Gallery.

The Innovators of Agriculture exhibit features the development of intensive, irrigated agriculture in the county beginning around 1900. Six crops are the focus: dry beans, asparagus, cherries, walnuts, canning tomatoes and truck farming (growing of fruits and veggies, trucked to local markets). If you want insight into why our county is so ag-centric, start at this museum wonder! The museum is kid-friendly, with lots of “hands-on” options, and scores of huge tractors, harvesters and vintage farming equipment to wow even young visitors.

Expand your agri-history tour with a visit to the California Agricultural Museum in Woodland, north of Sacramento and just off Interstate 5. Gene Muhlenkamp, a docent since 1996, took two hours to show my friends and I through much of the museum. Its collection stems from that of the Heidrick Brothers, farmers who built a substantial farming empire west of Woodland beginning in the 1930s. Inventive, they often concocted their own machinery to solve farming challenges and began an extensive collection of vintage and noteworthy agri-machinery.

The museum offers a unique collection of tractors, artifacts and interactive exhibits telling the history of California agriculture. Implements date back to the Gold Rush era and follow California’s evolution from horse-drawn ag machinery to steam-driven and then on to fuel-powered machines. Wander the collection of wheeled and track-type harvesters, tractors, combines, trucks and photo galleries. You’ll even find a Ford Model T roadster converted to a farm tractor.

Museum items with a Stockton connection include an old Samson Sieve-Grip tractor, built in Stockton in the early 1900s, several huge Holt tracked-vehicles, built for the U.S. military in World War I to haul artillery pieces and take the place of horses, killed all too often in action. The huge Holt tractor, armored for wartime, has a number of dents in its armor from bullet strikes.

A monster-sized Best steamer seems almost too large to be true, dwarfing my friends who joined for the tour. A giant Holt harvester (made in Stockton), all of wood and timber with iron fittings, was once hauled through fields with a team of two dozen horses and mules, before steam power would replace the horses.

A display of vintage John Deere tractors, meticulously renovated, lines one long wall; down the center of the museum march a line of a dozen Caterpillar tractors, used both on the farm and in the construction industry. A midsized Fordson tractor, nicknamed the “Snow Devil,” is equipped with spiral-ribbed pontoons, used to navigate deep snows of Donner Pass to haul five tons of mail during winter’s harsh storms.

Museumgoers with kids will find a special play area designed to hearken back to simpler times when child’s play required imagination. Kids can play corn hole, and enjoy the carousel and pedal tractors. A team of docents will tour you through the 45,000-square-foot museum gallery, noting that each tractor, wagon or harvester all have their unique stories.

For more information: The California Agriculture Museum, 1958 Hays Lane, Woodland, (530) 666-9700, http://Californiaagmuseum.org, open Wednesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; San Joaquin Historical Society and Museum, in Micke Grove Park, 11793 N. Micke Grove Road, Lodi, http://sanjoaquinhistory.org, (209) 953-3460, open Wednesday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

 

Stockton and other Central Valley cities, best California cities to start a small business

Central Valley Business Times

• It’s ranked fifth in the state, 34th in the nation
• Fresno almost ties with San Francisco

With this being “National Small Business Week” and half of Americans working for small businesses, the personal finance website WalletHub has released its report on “2019’s Best Large Cities to Start a Business.”

WalletHub says it compared 100 U.S. cities across 19 key indicators of startup viability. The data set ranges from five-year business-survival rate to office-space affordability.

Here is WalletHub’s rankings for the California cities itincluded in its report:

• Oakland, 19th nationally
• Irvine, 20th
• Los Angeles

• San Diego, 30th
Stockton, 34th

• Long Beach, 37th
• San Jose, 42nd
• San Francisco, 44th
Fresno, 45th
• Chula Vista, 51st
• San Bernardino, 52nd
• Sacramento, 54th
Bakersfield 56th
• Anaheim, 65th
• Santa Ana, 72nd
• Fremont, 90th

Best vs. Worst
• Toledo, Ohio, has the lowest average annual rent for office space, $11.93 per square foot, which is 6.7 times cheaper than in San Francisco, the city with the highest at $80.22 per square foot.

• Detroit has the lowest labor costs (median annual income), $27,838, which is 4.4 times lower than in Fremont, the city with the highest at $122,191.

• Laredo, Texas, has the lowest cost-of-living index, 77, which is 2.5 times lower than in San Francisco, the city with the highest at 196.

• Miami, Florida, has the most startups per 100,000 residents, 234.72, which is 3.2 times more than in  Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the city with the fewest at 74.40.

For the full report:
https://wallethub.com/edu/best-cities-to-start-abusiness/2281/ – main-findings

https://files.constantcontact.com/2cb20f61601/aec4dc6c-c168-4ded-91e8-1694b4ac9461.pdf

Two new restaurants are offering Fresno favorites tri-tip and Armenian food in downtown

Two new restaurants fill Kern Street vacancies

BoxCar Cafe serving sandwiches and tri-tip for lunch and breakfast, opened in the spot vacated by CHARburger on the corner of Kern and L, while GG’s Food Factory will serve Mediterranean and Armenian food, next door at 2139 Kern St.

First came the tri-tip sandwiches. Soon, you’ll be able to get an Armenian favorite: a bread boat filled with a warm cheese and egg mixture.

These items are on the menu at two new restaurants opening on the same corner in downtown Fresno. Both are at the northwest corner of Kern and L streets, part of the Hotel Virginia building.

The first, BoxCar Cafe, opened about a month ago, shortly after its predecessor, CHARburger closed in late March. Keep reading for more about BoxCar.

MEDITERRANEAN FOOD

The newbie restaurant next door is GG’s Food Factory. It opens at 10 a.m. Thursday, May 9 at 2139 Kern St. It’s in the space that Tree of Life left behind when it moved north to 6640 N. Blackstone Ave.

The food here is Mediterranean, with some Armenian favorites and options for people who just want a hamburger or pizza.

That eggy, cheesy concoction? It’s called adjaruli khachapuri, though you can just say egg boat if that’s easier. It’s technically from Georgia (the country next door to Armenia), but is a common dish in Armenia, said Tigran Hovhannisyan, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Ripsime Oganyan.

He recommends tearing off a bit of that dough and dipping it in the warm gooey mixture.

Also on the menu: Plates of barbecued meat like pork ribs, cubes of lamb and chicken lula kabob served with rice pilaf. You can also get a hamburger and a lamb burger, salads and pizza.

A few other dishes on GG’s menu that you won’t find at many other Fresno restaurants? Lahmajoon (an Armenian flatbread smothered in ground beef) and potato pie (technically called piroshki). It looks like a roll, but it’s stuffed with herbed mashed potatoes and then deep fried for a crunchy bite.

If the name GG’s Food Factory sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen the big red food truck of the same name around town. The same couple runs it and many of the dishes sold on the truck will be available at the restaurant.

They’re putting aside the truck for a while to focus on running the restaurant.

“That’s my dream,” Hovhannisyan said. “I’ve been cooking for a long time.”

He owned a restaurant in Armenia before coming to Fresno in 2000. After starting the food truck, customers started asking for something more.

“They keep asking about a restaurant, because they want a sit-down restaurant,” he said.

For the next month or so, GG’s will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

For downtown diners looking for dinnertime options, don’t fret yet. The couple hopes to get there eventually and be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and for lunch and dinner on Saturdays and Sundays.

But they’re also expecting a baby in about a month and between that and opening a new restaurant, they decided to start small and ramp up.

QUICK LUNCH

The BoxCar Cafe at 901 L St. is a quick place to grab lunch. It opened about a month ago.

Its lunch menu has just six options: A cheeseburger, veggie burger, tri-tip sandwich, grilled chicken club, a “ham stack” sandwich and a sourdough Joe made with bacon, Swiss and American cheese with grilled onions on sourdough bread.

It also serves breakfast quesadillas and breakfast sandwiches, though people are still discovering that it’s open for breakfast, said owner Donna Willis.

The restaurant doesn’t have a prominent sign yet, but look for the restaurant that’s right on the corner of Kern and L streets. It is open from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, with breakfast items served until 10:30 a.m.

If the restaurant name BoxCar sounds familiar, it’s probably because you remember the little cafe painted to look like a boxcar on Hamilton Avenue. Most recently it was called Keith’s BoxCar Cafe & Barbecue, though it closed years ago.

Willis opened the first BoxCar on Hamilton before it went through a succession of owners.

https://www.fresnobee.com/living/food-drink/bethany-clough/article230092179.html

Central Valley’s almond boom continues

April 29, 2019

Central Valley Business Times

• New report shows growth in acreage given over to almonds
• Five times the size of the total area of Sacramento, Fresno, Bakersfield and Stockton – combined

The acreage planted with almonds in the Central Valley and the rest of the state last year increased by 2 percent from the year before,according to a new report from the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Last year, an estimated 1,390,000 acres were devoted to almonds. Almost all of that acreage was in the Central Valley.

The total is up 2 percent from the 2017 acreage of 1,360,000. Of the total acreage for 2018, 1,090,000 acres were bearing and 300,000 acres were non-bearing. And it’s increasing. Preliminary bearing acreage for 2019 is estimated at 1,170,000 acres. That’s five times the size of the total area of Sacramento, Fresno, Bakersfield and Stockton – combined.

Nonpareil continue to be the leading variety, followed by Monterey, Butte, Carmel, and Padre.

Kern, Fresno, Stanislaus, Merced and Madera were the leading counties. These five Central Valley counties had 72 percent of the total bearing acreage.

fhttps://files.constantcontact.com/2cb20f61601/61a12c98-2afa-4584-9edb-4f7de15a96f8.pdf

California unemployment rate rises to 4.3 percent in March

• Employers add 24,500 nonfarm payroll jobs
• Jobless rates ride in all Central Valley counties

California’s unemployment increased to 4.3 percent in March while the state’s employers added 24,500 nonfarm
payroll jobs, according to data released Friday by the California Employment Development Department from two surveys.

California has now gained a total of 3,163,900 jobs since the economic expansion began in February 2010. The U.S. unemployment rate remained at 3.8 percent, and the nation’s employers added 196,000 nonfarm payroll jobs last month.

In March of last year, the state’s unemployment rate was 4.3 percent. The unemployment rate is derived from a federal survey of 5,100 California households.

Nonfarm payroll jobs in California totaled 17,353,500 in March, according to a survey of businesses that is larger and less variable statistically. The survey of 80,000 California businesses measures jobs in the economy. The year-over change from March 2018 to March 2019 shows
an increase of 238,500 jobs (up 1.4 percent).

The federal survey’s results
The federal household survey, done with a smaller sample than the survey of employers, shows a decrease in the number of employed Californians over the month. It estimates the number of Californians holding jobs in March was 18,742,000, a decrease of 17,000 from
February and up 274,000 from the employment total in March of last year. The number of unemployed Californians was 838,500 in
March – an increase of 14,300 over the month and up by 5,200 compared with March of last year. EDD’s payroll employment report (wage and salary jobs) in the nonfarm industries of California totaled 17,353,500 in March, a net gain of 24,500 jobs from February. This
followed a revised gain of 20,900 jobs in February.

Month-over Job Gains
Nine of California’s eleven industry sectors added a total of 30,400 jobs in March. Construction reported the largest increase with a gain of 9,400 jobs. Other sectors adding jobs over the month were professional and business services, manufacturing, educational and health services, information, other services, leisure and hospitality, government, and mining and logging.

Month-over Job Losses
Two of California industries reported job losses over the month. Trade, transportation, and utilities reported the largest decrease with a loss of 5,800 jobs while financial activities had a loss of 100 jobs.

Year-over Job Gains
In a year-over-year comparison (March 2018 to March 2019), nonfarm payroll employment in California increased by 238,500 jobs (a 1.4 percent increase). Ten of California’s eleven industry sectors added a total of 242,700 jobs over the year. The largest job gains were in
professional and business services, up 65,900 (a 2.5 percent increase) and educational and health services, up 64,100 jobs (a 2.4 percent increase). Other sectors adding  jobs over the year were leisure and hospitality, government, construction, manufacturing, information, trade, transportation and utilities, other services, and mining and logging.

Year-over Job Losses
The only industry that posted a year-over decline was financial activities with a job loss of 4,200. In related data, the EDD reported that there were 387,767 people receiving regular Unemployment Insurance benefits during the March survey week. This compares with 389,449 in February and 403,184 in March of last year. At the same time, new claims for Unemployment Insurance were 39,965 in March, compared with 34,593 in February and 39,330 in March of last year. Seasonally adjusted payroll detail follows:

Here are MARCH’s unemployment rates for Central Valley counties, followed by, in parentheses, the rates for February:
• Butte – 6.2 percent; (6.1 percent)
• Fresno – 9.4 percent; (8.9 percent)
• Kern – 10.1 percent; (9.3 percent)
• Kings – 10.3 percent; (9.9 percent)
• Madera – 8.9 percent; (8.2 percent)
• Merced – 11.0 percent; (10.7 percent)
• Sacramento – 4.3 percent; (4.1 percent)
• San Joaquin – 7.3 percent; (7.0 percent)
• Stanislaus — 7.5 percent; (7.2 percent)
• Tulare – 12.1 percent. (11.3 percent)
• Yolo – 5.3 percent; (5.2 percent)
• Yuba – 7.9 percent; (7.8 percent)

https://files.constantcontact.com/2cb20f61601/f776f23d-0e50-40e4-a8e6-961e033ac984.pdf

Goodyear exec to headline Valley business summit

April 20, 2019

For The Madera Tribune

The San Joaquin Valley Manufacturing Alliance (SJVMA) and the Fresno Business Council (FBC) have announced the keynote speaker for Valley Made: The 5th annual Manufacturing Summit. He is Billy Taylor, global director of diversity and inclusion at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company.

More than 1,000 manufacturing industry attendees are expected to participate in the event to be held on Thursday, May 2, from 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Fresno Convention Center Exhibit Hall. Sponsorships and exhibit space are still available by contacting Genelle Taylor Kumpe via email ( genelle@sjvma.org), calling 214-0140 or visiting www.valleymadesummit.com.

 Troy Brandt is the new board chair of the local group, succeeding Mike Betts, who will remain on the board as SJVMA’s founding chairman.

Since he was 14, Brandt has worked in  manufacturing at nearly every professional level.

“The growth of both the SJVMA and the ‘Valley Made’ Manufacturing Summit would not be what it is today without the vision, leadership, and guidance of Mike Betts,” said Brandt, who is general manager at Hydratech.

The SJVMA boasts a membership of over 745 business leaders, partner groups, and manufacturers from all sectors throughout the Valley. San Joaquin Valley industry is responsible for nearly $15 billion of the Valley’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employs more than 105,000 people. Due to baby-boomer retirements and the economic expansion, it is estimated that over the next decade, almost 3.5 million U.S. manufacturing jobs will likely need to be filled.

“The SJVMA organizes manufacturers to speak with one voice regarding the development of a workforce needed to sustain and grow manufacturing. It’s our responsibility to ensure that education and government embrace adaptive and innovative educational training solutions in order for the Valley to grow and sustain a strong workforce and strong communities,” said Brandt.

The 5th Annual “Valley Made” Manufacturing Summit is designed as a workshop and resource expo that explains the Valley’s history of innovation in manufacturing while providing resources and networking opportunities that continue to build a well-trained, outstanding workforce. At its core, the Summit promotes cross-sector collaboration aimed at creating a globally competitive environment for the Valley’s manufacturing industry. After four years, the summit has maintained continual growth, yet the focus remains the same, building a future where Valley manufacturing thrives through innovative collaboration, engagement, and creating a culture that cultivates workers that are higher skilled and better educated.

This year’s keynote speaker, Billy Taylor, Global Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company is a well-respected figure in manufacturing. Taylor has served as a keynote speaker at numerous events speaking on how to sustain positive results by embracing culture and enabling employee ownership. An advocate for equality and inclusion, he has led diversity and inclusion strategies across the 22 countries where Goodyear operates. His approach has created an exemplary environment where every employee feels engaged and empowered to contribute at their highest level.

Taylor will lead the way for a wide assortment of breakout session topics including cybersecurity in manufacturing, energy solutions for the San Joaquin Valley, how to know your company’s market potential, tax credits and incentives, and many more.

These sessions aim to provide attendees a wealth of information that will educate and inform them of the innovative practices that may allow businesses to stay competitive in the global marketplace.

Off-Site Construction Startup Entekra Selects Modesto as Site for $35-Million Factory that Expands Capacity by 3,000 Units

Entekra to Create 250 New Jobs at the Facility, which will be the Most Technologically-Advanced Construction Manufacturing Plant in North America


NEWS PROVIDED BY

Entekra 

Apr 17, 2019, 12:08 ET


MODESTO, Calif.April 17, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Entekra™ LLC, the California off-site construction startup with an integrated solution that allows home builders to reduce cycle time while achieving productivity and quality gains, has selected Modesto as the site for its new $35-million manufacturing factory, which will boost annual production capacity by 3,000 units and create 250 new jobs.

Since its founding in late 2016 in nearby Ripon, Entekra has made significant inroads deploying its Fully Integrated Off-Site Solution™ (FIOSS™), as the company is already working or in discussions with a majority of the country’s largest home builders.

“Expanding our operations within the greater Modesto community, which has been supportive of our efforts from Day 1, will allow Entekra to effectively capitalize on the tremendous interest in transitioning to FIOSS from the inefficient and labor-intensive method of stick-framing houses on site,” said Entekra CEO Gerard McCaughey.

The new 200,000-square-foot facility will be the most technologically advanced construction-related factory in North America and will facilitate the servicing of residential housing developments from Bakersfield to the CaliforniaOregonborder.

“The City is honored that Entekra chose Modesto for its flagship state-of-the-art off-site building factory. Entekra is both a leader in its industry and a great fit in Modesto’s strong manufacturing sector,” said Modesto City Manager Joe Lopez.

“We are proud to coordinate with the Stanislaus County Office of Education and Opportunity Stanislaus to answer Entekra’s workforce requirements, and look forward to anchoring its North American success,” Lopez added.

According to Opportunity Stanislaus, the Modesto factory construction represents $61.6 million total impact on the local economy, with the project employing approximately 400 individuals directly and indirectly.

While relatively new to the U.S. market, FIOSS has been leveraged for more than a half-century to build homes in Europeand Asia. It has a proven track record for reducing overall build time by as much as 33 percent, while also reducing skilled labor needs by more than 40 percent – a key consideration given the ongoing labor shortage that has plagued U.S. builders.

Entekra will begin installing automated equipment in the Modesto facility in June and anticipates that the first FIOSS houses will be off-site manufactured and ready for rapid on-site assembly in July.

For more information on Entekra, visit entekra.com.

About Entekra
Entekra (entekra.com) was founded in late 2016 to transform the way houses are built in America with its Fully Integrated Off-Site Solution™ (FIOSS™). Based in Ripon, Calif., the off-site construction company streamlines the build process by completely integrating concept, design, and engineering with off-site manufacturing and on-site assembly. Entekra’s management team is comprised of key executives from Ireland’s Century Homes, who grew that startup into Europe’s largest off-site company and are responsible for nearly 175,000 FIOSS homes assembled on three continents.

SOURCE Entekra

Related Links

https://www.entekra.com

CENTRAL VALLEY TOPS LIST OF U.S. AG COUNTIES

Published On April 11, 2019 – 2:13 PM
Written By David Castellon

California once again led the nation in agricultural sales in 2017, with six Valley counties — along with one along the state’s Central Coast — topping ag sales across the nation.

This according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2017 Census of Agriculture, which gathers information annually on U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them.

Agricultural sales in California exceeded $45 billion in 2017 — about 12 percent of total U.S. ag sales — far outpacing the No. 2 state, Iowa, which had sales totaling about $29 billion, followed by Texas, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Indiana.

But while the USDA lists the same top ag counties as the California Department of Agriculture, they don’t list them in the same order.

Most notably, the federal agency lists Fresno County as the top ag county in the nation for 2017.

CDFA placed Fresno County as third in sales that year, behind Kern and Tulare counties, respectively.

CDFA officials couldn’t be immediately reached to determine if the USDA census used different criteria in determining total ag sales.

The other four top ag counties were, in order, Monterey, Stanislaus, Merced and San Joaquin, all of which also are among the top seven ag counties on the USDA’s list.

The top commodities produced on farms nationally were cattle and calves, followed by corn, poultry and eggs, soybeans and milk. California lead the nation in milk production, a total of 18 percent.

Other California highlights from the farm census:

– The state’s top commodities were fruits and nuts, with $17.5 billion in combined sales; vegetables, with $8.2 billion; milk, with $6.5 billion; cattle and calves, with $3.1 billion; and horticulture, with $2.9 billion.

– Total farm production expenses for California totaled $37.8 billion.

– The average age of the California farmer was 59.2 years old, compared to the national average of 57.5 years old.

– Military veterans accounted for 10 percent of California farmers, compared to about 11 percent, nationally.

– At 14,552 farms, California was the top state using renewable energy-producing systems in agriculture. Solar was the most common renewable energy-producing system on farms and ranches in the state.

Central Valley tops list of U.S. ag counties

‘Opportunity Zones’ Spur New State Tax Incentives

Editor’s note: This story was corrected April 4. Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story incorrectly named Novogradac & Co. LLP.

Governors helped the U.S. Treasury Department choose nearly 9,000 economically distressed “opportunity zones” where people can get a tax break for investing in certain businesses and properties. But the 2017 federal tax law that created the zones doesn’t allow governors or state lawmakers to steer investors’ money into certain projects.

They’re trying to influence the market anyway.

This year 17 state legislatures have considered opportunity zone bills, including proposals for additional tax breaks to lure investors or encourage certain projects, such as affordable housing or solar energy development, according to Novogradac & Co. LLP, an accounting and consulting firm that is keeping track.

The federal government is expected to announce a second round of proposed opportunity zone regulations any day now, which would give many investors confidence to start striking deals.

“Through the added incentives, states can encourage the type of development they want to see in opportunity zones,” said Michael Novogradac, managing partner of Novogradac & Company.

Novogradac cautioned, however, that ultimately cities and counties may have more power over what gets built in a zone than states do. Last year, for example, the City Council in Boulder, Colorado, halted some development in its zone, citing the need for more planning.

“I do think they can bend the curve to be sure,” Novogradac said of states. “But at the end of the day it really depends on local government and local policies.”

Trump Tax Break Aims to Turn Distressed Areas Into ‘Opportunity Zones’

Much of the early investment in opportunity zones is flowing into real estate. Sales of undeveloped land, previously developed but vacant land, and properties ripe for demolition and redevelopment surged in zones last year, according to a December report from Real Capital Analytics, a company that tracks real estate markets.

New York City, Los Angeles and Phoenix may be the hottest markets for opportunity zone funds, the report said.

Some state lawmakers want to tip the scales in favor of projects their constituents need but may be riskier or less lucrative than a new hotel or apartment building in a big city.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, has proposed a state tax break like the federal one, though it would apply only to green technology and affordable housing projects.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, wants to lure businesses into zones with additional tax breaks for creating jobs, expanded workforce training assistance, and more funding for affordable housing development and small-business loans, among other incentives.

Washington state Rep. Mike Chapman also is interested in offering state tax credits to opportunity zone investors who can create jobs in economically depressed rural areas.

“We don’t have a lack of construction work in this state, so it’s not like we need to build more buildings,” the Democrat said. “We need jobs in rural counties that are living wage jobs where people can consistently receive a paycheck.”

A ‘Windfall to Investors’

To get the federal tax break, people must invest earnings from selling stocks, bonds or property in a fund that, in turn, invests in businesses or property in an opportunity zone. Investors who put money into such a fund can defer paying taxes on their gains right away and earn a 15 percent tax cut on the gains after holding their shares for seven years.

Investors who hold their shares for 10 years don’t have to pay capital gains taxes on money they make from those shares.

Most states have adopted a similar tax break. Nine states have not aligned with the federal tax break because they don’t tax incomes. Lawmakers in eight states have either declined to offer the same incentive or haven’t acted yet, according to Novogradac. But it’s not clear that creating a state version of the federal opportunity zone tax break will make much of a difference to investors.

Federal tax law typically influences people’s choices more than state tax law, the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, a nonpartisan adviser to the legislature, said of Newsom’s plan in a recent report. “Any state tax benefit provided would be a ‘windfall’ to investors because they likely would have made the investment even without the state benefit,” the report said.

Some progressive advocacy groups say the state tax breaks are a waste of money.

“It’s going to be going to the investor class, which is not a piece of our society that we need to help,” said Jody Wiser, executive director of Tax Fairness Oregon, a nonprofit pushing to eliminate Oregon’s version of the opportunity zone tax break.

“Most of the money will be spent where money was going to be spent anyway,” she said.

She pointed to zones in downtown Portland that already are filling up with office buildings and trendy restaurants.

Piling on Tax Breaks

Lawmakers are looking for other ways to use the state tax code to spur investment, particularly in businesses.

Encouraging investors to put money into businesses under current opportunity zone rules could be a challenge. State economic development officials have called for clarifying some of the criteria, such as the requirement that eligible businesses must derive half their income within a zone.

That requirement could disqualify “most e-commerce companies, manufacturers, and other businesses with the potential to create significant numbers of new jobs and wealth for their communities,” officials from Rhode Island, Utah and Louisiana wrote in a recent op-ed in The Hill.

West Virginia Del. Joshua Higginbotham, a Republican, has proposed giving investors in zone businesses a 10-year reprieve from state income and business taxes.

“What we wanted to do in West Virginia,” he said, “is make sure that our 55 opportunity zones are the most competitive of any opportunity zones in the country.”

Last week West Virginia Republican Gov. Jim Justice vetoed Higginbotham’s proposal, but the legislator said he plans to push his bill again during an upcoming special session without the amendments Justice opposed.

Washington’s Chapman wants his state to offer $60 million in business tax credits to investors in opportunity zone funds focused on rural, economically depressed counties.

Funds would need permission from the state Department of Commerce to pass on the credits, and if they were to misuse the taxpayer dollars, they’d have to pay the state back.

The Senate has amended the bill to conduct a study on rural economic development programs, including tax credits, before the state makes any investments.

In Maryland, Hogan has proposed both new tax credits and expanding existing economic development programs — such as one that pays for the demolition of derelict buildings — to advance projects in opportunity zones.

“We’re really tying together everything that we were already doing and trying to use it to bolster the opportunity zone investment,” said Sara Luell, director of communications for the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.

The additional state assistance would be available to any business or real estate project in a zone, she said, even those not receiving money from an opportunity zone fund.

Hogan recently toured a real estate project that will turn 40 acres of parking lots near a light-rail station into a hotel, office space for health care company Kaiser Permanente, apartments, a parking garage, and shops and restaurants.

An opportunity zone fund will help finance the apartment buildings, said Scott Nordheimer, a partner at Urban Atlantic, the company behind the project. But the project also relies on a long list of other incentives, he said, including state income tax credits and Prince George’s County’s multimillion-dollar investment in streets, utilities and other infrastructure on the site.

Without county help, the development would still be a parking lot.

“You could not privately finance the infrastructure,” Nordheimer said.

https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2019/04/03/opportunity-zones-spur-new-state-tax-incentives?utm_campaign=2019-04-03+Stateline+Daily&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Pew