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2018: A GOOD YEAR FOR NEW RESIDENTIAL, COMMERCIAL DEVELOPMENT

A construction crew works on the roof of one of the buildings making up the Californian Apartments under construction in the 5400 block of North Salinas Avenue in northwest Fresno. Photo by David Castellon.

Published On March 18, 2019 – 10:54 AM
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Back in 2010, as the Valley and the rest of the nation were in the midst of the Great Recession, Mike Miller looked at how badly the crisis had hurt new home construction and worried whether business would survive.

“I’m looking into the future, going, ‘I’m not sure if we’re going to be around in Central California more than another year,’” recalled Miller, vice president of the Central Valley Division of Lennar Homes of California, Inc., which builds new homes from Merced to Bakersfield.

What he didn’t know at the time was the recession was winding down.

By 2011, the economy had picked up enough that Lennar Homes became the top single-family home builder in the Valley. based on permits drawn that year and the estimated combined values of those projects, based on data collected by ConstructionMonitor.com.

And the improvements continued for both the Valley’s economy and Lennar, which for each year after 2011 continued being the Valley’s top single-family homebuilder, drawing 695 construction permits in 2018 valued at more than $188.13 million.

“2018, it was a very good year for us,” though it didn’t match up to new home construction activity during the housing booms before the recession, in the early to mid 2000s, Miller said.

Still, he said of last year, “this was one of the better years since the recession.”

And 2018 wasn’t just a good year for building single-family homes in the Valley.

New construction activity also was strong for multi-family homes and commercial properties, said B. J. Perch, vice president of B. J. Perch Construction, Inc., the Visalia-based builder that bears his father’s name.

“I would say we’ve been on an upward trend, so we’ve been progressively increasing our volume and growing, so it was a good year,” said Perch, whose company ranked first last year in combined permit values for multi-family homes, more than $14.15 million, and second for commercial permits, valued at $20.82 million.

Harris Construction, based in Fresno, was the top commercial builder in the Valley last year, with permits valued at more than $34.73 million. Officials for Harris didn’t respond to an interview request.

“We’re mainly a commercial contractor, so we build health care facilities, corporate offices, industrial [buildings], retail and multi-family,” along with senior living facilities, Perch said.

“We had a significant increase in multi-family. I just think the demand out there [has grown].” Perch noted that his company alone is working on or planning to start work this year on apartment complexes with 700 combined units in Visalia, Tulare and Fresno.

“The demand is there. In

Fresno, there is a lot of multi-family going on, and I think there has been for awhile,” a shift from just a couple of years ago when new single-family home construction dominated the market, he added.

“2018 was one of the busier years we have had for multi-family homes,” he said, adding that he knows of cities in the Valley looking to amend zoning rules to allow more high-density housing and are working with developers to attract such projects.

One fallacy about the local housing market appears to be that the housing demand here is being significantly elevated by an exodus of people from the Bay Area coming here for the cheaper housing.

While it’s true housing in the Valley is cheaper, Miller said the influx here of Bay Area people is small, because it’s too difficult to commute there from here, and it’s still rare to encounter telecommuters looking to buy homes here.

“We have seen that willingness to travel or drive further in our Merced area, but our Central Valley is still mostly operating on people who live here and are continuing to live here, so we aren’t seeing that huge influx from outsiders.”

As good as 2018 was for new construction, it did have its challenges, with both Perch and Miller noting the growing difficulty in hiring skilled construction workers.

“And what happened is when the market crashed, a lot of people left the [construction] industry, and when the market came back, they never came back,” instead going to manufacturing jobs and other fields, Miller said. “Where construction seemed to be a place to go, it seemed to be a place to flee away from.”

In fact, Miler said that the agricultural industry also is facing worker shortages and in response has raised wages to the point that for the first time Valley ag jobs are drawing people away from construction jobs.

That leads to the other big challenge: higher wages for construction workers combined with increasing costs driving up prices for new homes.

In fact, that’s why California becoming the first state to require solar panels in all new homes sold starting Jan. 1 of next year is a major concern among developers.

Miller said he’s unclear how many solar panels will be required on homes as well as whether homebuyers would have to buy the solar panels with their new homes or if buying a house and leasing the panels — or some similar system — will be permitted.

At least here in the Valley, Lennar includes solar with each of its new homes, but if buyers don’t want to buy the systems, the developer has an alternative allowing the systems to be owned by the solar company, with the homeowners buying the power they generate at a discounted rate.

Losing such options could hurt new home development, Miller said, “especially [for] first-time and first-move-up homebuyers, because there is going to be another $15,000-$20,000 worth of cost immediately added to the cost of the home,” and some of them may not be able to afford it or be able to get loans covering the added costs.

“The whole industry is trying to understand the effect it’s going to have on all of us.”

Messer to build new Carbon Dioxide plant in Keyes, California

Investment supports U.S. expansion strategy, meets growing demand from food, beverage & electronics manufacturers

Bridgewater, N.J., U.S., March 8, 2019 – Today, Messer LLC (Messer) announced that it will begin construction on a new Carbon Dioxide (CO2) plant in Keyes, California. The plant will provide 450 tons-per-day of CO2, an essential product for carbonated beverages, food freezing & chilling, and electronics manufacturing. The product is also used by a wide range of industrial companies in northern California and surrounding areas. The new plant is slated for completion in Q4 2019.

“This investment represents our commitment to strategic U.S. expansion to meet growing market demand,” said Jens Luehring, President and CEO, Messer Americas. “We’re dedicated to providing a reliable supply of industrial gases to our customers and look forward to breaking ground on this plant to further meet that need.”

Messer currently operates two CO2 plants and two air separation units (ASUs) in California. Once completed, the new plant will support Messer’s strategy to enhance CO2 network reliability for customers.

About Messer
On March 1, 2019, Messer Group and CVC Capital Partners Fund VII (CVC) acquired most of the North American gases business of Linde plc, as well as certain Linde business activities in South America.  With over 70 production facilities and approximately 5,400 employees operating in the US, Canada, Brazil, Colombia, and Chile, Messer today is one of the leading industrial gas companies in North and South America. Together with Messer Group, the company represents a USD $3 billion global enterprise with presence in the Americas, Europe and Asia. For more information, visit. www.messer-us.com

New automated Visalia store will have no cashiers, no lines

A California computer scientist is set to compete for millennial dollars right here in Visalia.

Computer scientist Aamir Farooqui plans to open a 1,800 square-foot, fully-automated convenience store, similar to Amazon Go.

Based in Sacramento, Farooqui says his new concept store is the first of its kind in the Central Valley. He hopes to duplicate it elsewhere, he said.

An automated convenience store relies on computers and robotics. Amazon calls it “just walk out” shopping.

The new Visalia store will be built at 707 S. Bridge St., in the middle of the city.

Currently, it’s a vacant lot sandwiched between a second-hand store and homes. Farooqui bought the vacant parcel last year.

The developer is seeking a conditional-use permit from the city for the new store.

“In our model, we will be using new type of vending machines equipped with WiFi and cameras,” Farooqui said. “People can buy merchandise using cash (after converting to gift cards), credit or debit cards or through a mobile app. At the store opening, we plan to give away 100 free gift cards to our first customers.”

These kinds of stores have taken off in Europe where they go by the names of SmartMart and RoboMart. Farooqui says he has yet to choose a name for the Visalia location.

He hopes to open as soon as possible.

Not having on-site employees will allow the business to save money although it may take shoppers a little time to get used to a new routine using technology.

“Our goal is simply to reduce the cost of running a store for small businesses and at the same time offer 24-hour convenient service to the local community.”

Amazon’s model is simple.

“You simply walk in, grab what you need, and go. Amazon bills your credit card as you pass through the turnstile on your way out,” he said. “Moments later, an app on your phone provides a receipt detailing what you’ve bought, what you paid, and even how long you spent inside.”

Grocery stores are automating the shopping experience led by Walmart and Sam’s Club. The Visalia Walmart is installing more automated check-out devices and Sam’s Club wants to allow shoppers to scan products by holding their smartphones over a product, without having to find and capture a barcode on the package.

Microsoft is said to be developing technology that can track what shoppers add to their carts.

Meanwhile, Target is changing item pickup service at the stores with Pickup Towers, making the in-store process automated.

https://www.visaliatimesdelta.com/story/news/2019/03/08/new-automated-visalia-store-have-no-cashiers-no-lines/3105346002/https://www.visaliatimesdelta.com/story/news/2019/03/08/new-automated-visalia-store-have-no-cashiers-no-lines/3105346002/

Bitwise teams up with FresYes Realty open third downtown location

Bitwise Industries is teaming up with Fres-Yes realty company and expanding to a new location in Downtown Fresno.

It will be located at the Old Spaghetti Factory building on Ventura and R Streets.

The building will be the third location for Bitwise, which already has South Stadium Van Ness and The Hive.

The second story of the new building, called “Bitwise 41,” will eventually have a team of 150 FresYes agents working there.

Organizers say they hope the new location will inspire other businesses to come to Downtown Fresno.

“So I think the exciting part as far as visibility goes you can’t get more visible than this building right here. 41 is directly behind me. North and south. 45,000 cars going each way. It is a prime location for just visibility alone,” said Channelle Charest with Bitwise.

Bitwise 41 is expected to be ready to occupy in April.

A grand opening will be held in early summer.

California’s Central Valley Named as Third Location for New T-Mobile Customer Experience Center

Third of Five Announced New T-Mobile Customer Experience Centers will create 1000 new jobs in area, pending merger of T-Mobile and Sprint

T-Mobile US (NASDAQ: TMUS) and Sprint Corporation (NYSE: S) today announced that, pending the close of their merger, they have selected the Central Valley in California as the area for the third of five new Customer Experience Centers to serve New T-Mobile customers. The facility will create approximately 1,000 local jobs.

As with the other previously announced locations in Kansas and New York, the new California facility, once integrated, will bring top-notch support to New T-Mobile customers. The state-of-the-art facilities will offer T-Mobile’s innovative Team of Experts (TEX) service model, which allows customers to have direct personal access to a dedicated team of specialists when they call or message for assistance. The specialists work with local retail and engineering to address a wide variety of topics and tackle complex challenges for customers.

The five new TEX-enabled facilities are just one part of the future New T-Mobile’s plans to put customers first and bring jobs to communities. The companies also previously announced that two existing T-Mobile Customer Experience Centers will be expanding. These cumulative efforts will create up to 5,600 additional American jobs by 2021. The combined companies will have 7,500 more customer care professionals in 2024 than the stand-alone companies would have employed.

“We needed to find just the right area for our next New T-Mobile Customer Experience Center – and we found it in the Golden State! California and the Central Valley have everything we need to take care of customers – amazing energy, a commitment to innovation and business, and most importantly skilled and diverse people who we can’t wait to join our team of Magenta heroes!” said T-Mobile US CEO and New T-Mobile CEO, John Legere.

T-Mobile has consistently been featured on numerous “Best Place to Work” lists year over year. The newest Care team members will be eligible to receive benefits and opportunities such as significant management preparation experience, career development paths and college tuition reimbursement.

The new Customer Experience Centers are just one way the New T-Mobile will invest billions of dollars in job creation and infrastructure in the United States. Sprint and T-Mobile together will employ more people in the U.S. than both companies would separately. Other investments include building out an industry-leading nationwide 5G network, delivering more competition and new choice to customers like broadband, and opening new stores to an expanding customer base.

The completion of the combination remains subject to regulatory approvals and certain other customary closing conditions and is expected to occur during the first half of 2019. Additional information regarding T-Mobile’s merger with Sprint can be found at: www.NewTMobile.com.

https://www.t-mobile.com/news/t-mobile-sprint-california-customer-service-center

Valley Children’s Hospital to open new Modesto medical center

• Official opening comes Friday
• A 40,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art medical center

Valley Children’s Hospital officially opens its new Modesto medical center on Pelandale Road on Friday. The Specialty Care Center, a 40,000-square-foot, state-of-theart medical center, is expected to bring more pediatric specialists closer to families who need care. Valley Children’s will continue to provide expert care in several service lines, including pediatric cardiology, pediatric neurology, pediatric gastroenterology and pediatric orthopaedics.

Pelandale Specialty Care Center will help Valley Children’s meet the needs of families in Stanislaus County and nearby communities, and keep them closer to home and to their own primary care physicians.

Last year, providers at Valley Children’s former outpatient center saw more than 12,000 visits. That number is expected to grow
to more than 27,500 within the next decade.

https://files.constantcontact.com/2cb20f61601/6149bd34-6f27-464e-8a22-0c1f1f9b73f1.pdfhttps://files.constantcontact.com/2cb20f61601/6149bd34-6f27-464e-8a22-0c1f1f9b73f1.pdf

Here’s why Foster Farms will be adding new jobs at its Livingston chicken plant

Foster Farms employee’s protest for better wages, affordable insurance, new contract
Employees at the Foster Farms Livingston chicken plant protested on Thursday, April 27, 2017, for better wages, affordable insurance and a new labor union contract. (Monica Velez/mvelez@mercedsun-star.com) 

MAGIC TOUCH: $3M ONLINE FRESNO BUSINESS BRINGS ILLUSION TO THE WORLD

Written By David Castellon

Paul Gross is vehement in stating his opinion on magic.

“There is no such thing as real magic. I can’t make you disappear for real,” the 63-year-old said.

That may seem an odd stance, considering the Fresno resident founded and owns Hocus Pocus, among the most prolific online vendors of magic tricks, props and paraphernalia in the country, selling everything from trick playing cards and how-to books to the various swords, escape boxes, restraints and other items used by amateurs to professional magicians.

What Gross doesn’t believe in is actual magic — love potions, spells, totems, the occult, etc. — that some people mistakenly believe his business can supply.

Gross’ stock in trade is illusion, in which the seemingly impossible is done through sleight of hand, mirrors, diversions and hidden compartments that all are explainable, if you know how the tricks work.

Gross believes in that sort of magic strongly, so much so that he has dedicated most of his life to it, first as an amateur turned professional illusionist by his teen years, then going into in the retail side of magic, initially opening a magic shop in Fresno in his late teens and a couple of decades later converting to a mail-order business and then to an online vendor of supplies, props and memorabilia with sales last year totaling about $3 million.

“If it wasn’t for the Internet, this business wouldn’t be where it is,” Gross said, noting that the vast number of YouTube postings and other online sources teaching people how to perform illusions has magnified the public’s interest in buying magic supplies and to see magicians perform, both of which benefit Hocus Pocus.

“We’re in a 30,000-square-foot building whereas we used to be in 500 square feet.”

Even the larger space in a nondescript Fresno industrial building barely has room to contain all of the items for sale.

The back portion of the building is a veritable museum to illusions, because besides selling new supplies and books, magicians, their families and their heirs often sell their old props and supplies to Hocus Pocus or consign the business to sell the items for them.

Need a guillotine or a basket to impale with swords after an assistant shimmies inside of a mock mummy’s tomb or a strait jacket or a big wooden box and saw for sawing a lady in half? Hocus Pocus might have one or more any given week and be able to pack and ship it to you.

Hollywood is a frequent customer, with studios often buying thousands of dollars worth of props and other magic-related goods to use in movies and television shows.

Gross’ magician clientele has included Mark Wilson — a staple of 1960s and 1970s television — Criss Angel and Shin Lim, last year’s America’s Got Talent television show winner. Hocus Pocus also sells the magic supplies Lim endorses.

“We’re open every day of the year, 24 hours a day, and we never close, and we have such a wide base. Thirty five, almost 40 percent of our [orders] go overseas,” Gross said. “We probably have an active member base of maybe 60,000 online members.”

A Fresno native, Gross began his love of magic at the age of 8, when his grandparents took him to a movie theater — back when they put on vaudeville-style acts before matinees — and he saw his first magician.

“He did three tricks, which I still remember to this day — got my grandfather up to help him [with one], and that was it. I got bit,” Gross recalled.

Back then, there were no magic shops in Fresno, so Gross ordered tricks and instructions on performing illusions via mail-order catalogues and later via trips with his parents to a San Francesco magic shop.

“I bought every single trick until I opened my own business,” said Gross, who got skilled enough that between the ages of 12 and 18 he worked paid gigs as a magician between school and working at the furniture store his father ran.

After high school, his father co-signed a $2,500 loan for him to open a magic, gag and novelty shop in 1973 in southeast Fresno, and while it did well, Gross closed it 15 years later because he had to take over running the furniture store his father had opened after he fell ill to cancer.

Nine months later, Gross said, he reopened the magic shop in Clovis, “and we ended up getting out of the furniture business, because it wasn’t my cup of tea,” after four years of running it.

In the years that followed, Gross changed locations and his business model, converting from a walk-in magic and novelty store to adding a side venture as a mail-order magic supplier in the late 1990s.

But that wasn’t a particularly fruitful change, as business by mail order went so badly that “we might have gone out of business after that first year.”

But that changed in 1999 after a friend introduced Gross to his first home computer, and he decided that online ordering and offering an online catalog bigger than what any other magic and novelty suppliers were offering on the Web was the way to go.

Business since then has been good, so much so that Gross stopped operating a walk-in store to sell just online.

“We probably have a thousand people a day visit our site. When we had a retail store, we probably didn’t have that many people visit us in a year.”

But Gross never forgot his brick-and-mortar roots. With no other magic shops in the Fresno area, people often walk into Hocus Pocus looking for tricks or advice from Gross or his son and partner, Max Gross, 26, who has never performed magic professionally but is skilled in many of the tricks the family business sells.

The two also spend a lot of time speaking with customers calling in for advice, “But they don’t always listen to me,” the senior Gross noted.

“It could be a thousand-dollar item, but what good is it going to do me to sell that to you if you’re going to get it and you’re not going to use it?”

https://thebusinessjournal.com/magic-touch-3m-online-fresno-business-brings-illusion-to-the-world/?utm_source=Daily+Update&utm_campaign=a5cecd36c1-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_01_30_09_09&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_fb834d017b-a5cecd36c1-78934409&mc_cid=a5cecd36c1&mc_eid=a126ded657

 

Visalia has the most affordable homes in the state, says study

Tuesday, January 29, 2019 04:51PM

Visalia has the most affordable homes in the state, according to a new study.

HomeArea.com looked at 142 California cities with a population of 60,000 or more, calculating what’s called the “median multiple” for each one.

The median multiple is the ratio of the median house price by the median gross household income.

Visalia’s median multiple is a 3.6, putting it at the top of the list for most affordable homes in the state.

Other Valley cities in the top 10 include Clovis and Bakersfield.

At the very bottom? The City of Newport Beach, whose median multiple is nearly three times higher than Visalia’s.

Almond milk is booming. Blue Diamond will expand its Turlock plant to meet the demand