We all know what a port looks like. There’s water and ships stacked high with shipping containers. But those are often in busy areas on the coast: Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland. Well, one Central Valley county has decided to get in on the shipping and distribution game. That county is partnering with the Port of Los Angeles to give their region a boost for distributing around the world.
Just outside the city of Merced, slightly east of Highway 99 is what used to be Castle Air Force Base. Like most areas of the Valley, it’s rural. Across the road from the center are train tracks, and you can hear the railroad crossing signals ding. This unincorporated area of Merced County will soon become an inland port.
Now, there isn’t any water around; we’re still in the Central Valley. It won’t be the kind of port that serves ships and boats. It will be a place for products to be built and materials consolidated, and then sent to the Port of Los Angeles.
Today, two-thirds of the nearly-2,000 acre base is still an airfield, but the rest of it is the Castle Commerce Center.
“This is a site that has roughly about 75 tenants, about a 100 different lease holds,” says Mark Hendrickson, directory of community and economic development for Merced County. “We generate about $2.9 million in lease revenue.”
Merced County is hoping to use a portion of the former Castle Air Force Base as a hub for manufacturing and distribution in the Central Valley.
CREDIT MERCED COUNTY COMMUNITY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT DEPARTMENT
Hendrickson says their goal is to redevelop Castle “to really turn it into a site where we can focus some solid attention on manufacturing. We a want to be a place where things are made because when things are made people are working.”
Back in October, Merced County’s Board of Supervisors developed an agreement with the Port of L.A. formalizing what Hendrickson calls a “hub and spokes” development. Merced will become a place of manufacturing and distribution, and use the nearby rail line and freeways to bring goods to L.A. to be shipped around the world. In kind, Castle may also become a place where the Port can send products for distribution.
Merced County isn’t the only Valley county building ties with the Port of L.A. Kern County recently got approval to expand their Foreign Trade Zone at TejonRanch. They also will move the zone’s affiliation to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the Port of L.A. The expansion means all of the industrial areas of Tejon Ranch are now within their foreign trade zone. Companies operating there will receive a break on import duties and fees. Tejon Ranch has announced the expansion will bring jobs to Kern County.
Hendrickson says the same could happen in Merced, when it comes to job creation.
“Using today’s workforce numbers, about one out of every nine jobs would be right here at Castle in about twenty years.”
There is one drawback though. More shipping could mean more air pollution.
Dean Florez is a member of the California Air Resources Board and a former state senator from Kern County.
“The kinds of jobs and economic growth this brings are very large diesel trucks that are running a lot of things that make the air a lot worse,” says Florez. “You know, that balance is really important between jobs, growth, and air mitigation.”
One issue is that companies send their trucks full of goods to a port, and then the truck typically returns to the distribution center, empty. If that truck is coming to Merced’s inland port, that could mean hundreds of miles driven just to return the truck.
“Companies need to figure out how to send items to wherever, but that these cargo trucks not come back empty.”
Florez says the Air Resources Board should come up with ways to incentivize companies to share their trucks, and reduce the total number on the road. He also says this is really an opportunity for outside groups to develop something like an Uber for trucks, where they share cargo going to the port and returning to the Valley.
“I doubt it will be state government that comes up with that,” Florez says. “But I do think it will be some outside force that will come in and say, ‘This is the way, really trucks should be running in California, we have this sharing mechanism and it actually would work very, very well.’”
Florez says he plans to bring this up with CARB later this year.
In Merced County, Hendrickson says they plan to use trains to mitigate truck pollution.
“We see our using our rail connectivity on-site to get trucks off the road, improve air quality, open up shipping opportunities for folks not only through Merced County and really throughout the entire San Joaquin Valley to places all over the world,” says Hendrickson.
Finding the best shipping practices from an inland port will take time. And developing an inland port in the first place has been a long time coming.
Mike Dozier is the former Community and Economic Development Director for the city of Clovis. He says that these sorts of deals don’t just happen overnight.
“What happens is you have this vision, and it might be ten years before that vision starts to materialize,” says Dozier.
Dozier says it takes time for infrastructure to develop, and to convince groups to believe in the project’s potential.
“You know, you just build on it, you just have to have things ready for when the time is right.”
For Merced County, officials hope that time is now.
There are new restaurants coming, a few saying goodbye and some places shaking things up a bit.
Empty restaurant spaces are getting snapped up quickly by newcomers, said Craig Holdener, a vice president at commercial real estate firm Newmark Grubb/Pearson Commercial.
Some of the new restaurants are taking over spaces that haven’t been empty for long, like the former Guadalajara and Mother Mary’s at Willow and Nees avenues.
Others are building new kitchens in existing buildings or in new shopping centers.
Here’s a look at what’s happening.
1. Butterfish California Poke opened its first Clovis restaurant late last month. At 1850 Herndon Ave., it’s in the new shopping center at Fowler Avenue, next to the Five Guys Burgers & Fries.
Like the original Butterfish at Friant Road and Fresno Street (and another in the works at Palm and Herndon avenues), the restaurant specializes in poke. That’s the Hawaiian-inspired dish of raw, bite-size pieces of tuna or other fish.
The new Butterfish offers some hot appetizers that the existing one doesn’t: Sriracha shrimp, Tokyo fries (sweet potatoes fries with a sweet-and-spicy drizzle) and maitake (tempura mushrooms served with a curry ranch dipping sauce).
In addition to the typical ingredients offered in poke bowls, the Clovis location has slow-cooked, thin-sliced beef and a few other new options.
“There’s quite a few new and different things out there,” said co-owner Rema Koligian. “We’re just trying to test the market and see what resonates with people.”
The new place is a little more colorful than the original too, with bright art and wall treatment that evokes an ocean wave. The restaurant also has a walk-up window where people can pick up food they’ve ordered via the Butterfish app.
The Napa Dog with Tioga-Sequoia beer in the background, shown at Rocket Dog Gourmet Brats and Brew Thursday, September 10, 2015 in Fresno, Calif. The eatery has opened its first Clovis location, at
The restaurant serves sausages piled high with toppings and house-made potato chips. The Napa dog, for example, is a sweet chicken sausage on a grilled baguette with fig-onion jam and crumbled goat cheese.
Rocket Dog also offers sandwiches and salads.
The restaurant has 24 taps stocked with craft beer, about double the number at its original location at on Shaw Avenue near Highway 41.
That same center has two restaurants in the works that probably won’t open for a while.
3. Clovis Pizza Subs Yogurt will open next to Slice of India, probably this summer.
4. 13 Prime Steak has signed a lease for the former Mother Mary’s pizza place, but still has a lot of work ahead of it before opening.
But after four years of planning, construction costs have quadrupled and the owners changed their minds, said Amy Rose, the director of operations who owns the Valley franchises with her father, Bob Rose.
This isn’t the end of Black Bear here, though. The owners are sniffing around for a location, especially in Fresno. Stay tuned for more on that.
At the Fresno Steak ‘n Shake, which opened last March, cook Daniel Aguilar, left, and other employees practice for opening day.
There’s a lot of buzz about what might be happening at the northeast corner of Willow and Alluvial avenues, but not a lot of answers.
Here’s what we know: On Feb. 5, the Clovis City Council approved a request for a general plan amendment that would change the corner’s low-density residential designation to one that would allow a convenience store and two restaurants.
That application identifies Steak ‘n Shake as one of the restaurants, confirmed Orlando Ramirez, a senior planner for the City of Clovis.
But that’s the only piece of evidence linking Steak ‘n Shake to Clovis. A barrage of phone calls to Steak ‘n Shake’s corporate office, other city departments, and firms that represent the applicant produced nothing – not one return phone call.
The Steak ‘n Shake name is not used in a conditional-use permit application and the company has not submitted any plans to the city.
What does all that mean? Steak ‘n Shake could very well be intending to come to Clovis. But there’s a reason they keep quiet early in a process like this. A lot can happen in the months, even years, it can take to develop a corner. And plans can fall through.
Old Town Donuts opened last week, serving all kinds of doughnuts.
Old Town Donuts
7. Old Town Donuts at 30 W. Shaw Ave. opened Saturday. The doughnut shop is in the same center as Elephant Lounge near Minnewawa Avenue.
It has colorfully frosted doughnuts, doughnut holes, bear claws and “jelly drops” – mini-doughnuts with fillings such as lemon.
Aurore Chhun and her husband run the shop, though it’s Chhun who has the background in restaurants. Born in France, her family moved to Cambodia when she was 10. At one point, she and her parents ran a restaurant on a boat, with her mother cooking as her father steered the boat.
But after the boat burned down, she ended up in Clovis, where her husband is from.
The former Forestiere’s Place, 401 Clovis Ave., bottom floor of the tall building at center, has been a new owner and will become The Bottleneck Bistro.
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8. Bottleneck Bistro will eventually open in Old Town Clovis. You may have noticed Forestiere’s Place, at 401 Clovis Ave. Suite 106, has closed. It was bought by a new owner, Mark Kazanjian, who will reopen it in the coming weeks or months.
He’s redoing the interior and working on a new menu.
The restaurant will focus on quality wines, craft beer and spirits, with a full bar.
Although the menu will have sandwiches, burgers and salads, it will be a different from typical pub fare, Kazanjian said. It will include short ribs braised in red wine and dried mission figs, beer-battered fried cheese curds, and mac ‘n‘ cheese balls stuffed with cream cheese and bacon.
Chicago’s Pizza With-A-Twist is planning to open its third restaurant in the area, this one at 497 N. Clovis Ave. near Arsenio’s Mexican Food.
Chicago’s serves traditional pizza (like all-meat and vegetarian fare), but also pizza inspired by Indian food. It’s a bit like taking the dishes you get at Indian restaurants and turning them into toppings atop a typical American pizza. The menu includes the popular butter chicken pizza and Tandoori chicken pizza. Several pizzas have paneer, the Indian cheese sometimes mistaken for tofu.
Chicago’s is a chain with restaurants all over California. It has two locations in Fresno (at Kings Canyon Road and Clovis Avenue, and at Shaw and Marks avenues).
There’s still a lot of work left to be done inside, so it may be a few weeks or months until it opens.
Cool Hand Luke’s, 955 Shaw Ave., has changed hands and have added lunch and now open at 11 a.m. daily.
The restaurant pulled some favorites from the dinner menu to offer at lunch, including sandwiches, burgers and salads. It added six new lunch dishes. One – perhaps taking a page from Olive Garden’s popular lunch option – features unlimited soup, salad and sourdough rolls for $8.95.
Sergio Hinojosa, walking his bike, looks forward to the opening of Triangle Burgers Drive In, 200 W. Shaw Ave. in Clovis.
The popular old-school diner has three locations in Fresno and is known for its burgers, crinkle-cut fries and milkshakes.
Workers have ripped out the interior of the restaurant and are redoing it. The owner had hoped to open in December, but is now looking at an April debut.
Jersey Mike’s Subs has closed a Clovis location, but still has five locations in Fresno and Clovis.
12. Jersey Mike’s Subs, which opened in 2015 at the corner of Shaw and Villa avenues, closed Jan. 14. The company says it plans to relocate the restaurant, though just where and when haven’t been determined.
Mickey’s Yogurt is selling raw cookie dough that’s safe to eat.
13. Mickey’s Yogurt at Shaw and Armstrong avenues still is serving frozen yogurt, but has added something different: raw cookie dough.
We’ve all heard the warnings about raw cookie dough because of the potential for salmonella from raw eggs (and lately, E. coli from flour). So owner Tiffany Howell and business partner Daryl France – who is also her grandmother and Mickey is Howell’s grandfather – came up with a cookie dough recipe that’s safe to eat. There are no eggs in the recipe and it uses treated flour.
Customers can buy the cookie dough by the scoop, similar to scoops of ice cream. One scoop starts at $3.49 and toppings can be added.
Published On February 27, 2018 – 12:30 PM Written By Gabriel Dillard
Business owner and philanthropist Robert E. Smittcamp has given $10 million to benefit the neuroscience department at Community Medical Centers — representing the largest single cash gift for the Fresno-based health care system, according to hospital officials.
The gift will be used toward recruiting “world class” neurosurgeons; education, training and retention efforts for department nurses and clinicians; new technological advancements and establishing the Central California Neuroscience Institute at Community Regional as a leader in neurological specialties, according to a statement from Katie Zenovich, Community Medical Centers vice president for corporate development and chief development officer.
“We are so grateful to Bob,” Zenovich said. “His leadership in philanthropy will help us do much more to save and improve lives for decades to come.”
Combined with a 2016 gift to Community Medical Centers, the Smittcamp Family Foundation has contributed more than $11 million to the neuroscience program.
The first son of Earl and Muriel Smittcamp, founders of Wawona Frozen Foods, Robert — known around town as Bob — serves as chairman and CEO of food ingredient company Lyons Magnus.
A message Tuesday morning seeking comment from Smittcamp was not returned.
Community Medical Centers released the following statement from Smittcamp:
“We are impressed with the ambitious vision and leadership of Community Medical Centers and their rapid growth over the last decade,” Smittcamp said. “However, additional growth and recruitment of world-class neurosurgeons is still required to ensure the success of this service line. I am hoping this new gift will accelerate the hospital’s plans in this critical service area that affects so many Valley families.”
“I’ve become knowledgeable about Community Medical Centers over the past decade and concluded that it’s the charity where I can make the biggest difference, for the most people, for the greatest number of years,” Smittcamp added. “This is the Valley’s main hospital system, and I hope many others will join me in helping to grow its capabilities.”
Community Regional Medical Center’s Downtown Fresno campus is the home of the Central California Neuroscience Institute.
Slater, the 11-time world champion considered the best of all time, spent 10 years working with a USC aerospace engineer to design a perfect wave, peeling 700 yards along a recontoured water ski lake. Videos of the wave, with hollow barrel sections and open faces to do aerials and cutbacks, have captivated the surfing world since the first one appeared in December 2015. But only a select few have been invited to see it, much less ride it.
“A wave of that shape sits in the subconsciousness of every surfer in the world,” longtime Surfer magazine editor Steve Hawk told The Times in 2016. “That wave is exactly the fantasy wave I drew on the margins of my notebooks when I was in high school.”
For the first time, the facility, the Surf Ranch, will be open to the public during the contest, according to a World Surf League news release. The two-day competition on May 5-6, the Founders’ Cup of Surfing, will have “a festival backdrop honoring the culture of surfing — food, music, beverage, art and special guests will all be on site for enjoyment.”
In an unusual format, the wave-riders will not compete individually but in five-person teams (three men, two women) representing different parts of the world: Australia, the U.S., Europe and Brazil, and one team representing the best athletes from other surfing parts of the world, such as South Africa and Japan.
Global teams of engineers and surfers are vying to build artificial wave pools that can produce high-quality waves that come in rapid enough succession to create an economically viable surf amusement park. An obstacle has been energy use and the length of time the water needs to settle after a wave rolls through before the next one can come.
At a contest, this is less of an issue because of the small number of surfers in the water. And the bonus for contest organizers: the mood swings of nature are mostly out of the equation; no need to wait for distant storms to produce ocean swells. Barring mechanical failure, perfect waves will be coming on May 5.
Will triple the size of the student union building
Student fees to increase
Students at California State University, Bakersfield have approved a referendum to more than triple the size of the Student Union and build an aquatics facility, according to Associated Students Inc. A total of 1,768 students voted on the referendum, with 1,086 (61.4 percent) voting “yes” and 682 students (38.6) voting “no.”
“The fruition of the project will encourage student development, improve student life, provide exceptional services and advance the CSUB community,” says ASI President Mariela Gomez.
The total expansion will be approximately 80,000 square feet – about 40,000 for the two-story Student Union expansion and 40,000 for the new Student Recreation Center Aquatics Facility. The current 17,000-square-foot student union was originally built in 1987 when the campus population was about 5,100. Since then, CSUB has grown to more 10,000 students.
The $37 million project — $27 million for the Student Union and $10 million for the aquatics center – will be funded through a combination of sources, including student fees. Student fees for the Student Union expansion will increase by roughly $40 per semester in the first year and tier up to $160 per semester over a four-year period for the Student Union expansion.
Fees for the SRC Aquatic Facility are roughly $20 per semester and will not tier. ASI leaders will meet soon with campus administrators to determine when the fee collection will begin. Students who currently receive financial aid will have all fees covered without any out-of-pocket expenses. CSUB anticipates that the Student Union expansion will need three years of fee collection before the construction process can begin.
Planning for the construction of the SRC Aquatic Facility, which will be located in the current dirt lot on Kroll Way across the street from parking lot K2 and next to the SRC soccer field, will begin immediately, and the timeline for completion will be determined after construction begins. Approximately 80-100 jobs will be created by the projects.
Dirt is moving, concrete is pouring, and buildings are going up on some long-vacant lots across Fresno. Soon, you’ll see gas stations, restaurants, apartment complexes, and a funeral home pop up.
“Economic activity is robust and it’s across the entire city, all being driven by market forces,” said Mayor Lee Brand.
Here’s a look at what’s coming based on city applications and planning documents. Developers are not asked for completion or opening dates, so be patient. Construction projects are notorious for delays.
▪ The last empty corner at Stanislaus Street and Van Ness Avenue in downtown Fresno will be the site of work lofts and apartments. It was used recently as a parking lot, but many will remember that it was a boarded-up gas station for years.
Upside Enterprises, led by Mark Astone of Catalyst Marketing, removed the underground gas tanks this week. The project is still in the design phase.
▪ In northwest Fresno, the empty lots around Sierra Sky Park will soon start to fill up. The city council on Thursday approved a project at Herndon and Blythe to allow the construction of three commercial pads for future buildings, including a drive-thru restaurant.
▪ Down the street, United Health Centers is building a 57,000-square-foot administrative building on the northwest corner of Herndon and Brawley avenues. About 150 people will work out of the office, including senior executives and employees from other administrative departments, patient referral services and the call center. There is room for expansion.
The Neenan Company based in Colorado is the design and build partner for the project. The building is expected to be finished late this year. The health center’s existing administration building in Parlier will be renovated into a new health center.
▪ Across the street, on the southwest corner of Herndon and Brawley, the dirt on an old fig orchard is being graded for a Chevron gas station with 12 pumps and a convenience store. An attached car wash is also planned.
Timbers support walls under construction at an office complex as construction worker Napoleon Gonzalez passes through at Herndon and Palm avenues, Friday, Feb. 9, 2018.
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▪ In a new building at Palm and Herndon avenues, tenant improvements have started on the new Steinway Piano Gallery of Fresno, formerly Valley Music Center. Dutch Bros. plans to open its sixth Fresno location on one end of the building. Butterfish poke restaurant is also working on opening its second Fresno spot (it has a restaurant in Clovis too) on the other end. A 2,100-square-foot space is available for lease.
A second building on the busy corner, along Herndon Avenue, is under construction. It will be offices for Guarantee Real Estate.
▪ The city’s first Hyatt Place hotel is under construction east of Highway 41, just south of Alluvial Avenue. The 130,000-square foot facility will have 124 rooms, a pool, Jacuzzi, gym and restaurant. The hotel is expected to open in 2019.
Concrete worker Victor Mandujano breaks through hard ground as he prepares to set a form at the Starbucks and Kabab City building on Nees Avenue, east of First Street, Friday Feb. 9, 2018.
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▪ In northeast Fresno, a 9,175-square-foot funeral home is planned for 2.5 acres behind the ARCO gas station near First and Nees avenues. The city has received inquiries, but no formal application, about possible apartment projects on the rest of the land.
Construction continues on Starbucks’ new home on Nees between Walgreens and Sakura Chaya. Kabab City, a Middle Eastern restaurant, has signed a lease for the building.
▪ Granville Homes has started work on a 162-unit apartment project called “Brookside” on the northeast corner of Millbrook and Nees avenues. The development will have a clubhouse and leasing office, private garages and a pool.
▪ Spencer Enterprises is building a 320-unit apartment complex near the northwest corner of Willow and Herndon avenues with community building, pool, garages and carports. A commercial development is planned for the rest of the property, but the city has not received any applications yet.
▪ Trucks are moving in and out of 20 acres of land on the northwest corner of Shepherd and Willow avenues where a mixed-use commercial and multifamily development is under construction from Vincent Ricchiuti of Heritage Development Company. The plans call for more than 250 units and 34,800 square feet of commercial space with activity areas, a paseo for outdoor dining and a corner patio area.
A recent report has shown home prices throughout the Central Valley to be up over the same time last year, but those prices might be coming down.
In its December 2017 data report, CoreLogic, an analytics and data provider, stated that home prices nationally were up 6.6 percent in December over the same time in 2016.
Locally, home prices in Stockton-Lodi and Modesto were also up. In Stockton-Lodi, prices increased by 7.8 percent year-over-year. In Modesto, prices were up 9.1 percent year-over-year. Those prices include distressed sales.
From November 2017 to December 2017, prices increased by 0.5 percent in Stockton-Lodi and decreased 0.4 percent in Modesto.
“Home prices continue to rise as a result of aggressive monetary policy, the economic and jobs recovery and a lack of housing stock. The largest price gains during 2017 were in five Western states: California, Idaho, Nevada, Utah and Washington,” said Frank Martell, president and CEO of CoreLogic in a press release. “As home prices and the cost of originating loans rise, affordability continues to erode, making it more challenging for both first-time buyers and moderate-income families to buy. At this point, we estimate that more than one-third of the 100 largest metropolitan areas are overvalued.”
Thirty-five percent of the metropolitan areas with the overvalued housing markets have prices that are 10 percent above a long-run sustainable level, CoreLogic reports.
“The number of homes for sale has remained very low,” said Dr. Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic. “Job growth lowered the unemployment rate to 4.1 percent by year’s end, the lowest level in 17 years. Rising income and consumer confidence has increased the number of prospective homebuyers. The net result of rising demand and limited for-sale inventory is a continued appreciation in home prices.”
A pair of Fulton Street buildings dating to the 1940s and ’50s are falling under the steel teeth of an excavator to make way for a four-story building that will eventually provide more than 50 apartments as well as ground-floor commercial space.
A demolition crew began work Thursday taking down the side-by-side buildings at 835 and 829 Fulton St., north of Inyo Street. The site, along with an adjoining parking lot, is being cleared for the first phase of the South Stadium redevelopment project in the downtown neighborhood near Chukchansi Park. Developers Mehmet Noyan and Terance Frazier hope to begin construction on the mixed-use building by late summer or early fall and be ready for occupancy by November 2019.
The $18 million construction project will include 27 one-bedroom apartments and 27 two-bedroom units. More than half of the apartments will have a view across an alley into the baseball stadium. Most of the apartments will be rented out at market rates, with rents expected to range from $1,000 to $1,800 per month, Frazier said Thursday, but about a dozen of the units will be rented as affordable housing.
Noyan and Frazier are working on plans for future phases that include other nearby properties, “but our focus now is on Phase 1,” Noyan said. “We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves.”
Plans for the project have been in the works since about 2013, Noyan said, but it was the opening of Fulton Street – after more than 50 years as a pedestrian-only outdoor mall – that was critical to the effort. “Without it I probably wouldn’t be standing here today,” Noyan said. “It was so important, not only to us as developers, but lenders would look at it the same way. I doubt we would make this kind of investment had the street not been completed.”
Lifelong Fresno resident Ron Bohigian was among bystanders who watched as the excavator began to delicately pluck at the brick wall. His mother and grandmother bought the building at 835 Fulton in the early 1960s and ran Gay Twenty Fashions, a women’s dress store that operated until 2000.
“As I kid I would come in and help out. I would vacuum and fold boxes, and my kids even did that, too,” Bohigian said. “When (my kids) heard this was going to be torn down, they said, ‘Dad, go down there and get a few bricks for us.’”
“I remember Fulton before it was a mall and I remember when they opened the mall (in 1964),” he added. “I really feel kind of good about what’s going on. This area’s only going to get better.…It all looks good and it’s attractive.”
Southern Power is buying Gaskell West 1 Solar Facility
“Gaskell West 1 is an excellent fit for Southern Power’s evolving business”
Southern Company subsidiary Southern Power is buying the 20-megawatt Gaskell West 1 Solar Facility in Kern County, the Atlanta, Georgia-based firm says.
“We are pleased to start the quarter with continued growth in our renewable portfolio,” says Southern Power President and CEO Buzz Miller. “Gaskell West 1 is an excellent fit for Southern Power’s evolving business as we strive to meet market demands through our commitment to develop clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy resources for the benefit of our customers.”
Construction of the approximately 280-acre project began in October 2017, and the facility is expected to begin commercial operation in March. Southern California Edison will purchase the electricity and associated renewable energy credits generated by the facility under a 20-year power purchase agreement and will have the option to keep or sell the associated credits. Southern Power purchased the facility from Recurrent Energy, which is developing the project. The purchase price was not announced.
D.H. Blattner & Sons Inc. is performing the engineering, procurement and construction services, and First Solar Energy Services will operate and maintain the facility upon completion. Southern Power plans to use third-party tax equity as part of the funding of the transaction.
The announcement marks Southern Power’s fifth solar facility within Kern County and 12th solar facility within California. With the addition of Gaskell West 1, Southern Power owns more than 3,500 MW of renewable generation from 38 solar, wind and biomass facilities either announced, acquired or under construction from California to Maine. In total, the Southern Company system has added or announced more than 6,500 MW of renewable generation since 2012.
Unemployment Rate Improves to 4.3%; Total Employment Gains 38,600
The Labor Force data for December 2017 (seasonally adjusted; California preliminary) is shown below, along with the change from the prior month:
Change from Nov 2017
Change from Nov 2017
Source: California Employment Development Department; US Bureau of Labor Statistics
The related not seasonally adjusted numbers (California preliminary), with the change from December 2016:
Not Seasonally Adjusted
Change from Dec 2016
Change from Dec 2016
Source: California Employment Development Department; US Bureau of Labor Statistics
California Employment Development Department’s (EDD) latest data shows on a seasonally adjusted basis, total employment was up 38,600 from November, while the number of unemployed dropped by 46,200. The labor force essentially stayed level with a drop of 7,600.
California’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate improved to 4.3%, the lowest in the current data series that began in 1976. California had the 22nd highest unemployment rate among the states. The unadjusted rate from dropped from 5.0% in December 2016 to 4.2%.
Total US employment saw a seasonally adjusted gain of 104,000 from November, while the number of unemployed dropped by 40,000. The national unemployment rate was steady at 4.1%. The national labor force numbers rose by 64,000.
Labor Force Participation Rate Eases Down
California’s participation rate (seasonally adjusted) in December eased to 62.4%, while the US rate stayed at 62.7%.
State Employment Growth Rankings
Change in Employment, December 2016 – December 2017
Number of Employed
(employment growth per 1,000 civilian
Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Seasonally Adjusted
Between December 2016 and December 2017, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data shows the total number of employed in California increased by 382,100 (seasonally adjusted), or 21.4% of the total net employment gains in this period for the US. Based on the total numbers, California remained in 1st place ahead of Florida (which has a civilian working age population only 55% as large as California’s) at 302,200 and Texas (69% as large) at 301,500. Measured by percentage change in employment over the year, California improved to 18th highest. Adjusted for working age population, California rose to 16th.
Nonfarm Jobs Up 52,700
EDD reported that between November and December 2017, seasonally adjusted nonfarm wage and salary jobs grew 52,700. November’s gains were revised to 53,700 from the previously reported 47,400.
In the not seasonally adjusted nonfarm numbers overall, hiring saw increases in all but 4 industries over the year. The change in total payroll jobs from December 2016 saw the largest increases in Construction (60,000), Government (46,100), and Food Services (42,900). Declines included Manufacturing (-2,800), Retail Trade (-1,400), and Mining & Logging (-800).
Not Seasonally Adjusted Payroll Jobs
Change Dec 2017 – Nov 2017
Change Dec 2017 – Dec 2016
Mining and Logging
Transportation & Warehousing
Finance & Insurance
Real Estate & Rental & Leasing
Professional, Scientific & Technical Services
Management of Companies & Enterprises
Administrative & Support & Waste Services
Arts, Entertainment & Recreation
Total Wage and Salary
Source: California Employment Development Department
At 342,500, California showed the highest increase in seasonally adjusted nonfarm jobs among the states from December 2016 to December 2017, ahead of Texas at 306,900. By percentage growth in jobs, California rose to 9th highest at 2.1%, above the US average of 1.4%. By population adjusted jobs growth, California rose to 13th highest.
Change in Nonfarm Jobs (seasonally adjusted), December 2016 – December 2017
Number of Jobs
Employment Growth (%)
(job growth per 1,000 civilian
Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics
Six Industries Below 2007 Pre-Recession Job Levels
Source: California Employment Development Department, not seasonally adjusted; wages are running 4 quarter average from QCEW wage data
Comparing the number of jobs by industry in December 2017 (not seasonally adjusted), six industries had employment below the 2007 pre-recession levels. The highest gain industries were led by lower wage Food Services, Health Care (with a relatively higher mix of lower and higher wage occupations), lower wage Social Assistance, and higher wage Professional, Scientific & Technical Services. Of the lagging industries, three—Manufacturing, Mining & Logging, and Construction—are blue collar middle class wage industries, while the higher wage Finance & Insurance also remained in the minus column. Construction losses, however, have begun to contract.
Job Gains by Wage Level
The following chart illustrates the trend for total wage and salary jobs by general wage level, according to the industry wage classification used previously in other Center analyses of this issue. As indicated, about one-third of net jobs growth since the recession has been in the low wage industries, while the stronger showing for Construction shows stronger gains in this period for blue collar middle class jobs. Construction, however, was stronger primarily due to dry conditions in December 2017 compared to near normal precipitation levels in December 2007.
Source: Analysis of California Employment Development Department data, not seasonally adjusted
Two-Tier Economy Persists—Central Valley Unemployment More than Twice as High as Bay Area
While unemployment rates have improved in the interior counties as a result of seasonal employment, the level of unemployment rates (all data is not seasonally adjusted) continues to vary widely across the state, ranging from 2.8% in the Bay Area to more than twice as large at 8.1% in the Central Valley.
Not Seasonally Adjusted
Unemployment Rate (%) December 2017
By Legislative District:
Lowest 10 Unemployment Rates
Highest 10 Unemployment Rates
Bay Area Provided 40% of Net Employment Growth Since Recession
Containing 19.4% of the state’s population, the Bay Area was responsible for 40.1% of the net growth in employment since the pre-recession peaks in 2007. Inland Empire provided the next largest share at 19.5%, but Los Angeles Region, containing 29.2% of the population, accounted for third at 19.0%. Inland Empire is the only other region continuing to show employment gains above their population share.
Seven California MSAs in the 10 Worst Unemployment Rates Nationally
According to BLS data, of the 10 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) with the worst unemployment rates nationally, 7 are in California. Of the 20 worst, 9 are in California.
November 2017 Rate
Stockton-Lodi, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area
Anchorage, AK Metropolitan Statistical Area
Fairbanks, AK Metropolitan Statistical Area
Las Cruces, NM Metropolitan Statistical Area
Farmington, NM Metropolitan Statistical Area
Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX Metropolitan Statistical Area
Rocky Mount, NC Metropolitan Statistical Area
Watertown-Fort Drum, NY Metropolitan Statistical Area
Madera, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area
Vineland-Bridgeton, NJ Metropolitan Statistical Area
Yuba City, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area
Atlantic City-Hammonton, NJ Metropolitan Statistical Area
Bakersfield, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area
Hanford-Corcoran, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area
Fresno, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area
Merced, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area
Visalia-Porterville, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area
Ocean City, NJ Metropolitan Statistical Area
Yuma, AZ Metropolitan Statistical Area
El Centro, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area
The agencies are going through their annual revisions to the labor force and jobs series. No releases are scheduled for February, with the January data set for release on March 2 (California) and March 12 (other states), and the February data on March 23 (California and other states). Revised labor force and industry employment and hours and earnings data will also be issued for prior years.
Note: All data sources, methodologies, and historical data series available at CenterforJobs.org.