Taking a look at top trends in Central Valley tech for 2018

Phillip Lan

 

Twenty-seventeen has proven to be yet another exciting year in technology.

We’ve seen Google’s artificial intelligence create its own ‘AI child,’ which outperforms those created by humans, growth of blockchain, rapid advancements in quantum computing, flying cars and expanded use of the precise gene editing technique CRISPR/Cas-9.

Scientists are even beginning to develop potential roadmaps to reverse aging.

As we close out the year and look forward to 2018, let’s take a moment to see which upcoming technology trends will be the most impactful for the Central Valley.
On a side note, isn’t it interesting that as collective human knowledge grows exponentially, individual humans appear to be less capable? Some of us are losing the ability to read maps, spell correctly and do arithmetic in our heads. As voice-enabled smart devices evolve into wearables and then implantables, some people may find literacy to be unnecessary in a few years.

Back to 2018 tech trends.

Safe-driving vehicles, not self-driving vehicles
Despite all the attention that Tesla and the GM/Cruise Automation combo have been getting, Level 5 fully-autonomous vehicles are still several years away. 2018, however, will see the launch of collision avoidance, automatic braking and lane monitoring technologies from most major vehicle manufacturers.

Besides saving lives and reducing injuries, the elimination of fender-benders will eventually drastically lower our auto insurance premiums. Delivery fleets are now testing these same features, and semi-trucks may well be the application that pushes the pace for adoption of fully autonomous vehicles in the Central Valley.

Agtech hits its stride
Agriculture and construction are two of the last large industries yet to be disrupted by advanced software. Progress has been slow in these sectors, but momentum is now accelerating in agtech. John Deere’s $305 million acquisition of Blue River Technologies has lit a fire under venture firms to investigate opportunities and make investments in this space. We are still a few years away from viable protein reactors that literally produce food out of thin air or lab-grown meat (our grandkids will surely find it barbaric that we had to actually kill animals for meat), but many agtech companies are already being funded to improve yields and reduce pesticide use through intelligent software.

Ceres Imaging (ceresimaging.net), an Oakland-based VC-funded company is led by agricultural and technology professionals including agronomists, hydrologists, and remote sensing experts. The company’s products, which include agronomic insights through aerial spectral imagery, proprietary sensors and analytics, and artificial intelligence software is already being used to help local almond farmers optimize nut harvests and profits.

Local software and digital marketing talent expands 
The next generation of agtech won’t drive productivity gains solely from mechanization as in the past. Instead this new generation will leverage state-of-the-art machine learning and artificial intelligence software. Fortunately, as I mentioned in a previous column, Stanislaus County has established itself as a software development hub, with local companies employing over 1,000 programmers. Several initiatives will further accelerate growth of the county’s software talent pool and even expand it into the Stockton area.

  • Valley Hackathon (valleyhackathon.com) a fast-growing programming contest that highlights local programmers continues to expand and draw coders into the tech community. The next event will be held at Modesto’s ValleyWorx (valleyworx.com) tech and digital design co-working space on January 26 and 27.
  • ValleyWorx now hosts a rapidly expanding coding meetup every Wednesday from 3-8 p.m. The collaboration with Free Code Camp is providing an easy entry point for developers to accelerate their growth.
  • Bay Valley Tech’s (bayvalleytech.com) coding camps and advanced software development classes taught by professional programmers will also grow the local talent pool.
  • In 2018, Bay Valley Foundation (bayvalleyfoundation.com) will begin raising money for a technology scholarship fund to provide tuition assistance to Central Valley students seeking careers in software development.
  • The Entrepreneur Lab, based in downtown Stockton’s Huddle co-working space, is a 21-week, intensive incubation program which cultivates high-growth startups.

In addition to software, the Central Valley’s digital design and marketing capabilities are also expanding rapidly.

Final Cut Media (finalcutmedia.com) saw their business and headcount triple in the last year alone. As experts in marketing strategy, design and digital video creation, they help leading brands such as Bay Area-based Fit Republic Health Clubs successfully plan and execute integrated, digital-focused marketing campaigns. Final Cut is also a trusted advisor to large organizations like Stanislaus County, developing digital/social communications strategies for their human resources and recruiting teams.

Mike Daniel, Partner and Chief Marketing Officer at Final Cut, advises companies to build a solid digital content/distribution strategy and then leverage data to create an effective lead funnel. Final Cut’s success is further driving rapid tech and digital marketing growth in the Valley.

Expanding Bay Area companies bring more high-paying tech jobs
Bay Area technology firms winning in the global marketplace have created tremendous wealth in the form of profits, salaries and stock options. The resulting competition for tech workers and housing have raised salaries but diminished affordable housing in the San Francisco/San Jose region.

Some communities now require an annual income of $218,000 to qualify for a median-priced home.

Tech firms looking for relief have traditionally expanded out of state to destinations such as Denver, Austin and Seattle. The recent surge in Central Valley software talent, however, is beginning to catch the attention of Bay Area companies.

The Modesto/Stockton area now has both affordable housing and tech talent, making the region an attractive option for Bay Area companies who want to keep satellite offices closer to home.

American Medical Response, Novo Technologies and Oportun have all been expanding and hiring software professionals in their Modesto offices. Recently, Varsity Technologies (varsitytechnologies.com), a San Francisco-based company providing outsourced IT services to organizations that want to make a difference (non-profits, schools and healthcare organizations) opened a second office in Modesto within the ValleyWorx tech co-working space.

Local businesses and techies are thrilled to have Varsity bring their expertise and jobs to our community and are confident more Bay Area companies will see the value of investing in our region and our people in 2018.

Personal income seeing growth throughout Central Valley, State

December 18, 2017

By NORA HESTON TARTE
Business Journal Writer

Are Central Valley households earning more?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, personal income experienced growth in 2016 in San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Merced counties.

San Joaquin led the charge, coming in above state and national averages at 5 percent personal income growth from 2015 to 2016. Stanislaus County and Merced County came in at 3.6 and 2.1 percent, respectively.

California counties enjoyed an average of 3.7 percent gains in personal income in 2016 and nationwide averages were 2.3 percent.

Personal income refers to all money made by people in the U.S., including total earnings from wages, investment enterprises and other ventures.

These numbers are part of a nationwide trend the BEA reported has continued in 2017, with personal income in the U.S. growing $65.1 billion, or 0.4 percent, in October.

In the second quarter of 2017, California personal incomes grew 0.7 percent on average after increasing 1.4 percent in the first quarter, according to estimates released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

While the numbers indicate growth, percentages are down from the previous two years in all three counties, following state and national trends.

Data for 2017 by county will not be released until November 2018.

 

https://cvbj.biz/2017/12/18/personal-income-seeing-growth-throughout-central-valley-state/

When a brewery deal fell through, this developer opted to open a downtown event center

California passes Florida in citrus production

• Florida’s industry devastated by disease

• Florida produced twice as much citrus as California as
recently as 2012

For the first time in 70 years, California has surpassed Florida
in citrus production, according to the University of California,
Davis.
Florida groves have been decimated by a disease called
huanglongbing (HLB), or citrus greening disease, that threatens
citrus production in California, too.
“HLB is not just bad for farmers and the economy,” says Carolyn
Slupsky, a biochemist and nutritionist with the University of
California, Davis. “The loss of fresh oranges and other citrus is
a real possibility and that would seriously impact our health.”
Ms. Slupsky and other UC Davis experts are working with
farmers and fellow scientists to develop early detection
methods, boost tree immunity and find a cure for the
devastating disease.
California farmers sold nearly 4 million tons of citrus in the
2016-2017 marketing season, compared to 3.5 million tons from
Florida, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Florida
produced twice as much citrus as California as recently as the
2011-2012 season.
Florida didn’t lose its top spot because the Golden State is
producing more citrus. In fact, California farmers produced 14
percent fewer fresh oranges this season.
Citrus greening disease is caused by a bacterium that is spread
by the Asian citrus psyllid, a tiny insect that feeds on the leaves
and stems of citrus trees. A tree infected with HLB can live for
years without symptoms, allowing the pathogen to spread
undetected to other trees. Symptoms emerge over time as a
tree’s fruit starts to turn green and misshapen with a bitter,
metallic taste.
HLB is a global threat. Beyond Florida, the disease has
destroyed groves in Asia, Brazil and the Dominican Republic.
The disease has been spotted in about 250 backyard trees in
Southern California, but so far California’s commercial orchards
— many of which are in the Central Valley — have been spared.
Researchers are hard at work to keep it that way. An
international team of scientists led by UC Davis chemical
ecology expert Walter Leal recently identified the molecule that
attracts the Asian citrus psyllid, which may help researchers
develop a less toxic way to trap the insect to slow the disease’s
spread.
Ms. Slupsky is taking a different tack. She and her team are
using nuclear magnetic resonance technology to study how the
pathogen affects the metabolism of the tree. Her research
shines a light on HLB’s mode of attack.
“The pathogen seems to cause havoc with a tree’s ability to
defend itself from infection,” Ms. Slupsky says. “That’s a
spectacular discovery, because when we understand the
mechanisms behind the attack we have a chance at blocking
them and boosting a tree’s natural immunity.”
Working with Kris Godfrey, an associate project scientist at the
UC Davis Contained Research Facility, and Michelle Heck at
Cornell University, Ms. Slupsky found differences in the
chemical fingerprint of leaves starting very early in the infection
process. With further research, she believes that she can
develop a chemical profile to provide a reliable, rapid and early
indicator of the presence of infection.
“Early detection is key,” Ms. Slupsky says. “If we can catch the
disease early in the infection and get rid of the infected trees,
we can hopefully slow down the spread of HLB enough to give
scientists time to find a cure.”
Breeders are working to develop HLB-resistant rootstock, which
is one of the most promising avenues to a cure. Researchers
are also looking at whether they can transform the psyllid to
prevent its ability to spread HLB. UC Davis plant pathologist
Bryce Falk is leading a search to find and engineer viruses that
can induce traits in the insect that prevent it from transmitting
the bacterium.
Breeding rootstock and engineering viruses takes time. In the
meantime, backyard citrus growers can help keep HLB at bay
by monitoring their trees for signs of psyllids or infection and
removing trees that are infected or near infected trees.
Ms. Slupsky says that together, farmers, gardeners and science
can help save citrus and the nourishment it provides.
“From a nutritional standpoint, it’s hard to beat fresh citrus,” she
says. “Oranges provide energy, fiber and a wide variety of
nutrients, vitamins and minerals. They’re one of the most
consumed fruits in the United States. I can’t imagine life without
fresh citrus.”

http://files.constantcontact.com/2cb20f61601/ef5510b4-9300-43a9-a028-80a931c7b1f6.pdf

Hotels set sights on Clovis

A handful of Clovis hotels are in the works, like this one next to The Barnyard Shopping Center on Clovis Avenue, to help the city better accommodate visitors. (Ron Sundquist/Clovis Roundup)

“You can’t find a room in Clovis”—that’s the current dilemma in the up-and-coming destination city according to Shawn Miller, the city’s business development manager.

As it stands, Clovis has the highest occupancy rate in the Valley, with its scare hotel rooms booked at or near 100 percent, making it difficult for visitors to find a place to stay close to Clovis attractions and amenities.

Thankfully, hotel chains are taking notice and are now capitalizing on the opportunity to come to Clovis.

At least five new large-scale hotels are in the works. Already under construction are a La Quinta Inn at Clovis Avenue next to The Barnyard Shopping Center and a Marriott-operated hotel at Shaw and Helm. Additionally, the Clovis City Council just approved moving forward with the construction of a third hotel across from Sierra Vista Mall. Already, the area boasts a Hampton Inn and Homewood Suites, and now will be welcoming Home2 Suites, run by Hilton.

Lily Cha, who works in the city’s planning department, said the Home2 Suites will be a four-story, 111-room hotel with a footprint of about 16,000 square feet and a total floor area of 66,234 square feet. The hotel will also allow for extended stays.

According to Miller, a fourth hotel yet to be announced is planning to locate on the south side of Shaw Avenue next to Sunnyside, east of Sierra Vista Mall, and several are currently exploring sites near Clovis Community Medical Center and in the Herndon and Clovis area. The hope is that there will be at least one hotel, if not more, that offer extended stay options near the hospital.

Hotels set sights on Clovis

Gallo in top 100 of ‘Best Places to Work’ for 2018

December 6, 2017

 

E&J Gallo Winery of Modesto was chosen as one of the best places to work in a recent survey.

The winery, founded in 1933, was ranked 14 out of 100 of the “Best Places to Work in 2018” by Glassdoor, a job recruitment company. In 2016, Gallo was ranked 47 out of 50.

Current and former employees give their input about their experience in the workplace, which Glassdoor then compiles. Gallo will be honored with the Glassdoor Employees’ Choice Award.

“Our employees continue to be our greatest asset. I am proud of our strong company culture and the commitment of our employees who make Gallo a great place to work,” said Joseph Gallo, president and CEO of E&J Gallo Winery, in a statement. “We are deeply appreciative that our employees and Glassdoor have recognized Gallo as a great employer.”

Gallo is the largest family-owned winery in the world, according to the company, and produces brands such as Barefoot Cellars, Dark Horse, Apothic, Carnivor MacMurray Estate Vineyards and many more. Outside of wine, Gallo creates and markets vodka, gin, brandy and whisky.

“We know today’s job seekers are more informed than ever about where they go to work, researching everything from company culture to career opportunities to pay philosophy and more,” said Robert Hohman, CEO of Glassdoor. “Employers where employees love to work continue to prove that they have a recruiting and business performance advantage.”

Gallo in top 100 of ‘Best Places to Work’ for 2018

 

Essendant Claims 405K SF in Shafter

November 30, 2017

Wonderful Real Estate signed a build-to-suit lease with Essendant Co. for a 405,299-square-foot industrial building at Wonderful Industrial Park (WIP) in Shafter, CA. The leading wholesale distributor of business products, will use this facility for local and regional fulfilment, e-commerce and distribution, with move-in scheduled for the second quarter of 2018.

Wonderful Real Estate’s Joe Vargas says, “Essendant completed a thorough evaluation of the Central Valley and selected WIP for its favorable business and community environment, close proximity of qualified labor and a reliable developer/owner with successful track record on deliveries.”

JLL’s Mike McCrary, Peter McWilliams and Mac Hewett are leading the leasing efforts at Wonderful Industrial Park, a 1,625-acre rail served, master-planned, entitled industrial development able to accommodate requirements ranging from 100,000 to two million square feet.

https://www.connect.media/essendant-claims-405k-sf-shafter/?utm_source=mlCalifornia&utm_campaign=mlCalifornia-2017-11-30_19:01-Cyber_Monday_Sales_Hit_3_4B_Top_U_S_Online_Spending_Day_in_History&utm_medium=email&utm_term=news%20inland-empire%20development%20industrial&utm_content=Cyber_Monday_Sales_Hit_3_4B_Top_U_S_Online_Spending_Day_in_History&pid=da2c2d2e-f8de-4f30-8fdc-744ec90994ec

$30 million, 115-home development set for Tulare

TULARE
November 30, 2017 6:36am

 

•  Entry-level community expected to open for sale in Spring 2018

•  Latest development by San Joaquin Valley Homes and Presidio Residential Capital

A new residential community called “Brighton” with 115 detached single-family homes more than 72 acres in Tulare is to be built by San Joaquin Valley Homes and Presidio Residential Capital.

Construction on model homes is scheduled to begin in January 2018, and the neighborhood is expected to be open for sale next spring. The retail value of the project is estimated by the developers to exceed $30 million.

“Brighton is ideally located for families and professionals with easy access to employment and entertainment opportunities in the Central Valley,” says Danny Garcia, vice president of sales at SJV Homes.

The development will feature entry-level homes with five floor plans ranging from 1,574 to 2,314 square feet and a move-up line ranging from 2,000 to 2,831 square feet on lots averaging 7,226 square feet. It will include a community park and a pond.

Founded in 2013 by Joe Leal, Jim Robinson and Randy Merrill, SJV Homes sold its 1,000th home in September. Brighton is SJV Homes’ 16th joint venture project with Presidio Residential Capital, a San Diego-based real estate investment company that funds 100 percent of the projects and operations of SJV Homes.

According to the National Association of Home Builders’ formula to determine the local impact of single-family housing in typical metro areas, adding 115 single-family homes will generate $33 million in local income, $9 million in taxes and other revenue for local governments and 453 local jobs, says SJV Homes.

http://www.centralvalleybusinesstimes.com/stories/001/?ID=33722

Stanislaus State releases business forecast for SJ Valley

November 29, 2017

 

California State University, Stanislaus has published its San Joaquin Valley Business Forecast Report. The report, now in its eighth year, highlights the economy of the valley from San Joaquin County down to Kern County.

Highlights of the report, which can be downloaded in its entirety from csustan.edu/sjvbfr, include reviews of employment, the housing market, inflation and banking.

Professor Gökçe Soydemir of Business Economics at Stan State focused on employment, writing that it continues to slow significantly, which shows signs of a plateau.

The growth rate for employment in 2017 was only 0.52 percent, according to Soydemir. If there continues to be a drop in the growth in the coming year, that could mean a decline in total employment since the recession almost 10 years ago.

Much of the outcome will depend entirely on politics and the possible tax reform.

The reports that Stanislaus County had a 1.94 percent employment growth rate, while Madera County had 1.15 percent growth, Fresno County had 0.93 percent growth, San Joaquin County had 0.38 percent growth. Merced County’s employment grew by 0.51 percent for the year and Tulare County grew by 0.64 percent.

Employment declined in Kern and Kings counties by 0.60 and 1.19 percent, respectively.

The report shows construction being the biggest industry with employment increases, due to the resurgence of housing and commercial development throughout the valley.

Average home prices throughout the Central Valley grew by 7.82 percent during 2017, however, the report states that rate of growth should slow over the course of the next few months.

 

Stanislaus State releases business forecast for SJ Valley

Move over Silicon Valley — Stanislaus County becoming development hub

November 28, 2017

 

Bay Area companies recruiting for tech talent should keep an eye on Modesto and Stanislaus County. Long-time residents of the Central Valley are aware that many of our new friends and neighbors are known as BATs (Bay Area transplants). Perhaps a little less well-known is the fact that some of these new residents have brought a wealth of tech know-how and experience to the county.

Now these techies are beginning to positively impact local companies and draw high-paying tech employers into the county.

Central Valley companies like E&J Gallo, Foster Farms and Hilmar Cheese that already employ hundreds of software programmers, now have a larger, more experienced tech talent pool to recruit from.

And that tech talent pool isn’t just growing in size, it has also been rapidly broadening its experience and capabilities with cutting edge tools. Gallo leverages a variety of technologies including Java, PHP and SQL. Save Mart uses Ruby on Rails, Java, and SQL for their software solutions. And many other local software teams are building projects with those as well as Angular.io, Angular.js, React.js, Node.js, PHP, .Net, Python and C++.

County employers pulling in more tech workers
In addition to these multi-generational businesses, many newer employers are also pulling software developers into the area.

Geostrategies, a leading market analysis and investment-grade mapping technology company based in Turlock, creates software to help private equity clients and brands uncover significant opportunities to grow revenue.

Robert Half, a Fortune 500 staffing firm, has been steadily growing its technology practice in the Sacramento, Stockton and Modesto areas for decades as well.

American Medical Response, which manages ambulance and emergency services throughout much of the country, has been growing their software development capabilities in the Salida/Modesto area for a decade now. Novo Technologies, a custom software company, already employs many developers in their Stanislaus County office, and is continuing to expand rapidly.

Recently, Novo joined Robert Half and Geostrategies to sponsor the Valley Hackathon (valleyhackathon.com), a local programming contest that has drawn hundreds of programmers to its Central Valley events.

MedicAlert helps millions of Americans through its medical IDs and services employs scores of software developers in its Salida office.

Save Mart, whose markets serves millions of Central Valley residents, also employs many developers to facilitate its expansion and acquisitions.

Other organizations such as the Turlock and Modesto Irrigation Districts and even Stanislaus County itself are significant employers of software programmers, drawing additional tech talent into the region.

Oportun, a relative newcomer to Stanislaus County, whose growth has been fueled by over $200 million in venture funding and tremendous market acceptance, has opened a new and fast-growing software development office in Downtown Modesto.

Local web and software development agencies have also been growing. Agencies such as Stickman Ventures, Inventaweb.net, Gerbo Design, MHD and Never Boring add significant software as well as digital design capabilities to Stanislaus County.

And neighboring San Joaquin County companies such as Petz Enterprises, The Wine Group and Delicato Family Vineyards are also contributing to the growth of local software community as they continue to expand their software development initiatives.

Local companies are even beginning to collaborate with Bay Area firms such as Trinity Brand Group (creative branding and packaging design), Conversant (digital media) and Traackr (influencer marketing platform) to expand opportunities on both sides of the Altamont Pass.

More growth on its way—training even more local tech workers
In addition to employer-driven tech growth, the local software community has begun to organize itself to improve collaboration and help industry veterans and newcomers alike accelerate their learning curves. Valley Hackathon continues to grow their events in Modesto drawing in hundreds and has now expanded to Stockton and Sonora as well.

FreeCodeCamp and Valley Software Developers Meetup combined forces in October at Modesto’s newly-opened tech co-working space, ValleyWorx (valleyworx.com) to help experienced and new programmers grow their skills. The meeting drew 3 times more attendees than expected and was larger than many software meetups in the Bay Area.

According to John Bull, lead organizer for the Modesto FreeCodeCamp, Stanislaus County already has 1,000 software developers working here.

Next month, Bay Valley Tech (bayvalleytech.com) will be launching coding classes as well as video game coding camps to rapidly expand the local talent pool. Software development classes and one-day camps will be held in Modesto, Stockton and Livermore. Tech community leaders are excited about Bay Valley Tech’s potential impact for the region, since Fresno’s Geekwise code academy has already trained over 7,000 programmers over the last few years.

Modesto and Stanislaus County officials are very excited about the prospect of developing a local self-sustaining tech ecosystem and are evaluating ways to support the community and accelerate the ongoing momentum.

A win-win-win
Stanislaus County tech talent growth is the key to attracting more Bay Area tech firms to the region, which will create a WIN-WIN-WIN for Central Valley residents looking for higher paying jobs, Bay Area companies looking for a growing tech workforce and tech workers looking for affordable housing.

Move over Silicon Valley — Stanislaus County becoming development hub