USC partners with Kern Medical Center to open Central Valley’s first dedicated epilepsy neurology center

THE BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN
BY HAROLD PIERCE 

By next month, local epilepsy patients won’t have to travel so far for complex procedures.

That’s because Kern Medical Center has partnered with the University of Southern California’s Neurorestoration Center to bring an epilepsy program and center to Bakersfield. It’s the first time USC has partnered with a Kern County healthcare provider.

“There is no comprehensive epilepsy center in the Central Valley. Fresno does not have one, the Central Coast does not have one, and Bakersfield did not have one,” said Dr. Joseph Chen, an adjunct associate professor at USC who serves as the new chief of neurosurgery at Kern Medical Center.

“It’s one of the most common neurological conditions. We knew there was a need here in the Central Valley.”

Chen estimates there are about 10,000 people suffering from medically intractable epilepsy in Kern County, but anticipates drawing patients from as far north as Fresno. The center would be the only one in the Central Valley that offers complex neurosurgery services for epileptics, Chen said.

Next month, for example, a patient is having an open brain surgery where Dr. Charles Yu Liu, the chief epilepsy surgeon, will remove a “focus of tissue” that is causing seizures, Chen said.

“My guess is that probably will be the first procedure of its kind performed anywhere in the area,” Chen said.

Patients needing those types of procedures have historically gone to hospitals in Los Angeles and Sacramento, Chen added.

“That’s a tremendous hardship for many of these patients. Many epileptic patients can’t work, so they have limited resources. Many depend upon caregivers, so making a journey of more than 100 miles can be an undue hardship for them,” Chen said.

The disorder is a complex service line that requires a multidisciplinary team of neurosurgeons, neurologists, radiologists, and sometimes psychiatrists during a course of treatment, Chen said.

 Those are all things the partnership with USC would bring to KMC.

In other cases, USC and KMC plucked local doctors, like epilepsy neurologist Dr. Hari Veedu, to help lead the new center who have established private practices. They were wooed, he said, by the resources USC provides.

If a patient requires an investigational procedure, for example, he or she could be sent to Los Angeles but would be treated by the same team doing the surgery in Kern, Chen said.

Chen described it as proof “this can be done in a safety-net hospital,” and that a sophisticated center doesn’t have to be established through a wealthy privately-supported hospital.

USC’s first goal through the partnership, Chen said, is to provide care to the impoverished.

Central Valley Cities Continue to See Increase in Tourism

By Patricia Reynolds
Business Journal Writer

June 22, 2017

STOCKTON — California’s travel and tourism industry enjoyed a seventh consecutive year of growth in 2016, according to the annual economic impact report released by Visit California and Dean Runyan Associates.

The May 4, 2017 report states that tourism generated $10.3 billion in tax revenue and supported 1.1 million jobs during 2016, reflecting a 3.2 percent growth in traveler spending.

Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties contributed to these figures, and as the peak summer travel season approaches, Central Valley communities expect to continue attracting visitors with sights and scenes unique to the area.

“We see a lot of our visitors checking out the Haggin Museum and the Stockton Cambodian Buddhist Temple, or just shopping and dining in the Lincoln Center and the Miracle Mile,” said Robyn Cheshire, Director of Marketing and Communications for Visit Stockton. “We also know that the water is a big lure for visitors regionally as they explore the Delta and enjoy its recreational opportunities in the summer months.”

According to Cheshire, Stockton is a drive market, drawing many visitors from within a 100-mile radius, particularly from the Bay Area and Sacramento.
Still, travelers from all over the state stop in as well.

“Being on the I-5 corridor, we also see visitors from up north and from Southern California.”

During the peak summer season, Stockton hosts more festivals, sporting events and other activities than other times of the year, and Visit Stockton markets via social media outlets where blog content is targeted at promoting Stockton experiences.

“Our most popular blogs emphasize on family fun, sports, arts and culture and agriculture,” Cheshire said. “We also target potential travelers on other digital channels where they are looking for something to do in the region.”

A bit further North, Lodi’s wine industry is a key attraction to the area.

“Lodi is known as a wine country destination, and visitors travel from all over the United States and beyond to visit our wineries and attend our events,” said Nancy Beckman, President and CEO of Visit Lodi! Conference and Visitors Bureau.

About 60 percent of Lodi’s Downtown Visitor Center guests are from California, with the largest number of overnight visitors being from the Bay Area and Los Angeles regions.

A sizeable amount of visitors, 40 percent, do travel to Lodi from out of state with roughly 10 percent being international travelers.

“Visit Lodi! advertises heavily in the spring and early summer months to capture the potential visitor in their vacation planning cycles. Also, we feature summer attractions and fun activities in blogs and on social media,” Beckman said.

Vacationers sampling Lodi’s 85 wineries have reported that while in the area, they also enjoy recreational activities such as kayaking, paddling and cycling along with visiting the area’s nature preserves, parks and downtown entertainment.

Hotels see an uptick in business during the summer season as well.

“It is not uncommon for lodging facilities to see a 10-20 percent jump in occupancy during the summer months over the first quarter of the year,” Beckman said.
The establishment of Lodi as a notable California wine region has helped boost tourism in the Lodi area. An economic study of the impact the winegrape and wine industry has had to the immediate area is in process, but the growth in tourism is expected to be positive.

“What I can say now is that the number has definitely increased the past few years,” said Wendy Brannen, Executive Director of the Lodi Winegrape Commission.
Wineries in Lodi, typically situated in clusters, tend to work together to increase traffic pull and will refer tasters from one winery to the next.

“It’s very common as you are leaving one tasting room for the staff or owners there to direct you to their neighbors down the way,” Brannen said.

Lodi wineries do not consider themselves as competing with the Napa and Sonoma wine regions for visitors. Instead, they consider the comparison as one of apples to oranges.

“The experiences are so different, and there is plenty of room in the California wine scene for all of us,” Brannen said. “We offer a very personal experience, and many times the people pouring your wines are the winery owners, and very realistically could be growing the grapes too.”
In Modesto, a proximity to rivers and lakes and the associated water recreation and camping opportunities they provide, along with the area’s agricultural richness draws visitors.

“We also have, and this is very seasonal, but we have a couple you-pick farms which have literally exploded,” said Jennifer Mullen, Executive Director at Modesto Convention and Visitors Bureau. “People really want that hands-on, ‘Oh my gosh, I picked it myself’ kind of experience.”

Ott Farms is one such operation giving visitors the opportunity to hand-pick cherries and blueberries.

Still, the biggest summertime draw is Graffiti Summer, a celebration which recognizes Modesto’s cruising heritage as depicted in George Lucas’s film, American Graffiti.

“We get thousands and thousands of people in town because they want to experience something to do with American Graffiti, the movie,” Mullen said.
Along with viewing the Graffiti car parade and car show, visitors can take a 1.5-mile walking tour downtown that features 25 information kiosks.
As part of that tour, visitors can now enjoy the walk of fame, a two-block area, and growing, that currently features 18 embedded stars with the names of those influential in Modesto’s cruising car culture.

“That’s all focused on what we’re so well-known for, our signature events which are the classic car shows, the hot rods, the music,” Mullen said.

Pacific Ethanol to acquire Illinois Corn Processing

CENTRAL VALLEY BUSINESS TIMES

SACRAMENTO
June 27, 2017

Pacific Ethanol Inc. (NASDAQ: PEIX) of Sacramento says it is buying Illinois Corn Processing LLC for $76 million, which includes $15 million in working capital.

The transaction is expected to close in July, subject to customary and other closing conditions.

The acquisition adds 90 million gallons per year of production capacity and diversifies the company’s fuel ethanol production with high-value beverage and industrial grade alcohol.

It also will consolidate additional production in Pekin, Illinois with a combined 250 million gallons of production, the company says.

ICP is a 90 million gallon per year fuel and industrial alcohol manufacturing, storage and distribution facility adjacent to the Pacific Ethanol Pekin facility and is located on the Illinois River. ICP produces fuel-grade ethanol, beverage and industrial-grade alcohol, dry distillers grain and corn oil. The facility has direct access to end-markets via barge, rail, and truck, and expands Pacific Ethanol’s domestic and international distribution channels.

“The acquisition of ICP underscores our commitment to making strategic investments that expand and diversify our production platform, increase revenue, expand our marketing reach and improve our overall profitability,” says Neil Koehler, Pacific Ethanol’s president and CEO. “The consolidation of the ICP facility with our two Pekin, Illinois, plants integrates the Pekin site into a unique combination of technologies and products with a combined operating capacity of 250 million gallons per year. We expect the acquisition will yield approximately $3 million in annual cost savings over the first six to twelve months after closing, including economies of scale in purchasing power, managing grain supply and transportation costs for DDG and ethanol.”

Upon completion of the acquisition, Pacific Ethanol will have nine production facilities with combined annual production capacity of 605 million gallons.

Pacific Ethanol will acquire Illinois Corn Processing LLC from Illinois Processing Holdings Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Seacor Holdings Inc., and MGPI Processing Inc. for $76 million, subject to a customary working capital adjustment. Of the $76 million purchase price, $30 million will be paid in cash and $46 million will be paid through the issuance of non-amortizing secured promissory notes due 18 months from closing.

Pacific Ethanol intends to refinance these seller notes in the near future, and the company is currently engaged in negotiations with CoBank to secure a long-term financing vehicle, which – if consummated – will have terms similar to the existing non-recourse loan at the company’s Pekin facilities.

“In conjunction with this transaction we are also taking steps to further strengthen our balance sheet and increase our available liquidity,” says Bryon McGregor, Pacific Ethanol’s CFO. “We have a commitment from Wells Fargo Bank to expand our borrowing capacity on our Kinergy line of credit facility from $85 million to $100 million, reduce the cost of the facility and extend the maturity date for an additional two years. We have also entered into an agreement to issue additional senior secured notes and amend our existing notes to increase the amount by approximately $14 million, bringing the note total to approximately $69 million with no material changes to the existing terms.”

Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza Announces Grand Opening of New California Central Valley Location

Central California

May 8, 2017
www.franchising,com

Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza, the fast-casual concept known for its chef-driven menu and casually hip restaurants, today announced that it will open a new Central California location, in Clovis on May 11. The Clovis restaurant is located at 1840 Herndon Ave., features a 2,500-square foot interior with interior seating for 51 and exterior seating for 26, and is located in the Buchanan Crossroads Center at Herndon and Fowler Avenues. To celebrate the grand opening, the Clovis restaurant will offer FREE build-your-own artisanal pizzas on Thursday, May 11th from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. to anyone who follows Blaze Pizza on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. Blaze also has additional central valley locations in Lodi (1537 Lower Sacramento Road), Tracy (2976 W. Grant Line Rd.), and Stockton at the Weberstown Mall (4950 Pacific Ave).

Blaze Pizza is a modern day “pizza joint” that has been inspiring excitement and cultivating fanatics for its custom-built artisanal pizzas, freshly made salads, blood orange lemonade and s’more pies since it opened its first location in 2012. Each restaurant features an interactive open-kitchen format that allows guests to customize one of the menu’s signature pizzas or create their own, choosing from a wide selection of carefully sourced, high-quality ingredients – all for around $8. The generously-sized 11″ pizzas are then sent to a blazing hot open-flame oven – the centerpiece of the restaurant – where dedicated pizzasmiths ensure that the thin-crust pies are fast-fire’d and ready to eat in just 180 seconds. Each restaurant makes its own dough from scratch using a recipe developed by critically-acclaimed Executive Chef Bradford Kent (the “Pizza Whisperer”), which requires a 24-hour fermentation period to produce his signature light-as-air, crisp crust. For pizza fans with specific dietary needs, Blaze Pizza offers gluten-free dough and vegan cheese. The Clovis restaurant will also feature a selection of wine and craft beer.

To create the perfect vibe inside the Clovis restaurant, award-winning design architect Ana Henton has added several unique, modern touches, including an oversized wall graphic custom-built to suit the space. Additionally, in support of the company’s commitment to “Intelligent Choices for Our Pizzas, People & Planet”, the Clovis restaurant will use both recycled and sustainable materials and energy-efficient LED lighting, and will feature eco-friendly, compostable packaging.

“At Blaze, we’re all about creating an engaging dining experience where guests can enjoy artisanal pizza that’s both fast and affordable,” said Jim Mizes, president & COO of Blaze Pizza. “The authenticity of our food, plus a service culture that genuinely focuses on the happiness of our guests and crew – have been key to our popularity and expansion.”

The newest Blaze restaurant is looking forward to building strong roots within the community, offering a spot where guests can connect, create and enjoy. To that end, the restaurant promotes a turnkey fundraiser program that returns 20 percent of an event’s proceeds back to the organization, helping schools, sports clubs and other local groups “cause a scene for a good cause.”

The Clovis Blaze Pizza location will be locally owned and operated by DAMM Fine Pizza LLC, a franchise group developing locations throughout Central California.

Modesto data project to launch

Central California

February 28, 2017
Central Valley Business Journal

 

Modesto, get ready to learn a lot more about yourself.

The city has been selected to participate in Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Work Cities initiative, a national philanthropic effort to enhance the use of data in the public sector.

“They’re going to help us formulate what measures we should be measuring for our community,” said Deputy City Manager Joe Lopez. “They’re going to help us put it together and publish that information so that it’s useful for our community.”

The project will help the city organize and release more of the data it collects. Such information could include demographics, vacant properties, permit requests, arrest records or traffic stops.

Lopez said the first data to be released would likely focus on the city’s Great Safe Neighborhoods initiative.

Schools and universities, nonprofits, the business community, entrepreneurs, developers and others could use the information for their own projects.

The project will last six months with a possible expansion.

Developers unveil plans for lifestyle center at East Hills Mall

Central California

January 18, 2017
By James Burger
Bakersfield.com

The new owners of the East Hills Mall announced Wednesday plans to renovate the property into a 350,000-square-foot “destination open-air lifestyle center” with restaurants, shopping and a brand new movie theater.

Local developers Chris Hayden and Mark Shuman of MarkChris Investments and Craig and Grant Carver of C & C Properties Inc. purchased the northeast Bakersfield mall in December.

On Wednesday they described their plans for turning the faltering mall into a destination shopping center.

Their plans call for a dramatic change to the complex. The center of the mall would be demolished and converted to an open-air courtyard with a fountain anchored by the new movie theater and flanked by shops and restaurants. The theater appears from plans to sit on the same footprint as the current Regency Theaters.

“We are looking forward to providing Bakersfield and especially northeast Bakersfield an exciting, first-class shopping and entertainment experience,” Craig Carver said in a statement. “Our design inspiration is a blend of mid-century modern and contemporary-style architecture so it will uniquely stand out in the market.”

The plans show room for 10 major retail shops fronting on pedestrian walkways, not the interior space of the mall, as well as plenty of other smaller retail and restaurant space.

They show the addition of five new, smaller buildings along the Mall View Road frontage like those that typically contain stand-alone restaurants and banks in other Bakersfield shopping centers.

Carver said the owners are in lease negotiations with several national and regional retailers and restaurants as well as a national theater chain. He did not name names, which is typical before final deals are struck.

Reconstruction is scheduled to start in the “second quarter or early third quarter” of 2017 and be finished roughly a year later. Current tenants will move out by March 3, a press release said.

It said those tenants will have an opportunity to relocate to the new shopping center at current market lease rates.

The project will need city approvals before it can move forward.

Paul Johnson, a principal planner with the City of Bakersfield, said the property is currently zoned for a planned commercial development.

If the developers choose to proceed under that zoning, they would need to submit plans to the city for review and get approval by both the Bakersfield Planning Commission and the Bakersfield City Council.

If the developers choose to rezone the property, they would have to undergo a more extensive zone change process, which could include environmental review up to and including an environmental impact report, Johnson said.

He said formal plans have not been submitted to the city for review.

East Hills Mall, built in 1988, sits between Mount Vernon Avenue and Oswell Street. There are 250,000 people in the project’s primary trade area and about 500,000 people in a 10-mile radius, said Duane Keathley, senior director/principal at Cushman & Wakefield/Pacific Commercial Realty Advisors.

“This redevelopment has been a long time coming,” he said in a statement. “It’s great news for the people of east Bakersfield and for the city of Bakersfield in general. It will be an impressive retail and entertainment center.”

CalCom and SunLink Partner to Bring Solar to Farms in California’s Central Valley

Central California

February 15, 2017
Business Wire

With shared expertise in designing, permitting, building and optimizing solar energy systems for agricultural operations, SunLink Corporation and CalCom Solar have successfully completed three solar projects in Shafter and Wasco, Calif. – the first in a larger Central Valley portfolio of installations.

This Smart News Release features multimedia. View the full release here: http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170215005355/en/

To streamline all project construction, SunLink standardized its mounting solution design and permit set to align with CalCom’s installation preferences. SunLink PowerCare geotechnical testing was also performed on sites in Madera and Tipton, Calif., to optimize designs and inform the installation teams in order to further accelerate these projects’ timelines. CalCom was then able to customize and complete the installation per that customer’s needs, such as uneven terrain and boundary constraints.

“When it comes to the geotechnical, engineering and installation expertise essential for agricultural solar projects, our suite of products+services+software solutions answers the needs of farmers and growers for lower project costs, reduced risk and easy long-term operation. We understand the project priorities and drivers of this market,” said SunLink CEO Michael Maulick. “Working closely with the other agricultural experts at CalCom, we are able to streamline the entire project lifecycle and deliver more successful energy assets.”

“CalCom Solar has the technology and knowledge that can help make solar work for many farmers both financially and operationally. By going solar, farming operations can significantly lower operational costs, saving them more money annually on utility bills. The system will also help hedge against raising utility rates, delivering significate utility savings over the next 25 years,” stated Dylan Dupre, CEO of CalCom Solar. “CalCom has made a name for itself as a leader in Central Valley agricultural solar with more than 100 MW deployed at some of the largest agricultural sites in the region. We seek out partners who also pride themselves with capabilities in this area, and SunLink’s demonstrated success from engineering to mounting solutions has proven a valuable asset.”

About SunLink

SunLink Corporation brings powerful solar energy solutions to market through innovative, highly engineered products, in-demand customer services and best-of-breed software that make solar PV electricity easier, safer, more reliable and less expensive to install. In addition to bringing to market well-designed products that are agile in their implementation, the company leverages unparalleled R&D, a legacy of more than a GW of successful projects, state-of-the-art engineering and creative problem solving to develop optimized, full-scope product+service+software solutions for roof and ground-mount solar projects of every size and complexity. It is this unique combination of trusted insights, products, services and EnTech convergence that helps solar developers and installers overcome obstacles and furthers the industry’s shared mission of advancing universal solar power adoption. For more information, visit www.sunlink.com or follow twitter.com/sunlink.

About CalCom Solar

Founded in California’s Central Valley, CalCom Solar provides energy solutions for commercial agricultural operations and water management organizations. Today CalCom Solar employs 58 people full-time, and hires as many as 70 temporary employees from the local community. The success of the company reflects CalCom Solar’s sustainability ethic and strong conviction that a company can provide customers with reliable energy solutions, maintain profitability, and have a positive impact on the community and the environment. For more information, please visit www.calcomsolar.co

Wonderful Real Estate Signs 10 Year Lease for 400,000 SF BTS Facility at Wonderful Industrial Park

Central California

Published on Jason Gremillion
Wonderful Real Estate

We are excited to announce our newest success at Wonderful Industrial Park. WRE has signed a 10 year lease for a new 405ksf BTS facility. WRE worked closely with the tenant over the past two months utilizing WRE’s ProCore software to create a seamless and expedited design process. The result will allow WRE to commence construction by mid-June 2017 and deliver the completed facility by February 2018!

Advanced Micro Resource focuses on forensics, training

Central California

Dec 12, 2016
By Kelly Bearden

Successful entrepreneurs must be creative, competent and hard working to succeed. They also must be quick and nimble — able to recognize new opportunities and adjust their business plans and systems to capitalize on emerging markets.

Alphonso Rivera demonstrated these qualities as he guided Bakersfield-based Advanced Micro Resource through the exciting, challenging and ever-changing technology industry.

Like other local company owners who have been clients of the Small Business Development Center at California State University, Bakersfield, the key to Rivera’s success is having a strong, but flexible business plan, marketing strategy and business systems that not only accommodate growth, but encourage it.

Rivera’s company, which is located at 3434 Truxtun Ave., Suite 180, in Bakersfield, focuses on computer education and forensics.

Growing up in Bakersfield, Rivera began tinkering with electronics as a young child. His interest led to his completion of courses at Bakersfield and Taft colleges and then at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he studied systems management and information technology. He continued his studies at Western Governors University.

His work experience includes jobs with the technology giant Tandy Corp. and with Henkel’s & McCoy, a utility construction company. He worked as the Bakersfield and Rosamond training director for New Horizons Computer Learning Service before organizing his own company in 2000.

The company’s initial focus was on providing computer training and augmenting STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – programs in area schools. Advanced Micro Resource provides instructors and training equipment to enhance student computer skills.

Almond huller’s solar panels make efficient use of land

Central California 

MARCH 31, 2017
Modesto Bee
BY JOHN HOLLAND

A triangle of land is doing double duty at Cortez Hulling, which takes the hulls off almonds at a plant near Ballico.

At ground level is a basin that captures heavy storm runoff directed away from the stockpiles of hulls, which are used mainly for dairy feed. On top are solar panels that provide 74 percent of the plant’s electricity.

JKB Energy of Turlock installed the system that way to minimize the footprint on this high-value ground.

“It uses the land in the most efficient way,” Chad Cummings, director of sales and marketing at JKB, said Wednesday. “I think that fits with the values of the ag industry and the values of solar.”

The plant, at Santa Fe and Cortez avenues, is a longtime part of the California almond industry. Booming sales have led to large gains in land values.

The solar system has cut conventional power costs by about $110,000 a year.

“It keeps our Turlock Irrigation District bill low, and doesn’t get in the way of operations,” said David Thiel, general manager of the Cortez Growers Association, which owns the plant.

Cummings said the installation cost was slightly higher than normal because of the need to put the panels on concrete supports above the basin, but it still penciled out.

JKB is one of several solar companies working with farmers and food processors. They have conserved land also by putting panels on rooftops or using them to shade parking lots.