Inside an office space at Bitwise’s The Hive in Downtown Fresno, deals and orders are being made globally.
“I think Fresno it’s not just Fresno anymore, we’re global. I hope people realize that and go after more global clients and do more international business,” said Jennifer Kim, Blockheads Development & Marketing Founder.
Blockheads Development and Marketing, which specializes in blockchain consulting, solutions and marketing to help small businesses.
Kim and the company relocated from Chicago more than a year ago.
“One day I decided to the tour at Bitwise and I was hooked in and the community is great. Everyone wanted to support me. So I became a part of a bigger clan and got a lot of support. The facilities,” Kim said.
She had worked from home but chose to be a part of the startup ecosystem in Fresno.
Recently, Fresno was highlighted in a Global Startup Ecosystem Report by Startup Genome, which studied cities across America to see the environment for companies.
Bitwise Industries says about 50-60 companies have moved to Fresno since Bitwise began.
“You don’t start Silicon Valley on day one, but we’re beginning to see the potential. We’re seeing the sorts of resources needed to grow the technology industry in Fresno, but we have work left to do. We’ve got to support things like Bitwise and these collisions. We’ve got to continue to be welcoming to outsiders and do more and better in the technology industry,” said Jake Soberal, Bitwise Industries C.E.O.
Soberal believes new companies can create more jobs and economically help the Valley.
Bitwise has seen dozens of businesses relocate in the past few years and they think that that number will only go up.
Say organic food and some might envision earthy-crunchy concoctions that are high on health and low on flavor.
But at Hughson’s new Don’t Panic It’s Organic, good for you and good tasting collide in a pleasant package. The family-run eatery offers organic cafe food — like sandwiches and salads, chili bowls and smoothies. They also offer a full juice bar, smoothies, coffee and tea.
Owner Katherine Bertolotti and her family began eating organic close to two years ago. The Modesto native now lives in Hughson, as do her mother, sister and brother in the heart of the community’s farming land. But then, her now 7-year-old son began to develop severe allergies — including rashes and asthma attacks. She worried that the pesticides on their food and used in their surrounding orchards might be part of the problem.
So she switched her family to organic foods at home and stopped using pesticides on their trees, and then convinced the rest of her family to do the same. But eating out was still a challenge, as few restaurants offer solely organic fare.
“I was cooking and preparing food at home all the time. And I thought, ‘Man, this is a lot of work. If only I could get someone to do it for me,’” she said.
Siblings Sarah, left, and David Mingham, middle, and Katherine Bertolotti at Don’t Panic It’s Organic eatery in Hughson, Calif., Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018.
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But instead of that, she decided to do it for other people. Bertolotti and her brother David Mingham opened the eatery Don’t Panic It’s Organic in late October. The restaurant offers breakfast, lunch and light dinner options as well as specialty fresh juice, coffee, tea and smoothie drinks. And to prove organic food isn’t all wholesome, they also offer wine and grape-liquor based cocktails like bloody marys and margaritas. Heck, they even have kombucha (a fermented tea) on draft, along with a handful of beers.
Mingham serves as the restaurant manager, and his sister Sarah and mother Lisa also work behind the counter. They source many of their products locally, from small organic farms like Burroughs Family Farms and We the People Farms from Denair. The vast majority of the products they use are organic, while others are gluten-free and some of their meat and poultry are free-range or grass-fed.
Salami sandwich at Don’t Panic It’s Organic eatery in Hughson, Calif., Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018.
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The restaurant doesn’t have a full kitchen, so its fare is on the lighter side. But you can still get a heaping plate of grass-fed beef chili nachos ($12) or a large organic salami sandwich on roll from Berkeley’s Acme Bread ($9).
Another attraction is the fresh juice bar. You can order a Healthy Heartbeat made from apple, beet, celery, lemon and ginger or the Immunity Booster with celery, spinach, kale, lemon, ginger and garlic. Juices run $7.49 each. Power up any drink with a wheat grass shot for $3 or a “gut shot” of ginger beet, golden turmeric and smoked jalapeno for $1. Smoothies, which also run $7.49 each, range from superfood favorites and fruit-based options to a peanut butter and banana sweet treat and classic strawberry and banana.
Bertolotti said she initially thought about opening possibly in Modesto or elsewhere, but decided on Hughson because it was so close to home. While she worried that the small farming community might not be receptive, she said, people have generally been pleased when they’ve come in. Though there have been a lot of questions.
“People say, ‘Oh, you’re organic. So this is vegan.’ And we’re like, no, we eat meat. It’s just grass-fed and healthier,” she said.
The restaurant has options for people looking for organic meals, gluten-free or probiotic options, paleo menus and more. And it joins a small spate of eateries in and coming to Hughson which have made the small town a mini-foodie destination. They include the new joint Slick Fork BBQ and upcoming Callahan’s Brewing Company. Don’t Panic It’s Organic is also in the same shopping center as the popular Agave Azul Kitchen & Tequila Bar.
Katherine Bertolotti pours koumbucha on tap at Don’t Panic It’s Organic eatery in Hughson, Calif., Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018.
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As for that great name, well, it came from her father, who used to reassure her when her kids came over and he fed them.
“My dad would say, ‘Don’t panic, it’s organic.’ And I’d say, ‘Sure, let me read the label,’” she said. “We really just want to cook and feed people good food.”
ALDI prototype stores are in the 22,000 square-foot range. The first Valley location is coming to Porterville.
Published On November 26, 2018 – 2:00 PM Written By Frank Lopez
Porterville residents will have the first chance to shop at ALDI, a low-cost German grocery store, when the Central Valley’s first location opens Dec. 6.
The grand opening will include an official ribbon-cutting ceremony, a Golden Ticket giveaway worth up to $100 to the first 100 shoppers, a produce-for-a-year sweepstakes and sampling of ALDI exclusive brand products.
The Porterville store is located at 770 S. Jaye St. off Highway 90. ALDI is also planning a Hanford store that could be open by the spring of 2019, according to the Hanford Sentinel. All ALDI building prototypes are designed with a square footage of 22,000 feet.
The Porterville store is part of a $5 billion investment to expand to 2,500 stores nationwide by the end of 2022, along with adding 25,000 new jobs in stores, warehouses and offices. ALDI has been in the grocery retailing industry since 1976 and operates more than 1,800 U.S. stores in 35 states and sees more than 40 million customers each month.
The closest current location is in Bakersfield.
“ALDI stores are designed to make life easier for people. We offer high-quality foods at affordable prices and a streamlined shopping experience unlike anything else,” said Tom Cindel, Moreno Valley Division Group Director of Operations and Logistics for ALDI. “From our award-winning products, to trendy, fresh and healthy options, we’re focused on carrying a selection that has something for everyone.”
The stores are designed to provide customers with a streamlined and easy shopping experience. The focus is on providing the best options at the best prices, making the trendy foods affordable and accessible, and selling random items at times when customers need them most, such as rain boots in the spring, or Dutch ovens around Thanksgiving.
The Tesoro Viejo project in Madera County has announced a trio of homebuilders that will work in the 1,600-acre master-planned community, including D.R. Horton, K. Hovnanian Homes and McCaffrey Homes.
Published On November 23, 2018 – 7:00 AM Written By Donald A. Promnitz
The overall economic outlook for Madera County looks positive going into 2019, with strong growth in retail and residential activity.
In fact, according to Bobby Kahn, executive director for the Madera County Economic Development Commission, one of the primary concerns for next year will be finding the needed space to meet the growing demands. Low industrial vacancy rates were also a problem for the region this year, remaining at about half a percent.
“So on one side, that’s a positive because it shows the economy is strong and our businesses are healthy — all our industrial space is spoken for,” Kahn said. “But then again, when you’re trying to market the area and people are asking for existing buildings, it’s a little bit harder to market to new businesses when you don’t have existing space.”
Because of this, construction has become an increasingly busy sector of the local economy, especially on the industrial end. In Madera, for example, Kahn cited Span Construction & Engineering, Inc.’s recent development of a new spec building at Freedom Industrial Park on West Pecan Avenue and South Pine Street. Kahn said other industrial projects are being considered in Chowchilla. The upcoming challenge will be the rising costs of construction and a shortage of workers as the unemployment numbers go down.
On the residential end, new developments are opening in Chowchilla, while the planned communities of Riverstone and Tesoro Viejo (both off of Highway 41) are selling space at breakneck paces. About 40 houses a month have been selling at Riverstone. While they’ve only been open since October, their business hub is now up and running.
Tourism is expected to be strong for 2019 in eastern Madera County, which depends on the industry. Rhonda Salisbury, CEO for Visit Yosemite/Madera County, said that the 51 days Yosemite National Park was closed due to the wildfires this summer cost them approximately 300,000 visitors, but they have since recovered. Each year, the park takes in an average of 4 million visitors, with Oakhurst being the most popular entrance.
“We’ve had a lot of momentum with tourism the last five or six years where it’s constantly growing,” Salisbury said. “I don’t know that it’s going to grow at a huge rate next year — I think people might still be a little leery of fire, especially our international travelers, but Yosemite is still the crown jewel of the national park system.”
However, like the rest of the San Joaquin Valley, the mainstay of the Madera County economy has been agriculture. According to Jay Mahil, president of the Madera County Farm Bureau, almonds remained the top of the list for 2018, despite a frost causing a 15 to 20 percent drop.
Dairy came in second for production value, while wine grapes and raisins performed steadily. In fourth place, pistachios also had a large crop in the year. Rainfall for 2018 was less than hoped, but despite this, Mahil stated that Madera County was still able to get some much-needed water through precipitation and heavy snowfall. But the weather for next year remains uncertain, and Mahil has called the situation “iffy” for 2019.
“As a grower and a farmer, we’re always optimistic that it’s going to be good, but Mother Nature is so unpredictable,” Mahil said. “We’ll see when it comes.”
In the future, compliance with the statewide Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) will lead to more challenges, as local agencies will have to work to allocate available groundwater so that the region’s farmers will have what they need to grow their crops.
As for the coming year, Mahil said that there would be concerns not only for water, but with immigration as well, as it becomes one of the most heavily debated issues in the Trump Administration. The incoming leadership in the House of Representatives could result in further gridlock on the issue, in which Mahil added. that agricultural communities are often held “for ransom.”
While there will be challenges and concerns facing Madera County next year and in the years to the come, the local economy is still poised to grow, and Kahn, Salisbury and Mahil all remain optimistic as the new year approaches.
“So, overall, 2018’s been a very good year and we look forward to continuing with that for the 2019 year,” Kahn said.
An aerial view shows two current buildings at the Gap campus near Fresno Yosemite International Airport.
Published On November 23, 2018 – 7:00 AM Written By Gabriel Dillard
By nearly every metric — employment, wages, farm receipts, home prices, construction — 2018 proved a banner year for Fresno County’s economy.
And in the opinion of economists, economic development professionals, industry advocates and more, the good times are expected to continue into 2019, even though a number of negative factors may loom over the horizon.
In Fresno, 2018 was a pivotal year that saw California’s fifth-largest city join the ranks of other e-commerce hubs. Fulfillment centers for Amazon and Ulta came online, bringing Mayor Lee Brand even closer to his goal of creating 10,000 jobs in two terms.
Gap was another large acquisition for Fresno. The San Francisco-based retailer announced it would locate an e-commerce fulfillment center in Fresno at its existing campus near the Fresno Yosemite International Airport. The decision will create at least 515 full-time employees and generate $80 million in capital investment.
While the Gap distribution center will ramp up over three years, the move has already proven fruitful in the jobs department. Gap last month announced plans to hire 1,127 seasonal workers in Fresno
There are also some bright spots when it comes to the development of more shovel-ready industrial land, which has been a problem for site selectors in the past. The 63-acre Palm Lakes Business Park near the airport recently welcomed its first tenants. Closer to the Amazon and Ulta sites in south Fresno, Caglia Environmental’s proposed 110-acre industrial park won council approval this year, but still faces a challenge to its environmental impact analysis.
While continuing to market to e-commerce operations, Fresno economic developers are shifting their sites to tech companies that may be considering moving some of their operations out of the expensive Bay Area. Larry Westerlund, Fresno’s director of economic development, recently said in a public talk that closing the skills gap with our local workforce would net the well-paying jobs Fresnans hope for.
Speaking of technology, Clovis— Fresno County’s fastest growing city — should next year see a major new project at its Research and Technology Park near Temperance and Alluvial avenues. Construction for the College of Osteopathic Medicine in Clovis started this year. As part of California Health Sciences University, the 100,000 square foot facility would be the Central Valley’s first medical school when it is finished by next year, with classes set to start in 2020.
Clovis Community Hospital is also expected to start adding additional facilities next year. More industrial space is also primed next year for the Clovis Industrial Park and Dry Creek Industrial Park.
“It’s really encouraging to see that commercial industrial demand going in Clovis,” said Andy Haussler, Clovis economic and community development director.
Fresno County farms continue to comprise one of the most valuable farming areas in the world, though a number of factors justify calling the current market conditions “stable,” said Ryan Jacobsen, CEO and executive director of the Fresno County Farm Bureau. Water supplies and labor availability have been perennial issues, but now tariffs on crop exports to countries such as China add a new layer of concern.
One of the Valley’s top crops is the prime focus of those tariffs, and a potential source of pain in a protracted trade war.
“Nuts leads the list, but there are many others. Fresh fruits, vegetables and milk are not far behind,” Jacobsen said. “We haven’t felt the ramifications yet, but we don’t know how long this issue will continue to go on, or if it will get worse before it gets better.”
High-speed rail construction activity will continue in Fresno County in 2019, and Lee Ann Eager, president and CEO of the Fresno County Economic Development Corp., is bullish on the county’s chances of landing a rail heavy maintenance facility. She recently said she has heard rumbling the site could be chose in early 2019. It would add an estimated 1,500 new jobs, which is why bid packages from areas around Chowchilla, Madera and Hanford are also in the running.
The small communities along Highway 99, such as Fowler and Selma, continue to see new development that should stretch into 2019. Eastside communities including Sanger, Reedley and Parlier are also seeing activity. Impoverished Westside communities continue to face challenges, but the recreational pot industry has created bright spots in communities that have welcomed it, namely Coalinga and Mendota. Cannabis-related industrial development will ring in the New Year in those towns.
A potential market slowdown does weigh on the minds of economists and economic developers, some of whom — namely in Fresno — have described a rush to build to beat a downturn. Haussler with the City of Clovis has a background in economics and calls himself a “armchair Wall Street Journal reader. He thinks 2019 will continue to see the good times roll.
“I’m seeing a lot of projections coming into fruition,” he said. “I’m pretty bullish.”
But, he added, 2020 may be a different story. It’s just too far out to know for sure in this time of uncertainty.
By design, the Coyote Entertainment Center is the kind of place you’ll want to bring the family for the day.
Like a full eight-hour day.
“Basically, it’s a one-stop shop,” says Nichole Castillo, director of sales and marketing for the center, which opens Nov. 30 next to Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino in Lemoore.
“It’s almost like a perfect entertainment spot.”
The glass-faced building comes in at close to 90,000 square feet and puts several options under one roof.
The eight-screen Palace Cinemas has 1,100 luxury seats with Christie Pure laser cinema projectors, QSC Theater and Dolby Atmos sound systems, and delivered-to-your-seat food options.
Tachi Palace’s new Coyote Entertainment Center includes eight multiplex movie theaters with reclining leather chairs.
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Tachi Lanes is a 30-lane bowling alley that’s heavy on flashing neon and swank leather seating with a separated six-lane VIP room.
The shoes are old school.
Mit’si Little Arcade has more than 45 games — franchise games like Halo and The Walking Dead, plus classics like Ice Ball (better known as skee-ball). All games use the point system (ala Dave & Buster’s) and players can earn reward points redeemable in the arcade shop.
There’s a stuffed poop emoji, for example, but also Xbox gaming consoles and the like.
Red Bud Billiards is set up with nine tournament-style tables, a full bar and a video wall made up with nine large-screen TVs.
Red Bud Billiards at Tachi Palace’s new Coyote Entertainment Center also features a sports bar with large-screen TVs.
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Along with the standard theater-style concessions, there is also the Ch’ox’l Eagle Lounge, which features a full menu of flatbreads, salads and paninis, plus pizzas, chicken wings, beer-battered fish and chips, and burgers. For those of drinking age, the restaurant features 30 craft beers along with specialty cocktails and an expansive bourbon selection.
The center will be open 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday to Thursday and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Taken with the existing casino and hotel (and with the World Surf League hosting events nearby), Tachi Palace is an obvious draw for those from the area — at the naval air base or in nearby towns — but also for people across the state, Castillo says.
“It’s like a hidden gem in the middle of all this ag land,” she says.
Luis Hernandez, Visalia Times-DeltaPublished 9:58 a.m. PT Nov. 12, 2018
With the recent openings of Ross Dress for Less and dd’s Discounts, the Tulare Pavilion shopping center is near tenant capacity, recovering from a double-gut punch of having two anchor stores close.
Mervyn’s closed at the shopping center in 2009. Kmart closed in 2016.
Coupled with the openings of Harbor Freight Tools and a Dollar Tree store earlier this year, the vacant spaces are now filled.
“We saw the Mervyn’s building was empty for a long time,” Tulare Council member Carlton Jones said. “It’s nice to see that filled.”
Harbor Freight Tools and the Dollar Tree store moved into the former Mervyn’s building while Ross and dd’s took over Kmart’s former location.
Donnette Silva-Carter, Tulare Chamber of Commerce CEO, said the stores’ openings mean new jobs in Tulare and a boost to the local economy.
“It’s exciting to see activity there,” she said. “We are seeing that parking lot busy.”
The activity means an increase to the city’s sales tax revenue, Silva-Carter said. Already the shopping center features Big Lots, restaurants, a travel agency, shoe and apparel stores, and an insurance company.
Sales tax revenue is how municipalities pay for services such as police, fire, parks, and roads.
Shoppers seem to enjoy visiting the new stores.
On a recent afternoon, Lisa Palomino, a Visalia resident, walked out of Ross with a couple of large plastic bags filled with merchandise. She said likes shopping in Tulare.
“The store is clean. There’s ample parking. The employees were friendly with customers,” she said. “They have good selections in the store.”
Palomino didn’t mind driving to Tulare for her shopping, she said. After dropping off the bags in her car, Palomino walked to dd’s to continue her shopping.
Viridiana Velasquez, a Tulare resident, said she planned on shopping at the two stores. She said it was the stores’ opening that drew her to the shopping center.
And Velasquez household members were planning on additional trips to the Tulare Pavillion shopping center: Her husband was planned to pick up some items at Harbor Freight Tools.
With the opening of Ross and dd’s in Tulare, the clothing stores now have locations in Visalia, Hanford, and Delano.
Velasquez likes having those stores in her hometown, she said.
“We don’t have to go elsewhere to go to those stores,” she said. “We have them here.”
Silva-Carter called on residents to support the recent store openings.
“We ought to stay in our town and shop in our town before shopping elsewhere,” she said. “Stay here first.”
Besides the openings at the Tulare Pavilion, there’s plenty of business activity around Tulare, including the openings of The Habit and Wayback Burgers and the recent opening of a Starbucks in downtown.
Additional businesses are expected to open in Tulare, the result of a recruiting trip to a Southern California conference, Jones also said. Seemingly, business activity comes in waves.
“I hope it’s a wave that lasts a long time,” Silva-Carter said.
At Heartbeat Boxing near Downtown Fresno, there’s no shortage of quick feet, fast punches and passion.
“November was our three-year anniversary, we’re just looking to build out business bigger and stronger,” said Gilbert Ruiz, Heartbeart boxing owner
Owner Gilbert Ruiz is proud of the facility growth at Los Angeles and Van Ness. He’s also had some business help from small business advocates and experts from Access Plus Capital.
“They’ve just been a big coach in starting our business from our business plan to projecting where our business is going to go to secure loans and future loans, because we are growing, we are growing very rapidly.” Ruiz said.
Recently, Access Plus Capital was awarded a Go-Biz grant from the Governor’s office, which gave out $17 million statewide.
Access Plus Capital received more than 100,000. About 70 percent of loans given out are to minority owned businesses.
“It’s going to help us expand our support to businesses, especially on the pre-loan side. We work with businesses at no cost to the businesses to help them with their business plan or marketing or finance. It’s going to allow us to do more support particularly to small businesses in our rural communities,” said Tate Hill, Access Plus Capital senior manager.
Access Plus also received another major national grant from Chase Bank and the Central Valley Community Foundation called Pro Neighborhoods.
The $5 million grant will help support small businesses in a variety of ways, but to support neighborhoods with housing and small business development. About $2.5 million will be lent out and focused in urban areas.
“Impacting low-income neighborhoods and neighborhoods that have been environmentally and economically challenged,” Hill said.
Companies that are interested in the funding and resources can reach out to Access Plus Capital. Officials say programs like this help boost business in the Valley.
The Tulare County Planning Commission has recommended the approval of the Sequoia Gateway Commerce and Business Park near Visalia.
Published On November 16, 2018 – 12:20 PM Written By David Castellon
The Tulare County Planning Commission voted Wednesday to recommend county supervisors approve a large shopping, hotel, office and medical complex off Highway 99 near Visalia.
Plans for the Sequoia Gateway Commerce and Business Park off the southeast exit of Caldwell Avenue and Highway 99, just outside the Visalia city limits, would include in its first phase a 60,000-square-foot Valley Children’s Medical Group Specialty Care Center, along with a gas station and convenience store, fast food and retail outlets built on 12.4 acres.
The second phase would include a hotel, additional retail and fast food spaces, restaurants and office space built on 101 acres.
A visitors center also is planned for the site.
Valley Children’s reportedly plans to relocate its Akers Specialty Care Center in Visalia to the new, larger locale, with projections that about 30,000 patients may be seen there over a decade.
A commission representative is tentatively scheduled to present the group’s recommendation during the Dec. 4 Tulare County Board of Supervisors meeting.
Eastchester haunt Cafe Smitten is expanding to southwest Bakersfield, into a locally focused shopping center developed by Bolthouse Properties. These are renderings of the future cafe at Ming Avenue and Buena Vista Road.
At a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday, the coffeehouse’s owners, Stasie and Shai Bitton, detailed plans to open a Seven Oaks location with extended hours, a more substantial meal menu than its downtown location offers and a wide selection of beer and wine — a “fuller restaurant experience,” as Stasie put it.
“It was a dream” to expand to another location, she said, and the southwest seemed an easy choice.
“We were drawing a lot of customers from the southwest to downtown,” she added. “It just felt like a natural progression.”
The new location, simply named Smitten, is scheduled to open in fall of 2019 on a property immediately north of the existing Grand Island Village shopping center at the northwest corner of Ming Avenue and Buena Vista Road. Grand Island Village, a property Bolthouse began to develop in 2010, currently has tenants that are mostly independently owned and operated.
Seven Oaks does have coffee houses but none of them are independents, noted Bolthouse Properties’ senior vice president of development, Bruce Davis. He said bringing in Smitten will give customers a new option for quality food, good service and a positive customer experience.
“That translates no matter where you go,” he said.
Shai Bitton sees Smitten adjusting well to the distinctions between downtown and Seven Oaks. For one thing, it will be easier moving into a built-to-suit space rather than a 100-year-old building that required significant adaptation, he said. There’s also less need in southwest Bakersfield to generate foot traffic.
“Over here you have the feel of a big-city small coffee shop,” he said. “In the southwest it’s a different feel.”
Angel Hansen and Nicole Miller, both of whom had driven from Tehachapi Tuesday to eat at Cafe Smitten, agreed the business has something special to offer. Hansen praised its calming atmosphere, “decent prices” and nourishing food.
Miller also complimented the menu, with its organic and freshly prepared items, and expressed an appreciation for the many plants and aesthetically pleasing design. She said she hopes the company is able to maintain those qualities as it expands.