Hampton Inn and Suites coming to Porterville in 2021

Hampton Inn and Suites coming to Porterville in 2021

Paul Jariwala, the general manager of Holiday Inn Express on Highway 190 put it best when it comes to the hotel industry.

“There’s kind of room for everyone,” he said.

Even though it will be in direct competition with the Holiday Inn, a Hampton Inn and Suites by Hilton will be constructed at the 2.6-acre lot just to the east and of the Holiday Inn on Highway 190. The hotel will be the third one in that area as it will also join the Best Western Porterville Inn.

The three hotels will continue to provide a need for people who travel Highway 190 to visit such attractions at the Sequoia National Forest.

Porterville Lodging LLC is the owner of both the Holiday Inn and Hampton Inn. Jariwala will serve as the general manager for both hotels.

Jariwala said it’s planned for construction of the Hampton Inn to begin this summer and it’s hoped the hotel will be ready to open by the summer of 2021.

Jariwala said the Hampton Inn will be similar to the Holiday Inn as it will be an upper-midscale hotel. The Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn compete with other upper-midscale hotels such as LaQuinta, Fairfield Inn and Comfort Inn.

But Jariwala said the majority of those hotels’ customers are loyalty members. He said right now 60 to 70 percent of those staying at the Holiday Inn are loyalty members. “The loyalty people makes a big difference,” he said.

Jariwala said the Hampton Inn will have amenities similar to the Holiday Inn, including a pool, spa, gym and wireless internet.

The Hampton Inn will be two adjacent towers — one four stories and one three stories — Jariwala said. The entrance will be on the backside of the hotel away from Highway 190. The buildings will be L shaped.

The hotel will have 87 rooms. The Holiday Inn has 69 rooms of which 24 are suites. Jariwala said 20 percent of the rooms in the Hampton Inn will be suites, so more than 20 of the rooms will be suites. The suites will include a living room area along with a bedroom and will also have  a kitchen.

And just as the Holiday Inn does, the Hampton Inn will serve breakfast. There’s also the potential for a restaurant to be placed in the Hampton Inn.

Jariwala said there have been a couple of entities who have shown interest in having a restaurant at the Hampton Inn and a pad for a restaurant will be constructed at the hotel. “We have done our homework on the franchise side,” Jariwala said.

The Holiday Inn also just went through a complete overhaul in which virtually the entire hotel was renovated. Jariwala said the cost of the project was $1.2 million to $1.5 million.

All of the rooms were redone and new beds and furnishing were placed in all the rooms. In addition, the 32-inch televisions in the rooms were replaced with 49-inch televisions.

The hotel now has 100 percent LED lighting as “there isn’t a regular light bulb” in the hotel anymore, Jariwala said.

He added the Hampton Inn will also be 100 percent LED lighting. “It’s going to be all energy efficient and all that,” Jariwala said.


Valley fans crave cookies, company expands

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) — Massive chocolate chip and churro cookies are baking all afternoon long at Crave Cookie’s new kitchen.

“With the demand, we were able to keep hiring drivers, keep adding more zip codes. We moved to a bigger, more centralized kitchen in a better area for delivery zones, and we’re able to keep going.,” said co-owner Shandi Scrivner.

Crave gave Action News a sneak peek inside their recent expansion as they try to keep up with customer demand.

The company receives orders online and delivers them fresh to your door.

Just last month, they partnered with coffee shop Kuppa Joy to sell their sweet treats.

“Right now we’re delivering them everyday fresh at 3 pm. The cookies are hot fresh until they sell out,” Scrivner said. “They usually last an hour or two. We’re working with them to get more cookies more available and more often.”

Crave is one of the few companies in the Valley operating a food business without a storefront or food truck.

It’s a concept known as a ghost kitchen, which are mainly popular in larger cities.

“With minimum wage going up, cost of product, cost of restaurant , we’re able to keep the overhead low and keep our business flourishing,” Scrivner said.

Scrivner says she and her husband are trying to be smart about their growth and expansions.

In 2019, they started their delivery business from Clovis with a homemade cookie recipe.

“There’s really no secret, just really good cookies delivered hot and convenient,” Scrivner said.

It’s one that people have been craving more.

There are two permanent flavors and the owners say more seasonal flavors will be available around the holidays.

The owners of Crave Cookie have even more plans for the future. They’re looking Into adding a second kitchen space to serve more customers living in Fresno and beyond.

Hundreds attend groundbreaking ceremony for new Fresno State student union, including couple who donated $10 million

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) — Hundreds of people gathered at Fresno State on Thursday to celebrate the groundbreaking of a large new facility designed to serve students.

This ceremony marked a monumental moment for the university as it builds a new 84,000 square foot student union.

Student Body President Omar Hernandez says, “The current union was built for a campus population of 10,000 students. Fresno State’s current population is one of 25,000 bold students.”

The new facility is named after Lynda and Stewart Resnick. They are the founders of The Wonderful Company, which is known for many popular products, including Pom Wonderful juice and pistachios.

The couple donated $10 million toward the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the new building.

The company has also provided scholarships for more than 200 students currently attending the university.

Lynda Resnick says, “We’ve been actively involved in philanthropy for many years, and we’ve been proud to support the causes that are dear to us, but none of our efforts have been more meaningful than our work in the Central Valley. ”

During the ceremony, Fresno State President Dr. Joseph Castro announced that Bank of America is donating $250,000 and will have its name on a new welcome center inside the student union. Several other donors have also made significant contributions.

Dr. Castro says, “Thanks to the kindness of the many people who are here today, you are ensuring Fresno State recruits, educates, and graduates talented students to stay, work, and lead right here in the Central Valley.”

Students will also help pay for the $60 million project. They voted to approve a fee of $149 per semester back in March of 2018.

Student and Chair of the University Student Union Board, Lauryn Flores, says, “They voted yes by 67%, and that is how this project came to be, by students, for students, from the very beginning.”

Plans for the facility include space for student clubs, meeting rooms, dining options, and an outdoor rooftop lounge. People attending the ceremony were able to take a virtual reality tour of the building, which is scheduled to open in the fall of next year.

The old union will be used for programs and services that complement the new facility.


Built on 3,800 acres scattered near the town of Ducor, the Rexford Solar Farm will be rated at 700 megawatts in addition to 700 megawatts of energy storage.

Published On February 17, 2020 – 1:49 PM
Written By John Lindt

The nation’s largest solar farm is in the works south of Porterville. The big facility is planned on farmland with a water deficit, perhaps a glimpse of the future for some marginal ag land here.

Tulare County released a Notice of Preparation (NOP) Feb. 14 announcing the big renewable energy project.

Built on 3,800 acres scattered near the town of Ducor, the Rexford Solar Farm will be rated at 700 megawatts in addition to 700 megawatts of energy storage. The solar arrays would eclipse the state’s biggest solar farm in San Luis Obispo — the 550-megawatt Topaz facility built in 2011.

The solar farm is being proposed by a partnership that includes privately held 8minute Energy of Los Angeles, which owns several large utility-scale solar farms in the West, including four in Kern County. The company has a portfolio of more than 14,000 megawatts, including the 260-megawatt Mount Signal Solar Farm in Imperial County. Tom Buttgenbach and Martin Hermann founded it in 2009.

Last year the company signed a 25-year agreement to provide electricity to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Rexford Solar Farm’s electricity would be transmitted to the Southern California Edison (SCE) Vestal Substation via an up to 230 kilovolt (kV) overhead and/or underground gen-tie line. The proposed transmission and/or collector lines would extend along existing roadway rights-of-way from various portions of the project site (where substations are located), ultimately connecting to the Southern California Edison Vestal Substation. The transmission and/or collector lines would be located along portions of Road 232, Avenue 56, Avenue 64, Road 224, Road 240, Avenue 32, Richgrove Drive, and Highway 65, or could possibly utilize additional nearby routings. The total length of the transmission and/or collector lines would be approximately 13 miles in length.

A scoping meeting is scheduled for March 5 at 1:30 P.M. in the main conference room of the Tulare County Resource Management Agency at 5961 S. Mooney Blvd. in Visalia.

The historic Vestal substation near the project site connects the Big Creek hydro project in the Sierra above Fresno through the San Joaquin Valley to Los Angeles.

A full environmental impact review for the Rexford project is expected. The county notice says the project is located in a generally rural area surrounded by existing agricultural uses including dry-land grain, irrigated crops, grazing lands and scattered residential buildings. The placement of solar panels and associated structures would alter the existing character of the site and vicinity, says the report.

Southern Tulare County already has a water deficit problem and may be further affected by the state groundwater program. The area is expected to see idled land and issues with land subsidence.

The majority of the project site is bisected by Highway 65. Residents and travelers on adjacent roads would observe alterations to the existing landscape. The entire project site is designated as Farmland of Local Importance by the California Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program. The majority of the project site is under Williamson Act contracts. The EIR will provide an assessment of potential project related impacts to agricultural resources.

Tulare County has another nearby solar project pending. Tulare Solar Center is rated at 80 megawatts proposed on 1,144 acres. The site is on currently undeveloped farmland situated in south central Tulare County. Approximately 572 acres (or approximately 50%) of the proposed Project site is located east of Highway 65 and south of Avenue 24, with the remainder located west of the 65 and north of Avenue 12.

Another solar project in the area got a hearing last year. The 70-megawatt Deer Creek Solar project would be located on the north side of Avenue 96 (Terra Bella Avenue), bounded on the west by Road 224 and on the east by Road 232, approximately 0.5 miles west of Terra Bella.


Fresno County is rated No. 1 in the nation in agricultural production


It’s begun. That shaking is the sight and sound of almond harvest in the Sacramento Valley. Almonds are one of the state’s biggest crops. This video is from Jim Morris at a Yolo County farm. 

The agricultural championship has returned to Fresno County.

For the first time since 2013, Fresno County leads the nation in agricultural production.

Producing nearly $7.9 billion worth of agriculture in 2018, Fresno County edged out Kern County ($7.47 billion) for the coveted crown.

“According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, ‘Over a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts are grown in California.’ ” Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO Ryan Jacobsen said in a statement. “Fresno County lies in the heart of this production and proudly serves as the food capital of the nation.”

Tulare County rated third at $7.21 billion in agricultural production.

Farmers and ranchers in Fresno County produced a record value of $7.88 billion in crops and commodities last year, up from $7.02 billion in 2017.

Almond production led the charge, producing a value of $1.18 billion.

Grapes were Fresno County’s second most valuable commodity at $1.11 billion, followed by pistachios ($862 million), poultry ($596 million) and garlic ($435 million).

Melissa Cregan, the Fresno County agricultural commission, said the county’s strength stems from the diversity in crop production. The county had more than 300 different crops in 2018, of which 76 grossed at least $1 million.

“Although individual commodities may experience difficulties from year-to-year,” Cregan wrote in her letter to the Fresno County Board of Supervisors, “Fresno County continues to supply the highest quality of food and fiber nationwide and abroad to more than 95 countries around the world.”

Next-generation wireless revolution takes root in Bakersfield

The next revolution in mobile technology has arrived in Bakersfield — but it’s probably not time to celebrate just yet.

Earlier this month, AT&T announced its local launch of the highly anticipated wireless coverage known as 5G, joining T-Mobile, which introduced a similar service in early December. (Sprint and Verizon have not yet made the service available in Bakersfield.)

The launches mean people with the right kind of cellphone and the right mobile service plan should be able to receive data faster — perhaps 20 percent faster than they did under the previous best technology, known as 4G LTE.

But that’s still a far cry from the giant technological leap 5G is expected to offer users within the next few years, when download speeds are supposed to be 100 times faster than most of today’s cellphones.

“It’ll still be a while before it actually rolls out to the public like 5G is intended to,” said Steven Saldana, technician and sales manager at JJ Wireless at 2200 Panama Lane. “I think it’s still way too early to be talking about 5G.”

As wireless technology specialists see it, both local 5G service launches represent a modest first step that will be followed by many incremental improvements. Even the earliest of adopters might not see major improvement for two to three years.

They say that ultimately, a movie that now takes 10 minutes to download on a phone will be ready in seconds. Video calls will be of the highest visual quality with no delays. Texting and most file transfers will be essentially instantaneous.

But that’s just the start. People in the business say 5G will change entire industries, including farming. It will pave the way for self-driving vehicles, give students immersive educational experiences and allow surgeons to perform procedures on patients in other states.

The same technology is also expected to extend cellphones’ battery life.

There are significant limitations, however, and they won’t be resolved soon.

5G-ready cellphones are expected to cost hundreds of dollars more than most phones do now. Wireless service carriers still have major investments to make in infrastructure across the country.

The very best service, utilizing a part of the electromagnetic spectrum cellphones today don’t use, will work only in very close proximity to cellular antennas. And even then, incoming data signals won’t be able to pass through walls, meaning there will have to be antennas almost everywhere.

All of this puts a premium on investment by wireless carriers, because the first to offer the speediest service with the largest capacity for moving data will win customers.

In that regard, last week’s news that a judge has approved T-Mobile’s $26.5 billion acquisition of rival Sprint could be significant. The merger is expected to combine the two companies’ budgets for investing in 5G infrastructure.

AT&T, for its part, said the “5G Evolution” coverage it launched Feb. 3 in Bakersfield works as much as two times faster than standard 4G LTE. It expects to deliver upgraded 5G service nationwide later this year, followed by super-fast but limited-reach “5G+” in coming years.

Eventually, cellphones are expected to use all the different 5G variations, with speeds and data-handling capacity fluctuating according to the kind of signal available locally.

In the meantime, the name 5G will be used to impress consumers without offering the tremendous benefits that lie ahead, asserted J. Sharpe Smith, a wireless industry journalist based in Des Moines, Iowa.

“They’re all saying that they have 5G, but really, the impact of it so far is very early adopter stage,” said.

As its name suggests, 5G is the fifth generation of cellular communications technology. Like previous generations, its rollout will not immediately make earlier technology — 3G and 4G — moot, and in fact, those two wireless standards will continue to operate in cities where 5G capability exists.

There’s an expectation that 5G will spark new cellphone apps, even launch whole new companies and new ways of doing business.

One example with local relevance is aerial imagery for growers of specialty crops like almonds and table grapes.

Oakland-based Ceres Imaging expects to use 5G technology to give its customers mobile coverage in fields where they can’t get it now — at the highest resolution imaginable.

“While our technology pinpoints issues at a plant level, our customers often struggle with reception while walking fields,” Marketing Vice President John Bourne said by email.

Regarding consumer use, 5G enthusiasts talk about the technology offering a new user experience.

Anand Gandhi, a 25-year telecomm veteran working as chief technology officer at New Jersey-based wireless innovation company Squan, described 5G in terms of running out of milk.

In a 5G world, he said by email, your refrigerator will make sure you receive an alert that you’re out of milk just as you’re leaving work. Your vehicle will take you to a grocery store, which will have received the milk order ahead of time.

“This will all be handled without any action on your part,” Gandhi said.

He estimated that about 10 percent of U.S. cellphones will be upgraded to 5G by the end of this year. By 2023, he said, about 55 percent are expected to be 5G-ready.

Atlanta-based wireless telecomm analyst Jeff Kagan said it’s not going to be particularly important which wireless carrier a consumer chooses because all of them will eventually offer the service. If you like your service provider, he said, “stick with it.”

He also said the changes ahead will be breathtaking.

Community Gets Preview of New $25M Oakhurst College Center

Architect Paul Halajian (l) and Oakhurst College’s Darin Soukup display a scale model of the new main building on the $25 million campus (photo by Leonard Andrenacci)

OAKHURST —  The community got a preview of the new $25 million Oakhurst Community College Center at a public forum this week in Oakhurst.

Darin Soukup, Oakhurst Community College Center director, and project architect Paul Halajian were both on hand at the meeting to provide updates and answer questions from community members about progress on the project.

Halajian also brought a scale model of the proposed 21,450-square-foot building to show around at the meeting. “This is what it’s going to look like, he said. “But it’s still a bit of a work in progress.”

The current design features seven classrooms —  one for biology/chemistry lab plus a “prep” room, one art studio/classroom, one computer lab classroom and four general education classrooms that will also allow for 2-way simultaneous broadcast of courses from other locations in the District.

“This will allow us to utilize hybrid and distance learning so students do not have to travel to other locations as often to complete degrees,” Soukup said.

While the groundbreaking remains more than a year out, the new campus will be built in about a year or 18 months.

“Construction could begin as early as late 2021 but depends on a number of factors,” Soukup added. “Construction may finish late 2022 or early 2023.”

“The District’s commitment to elevating the quality of higher education in the Oakhurst community is exciting and the site chosen for the new absolutely campus is spectacular,” Halajian said. “As architects, we are excited to be a part of creating a new campus from the ground up that will inspire students in the mountain communities of Madera County for this and future generations.”

Tuesday’s forum took place from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Oakhurst Community Center.

About 30 or 40 people attended, including current professors and other employees from Oakhurst Community College.

The new Oakhurst College Center campus was approved by SCCCD trustees after voters OK’d Bond Measure C in 2016.

The facility, to be built on a 30-acre parcel overlooking a large pond, will replace the current Oakhurst Community College Center adjacent to the Oakhurst Library.

A Brave New World: Latest in agriculture at Expo in Tulare

TULARE — Traditionally the Farmer’s Almanac predicts rainy weather during early to middle February said Lt. Boatman from the Tulare Police Department, who was helping on the first day of the 2020 World Ag Expo on Tuesday, at the International Agri-Center in Tulare.

But it was a clear, bright, and beautifully sunny day, and at least 30,000 people or more were expected to attend the show. And over the three days, Tuesday, today and Thursday, Feb. 13, there could be anywhere from 90,000 to more than  100,000 people attending from all over the world.

When the gates opened and hundreds of people were lined up to enter, at about 9:30 the Star Spangled Banner was sung, and people respectfully sang with their hands over their hearts.

Boatman said the Porterville Police Department, and the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department were also helping the Tulare Police Department, as well as the Explorers from all over Tulare County.

On the trams that run throughout the Ag Expo, people were getting rides to wherever they needed to go, and all of the Expo volunteers were incredibly helpful and accommodating.

There are more than 266 acres of fascinating new agricultural equipment, such as huge feed mixers, farm trucks, with huge pavilions full of exhibitors throughout the show.

Looking at giant mixers for cattle feed, they look like huge blenders that mix alfalfa, grain, corn silage, minerals and vitamins, or whatever the nutritional needs to keep cows healthy, explained a rancher.

Hopping on one of the trams, Bill Horst, who’s been to all of the ag shows since they started in 1968, or 51 years ago, said there’s lots to see, lots to do, and the food was great. He recommended the Peach Cobbler.

There was a large pavilion where hemp products were being displayed, and an informational talk was being given, explaining oilseed, fiber, and extract type comes from hemp, and hemp fiber has been made to make clothing for years.

For medical use there’s “cannabis” which is used by adults.

A vendor for special bags to keep hemp fresh said there’s a big wave of growers who are getting back into growing hemp because of the huge variety of uses, besides CBD oil, which can be used medicinally.

Besides exhibits of merchandise, and vendors at the show there are also all kinds of seminars at the expo such as a discussion about “Rural Broadband and it’s importance to Agriculture,” to presentations about international trade, and modern professionally installed irrigation, and much more.

Southern California Edison had an exhibit where they had an electric heavy duty farm truck, an electric forklift, and an electric Nissan car. Brian Thoburn said Edison’s theme was to showcase its vision to put a million medium to heavy duty electric vehicles on the road in California, to help the state meet its energy goals for clean energy. He said another important thing was Edison’s efforts to represent its $356 million investment to help their customers to make greater use of electric transportation, including agricultural, business, and residential customers.

Thoburn also said there was a safety demonstration, and Edison Electric Safety Board would give a presentation and explain safety issues of electricity outside the house, around electrical poles.

Later, sitting down having lunch, Ismael Aguirre, from Jordan Central Equipment, in Blythe, Calif., which is near Arizona, said he was at the show to see all the new tractors and farm equipment. “There are people here from everywhere, and it’s wonderful to see all the new equipment that comes out, and meet the people who build them. I love the technical side of the equipment.

Walking down one of the streets, Amanda Yan, from Hergesheimer’s Donuts in Porterville said the Porterville Exchange Club and students had a booth.

Thirteen students from Monache Hospitality Pathways helped out, in two shifts, with the Porterville Exchange Club Concession Stand selling hamburgers, fries, drinks, and specialty deep fried oreos, and more during the day.

Aira Baez, Carla Montejano, Michelle Garcia, Annie Otero, Madison Morris, and Kristina Williamson all said they learned how to prepare food efficiently, quickly, and under pressure, but they had fun and the food was “yummy.”

Johnny Orduno, Yolanda Bocanegra, Betty Luna, and Pete Lara, and others were all helping to run the stand, and Bocanegra, said it was her third time at the expo, and she’s a member of the Exchange Club. ”I love doing this and being a part of the group. They are wonderful people who serve the community of Porterville. And I love working with the students from all our Porterville schools.”

“The reason the Exchange Club does the food concession stand,” said Luna, Club President, “is to fundraise for child abuse prevention, support our veterans, and give scholarships to Harmony Magnet Academy and Strathmore High School.

Luna said to the students as they left, “You’ve done a fabulous job.”


Tulare, CA • February 17, 2020 – Sunny skies, large crowds and optimistic attendees defined the 53rd edition of World Ag Expo®. The world’s largest annual outdoor agricultural exposition came to a close on Thursday, February 13 and boasted 1,442 exhibitors on 2.6 million square feet of exhibit space. The three-day show hosted 106,357 attendees representing 46 states, the District of Columbia and 56 countries.

Exhibitors reported high traffic, quality leads and a well-organized event. First year exhibitor Agland Management Consulting, Inc. was in the Hemp Education & Marketing Pavilion and their team was pleased with their first trip to World Ag Expo®.

“It was great. We’re excited hemp was part of the show. We got multiple good leads and will be working with new counties on regulations,” shared Josiah Thomas of Agland. “The second day was the best and the show was better than we could have imagined.”

Attendees came from all over the world to network and learn about the newest ag equipment, services and technology. More than 130 educational seminars, demonstrations and workshops were held over three days and covered a variety of topics ranging from irrigation to hemp, livestock to international trade.

“What a fantastic show!” said Jerry Sinift CEO of the International Agri-Center®. “There were 124 international business matchmaking sessions, hemp was included as a new option for farmers, new products were launched – there are just so many good things to say. Our exhibitors step up their game every year and it creates an even better business platform for our attendees.”

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall kicked off opening day with a well-received speech and took a tour of his first World Ag Expo® that focused on technology, the international flavor of the show, hemp and dairy.

Other popular attractions at the 2020 World Ag Expo® included the Ride & Drive areas, Wine and Cheese, and the Demonstration Pavilion.

The 2021 World Ag Expo® will be held February 9-11. Space renewals are now being accepted from 2020 exhibitors. Potential exhibitors can begin requesting space on March 1, 2020 at www.worldagexpo.org.


Merced College offers fast track certificate for careers in nutrition

A local valley school is offering students a fast track to start their career in nutrition.

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) — A local valley school is offering students a fast track to start their careers in nutrition.

Digging into a career in nutrition isn’t always easy, but Merced College is serving up a solution for its students. In Fall 2020, the foods and nutrition program will offer several certificates as a fast track option.

“It allows students to have the time to get right through it and working and going,” said former student Evan Fimbrez.

In just two semesters, students can earn a ServSafe Manager Certificate – the first step to a wide variety of jobs in the nutrition field.

“They can be dietary managers in long term care, in skilled nursing, hospitals, school foodservice, prisons, lots of job opportunities,” said Food and Nutrition professor Michelle Pecchenino.

Evan Fimbrez took advantage of the courses during his time at Merced College and is now a director of food and nutrition services at a local nursing and rehab facility.

“I was already interested in the field, and it was a great jump start, foot in the door to getting those field experiences, getting those contacts, and working out my career,” Fimbrez said.

He says one of the best experiences as a student was the 150 hours he spent working in the field.

“I was going out into the community, and being able to work in actual kitchens and get hands on experience was awesome,” he said.

The curriculum will offer courses in food safety, food service management, basic cooking, and foodservice production. If you’re interested in learning more about the program visit their website.