Local growers debut carrot hot dogs

From the land of tri-tip sandwich fundraisers and 24-hour biscuits-and-gravy sales now comes this: hot dogs made from whole carrots. Don’t act surprised. Despite its red-meat reputation Bakersfield is home to the country’s two largest carrot growers, the invention of the popular ‘baby carrot’ snack and a carrot-focused innovation lab employing 15 food scientists on East Brundage Lane.

https://www.newsbreak.com/california/bakersfield/news/2081730626935/local-growers-debut-carrot-hot-dogs-pasta-chips

 

How One Central Valley City is Supporting Entrepreneurs

One of the first cities in U.S. history to pilot a universal basic income, or UBI, program, Stockton, California is not a city afraid of a little experimentation. That kind of creative thinking isn’t limited to the city’s social programs, either. Recognizing that entrepreneurship is — and will be — at the heart of the economy of today and tomorrow, the city offers a range of innovative economic development programs that have already attracted entrepreneurs from across the region and around the country to establish their businesses in Stockton. As young businesses and startups — particularly in their infancy — require a lot of support, that’s where public sector policies and programs make a real difference. These programs assist these emerging companies while entrepreneurs refine their ideas and business plans, seek investment, and scale their operations.

Here’s how the city of Stockton has created a strong support network for entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurship grants The city of Stockton created its Entrepreneurship Grant program, funded by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant program, which aims to promote economic opportunity for low and moderate-income individuals. The Entrepreneurship Grant program offers funding to Stockton-based business service providers and entrepreneurs, startups and established businesses in the city. 2020 was the first year that the grant, which offers up to $200,000 in total funding, was extended to Stockton entrepreneurs directly. In prior years, the grant was only available to business service organizations that provided services and assistance to Stockton-based small businesses or entrepreneurs. The extension has been well-received by the Stockton business community, and work is already underway by the city to bring the program back again next year. Information on how to apply for a 2021 grant will be announced soon.

Non-traditional spaces One of the most enduring concepts to arise out of major entrepreneurship ecosystems is the co-working office space. These innovative shared offices combine the infrastructure and service level of commercial office rentals, the economy of a flexible, scalable workspace, and the comfort and community of a neighborhood coffee shop. Co-working spaces help foster a culture of entrepreneurship in a city, and have even led to innovative synergies with other startups under the same roof. Entrepreneurs who make the move to Stockton will feel at home in one of the city’s familiar, though distinctive, co-working spaces. Via Ventures offers the comfort coworking veterans are accustomed to in a design-centric setting, while Huddle x Launch Pad serves as the Stockton annex for Launch Pad’s national network of quality neighborhood office spaces. Located just a couple blocks from each other, the spaces have been a welcomed addition to Downtown Stockton, a vibrant district located along the San Joaquin River filled with attractions such as cafes, shops, galleries, restaurants, bars, theaters, and a minor league ballpark, home to the Stockton Ports, the Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Oakland Athletics.

Guidance and mentorship The most diverse city in the country according to a U.S. News and World Report analysis, Stockton is creating an entrepreneurship ecosystem that reflects diversity and leverages the strengths of the city’s community. Historically underserved entrepreneurs often lack the access and know-how to navigate entrepreneurial spaces and ecosystems. Strategic interventions can help reduce that gap. Supported in part by the city of Stockton, the Launch Pad Foundation (the nonprofit arm of the Launch Pad co-working network) has developed an innovative scholarship program aimed to reduce gaps in opportunity and access to entrepreneurial spaces. The foundation provides free full memberships for co-working spaces to qualified entrepreneurs, who are selected together with strategic partners in the city. The program also provides access to curricula and programming designed to help entrepreneurs and their businesses achieve success.

Stockton also offers a number of mentorship and training programs available to minority entrepreneurs, such as Centro Community Partners’ Basic Entrepreneurship Program, which offers business planning instruction in both English and Spanish to local entrepreneurs. Other minority-geared programs include the African American Chamber of Commerce’s BRIDGES Entrepreneur program, which holds workshops and webinars geared towards African American business owners and entrepreneurs, and the Main Street Entrepreneur-In-Residence program, which includes a 10-week business training boot camp, office space, financial capital, a monthly stipend and more to eligible Stockton-based African-American business owners accepted into the program. All three programs are either currently funded or have previously been funded in part by Stockton Entrepreneurship Grants. Also noteworthy is local nonprofit Stockton Community Kitchen, which works to help under-resourced food entrepreneurs succeed by offering mentorship and education in the skills necessary to succeed in the food industry. Utilizing its fully-staffed commercial kitchen and classroom spaces, the Community Kitchen provides low-income entrepreneurs with innovative food concepts a program rich in technical and emotional support. Accepting applications on a rolling schedule, Stockton Community Kitchen programs are offered three times per year.

Artists and makers welcome Artists and makers feeling shut out by the prohibitive cost of living and lack of resources for emerging creatives in many major cities will find Stockton’s low cost of living and high quality of life a welcome change. For young creatives looking to develop their technique and sensibility, resources such as Hatch Workshop Center for Emerging Makers are available. The 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization offers low-cost memberships to the workshop’s ceramic, wood and metal-working, and fabrication tools and machinery as well as expert training and education from makers and artists. Creatives will also benefit from a strong local demand for their work fostered by marketplaces like Stockmarket, which (due to Covid-19) currently functions as an all-online virtual artists and makers fair until open air markets are once again deemed safe.

https://www.bizjournals.com/sacramento/news/2020/10/13/how-one-central-valley-city-is-supporting-entrepre.html

Caribbean import is Valley’s top exporter

VISALIA – Crops from Tulare County go to three quarters of the world’s countries making Tulare County one of the top agricultural exporting counties in the nation. The companies connecting produce sellers and buyers are often large, international companies with hundreds or thousands of employees. But some of the exporters, like many of the farmers they partner with, remain small, grass roots businesses located just down around the corner.

It was just 15 years ago when Didier Vivies, an immigrant from the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, founded his company Central Valley Ag Exports, Inc. in Visalia. He began by going door-to-door to establish relationships with farmers who would supply him with high quality commodities at a good price and with customers whom were willing to give him a chance and start buying from him. From these humble beginnings, today CVAE employs 10 people and has earned the “2020 Exporter of the Year” Small Business Award from the Central California Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network SBA. They were nominated for the National Small Business Award by the Valley Community Small Business Development Center (VCSBDC) which serves Tulare, Fresno, Kings and Madera Counties, and is hosted by Clovis Community College.

“We were honored to have CVAE win this award,” VCSBDC director Rich Mostert explained. “Our team of expert consultants provides a full range of no-cost services and workshops to companies across a diverse array of industries, and it is always so rewarding to help a company grow and succeed.”

Due to the pandemic the traditional May SBA Small Business Week event was unable to occur, and the company has been recognized in a private ceremony. “This yearly event recognizes the critical impact small businesses have on our local economies and celebrates the outstanding accomplishments made by each of our award recipients,” Central CA SBDC regional director Kurt Clark said. “Their achievements exemplify the entrepreneurial spirit that is a hallmark of the U.S.”

Vivies established the business in the most fertile agricultural area of the San Joaquin Valley and features a large variety of legumes such as beans, peas, lentils, rice and oatmeal. Serving both domestic and international companies, they offer a variety of options, from bulk deliveries direct from farmer to customer, to packaging for international and domestic locations, to private label packaging.

CVAE credits the consulting assistance they received from the Valley Community SBDC as pivotal to their growth and success, and have worked with the VCSBDC for several years. “VCSBDC’s consultant Olga Martinez has been of great help by assisting us with our growth objectives by introductions to prospective strategy partners through business-to-business match-making, recommending we participate in different conferences and trade shows, plus other strategy advisory services,” CVAE operations manager Ludivine Vivies said.

Since 2003, the Central CA SBDC has assisted thousands of companies, from start-ups to established firms with no-cost consulting services, workshops and assistance in sourcing funds. This has helped to create and retain over 10,000 jobs, as well as creating more than $435 million in loans and equity. The Central CA SBDC and its five dedicated satellite Centers serve 14 counties in Central California: San Luis Obispo, San Benito, Monterey, Stanislaus, Merced, Tuolumne, Mariposa, Fresno, Kings, Madera, Tulare, Kern, Mono and Inyo counties.

https://thesungazette.com/article/business/2020/10/07/caribbean-import-is-valleys-top-exporter/

California’s Central Valley: A hidden gem?

BY DENISE DECHAINE

In today’s low interest rate environment, investors are working overtime in their search for yield. In the real estate arena, property investors are searching beyond gateway and primary markets — where stiff competition has compressed cap rates to record lows for some property types — and exploring opportunities off the beaten track in overlooked secondary and tertiary markets.

One such opportunity is California’s Central Valley, where investors can tap into the region’s growth story and still find markets and properties that offer significantly higher risk-adjusted returns, according to a report by Institutional Real Estate, Inc. titled California’s Central Valley: Land of affordability, growth and opportunity.

The Central Valley is California’s fastest-growing and most-affordable region. The area’s economy is fueled by three large, recession-resistant economic sectors: government (including the nation’s second-largest government center, Sacramento), healthcare and agriculture. Based on projected future economic and population growth — as well as higher cap rates — the Central Valley is a classic example of a secondary market that is in the early stages of transitioning away from local and regional ownership to a larger base of institutional owners.

These investors are discovering the untapped potential for investment in California’s Central Valley key cities of Sacramento, Bakersfield, Fresno, Stockton and Modesto.

https://irei.com/news/californias-central-valley-hidden-gem/

Retail construction continues locally despite pandemic

Judging only by construction of new retail buildings around Bakersfield, it would be easy to conclude the pandemic has hardly disrupted the local economy. That’s not the case, of course, with unemployment hovering at about 13 percent in August. But in recent months whole new shopping centers have sprung up at the intersections of Stockdale Highway and Buena Vista Road, and at Panama Lane and Ashe Road.

Meanwhile, construction of additional retail projects has begun at Snow Road and Calloway Drive. Also, work is scheduled to begin soon on a similar project at Panama Lane and Gosford Road. There’s no question these projects predate COVID-19’s arrival and originated under better economic circumstances. In that sense, observers say, they are left over from a time when investor confidence was stronger than it is now. But it’s also a good sign — and a benefit to local employment — that these developments are proceeding despite the economic slowdown and generally challenging times for the retail industry.

Bakersfield commercial real estate broker Scott Underhill said March and April were tough but that since then business has picked up. Rents have come down, he noted, as tenants and landlords have worked together out of shared necessity. “We’ve adjusted and moved forward,” he said.

The pain in local retail has not been distributed evenly. Broker Vince Roche said some stores are suffering, as are family entertainment centers. But drive-thrus, grocery stores and home-improvement retailers, he said, are doing quite well. Roche said he takes hope in a recent surge in demand from people moving to Bakersfield from other areas where homes are more expensive. Eventually that should lead to more homes and, after that, additional stores to serve new neighborhoods. He cautioned that COVID-19 has clouded an already uncertain future for retail. Society remains “in the storm,” he said, and it’s hard to tell where the economy will end up after the pandemic subsides. Developers may have reason to pause, he said, but not necessarily good cause to halt. “It (the virus) has created just another layer of risk that has to be assessed and really evaluated on a project-by-project basis,” he said.

One byproduct is that construction labor is now hard to come by, said Joe Jannino, an estimator at general contractor SC Anderson Inc. “There’s plenty of work going on right now,” he said, adding that SC Anderson has kept busy lately largely because of school construction and other publicly funded building projects.

The project that began recently at Snow and Calloway will feature an Arco filling station with a convenience store and carwash, Underhill said. There will also be a fast-foot restaurant and a 20,000-square-foot store whose tenant has not been identified.

At Stockdale and Buena Vista, he said, a Panda Express will open this week. Other tenants there will include a Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, a Little Caesars Pizza, a Del Taco and a nail salon, along with other tenants still negotiating leases. The shopping center being completed at Panama and Ashe will have a Planet Fitness gym, a 7-Eleven, a Habit Burger Grill, a Raising Cane’s, a Mexican-style restaurant and other tenants, Underhill said. He said at Panama and Gosford there will be an Arco, two fast-food restaurants and a 20,000-square-foot store.

https://www.bakersfield.com/news/retail-construction-continues-locally-despite-pandemic/article_749a316e-ff83-11ea-ba2f-b700fc93ff6d.html

The COVID-19 pandemic could be a ‘tipping point’ for the Central Valley’s growth, innovation

Despite the challenges the Central Valley has faced in the past few months, the coronavirus pandemic could prove a “tipping point” for the region in terms of innovation and growth, according to speakers at the annual State of the Valley event.

“In this pandemic crisis, I see a real opportunity for the North (San Joaquin) Valley,” said Mark Keppler, the executive director of the Maddy Institute, a local public policy organization. “If there’s some strategic thinking that’s going on … and then those plans are put into action, I think the next 25-50 years could be the time that the North Valley really emerges as a region.”

The event, co-presented by the Modesto Chamber of Commerce and Opportunity Stanislaus, was held Monday as a live webinar and featured presentations from Keppler and Dave White, the CEO of Opportunity Stanislaus. Trish Christensen, the chamber of commerce’s president and CEO, moderated the event.

Both Keppler and White expressed optimism at Stanislaus County’s ability to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, which sent unemployment skyrocketing in March and April and left many without jobs. Coupled with large-scale shutdowns of many parts of the economy — from shelter-in-place orders in the spring to current restrictions on indoor dining and other activities — brought whole sectors of the economy to a standstill.

But six months in, the Central Valley is beginning to see signs of recovery, both Keppler and White said. Recent unemployment data for Stanislaus County clocked in at 10.9%, down from 13.6% in July and a high of 17% in April. Jobless numbers in the county are currently lower than state-level unemployment, which was 11.4% in August, down from 13.5% in July.

“We’ve done better than most of California,” White said. “The main reason for that is we don’t rely on tourism and transportation as much as other places in California.”

The Central Valley’s key industries are manufacturing, agriculture and other essential industries, which have remained open throughout the pandemic. Additionally, seasonal labor — from farm work to Census enumerators — has caused a spike in employment across the Valley, resulting in lower unemployment figures.

SMALL BUSINESSES STRUGGLE DESPITE SUPPORT

White spoke to the Valley’s relative success in terms of coronavirus recovery, aided in part by local business support programs, including grants and loans like the Paycheck Protection Program, which gave small business access to billions in federal money.

Now, with the PPP program complete, and businesses adapting to the “new normal” under COVID-19, White stressed the importance of following the statewide safety guidelines and tiered system that will eventually allow for more reopening across the county.

Still, White said, people should not expect a V-shaped recovery from the pandemic, due to a decreased participation in the economy and shutdowns still in place across many industries. People are still wary of returning to work, as well as shopping and dining, he said.

“They’re scared, and they’re not confident,” White said. “In order to establish that confidence, we have to see a decrease in the impact of the virus on our community…. The longer this goes, the more we’re going to see business failure.”

CHANGING SKILLS FOR A NEW ECONOMY

The pandemic has changed the ways many Americans live their daily lives, from telecommuting to relying on online retailers for much of their shopping. Keppler said he is predicting ensuing changes in the Valley as well, including an increased emphasis on logistics, coming from large retailers and delivery service companies like Amazon, UPS and FedEx.

White said he also expects “on-shoring” of manufacturing, moving plants from overseas back to the United States, and creating more job opportunities in those sectors, as well as expansion plans from more traditional corporations.

Amazon recently announced 2,600 new jobs in the Central Valley, as part of a nationwide hiring spree of 100,000 workers, ranging from warehouse staff to finance and HR positions in the individual buildings.

Manufacturing jobs coming to the Central Valley will require workers with skills like PLC coding, automation and robotics, White said, raising the requirements for applicants. He said he expects similar changes in fields like agricultural technology and logistics.

“We need to invest in coding and all these upper skills that will be required in this new economy,” he said.

Additionally, White said, Stanislaus County needs to attract these skilled workers from other areas in the state and around the country, offering a high quality of life at a comparatively lower price point.

ATTRACTING POTENTIAL BUYERS TO THE CENTRAL VALLEY

As teleworking has become a more permanent option for many companies, Keppler said it’s estimated that Americans have saved around $91 billion by working at home this year, and employers are eager to continue with the practice and eventually reduce their footprints in high-priced areas like Silicon Valley.

Keppler said not only will this reduce the commutes of many workers who regularly drive up to three hours from the Valley to the Bay Area, but also make areas like Stanislaus County more attractive to potential renters and buyers.

In a post-office landscape, Keppler stressed, the Valley needs to make itself competitive not only on a regional level, but “nationwide.” This means focusing on housing, attention to detail in urban planning and ensuring that cities like Modesto provide ample amenities — like parks, performing arts and a walkable downtown — to attract new residents.

White added that as the pandemic more heavily affects urban areas, like New York City, Los Angeles or San Francisco, a number of people may be looking to move out of larger cities and into smaller ones they deem safer, like Modesto or other places in Stanislaus County.

“There’s going to be demand for housing,” he said, “and we need to be ready for that.”

White said he foresees a sort of hybrid model, with increased work-from-home and the possibility of smaller, communal offices popping up in more affordable cities where the employees of large tech companies will be able to work a few days a week or month.

He said it’s crucial for the public and private sectors to work together and create solutions for these needs across the Valley, and make the region as lucrative as possible for both companies and workers.

“The potential here is unbelievable,” Keppler said. “There has to be civic pride, and a sense of, ‘You know what, we can do this!’”

https://www.modbee.com/article245901805.html

U.S. NEWS RANKS FRESNO STATE IN TOP 3 FOR GRADUATION-RATE PERFORMANCE 5 YEARS IN A ROW

For the fifth consecutive year, Fresno State is ranked among the top three of the nation’s best public universities for graduation-rate performance in U.S. News and World Report’s 2021 Best College rankings issued today.

The University scored third-highest among public national universities and was No. 4 overall among all national universities, according to an analysis of U.S. News’ Academic Insights data used in the magazine’s annual rankings. Fresno State has ranked No. 3 for the past three years and was No. 1 in 2017.

The graduation-rate performance uses the University’s actual six-year graduation rate compared to predicted performance based on admissions data, school financial resources, the proportion of federal financial aid recipients who are first-generation, math and science orientations and the proportion of undergraduates receiving Pell grants.

“This particular national ranking speaks to the determination of our talented students, most of whom juggle work and family demands while seeking a college degree, a key that opens doors to a lifetime of professional and economic mobility opportunities,” said Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro. “It also highlights the University’s commitment, including that of our dedicated faculty and staff, to supporting and empowering students to ensure their timely completion to a quality and affordable degree.”

Here’s a look at other categories of the U.S. News and World Report where Fresno State continues to deliver on its mission to educate and empower students for success.

  • Fresno State ranked No. 6 for the second consecutive year for having the least debt load at graduation among public national universities and No. 18 among all national universities. Forty percent of recent students who graduated in 2019 or earlier have an average debt of $15,181 compared to the national average student debt of $29,399.
  • The University ranked No. 21 for graduate indebtedness, a new category showing how schools compare in terms of the average amount of federal loan debt among recent graduates and the percentage of graduates who borrowed federal loans.
  • Improving one spot from last year, Fresno State ranked No. 26 in the social mobility category for how well schools graduate students who receive federal Pell Grants, meaning they come from low- to medium-income households.
  • The Lyles College of Engineering at Fresno State ranked No. 60 out of 220 universities for Best Undergraduate Engineering Program.
  • Fresno State and San Diego State are the only two CSU campuses to rank in the top 100 public national universities placing No. 100 and No. 65, respectively.

Fresno State’s reclassification as a Carnegie doctoral university in 2016 means it joined the top research universities in the nation in rankings produced by the new publication. Fresno State offers doctoral degrees in nursing, physical therapy and educational leadership.

U.S. News and World Report evaluates campuses on multiple factors for its overall national ranking. The news publication gives the most weight to outcomes, including graduation and retention rates followed by faculty resources, academic reputation, financial resources and graduation-rate performance. This year, the rankings included schools that don’t use the SAT or ACT at all in admissions decisions.

In other rankings

Last month, Fresno State ranked No. 26 in Washington Monthly’s annual nationwide college rankings. The Washington D.C.-based magazine calls attention to colleges that best serve the community, ranking institutions on social mobility, research and service. This is the fifth straight year Fresno State has ranked in Washington Monthly’s top 30.

The University also ranked No. 7 for Most Transformative Colleges in MONEY Magazine’s 50 Best Public Colleges rankings for 2020. Additionally, Fresno State ranked No. 40 on the Best Public College rankings, and came in No. 19 for Best Colleges Where More Than Half of Applicants Get In.

http://www.fresnostatenews.com/2020/09/14/u-s-news-ranks-fresno-state-in-top-3-for-graduation-rate-performance-5-years-in-a-row/