A new $350M casino is breaking ground off Highway 99

A new $350M casino is breaking ground off Highway 99

The Las Vegas company behind bringing a new Native American casino to Madera County is close to breaking ground, according to a high-ranking official close to the project. The California State Supreme Court cleared the way in September for Las Vegas-based Red Rock Resorts to build North Fork Rancheria’s casino off of Highway 99 near Avenue 18 just north of Madera, less than 40 miles east of the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino and Table Mountain Casino.

The new casino could take about 18 months to finish once crews break ground, which is expected by the end of June, according to Stephen Cootey, chief financial officer for Red Rock. “As of now, the budget for the full completion of this project excluding any financing costs is expected to be between $350 million and $400 million,” Cootey said May 4 in a call with investors. He went on to say the project is expected to cover 213,000 square feet, including 100,000 square feet in casino space, plus 2,000 slots and 40 table games. There will also be two restaurants and a food hall. Officials with the North Fork Rancheria, home to the Mono Indians, said more on the new casino may be available in the coming month or so but declined to discuss it on Monday, according to Charles Altekruse, spokesman for the North Fork Mono.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

The success of new hospitality destinations in an area not already known to draw a large amount of tourists can be hard to predict, according to economist Jeffrey Michael from the University of the Pacific in Stockton. “That’s the tricky thing with a lot of hospitality, drawing new visitors or just diverting dollars from others nearby,” he said. But, Madera County officials are more confident of the long-term success of the new casino that’s taken nearly two decades to clear legal hurdles.

Madera’s casinos do draw tour buses of people from out of the area looking to play slots and table games, Kahn said. He added that the new casino will likely be a hot commodity when it’s first built, but shouldn’t be a long-term damper on other tourist attractions in the area. “I think it will have some affect, naturally,” he said. “I think in the long-run it will all level out.” The North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians is a federally recognized Native American nation with more than 2,200 tribal citizens and government offices in Madera County.

https://www.fresnobee.com/news/local/article251299623.html

The Hottest U.S. Rental Markets: Mid-sized Hubs Take the Lead in Competitivity

Following one of the most disruptive periods of our times, at the start of 2021, the most in demand locations for renters were certainly not the ones you would expect. 

When trying to assess the competitiveness of our country’s 125 largest rental markets, we found mid-sized markets like Central Valley, CA, Spokane, WA, and Boise, ID were the most sought-after this past quarter. These emerging renter hubs share a similar story, attracting renters from larger metros with a mix of cheaper, slower living and a growing number of opportunities. Coupled with a shift towards remote work, the nation’s mid-sized renter hubs were poised to get a boost in the first quarter of the year. 

“The largest markets and surrounding exurbs show renters are distinctly looking to get more square footage or more amenities for the same price, within these hubs and close to them. Residents from large gateway markets are “trading up”, and with work-from-home policies, exurb locations close to these areas are also benefitting from this behaviour.” says Doug Ressler, manager of business intelligence at Yardi Matrix. 

To rank the hottest rental markets in the nation, we looked at the most revealing industry metrics when it comes to competitivity: 

  • what percentage of apartments were occupied
  • how many days rentals were vacant   
  • how many prospective renters competed for apartments 
  • the rent price trend  

On a national level, U.S. apartments were vacant for an average of 39 days during the first quarter of 2021. 94% of rentals were occupied during the time period, with an average of 11 renters competing per apartment. The rent trend score was 20 in the first three months of the year, showing slight growth.

https://www.rentcafe.com/blog/rental-market/market-snapshots/rentcafe-market-competitivity-report-april-2021/

This global company is bringing a new dessert shop to Clovis

Beard Papa’s, an international dessert shop specializing in cream puffs, plans to open its first shop in Clovis. The shop is expected to open in late summer, according to the company.

Founded in Japan, the company is keeping mum on where it will be, but real estate firm Retail California reported to The Bee’s leases section that the company has leased a spot in The Trading Post shopping center at the southeast corner of Herndon and Clovis avenues. Beard Papa’s is slated to take over the empty space next to Baskin Robbins. The shop sells cream puffs – a light French pastry filled with custard in various flavors. “All of our puffs are this golden flaky shell on the outside, with a soft, airy custard on the inside that is so amazing,” said Tucker Kaufman, head of marketing and social media.

The shop offers several types of shells of puffs, the tops dipped in the customer’s choice of glaze, like chocolate, strawberry or an Oreo topping. Customers also pick which filling they want from the menu – vanilla, chocolate or green tea custard. In addition to the standard menu flavors, Beard Papa’s also has monthly flavors like a churro cream puff with horchata filling, or a boba puff with the little round balls from boba tea inside the custard.

The cream puffs sell for around $3.40 each. A little smaller than the average person’s fist, the puffs are larger than the ones typically made by home cooks or sold in local bakeries, Kaufman said.

BEARD PAPA’S

Beard Papa’s got its name from Yuji Hirota, who opened a bakery in 1999 in Osaka. His fluffy white beard was so noticeable that he became known as “beard papa” to his customers. The company has more than 400 locations worldwide and is expanding in the United States. It has shops in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago and several other large cities. Beard Papa’s has a few other desserts on the menu, including mini cheesecakes, and drinks. But its specialty is the cream puffs. “We have this amazing cult following,” Kaufman said. “People who know us, they love us.”

The company joins others opening in the Fresno area that specialize in one dessert, like the new locations of Crumbl Cookies, Nothing Bundt Cakes and Crave Cookie, which opened its first shop with a drive-thru recently. Said Kaufman from Beard Papa’s: “It’s such a niche dessert, but we are a luxury dessert destination. It’s not like doughnuts where you find them on every street corner.”

https://www.fresnobee.com/living/food-drink/bethany-clough/article251237549.html

Stratolaunch sends the world’s biggest plane on second test flight

Stratolaunch, the aerospace company founded by the late Seattle billionaire Paul Allen, put the world’s biggest airplane through its second flight test today, two years after the first flight. “We are airborne!” Stratolaunch reported in a tweet. Today’s takeoff from California’s Mojave Air and Space Port at 7:28 a.m. PT marked the first time the plane, nicknamed Roc after the giant bird of Arabian and Persian mythology, got off the ground since Stratolaunch’s acquisition by Cerberus Capital Management in October 2019.

Roc rose as high as 14,000 feet and traveled at a top speed of 199 mph during a flight that lasted three hours and 14 minutes — which is close to an hour longer than the first flight on April 13, 2019. During that earlier flight, the airplane reached a maximum speed of 189 mph and maximum altitude of 17,000 feet.

Zachary Krevor, Stratolaunch’s chief operating officer, said today’s flight accomplished all of its test objectives by checking the performance of improved instrumentation, a more robust flight control system and an environmental control system that allowed the pilots to work in a pressurized cockpit. Krevor said the crew included chief pilot Evan Thomas, pilot Mark Giddings and flight engineer Jake Riley.

The flight’s spiciest moment came at touchdown, when one of the mammoth plane’s landing gears settled the runway while the other was still in the air. “We did touch down initially on one gear, but that’s exactly the technique we prefer to use during a crosswind landing,” Krevor told GeekWire during a post-landing teleconference. “Though we stayed within our crosswind limits, we did have a little bit of a crosswind, and the aircrew did an excellent job of bringing the aircraft down.” Since Roc’s first flight in 2019, the business model for the 10-year-old venture has shifted: In its early years, Stratolaunch focused on using Roc as a flying launch pad for sending rockets and their payloads to orbit. The concept capitalizes on the air launch system pioneered by SpaceShipOne, which won financial backing from Allen and won the $10 million Ansari X Prize in 2004,

The new owners still expect to use Roc for air launch, but the current focus is on using the plane as a testbed for Stratolaunch’s hypersonic flight vehicles, Once the plane is cleared for regular operations, perhaps next year, Stratolaunch could begin launching its Talon-A prototype hypersonic plane. David Millman, Stratolaunch’s chief technology officer, said the company plans to build three hypersonic vehicles. He said that should open the way for conducting hypersonic tests at least once every 17 days, matching the tempo of flights for the X-15 rocket plane in the 1960s,

Hypersonic flight at five times the speed of sound is a big deal for military applications. Russia and China are said to be working on hypersonic weapons systems, and the U.S. military is keen to keep up. Stratolaunch expects its technology to figure in the Pentagon’s plans. “That’s exactly one of the areas that we’re looking at: how can we help the Department of Defense in mitigating risks for all their extensive flight testing,” Millman told GeekWire.

Millman said Stratolaunch’s Talon testbed will be able to carry payloads, test materials and fly a variety of profiles that can help the Pentagon determine characteristics of hypersonic flight before it conducts costly full-blown flights of its own hypersonic vehicles. “What we’re doing is providing a path or them to test a lot of their technologies in a simpler way, in a repeatable way, in a useful way so that they can get to their all-up rounds much quicker,” Millman said.

Stratolaunch hasn’t ruled out eventually pursuing other applications for its launch system, including sending satellite payloads and crewed space planes into orbit. Other companies, principally including Virgin Orbit, are also working on next-generation air launch technology. Such systems hold the promise of greater versatility and quicker response time for launching payloads, due to the fact that the carrier planes can take off from a wide variety of runways, fly around inclement weather and theoretically launch their payloads in any desired orbital inclination.

Stratolaunch’s twin-fuselage, six-engine Roc airplane is in a class by itself, thanks to its world-record wingspan of 385 feet. In comparison, the wingspan of the modified Boeing 747 that Virgin Orbit is using comes to 211 feet. The previous record-holder was the Spruce Goose, a prototype seaplane that made its debut in 1947 and had a 320-foot wingspan. Built by Mojave-based Scaled Composites, Roc has the capacity to carry more than 500,000 pounds of payload.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/travel/news/we-are-airborne-stratolaunch-sends-the-worlds-biggest-plane-on-second-test-flight/ar-BB1gbE3I

How a Central California winery uses worms in wine production

Worms are helping a Valley winery on its path to becoming more green. Olympic-sized swimming pools at O’Neill Winery are actually beds filled with worms helping the company become greener. “Our technology at BioFiltro, what it is is the star of the show is the worm. Ultimately, the worms are known as an ecosystem or environmental engineers,” said Mai Ann Healy, BioFiltro spokesperson.

BioFiltro, an international company, was able to go through Fresno State’s Valley Ventures program that focuses on water, engineering and technology businesses. The worms are known for converting waste or organic matter. Water is spread across the worm beds and goes through levels of wood chips, river rocks, drainage cells and exit pipes. “So within four hours, our worms are getting fed, getting full and also producing more microbes and bacteria that’s furthering helping us reduce and convert waste into beneficial byproducts,” Healy said.

The technology allows the company to take about 80 million gallons of processed water and clean it. O’Neill Winery is the seventh-largest winery in California. They produce wines and spirits sold around the United States. “So what we are trying to do is provide a sustainable process so that we can have a facility that is environmentally stewards, that is reducing our carbon footprint, reducing/minimizing our waste,” said Phil Castro, senior director of winery operations. O’Neill said they’ve taken steps to be more green with solar energy and the BioFilitro system.

They’re able to save water and use that for crop irrigation and reduce the amount of water they use. “So we can ensure for generations to come that there’s water available to continue the great process of agriculture,” Castro said. A sustainable process and technology thriving here in the Valley.

https://abc30.com/wine-worms-wastewater-water-filtration/10540942/

NEW EAGLE MOUNTAIN CASINO BUILD KICKS OFF IN PORTERVILLE

Nearly 200 people were in attendance earlier this month for the groundbreaking of the new Eagle Mountain Casino in Porterville. The casino, currently located on the Tule River Reservation in the foothills, will be moving 20 miles down the mountain near the Porterville Airport. Located on 40 acres at 2760 W. Yowlumne Ave., the new casino will have 1,750 slot machines, table games, a 2,000-seat event center and a few restaurants on 100,000 square-foot property.

An artist’s rendering show the interior and exterior of the new Eagle Mountain Casino being built in Porterville.  “When we put those shovels in the ground, my heart goes out thanking you who put in the long hours, those of you walked the halls in DC and the State Capitol, those that moved machines all night long, those that worked double shifts because it was so busy and you didn’t want to leave your teammates hanging there—I thank you on behalf of the tribe, tribal members, descendants, and everyone whose been benefiting,” said William Garfield, Tule River Tribe chairman.

National hospitality design firm HGB designed the casino and W.E. O’Neil was selected to do the construction. W.E. O’Neill has offices all over the Western U.S. The casino will integrate local key elements of the tribal land and the tribe’s relationship with it. It will feature a lodge aesthetic with wood and stone structural expressions, according to a news release. “Since we began the planning and design process, the ownership team has always been extremely open and professional in sharing their project vision and goals, inviting our team to become partners in their development journey,” said Joe Baruffaldi, principal at HBG Design. “They have immersed the design team in tribal culture and heritage and graciously embraced our conceptual storytelling as it extends into the architectural and interior design aesthetic.”

The new Eagle Mountain Casino is expected to open in December 2022. The casino project is expected to create approximately 400 construction jobs and 300 or more full-time and part-time casino operation jobs. “Moving forward, this is about our people and our neighbors working together to make a project that is going to benefit us all. Providing additional law enforcement, fire protection and EMS services and ensure everyone is kept safe and enjoyable time,” said Tribal Chairman Neil Peyron.

https://thebusinessjournal.com/new-eagle-mountain-casino-build-kicks-off-in-porterville/

Japanese ag firm settling into new Valley residence

With spring also blooms a company that has taken root in the Central Valley in recent years. Manda Fermentation USA Inc., the US brand of Manda Fermentation Co., Ltd., a Japanese organic food manufacturer founded in 1987, has expanded its presence in the San Joaquin Valley since it first made connections with the state of Fresno in 2019.

Through a series of business launches, Manda leaders were made aware of the valley’s agricultural wealth and potential. While things started with research and development – attempts to figure out how mandas products can aid in harvesting and harvesting – the company has since expanded into growing a variety of crops in the Central Valley for markets across the nation and arrive around the world. It participates in community test gardens, brings its products to more local stores, and joins the Fresno County Farm Bureau.

Clay Gilpin, market development manager at Manda USA, said the Covid-19 pandemic had delayed some of the company’s planned outreach activities, but there was a positive trend that emerged during the lockdowns. According to an analysis of the monthly U.S. retail census report from Breck’s, an online Dutch flower and garden store, the gardening industry saw sales surge despite the pandemic. Building materials and garden retail sales increased 8.6% between spring 2019 and spring 2020. “We made gardening a very popular hobby because people stayed at home – that ties in with the trend of people growing their own food and wanting to know where the food is coming from,” said Gilpin.

Manda USA sees new demographics as they target different customers. Manda has its fertilizer product Manda Harvest in local stores, including Alert-O-Lite’s new garden section, a True Value and a central fish market. Central Fish may be shipping mandas fermented food supplements in the future. Currently, Manda USA sells its larger fertilizer products direct to farmers for local use in almonds, blueberries and citrus fruits. It will also be used for olives in the near future.

In areas outside the Central Valley, Manda works with rice, walnuts, canola, corn and cannabis, among other things. Cannabis responded very well to Manda’s fertilizer products and produced larger buds on the plant. Gilpin said the company hopes to get involved as cannabis cultivation increases in our area. Manda has also tested its products at Community Life Garden, an organic community garden in Reedley. Manda has several test fields that demonstrate the effects of Manda Harvest on crops such as potatoes, onions, zucchini and radishes. The fertilizer is free to farmers who wish to use it for their crops, and most of the food grown in the garden is donated to a faith-based food bank.

Gilpin said the company is trying to keep in touch with the Ag community and beyond, which is why joining the Fresno County Farm Bureau has served as a valuable resource. “Your publications are very helpful in giving us an insight into what is going on in the marketplace, especially here in Fresno County,” said Gilpin. “It’s a way to create press releases and talk to the community. After all, we want to advertise in these publications because they reach our target market – farmers who grow organically. “

Plans to build a facility in the Central Valley, possibly for an administration office, have been postponed due to Covid-19, but Gilpin said the company is still open to a number of possible partnerships and locations elsewhere. There are visions of creating a kind of hub at the farmers’ market with other companies to join Manda’s local efforts. Gilpin said Manda USA is trying to provide the resources to grow better food while making more money in the process. “I can imagine that this will also happen in Fresno if we find the right partners and the right location,” said Gilpin. “Given our mission and the nature of our business, we would likely try revitalizing an older building and building it in an area like downtown Fresno or the Tower District to implement those ideas.”

https://thebuildersnews.com/japanese-ag-firm-settling-into-new-valley-residence/

Bakersfield looks to add 30 electric vehicle charging stations throughout city

The Bakersfield City Council is poised to dramatically expand the number of electric vehicle charging stations available on public property. At Wednesday’s meeting, the council is scheduled to vote on an agreement that would add 30 ChargePoint charging stations to six city-owned areas of Bakersfield, including the 18th Street and Eye Street parking structure. That’s a big jump from the four city-operated charging stations currently operating out of the Amtrak Station downtown.

There are 71 charging locations throughout Kern County, with 42 in Bakersfield, meaning the six proposed locations would increase the total by around 15 percent. However, those locations are in places like hospital parking lots and car dealerships, potentially unavailable to the general public. If approved, the new charging stations would be installed at The Park at Riverwalk, the parking lot across the street from Cal State Bakersfield on Stockdale Highway, City Hall South, Mechanics Bank Arena, McMurtrey Aquatic Center, and the downtown parking structure.

Unlike the Amtrak electric vehicle charging stations downtown, the new additions will be Level 2 chargers, which charge faster than Level 1. The city is taking advantage of funds provided by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District and the California Energy Commission to complete the proposal. The $266,000 combined will fund around 80 percent of the project. The funding is just one part of a state plan to put more electric vehicles on the road. California has a goal of 5 million zero emission vehicles on the road by 2030 and 250,000 charging stations by 2025.

As more and more funding becomes available for zero transmission projects, these proposed charging stations could be just the beginning. “It’s going to really expand. We are talking with different privately-owned gas stations that are interested in putting them in,” said Linda Urata, a regional planner for Kern Council of Governments who focuses on electric vehicles. “You’re going to see huge growth in the next two years.”

Lately, charging options have increased for electric vehicle owners. In January, the state Department of Transportation opened nine new stations throughout the Central Valley, including one at the Tejon Pass and in Delano and the city of McFarland recently held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new station. More are planned for cities such as Arvin, Wasco and Shafter. But questions remain about how popular the charging stations will be. Kern COG Executive Director Ahron Hakimi described demand for the products as a “chicken and egg” scenario. Consumers may be more liable to buy an electric vehicle if more charging stations were available, but more charging stations might not be built without the purchase of more vehicles. “In the three years that I owned the Chevy Volt, I think I charged it, other than home, less than five times. That gives you an example of how many chargers are out there,” he said. “If we want as a society more EVs, than we absolutely have to invest in more places to charge.”

The city plans to watch how often each charging station is used to determine if more are necessary. “It’s a trial project,” said Assistant Public Works Director Stuart Patteson. “I’m sure they will get used. The intent is for them to be entered into whatever databases exist that direct people to EV charging stations, but until we have them in place for a while, it’s hard to say how well they will be utilized.”

https://www.bakersfield.com/news/bakersfield-looks-to-add-30-electric-vehicle-charging-stations-throughout-city/article_b4a0cdb4-a22a-11eb-9cf4-c73267a32dd6.html

Renewable diesel revives refinery on Rosedale

A major industrial property that has sat idle for years in the heart of Bakersfield is coming back to life to refine used cooking oil, rendered animal fats and a canola-related grain called camelina. Torrance-based biofuels company Global Clean Energy Holdings Inc. is refurbishing equipment and ramping up hiring so by the end of this year it can fire up part of the former Big West refinery on Rosedale Highway.

The plan is to start at 15,000 barrels per day — more than 25,000 gallons per hour — of renewable diesel. As a petroleum refinery it processed almost three times that volume until it was shut down about eight years ago by a former owner, Dallas-based Alon USA Energy Inc. Not including contractors or vendors, about 115 employees are expected to work on the site once preparations are complete. That’s roughly half what the refinery employed previously. Also, most of the new activity will be limited to the southernmost portion of the complex. But the new owner, having paid $40 million for the complex last year after securing $365 million in financing for the project, hopes to boost production even as it expects to demolish or sell off some 85 percent of the refinery’s equipment.

A senior executive said the company’s also looking at the feasibility of covering part of the more than 400-acre property with photovoltaic solar panels that would help reduce the operation’s carbon footprint. Local observers say Global Clean Energy’s efforts point to a bright future for Kern County’s economic diversification and transition to greater production of bioenergy serving California’s climate goals. “This is exactly what we need, basically retooling these facilities to expand our capabilities in renewable fuels,” said Nick Ortiz, president and CEO of the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce.

https://www.bakersfield.com/news/renewable-diesel-revives-refinery-on-rosedale/article_fe82b3a8-9eeb-11eb-aae1-db8e795f2868.html

Fruit-breeder IFG breaks ground on $12 million campus near McFarland

Even for a company with customers and employees spread across 15 countries, it felt a little clunky shuttling between greenhouses in Edison, laboratory space near Delano, a cold-storage facility in Shafter and headquarters in Bakersfield.

That sort of decentralized operating model will be drawing to a close after fruit-breeder IFG launched construction Tuesday of a 160-acre facility west of McFarland that will provide room for everything from research and administration to licensee-training and consumer taste-testing. “These are critical things,” project manager Tom Bracken said following an early-afternoon toast to the groundbreaking on a mostly empty lot surrounded by commercial orchards. “To be able to have it all in one space is obviously much more effective.”

IFG, short for International Fruit Genetics, combined the groundbreaking with its 20-year anniversary celebration in a ceremony that highlighted not just the company’s humble origins but also a decidedly science-based future. CEO Andy Higgins also took the opportunity Tuesday to unveil the $12 million project’s name: Fruitworks / The IFG Discovery Center.

The name intentionally avoids the word “innovation,” which Higgins said seems overused these days. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be plenty of innovating going on at a site planned to include 28,000 square feet of lab and support buildings plus 25,000 square feet of greenhouses. Already experimentation is apparent with hundreds of cherry saplings taking root at the site. Using only traditional hybridization techniques, as opposed to genetic modification procedures viewed with skepticism by many consumers, the company has incorporated the DNA of Taiwanese cherries selected for their ability to grow in climates where cold weather is in short supply.

Company founder, shareholder and board member Jack Pandol Jr. told Tuesday’s crowd the saplings will lead to delicious, firm fruit that within five to 10 years will allow Kern County growers to produce cherries even if the preceding winter didn’t offer the minimum number of “chill hours” most cherry trees historically require.

https://www.bakersfield.com/news/fruit-breeder-ifg-breaks-ground-on-12-million-campus-near-mcfarland/article_1545c586-a21a-11eb-9b67-03b225b8310b.html