Amazon Signs 1M SF Distribution Center in California

Amazon has filled yet another major order. The king of online sales signed a lease for a 1 million-square-foot distribution center in Central California. It will be the anchor tenant at one of the largest industrial commerce complexes in the Western U.S., according to the landlord, Wonderful Real Estate. The massive industrial park is in the city of Shafter, bordering Bakersfield, and also includes major tenants like Walmart, Target, and Ross Stores.


Oat milk is booming. Modesto plant will add workers to help meet demand for nondairy.

SunOpta is expanding the oat milk portion of its Modesto plant to meet growing demand for this dairy alternative. The company is hiring 10 people to go with the 157 already at the plant, executive Michael Buick said in a phone interview Friday. SunOpta also turns out almond, soy and coconut milks at the Mariposa Road site, along with broths and stocks. It is headquartered in Minnesota and has other plants making plant-based milks, fruit snacks, frozen fruit, sunflower snacks, tea and more. TOP VIDEOS WATCH MORE × Video: Better yet, here’s how to compost yard, food waste for a better garden “Oat milk is what is growing the fastest now,” said Buick, senior vice president and general manager, plant-based foods and beverages. “Oat milk has more than doubled in the last 52 weeks and doesn’t show any sign of slowing down.” SunOpta has operated since 2009 in the Beard Industrial District. It took over a portion of a fruit cannery that was once part of the vast Tri-Valley Growers cooperative, which went bankrupt in 2000.

Tech firm trying to solve problem of produce spoilage coming to Fresno

A food tech company fresh to the Central Valley is bringing a research center to Fresno, allowing the company to be closer to the crops its trying to preserve. Chicago-based Hazel Technologies announced its new West Coast research center after raising $70 million in a recent investment round.

Chief Technological Officer Adam Preslar anticipates opening in December. “Fresno has really been on the to-do list for a long time,” Preslar said. As they were discussing West Coast research center options, Fresno was top of the list, he said. “We wanted to be there, close to the core of our customers,” Preslar said. The main goal of the new facility is to provide customer and technical support for the clients of the Chicago-based company. They also wanted a spot where they can showcase what their product can do.

The company produces a small packet that reduces respiration rate and increases ethylene resistance in produce, which can triple the shelf life of fresh produce.

Fresno unveils affordable housing for formerly homeless residents with mental health needs.

A new supportive services housing apartment complex for formerly homeless residents with mental health needs was unveiled in Fresno on Wednesday. Created in partnership between Fresno Housing and the Fresno County Department of Behavioral Health, the 28-unit Village at Paragon will offer on-site services, such as case management and mental health services.

This is the fourth Fresno Housing development that is run in partnership with DBH. “Stable housing is a critical element of healthcare,” said Susan Holt, who will be taking over as interim director of the department when current director Dawan Utecht leaves Dec. 3. “We know in behavioral health that stable housing is the foundation of recovery,” Holt said. “If any one of us here today were to pause and think about after our day is done, going to a place with no roof. How would we address our healthcare needs?” Thank you for subscribing. The project was funded by the No Place Like Home Program, and was one of the first projects to be completed from the eight initially approved by the state. The state program, established in 2016, provides funding for the acquisition, design construction and rehabilitation of permanent supportive housing for unhoused people.

According to Brandi Johnson, communications director for Fresno Housing Authority, more funds from No Place Like Home will support housing projects slated to open in early 2022. The $3.6 million supportive housing project revitalized a vacant building owned by Fresno Housing into one- and two-bedroom affordable units. Johnson said the cost of each unit will be roughly 30% of a tenant’s adjusted income, but will vary, based on the tenant. Nearly all units have been filled, and final eligibility meetings will be held this week to fill the remaining available units, Johnson said. The complex is made up of 25 one-bedroom units, two two-bedroom units and a unit for an on-site manager. “It takes a battalion of committed people for the long haul to produce projects like this,” said Tyrone Roderick Williams, the recently appointed CEO of Fresno Housing.

Merced County kicks off $2.1M expansion on research and test site for autonomous vehicles

Construction kicked off this month on a planned $2.1 million expansion of an autonomous vehicle research and testing site at Castle Commerce Center. The new expansion will allow vehicle manufacturers, suppliers and innovators to utilize test areas that mimic real-world highway, rural and urban landscapes, according to a Merced County news release. County officials have touted Castle’s proximity to Silicon Valley and expansive open space as a boon for tech companies like Google that have used the facility to test self-driving vehicles for some years.

“This site embodies the future of transportation, and these technology developments are taking place right in our backyards,” Merced County Supervisor Daron McDaniel, whose district encompasses Castle Commerce Center, said in the release. “This project represents real-time job growth and economic development, with enormous potential as it continues to grow.”

Formerly called the California AutoTech Testing and Development Center, the 225-acre site has been renamed to TRC California for Transportation Research Center Inc., for the Ohio-based corporation that assumed facility operations earlier this year. A long-term goal for county officials was to pass facility management to a private third party expert that would take operations to the cutting edge of the developing autonomous vehicle industry. TRC is a leader in automotive testing and innovation that has led the facility’s design improvements, according to the release. “We are building out TRC California to offer a comprehensive, one-stop shop where automotive technology and mobility innovators can test and affirm the performance, safety, quality and competitiveness of new technologies that are changing the face of transportation worldwide,” Brett Roubinek, president and CEO of TRC Inc., said in the release. “TRC is proud to partner with Merced County in this transformation.” A 2 mile high-speed test track is the subject of the current construction phase by Central Valley-based Avision Construction. Installation of privacy fencing along the perimeter, vehicle barriers and security improvements for confidentiality purposes are also in progress.

Fresno is one of the Best Places to Live in America

Fresno started out as a small stop along the Central Pacific Railroad, but it blossomed into a magnetic metropolis that draws agriculture-minded people from around the world. The metro area is surrounded by Fresno County’s farms, which produce a variety of organic foods, from almonds and pistachios to tomatoes and peaches.

But the area isn’t just a haven for farmers. Fresno attracts residents with its diverse job market, inexpensive housing and array of cultural attractions.

A venture inside this central California region reveals a multitude of unique cultural surprises. The Tower District is famous for its artsy Rogue Festival, classic car show, film festival and lineup of restaurants that plate various cuisines. The minor league Fresno Grizzlies hit homers to the cheers of loyal fans downtown, while beloved events like the Kearney Renaissance Faire take place on Fresno’s west side.


Energy production is nothing new to the Central Valley. Oil production in the San Joaquin Valley boomed after the discovery of “black gold” on the Kern River in 1899. In 2018, the City of Fresno was recognized in a report by the Environment California Research & Policy Center as the U.S. city with the second-highest solar power generating capacity per person. According to the report, the city’s total solar power generation capacity ranked fourth among the state’s big cities ahead of Sacramento, San Francisco and Riverside.

Around 10 years ago, there were proposals from a French company — partnered with California businessmen and farmers — to build a nuclear power plant in Fresno. Those plans eventually fell through. An innovative energy company has announced it will expand to the West Coast with the construction of a new, state-of-the-art hydrogen production facility in Fresno County. Plug Power Inc., headquartered in New York, is a provider of hydrogen fuel cell turnkey solutions. Plug Power plans to build the largest green hydrogen production plant on the West Coast in Mendota.

The facility will use a 300-megawatt, zero-carbon solar farm to power equipment that splits water into hydrogen and oxygen through an electro-chemical process. When fully built, the plant will produce 30 metric tons of liquid green hydrogen, able to service customers from San Diego to Vancouver. In a press release from Plug Power released in late September, local officials including Fresno County Supervisor Brian Pacheco and Lee Ann Eager, president and CEO of Fresno County Economic Development Corporation, praised Plug Power’s expansion to the area. “Green hydrogen represents the energy of the future and with this major announcement, Fresno County will soon plant its flag as the strategic center for California’s hydrogen economy,” Eager said. “This project is poetic justice for our region, which has struggled with persistent poor air quality, and will produce the zero-emission fuel needed to support the state’s renewable energy goals.”

Andy Marsh, president and CEO of Plug Power, joined the company in 2008 and is a prominent voice in the hydrogen and fuel cell industry. Marsh said the company made a commitment to be the first company to build a green hydrogen generation network across the U.S., and with California having one of the highest populations in the state — and with its aggressive environmental policies — it made sense to build here.

Plug Power’s California plant will join the company’s network of plants in New York, Tennessee and Georgia that will supply 500 tons per day of liquid green hydrogen by 2025. The plant in Mendota will cover about 20 acres. The plant will eventually expand beyond those 20 acres. “The solar farms want the plants to use their solar, and in an area like California there is going to be a lot of solar farms,” Marsh said. “In an area like the Central Valley with lots of solar, we are not going to be the only company to wants to come in and build a hydrogen plant. There will be other companies that follow us.”

Once the plant is constructed, Marsh said the company will be looking to provide hydrogen for trucks, fuel cells for forklift trucks, industrial applications, and putting hydrogen into natural gas pipelines. While there is discussion for the application of hydrogen fuel in the ag industry, Marsh said the technology is not as applicable in that arena yet. Currently, Marsh said places such as distribution centers, airports, seaports and other places where there a lot of vehicles going back and forth will be using a lot of hydrogen.

The environmental review for the plant is expected to be approved by the early 2023, with construction starting then. It is expected to be up and running in early 2024. The project will include construction of a new tertiary wastewater treatment plant in the City of Mendota, providing water for the community and supplying the full needs of the hydrogen plant.

Once in operations, there will be around 60 to 75 employees to start with, with those numbers eventually ramping up. Some of the jobs will include a plant manager, engineers, facility technicians, and truck drivers. “Hydrogen is part of California’s and the world’s efforts to reduce Co2 emissions, Plug Power has been doing it for 25 years and we are building out the first green hydrogen network for the United States and we are thrilled to be in the Central Valley,” Marsh said.

Prefab home company to build factory in Kern County

A prefab home startup has chosen Kern County as the site of its latest expansion. The Rialto-based Plant Prefab Inc. bills itself as part of the solution to California’s housing crunch. Offering high-quality, environmentally friendly homes to buyers, the company says it can meet the demands of the housing market faster and cheaper than traditional construction.

The company will take advantage of an Advance Kern tax incentive to launch the new factory that could employ up to 440 people per year. “Right now, it’s hard to get buildings built on time,” Plant Prefab Vice-President Josh Tech told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. “With our building system, we actually can do things much better, at a better quality than you can do at the site.”

Traditional home construction involves assembling all the pieces of a house on-site, while prefab construction involves building the components of a home in a factory to ship to the site for assembly. PPI recently announced $30 million in investment, including from the Amazon Alexa Fund. The company has two factories, in Rialto and Ontario, but the Kern County site is expected to be its biggest yet. “We build our product at a small scale in these two factories at the moment,” Tech said. “This new factory is going to be state-of-the-art, with automation, high-class material handling, those types of things that we can scale at a factor of 20 times what we’re doing now.” Kern is offering a tax rebate worth up to $6.6 million over 30 years — or $15,000 per each full-time job — to bring the company to the county. Plant Prefab must hire at least 50 full-time workers by June 30, 2023, to meet the agreement, and it plans to hire 100 to 150 in the first year of operation.

Advance Kern is the county’s primary method for attracting new businesses and helping others expand. The relatively new incentive has previously brought Amazon and Loreal Paris to Kern. As the county tries to diversify the local economy, it views the Plant Prefab deal as a win-win that is good for county workers and good for local investment. “This is an agreement that brings a company here that is an award-winning company, that has a super-great track record on how they compensate and manage their workforce,” said Kern County Chief Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop. “They are really building a state-of-the-art product that lots of people are interested in. It’s the exact kind of company that we want to locate here in Kern County.”

In a state with ever-rising housing costs and developers who complain of regulations that slow down the pace of construction, prefab homes are seen by some as one solution. The technology has slowly advanced over the decades to a point where it is being seriously considered to address housing and labor shortages throughout the state. Andy Fuller, president of Fuller Apartment Homes and principal of Presidio Capital Partners, told The Californian homes are still able to be produced in Bakersfield cheaply and quickly using traditional construction, but coastal cities could see a big benefit from prefab designs. “It’s been 30 or 40 years in the making to this point, but it is definitely making more sense every year,” he said.

The county is even seeking Plant Prefab’s help in housing those experiencing homelessness. Sooner rather than later, more and more homes could be built using this method. “It’s a very good thing for Kern County and I think that location makes a lot of sense,” Fuller added. “I do think it is the future. Like any kind of business it has its challenges, but it’s been a long time in the making.”

California’s first electric truck stop in the works

A California startup company has announced plans to build the state’s first solar-powered truck stop for heavy-duty, Class 8 electric trucks. WattEV Inc. said it is slated to receive a $5 million grant from the California Energy Commission (CEC) to build the facility in Bakersfield, California. Additionally, the company said it has raised $6 million in private equity seed funding led by Canon Equity. Groundbreaking is expected in late October.

The announcement was made at the Advanced Clean Transportation Expo 2021 in Long Beach, California, on Aug. 30. WattEV, based in El Segundo, California, said the CEC should approve the grant Sept. 8 at its monthly business meeting. “Our successful private-equity seed funding, in addition to the grant awarded for this project, are important milestones in our effort to deploy 12,000 electric heavy-duty trucks on the road by 2030,” said Salim Youssefzadeh, CEO of WattEV. “The electric truck stop in Bakersfield is the first step toward our commitment to help build the charging infrastructure network necessary to accelerate the heavy-duty trucking sector’s transition to electric drive,” he added. Partners joining WattEV and the CEC on the Bakersfield electric truck stop project include the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, the Central California Asthma Collaborative, Greenlots, Power Electronics and several others.

In addition to the Bakersfield project, WattEV is in the planning stages for similar projects in San Bernardino and Gardena in Southern California. Both electric truck stops will serve the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach, as well as the warehouses fed by goods coming through the ports. WattEV has also secured purchase incentive vouchers through the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project, and plans to initially buy six VNR Electric Class 8 trucks from Volvo Group. WattEV has has applied for 24 more electric truck HVIP vouchers for future purchases. All told, WattEV plans to run its own fleet of 30 heavy-duty electric trucks by the end of 2022. The fleet will be deployed under contract with several Southern California fleet customers.

The first fleet partnership is with Total Transportation Services Inc. (TTSI), which serves the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and has a presence in Bakersfield. TTSI will be offering electric transport freight services to shippers in Southern California on routes served by WattEV’s platform. To help accelerate the transition to electric goods movement, WattEV is developing an advanced software platform — trucks-as-a-service, or TaaS — designed specifically for the use of electric trucks within its network of charging stations on designated routes. The TaaS platform will offer an all-inclusive, charge-per-mile formula that will enable a transporter to use an electric truck to move goods normally handled with diesel trucks on the routes selected by shippers.