Valley To Receive $13 Million In Federal Funding for Electric School Bus Fleets

Millions in federal funding is coming to the Central Valley to purchase electric school buses.

Congressman Jim Costa (D-Fresno) announced $13 million in federal funding to purchase new electric for school districts across the Central Valley.

Fresno Unified and Selma Unified will receive a combined $8 million in federal funding. The funding comes through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which Costa voted to pass through Congress.

“Fleets of clean electric school buses are coming to the San Joaquin Valley thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. These investments will improve the air we breathe and save money for our school districts while building a more sustainable future for our children,” said Representative Jim Costa.

Borne out of the Biden’s Administration bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the EPA Clean School Bus Program received an unprecedented $5 Billion to transform the country’s school bus fleet.

It funds clean electric buses that produce zero tailpipe emissions and propane and compressed natural gas buses, which produce lower tailpipe emission than their older diesel predecessors.

Fresno Unified will receive $6.625 million in rebate funding to purchase 25 electric school buses.

Selma Unified will receive $1.38 million in rebate to purchase four clean school buses.

Caruthers Unified will receive to $345,000 in rebate funding to purchase one clean school bus.

Los Banos Unified has been selected to receive $2.4 million in rebate funding to purchase seven clean school buses.

Sierra Unified in Fresno County will receive $800,000 in rebate funding to purchase four clean school buses.

Wasco Union Elementary in Kern County will receive $1.38 million in rebate funding to purchase four clean school buses.

Costa wasn’t the only congressman to announce millions coming to the Central Valley this week.

At a check presentation held at the Tranquility Library Branch, Congressman John Duarte presented a check of $5 million in funding to Fresno County for infrastructure improvements in Tranquility and Cantua Creek.

Fresno County’s Cantua Creek and El Porvenir Sidewalk Improvements Project will receive $2 million in funding.

The Tranquility Complete Streets Project will be receiving $3 million in federal community funding.

The projects include a variety of efforts to improve motorist and pedestrian safety, increase accessibility for disabled residents and to reduce chronic flooding.

Is prefab an ab-fab solution to housing in Bakersfield?

Between undulating yellow hills along the valley floor, workers inside a 270,000-square-foot warehouse are pre-building homes for the future. Their destinations: Santa Monica, Lake Tahoe, Mountain Village, Colo.

Since opening its $40 million facility last fall, Plant Prefab has commenced large-scale work on modular housing, where each section of a home is built and assembled in its factory in the Tejon Ranch Commerce Center before being conveyed by truck to a destined lot.

Whereas modern prefabs have historically been geared toward the custom-built dreams of the wealthy, founder, CEO and Chairman Steve Glenn said Plant Prefab’s operation is entirely focused on affordable housing. All of its projects are multifamily units, most of which are being sent to the Los Angeles or San Francisco Bay areas — “places where land is expensive, labor is expensive and labor is scarce,” he said.

Amid California’s housing shortage and staggering costs to construct, manufactured housing is increasingly sought out as a lucrative option — by developers and elected officials alike — to build homes as cheaply and efficiently as possible.

“I think, for a time, there was a perception that prefab housing was substandard,” said Bakersfield Councilman Andrae Gonzales, who in February toured the facility along with fellow Councilman Bob Smith and City Manager Christian Clegg. “We wanted to go out and see the facility for ourselves.”

According to the city’s regional housing needs assessment, Bakersfield needs more than 37,000 units built by the end of 2031. That breaks down to 4,600 homes annually, including 2,277 low-income units.

City officials have in recent years ramped up several options for increasing housing production locally. With $5 million allocated to its affordable housing trust fund each year, the city pays for the construction of public housing projects in tandem with a patchwork of state and federal grants.

At a committee meeting in November, officials found that 10 of the 16 affordable housing projects in Bakersfield, plagued by delays, won’t be completed until 2025 or 2026. Delays were blamed on rising costs of construction, pandemic-era gaps in supply chains and a lack of private investment that leaves public housing at the mercy of outside grants, which can take months to approve and administer.

The average affordable housing unit in Bakersfield costs about $300,000, Gonzales said.

“Sometimes even more,” he added.

But “solution is too strong a word” to describe modular housing, Glenn said. “Are they an incredible part of the solution? One hundred percent.”

Modular housing can be built much faster than standard construction — 20% to 50% faster, according to a Plant Prefab news release. The factory is capable of building 5 million square feet per year, Glenn said, or about 2,500 single-family homes averaging 2,000 square feet each.

A tour of the facility shows it operates like an assembly line, inheriting automotive-type techniques and applying them to the construction of buildings.

But improvements have come since the era of Henry Ford and the $5 workday. The solar-powered facility is largely automated, meaning panels and components are cut with surgical precision. This takes less of a bite out of the planet and that of a developer’s pocketbook, resulting in less than 2% waste compared with 30% to 40% seen on some on-site builds.

Of all the projects underway, however, zero are in Kern County. “But ironically, they’re the greatest in need of a solution because of the disparity between their costs and scarcity of labor in urban infill versus what we can do here,” Glenn said.

Modular construction has its limitations. For one, it’s not always cheaper to build in a factory as opposed to on-site, considering the cost to transport materials across several states. Site labor can sometimes be cheaper, also depending on the location.

Modular construction has not been able to avoid high interest rates that stall the scale and speed of projects slated for construction. “That’s impacted us,” he said. “We’re busy but not nearly as busy as we had hoped to be.”

The factory is running a single eight-hour shift. It employs 52 workers at a facility Glenn said could take on up to 200 people.

“It takes time to implement it well,” he said.

The only prefab affordable housing project currently in Bakersfield is the CityServe Elevate project along F Street just south of Golden State Avenue. Originally slated for a February opening, the 126-unit development has been delayed by earlier inclement weather and other delays.

Government officials and developers agree prefab is one of many tools cities should take advantage of. There’s also the prospect of building conversion; Bakersfield officials recently pledged to purchase the Ramkabir Motel for $1.4 million, with plans to convert the 37-unit site into affordable housing under the city’s community land trust program.

The city is also looking at updating its zoning laws to allow for more multifamily units in areas that don’t require parking. And Bakersfield’s financial department is halfway through an overhaul of its online permitting system, which a city spokesperson said should be done within the next two months.

“Right now, our permitting process is too unpredictable. It’s too complex, and it takes too long,” Gonzales said.

With a 37% rise noted in this year’s survey of Kern County’s homeless population — half of which lives within Bakersfield city limits — officials are desperately seeking prospective venues for more affordable housing.

High-Speed Rail, High-Quality Jobs: Career Trek Shows Students Opportunities

California high-speed rail, a multibillion-dollar project designed to connect the Central Valley to Los Angeles and the Bay Area, promises swift transportation, the protection of agricultural land and contributions to a cleaner environment.

It’s also providing a lot of jobs – from design to construction to, eventually, operation.

UC Merced engineering students recently got the chance to see what opportunities might be available to them. Roughly 25 students took part in a Career Trek to visit the California High-Speed Rail Central Valley Regional Office in Fresno, as well as the Hanford and Cedar viaducts.

Career Treks are offered by the university’s Student Career Center. Students are taken on industry-specific recruiting trips to regions within California, hearing from employers about their professional journeys and the pathways they followed to career success.

Manny Machado, engineering career specialist in UC Merced’s Student Career Center, coordinated the March visit with help from two colleagues, employer services manager Magali Torres and internship and employer services coordinator Xue Lee.

“A Career Trek is when students have the chance to visit a nearby organization to hear more about their recruitment efforts, and to learn more about the work that they do,” Machado said. “During these trips, students get the opportunity to tour facilities, hear about job and internship opportunities they can get involved with, network with employees of that organization and hear more about professional pathways at said organization.

“These Career Treks are also a good way to expose scholars to different career industries while also giving them a chance to showcase their skillsets.”

Students met with engineering professionals at the rail project’s regional office.

“These professionals gave insight to their professional journeys, gave advice on how students can be proactive in their career development and talked about how the different engineering disciplines are needed on a large-scale project like this,” Machado said.

Final designs for the high-speed rail project call for about 500 miles of track stretching from Southern California to San Francisco. The first segment, in various stages of construction since 2015, is a 170-mile stretch from Merced to Bakersfield.

At the project’s Hanford Viaduct, students learned about environmental considerations for construction sites, toured the top of the structure, heard how the structure will become earthquake proof and learned more about the professional experiences of the construction site managers. Students learned more about these issues at the Cedar Viaduct; because it’s further along in construction, they could compare the sites’ development.

Students also learned about the different engineering disciplines required for this work. As the project continues to develop, there will be different roles needed at different times. For example, once construction is further developed, electrical engineers will be vital in incorporating components needed for the stations and tracks. Other opportunities soon to be available include internships with partner organizations such as Stantec and Caltrans. And once work begins on the rail’s Merced station, there likely will be more chances for UC Merced students to be involved.

For this particular Career Trek, participating students had a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Once construction gets further along and trains start to run stations, the tours currently being hosted will no longer be offered to the public.

Students interested in learning more about Career Treks get can look at Instagram and view the events calendar through Handshake or go to the Career Center website.

The Student Career Center typically offers one or two Career Treks during the academic year. Previous destinations include Gallo and LinkedIn.

Ribbon cutting for McKinley interchange June 12, groundbreaking for 120 Bypass/99 work is July 17

Manteca — when Mayor Gary Singh and fellow council members along with other dignitaries cut the ribbon to open the McKinley Avenue interchange next month — will  have done something no other California city of under 100,000 has done this century.

And that’s complete three major interchange projects, including two done with lion’s share of the cost being funded by the city.

It started with the replacement interchange at Lathrop Road and Highway 99 that was completed in 2012.

It included completing the transformation of the Union Road and 120 Bypass interchange in 2020 as the first diverging diamond interchange in California.

And it will be marked Wednesday, June 12, with the Mckinley ribbon cutting for what will be the fifth interchange along the 6-mile stretch of the 120 Bypass.

That’s three new or revamped interchanges opening within 12 years at a cost in excess of $85 million.

And the city is just getting started.

On Monday, July 17, the groundbreaking for the first of three phases involved in the $154 million Highway 99/120 Bypass/Austin Road interchanges will take place.

That will address two more interchanges, bringing the number to five.

Meanwhile, the city is in the process of funding preliminary work to repeat the diverging diamond redo at Union Road including the separate pedestrian crossing for the 120 Bypass at Airport Way and Main Street.

The first of the two projects to break ground is expected to be Airport Way.

Singh’s goal is to see the three additional projects completed within the next 10 years.

If that happens, the city will have had a role in seven major interchange projects in 22 years with an overall tab in excess of $300 million.

The first phase of the 120/99 work includes more than $8 million in city funding to allow the replacement overpass on Austin Road that would also bridge Moffat Boulevard and the railroad tracks to be widened to four lanes.

The balance of the first phase funding has already been lined up. Work includes adding a second transition lane from the eastbound 120 Bypass to southbound Highway 99.

When the first phase is completed in two years or so, the funding is expected to be in place to add a second transition lane from northbound Highway 99 to the westbound 120 Bypass.

The third phase will require Manteca to secure much of the funding.

It involves long expensive braided ramps to restore access to northbound Highway 99 from Austin and access to Austin Road from southbound Highway 99.

Because the Austin Road and 120 Bypass/Highway 99 interchanges are so close, access for traffic going to and from Austin Road from the 120 Bypass requires ramps to start for such movements far away from the interchange.

It is needed to avoid traffic slowdowns, congestion, and reduce the potential for accidents.

As an example, it will require the off-ramp for eastbound 120 Bypass traffic heading to Austin Road to start just past the Main Street on ramp.

The ramp will then need a separate bridge structure to cross Moffat and the railroad tracks. As it curves alongside the transition lanes to Highway 99, another ramp for northbound  Highway 99 traffic seeking to exit at Austin Road will start at a point between the Yosemite Avenue and 120 Bypass interchanges on the Highway 99 corridor.

Those two ramps will braid somewhere between the 120 Bypass and 99 interchanges to allow access to both northbound and southbound Austin Road.

Given the ramps will open up a large swath of southeast Manteca to development, the city is pursuing a benefit district to fund the city’s share of the project.

The third phase will also include the widening of the Bypass from Highway 99 to Airport Way to six lanes with the potential for transition lanes between interchanges such as the one on either side of the Union Road interchange.

Business owner in Madera County gets high recognition

MADERA COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) — Steel Structures Inc. in Madera County takes a flat sheet of steel and transforms it into massive tools that help drive our economy.

“If it has to be stored or processed, we build it,” says Company President Dan Riley.

The manufacturing plant has four buildings on nine acres and handles projects of all sizes.

Some stay local — others are shipped across the world.

“I have shipped to Guam, Barbados, Australia about three times,” he said. “Florida, Central Valley, West Coast and anything that makes sense.”

In April, the Small Business Association recognized Dan Riley, the company’s president, as the 2024 Small Business Person of the Year.

It’s a recognition he’s humbled to receive as the third generation of the family-owned business.

Riley says it’s important to him to continue the legacy that started with his grandfather in 1952 and pass it on to his two sons one day.

“I feel proud, and I feel honored,” he said. “Being able to do it and trying to overcome obstacles and changing times, presidents, policies, wars, we have survived a lot. Now, my greatest honor is to do my diligence and get my two boys involved.”

Riley says he is thankful for all the employees who help keep their family legacy strong.

He also shows his gratitude by giving back to our community.

“We always do it mainly for the community to give back and support,” he said. “I am a Rotarian and a veteran. I am involved in a lot of service clubs. The goal is always to give back. A rising tide floats all ships.”

Riley’s youngest says he’s been working with his dad since he was a young teen and is excited to be part of the growing business and serve more areas in the future.

Cargill sells California beef plant to Central Valley Meat

Cargill confirmed Thursday it has entered an agreement to sell off a California processing plant to the state’s largest beef producer.

Central Valley Meat Holding Company will acquire the food giant’s processing facility in Fresno for an undisclosed amount, according to an emailed statement to Agriculture Dive. The California beef producer aims to retain as many of the plant’s 880 employees as possible.

“With this sale, Cargill’s priorities were to place as many of our workers as possible into jobs and to retain the beef processing capacity for California producers,” a Cargill spokesperson said.

Central Valley Meat solidified itself as a dominant player in the California beef industry following the 2019 acquisition of Harris Farms, which operates the state’s largest feedlot located about an hour’s drive from Fresno. The producer employs more than 2,000 workers.

The acquisition of the Cargill plant represents a “significant expansion” in capacity, according to Central Valley Meat. The purchase will allow the California producer to better respond to market demands and drive efficiencies across its supply chain.

“We’re excited to work alongside cattle producers in the state and region to continue delivering quality beef products for our customers and consumers,” Central Valley Meat CEO and owner Brian Coelho said in a statement.

Cargill employees will have the opportunity to “explore roles” within Central Valley Meat, the California processor said in a statement. Cargill has yet to file the required notice with the state that would indicate mass layoffs.

The sale comes less than a month after Cargill offloaded eight grain facilities in the Midwest to rival CHS. Global food giants’ profits have suffered as lower commodity prices eat away at earnings.

Feds Award $623 Million in Grants To Deploy Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

About $623 million in federal grants were awarded to 22 states and Puerto Rico to install electric vehicle charging stations as part of the Biden administration’s push to shift the United States away from gas-powered vehicles.

Cities, states and tribal groups nationwide were named recipients Thursday for funding to install chargers along heavily traveled highways and in underserved areas. The grants are part of a broader $7.5 billion program by the Biden administration to advance the adoption of electric vehicles. Additional grants are expected to be announced later.

Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Hyundai and other auto makers are spending billions of dollars to construct factories for electric vehicles and the lithium-ion batteries that power them. Federal and state governments are pushing for the transition to EVs to combat climate change.

The private sector has ramped up efforts to install EV charging stations at retailersapartment developmentsgas stations and other locations. But there remains a dearth of electric vehicle charging stations, causing consumers to worry about getting stranded if their electric vehicle runs out of power and they’re not close to a charging station.

The first EV charging stations funded through the federal program opened last month at a Pilot truck stop in London, Ohio, and in a Bank of America parking lot in Kingston, New York. The new round of grants is expected to accelerate the expansion, with some organizations saying they will immediately begin the process of doling out the funds for installation.

Representatives from winning areas issued statements on Thursday about their plans. The Atlanta Regional Commission said it expects installation backed by its $6.1 million award to take place over the next 12 to 18 months. The planning organization will prioritize groups that will use the funds to put chargers in underserved areas, CEO Anna Roach said in a news release.

The Atlanta Regional Commission did not disclose details of the types of chargers it will deploy, or the equipment manufacturers or charging networks. A spokesman for the organization said that specific locations will be announced later.

The city of Mesa, Arizona, received $12 million to install charging stations as well as charging docks for e-bicycles and e-scooters. “It’ll mean convenience for drivers, lower emissions and even more good-paying clean energy jobs,” U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton, who represents Mesa, said in a news release.

The private sector has already stepped up its game on EV charger installations. Mercedes-Benz in November released images for its planned network of canopy-covered charging stations, which will carry the Mercedes brand and offer perks to Mercedes drivers.

Not all grants will be used specifically for charging equipment designed for vehicles powered by lithium-ion batteries. A group of local governments in Texas received $70 million to build five hydrogen fueling stations for trucks along highways in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Austin and San Antonio.

The next three largest awards announced Thursday were $64 million to New Mexico; $56 million for the Central Valley of California; and $51 million to Puerto Rico. Metropolitan areas that were awarded grants included New York City; Cleveland, Ohio; the San Francisco Bay area; Durham, North Carolina; and Boise, Idaho.

Other grant recipients announced Thursday include:

  • $56 million for truck-charging stations in Taft and Gustine, towns in the San Joaquin Valley of central California. The stations will also include chargers for light-duty vehicles.
  • $15 million to the state of Maryland to develop charging stations in urban, suburban and low and moderate-income neighborhoods. Coppin State University in Baltimore was named as a potential location in Maryland.
  • $12 million for an EV charging center for light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles on Interstate 15 in Barstow, California, halfway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
  • $10 million to New Jersey for charging stations at multifamily developers in disadvantaged areas and near public transit stations.
  • $1.4 million to the Chilkoot Indian Association to build a charging station in Haines, Alaska.

U.S. Department of Commerce Invests $600,000 to Bolster Business Growth in Tulare, California

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is awarding a $600,000 grant to the city of Tulare, California, to make building renovations to accommodate new business growth and startup expansion.

This grant will support the creation of a fabrication facility which will house 3D printers, laser cutters, and other equipment small businesses can access for prototyping and producing new products. This EDA investment will be matched with $210,000 in local funds and is expected to create 72 jobs, according to grantee estimates.

“The Economic Development Administration plays an important role in helping communities implement their plans to provide the vital infrastructure that businesses need to be successful,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Y. Castillo. “This EDA investment will help provide a state-of-the-art space where entrepreneurs can grow their businesses, contributing to regional job creation and economic resilience.”

“California’s innovation and entrepreneurial spirit can be found in every region of our state, from San Francisco to the Central Valley. Right here in Tulare, an investment from the Economic Development Administration will foster economic growth and job creation,” said Governor Gavin Newsom.

“Infrastructure that supports Tulare’s small business owners and entrepreneurs is critical to boosting the Central Valley’s economy,” said Senator Alex Padilla. “As we celebrate Small Business Month, this investment will spur innovation and create good-paying jobs by providing hardworking small business owners important tools to grow their enterprises.”

“I applaud the EDA for delivering this funding which will create jobs, grow businesses, and spur economic growth,” said Senator Laphonza Butler. “These federal dollars going to Tulare will create spaces that help ensure small businesses get the cutting-edge technology they need to keep our local economies strong.”

About the U.S. Economic Development Administration (
The mission of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation’s regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. An agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA invests in communities and supports regional collaboration in order to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation, and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth.