Category: Economy


Published On March 11, 2020 – 12:54 PM
Written By 

A start-up company with connections to Fresno State just received heavy investment to aid in its work of increasing access to fresh water at a lower cost.

Valley Ventures, an accelerator program of the Water, Energy, and Technology Center (WET Center) at Fresno State, helped raise $6 million in new funding for Membrion Inc., a Seattle company that creates membranes out of silica gel materials to allow for a higher-performing desalination process that can purify pharmaceuticals, wastewater and other types of liquids.

With the new funding, Membrion will be moving its headquarters to Interbay, Washington.

“With this funding, we’re thrilled to move from the lab commercial production, develop a new manufacturing facility and ramp up production for customers,” said Greg Newbloom, CEO of Membrion.

The investors providing the $6 million are from outside the area.

The company completed the Valley Ventures Accelerator program in late 2019 and since then, Membrion has streamlined efforts on focusing and perfecting the “electrodialysis reversal” desalination process.

Newbloom said the company’s membranes are lowering the costs of membrane filtration by 30 percent.

“We are grateful for the help we received while being in the Valley Ventures Accelerator program,” said Newbloom. “The information and assistance we gained throughout the program, as well as the support given by the WET Center even after, allowed us to not only streamline this technology, but grow our company as a whole.”


A 25-foot shuttle bus manufactured in Porterville will be made fully autonomous as part of a new business partnership. Photo via GreenPower

Published On March 2, 2020 – 2:31 PM
Written By 

Coming soon to a street (but probably not near you): an all-electric, autonomous bus.

GreenPower Motor Company Inc., the Canadian-based electric bus maker with an assembly plant in Porterville, is partnering with a Virginia-based technology firm to make it happen.

GreenPower and Perrone Robotics have teamed up to develop the first all-electric, fully-autonomous transit bus, with portions being built in both Porterville and the latter company’s Virginia headquarters.

The EV Star shuttle, a 25-foot-long bus made by GreenPower, could be completed within 90 days, said GreenPower President Brendan Riley.

He noted this will not be a test vehicle, as the company has a buyer lined up who plans to put the bus on the road providing transit services, possibly within six-12 months.

“It will have a safety driver, at least for now,” said Riley, who declined to identify the customer, how that business plans to use the autonomous bus or even in which state it will be used.

“It won’t be in California,” he said.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and other sources report the Golden State, along with 10 others and the District or Columbia, allows the use of all types of autonomous vehicles on roads.

Four of those — California among them — don’t require safety drivers in the vehicles under any circumstances.

Riley said an EV Star is being converted to become autonomous, with Perrone Robotics providing the self-driving technology.

On its website, Perrone Robotics describes itself as having been “behind the first general-purpose robotics software platform for autonomous vehicles and robots. We call this platform MAX. We make the analogy that MAX is to robots as Windows is to computers or as Android is to smartphones.”

In recent years, “we wanted to zero in on places where we could deploy autonomous vehicles sooner rather than later. This led us to focus on last-mile shuttles and then to specific transit routes that operated in well-known spaces,” the website continues, stating that the company created its TONY (TO Navigate You) general autonomy system to be included in existing vehicles and is being added to GreenPower’s EV Star.

Riley noted that this will be a level-5 autonomous vehicle, able to navigate traffic without the need for a safety driver — unless required by law or the owner requires one — and stopping to pick up and drop off passengers, though once the first one is finished, Perrone will initiate a series of tests to certify it operates as it should.

On its website, Perrone officials report they have spent months successfully testing the TONY system in Virginia on a different shuttle bus.

If all goes as planned, Riley said GreenPower is considering building all of its buses to be capable of autonomous driving, if customers choose to add on the programming and if it’s legal where those buses will run.

Report: Visalia’s Kaweah Delta hospital generates $1 billion a year locally

Central Valley Business Times

March 12, 2020

• Supports nearly 7,400 jobs directly or indirectly
• “How Kaweah Delta supports Tulare County’s economy”

Kaweah Delta medical center in Visalia does more than provide healthcare services to the region and the Central Valley — it also infuses nearly $1 billion into the local economy each year, according to a new study.

Kaweah Delta makes an estimated $973 million annual economic impact and accounts for $550.4 million or 3.2 percent of Tulare County’s economy, says an economic impact analysis commissioned by the Tulare County Economic Development Corporation and prepared by Impact DataSource of Austin, Texas.

“Many people think that, traditionally, a hospital exists to care for a community and while there are many examples of that, this study paints the bigger picture of how Kaweah Delta supports Tulare County’s economy,” says Paul Saldana, president and chief executive officer of
Tulare County Economic Development Corporation.

The study says Kaweah Delta:
• Has a workforce that makes an estimated $444 million in compensation, of which $364 million goes back into the region through its spending.
• Has 5,000 employees but creates an additional 2,382 local jobs through its employees’ spending and activity.
• Provides an average salary of $68,323 to employees, which is significantly higher than the average annual wage of $39,000 in Tulare County.
• When it recruits one new primary care physician to the area, it generates an economic impact of $2.9 million in annual economic output, 17 jobs, and $1.2 million in compensation paid. In 2019, Kaweah Delta recruited 40 new physicians of various specialties to the area.
• Supports $550.4 million in value added, which benefits nearly all local industries.

“Kaweah Delta is one of the largest employers in the county. Its workforce includes everything from doctors to nurses to people who cook and clean rooms. They are well-paid, and their paychecks help support our local economy,” says Mr. Saldana.

The study sponsored by the Sequoia Regional Economic Development Foundation and Kaweah Delta Health Care District, analyzed the total annual economic impact of the healthcare district.

Download the full report here:

COVID-19 virus spurs hiring atsupermarket chains

Central Valley Business Times

March 19, 2020

• FoodMaxx, Lucky & Save Mart looking for workers
• Modesto-based company says it is hiring for nearly 1,000 jobs

Modesto-based privately held Save Mart Companies are hiring, due to the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease.
There are openings for close to 1,000 employees in their FoodMaxx, Lucky and Save Mart stores located throughout California and Northern Nevada, as well as their warehouses in Roseville and Merced, thre company says.

This includes in-store positions, drivers, and warehouse workers.

The Save Mart Companies operates 205 stores throughout California and Northern Nevada under the banners of FoodMaxx, Lucky and Save Mart. In addition to its retail operation, the company also operates Smart  Refrigerated Transport and is a partner in Super Store
Industries, which owns and operates a distribution center in Lathrop and the Sunnyside Farms dairy processing plant in Turlock.

Port of Stockton operations not crimped by COVID-19 pandemic

Central Valley Business Times

March 19, 2020

  • Operations modified where needed
  • “The Port of Stockton’s ability to support our business partners has not been impacted”

California’s largest inland seaport, the Port of Stockton, is open and operating normally, officials say, although some measures are in place to prevent the spread of the virus that causes the COVID-19 illness.

“The Port of Stockton’s priority is to ensure the health and safety of all Port stakeholders; to date, the Port of Stockton’s ability to support our business partners has not been impacted by COVID-19,” says Port Director Richard Aschieris. “With our quickly changing environment, we remain vigilant and engaged with private sector stakeholders as well as local, state and federal agencies to ensure we have the latest information available and are operating per their guidance and implementing the most effective measures to support our shared goal of keeping all Port users, partners and staff safe while maintaining business continuity.”

He says the seaport has implemented a variety of measures to protect and limit contact and exposure of COVID-19 to Port employees as well to reduce the risk of a disruption to the services provided to our customers and tenants, including:

  • Reduced domestic travel to only that which is critical for the Port’s business continuity
  • Encouraged telephone or video conferencing for internal and external meetings
  • Implemented mandatory wearing of Personal Protective Equipment for staff performing essential operations and maintenance functions requiring external in-person contact
  • Implemented strategic physical separation of Port staff functions at various sites within the Port premises
  • Encouraged preventive actions recommended by the Center for Disease Control

“We will continue to monitor and respond to the changing needs created by this pandemic, ” Mr. Aschieris says.

The Port’s police department remains open 24 hours a day and its maritime and real estate departments continue to operate during normal business hours.

Updates to the Port’s status will be posted as needed to the Port’s website (COVID-19 stands for “coronavirus disease 2019, ” a respiratory illness caused by a virus named SARS-CoV-2. SARS stands for “severe acute respiratory syndrome,” a disease first identified in Asia in 2003.)

Westlands Solar Park begins construction

KINGS COUNTY — CIM Group announced recently that it is advancing the development of Westlands Solar Park in Kings County, one of the largest permitted solar parks in the world.

The solar park could grow to more than 2,700-megawatts (2.7 gigawatts) of renewable energy potential at full build out, which could provide clean energy to more than 1.2 million homes, said a press release from CIM Group.

The master-planned energy park encompasses more than 20,000 acres in the Central Valley in western Fresno County and Kings County, southwest of Lemoore, and is designed to open in phases to meet the needs of public and private utilities and other energy consumers.

The first phase of CIM’s development at Westlands Solar Park includes Aquamarine, a 250-megawatt solar photovoltaic project, which obtained all entitlement and conditional use approvals following a full environmental impact review.

CIM signed a power purchase agreement with Valley Clean Energy Alliance, a locally-governed electricity provider for the California cities of Davis and Woodland and unincorporated portions of Yolo County, for 50-megawatts of capacity, with initial delivery anticipated to occur in late 2021.

According to the press release, Valley Clean Energy’s decision to select Aquamarine from a competitive solicitation process was based on its board adopting criteria designed to select cost-effective California-based renewable projects that minimize impacts on prime farmland, environmentally protected species, and habitat.

CIM said it applies sustainable principles across its real asset portfolios, and at Westlands Solar Park, CIM is repurposing selenium-contaminated and drainage impaired farmland for the development of clean energy.

Kings County Supervisor Joe Neves, whose district includes some of the project’s area, said there are challenges with the land in terms of a shortage of water and it not being suitable for permanent crops, which led to land retirement.

Neves said the large project will keep the land active and on to its next application.

“I think it’s a good project,” Neves said.

CIM said its clean energy projects will also provide solutions to multiple policy objectives for the state of California’s renewable energy mandate, including greenhouse gas reduction and carbon free energy.

Additionally, Westlands Solar Park is expected to contribute to economic development in Central Valley communities by diversifying the region beyond agriculture and creating a substantial number of clean energy jobs over the development of the entire project.

CIM earlier completed a 2-megawatt pilot project at Westlands Solar Park in mid-2016 with the Anaheim Public Utility as the off-taker.

CSUB ranked nationally for affordability, return on investment

Posted: 9:51 AM, Mar 11, 2020

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — California State University, Bakersfield was recently ranked in two national publications for its affordability and return on investment for students.

CSUB was recognized in the top 10 percent of LendEDU’s Fifth Annual College Risk-Reward Indicator Study and ranked no. 26 on the Top 100 Most Affordable Public Schools with the Highest Return on Investments for Great Value Colleges.

LendEDU’s nationwide study analyzes four-year colleges and universities to find those that provide the best return on investment for students by factoring in average early career pay and average student loan debt at graduation.

The most recent data, according to LendEDU, shows that graduates with student loans have $28,565 in debt, on average, when they walk across the stage to receive their diplomas. At CSUB, the average is $18,143, with 45 percent of CSUB freshmen graduating with zero debt and 29 percent of transfer students graduating with zero debt.

Rankings for Great Value Colleges are determined by using data collected from College Navigator regarding tuition, as well as program information gleaned directly from each institution’s official website. For this ranking, affordable tuition, 40-year ROIs and national recognition as a top public school were considered.

More information about the study can be found here.

Madera County named one of the fastest growing communities in the West

MADERA COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) — The sounds of construction have become the norm in Madera County.

“No matter what part of the county you look at, there is some major pieces of construction going on,” said Bobby Kahn, the executive director of the Madera County Economic Development Commission.

A recent study by the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic analysis showed Madera County saw the fastest growth in the West in a medium-sized community with a 6.6% increase for its gross domestic product, which is the value of goods and services produced within the county.

The study highlighted growth areas in agriculture and forestry, especially in the mountains where trees have died.

“It’s creating a lot of forestries that we possibly didn’t have in the last, and you see a lot more logging trucks on the road in Eastern Madera County to places where it can be processed,” Kahn said.

In the city of Madera, new businesses are going up. Full Throttle suspension is expanding to this 100,000 square foot facility near the airport.

Nearby, a new fire station is expected to be completed in the next month.

At the Freedom Industrial Park, manufacturer TranPak is getting closer to opening.

Many projects are coming to fruition in 2020, including this loves travel stop. It just opened recently off Highway 99 and Avenue 17 and features space room for cars, trucks, and a dog park. More than 90 jobs were created.

Housing developments are changing the landscape of Madera.

“We have growth going on in Chowchilla, the city of Madera, and of course all of the growth going on along Highway 41 with River Stone, Tesoro Viejo, And then you’re seeing infrastructure work being done at children’s hospital, that’s part of the Gunner West project, which is fully entitled,” Kahn said.

Kahn believes a positive economy and planning are helping encourage growth. Leaders expect even more growth in 2020.

“It’s the geographic center of the state. It’s also one of the most affordable areas to develop in the state,” Kahn said.

All of the projects are benefitting the city and county with tax revenue and more job creation.

Ceremonial Groundbreaking Kicks-Off Construction of New F-35C Hangar

  • Updated 
Ceremonial Groundbreaking Kicks-Off Construction of New F-35C Hangar

Mr. Ronald Harper, Chairman of Harper Construction Company, Inc., Capt.  Adan Covarrubias, Commanding Officer of VFA-125,  Cmdr. Chris Fisher, NAS Lemoore Executive Officer, Cmdr. Kyle Jason, F-35C Fleet Integration Team Officer-in-Charge and  Mr. Doug Verboon, Kings County District Three Supervisor, along with members from NAS Lemoore Public Works, F-35C Fleet Integration Team and Harper Construction Team at Lemoore kick-off the construction of Hangar SIX at NAS Lemoore with a groundbreaking ceremony at the site.  Actual construction began January 21st with a projected completion date in November 2021.


NAS LEMOORE (February 26, 2020) – NAS Lemoore and Harper Construction Company Inc. leadership participated in a groundbreaking ceremony aboard NAS Lemoore, marking the official start of construction on a new F-35C Lightning II hangar.

Building 360, known as “Hangar Six,” will be the second F-35C hangar at NAS Lemoore. This construction project began roughly four months after Harper Construction Company Inc., from San Diego, Calif. was awarded a $95 million dollar, firm-fix price contract for the new facility last September.

“We’re just finished up an F-35 hangar down in Miramar and most of our crew is moving up to Lemoore or this project,” said Ronald D. Harper, founder and chairman of Harper Construction Company, Inc. “We’re very happy to be here. We very much like the base and the people we work with and it’s a good place to be.”

Hangar Six will be the first new hangar built at NAS Lemoore since the late 1970s. It will be the first NAS Lemoore hangar built, from the ground up, specifically for the 5th Generation strike fighter: the F-35C Lightning II and will be located just north of Hangar Four aboard the operations portion of NAS Lemoore. The project includes construction of a two-module aircraft maintenance hangar with flight pre-planning operations spaces as well as work bays with cranes, shops, offices and associated airfield pavements, operational and munitions storage. It also includes renovation of an existing battery shop and the addition of a new tool room. When complete, Hangar Six will be a total of four modules.  It is being constructed in a phased approach of 2 modules (expected completion November 2021), and then another 2 modules (expected completion February 2024).  When Phase 2 is complete, Hangar Six will be complete.

“It’s impressive to take stock of the momentum this program has gained since the Navy decided on NAS Lemoore as the home of the F-35C back in 2014,” said VFA-125 Commanding Officer, Adan Covarrubias. “The F-35C community at NAS Lemoore is actively and consistently moving the needle forward as we bring this incredible, game-changing asset to the carrier air wing of the future.”

The new F-35C hangar joins the list of buildings that have been added or remodeled at NAS Lemoore to accommodate the program, including the newly-remodeled Hangar Five, a Pilot Fit Facility (PFF), Centralized Engine Repair Facility (CERF), Pilot Training Center (PTC) and current construction on the Tactical Combat Training System (TCTS) facility. Future projects are sequenced to provide additional operational capability as additional Navy squadrons transition to the F-35C. Marine Corps F-35C squadrons will be based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, CA.

NAS Lemoore was established in 1961 as the master jet base for the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet. It was purpose-built to support Cold War aviation missions and was chosen because of its location, access to ranges, congestion-free air-space and good weather that supports unimpeded flight training and operations. To date, the installation remains the newest and largest U.S. Navy jet base and maintains a busy flight schedule, holding on to its master jet base distinction. NAS Lemoore is currently home to 16 F/A-18E/F Super Hornet strike fighter squadrons and is the only home to U.S. Navy F-35C Lightning II Fleet squadrons: VFA-147 “Argonauts” and VFA-125 “Rough Raiders,” the F-35C Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS).

“When we assessed the requirements to establish and mature the F-35C community, NAS Lemoore was the right place to home-base our Sailors and aircraft. Home-basing the F-35C at NAS Lemoore also gives Sailors the flexibility to move from ‘sea’ to ‘shore’ billets without leaving NAS Lemoore,” said U.S. Navy F-35C Wing Commodore, Capt. Max McCoy. “The F-35C is part of the Navy’s Strike Fighter community. Co-locating 4th and 5th generation aircraft accelerates carrier air wing integration, making our carrier strike groups more lethal and survivable. NAS Lemoore is a catalyst for how we will train, maintain and sustain future carrier air wing capability.”

The mission-ready F-35C is the latest addition to U.S. Navy’s Carrier Air Wing. With its stealth technology, state-of-the-art avionics, advanced sensors, weapons capacity and combat radius, the aircraft carrier-based F-35C provides unprecedented air superiority, interdiction, suppression of enemy air defenses and close-air-support as well as advanced command and control functions through fused sensors. These state-of-the-art capabilities give pilots and combatant commanders unrivaled battlespace awareness and lethality.

Commander, Joint Strike Fighter Wing, headquartered at Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif. ensures that each F-35C squadron is fully combat-ready to conduct carrier-based, all-weather, attack, fighter and support missions for Commander, Naval Air Forces. VFA-147’s safe-for-flight brings the squadron and the U.S. Navy one step closer to fully bringing this platform online. With its stealth technology, advanced sensors, weapons capacity and range, the F-35C will be the first 5th generation aircraft operated from an aircraft carrier.–c/article_7e547cba-a6b2-5d09-a041-d6750f2f8418.html#tracking-source=home-top-story

Valley fans crave cookies, company expands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s one that people have been craving more.

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

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