Published On March 11, 2020 – 12:54 PM Written By Frank Lopez
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.”
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.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) — Hundreds of people gathered at Fresno State on Thursday to celebrate the groundbreaking of a large new facility designed to serve students.
This ceremony marked a monumental moment for the university as it builds a new 84,000 square foot student union.
Student Body President Omar Hernandez says, “The current union was built for a campus population of 10,000 students. Fresno State’s current population is one of 25,000 bold students.”
The new facility is named after Lynda and Stewart Resnick. They are the founders of The Wonderful Company, which is known for many popular products, including Pom Wonderful juice and pistachios.
The couple donated $10 million toward the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the new building.
The company has also provided scholarships for more than 200 students currently attending the university.
Lynda Resnick says, “We’ve been actively involved in philanthropy for many years, and we’ve been proud to support the causes that are dear to us, but none of our efforts have been more meaningful than our work in the Central Valley. ”
During the ceremony, Fresno State President Dr. Joseph Castro announced that Bank of America is donating $250,000 and will have its name on a new welcome center inside the student union. Several other donors have also made significant contributions.
Dr. Castro says, “Thanks to the kindness of the many people who are here today, you are ensuring Fresno State recruits, educates, and graduates talented students to stay, work, and lead right here in the Central Valley.”
Students will also help pay for the $60 million project. They voted to approve a fee of $149 per semester back in March of 2018.
Student and Chair of the University Student Union Board, Lauryn Flores, says, “They voted yes by 67%, and that is how this project came to be, by students, for students, from the very beginning.”
Plans for the facility include space for student clubs, meeting rooms, dining options, and an outdoor rooftop lounge. People attending the ceremony were able to take a virtual reality tour of the building, which is scheduled to open in the fall of next year.
The old union will be used for programs and services that complement the new facility.
OAKHURST — The community got a preview of the new $25 million Oakhurst Community College Center at a public forum this week in Oakhurst.
Darin Soukup, Oakhurst Community College Center director, and project architect Paul Halajian were both on hand at the meeting to provide updates and answer questions from community members about progress on the project.
Halajian also brought a scale model of the proposed 21,450-square-foot building to show around at the meeting. “This is what it’s going to look like, he said. “But it’s still a bit of a work in progress.”
The current design features seven classrooms — one for biology/chemistry lab plus a “prep” room, one art studio/classroom, one computer lab classroom and four general education classrooms that will also allow for 2-way simultaneous broadcast of courses from other locations in the District.
“This will allow us to utilize hybrid and distance learning so students do not have to travel to other locations as often to complete degrees,” Soukup said.
While the groundbreaking remains more than a year out, the new campus will be built in about a year or 18 months.
“Construction could begin as early as late 2021 but depends on a number of factors,” Soukup added. “Construction may finish late 2022 or early 2023.”
“The District’s commitment to elevating the quality of higher education in the Oakhurst community is exciting and the site chosen for the new absolutely campus is spectacular,” Halajian said. “As architects, we are excited to be a part of creating a new campus from the ground up that will inspire students in the mountain communities of Madera County for this and future generations.”
Tuesday’s forum took place from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Oakhurst Community Center.
About 30 or 40 people attended, including current professors and other employees from Oakhurst Community College.
The new Oakhurst College Center campus was approved by SCCCD trustees after voters OK’d Bond Measure C in 2016.
The facility, to be built on a 30-acre parcel overlooking a large pond, will replace the current Oakhurst Community College Center adjacent to the Oakhurst Library.
MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) — A local valley school is offering students a fast track to start their careers in nutrition.
Digging into a career in nutrition isn’t always easy, but Merced College is serving up a solution for its students. In Fall 2020, the foods and nutrition program will offer several certificates as a fast track option.
“It allows students to have the time to get right through it and working and going,” said former student Evan Fimbrez.
In just two semesters, students can earn a ServSafe Manager Certificate – the first step to a wide variety of jobs in the nutrition field.
“They can be dietary managers in long term care, in skilled nursing, hospitals, school foodservice, prisons, lots of job opportunities,” said Food and Nutrition professor Michelle Pecchenino.
Evan Fimbrez took advantage of the courses during his time at Merced College and is now a director of food and nutrition services at a local nursing and rehab facility.
“I was already interested in the field, and it was a great jump start, foot in the door to getting those field experiences, getting those contacts, and working out my career,” Fimbrez said.
He says one of the best experiences as a student was the 150 hours he spent working in the field.
“I was going out into the community, and being able to work in actual kitchens and get hands on experience was awesome,” he said.
The curriculum will offer courses in food safety, food service management, basic cooking, and foodservice production. If you’re interested in learning more about the program visit their website.
Fernando Valera, a senior at Duncan Polytechnical High School, repairs a heavy duty truck used for training. Outside of school, Valera works as a truck technician for a company that expects to hire him after graduation. Photo by John Walker/The Fresno Bee
Almost half of Fresno Unified students take part in career and technical programs. The training helps students as well as local industries that area struggling to find skilled workers.
On a recent school day in Fresno, Fernando Valero repaired a 32,000-pound diesel truck with failed sensors. Then he crawled under another truck before lifting it with a floor jack. The morning school work left his hands black from grease.
And his day was just getting started.
After lunch, Valero left Duncan Polytechnical High School and headed to a job where he’s paid as a regular employee. Much like his classroom labor, he works with technicians fixing trucks for local customers.
There is a good chance the 17-year-old high school senior will keep his job after he graduates in June. School officials say that’s the goal.
About a decade after a recession nearly crippled the nation’s economy and devastated the job market in California’s Central Valley, the region is still trying to pick itself up. But many education leaders hope that efforts to attract new businesses and train workers for skilled jobs are starting to work.
Valero is part of the 45% of Fresno Unified School District students who take part in career and technical programs, including medical, manufacturing and heavy-duty trucking. The pathways expose students to real-world industry work, and some, like Valero, are finding jobs while in school.
Jeremy Ward, executive officer for college and career readiness at Fresno Unified, said students who take part in career pathways consistently have a better graduation rate than students outside the programs. He said it’s because the pathway programs at each of the high schools are designed to satisfy student interest and the needs of Central Valley industries.
Most importantly, Ward said, the pathways offer students an invaluable opportunity: work experience and skills.
“It doesn’t take much to see how this benefits students who are in poverty, because it is providing them all those experiences,” he said. “It’s providing them all of that knowledge. It’s providing them real skills they can be able to take after high school to do something with it.”
The program is part of a district-wide effort. Several other Central Valley schools have developed their own career pathways. Cara Jurado, a pathway coordinator at Duncan High School, said partnerships among schools, industry and the state have led to increased investment in improving schools.
“We’re in one of the lowest socio-economic areas in town. Data shows that students from this area don’t tend to go on to high-paying jobs and that’s not right,” Jurado said. “We wanted to create opportunities.”
During school breaks, Valero is one of the few students who work eight-hour paid days. That has helped him gain knowledge and confidence from experienced workers, he said.
“If you don’t put in the time and effort, then you won’t be able to go where you want to succeed,” Valero said.
Pathway to success
Thousands of jobs have poured into the Central Valley from large corporate warehouses in recent years. But those jobs don’t always come with high wages. Some have even brought trouble for employees who are injured in intensive manual jobs.
As the Central Valley grows, efforts are underway to diversify industries and protect the economy from another recession. In diversifying and bringing higher-skilled jobs, a young, emerging workforce could prove critical to keeping those jobs local.
Eric Rubio, a heavy-duty trucking instructor at Duncan High, says this is uncharted territory. He said the skills gap is large enough where new technology like self-driving trucks and active-radar tools could overtake lower-skill jobs.
“The older technicians didn’t grow up with that technology. These (younger) guys have the aptitude and the tech-savviness to use diagnostics tools,” Rubio said.
Those changes in the industry require better-educated workers to perform the job, Rubio said.
Skills as currency
Manufacturers are struggling to maintain enough highly skilled workers. But Troy Brandt, general manager of Hydratech and chair of the San Joaquin Valley Manufacturing Alliance, said local schools training students for industry jobs has helped significantly. Colleges in the Valley also have stepped up to provide training.
He said some of his best workers have come directly out of high school.
The shortage of experienced manufacturing workers can cause a shuffle of employees among companies offering better pay. But Brandt said as long as manufacturing continues to be strong, there is an opportunity.
“We wonder why we see so much of the middle class disappearing in this country. I would attribute a lot of that to the loss of manufacturing jobs. These are good paying jobs,” Brandt said.
Adapting to a changing work landscape is a priority for employers as automation and technology improvements will inevitably eliminate many jobs.
A 2019 study from the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings Institution found industries should adapt to automation rather than resisting. The study, which examined about 800 occupations across nearly 100 metropolitan areas, found that automation risks vary across the country.
Almost half of males 24 and younger and underrepresented communities, such as Hispanic workers, typically hold jobs that are vulnerable to automation. The flip side, according to the study, is that automation creates different jobs if workers can learn the necessary technology skills.
“If your skill set loses its currency, then you are in danger,” said Blake Konczal, executive director of the Fresno Regional Workforce Development Board. “I think we need to try to figure out where this change is going, and then try to arrange for our residents and our citizens to be able to access training that makes them competitive in whatever environment that change creates.”
Fresno County offers employee training through the New Employment Opportunity program, which helps job seekers maintain jobs and teaches them needed skills that could help them obtain good jobs.
Companies that hire workers through the program get wage reimbursement help from the county if they keep the workers, according to Jenna Lukens, contracts manager with the Fresno County Economic Development Corporation.
“This is really to get people off of the public aid system, to get themselves self-sufficient for them and their families,” she said.
Economic leaders in the Central Valley say that warehouse work may not be a silver bullet, despite the jobs it provides. An array of occupations is part of building a resilient economy so residents are not dependent on a single industry.
After the recession caused havoc because of a lack of occupational diversity, many Valley cities struggled to recover. In Clovis, the city council had an ambitious plan to bring multinational tech companies to the city. But the recession put a strain on those plans.
A decade later, those plans have slowly materialized. A large medical complex has sprouted in northeast Clovis, next to empty lots that also await new development, according to Andrew Haussler, community and economic development director for Clovis.
“The beautiful thing about health care is that it provides stable jobs that are relatively recession-resilient,” Haussler said.
The medical complex includes plans for the first medical school in the Valley, where there is a high need for medical experts. It’s expected to enroll the first class of students in August.
Recent efforts by state legislators have also advanced goals set by Clovis leaders, including offering two years of free community college to eligible students.
“When you talk about opportunity … you can go from Clovis High to Clovis Community College … you can transfer straight into California Health Sciences University and have your doctorate in pharmacy in five years,” Haussler said. “That’s how we truly grow economically. This is really a regional investment.”
‘A completely different place’
The Fresno metropolitan area has outpaced large areas like Los Angeles in economic growth since 2005, according to data from the Fresno County Economic Development Corporation. The biggest industries in the Fresno area are crop production and food manufacturing.
But tech has in recent years created a buzz, with Bitwise Industries and other software companies that have moved into the Valley. With a growing medical field and a stronger focus to train workers in industries like manufacturing, conditions could improve for the Valley, says Amanda Bosland, client services manager with the Fresno County Economic Development Corporation.
The development corporation and several other organizations have been working on ways to attract new business opportunities to the Valley. That has led to the creation of the Central Valley Global Trade and Investment Plan, which was developed as part of the Global Cities Initiative from the Brookings Institution and JP Morgan Chase. The plan recognized the Valley as an “up and coming” region for the state’s economic development.
“I would gamble, in the next five to 10 years, Fresno is going to be a completely different place,” Bosland said.
The plan outlined ways the Valley can improve low incomes and unemployment and also suggested stronger global engagement, something Bosland views as critical.
“While poverty is a problem, it also means we have a large population hungry for something new,” Bosland said. “It’s not easy work, and it’s pretty slow work, but it’s being done.”
Cresencio Rodriguez-Delgado is a reporter with The Fresno Bee. This article is part of The California Divide, a collaboration among newsrooms examining income inequity and economic survival in California
Chevron powers innovation with $450,000 gift to Fresno State
Courtesy of Fresno State News; by Lisa Boyles, public information officer, University Communications
Thanks to generous support from Chevron, several Fresno State programs will benefit, improving STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education for current and future students.
Chevron announced a $450,000 donation to Fresno State on Jan. 31 in support of initiatives in engineering, science and homecoming.
“Chevron is proud to continue our support of Fresno State in these endeavors, which benefit not only students, but the entire community and region,” said Megan Lopez, Chevron’s public affairs representative. “We are committed to raising the quality of life for underserved students from Fresno-area communities.”
This is Chevron’s third gift of this magnitude to Fresno State programs since 2017.
Chevron will present a $156,000 check to Taft College to help fund the development of the Allied Health and Sciences Lab, specifically by providing medical equipment for expansion of its anatomy and physiology curriculum.
The ceremony will take place at 10:30 a.m. Feb. 5 in the Taft Chevron Innovation Lab. Lunch will be served immediately following in the Cougar Room on campus.
This donation will strengthen Taft College’s collaboration with Kern County schools by expanding classes for science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers.
“For years we have had a waiting list for certain science courses, which meant students had to delay finishing their coursework,” said Taft College Superintendent and President Debra Daniels in a news release. “Through Chevron’s generous donation we were able to double our science course offerings in anatomy and physiology, which will enable more students to get to their education goal.”
Chevron has partnered with Taft College for more than a decade, donating in excess of $1.5 million to support Taft College students through internships and connecting employees with students to discuss the industry.
The California State University Board of Trustees approved the establishment of the Grimm Family Center for Agricultural Business at a meeting Tuesday at the Chancellor’s Office in Long Beach. With a resolution commemorating the new center, made possible by a gift from the Grimm families, are, from left: Cal State Bakersfield President Lynnette Zelezny, Brandon Grimm, Kari Grimm Anderson, Barbara Grimm-Marshall, CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White and Garrett P. Ashley, vice chancellor of University Relations and Advancement for the CSU.
Photo courtesy Cal State Bakersfield
Barbara Grimm-Marshall, founder and CEO of Grimm Family Education Foundation, speaks at the California State University Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday.
When you have a university located in a leading crop-producing county, having an educational agriculture center would seem like a natural fit.
On Tuesday, it became a reality for Cal State Bakersfield. The California State University Board of Trustees approved the establishment of the Grimm Family Center for Agricultural Business, made possible by an endowment created by Barbara Grimm-Marshall and Kari Grimm Anderson.
The $5 million, three-year pledge, is the single largest gift in the university’s history and coincides with the 50th anniversary of family-owned Grimmway Farms and honors the legacy of the company’s founders, Rod and Bob Grimm.
“Kern County is such a significant contributor to the fruits and vegetables that are consumed throughout our country. To create a focus on agriculture at CSUB that has been such a strong educational dynamic within our community just seemed like a great opportunity,” Grimm-Marshall said.
The idea to create a partnership with the university and give such a gift came through a family discussion, Grimm-Marshall explained. With Grimmway Farms celebrating 50 years in Kern County, family members wanted to give back to the community that has “given so much to us” over the years. They all agreed upon creating a center that highlights agriculture and business and opens students up to various opportunities within the agriculture field.
“We’re very grateful for the opportunity and are excited about the impact of what this will have in the future,” Grimm-Marshall said.
Though details are scarce at this point in terms of when the center is expected to be up and running, Jennifer Self, CSUB director of public affairs and communications, said it will be a game changer for the university and Kern County.
The Grimm Family Center for Agricultural Business will offer various educational opportunities to CSUB’s agribusiness students, who will learn by doing, gaining experience directly out in the field and working with experts immersed in the day-to-day enterprise of running successful agribusinesses, according to a news release. Local agricultural leaders will work with students, as well as collaborate with the university’s School of Business and Public Administration.
“Any time you can have a philanthropist support an organization like this, and at this level, it will take you from great to a center of excellence,” said Victor Martin, vice president for University Advancement. “The Grimm name has long been associated with excellence, and it’s what we’ll drive with this center.”
There are no plans to construct a building. Instead, it will be housed in an existing space.
By Aug. 31, the university hopes to appoint key personnel to provide programmatic leadership, develop the fiscal plan for the center, begin recruitment of the founding executive director, recruit advisory council members, develop relationships with the community and form regional partnerships, Self explained. A lecture series, forums and workshops, professional development, research, internships and scholarships for students are also expected to be available.
CSUB President Lynnette Zelezny said agribusiness is one of the primary needs in academics at CSUB, so she is looking forward to how this collaboration and partnership with the Grimm family will allow the university to support workforce development in Kern County.
“We want to serve our community, and ag business is one of the key drivers of economic development,” she said. “We need to leverage and collaborate with our partners to increase the number of students we’re accruing to be ag business leaders and bring up the economics of our community which feeds the world. It’s the right place and right time for this gift.”
It will take some time before the center is in motion, but Grimm-Marshall believes it can be a place for innovation that evolves as the field continues to change.
“Hopefully we’ll be nurturing and cultivating students with their education and learning opportunities where they see a future for themselves right here in Kern County, and I think that would be a really positive thing,” she said.
CLOVIS, Calif. (KFSN) — One Valley school is setting a new standard for transfer students across California.
Clovis Community College students are setting goals from day one.
“When I started my first semester, I knew exactly what I would be taking for the next two years,” said former Clovis Community College student Mckay Duran.
For schools of their size, Clovis Community is the number one college in the state for the number of students that transfer to a UC or a CSU.
Mckay Duran is one of those students.
“That really made it a lot easier to keep my sights on my goals and dreams of transferring,” Duran said. “Because it wasn’t what I heard about community college and staying longer, no it’s two years, get those units, get those credits and get to Fresno State or wherever you want to go.”
After two years at Clovis Community, Duran transferred to Fresno State last fall and is currently a Political Science student.
“Meeting with counselors, they’re always focused on getting you to where you want to be and for me, that was transferring,” Duran said.
“Our students come here with the goal of transferring, and our faculty and our support staff are absolutely dedicated to giving them the support system they need, said Clovis Community College President Lori Bennett.
Administrators are planning to keep it that way, setting every student up for success regardless of their background. Clovis Community College is also number one for the number of Associate degrees earned for transfers.