Tractor Supply Company is Coming to the City of Merced Soon

The city of Merced announced today that Tractor Supply Company is coming soon. The new business will be opening at the Gateway Marketplace located at Emission Avenue and near the new Arco Station. According to the developers, the store will be Tractor Supply’s new formats and the largest in the market area.

Wonderful Real Estate Begins Construction of Amenity, Training Center at Industrial Park in Shafter, California

Wonderful Real Estate Development has started construction of a new corporate office building, conference center, wellness center, amenity center and vocational school at Wonderful Industrial Park (WIP) in Shafter.

Spanning 98,000 square feet, the logistics park is slated for completion in first-quarter 2022. The development will include a 61,000-square-foot corporate office component, a 37,200-square-foot vocational training center and an 8,500-square-foot restaurant café space.

The corporate office space will be home to more than 200 Central Valley employees, including those working for Wonderful Citrus, Wonderful Pistachios and Almonds, Suterra, Pom Wonderful and Wonderful Real Estate Development. Additionally, the office space will provide large meeting rooms that will be available to companies within WIP and the community at-large.

The development’s Wonderful Wellness Center will include a gym, exercise classes, healthy awareness programs and access to a mobile clinic. In addition to Wonderful Company’s developments, Walmart Inc. is nearing the completion of a 630,000-square-foot distribution facility at WIP. The highly automated property is optimized for handling, packaging and shipping food. The facility is located on 65 acres that Walmart acquired from WIP in 2018. The facility is slated to be fully operational by spring 2021.

Valley Children’s Named Among the Nation’s Top Children’s Hospitals in Patient Safety and Quality

For the second year in a row, Valley Children’s was named a Top Children’s Hospital in the nation by The Leapfrog Group for its excellence in patient safety and quality of care. The Top Children’s Hospital award is one of the most competitive honors American hospitals can receive.

To qualify for the Top Hospitals distinction, hospitals must rank at the top among peers in the annual Leapfrog Hospital Survey, which assesses hospital performance on the highest known standards for quality and patient safety and achieve some of the best performance scores in its category. Valley Children’s exceeded the national standards in areas such as: medication safety, patient and family communication, intensive care management, infection prevention, maternity care, inpatient care and pediatric care.

Better care means children get to go home sooner which is why quality and patient safety is central to everything we do. Patient safety and quality of care depends on systems that anticipate and prevent errors before they cause harm. We advocate for patient safety each and every day and provide the highest level of care as shown in our scores that are among the best in the nation. By involving everyone at Valley Children’s – patients, families, doctors, nurses, support staff, visitors and volunteers – we deliver the highest level of care and patient safety with measurable results.

By exceeding Leapfrog’s standards, Valley Children’s provides nationally recognized care to the 1.3 million children in the Central Valley. Valley Children’s has also been recognized by: US News and World Report, Magnet, Antimicrobial Stewardship Center of Excellence and the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) for being among the best.


The City of Madera held a virtual groundbreaking on a new $24.69 million affordable housing project in the city’s downtown district on Tuesday morning. The 48-unit community will consist of two three-story buildings, funded in part by more than $11 million from the California Strategic Growth Council as part of cap-and-trade proceeds. Other funding sources include the city, which owned the parcels, the Redevelopment Successor Agency, Madera County Behavioral Health Services, tax credit equity and private loans.

It’s the first new development that the downtown area has experienced in many years. It could be completed as early as the third quarter of 2021 “We have been trying to make improvements in downtown Madera for years,” said Madera Mayor Pro Tem Santos Garcia in a video released about the project. “For us to be awarded these monies, over $11 million to start this project means more affordable housing and an uplifting of our downtown area, making it a better place for people to come and live, and be able to come and shop.”

The project at the corner of Fifth and C Streets includes 18 studios, 10 one-bedroom, 12 two-bedroom and 8 three-bedroom units geared toward veterans and families Approximately $3.8 million of the award will go to the City of Madera for transit, pedestrian and bike improvements throughout downtown, including 27,000 linear feet of new sidewalks, and an adult bike share program which will be implemented by the Madera Police Department.

A large network of community stakeholders and funding partners worked on the project for over a year including the Successor Agency, Madera County Veterans Service Office, Madera County Behavioral Health, Housing Authority of Madera, Community Action Partnership of Madera County, Madera County Transportation Commission, Madera Downtown Association, Madera County Arts Council, Madera Unified School District, and many others. MORES and Pacific West Communities are the developers for the project. Development services resulting in the grant award were provided by Sigala Inc., a local urban planning and real estate firm.

Fruit breeders plant seeds of global success

Large investments are being made in the high-tech labs and experimental ag fields where Kern County scientists breed new varieties of fruit to help farmers around the world adapt to shifting consumer tastes, developing markets and changing climates. Two local operations whose intellectual property accounts for varieties covering tens of thousands of acres have recently poured money into new, state-of-the-art research facilities in Wasco and McFarland. One recently opened and the other is under development.

The physical expansions at Sun World and International Fruit Genetics are another positive sign for a local food-innovations industry that, since being spawned by local growers such as carrot giant Bolthouse Farms, has grown to employ dozens of highly educated specialists. Work done at these innovation facilities is not genetic modification, per se, but conventional cross-breeding of plants to bring out desirable traits ranging from a crisp crunch to a long shelf life. The activity is increasingly important to the future of global agriculture, said the president of the California Fresh Fruit Association, Ian LeMay. He said Kern County is fortunate to have some of the field’s major players.

After decades in which industry concerns dominated, such as a variety’s ability to withstand long shipments, he said growers now must respond to consumers’ ever-more sophisticated demands for grapes with a certain flavor or an apricot with just the right blush. The task becomes more complicated when considering that tastes vary significantly depending where the fruit is sold. “You have growers now really looking and listening to what that consumer demand is and making appropriate decisions to plant what’s in high demand,” LeMay said.

The same holds true for farmers looking to increase their yield per acre and reduce the amount of cold weather their orchards need to produce properly. LeMay said fruit breeders help address these kinds of challenges. Kevin Andrew, senior vice president at Bakersfield-based farming company Illume, which plants varieties developed by Sun World and IFG, said local fruit-breeding has created noticeable improvements in fruit. He recalled telling someone years ago that if grapes tasted better, sales would rise. “Sometimes the box had more flavor than the grapes,” said Andrew, a former chief operating officer at Sun World. He added that new flavor profiles seem to have actually changed consumer preferences.

While much of Sun World’s and IFG’s efforts are focused internationally, local shoppers may recognize some of the company’s innovations. IFG came up with the table grape variety that tastes like cotton candy, for example, and Sun World’s corporate lineage introduced the first seedless watermelons, sweet red peppers and vine-ripened tomatoes. Sun World, based in Palm Desert with a substantial local presence, was founded in the mid-1970s in Bakersfield as a packer and marketer of fresh produce. Its acquisition in 1989 of Superior Farming Co., a substantial local landowner at the time, gave Sun World its start in fruit breeding.

After a series of corporate changes including its 2013 purchase by Los Angeles investment firm Renewable Resources Group, which still owns the company, Sun World sold the last of its food-production operations in May 2019 to tighten its focus on fruit breeding. That kind of work used to be done in the Fresno area by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and by the University of California. But as public investment in the activity has waned, Sun World President and CEO David Marguelas said, private industry has stepped up. Focused on table grapes and stone fruit, the company now has more than 300 registered trademarks and licenses 1,700 growers in places like Chile, Israel, South Africa and Spain.

It has gone from zero licensed acres of planted crops in 2001 to 12,000 acres in 2010 and about 50,000 this year, Marguleas said, adding the company charges a percentage of royalties based on the quantity of fruit produced and sold by its licensees. He said the company has 30 employees stationed around the globe to help farmers maximize their yields and produce consistent quality. Sun World’s new Wasco research facility, at 17,000 square feet, is four to five times larger than its previous facility nearby. It’s surrounded by 160 acres of farmland used for research and development.

The company’s team of about 20 chemists, biologists and molecular scientists evaluates as many as 70,000 seedlings a year. Of that, only two or three table grape varieties emerge on the market, along with half a dozen stone-fruit varieties, Marguleas said. “It’s a very imprecise process, which results in a lot of eventual precision,” he said, “in that we’re looking for just the right, perfect new seedless grape, the perfect red-fleshed plum with loads of natural sugar and antioxidants and the perfect apricot with a nice sort of blush and wonderful apricot aroma.” He estimated that the process of coming up with a new variety takes eight to 10 years. What’s sometimes tricky, Marguleas said, is looking into the “proverbial crystal ball” to anticipate what consumers will look for a decade from now. A company goal that doesn’t rely on guessing, he said, is coming up with fruit that can be grown in more environmentally sustainable ways, requiring fewer soil amendments, chemicals and water.

IFG, a friendly local competitor of Sun World, was founded in 2001 by a former Sun World plant breeder. With offices in Bakersfield and a research center in Delano, IFG’s focus has been on improving consumers’ experience on eating grapes, raisins and cherries, CEO Andy Higgins said. Having outgrown its existing buildings and fields, the company bought land this year in McFarland, where it has already begun planting experimental varieties and expects to begin construction in spring on four buildings totaling about 35,000 square feet.

The project will add space for cold storage, administration, training, post-harvest evaluation and a full laboratory. Part of the idea, Higgins said, is to make the company more attractive for the sake of bringing in top talent. It currently employs about 20 scientists, he added. IFG licenses its varieties to farmers in 14 countries combining for more than 70,000 acres of trademarked produce. It has 45 patented varieties and more than 1,000 licensees.

Though table grapes have been a mainstay, Higgins said, raisins have become a focus because of industry demand for new varieties. There’s also been an emphasis on cherries because changing weather patterns have created a need for trees that don’t require as many “chill hours” to produce quality fruit. Higgins said the company is happy to help. “We’re proud to be a part of the community and doing these things that are ultimately changing the world’s perception of a major category” of produce, he said.,planted%20crops%20in%202001%20to%2012%2C000…%20More%20

Merced irrigation firm opens Tulare storefront

A Merced-based farm irrigation system retailer has made its first foray into the South Valley with a new Tulare storefront. Central Irrigation specializes in agricultural irrigation system design and installation, ranging from full ranch development to simple maintenance. The new Tulare store joins existing retail locations in Merced and Chowchilla.

Southwest Airlines Intends To Serve Fresno And Santa Barbara

“Our arrival in the Heart of California, both on the Central Coast and in the Central Valley, will round out nearly four decades of investment in our California Customers and communities,” Southwest Airlines Chief Commercial Officer & Executive Vice President Andrew Watterson said. “While other airlines seem to fall in and out of love with the state, we’re focused on increasing the reach of our low fares and flexible policies in places where we expect them to make a difference.”

“For years residents and businesses throughout Central California have expressed a desire for Southwest service and connectivity to their vast network of destinations and renowned customer service,” said Kevin Meikle, Director of Aviation for Fresno Yosemite International Airport. “Southwest will expand the Central Valley’s air transportation gateway to Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, and we look forward to our new partnership with Southwest and their arrival in the spring.” “We salute Southwest’s bold decision to enter one of the most vibrant and beautiful regions in California, bringing visitors to our sweeping coastline to experience our mild Mediterranean climate and distinctive Spanish-influenced architecture,” said Mayor Cathy Murillo of Santa Barbara. “For our residents, our partnership with Southwest will energize the economic rebound to come in 2021.”

Along with Palm Springs, which received its first Southwest flight on Nov. 19, 2020, the addition of Fresno and Santa Barbara will position Southwest Airlines as an option in 13 California airports before summer 2021, further deepening the carrier’s commitment to the Golden State. Southwest long has carried more air travelers to, from, and within California than any other carrier, a legacy sustained in the most recent reporting of U.S. Department of Transportation data on airline passengers traveling nonstop.,International%20Airport%20in%20the%20second%20quarter%20of%202021.

Bitwise contract stokes Bakersfield’s tech, economic diversification hopes

Plans for building up Bakersfield’s small computer software industry recently took a big step forward — despite the COVID-19 pandemic and in a way because of it — with the city’s finalization of a $750,000 contract with Fresno-based tech hub Bitwise Industries. Under a deal struck late last month, the company will begin offering 14-week evening classes, typically taught online two nights per week for three hours at a time, to city residents who have suffered economically as a result of the pandemic.

Some details have not been disclosed, such as how and when Bitwise will begin the classes and how it intends to recruit and screen student candidates. The end goal is to expose 400 people to careers in technology and produce at least 130 new entry-level jobs: 50 in software development and 80 in more general fields of business. “The city of Bakersfield is very excited about this program and we’re looking forward to our continuing partnership with Bitwise Industries,” city spokesman Joseph Conroy said. “We believe this job training program will be a success and a great opportunity for our community.”

Bitwise was already working on an expansion into Bakersfield, having purchased two buildings along 18th Street near the Padre Hotel, when COVID-19 arrived. The pandemic slowed the company’s efforts to rehabilitate the properties and turn them into a sleek local home for its Geekwise computer programming academy, new offices for its Shift3 Technologies software development company and flexible work spaces for lease. When the pandemic hit, Bitwise moved classes online and began offering them to California communities anxious to create new jobs to replace those lost to the lockdown.

Local leaders already familiar with the company’s accomplishments — more than 8,000 Geekwise students served since 2013, many of them poor or otherwise disadvantaged — saw a way to help rebuild and diversify Bakersfield’s economy.  The city had received $33.5 million from the state as part of the $2 trillion federal CARES Act. The catch was that the money had to be spent on pandemic recovery efforts and the city had to allocate the funds by the end of 2021. The City Council signed off in mid-November. On Dec. 28, just three days before deadline, Bitwise signed and returned the city’s contract offer.

The company said in a letter to the city in October it would offer a training menu ranging from specific disciplines like quality and assurance testing, web application development and security to more widely applicable skills like sales, product tech support and customer relationship management. “Bitwise is very excited about the job training program with the city of Bakersfield,” spokewoman Katherine Verducci said by email. “Our workforce development programs have impacted the lives of thousands of people in the Central Valley. Partnerships like the one with Bakersfield allow us to reach more people who can benefit from programs like ours.”


E. & J. Gallo Winery announced Tuesday that it has finally completed an $810 million purchase from Constellation Brands Inc. The Modesto-based company got 30-plus labels at various price levels, along with winemaking capacity in the Lodi area and four other locations.

The two industry giants announced in April 2019 that they had agreed on a larger deal, totaling $1.7 billion. The Federal Trade Commission raised concerns about Gallo getting too much control of the sparkling wine, dessert wine and brandy markets. The parties agreed to strike those portions from the transaction in a Dec. 23 draft ruling by the FTC. The revised purchase price was initially $1.1 billion. It dropped again to $810 million “related primarily to changes in inventory for which Constellation has already received the benefit,” a news release from that company said.

Gallo is adding about 350 employees to the 7,000 or so it already had in Modesto and other locations around the world. “The closing of this transaction represents our company’s long-term commitment to the wine industry,” said Ernest J. Gallo, the third-generation CEO, in another release. “We are pleased to welcome the new employees joining the Gallo family.” Gallo is making its first foray into the New York state industry, with Taylor and a few other brands. It also is getting its second winery in Washington state and adding to its holdings in premium and mid-priced California regions.

Gallo, founded in Modesto in 1933 by brothers Ernest and Julio Gallo, was the world’s largest wine producer even before the Constellation purchase. It has made low-priced bottles throughout its history and ventured into premium regions starting in the 1980s. Gallo also markets vodka, gin and other spirits.

  • Gallo got major production volume at Turner Road Vintners near Lodi. This plant mainly makes wines with the “California” appellation, cheaper for consumers than Napa Valley and other premium sources. Among the brands are Vendange, Black Box, Rex Goliath and Toasted Head.
  • Gallo added to its premium portfolio with Franciscan in Napa; Ravenswood and Clos du Bois in Sonoma County; and Hidden Crush, Estancia and Wild Horse on the Central Coast. Another new brand, Mark West, has both premium and California appellations.
  • Hogue Cellars joins Gallo’s Columbia Winery in Washington.
  • Gallo got Blufeld from Germany and Diseno from Argentina to go with existing imports from several countries.
  • The company takes over the New York winery that produces the Taylor, Arbor Mist, Wild Irish Rose and Manischewitz brands.

The company also has closed on the Nobilo winery in New Zealand in a separate $130 million transaction with Constellation.

The FTC approved the deal with a few anti-trust conditions. Gallo must sell its Sheffield Cellars port and Fairbanks sherry to Precept Wine, based in Seattle. Constellation must retain its Cook’s and J Roget sparkling wines and sell its Paul Masson brandy to Sazerac, based in New Orleans. The large Mission Bell Winery near Madera also was stricken from the deal. Constellation, based in Victor, N.Y., said selling to Gallo would allow it to concentrate on wines priced at more than $11 per bottle. This company also is a key player in the beer and spirits industries.

Tejon proposes rental project near Outlets

A 495-unit apartment complex proposed at what is now an outlets-center parking lot has jumped to the front of Tejon Ranch Co.’s line of housing projects. Pending a vote Tuesday by the Kern County Board of Supervisors, the project is expected to house people working at the company’s nearby retail and distribution-center developments — and help recruit new employers to the area.

The 27-acre project would be far smaller than the Lebec-based company’s three other residential projects, including one proposed a few miles away aimed at serving the same blue-collar residents. That project has fallen behind schedule amid legal challenges. A company spokesman declined to provide a construction timetable but said the two-phase project, with 13 residential buildings two to four stories high plus resident amenities and 8,000 square feet of shop space, will be the first of the company’s housing projects to be built. It will serve demand for apartments among 4,000 people already working at the Tejon Ranch Commerce Center, he said, and it will help persuade other employers to move to what is now an area with few housing options.

Bakersfield industrial property broker Wayne Kress said the project will boost the area’s attractiveness among operators of distribution-type centers. “The proximity to labor will only help Tejon attract industrial users,” he said by email. Originally the land proposed for the project was set aside for an expansion of the company’s Outlets at Tejon immediately to the south. The shopping center launched in fall 2016 has at times struggled to keep some of its larger spaces leased. “Given changes in the bricks and mortar retail environment, providing housing opportunities for the workforce is a better and more immediate use of the land,” Tejon Ranch spokesman Barry Zoeller said by email.

Supervisors are scheduled to vote Tuesday whether to grant Tejon Ranch a pair of conditional use permits it needs to move forward with the project. The project has the support of Bakersfield Association of Realtors President Ronda Newport, who noted local rental vacancies are at record lows. She said the project will help workers with no nearby housing options. “When you can site housing opportunities close to an employment base, like this project does, that is attractive to those employees,” Newport said by email.

Tejon Ranch, an agribusiness and real estate development company, had planned to meet the area’s housing needs with a project called Grapevine. With a master plan of 30 years or more, it is proposed to eventually include 12,000 residential units at the foot of the Grapevine and more than 5 million square feet of commercial space, as well as schools, parks and entertainment. The company said the Grapevine project has been slowed by lawsuits — “an unfortunate reality plaguing California real estate development,” Zoeller wrote. A court hearing set for later this month is expected to determine the adequacy of a supplemental environmental review approved by the Board of Supervisors in December 2019. Zoeller emphasized the very different scales of the two projects. The one going before the board Tuesday, he stated, “will be done very nicely, as is the Tejon way, but it’s not a large project.”

A county staff report said the mix of apartment types could change but that as it stands there would be 297 studio and one-bedroom units, 186 two-bedrooms and 12 three-bedrooms. Stephen Pelz, executive director of the county Housing Authority, said the organization supports such projects because the lack of residential units drives prices up faster than income levels. “It’s encouraging when developers and employers like Tejon Ranch see the big picture and find ways to help meet the housing needs of their workforce,” Pelz wrote in an email. “This will complement the Grapevine project as it is important to have diverse housing types available to a variety of income levels.”