Central Valley

February 12, 2009

Forbes says Stockton is “America’s Most Miserable City”

Forbes has called the Central California city of Stockton, “America’s Most Miserable City” in a ranking of the 150 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S:

Stockton ranks in the bottom seven in four of the nine categories we looked at: commute times, income tax rates, unemployment and violent crime. Only New York City has a higher income tax rate than what Stockton, and all California residents, are forced to pay.  Stockton was ground zero for the housing boom and now the subsequent bust. Home prices more than tripled between 1998 and 2005 and then came crashing down last year. Stockton had the country’s highest foreclosure rate last year at 9.5%, according to RealtyTrac, an online marketer of foreclosed property. Things are not looking much brighter in 2009 as housing prices are expected to fall another 36% on the heels of a 39% drop in 2008. Also, unemployment is expected to jump to 13.3% from 10.4%, according to economic research firm Moody’s Economy.com.

Stockton’s Mayor Ann Johnson, however, sounds like she is making a sincere attempt at leadership:

“We are engaging the entire community and encouraging everyone to get involved and help us find solutions that meet the needs of our community,” says Stockton Mayor Ann Johnston. “Volunteerism is encouraged, looking out for your neighbor, and taking personal responsibility where individuals can make a difference. We are partnering with all community organizations–schools, churches, non-profits– to provide support services and help individuals and families get through these difficult times.”

Filed under California Economy, Central Valley by

October 16, 2007

CalPERS claims $114 million boost to Central Valley economy

Investments by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System generated $114 million in economic activity in the Central Valley last year, according to a research report by funded by CalPERS. The report says CalPERS created more than 900 jobs in in 2006 in the Great Valley region – the area between Kern County on the south and San Joaquin County on the north. The investments returned state and local tax revenues of nearly $7 million and generated employee compensation of more than $27 million. The report was written by the Applied Research Center of California State University, Sacramento. CalPERS is the nation’s largest public pension fund with more than $250 billion in assets. It administers retirement and health benefit plans of 1.5 million active and retired California public employees and their families.

Filed under California Government, Central Valley, Economic Development by

May 25, 2007

Nation’s largest farm-based solar plant opens in Central Valley

Paramount Farms Inc. of Los Angeles, known for its massive production and marketing of pistachios and almonds, has a new crop today – the Central Valley’s sunlight.  According to a report in Central Valley Business Times, it has switched on what it calls the largest farm-based solar power plant in the nation.  The 1.1 megawatt, $7.5 million solar energy plant is near Lost Hills in western Kern County.  It’s expected to supply about 15 percent of the energy that the company’s nut processing facility uses each year.  “Paramount Farms … is committed to a balanced green strategy, one that utilizes clean energy to reduce costs and improve efficiency,” says Dave Szeflin, vice president of operations for Paramount Farms.  The plant was built and installed by SolarCraft Services Inc. of Novato.  According to Chris Bunas, vice president of SolarCraft, the 1.1 megawatt plant is expected to generate enough clean electricity each day to power about 300 average homes, cutting nearly 2,600 tons of harmful greenhouse gases annually.  Paramount Farms, a unit of privately held Roll International Corp., grows pistachios on 30,000 acres — the largest in the Western Hemisphere and is California’s largest almond grower, with more than 40,000 acres of permanent almond orchards.

Filed under Central Valley, Energy Industry by

April 24, 2007

Growth amid Gloom: California’s Central Valley

Excerpt from L.A. Times article about the Central Valley City of Delano and its manager Abdel Salem, an Egyptian native who arrived in Delano about four years ago from El Centro where he had been city manager for more than two decades:

This city of 49,000 now has no fewer than 35 major building projects in the pipeline, including a giant shopping center. Hundreds of homes are being added each year as families spill over from the coast in search of affordable housing. “We know the people are coming,” Salem says. “The Central Valley is the last frontier.”

Despite the bustle, however, Delano is down at the heel. Its unemployment rate stands at around 20%, far higher than the county’s overall mark of 6.9%. The median per-capita income in the city is about $11,000 — just a shade above the federal poverty line. Since 2000, annual population increases have outstripped the creation of jobs (2.8% on average compared with 1.7%). Tumbledown shacks dot the outskirts of town.

What’s abundantly clear is that an influx of residents “isn’t necessarily a key to prosperity,” says Carol Whiteside, president of the Great Valley Center, a Modesto-based group trying to promote the region’s well-being.

Meanwhile, the pathologies that tend to go hand in hand with privation have descended upon Delano. Among them is gang violence. When I got my hair trimmed the other day at Firme’s Barber Shop, just off Main Street, the buzz was about how students were recently put on alert and shooed straight home from school. The reason: Police feared that Los Angeles gang members might make the two-hour drive to Delano and start shooting in retaliation for a MySpace posting they deemed offensive.

This juxtaposition — growth amid gloom — points up the enormous opportunities and challenges facing not only Delano but also much of inland California. Extending from Riverside to Redding, the area “is perhaps the greatest untapped outlet for upward mobility in the Golden State,” declared a report last month from the Brookings Institution. If our leaders are smart about how they plan and invest, this vast stretch can be a place that provides decent jobs, a strong sense of community and a shot at homeownership.

But if they goof up, the cost will be high. How this part of California fares, the Brookings study noted, “may determine whether the state remains competitive and a beacon of opportunity in the early decades of the 21st century.” Complicating matters is that these 75,000 square miles are far from homogenous. The rural reaches of the Central Valley, in particular, trail far behind the Inland Empire and the Sacramento suburbs in their economic vitality.

Filed under Central Valley, Economic Development, Egypt by

Central Valley venture capital conference planned

“The Central Valley moves closer to tapping the wellspring of economic growth that can flow from venture capital with what is one of the first major venture capital workshops planned by Valley leaders for the Valley. The inaugural San Joaquin Venture Funding and Entrepreneurship Conference is scheduled to occur on June 21 from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Raymond Great Hall on the University of the Pacific campus in Stockton. … The conference will feature California Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, and venture capital legend Franklin “Pitch” Johnson, who is a founding partner with the Silicon Valley firm Asset Management Company.”

Filed under California Government, Central Valley, Venture Capital by

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