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California Industries

August 23, 2013

California Avocados smaller this year

This is probably not good news, but avocados from Southern California seem to be getting smaller, at least this year. According to a report by NPR hundreds of thousands of trees in Southern California are producing much smaller Hass avocados than in recent years.

The reasons, they say, is a very unusual growing year that consisted of low winter rainfall in early 2012, erratic bee activity during the late spring bloom period, and lots of unseasonably cool and cloudy weather in the year since.

“I can’t ever remember a season when all the avocados were this small, and that’s over 30 years in the business,” they quoted Charley Wolk, a farmer with orchards in San Diego and Riverside counties as saying.

Consumers generally want avocados in a certain size range with about eight ounces being optimal. This year’s crop is averaging about 30 percent less than that. There is some good news here. The total crop did pretty well, and will probably weigh in more than last year – with about a half billion pounds expected by the end of October. The quality of the avecados is said to be the same with size being most a factor in consumer preference and convenience.

Filed under Agriculture and Food by

August 20, 2013

Is Cisco shrinking?

What was once one of California’s brightest stars seems to be having a diminishing impact on the California economy. Cisco recently announced that is will be firing 4,000 employees, even though it has been growing at a good clip and seems financially healthy. As reported by Business Insider, with this most recent announcement, the company has shed 12,000 jobs in just the past two years alone:

“This isn’t the first layoff that Cisco announced this year. In March, a mere five months ago, Cisco said it was firing 500 people. Prior to this new round of 4,000 firings, Cisco had cut 8,000 jobs. So that’s 12,000 jobs gone in the two years since Cisco’s CEO John Chambers began his turnaround”

Cisco employs 74,135 employees worldwide with about 17,496 work in California – mostly in the company’s Bay Area headquarters in San Jose, so this “workforce reduction” represents about five percent of Cisco employees. Little explanation was given, According to a statement given to a Business Insider reporter by a Cisco spokesperson:

“During the earnings call on Aug 14th, Cisco announced actions to align resources to our top opportunities, balance expenses to revenue, drive efficiencies in the business, and invest in growth. These actions include prioritizing R&D, aligning new and existing talent to growth areas and a workforce reduction impacting approximately 4,000 employees, or ~5% of our workforce.”

They also quoted CEO John Chambers as giving the reason for the move in a call with analysts. “We just have too much in the middle of the organization,” he told them.

While this is obviously not good news for the California economy or for the Cisco employees, in financial terms the company is doing quite well. For the fourth quarter, Cisco reported $2.27 billion in profit, up from $1.92 billion, for the year-earlier quarter and revenue was up 6% to $12.42 billion from $11.69 billion.

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Filed under California Economy, Information Technology by

August 19, 2013

Alibaba buys into California eCommerce company

Chinese eCommerce giant Alibaba has continued its relationship with Yahoo and gained another foothold in California with its recent investment in ShopRunner, run by former Yahoo Chief Executive Scott Thompson, Shoprunner is an ecommerce firm based in San Francisco with existing relationships with many major brand names. They are growing fast with orders in 2012 increased two and a half times more than in 2011.

Alibaba, which is planning for an IPO later this year is reportedly paying $75 million for a minority stake in ShopRunner, While Mr. Thompson is no longer at the company, Yahoo owns almost a quarter of Alibaba so some relationship apparently persisted.

This is said to be one of many purchases Alibaba is making in advance of their IPO on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, that is expected value the firm at $60-$100 billion. The move has not been without controversy. A Hong Kong journalist recently quit her job in a controversy over disputed remarks that Jack Ma, founder of the Alibaba Group, is said to have made in support of Beijing’s violent crackdown on Tienanmen Square protesters in 1989. Mr. Ma denies he said that but the newspaper is sticking to the story and it apparently caused quite a stir in Hong Kong.

Alibaba began in 1999 as a business-to-business portal to connect Chinese manufacturers with overseas buyers. It has since become the biggest eCommerce system in the world, with with sales more then Amazon and eBay combined. The planned IPO will likely secure its position as a global powerhouse in eCommerce for many years to come.

Filed under China, Internet, Mergers and Acquisitions by

August 15, 2013

Average House in Silicon Valley now over $1 Million

While it certainly isn’t news to the people who live in Silicon Valley, the price of housing has sky rocketed there, and my have reached a kind of “tipping point” with news that the average price there is now over a million dollars. For the last four months, the average price of a single-family home in Santa Clara Count yhas been more than $1 million, according to rdata from MLS Listings, a service for real estate agents.

Accordning to a report by NBC news, brokers are saying that tech growth is the main driver of demand in Silicon Valley and that most of it comes from executives at Apple, Google and other established companies. Another big factor, however, is growing demand from China. Realtors say wealthy Chinese buyers are pouring into Silicon Valley and buying up multimillion-dollar properties. They say the buyers are increasingly nervous about the Chinese government and economy and are looking for a safe haven.

Silicon Valley now leads the nation in the number of homes sold for $1 million or more, according to Realtytrac. Sales of $1 million-plus have more than doubled in many communities in Silicon Valley this year, toppling even luxury areas like Beverly Hills or Miami.

Filed under Real Estate and Housing, Silicon Valley by

August 14, 2013

California Dreaming: The Hyperloop

The world would have probably dismissed it as the rantings of a lunatic had it not been its source. Billionaire inventor Elon Musk Musk – the founder of Tesla Motors Inc.and visionary leader of SpaceX – the world’s first private space company. No one could question his credentials like that, or even say with complete certainty “it will never be built”.

It caused a media frenzy. First, because it was one of those “made for the Internet” kind of stories. Cool technology, a legendary entrepreneurial inventor, a futuristic vision – who wouldn’t want to write about that? First there was the leaking of the mysterious name “hyperloop” – and it was hinted that fantastic speeds would be possible. Then the actual announcement – promoted like a media campaign complete with beautiful artists renderings of the hyperloop vehicles.

As described in a plan he posted online the technology would feature a tube suspended above ground on pylons. Inside the tube there are pods with electric compressor fans. They would move back and forth in a low pressure environment, gliding atop a cushion of air. Something like those phonetic tubes they used to use in banks, but for people.

Musk has been describing it as “equal parts Concorde, rail gun and air hockey table”. He estimated that it could travel between San Francisco and Los Angeles in 30 minutes and would cost about $6 billion to $10 billion to build.

After this exploded on social media, there was a second wave of “it will never be built” pundits but even they seemed to have fun with the idea. That’s ok, it probably will never be built but we all had fun with it, and we all got inspired by this crazy idea.

Mr. Must reportedly got the idea because he must currently commute between his job as head of Tesla in the Bay Area, and of SpaceX in the Los Angeles area. Well that is what startup founders often do right – find an area of personal “pain” or a problem in their own lives that needs to be solved. Most of us don’t need to commute between Los Angeles that often or that quickly. Still, it is fun to imagine what California would be like if that was possible. Would this unite the State? Would this make us more dynamic?

This gave of all a chance to pause for a minute from all the bad news, and ponder a crazy dream. Even if will never happen, it is nice to be reminded that there are still California dreamers.

Filed under Transportation by

August 13, 2013

California Exports Over $15 Billion in June

California exports held flat in June, the most recent month when such statistics are available, but given the problems in many economies this is considered to be a respectable number.

California businesses shipped merchandise valued at $15.23 billion in June, according to an analysis of U.S. Commerce Department figures by Beacon Economics. That is up an insignificant 0.3 percent from $15.18 billion in June 2012. “June was another of those ‘apparently up but actually down’ months,” says Jock O’Connell, Beacon Economics’ International Trade Adviser. California’s exports of manufactured items rose from $9.71 billion last June to $9.81 billion this June. Meanwhile, the state’s exports of non-manufactured goods also edged up, from $1.59 billion to $1.64 billion.

According to their report, the data revealed some a few other interesting facts. “While it may seem counter-intuitive, California’s merchandise export trade with Europe has been up nearly 13% over the latest three months,” O’Connell says. By contrast, the state’s exports to the Far East declined by 3.2% during the same period, despite a 16.9% jump in the value of shipments to China.

The Beacon analysis noted that the year-over-year increase was basically canceled out by inflation, the June numbers were up substantially from shipments valued at $13.25 billion in May this year. With imports, California took in $32.03 billion in June, down about 1.3 percent from $32.47 billion in June last year. Since many goods entering California go to other states, so exports are generally considered a more accurate measure of the state’s international trade, which seems to be holding steady.

Filed under California Economy, Manufacturing by

August 12, 2013

California still leads the nation in wind power generation

California still leads the nation in wind power generation, but the rest of the country is catching up with wind farms for energy, according to reports released by the U.S. Department of Energy.

According to a report in the Sacramento Business Journal, the nation’s wind power capacity rose above 60 gigawatts in 2012, which is enough to power 15 million homes. In 2012 California installed 1,656 megawatts of new wind power capacity bringing the to more than 5,540 megawatts. California generates about 7 percent of its electricity from wind farms.

California led the nation in development of wind farms for 20 years and it wasn’t until 1994 that the first utility wind farm outside of California opened in southern Minnesota at a time when California had 53 wind farms statewide.

The Department of Energy report estimated that the wind power industry now employs more than 80,000 American workers in engineering and construction and that 72 percent of the wind turbine equipment installed in the U.S. in 2012 was manufactured in the U.S. The full report can be found at at this link: http://energy.gov/wind-report

Filed under Energy Industry by

August 9, 2013

Los Angeles still a top market for manufacturing jobs

Los Angeles ranked third as a manufacturing employment hub, according to a new survey by the job site Monster.com. This is in spite of heavy job losses in the manufacturing sector with more than 6000 jobs lost in June compared to a gain of about 1,100. Only Houston and New York were reported to have more manufacturing jobs in their metropolitan areas.

It wasn’t all good news though, as reported in the Los Angeles Business Journal, about 47 percent of manufacturing workers were dissatisfied with their jobs, and 34 percent were on the hunt for a new job – and 74 percent of respondents said it was a more challenging employment environment than a year ago.

Still, many believe that manufacturing is making a comeback and Los Angeles is likely to remain a hub for this activity. “With conditions in the US economy turning more favorable for manufacturing in general, there are several indicators that manufacturing jobs are returning to the US” said Jeffrey Quinn, a spokesperson Monster’s Global Insights.

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August 8, 2013

University of California to offer free public access to research

The University of California = the largest university system in the world and considered by many to be the most influential will now be making its research results available to the public for free. This decision came after a long battle with the for-profit publishing industry which charges both for publishing articles in journals and then charge again for access to those journals.

As reported by TechCrunch Universities pay millions for access to their colleague’s research, with subscriptions costs up to $40,000 for a single journal and publishing costs many times more for more prestigious closed-access journals. “It’s still ludicrous how much it costs to publish research,” said molecular biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, Michael Eisen.

The San Jose Mercury News reported that the policy will apply to 8,000 faculty members and roughly 40,000 papers they produce each year “on subjects such as planetary magnetic fields, modern Israeli fiction and a host of other topics”. Legislation approving this initiative passed the California Assembly in spite of significant opposition for industry lobbyists, but the fate of the bill is largely irrelevant as the UC system has taken the matter into its own hands. “Taxpayers pay for this research, and we the people, we own it,” said Mike Gatto, D-Burbank, who co-authored the bill with Republican Assemblyman Brian Nestandet. “So it just makes sense to cut out the middlemen who charge taxpayers for something we already own.”

The “Open Access” movement already had signification momentum. The White House is on board and has pledged a significant $100 million to promote open access and to require all federally-funded research to be free of charge. More than 175 research institutions around the world have approved similar initiatives including Duke, Emory, Princeton, Wellesley and the University of Kansas and some schools or departments, such as the Harvard Business School and the Stanford School of Education, have also joined in. With the University of California now giving its stamp of approval, open access may now become the “defacto standard” for public research throughout the world.

Filed under Education and Training, University of California by

August 7, 2013

Silicon Valley Seed Funding Set to Smash Record

Seed venture capital funding in the San Francisco Bay Area will set a record this year, according to a report issued b CB Insights – an industry research group.

There have already been 242 deals in the region, with $192 million invested, the report said. That is more than what was invested in all of 2010 and is already nearly equal to activity in 2011.

The report indicated a shift in the awarding of seed funds with Internet seed deals dropping below 2012 levels while Mobile seed deals increasing dramatically – double what they were in 2010 levels and already equal to was invested in the sector in 2012.

The research firm also listed the top 10 most active seed investors in the Bay Area. In order the are SV Angel, Andreesen Horowitz, Google Ventures, First Round Capital, Charles River Ventures, True Ventures, Founder’s Collective, Felicis Ventures, CrunchFund, New Enterprise Associates and Floodgate Fund.

The full report can be found at this link: http://www.cbinsights.com/blog/trends/silicon-valley-seed-vc .

Filed under Venture Capital by

August 6, 2013

SpaceX awarded contract with Canada Space Program

Spacex, a private sector space exploration and technology company based in Hawthorne, California, has been awarded a contract for Canada’s largest space program.

The program is the ADARSAT Constellation Mission, which is designed to provide maritime surveillance, disaster management, and ecosystem monitoring capabilities. This wil provide Canada with the ability to monitor polar ice conditions, oil pills, ship movements, forest fires, wetlands and coastal changes.

The contract with Canadian space company MacDonald, Dettwiler, and Associates will transport three satellites to orbit in 2018. “SpaceX appreciates MDA’s confidence in our ability to safely and reliably transport their satellites,” said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX President and COO. “We hope this agreement is the second of many with MDA”, the company said in a press release.

SpaceX designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. The company was founded in 2002 to revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.

Filed under Aerospace and Aviation, Canada by

August 2, 2013

China hasn’t paid Hollywood studios since last year

California movie studios haven’t been paid for movies shown in China since late last year, according to an exclusive report by The Hollywood Reporter. This situation only gained wide attention recently because because China will likely become the largest moviegoing market in the world before too long and the studios have been quiet about it because they want to preserve the relationship

The dispute apparently centers on a new two percent value-added tax that the Chinese want the studios to pay. For their part, the studios claim that the additional payment would violate a World Trade Organization agreement that was made just last year between the U.S. and Chinese goverments.

According to the Hollywood Reporter estimates: Warner Brothers is owned about $31 million for Man of Steel, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and Jack the Giant Slayer; Sony is due about $23 million for Skyfall and After Earth ; Paramount would be owed roughly $30 million for Into Darkness, G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Jack Reacher; Disney’s Iron Man 3 made more than $121 million in China, which would mean a return of more than $30 million for the studio, while Oz the Great and Powerful would mean about $5 million in payments.

Several other movies are in he middle of their run, and some studios are still owed money for 2012 titles as well. For example, Fox hasn’t received payment for Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, a check that’s expected to earn about $23 million.

Movies are, of course, one of California’s primary exports, and in a country where bootlegging and copyright infringement is commonplace, it is difficult to understand China’s justification for withholding payments. If the situation was reversed, and California suddenly decided to stop payments for Chinese manufactured goods, it is hard to imagine that it would be considered acceptable by the Chinese. This seems like a case where China is using its market size leverage to an unfair advantage, and it is certainly something trade officials and policy makers should keep an eye on.

Filed under China, Hollywood, Media and Entertainment by

July 30, 2013

Cisco buys Sourcefire for 2.7 billion in cash

Cisco Systems, the worlds biggest maker of networking equipment has agreed to acquire Sourcefire Inc., a cybersecurity firm, for about $2.7 billion in cash.

Sourcefire, based in Columbia, Maryland, builds security platforms including firewalls, intrusion detectors and malware protection that is used extensively by the U.S. Government and major corporations. The company was founded in 2001 and has grown into a major cybersecurity provider – last year it had revenue of over $200 million.

According to a report in Bloomberg Markets Watchlist, many of Sourcefire’s products are built on Snort, an open-source program developed by Sourcefire founder Martin Roesch. The system is used by most Fortune 100 companies and 30 of the largest U.S. government agencies to detect attempted attacks on their networks. Sourcefire’s business with the U.S. government is a “very valuable” part of the deal and will give Cisco more access to key federal cybersecurity decision-makers, according to Christopher Young, senior vice president of Cisco’s security group.

The deal is Cisco’s biggest since its $5 billion acquisition of NDS Group Ltd. last year and is thought to reflect a growing interest for companies that can help guard against computer-based attacks by governments and corporations.

Filed under Information Technology, Mergers and Acquisitions by

July 29, 2013

Boeing moving more engineering jobs to Southern California

Boeing has announced that it will be moving as many as 300 engineering jobs from Washington State to its facility in Long Beach. According to the Seattle Times, about 375 employees are currently doing the aftermarket engineering work on modifying jets for current customers and converting aging passenger jets to freighters work that is expected to move, but some of these jobs are expected to be eliminated.

Boeing has previously announced that the company would establish new engineering centers in Southern California and South Carolina for modifying out-of-production airplanes and that about 300 jobs would be moved to Long Beach This new move, however, involves a separate group of engineers who work on modifications such as aircraft performance upgrades or interior refinishing, as well as the passenger jet-to-freighter conversions.

The Seattle Times quoted Boeing engineering chief Mike Delaney as saying “We expect the Southern California and South Carolina design centers to grow over time,” and that, “We are presently studying other potential work packages” for those centers.

Boeing’s manufacturing facility in Long Beach has a long history. Established by the Douglas Aircraft Company in 1941, during ring its the facility produced more than 15,000 airplanes, including the DC-3, DC-8, DC-9, DC-10, MD-80, MD-90 and MD-11 and 717 passenger planes, as well as such military aircraft like the C-47 the B-17 the A-20, A-26, C-74, C-124, A-4D, C-133 and early models of the C-17. In recent years, however, business has declined and Boeing stopped producing commercial aircraft there entirely in 2006, when the last 717 rolled off the line

The news was both good and unexpected. Southern California has a large number of highly qualified aerospace engineers and Boeing already employs about 1,200 engineers in the area. A decade ago, however, Boeing had 35,000 workers and was the largest private employer in Southern California.

Filed under Aerospace and Aviation by

July 26, 2013

California might benefit from White House Manufacturing Initiative

The Obama Administration has launched a new program called rogram the “Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership” (IMCP) and recently held their first and only meeting in California. This roundtable event in Woodland was sponsored by the White House and the USDA and attracted about 125 people.

As part of a national manufacturing strategy. 25 communities around the country will be awarded $200,000 each to create an implementation strategy for this program. In addition, a half dozen or so communities will be awarded up to $25 million each next year from the U.S. Commerce Department for manufacturing strategies that are ready to be implemented.

According to a report by the California Economic Summit, a public-private partnership group called Innovate North State proposed concentrating on five industries: agriculture, cleantech, health, web and information technology as well as manufacturing. They have identified 100 manufacturing companies in the northern part of the state, and are planning to submit a proposal to the IMCP.

Filed under Economic Development, Manufacturing, U.S. Government by

July 25, 2013

California shark fin ban now in effect

California’s law that prohibits the sale, possession, trade, or distribution of shark fins went into full effect on the first of this month ending the Chinese custom of serving shark fin soup in California restaurants.

The legislation went into effect in January, but had exemptions allowing the sale of previously obtained shark fins until the end of June. Anyone now caught violating the law could face a penalty of up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

the law caused a controversy between environmentalists, concerned about the declining shark population and some Chinese-Americans, who want to continue to honor this Chinese tradition. The soup is an expensive delicacy, has been popular in China since the Ming Dynasty, and is often served during weddings, banquets and other Asian ceremonies.

As reported in the Los Angeles Times, however, it is thought that close to 73 million sharks are killed for their fins each year. Many, are obtained by the process of finning – slicing the fins from live sharks and throwing the disabled animals back into the ocean, where they drown. The market for shark meat is nowhere as great as for the fins, the Times reported, and demand for the fins has reduced some shark populations to 10% of historical levels.

Filed under Agriculture and Food, China, Environment and Climate by

July 24, 2013

California Food and Agriculture Head to lead Trade Mission to Vietnam and China.

State food and agriculture secretary Karen Ross will lead a trade delegation to China and Vietnam in September, according to a press release issued by the California Deparment of Food and Agriculture. She will be leading an agricultural trade delegation to China and Vietnam from September 16-21, 2013, as part of the California State Trade and Export Promotion program.

This mission will visit Shanghai and Ho Chi Minh City with the goal of providing export business opportunities for California farmers, ranchers and food processors. The new California-China Trade and Investment Office in Shanghai, opened by Governor Brown during his trade mission, will help coordinate this mission by facilitating links between California businesses and Chinese counterparts who have shown interests in purchasing California products.

Funding for this trade mission will come from a grant administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Companies interested in participating in the trade mission should contact the Fresno Center for International Trade Development at (559) 324-6401or visit www.fresnocitd.org, The full press release can be read at this link:

http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/egov/Press_Releases/Press_Release.asp?PRnum=13-019

Filed under Agriculture and Food, China, Vietnam by

December 4, 2012

Made in California legislation introduced

Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett has introduced legislation to create a “Made in California” program that would allow manufacturers to better market goods produced in Californiam=, according to a report in the
Sacramento Business Journal. Modeled after the successful “California Grown” program, which highlights agriculture products produced in California, the legislation would extend that marketing strategy to all goods produced in the state.

Filed under California Government, California Legislature, Manufacturing by

December 3, 2012

Golden Gate Ventures forms Strategic Alliance For Asian Startups

Venture Capital firm Golden Gate Ventures and JFDI.Asia have announced a new strategic alliance that will focus on supporting early-stage digital startups, according to a report in TechCrunch. The program will include intensive mentoring from both early-stage funding specialists to help companies gain market traction.

Golden Gate Ventures has offices in Singapore and San Francisco operates a seed investment program for digital start-up companies that have already launched. Based in Singapore, JFDI.Asia’s accelerator “bootcamp” program takes teams of entrepreneurs from idea to investment in 100 days.

Golden Gate Ventures co-founders Vinnie Lauria, Jeff Paine and Paul Bragiel have joined JFDI.Asia’s bootcamp as mentors. Lauria said in a joint statement that “the next billion people are coming online in our region. It’s a huge opportunity and an equally huge pool of talent in the region is set to make the most of it.” Hugh Mason, co-founder of JFDI.Asia, said that he hopes the partnership will be “the first of several alliances with key partners across the region who share our ambition to support the coming generation of digital success stories across Asia, for Asia.”

Filed under Asia, Singapore, Venture Capital by

December 2, 2012

Concerned about a brain drain, Taiwan recruiting California students

Taiwan’s minister of education, Wei-Ling Chiang, traveled to California in October, and one of the issues he addressed was and imbalance in the numbers of university students being exchanged by each country. “Just 3,561 American-born students are enrolled in Taiwanese universities, while about 24,000 Taiwanese students enroll in universities in the U.S,” Chiang said. “We really have to address the situation now.” According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, Taiwanese education officials are renewing their efforts to enroll more international students and have opened a dozen Taiwanese college information centers have opened in nine countries in the last few years.

Taiwan’s university recruiters have begun to target a new demographic according to the report: the Taiwanese American teenager. The pitch was perhaps more attractive to parents of the second- and third-generation Taiwanese American students who were the targets of the enrollment push. “Your children will enjoy a high quality education while learning about Taiwan’s culture,” said Chiang, a Stanford graduate. About a thousand people attended the first Taiwanese education fair in the U.S., held in October at the Chinese Cultural Center in El Monte that had been advertiseed in local Chinese language radio and television stations.

While their children didn’t always agree, the idea of a Taiwanese education appealed to parents who believe their children will graduate into a job market increasingly dominated by Asian languages and businesses.

Filed under Education and Training, Taiwan by

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