Pacific Coast Business Times Proudly serving Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties Tue, 30 Sep 2014 00:15:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 SLO telecoms to merge Tue, 30 Sep 2014 00:15:52 +0000 Norcast Telecom and Blue Rooster Telecom, two San Luis Obispo-based firms that provide voice and data service to about 2,500 Central Coast business customers, are merging.

Norcast has been in business since 1999 providing phone service and started to deliver data in 2003. Over the past two years, it has built out a system to deliver 100 Mbps Internet service to businesses in San Luis Obispo and North Santa Barbara counties.

Blue Rooster was founded in 2010 by Jeff Buckingham and Cheryl Lovell. It focused on creating custom data and voice plans for businesses.

“We are motivated to strengthen our services and products, and to provide our customers with the best local telecom at the best value,” Norcast Telecom Networks CEO Michael Gayaldo said in a release.

After the transaction’s expected close in November, Gayaldo will remain CEO, Buckingham will be president, Lovell will serve as chief operating office and Jacquie Johnston will continue as business partner. All of Blue Rooster’s employees will move over to Norcast.

“We’ve shared a network with Norcast and always felt our companies had a lot in common,” Buckingham said in a release. “Our staff is what sets both of our companies apart from competitors, which is why we are pleased to join the team, making our services and products even better in the process.”

The companies together serve about 2,500 businesses. There will be no interruption in services with the merger, but Norcast will change its corporate logo from red to blue and adopt Blue Roo, the colorful chicken that served as the company’s mascot.

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Lineage Logistics unveils new cold-storage facility in Santa Maria Valley Tue, 30 Sep 2014 00:04:06 +0000 Lineage Logistics, owned and managed by Bay Grove Capital, has officially opened the doors of its new 216,000-square-foot cold storage and food-processing facility in Santa Maria.

The company declined to share a dollar figure for the project, which is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified. The company has not provided a dollar figure associated with the project.

The expansion was primarily led by the needs of area growers and the lack of such high-tech cold storage space in the region, the company said. “We had local processors asking for support for their new plants, plus frozen space is limited in the region so we’re filling a demand,” Tony Caetano, Santa Maria general manager for Lineage Logistics said in an email to the Business Times. “This facility will allow us to support new companies like Titan Frozen Fruit in the Santa Maria area.”

Salinas-based Titan recently expanded into a processing facility co-located at the new Lineage facility.

Other companies Lineage will support include Sunrise Growers, Surefresh and Cascade International.

“Lineage Logistics is constantly working to build better and cleaner facilities,” Caetano said. “We are trying to build LEED distribution centers exclusively moving forward, because our customers prefer it, it makes economic sense and it’s better for the environment.”

The facility features 151,000 square feet of frozen storage and dock space, 45,000 square feet dedicated to on-site food processing, and eight blast cells with the capacity to blast freeze up to 1 million pounds per day. The Santa Maria site will also offer rail access and in-house transportation services to local and national food-supply markets. With 30,000 additional pallet positions, the facility is expected to play a major role in meeting the needs of the Santa Maria region, Lineage said. The project was designed and built by Burlington, Washington-based Fisher & Sons.

Lineage said the new facility creates 28 new full-time jobs. An additional 250 seasonal employees are already on the job, many in the Titan processing space.

“This is more than a food center,” Santa Maria Mayor Alice Patino said at a Sept. 24 grand-opening event. “This is a shining symbol of this community’s growth and prosperity and Santa Maria’s commitment to growing the economy the right way — in a way that creates good jobs and benefits the entire community while reducing our impact on our natural environment.”

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Qualstar shares sink on $5.6M loss Mon, 29 Sep 2014 23:39:21 +0000 A year ago, the management team at Simi Valley-based Qualstar was ousted by Florida-based BKF Capital, which vowed to cut costs and executive compensation while expanding international sales.  (Stephen Nellis / Business Times photo)

A year ago, the management team at Simi Valley-based Qualstar was ousted by Florida-based BKF Capital, which vowed to cut costs and executive compensation while expanding international sales. (Stephen Nellis / Business Times photo)

Qualstar cut its annual loss to $5.6 million — almost half of what it had been a year earlier — but investors weren’t happy with the company’s slow progress as it struggles to return to profitability.

Shares of Qualstar plummeted 6.9 percent to close at $1.21 on Sept. 29 after the company reported its fiscal year 2014 results.

The Simi Valley-based company makes tape-based backup hard drives that can hold up to 73 petabytes of data, the equivalent of 7,300 one-terabyte hard drives. The firm’s N2Power division also makes high-efficiency power supplies for converting AC power to DC.

In mid-2013, Florida-based BKF Capital Group ousted former Qualstar CEO Larry Firestone and replaced him with its own leader, Steve Bronson. Bronson’s management team said it would cut costs, including executive pay, and expand international sales in an attempt to restore profitability at Qualstar.

Bronson’s team quickly reversed a move by Firestone’s regime to outsource Qualstar’s manufacturing. The company has since consolidated its operations at its Simi Valley headquarters but had to pay millions of dollars to sever the contract with the outside manufacturer and repurchase inventory.

The new management has said it reversed course because it believes “that bringing the tape library manufacturing back to Qualstar will benefit our customers by providing better product quality and service” and “will also give us more control over our inventory levels, and improve our flexibility in inventory planning.”

Qualstar’s revenue dropped 13 percent during the year to $10.9 million. Its net loss was $5.6 million, or 46 cents per share, compared with a $10.4 million loss a year earlier.

Qualstar had $7.2 million in cash equivalents and marketable securities as of June 30, down from $13.8 million a year earlier. Inventories surged to $3.2 million — twice as much as a year before — as the company repurchased product from the former contract manufacturer.

“Qualstar’s fiscal 2014 accomplishments are a direct result of streamlining our core business structure and decision-making processes as ‘One Qualstar’,” CEO Bronson said in a statement. “By recruiting seasoned executives and building a proactive in-house marketing team, we continue to strategically reinforce and improve Qualstar’s overall business management.”

Qualstar suffered a per-share loss of 6 cents in the fourth quarter, down from a 28-cent loss a year earlier. Revenues for the quarter ended June 30 were $2.7 million, down 5 percent compared to $2.9 million in the same quarter a year earlier. Its loss from operations was $700,000, down from $3.5 million a year earlier.

The company recorded a gross margin of 30 percent during the quarter, up from 12 percent a year earlier, as it slashed engineering expenses.

“Qualstar’s loyal resellers and new partners from around the world have shown their enthusiastic endorsement of the new and refreshed product lines and are experiencing first-hand the renewed vitality and vigor of Qualstar as we support and enable our channel partners to be successful,” Daniel Jan, Qualstar’s executive vice president, said in a news release.

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Upper State Street retail center sells for $3.1M Mon, 29 Sep 2014 21:53:54 +0000

Ontare Plaza, a small retail center at 3601-3607 State St. in Santa Barbara, has been sold for $3.1 million.

Leisure & Carpenter Properties purchased the 4,855-square-foot property in a 1031 exchange, a Lee & Associates spokesperson told the Business Times.

Clarice Clark and Stephen Leider of Lee & Associates negotiated the deal for the seller, The Morada Group LP.

The center, which is not fully leased, is anchored by Jeannine’s Bakery and The Medicine Shoppe.

Lease & Carpenter has plans to improve and modify the building, according to sources, but details of the proposed upgrades weren’t disclosed.


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Auto exports drive record year at Port of Hueneme Mon, 29 Sep 2014 19:49:32 +0000 The Port of Hueneme in Ventura County posted its best-ever year for international trade and its second-highest year on record for domestic and global trade combined, it said Sept. 22.

Auto exports, up 30 percent year-over-year, led the surge during the port’s 2013-14 fiscal year.

Total tonnage moving through the port during the year was more than 1.4 million metric tons — just 1 percent shy of its all-time high the previous year.

The Port of Hueneme is the only deep-water port between Los Angeles and the San Francisco. The top import products moving through it have traditionally been cars and bananas. Auto imports jumped 7.1 percent during the year, but exports of U.S.-made cars exploded — up 31 percent compared to last year. Much of the auto export boom was driven by foreign manufacturers including Honda Motor Corp., Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan and Acura sending cars made in U.S. facilities back to the Asian market, port officials said.

Hyundai/Kia lead car imports with 10 percent growth, the port said.

Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics, or WWL, is the top shipper for agricultural and heavy equipment cargo at the port. It also provides shipping and technical processing for cars. “WWL’s import and export volumes at the port of Hueneme have experienced a slight increase in 2014, as compared to the year before,” Rich Heintzelman, the firm’s executive vice president and head of commercial for the Americas said in a statement.

The port processed 655,589 metric tons of bananas. Other fresh fruit and vegetables handled by port customers grew 1.6 percent. Shallow draft cargo — including fish, lube oil and vessel fuel — was down “marginally” for the year, port officials said, and the offshore domestic oil trade held steady.

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Chumash award $112M hotel construction contract with eye toward October groundbreaking Mon, 29 Sep 2014 19:40:13 +0000 ChumashWEB2

The construction contract for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians’ planned hotel expansion in Santa Ynez is valued at $112 million. (courtesy image)


Tutor Perini Corp. has been selected to head up construction of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians’ controversial hotel expansion project. The building contract for the property at 3400 E. Highway 246 in Santa Ynez is valued at $112 million, Sylmar-based Tutor Perini said in a statement.

It’s the first time a dollar amount has been publicly attached to the polarizing project, which has pit the tribe against slow-growth advocates in Santa Barbara County. The tribe recently announced plans to move forward with the project after approving its own environmental impact report despite concerns from the county Board of Supervisors.

As a sovereign entity, the Chumash tribe has broad leeway to develop without the constraints of local zoning and planning rules.

The hotel expansion project includes construction of a 12-story hotel tower that will add 215 more rooms, a 20,000-square-foot pool deck, a parking garage, expansion of the existing casino gaming floor, and additional food and beverage venues. The current facility is about 190,000 square feet and includes 106 hotel rooms, with 17 luxury suites.

Objections against the project include concerns that the massive expansion will put further strain on county water and public-safety resources. The tribe has said the Board of Supervisors’ concerns are not supported by evidence but that discussions with the county will remain open.

Construction is scheduled to begin in October and mostly finished in 2016, Tutor Perini said. The design and construction firm has worked with the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians for 12 years, it said.



The project includes construction of a 12-story hotel tower that will add 215 more rooms, a 20,000-square-foot pool deck, a parking garage and expansion of the existing casino gaming floor. (courtesy image)



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Watkins: California jobs boom not what it seems Fri, 26 Sep 2014 20:39:29 +0000 The Golden State has been outpacing the U.S. in job creation over the last three years, but all is not well. Skyrocketing housing costs mean that with a few exceptions clustered around the tech boom, California’s coastal counties are retirement havens, not entrepreneurship hubs.

That’s the view from Bill Watkins, director of the California Economic Forecast at California Lutheran University, in his latest outlook for the state and nation.

“As has been the case for over a decade, the jobs were concentrated geographically and by industry,” Watkins wrote in a forecast released by CLU on Sept. 26. “The result is that the bulk of Californians did not benefit. Geographically, the job creation is along the coast. In fact, every California county with sub-5.8 percent unemployment is along the coast.”

A technology explosion in the San Francisco Bay Area has pushed employment there past its pre-recession high. San Francisco’s joblessness rate was 4.5 percent as of June, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s well below California’s overall unemployment rate of 7.4 percent and the U.S. rate of 6.1 percent.

San Mateo, Santa Clara and Orange counties also have low unemployment rates as a result of robust job creation, Watkins said.

But most of the California’s coastal areas are stagnating when it comes to new job creation, Watkins said. Santa Barbara and Marin counties are “reservations for the very rich, but have anemic job growth,” he said. Unemployment in such counties is low not because there are abundant job opportunities, but because a large portion of the population is made up of wealthy retirees. In those areas, high housing costs mean that if someone loses a job, he or she will often move out of the area completely.

Meanwhile, San Luis Obispo County is “a special case,” Watkins said, with what appears to be a declining population. The county had an unemployment rate of 5.9 percent as of June, according to to BLS data.

Around the state, many industries — including construction, goods manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade, finance and government — have fewer jobs than before the recession, according to Watkins’ team.

“California’s political class tends to look at the jobs data —the fact that California is creating jobs at a faster-than-national rate — and declare all is well,” Watkins said. “We disagree. We think the data tell us that opportunity in California is isolated, geographically and economically. We also think that denying this reality does nothing to improve the lives of most Californians.”

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