Pacific Coast Business Times http://www.pacbiztimes.com Proudly serving Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties Fri, 17 Apr 2015 16:47:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.1 Customer list, library drive $1.5B merger http://www.pacbiztimes.com/2015/04/17/customer-list-library-drive-1-5b-merger/ http://www.pacbiztimes.com/2015/04/17/customer-list-library-drive-1-5b-merger/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 07:03:02 +0000 http://www.pacbiztimes.com/?p=22400 Lynda.com Co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer Bruce Heavin and co-founder and Executive Chair Lynda Weinman at the company's Carpinteria headquarters. (Business Times file photo)

Lynda.com Co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer Bruce Heavin and co-founder and Executive Chair Lynda Weinman at the company’s Carpinteria headquarters. (Business Times file photo)

 

Making a $1.5 billion bet on building an economic map to connect professionals across the globe, social networking platform LinkedIn is acquiring Carpinteria-based Lynda.com in a cash and stock deal.

Based in Mountain View, LinkedIn has joined the ranks of social media behemoths by focusing on career development and networking. The acquisition of Lynda.com will give it access to the South Coast company’s library of training videos and its global customer base, which it hopes to expand to offer corporate education and professional certification.

LinkedIn stock traded up 0.75 percent to $254.14 the day the deal was announced.

Lynda.com, one of the fastest-growing firms in the Tri-Counties, generated $150 million in revenue in 2014. It has been profitable since two years after its founding in Ojai in 1995. The company is headquartered on a 12-acre campus in Carpinteria, with additional California offices in San Francisco and Calabasas.

Neither firm has released information on the fate of Lynda.com’s Carpinteria headquarters or the company’s roughly 600 employees. The deal is expected to close mid-year.

It is the second largest tech acquisition in the tri-county region’s history, after the $6.9 billion purchase of Santa Barbara-based Software.com. Phone.com bought Software.com in an all-stock deal in August 2000, a few months after the dot-com bubble had begun to burst. 

The Lynda.com deal compares in size with only two other Silicon Valley acquisitions in the past five years: Yahoo’s 2013 purchase of Tumblr for $1.1 billion and Facebook’s 2012 purchase of Instagram for $1 billion. It also makes Lynda.com the first tri-county member of the “unicorn club” of billion-dollar startups. Only two others have female founders: Gilt Groupe and Fab.

“It’s staggering when you look at the value of tech acquisitions period, much less women-owned companies,” said Kathy Odell, CEO of NutraHealth Partners. “It’s highly unusual to have a woman as founder and head. It puts her in pretty rare air.”

The sale caps a year of fast-paced activity for co-founders Lynda Weinman and her husband Bruce Haven. In January, a $186 million private equity investment round led by TPG Capital allowed the company to restructure and roll out new products aimed at boosting its subscription-based service while remaining private. It was only the second time the company had taken outside funding, and it allowed TPG Principal David Trujillo to join Lynda.com’s board of directors.

Michael Pfau, an attorney at Reicker, Pfau, Pyle & McRoy LLP who is not involved in the deal, said the acquisition was unexpected and unusual considering Lynda.com’s closely held status.

“It’s fascinating to see a company sell at that size with so much of the company still owned by original founders,” he said. “No doubt [the private equity investment] was a motivating factor. They’re in a very, very hot space so I suspect that money that came in was late-stage money and they were looking in the next 12 months at an IPO.”

Pfau also said that Lynda.com’s library of more than 250,000 training videos will help answer questions of how LinkedIn will drive revenue, with its existing services in a stasis.

“Certainly the online education space is a natural fit for them and it’s a natural growth direction for them, and one that should help build revenue,” Pfau said.

Odell said LinkedIn has struggled to drive regular traffic and the addition of Lynda.com’s services could change that.

“You don’t go onto LinkedIn all the time, you log in if someone sends you a request or you want to look someone up,” Odell said. “This gives them the opportunity to now be offering things that go both ways.”

Lynda.com started as a self-teaching resource for creative professionals looking to learn Web design and other software, but has since become a major player in supplying instructional materials to government, educational and business groups. Half of its clients are higher education and government entities, while the other half consists of corporate enterprises, including names like Google, Yahoo, Apple and Adobe.

In an April 9 conference call with investors, LinkedIn Chief Financial Officer Steve Sordello said the company has a long-term focus on the acquisition and will build on Lynda.com’s existing library of 6,000 courses to offer corporate education and professional certification programs.

“The learning and development landscape has become increasingly attractive over time,” Sordello said. “With the acquisition of Lynda.com, we expand our addressable opportunity by $30 billion into a market that includes corporate employee education and professional certifications.”

During the call, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner said the company had been looking to move into learning and development for some time and identified Lynda.com because its mission is aligned with its own.

“Lynda.com helps you learn the skill you need to achieve your full potential. LinkedIn connects the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful,” Weiner said. “The service can create even more economic opportunity when integrated with the hundreds of millions of people and millions of jobs available on LinkedIn.”

There was no bidding process and deal was the result of discussions directly between the two companies. Weiner said the acquisition also takes LinkedIn one step closer to its goal of creating an online network that is truly representative of the global economy.

“Our ultimate vision is to develop the world’s first economic graph,” Weiner said. “In other words, we want to digitally map the global economy, identifying the connections between people, companies, jobs, skills, higher education organizations and professional knowledge, and allow all forms of capital — intellectual capital, financial capital, human capital — to flow to where it can best be leveraged.”

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Beach town in spotlight: Carpenteria benefits from tech firms like Lynda.com http://www.pacbiztimes.com/2015/04/17/beach-town-in-spotlight-carpenteria-benefits-from-tech-firms-like-lynda-com/ http://www.pacbiztimes.com/2015/04/17/beach-town-in-spotlight-carpenteria-benefits-from-tech-firms-like-lynda-com/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 07:02:29 +0000 http://www.pacbiztimes.com/?p=22406 Linden Avenue in downtown Carpinteria. The city is home to Lynda.com, which is being purchased in a $1.5 billion transaction by the Silicon Valley company LinkedIn. (Nik Blaskovich / Business Times photo)

Linden Avenue in downtown Carpinteria. The city is home to Lynda.com, which is being purchased in a $1.5 billion transaction by the Silicon Valley company LinkedIn. (Nik Blaskovich / Business Times photo)

 

Suddenly, Carpinteria is getting a lot of attention.

With business-centric social networking site LinkedIn’s $1.5 billion purchase of online training company Lynda.com, the city is in the limelight.

Carpinteria is made up of just seven square miles and about 14,000 residents, yet companies including Agilent Technologies subsidiary Dako, silicone manufacturer Nusil and restaurant management firm CKE all call it home.

Lynda.com started moving its headquarters from Ventura in 2009, leasing about 60,000 square feet of office and research and development space in Carpinteria.

In August of that year, it furthered its expansion, buying a 31,553-square-foot office building and 25,921-square-foot warehouse building on Cindy Lane. The property was listed for about $6 million and is now a production studio for the company. At the time, the deal was thought to be the company’s last.

Lynda.com “is growing but they’ve already acquired quite a bit of square footage,” Christos Celmayster, a broker with Hayes Commercial Group who worked with the firm to make the move to Carpinteria, told the Business Times in 2009. “They’re probably at a point now where they don’t need any more space in the near future.”

For the most part, that turned out to be true. In 2014 the company sold the 6410 Cindy Lane facility to a local real estate investor and the president of S&S Seeds, Victor Shaff, for $6.1 million. Lynda.com purchased that building for $2.2 million in 2010.

As the smallest commercial real estate market on the South Coast, Carpinteria only needs a few large deals to drive down its vacancy rate, according to area brokers. On the other hand, the loss of just a handful of larger tenants could push the market into the doldrums.

It’s unclear what kind of moves the LinkedIn deal will bring. Company spokeswoman Liz Scanlon said the firm will continue to operate like “business as usual” after the acquisition closes. Lynda.com had about 300 employees in Carpinteria at last count, according to the California Economic Forecast.

Carpinteria has relied on Lynda.com’s expansion to fill space, but with the company’s physical growth maxed out for now, the city will have to look to other large tenants to backfill its empty spots.

In 2013 it looked like Carpinteria had finally put the recession behind it, with the rise of homegrown Nusil and the growth of transplant Lynda.com. CKE Restaurants, the parent company of the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s fast food brands, still maintains its headquarters at 6307 Carpinteria Ave. The company was bought by a New York-based private equity firm in July of 2010, but told its approximately 180 South Coast employees that not much would change after the deal.

That didn’t turn out to be true. The company has downsized by about 10,000 square feet since acquisition and the number of South Coast employees has dropped slowly. The last figure release by the company in 2013 put the headcount at 120 employees in Carpinteria. At one point, CKE occupied about 88,000 square feet, or 20 percent of the office market in the city, according Radius Commercial Real Estate & Investment’s 2013 year-end market report.

CKE’s lease ended in March and the company had been negotiating for an extension in the same building, but in a smaller space, a corporate spokesman told the Business Times.

“We are moving a small number of people in key support departments to our Anaheim location to create greater efficiencies and better serve and support our franchisees and company-owned restaurants,” the company said in a statement. “We are not eliminating positions and we are not moving out of California.”

CKE is only looking to extend through March of 2017, the spokesman said. The executive team will remain in the Carpinteria office, but plans beyond then are not definite.

On the upside, Procore Technologies, a developer of cloud-based construction software, signed one of the largest leases on the South Coast last summer. The company filled 33,000 square feet of newly renovated office space at 6185 Carpinteria Ave.

That move came on the heels of a $15 million capital raise from Silicon Valley firm Bessemer Venture Partners. Its headcount has jumped from a half-dozen employees in the depths of the recession to more than 100.

That growth is still continuing. On May 4-6, the company is hosting its first industry conference, Groundbreak, and will also unveil the latest addition to its headquarters. According to brokers the Business Times spoke with, Carpinteria offers several draws to companies looking to locate there.

“It’s a quaint city on the beach. And it’s well situated between two major markets: Ventura County on the south end, with Camarillo, Oxnard, Port Hueueme and that employee base. And it’s got Goleta and Santa Barbara to the north,” Celmayster told the Business Times. “It’s an ideally situated location for companies that need to pool employees from a broader base.”

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Surgery centers at issue in health care merger http://www.pacbiztimes.com/2015/04/17/surgery-centers-at-issue-in-health-care-merger/ http://www.pacbiztimes.com/2015/04/17/surgery-centers-at-issue-in-health-care-merger/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 07:01:30 +0000 http://www.pacbiztimes.com/?p=22402 The sale of outpatient surgery clinics that will push the South Coast’s biggest health care merger back by six months or more has at least one prior case that resulted in a formal order by the Federal Trade Commission.

Cottage Health System said April 8 that it is looking to sell its Santa Barbara Outpatient Surgery Center operations in an effort to smooth the path for its proposed merger with Sansum Clinic, the largest physician group on the South Coast. It will take six months or more to complete the transaction, Cottage said.

A deal to bring the two nonprofit healthcare providers together has been in the works for almost two years, with Cottage and Sansum in talks with the Bureau of Competition at the FTC for the last 18 months. The FTC would not comment on the merger, but officials at the two companies say the agency has questioned at length the merger of the only inpatient hospital on the South Coast with the large physician practice.

Through those talks, officials said, the sale of the outpatient facility appeared to address the biggest FTC issues about market concentration. “What’s become very clear to us is that their focus has been on outpatient surgery,” Cottage CEO Ron Werft told the Business Times. “Unless we find a way to continue competition in this area, it will be very difficult for us to move forward.”

In a  case that appears to raise parallel issues, the FTC last October voted 5-0 to approved the sale of an ambulatory surgery center in Orange City, Florida owned by Symbion. The center was sold to a third party in order to gain approval for a $792 million merger of Symbion with rival operator Surgery Partners of Chicago.

In that case, the FTC said its goal was to “restore the competition that otherwise would be lost as a result of the merger.” The commission’s unanimous vote, which followed a formal FTC complaint, signaled that regulators want independent doctors to have unfettered access to facilities for arthroscopic surgery, colonoscopies and other outpatient procedures.

Some similar issues appear to apply to the Cottage-Sansum merger. The deal would  result in six surgical suites coming under Sansum-Cottage control, versus the four that Sansum controls today and the two suites Cottage now operates. Cottage’s divestiture would ensure the status quo that exists today would be maintained.

Cottage has enlisted investment banking firm Cain Brothers to sell the operation. Cottage would likely retain ownership of the Castillo Street building that houses the outpatient surgery suites, Werft said.

Once a buyer is identified, the sale would be contingent on the Sansum-Cottage merger being closed. The sale of the centers and closing of the Sansum-Cottage merger would likely happen in a fairly quick sequence, Werft said.

Sansum operates its own outpatient surgery centers, including the four-suite facility at its new building on Foothill Road. Dr. Kurt Ransohoff, Sansum’s CEO, likened the sale of the Cottage suites to the FTC ordering airlines seeking approval for a merger to sell some gates at a large airport to allow for more competition.

Ironically, the Sansum-Cottage merger is designed to produce an integrated health care system, one of the stated goals of the Affordable Care Act.

“The FTC knows the landscape,” said Werft. “They want the same level of competition or more” in outpatient surgery after the merger is completed, he added.

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Apartment building revival, home starts put Santa Maria on the map http://www.pacbiztimes.com/2015/04/17/apartment-building-revival-home-starts-put-santa-maria-on-the-map/ http://www.pacbiztimes.com/2015/04/17/apartment-building-revival-home-starts-put-santa-maria-on-the-map/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 07:00:55 +0000 http://www.pacbiztimes.com/?p=22386 The completed clubhouse at Siena Apartments. (Courtesy photo)

The completed clubhouse at Siena Apartments. (Courtesy photo)

 

With Santa Maria finally digging out from a deep housing slump, UC Santa Barbara economists think the area is poised for a bit of a rebound, with at least one exciting new industry on tap.

The UCSB Economic Forecast Project will focus on housing and residential construction when it holds its annual forecast summit on May 8 at the Radisson Santa Maria on Skyway Drive.

“Home values continue to increase, with Guadalupe leading all cities in the county at about 30 percent price gains over the year,” said UCSB Economics Department Chair Peter Ruppert, who directs the forecast project. “Residential permits are at their highest level since 2009,” he told the Business Times via email.

The program will include a panel of experts including PB Companies principal Ryan Petetit, Carl Steinberg of Williams Homes John Schuldt of Heritage Oaks Bank. The Business Times caught up with a fourth panelist, Towbes Group President Craig Zimmerman via email.

“We have not built enough new, diverse housing to provide our workforce with housing that they can afford and with an array of housing choices,” Zimmerman wrote.

With a population of 102,000 that’s now nearly 15 larger than Santa Barbara’s 90,400, Santa Maria is the 5th largest city in the Tri-Counties. Its median home price of $304,000 in 2014 is one third of Santa Barbara’s $981,300 median home price, making it attractive as a commuter location, especially for workers from Goleta, where drive time is slightly more than an hour.

Work underway at the Hancock Terrace apartments. (Courtesy photo)

Work underway at the Hancock Terrace apartments. (Courtesy photo)

A surge in home and apartment building could eventually push Santa Maria’s population past Ventura, with 108,800 people, into the No. 4 spot.  Santa Maria’s median home price is about 40 percent below the median home price of Ventura at $493,000 last year. Ventura and Oxnard are two alternatives for Santa Barbara workers; thousands of them commute to the South Coast daily.

“Our strategy in Santa Maria specifically is to fill the demand for new rental housing that has all of the amenities and community aspects but is also attainable by the local workforce, whether that workforce is in Santa Maria or commuting north or south,” Zimmerman said. Significantly, Santa Maria’s median home price is far below that of San Luis Obispo, at around $616,000 last year.

Towbes’s two rental projects in Santa Maria include the 268-unit Hancock Terrace apartments, which consists of four buildings. A second project, the 211-unit Siena Apartments is about half-completed. “Leasing is terrific as we are renting 6-7 units per week at Siena since we opened,” Zimmerman wrote.

“Since no new rental housing has been built in the Santa Maria area in decades, the housing stock has aged and the requirements of today’s renter have changed as well,” he said.  

To go along with increased demand for rental housing, the number of people who now have positive equity in their homes also has turned upward. “Foreclosure rates have also come down precipitously and are now close to their pre-recession levels,” Ruppert said. 

Ruppert said he’s been watching the emergence of a new workforce and new industries, including craft brewing, that are adding an extra dimension to lifestyle and entertainment choices on the Central Coast. Depending on the community, craft brewing is adding jobs at a 20 percent to 50 percent clip across the tri-county region, he said.

Santa Maria long has been the industrial heart of Santa Barbara County and the center for provisioning agribusinesses, including the wine industry.

But craft brewing promises to open up new enterprises and new opportunities, Ruppert suggested. “The employment in craft brew is small for sure, there are many small shops that have opened up,” he said, “But it seems like this is an industry that is and will be expanding.”

Regulations that allow craft brewers to self-distribute are helping California’s independent brewers to thrive, a rare situation where the Golden State’s rules are less burdensome than those in other states.

Ruppert isn’t terribly worried about the future interest rate environment and its impact on mortgage rates—at least in the short term. “I do think that when the Fed begins to raise rates, probably in the fall, that it will have an impact, though probably small at first,” he wrote.

• For information about the North County Economic Forecast Summit or the housing panel moderated by Steve McCarty of Stafford-McCarty, contact nora.crutcher@ucsb.edu.

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Vintners measure ‘soul’ of their wine with phenolics testing http://www.pacbiztimes.com/2015/04/17/vintners-measure-soul-of-their-wine-with-phenolics-testing/ http://www.pacbiztimes.com/2015/04/17/vintners-measure-soul-of-their-wine-with-phenolics-testing/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 07:00:39 +0000 http://www.pacbiztimes.com/?p=22388 A small number of Central Coast winemakers have begun using a desktop-sized device to measure chemical compounds that have been called the “soul” of the wine.

They are analyzing phenolic levels in robust red wines like cabernet sauvignon and syrah to help them make more reliable decisions on when to separate the juice from skins and stems, and how to blend to achieve consistent structure in successive vintages. They can run a test in less than 15 minutes that tells them the levels of phenols related to color, mouthfeel and structure. The test also reveals a property known as bound color.

“And that bound color has been seen in the phenolic world as the soul of the wine,” said Kevin Sass, winemaker at Halter Ranch Vineyard in Paso Robles, who has been using phenolics analysis since 2012. “So the more you have of that, the bigger the wine feels on your palate, the sweeter (in texture) it feels, the richer it feels and probably most importantly, it’s shown that the wine ultimately lasts longer by having that level higher.”

In the subjective world of wine, phenolics are in some ways an objective measure of quality. They measure properties that will likely separate a $20 bottle of wine from a $35 bottle and a $50 and above bottle.

Daniel Daou, co-owner and winemaker at Daou Vineyards & Winery in Paso Robles, said the test device he is now using has in his mind shifted the balance between the art and science of winemaking. “There’s still an art component to it,” he said, “but I think what I find is normally it’s 70 percent maybe art, 30 percent science, but with phenolics I tend to feel like it’s more 50-50.”

Grapes contain hundreds of phenolic compounds. A test has been available since around 2002  that measures chemical compounds in wine called anthocyanins, related to color, and tannins, which react with saliva in the mouth to produce astringency and mouthfeel. The procedure is complicated and requires about four hours to obtain results, limiting its usefulness.

A Napa Valley company called WineXray developed a test that takes less than 15 minutes. A sample of wine is run through a desktop-size spectrophotometer, which uses ultraviolet light to analyze it. Values are uploaded into a cloud system and results come back in less than a minute.

Sass adopted phenolics measurement after a disastrous experience with a batch of syrah in 2011. He over-extracted tannins while the syrah was fermenting on the skins, even though he had been tasting and monitoring it. “It was so tannic your tongue stuck to the roof of your mouth,” he said, “and so we ended up selling it off as bulk wine to somebody else.”

Sass said it is difficult to accurately taste tannin levels through the sugar, and astringency can build up quickly in later stages of fermentation.

In 2013, Daou over-extracted a tank of wine even though he was taking phenolics readings every morning, thinking that was a lot. “Well guess what? I missed it, because in a period of 24 hours, the tannins jumped up by 100 percent,” he said. Last year, he began measuring phenolics morning and night. “I nailed every one,” he said.

The testing, done before contact of the wine with oak, does a lot more than help eliminate costly mistakes. It helps winemakers consistently achieve profiles they want for their tiers of wines.

When the red wine is fermenting on the skins, compounds called free anthocyanins, related to color, bind with tannins in a one-to-one ratio to form bound anthocyanins, or bound color. That is the backbone or “soul” of the wine. The bound color remains stable over many years. Along with flavor profiles, a high level of bound color in a red wine will make it a candidate for reserve status if the color and tannins are nicely balanced.

Phenolic development is affected by many things, including soil, grape variety, clone and rootstock, sunlight, canopy, berry size and possibly viruses, so bound color potential varies a lot. Sass and Daou are adding equipment this season to measure phenolics in the vineyard as the grapes mature.

Scott McLeod of WineXray said in an email that the company does a lot of work in the Napa Valley and currently has four clients in San Luis Obispo County. He expects that number to double by harvest time. Equipment costs $3,000 to $5,000, and clients pay for each test result. Daou said the technology is becoming more affordable, with licensing deals available for wineries that run many tests.

Daou said that when he feels he has produced a great wine, phenolics analysis is lifted to a different level. “When you start making wine the year after, you’re tracking phenolics every day, and you go, ‘I hit it, right now, don’t miss it,’” he said.

• Contact Tom Bronzini at tbronzini@verizon.net.

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Botanic Gardens leads push to use less thirsty plants http://www.pacbiztimes.com/2015/04/17/botanic-gardens-leads-push-to-use-less-thirsty-plants/ http://www.pacbiztimes.com/2015/04/17/botanic-gardens-leads-push-to-use-less-thirsty-plants/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 07:00:36 +0000 http://www.pacbiztimes.com/?p=22392 The Garden Growers Nursery, adjacent to the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens, sells drought-resistant native plants. (Nik Blaskovich / Business Times photo)

The Garden Growers Nursery, adjacent to the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens, sells drought-resistant native plants. (Nik Blaskovich / Business Times photo)

 

In the nursery business, a drought usually means a dry spell at the cash register. Customers are wary of planting much of anything, and keeping the nursery’s stock healthy becomes more of a burden.

But for the growing segment of the market that specializes in native plants, this drought is an opportunity. Jeff Nighman, a co-owner of Santa Barbara Natives, said this is “a boom time” for his nursery on the Gaviota coast, which carries only genetically local native plants.

Even traditional nurseries, which tend to suffer during droughts, are expanding their native and drought-tolerant offerings, he said.

“A lot of nurseries are increasing their native production, or their agave, cactus, Mediterranean, whatever they have,” Nighman said. “They all see the writing on the wall.”

That writing says, “use less water,” with Gov. Jerry Brown recently telling cities and water providers to cut urban use by 25 percent. Outdoor landscaping is the biggest variable in residential water use, the main reason the average Montecito resident uses more than twice as much water per day as the average Santa Barbara resident, according to data from the State Water Resources Control Board.

In the Santa Barbara area, nurseries, landscape architects, developers and homeowners have an ally in drought-fighting in the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. The nonprofit has its own retail nursery, and it also works closely with Santa Barbara Natives and other nurseries to propagate and grow native plants such as manzanitas, sage, milkweed and wild lilac.

Manager of the volunteer program at the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens Kathy Cataneda, right, guides a group tour through a meadow of drought-tolerant native wildflowers. (Nik Blaskovich / Business Times photo)

Manager of the volunteer program at the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens Kathy Cataneda, right, guides a group tour through a meadow of drought-tolerant native wildflowers. (Nik Blaskovich / Business Times photo)

“The Botanic Garden has as its mission to conserve and promulgate native Californian plants, most of which are very drought-tough, very well adapted to the climate in Southern California,” said Bruce Reed, the Botanic Garden’s horticulturalist. “They’re able to take the summer droughts, and even longer droughts that last years.”

The Botanic Garden has two nurseries: one that grows plants for the garden itself and one that sells them to the public. Revenues at the retail nursery are about $100,000 a year and have “expanded a good deal” since the drought started, Reed said. The nursery is in the middle of its spring sale, which ends the first weekend in May, and there is a larger sale planned for the fall, said Paige Minney, the nursery’s manager.

The retail nursery is usually a break-even operation, Reed said.

“We do it to meet our mission, which is to try and get more plants out in people’s yards to support our wildlife and bring back some of the habitat the landscape used to provide,” he said. “One of the things we’re up against more than anything is a lack of knowledge on the part of the public. Even landscape architects don’t know these plants very well and need information on how to raise them.”

The Botanic Garden also offers classes in garden planning for both professionals and hobbyists. The garden’s experts and their counterparts in the private sector have a collaborative relationship, Reed said. Sometimes commercial nurseries will sell plants to the Botanic Garden, and sometimes they’ll buy from the garden. “Mostly, it’s just sharing information,” Reed said.

Nurseries like Santa Barbara Natives get most of their business from large mitigation projects, in which a landowner wants to restore a property to its natural state. That might be a developer with a court-ordered pollution settlement, or a government agency that wants to switch from concrete channels to more natural means of flood control.

It’s only in the past couple of bone-dry years that landscapers and homeowners have started buying Santa Barbara Natives’ plants in any significant numbers. The nursery is open to the general public by appointment only.

“We don’t do any publicity, but we’re busy as all get-out,” Nighman said.

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Dubroff: Rick Caruso gets his moment and Miramar gets the green light http://www.pacbiztimes.com/2015/04/17/dubroff-rick-caruso-gets-his-moment-and-miramar-gets-the-green-light/ http://www.pacbiztimes.com/2015/04/17/dubroff-rick-caruso-gets-his-moment-and-miramar-gets-the-green-light/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 07:00:33 +0000 http://www.pacbiztimes.com/?p=22398 Henry Dubroff

Henry Dubroff

It was literally a “Rick Caruso moment” before the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors.

With the final opposition fading away and his project tweaked a bit on issues such as beach club membership, the estimated $200 million Miramar Hotel & Resort project finally got its approval on April 14.

It’s worth noting that Volume 1, Issue 1 of the Business Times, written slightly more than 15 years ago, featured a story about the first plans for reconstructing the Miramar.

Three owners and a decade and a half later, the rebuilding of an iconic beachside resort finally appears to be coming to fruition.

What’s particularly good about this deal is that it’s being done at a time when interest rates are low and hotel demand is high. Caruso should be able to finance his deal easily and the once-sought-after tax breaks from Santa Barbara County have vanished into the rear view mirror.

The not-so-dirty little secret about the Miramar is that Santa Barbara County needs the tax revenue it will throw off more than Caruso, a legendary developer and major player in Los Angeles, needs this deal. And in the end, neighbors need to have something built on the vacant and decaying eyesore that the Miramar has become.

I suppose there will be a groundbreaking of sorts and perhaps Caruso will get another moment or two to celebrate accomplishing what Ian Schrager and Ty Warner before him could not. Caruso is a good developer, and a great developer when he’s not hemmed in by rules as he was at The Lakes in Thousand Oaks.

Let the dirt begin to move.

Closure for Countrywide

Nearly a decade after it agreed to buy home lender Countrywide Financial Corp., Bank of America has begun to put its legal woes behind it.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based company’s first quarter profit of $3.36 billion or 27 cents per share missed analyst estimates by two cents, but costs related to lawsuit settlements fell 90 percent.

Bank of America’s financial health, and particularly the health of its mortgage unit, is important to the region because the company’s servicing operations in Simi Valley are a major employer in Ventura County. A year ago, the company reported a $6 billion litigation charge stemming from mortgage settlements.

Why Bank of American acquired ailing Countrywide is still a mystery, especially since it was not indemnified from legal claims when it bought the Calabasas-based lender and subsequently Merrill Lynch. Both were on the verge of collapse.

They say that the true costs and benefits of mergers don’t become clear for years. Perhaps Countrywide will pay off for Bank of America, but it’s taken a long, long time.

Happy 100th, Jordano’s

This issue of the Business Times contains a special treat for our subscribers.

Since late last year, we’ve worked closely with Jordano’s President Peter Jordano, his son, Jeff, and assistant Jo Ann Cavaletto to produce a 100th anniversary publication for the region’s dominant food service and beverage distributor. 

Jordano’s also helped underwrite the cost of producing “Jordano’s: A Century of Progress.”

This corporate history is a first-ever effort for the Business Times and in producing it, we learned a lot of lessons about what it means to navigate a company through a century of challenges. I’m grateful to our team, including freelance writer Tom Bronzini, graphic designer Cory Pironti and Publisher Linda le Brock, for their efforts.

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