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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, May 21, 2012, 5:00 am

Business news: Week of May 21, 2012

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    Banking

    Bank of the West is one of the leading bank lenders to U.S. agriculture, according to an American Bankers Association online ranking, Top 100 Farm Lenders. The San Francisco-based bank ranked second in the nation with about $3.17 billion in agricultural loans at the end of last year. Wells Fargo Bank N.A. lent the greatest dollar volume, $9.4 billion in loans, and Rabobank N.A. was third with $2.95 billion. Bank of the West maintains agribusiness-focused branches in Napa, Fresno, Corona and the Midwest.

    Travis Credit Union began what it calls an industry-first cultural immersion training exercise meant to increase employees’ level of service for Hispanic customers. All employees who work with the public take part in the training, which involves facilitated visits to the Mi Pueblo Food Center in Vallejo and El Tejabon Restaurant in Vacaville. By asking participants to speak Spanish and take part in a broader cultural discussion, Travis Credit Union CEO Patsy Van Ouwerkerk said employees further understanding of the struggle some new immigrants face while obtaining financial services in a second language.

    Finance

     The California State Board of Equalization offers a free mobile software application, BOE ePay (www.boe.ca.gov/mobile), allowing users to make payments to their BOE tax and fee accounts via credit card, checking or savings account, view ePayment history and register and manage their eClient account.

    Pacific Gas and Electric Co. announced that it paid franchise fees and property taxes of almost $286 million to 49 counties and 243 cities in which it operates. Sonoma County received $4.1 million in property taxes; Humboldt, $1.8 million; Mendocino, $1 million; and Lake, $5.6 million. The 2011 franchise fee payments total more than $138 million — nearly $41 million for natural gas and more than $97 million for electric service. This sum is $582,308 more than last year’s payments. Franchise fees are payments that PG&E makes to cities and counties for the right to use public streets for its gas and electric facilities. Total payments for the fiscal year 2011-2012 were $296 million. The company’s property-tax payments to counties for tax year 2011–12 increased by $14.6 million over the previous year’s payments from increased assessments on PG&E’s infrastructure investments and higher tax rates.

    Technology

    Calix, Inc. (NYSE: CALX) announced American Samoa Telecommunications Authority selected the Calix Unified Access Portfolio and Calix Professional Services to support and implement the authority’s Broadband Linking the American Samoa Territory (BLAST) project. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service funded the project through a $91 million Broadband Initiatives Program award consisting of a combined grant and loan for plant engineering, materials, labor and other costs, including access equipment. The BLAST project will transform a copper network to advanced fiber-to-the-premises infrastructure.

    HydroPoint Data Systems, Inc., focused on water-management solutions, is releasing three new WeatherTRAK products, extending the line of “smart” irrigation and central control products this year. The 10-year-old Petaluma-based company will add a cost-effective commercial irrigation controller, a wireless flow management product targeting retrofits and a number of mobile device-controlled applications.

    Executive and entrepreneur John Kalb started EV Charging Pros (415-209-6585, www.evchargingpros.com), a Novato-based business consulting services company that advises corporations, commercial property owners and managers on how to select and implement the most appropriate electric vehicle service equipment system for commercial and community properties.

    Health Care

    St. Helena Hospital opened Surgical Learning Institute, Napa Valley. The first surgical training program was March 30 with 43 surgeons and allied health professionals from around the nation to participate in the MAKOplasty Surgeon Masters Course. Produced by MAKO Surgical Corp. and hosted by the institute, the collaborative learning program focused on advanced robotic orthopedic surgical techniques taught by surgeons of the hospital’s Coon Joint Replacement Institute.

    Endorsements

    Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce endorsed for the June ballot, based on “commitment to our business community,” John Sawyer for Sonoma County Supervisorial District 1, Shirlee Zane for District 3 and Efren Carrillo for District 5.

    North Bay Leadership Council endorsed Jared Huffman for Congressional District 2 and Mike Thompson for District 5; Steve Kinsey for Marin County Supervisoral District 4 and Katie Rice for District 2; Efren Carrillo for Sonoma County Supervisoral District 5, John Sawyer for District 2 and Shirlee Zane for District 3; Mark Luce for Napa County Supervisoral District 2; and state Proposition 28, which makes term limits more flexible by allowing legislators to serve a total of 12 years in any office or combination thereof.

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