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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, April 7, 2014, 5:00 am

Business News: Week of April 7, 2014

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    Banking & Finance

    Novato-based Hennessy Funds said its Hennessy Gas Utility Index Fund (GASFX) received two 2014 Lipper Fund Awards, recognizing the fund’s best-in-category three- and five-year risk-adjusted performance among 15 utility funds for both time periods as of Nov. 30. This year marks the third consecutive year that the Hennessy Gas Utility Index Fund has received both the three-year and five-year awards for performance in the utilities category. Lipper Fund Awards honor mutual funds that have excelled in delivering consistently stronger performance than their peers. The Hennessy fund utilizes the American Gas Association Stock Index, which is comprised of publicly traded natural gas distribution companies.

    The latest Survey of Credit Underwriting Practices shows that banks are easing credit for both consumer and commercial loans. The survey, which was conducted by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, indicates that “banks that eased standards generally did so in response to changes in economic outlook.” This is a significant finding, because banks are recognizing the improvement in the economy and are anticipating greater demand for loans, according to the report. The findings of the OCC survey, which was conducted during 2013 and released in January, mirror the Money Anxiety Index, showing an improvement in the level of consumer financial anxiety during the same time period. During 2013, the index declined by 13.3 points, from 92.4 in January to 79.1 in December. The decrease in the level of financial anxiety shows that consumers are more optimistic about their finances and are more likely to take on loans to finance purchases.

    Construction

    Capital Access Group, one of the Bay Area’s leading U.S. Small Business Administration loan developers, said Robert Federighi Design, an interior design, construction and staging firm that serves Marin, Sonoma and San Francisco counties, secured a $1.5 million SBA 504 loan to purchase a 21,000-square-foot building. The business currently leases multiple warehouse spaces in Marin County, all of which will be replaced by the new building at 38 Hamilton Dr. in Novato. The new facility will allow them to consolidate all operations into one location, reducing and stabilizing occupancy costs, streamlining operations and increasing efficiency. Mr. Federighi also plans to open a showroom for high-quality furniture.

    Health Care

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently certified Petaluma Health Center as Energy Star-compliant. It is awarded to buildings that perform in the top 25 percent for energy-efficiency, compared with similar buildings. The 52,000-square-foot community clinic ranked in the top 20 percent. DES designed interior improvements to turn an office building into a medical clinic. Upgrades were made to reduce energy usage by using it more efficiently and conserving it. Software management programs for heating and cooling systems as well as lighting were implemented to manage energy usage and monitor efficiency. The facility uses roughly 50 percent less energy than the typical health center. The new center serves 25 percent more patients and has shorter wait times than the previous facility.

    As part of the preparations for the coming rollout of a gourmet-style meal service for patients, Marin General Hospital dietitians recently conducted patient meal surveys, asking patients for feedback on what kind of foods they would like to see on the menu. Rather than expected requests for traditional comfort food — meat loaf, mashed potatoes, hot turkey sandwiches with gravy — respondents had a stronger preference for healthful, organic options that are part of Marin County culture. As a result, the hospital’s new patient menu will include house-made salads, signature soups, quinoa and other whole grains, sustainably raised salmon, free-range chicken, certified-organic produce, local dairy products plus more vegetarian and kid-friendly choices.

    Marketing

    The Engine is Red, a creative marketing and design firm based in Santa Rosa, celebrates its fifth anniversary this year. The firm averaged 72.5 percent year-over-year growth for its past three fiscal years, doubled its staff for two years to 14 today, grown to serve more than 100 clients including Medtronic, Chevron Federal Credit Union, Enphase Energy and Friedman’s Home Improvement, donated $230,000-plus in services to nonprofit causes and moved to a new modern studio at 401 Mendocino Ave. in downtown Santa Rosa.

    Retail

    Sebastopol-based organic specialty coffee roaster Taylor Maid Farms plans to open its first Marin County coffee bar on April 1. The Taylor Maid Farms Organic Coffee Bar will be at 850 Fourth St. in downtown San Rafael, in the front half of the recently opened Copperfield’s Books. The shop will offer Taylor Maid’s coffee blends, single-origin coffees, espresso drinks as well as teas and pastries from artisans such as Bovine Bakery and Undercover Baking.

    Don and Alice Schueler, owners of Napa Coin Gallery, said it moved to 1219B Coombs St. close to downtown Napa, after 31 years on Jefferson Street. Instead of the former broad-based retail operation, Napa Coin will continue to offer by-appointment service to investors and collectors of gold, silver, platinum, rare coins and currency, as well as professional appraisals for estates and insurance policies. The Schuelers first started in the coin business in 1977.

    Technology

    Napa-based open-source software provider SUSE released kGraft, technology it developed to allow live, runtime patching of the Linux kernel on computer servers. Unlike other technologies, kGraft doesn’t require stopping the kernel even for short periods, making it easier for IT staff to install critical security and other patches without system downtime. The software is based on modern Linux technologies, including INT3/IPI-NMI self-modifying code, an RCU-like update mechanism, mcount-based NOP space allocation and standard kernel module loading/linking mechanisms. By leveraging other Linux technologies, kGraft requires only a small amount of code to run.

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