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Around Tulare County…Biz News

Visalia Mall Card Shop Closing

Visalia will be without a Hallmark store with the retirement of Don and Donna Wright who are closing their Wright’s Hallmark outlet in the Visalia Mall at the end of February. ”Visalia has been very good to us” says Don. “We will miss our customers and friends” adds Donna. The couple used to have the Hatch’s franchise at the Visalia Mall but chose not to renew it in 1983. Instead they agreed to be dealer for Hallmark on their own and opened a second store in Sequoia Mall in 1984.”That store did very well next to to Mervyns in those days” remembers Don. But after the the department store closed in 2009 it was a different story and the Wrights closed it. By this time they had a store at Mary’s Vineyard and then consolidated back to to the Visalia Mall during the recession. Now that too must end with no news who will replace them in the mall or whether Hallmark will open a corporate store in town.

Sales of both new and used homes were up 13% in November year over year in Tulare County. The median price of an existing home climbed 11.5% to $145,000 compared to a year earlier.

Screen Shot 2013-12-28 at 7.47.59 AMOver at the City of Tulare, home building permits have rebounded from a low in 2012 of 61 to 109 so far this year. Commercial permits also jumped from 8 in 2012 to 13 this year. City planner Bonnie Simoes says the rebound in home permits includes several “dead subdivisions” that are getting a new lease on life and new owners. Active in town is Jim Robinson’s San Joaquin Home Builders who are working on several formerly abandon new home subdivisions.

Speaking of Bonnie Simoes,the City of Tulare will lose another long time staffer as Bonnie steps down after 23 and one half years. Bonnie started as an Assistant Planner and has worked up to the position of Principal Planner for the city. The position will be left open for now. Simoes says she plans to spend retirement relaxing as much time as possible at the family cabin.

Another locally-owned grocery store will close – this time in Dinuba. Farmers Food Market owned by Steve and Doria Gong have sold their business and building on North Alta to the Grocery Outlet chain who will open in May.

Porterville historic landmark – the Porterville Hotel burned down this week in a fire of unknown origin.The condemned structure collapsed  after the night time fire on Main Street gutted the empty building.

Final EIR is now set to be certified January 8 at Tulare County Planning  Commission for the Pixley Biogas project. The alternative energy project using pipeline gas from a dairy nearby is opposed by California Dairies Inc. who has a milk plant about a block away. The biogas would replace natural gas to make ethanol.

Hotel occupancy in November fell in the Visalia/Porterville market by 2.4% compared to November 2012, perhaps a hangover from the government shutdown of the National Parks. Statewide, hotel occupancy rose by 5.2%.

King County lost population in the past year. Kings County had a negative 0.16 growth rate and a population of 150,279 a state report says. In Kings County there was a continued decline in the population dropping 239 residents in the latest July to July period. Since 2010 the county has 2,217 fewer residents.Kings County’s net migration since 2010 is even more dramatic with a loss of nearly 8000 residents since 2010,mostly recession years.

Tulare County grew by 0.86%, a little slower than the past two years according to the same report. The 2013 population is 840,320 adding 5173 person,births minus deaths. Foreign immigrants numbered 961 compared to 2260 residents who left the county in the year.

Visalia’s rainfall total this calendar year is a little north of 3.25 inches,a record low according to the Western Regional Climate Center that lists the existing record low for Visalia in 1910 at 4.10 inches.

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