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Tulare County News: Jobs,Casinos & Hot Fish

How about a bumper sticker on the back of the pick-up that says “Farmers Do it With Fewer Workers”? That’s what is happening even though the local farm economy is mostly doing well. Tulare County’s employment data for June just came out showing the county’s farm workers numbered 38,900 – some 900 fewer than June 2012.Meanwhile the county’s nonfarm jobs are 2000 higher than a year ago at 111,200. Nevertheless, the county unemployment rate in June 2013 ticked up to 12.8% compared to 12% in May but much lower than the 15.4% rate in June 2012. Month-over-month the county lost 300 farm jobs.

A similar story next door in Fresno County in June where year-to-year nonfarm employment rose by 2,200 jobs (up 0.8 percent), while farm employment dropped by 2,400 jobs (down 4.0 percent).

Although the farm economy is faring better on exports – water is the limiting factor, and not just ‘down on the farm.’

click to enlarge

Water issues in Sequoia Park are discouraging visitation now with tourists camping out at Cedar Grove no longer able to take a shower and some campgrounds in the park limiting reservations.Drought is hurting the power supply too with one Kaweah River hydro facility no longer able to make power due to low water levels.

Valley caught a few days break on the searing heat,19 days over 100 – but it’s back at it again this weekend.

Meanwhile the warm temps have heated up our cooling-off spots like along the Kaweah River near Three Rivers where the water temp reached 82 degrees July 5. Water temperatures on the Kaweah this week are in the high 70s at some favorite water pools.

Water issue is on tap at the Board of Supervisors this coming week with the board considering sending a letter regards the modified 2014 Water Bond that “We can not support a Water Bond that lacks a definitive surface storage program.”
Storage proponents argue that some additional dams (and higher existing ones) in the state can capture wet-year water not just for farms but for fish – facing extinction by global warming says a UC Davis study published last month.Cold water released downstream at the right time can help fish survive the most punishing heat of summer months.

One retail complex that does not mind the heat is Visalia Mall, known as the first air-conditioned shopping center in the Valley”We love the weather both when it’s too hot or too cold in the winter”says mall manager Rick Feder.”We don’t mind if people use us as a cooling center.”

With the new Starbucks under construction and other vendors expected to sign leases – the mall’s Food Court should be full-up by the end of the year says Feder.

Further, both bookends of the mall,empty buildings on the north and south sides are in play right now with restaurants says Feder and “We are expecting to fill both spaces in 2014.”That includes the old bank building where Elephant Bar was going to land before the big recession.Feder says the new tenant they are talking with is not them.

Predictions that gas prices would skyrocket with higher crude prices are thankfully facing some headwinds.Why? We are all using less gasoline pushing refined product inventories higher – some 8.8% higher than year ago – says the most recent government report.Gasoline inventories increased by 3.1 million barrels to 224.1 million barrels the EIA announced July 17. The Visalia Costco is selling regular as of Friday for $3.71 despite the fact that WTI crude oil has jumped nearly $10 in the past month.Wholesale gasoline did run up this past week but “just yesterday, Los Angeles wholesale prices dropped 19 cents in one day after rising 50 cents in two weeks.” says a AAA spokesperson.

Speaking of driving the Tule Indian tribe wants to bring Eagle Mountain a little closer to town making gambling more convenient.Currently,the casino is a 26 mile roundtrip from the lake up a windy reservation road. The full tribal council and Tulare County Board of Supervisors met together”for the first time ever” to discuss the tribe’s wish to locate a new casino. Supervisor Phil Cox says he thinks the tribe continues to look at a Lake Success/Hwy 190 site while Supervisor Allen Ishida says he hears the Porterville airport as a likely site.

“At least we we agreed to continue to discuss it openly and not just go through the lawyers” adds Cox.

Speaking of storage – Derrel’s Mini-Storage has applied to the county to site a new facility on the nw corner of Shirk and Caldwell and the City of Visalia is being asked to comment. Council member Greg Collins says he expects the city of oppose the idea.”We’ll go to the mat on that one.”

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