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Daily Business Report — March 1, 2012

Judge Denies Attempt to Block Convention Center Vote

A Superior Court judge has denied a request for an injunction seeking to block a planned vote on a special tax to fund the San Diego Convention Center expansion. Judge Gonzalo Curiel indicated that at this time, the request to stop the vote — brought by Unite Here Local 30, the county’s hospitality and tourism workers union — was premature and duplicates the city’s plan to file a validation proceeding if the tax is approved. The ruling allows the vote on the convention center funding plan to continue as planned.

The city plans to test the plan in court if the tax is approved. The so-called “validation proceeding” will allow all parties, including Unite Here, to join the proceedings and make their views heard. “This lawsuit was unnecessary,” said City Attorney Jan Goldsmith. “If the tax is approved, the city will initiate validation proceedings and everyone will have the right to be heard on the law in favor and against. That’s what the validation process is designed to do. It saves time and expense of multiple lawsuits and results in a judgment that is reliable.”

Patterned after a similar plan used in San Jose, the financing plan calls for a special levy on hotel properties to help pay for the proposed expansion of the convention center. It was approved by the City Council in January as an alternative to putting a tax increase on the general election ballot which would require approval from two-thirds of city voters to pass.

Luxtera Signs Deal to Make Optical Chip

Carlsbad-based Luxtera, which recently raised $21.7 million in venture funding, said it has signed a partnership with European semiconductor giant STMicroelectronics to produce a new generation of chips that combine high-performance optics with silicon-based electronics. “We think it’s a really big deal,” says Chris Bergey, Luxtera vice president of marketing. “We’re able to build a complete fiber optic system in silicon.” Luxtera said its technology, based on a standard microcircuit technology known as complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS), will be integrated by STMicro in at its chip-making plant in Crolles, France. By creating wave guides in photonic channels embedded in the silicon, Bergey said it’s possible to apply voltages to modulate the light, enabling Luxtera to produce a 100 gigabit per second (Gbps) transceiver on a single chip. Luxtera says it is the first company to overcome the technical obstacles of integrating high-performance optics on a standard CMOS chip. Luxtera’s process also uses silicon, a relatively low-cost and reliable semiconductor material, instead of more esoteric materials like gallium arsenide or iridium phosphate. (Source: Bruce V. Bigelow, Xconomy San Diego.)

UCSD Clinical Trial to Treat Brain Cancer with Novel Viral Vector

UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center researchers and surgeons are among the first in the nation to treat patients with recurrent brain cancer by directly injecting an investigational viral vector into their tumor. The treatment is being developed by a San Diego company, Tocagen Inc. “This clinical trial targets glioblastoma – one of the deadliest forms of brain tumor,” said principal investigator Santosh Kesari, director of neuro-oncology in the Moores Cancer Center. “Clinical trials of investigational therapies such as this may lead to new treatment options for patients battling this deadly disease.”

Project Concern Receives $500,000 Grant from Starbucks Foundation

Project Concern International has received a $500,000 grant from the Starbucks Foundation for a project designed to improve the health of coffee farmers and their communities in two areas in ther Sidama Zone of Southern Ethiopia. The organization said its Sidama Coffee Farmers Project will result in 10,000 people with increased access to safe drinking water and 2,000 people with increased access to sanitation facilities.  To promote sustainability of the project achievements, the project will also assist the Sidama Farmers Cooperative Union and its member farmers to engage in action planning to improve resource management. The project also will train 500 women in coffee farming communities in PCI’s women empowerment/micro-enterprise methodology.

Senomyx Reports Quarter and Year Results

Senomyx Inc. reported financial results for the fourth quarter and full year ended Dec. 31, 2011. Revenues were $31.3 million for the year ended Dec. 31, 2011, compared to $28.7 million for the year ended Dec. 31, 2010, an increase of 9 percent. The net loss for the year ended Dec. 31, 2011 was $8.7 million, compared to $10.7 million for the year ended Dec. 31, 2010, an improvement of 18 percent. The net loss per share for the year ended Dec. 31, 2011 was $0.22 per share, compared to $0.28 per share for the year ended Dec. 31, 2010, an improvement of 21 percent. Senomyx uses proprietary taste science technologies to discover novel flavor ingredients for the food, beverage, and ingredient supply industries.

PERSONNEL Moves

SAN DIEGO —Mark Read has been named executive managing director of Voit Real Estate Services. Read formerly was senior managing director of CBRE’s San Diego region, a position he held for the past 13 years.

SAN DIEGO — Attorneys Donald K. Sheppard and Joshua Katz have joined the Higgs Fletcher & Mack law firm. Sheppard, an immigration attorney, came from Jacobs Schlesinger & Sheppard. Katz joins the tax law practice group. His prior experience includes working with the District Attorney’s offices in San Francisco and San Diego County.

LA JOLLA — Deb Finnegan has joined the La Jolla office of Northern Trust as managing director of the private client services group. Finnegan most recently served as a private client manager with U.S. Trust, part of Bank of America Private Wealth Management, where she advised high-net-worth individuals and families on comprehensive wealth management strategies.

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Small Business Workshops

Helping startup and established small businesses throughout San Diego and Imperial counties prosper, SCORE San Diego continues its series of low-cost workshops. Workshop fees range from $29 to $109, depending on the program. For more information, call (619) 557-7272.

Upcoming Workshops:

March 2 – Governance for Non-Profits: Effective Board Performance – 9 to 11:30 a.m. at San Diego Foundation – Point Loma (2508 Historic Decatur Rd., #200 San Diego 92106; pre-paid registration $39, $49 at the door).

March 2 – Business Basics 101 – 9 to 11 a.m. at National University – Kearny Mesa (9388 Lightwave Ave., San Diego 92123; No charge – please pre-register).

March 5 – Tax Considerations for Small Businesses – 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at National University – Carlsbad (705 Palomar Airport Rd., Carlsbad 92011; pre-paid registration $29, $39 at the door).

March 6 – California Sales & Use Tax Basics – 1 to 3 p.m. at National University – Kearny Mesa (9388 Lightwave Ave., San Diego 92123; pre-paid registration $29, $39 at the door).

March 7 – Business Plan 101: How to Develop Your Best Competitive Advantage – 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at National University – Kearny Mesa (9388 Lightwave Ave., San Diego 92123; pre-paid registration $79, $89 at the door).

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The Daily Business Report is produced by REP Publishing Inc., publisher of SD METRO, the North Park News and the West Coast Craftsman. Contact: Manny Cruz (619) 287-1865. manny@sandiegometro.com.

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We Want Your Opinions on San Diego’s Big Issues In the coming months, Probosky Research (one of California’s leading opinion research firms) will continue its partnership with SD METRO to survey San Diego residents about topics of interest to our readers. We’d like to throw open the door for suggestions for topics. What do you want to know? What do you think you know, but aren’t sure? What are you certain you know, but want to prove it beyond doubt? Ideally, we’d like to see questions that have to do with public policy.

Some areas may include Mayor Filner’s first 100 days job performance, should the city be responsible for economic growth and the creation of new jobs, how important are infrastructure improvements to our daily lives (streets and bridges, etc.), how important is water independence, how satisfied are residents with public transit or how do city residents value Balboa Park and other open spaces? Do you believe the City Council should revive the Plaza de Panama plan for Balboa Park?

You can email Probolsky Research directly with your ideas: info@probolskyresearch.com