Daily Business Report-Aug. 17, 2015
The California State Capitol
3 Things to Watch
Voice of San Diego
The Legislature gets back to work today for a whirlwind few weeks of lawmaking before the session ends on Sept. 11. The governor then has a month to sign or veto every bill that crossed the finish line.
Here are three big things to keep an eye on.
AB 504: The Civic San Diego Bill
Virtually every political fight involving San Diego boils down to business vs. labor. This bill distills that fight well.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez has introduced a bill that would give the City Council the final say on Downtown development. The council is seen as more labor friendly than Civic. So the Council could demand, for instance, that new downtown hotels hire a unionized workforce, as a condition of approval.
Business boosters are pouring money and effort into fighting the bill. The bill will be up for a floor vote next week, and Gonzalez has until Sept. 4 to make any further amendments, though none are planned at the moment, said Evan McLaughlin, Gonzalez’s chief of staff.
AB 1335: Atkins’ Big Affordable Housing Push
At the beginning of the year, Brian Joseph took note of the fact that Speaker Toni Atkins had yet to introduce any major, speakership-defining bills. Though speakers do plenty beyond writing legislation, Atkins’ team at the time suggested it was a modesty thing: “She doesn’t need to have her name on everything,” Atkins aide John Casey said. “That’s not her personality.”
Indeed, Casey said that Atkins promised when she was elected speaker to ensure that the Assembly would be run smoothly and efficiently, and that has been her focus. The speaker, of course, has her hands in many bills — all of them do — but Casey said Atkins thinks it’s better that her colleagues get the public credit for the bills.
But Atkins’ team noted one bill on the horizon that was very close to the speaker’s heart: an affordable housing measure.
AB 1335 is indeed the most ambitious law Atkins has offered. It would establish “a permanent funding source for affordable housing, through a fee on real estate transaction documents, excluding commercial and residential real-estate sales,” according to Atkins’ office.
The Infrastructure Special Session
On top of its regular work, the Legislature will meet in a special session to address infrastructure. Everyone agrees California’s crumbling roads are a big problem, and it may shock you to learn that there are differences of opinion as to how to address this problem.
Speaker Toni Atkins told KPBS that the current gas tax isn’t generating enough money and she’s open to new schemes — “Whether it is a fee attached to your insurance, a fee attached to diesel — I’m open to what the fee should be.”
Under a plan released by The League of California Cities and the California State Association of Counties, San Diego would get more than $1 billion in funding for road repairs over 10 years.
40 UNDER 40 AWARDS
The 2015 40 Under 40 Awards Luncheon will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 22, at the Sheraton on Harbor Island. 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. For reservations and other information, email Bob Page at: email@example.com.
Haggen Plans 6 Store Closures
And Layoffs in San Diego County
City News Service
Haggen, the grocer that took over numerous Albertsons and Vons stores earlier this year, announced Friday that it would close or sell 27 outlets, including six in San Diego County.
The local locations are San Marcos on Rancho Santa Fe Road; El Cajon on Fletcher Parkway; La Mesa on Lake Murray Boulevard; San Ysidro on West San Ysidro Boulevard; and Chula Vista stores on Third Avenue and Telegraph Canyon Road.
Bellingham, Wash.-based Haggen said it hadn’t been determined how many jobs would be affected, though it announced separately last month that around 700 employees would be laid off in Southern California. The company plans to keep the stores operating around two more months.
“Haggen’s goal going forward is to ensure a stable, healthy company that will benefit our customers, associates, vendors, creditors, stakeholders as well as the communities we serve,” said Haggen CEO Pacific Southwest, Bill Shaner. “By making the tough choice to close and sell some stores, we will be able to invest in stores that have the potential to thrive under the Haggen banner.”
The chain was criticized by customers for its high prices when the stores began opening in the San Diego region earlier this year.
By acquiring stores that were divested by Albertsons and Safeway, the owner of Vons, Haggen expanded from 18 stores with 16 pharmacies and 2,000 employees in the Pacific Northwest to 164 stores and 106 pharmacies employing more than 10,000 people in Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada and Arizona.
Many industry analysts at the time questioned whether the grocer had bit off more than it could chew.
The Haggen announcement said its original stores are still performing well.
Crew of USS Carl Vinson Begins
$300 Million, Six-Month Upgrade
The crew of the USS Carl Vinson began work Friday on a $300 million upgrade that will keep the ship in San Diego for the next six months.
What the Navy calls a “planned incremental availability period” will include both maintenance and upgrades to the ship’s computer network to make sure the giant carrier can complete it’s 50-year service life.
“A lot of work and coordination went into planning for this maintenance period,” said Mark Warner, Carl Vinson maintenance program manager. “After completing such a long deployment, the ship needs a bit of work. It is our goal and mission to support the crew and assist with keeping the ship mission ready.”
Many Vinson sailors will be temporarily reassigned to teams focused on specific maintenance, including painting, tiling and repairing watertight doors, to build expertise and assure these maintenance tasks are completed on time.
“Many Sailors living on the ship were relocated to a berthing barge so that spaces can be renovated and improved,” said Capt. Karl Thomas, Carl Vinson commanding officer. “A significant amount of work goes into maintenance periods so that our ships stay technologically relevant and ready to answer the call.”
Nicknamed “America’s Favorite Carrier,” the Vinson was the ship from which Osama Bin Laden’s body was buried at sea.
San Diego Newcomer Airbitz
Raises $450K for Bitcoin Technology
Bruce V. Bigelow/Xconomy
Airbitz, a downtown San Diego startup with a vision of bringing digital currency to the masses, said it recently raised $450,000 of what is expected to be an initial seed round of more than $1.2 million.
In presentations over the past year, Airbitz co-founder and CEO Paul Puey has said the company’s vision is “to bring Bitcoin to the next billion users” through a decentralized, Web-based platform that emphasizes customer ease of use and ease of security. The company’s lead product is a mobile app that operates as a digital wallet for bitcoins.
Puey, a former Nvidia senior engineer and small business operator, says Airbitz now has nine employees, including co-founder and CTO Tim Horton, co-founder and chief architect William Swanson, co-founder and design vice president Damian Cutillo, and COO Rich “Henri” Chan.
According to Puey, Airbitz has combined existing technologies in a new way, using encryption, backup, two-factor authentication, two-device synchronization, and password recovery to make the Airbitz network secure at the device level.
UCSD Awarded $52M to Speed Drug Development
UC-San Diego has received a $52 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to help accelerate the development of new drug therapies. The grant will fund several research and training programs at the Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute, which is currently under construction at UC-San Diego’s health sciences campus.
Boost Academy Hires Marketing Officer
Boost Academy Inc., has hired Renee T. Bryan as its chief marketing officer and has retained the firms of BCIpr and Internet Marketing Inc. as part of its campaign to introduce its math tutoring platform to parents and students nationwide.
Bryan oversees Boost Academy’s marketing planning and execution, including the company’s branding, advertising, digital marketing, social media, public relations and product launch. Bryan has experience in the B2B and B2C mobile technology field. Prior to joining Boost Academy, she served as vice president of marketing for Sense4Baby, a San Diego-based mobile health firm. Additional experience includes lead marketing positions at AirStrip, Millenium Laboratories, Kimberly-Clark Corp. and STERIS Corp.