The Business Press: Basic beginnings

IE Women’s Business center focuses on teaching, mentoring programs

04:47 PM PDT on Thursday, May 20, 2010

By CHRIS H. SIEROTY
Contributing Writer

If you didn’t know where to look, you could easily drive by the Inland Empire Women’s Business Center.

Situated in a nondescript office building within one of several office parks along East Airport Drive in San Bernardino, the center offers a number of programs and services to meet the needs of women business owners or those looking to go into business for themselves in Inland Southern California.

“Our mission is to council, teach and inspire women-owned business owners at every stage of developing or operating their business,” said Nicole Kinney, director of the center. “We do that through our low-cost business training and our mentoring program.”

Those programs focus on general business and management issues, business startup, gaining access to capital and federal contract issues. She said these days the center’s clients fall into two categories: those who are unemployed and “seeking an opportunity through entrepreneurship,” or those who have their businesses up and running and need additional guidance.

Kinney, who was named IEWBC’s director in October, said the vast majority of programs or workshops offered are free, while other classes range in cost from $15 to $125.

“Our three-part QuickBooks training session is our most expensive class, costing $125,” she said.

For those thinking about starting their own business, the center offers a starting your own business workshop one Saturday a month in San Bernardino and one Wednesday a month in Corona.

“It’s a free workshop that gives them the nuts and bolts about getting their business started,” Kinney said in an interview. “It includes sources and criteria for financing, business plan writing and a class about permits and legal help.”

But she cautioned that starting a business isn’t for everyone and figured that almost half of those who attend drop out after the first class and didn’t have any further association with the center.

“Some people say it’s too much work,” she said. “That’s a success. You don’t want to see someone invest their life savings into something they are going to get tired of or don’t have the time for. Running your own business is not for everyone.”

Kinney said many budding entrepreneurs are there to get help with picking a “legal structure” for their business. For example, a majority of participants choose to set up their business as a sole proprietor for a number of reasons, including the low upfront investment, she said.

The ABC’s of starting your own business course also goes over the 5 C’s of credit. The five key elements a borrower should have to obtain credit are: character, capacity (sufficient cash flow to service the obligation), capital (net worth), collateral (assets to secure the debt), and conditions (of the borrower and the overall economy).

“We talk a lot about credit, because not a lot of people have a strong grasp about credit,” she said. “They need to know what a good credit score is and if they don’t have good credit the steps they can take to improve it.”

The ABC’s course also offers an analysis of each participant’s business plan. Kinney explained that it was crucial to make sure “they weren’t getting into a business that’s declining” and that their business idea was feasible.

“It’s not our responsibility just to tell them its a bad idea, but it’s our responsibility to explain to them how their idea isn’t going to work,” she said.

She said about 20 percent of the business plans are rejected. Other business plans, she explained have to be reworked before a client’s idea can be financially feasible.

“Most people’s business plans focus on the goal,” she said. “They want to open a restaurant, but they don’t look at it as something they can do in phases. They can begin by renting space in a shared kitchen and open a catering business. It’s less overhead and they can build up their cash flow and eventually have enough assets to open. So part of what we do is break down that larger goal into manageable pieces.”

Founded in September 2003, the IEWBC, which is part of the The Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship at Cal State San Bernardino, has continued to change they way it does business as business conditions in Inland Southern California have changed. Today, most of the business plans presented to its staff are for home-based or online businesses rather than for traditional bricks-and-motar businesses, she said.

“As the nature of business changes, we have to be able to adapt to that,” Kinney said. “We now have a social networking presence. We have a Facebook fan page, and we use Twitter because that’s what our clients are doing. The biggest thing social networking can do is create awareness. If our clients are online creating awareness about their business, we should be doing the same thing.”

The IEWBC received $115,000 in federal funding for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 15. The rest of its estimated $260,000 budget was funded by local municipalities and several large financial institutions.

“We’ve had to do more with less this year,” Kinney said. “We do receive some private donations through our website. We are the opposite of a business. We get our money upfront and we produce the results in order to have that funding renewed for another year.”

Despite the ongoing struggles to raise money, Kinney stressed the center had achieved its ultimate goal over the past seven years of creating or retaining jobs in the Inland Empire. Since its creation, the IEWBC has created or retained 453 jobs with an economic impact of $8.55 million within the two-county region, according to figures complied by the center.

“We have plenty of clients,” she said. “The challenge is to stay on top of the trends … and the other things our clients need. I think we are doing a pretty good job. We help everyone and anyone who knocks on the door.”

The Business Press: Tetra Tech, San Bernardino sign leases at Tri-City Centre

04:56 PM PDT on Thursday, May 20, 2010

By CHRIS H. SIEROTY
Contributing Writer

Tetra Tech Inc. and the San Bernardino County Workforce Development Department have signed long-term lease agreements to occupy space at the Tri-City Corporate Centre, according to a senior executive with CB Richard Ellis. The complex of office and retail centers also renewed leases with Health Net and Arrowhead Credit Union.

Mike O’Brien, first vice president with CBRE in Ontario, said the deals bring the total occupancy rate at the 1.2 million-square-foot development, which includes 992,469 square feet of leasable space, to 75.92 percent.

The Tri-City Corporate Centre, which is located along and adjacent to Hospitality Lane in San Bernardino, has a total of 15 office buildings on 153-acres. The collection of new lease agreements was announced by Glenborough LLC, a San Mateo-based real estate investment company and owner of the complex.

O’Brien, who brokered the deals with Phil Woodford of CBRE, said the new leases were a “positive sign for the largest mixed office and retail complex in the Inland Empire.” He said despite the slow demand for office space within the two-county region, Tri-City was seeing an increase in activity.

Tetra Tech, a Pasadena-based environmental science, engineering and construction firm, signed a seven-year lease for 9,067 square-feet at 301 E. Vanderbilt Way. The county’s Workforce Development’s Employment Resource Center will occupy 16,642 square feet for the next five years at North River Place at 658 East Brier Drive.

Terms of all four lease agreements were not released. O’Brien said asking rents at Tri-City Corporate Centre ranged from $1.65 to $2.15-per-square-foot.
At the end of the first quarter of 2010, average asking rents in San Bernardino were $1.61-per-square-foot, according to a quarterly report by Colliers International.

In a statement, Glenborough said Health Net extended it lease for another year on its 10,127 square feet of offices in Lakeside Tower, 650 East Hospitality Lane. Arrowhead Credit Union also agreed to maintain its regional offices in 53,003 square feet at 550 E. Hospitality Lane through 2013.

Prep Sports: Hofstra, Loyola, Delaware all want Forrest

Note: My 2008 profile of BHHS Lacrosse player Nathan Forrest for The Beverly Hills Courier

By Chris H. Sieroty
BEVERLY HILLS – Nathan Forrest was in eighth grade looking for something to do between football and soccer season, when his older brother, Sam, suggested playing lacrosse.

“I tried it and immediately fell in love with playing lacrosse,” Forrest told The Courier following a recent game against Downey High School at Nickoll Field. “It’s a great sport that’s creative and really physical. It’s become my favorite sport.”

Forrest, a junior, tallied 67 goals and 28 assists for Beverly Hills High School during the regular season. As a sophomore, he scored 54 goals and registered 26 assists for the Normans.

An outstanding sophomore season brought Forrest a lot of attention from college coaches and invitations to play for traveling teams and attend blue chip lacrosse camps.

He was asked to play for the Hollywood Starz and earned an invite to Jake Reed’s Blue Chip Lacrosse Camp. In August, Inside Lacrosse magazine named Forrest the 24th ranked junior in the country. In June, Forrest is expected to attend Nike Blue Chip Senior Lacrosse Camp held at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, near Baltimore.

Normans’ head coach Tim Ray described Forrest as one of the best players on the West Coast. Hofstra, Loyola and Delaware are currently recruiting him to play lacrosse.

“It is unfortunate that he doesn’t have the level of competition out here that will help him get better,” Ray said. “When you can play on a team where you aren’t the best player on the field, that is the time you get better. I’m sure some of the camps over the summer will help him take that next step.”

Scott Witkin, a former Division 1 coach at Gannon University in Erie, Pa., and now the head coach at Downey, said Forrest has the “talent to be as good as he wants to be.”

“He has what it takes to be successful at the next level,” Witkin told The Courier after an 11-6 loss to Beverly Hills.

Forrest was expected to sign a letter of intent before his senior year begins in September. When he does, Forrest told The Courier he would give up playing football and soccer to concentrate on lacrosse.

“When I commit, I’ve decided to drop football and soccer in my senior year because I don’t want to get hurt,” he said. “Lacrosse is what got me to the next level.”

Forrest, as a junior, played linebacker, wide receiver and even quarterback. He had five receptions for 47 yards and one touchdown. In a 28-26 win over Santa Monica (Oct. 19) he got his chance at quarterback, completing two passes for eight yards.

On defense, he averaged 5.3 tackles a game, twice during the season against Mira Costa and Morningside he tallied 12 tackles.

“He’s a good athlete,” Beverly High head football coach and athletic director Carter Paysinger said. “If (we) lose any of our guys there is going to be a period of adjustment. Nathan has to do what is best for him.”

His dedication to lacrosse was proven after a Nov. 2 football game against Morningside.

Beverly Hills won the Ocean League game 28-27, after Forrest and David Saedi kept Monarch running back Brian Nam from converting a two-point conversion with less than two minutes left in the fourth quarter. When the game was over, Forrest was rushed to Los Angeles International Airport to catch an overnight flight to Baltimore to attend a lacrosse camp.

“I didn’t even get a chance to take a shower after the game,” he said. “I thought I’d at least get a chance to take a shower and sleep for a couple of hours when I got there, but I had to attend the camp (first thing in the morning).”

Forrest played lacrosse all weekend before flying back to Los Angeles to be in class on Monday morning.

“It’s was a lot of work, but worth it,” he said. “(Lacrosse) has opened so many doors to great schools who are interested in me.”

All the attention does have consequences, according to Ray.

“We are thrilled to have him playing for us and for him and the team getting the press,” he said. “The downside is other teams feed off that hype and try to use it against him. The second he slips up or makes a mistake you can hear the other team and their fans getting on him with the ‘over rated’ comments.”

The Beverly Hills High School lacrosse team has been extremely successful in three years as a varsity program. Ray said in the program’s first year, the Normans reached the final four in the playoffs, which was followed by a loss to Palos Verdes last year in the Bay League Championship game.

In last year’s inaugural title game at the Home Depot Center, Santa Ana Foothill rebounded from a five-goal deficit and held on in the closing seconds to beat Palos Verdes, 11-10.

“This year we are back in the Bay League Championship and we are looking to bring it home,” he said.
The CIF Southern Section doesn’t conduct official playoffs for lacrosse, or any other sport, unless 20 percent of its member schools participate. This year’s championship game between the Orange County and the North Division boys’ champions is scheduled for May 9 at Mission Viejo Trabuco Hills.

On Saturday, Beverly Hills High School will host the 2008 Southern Section North Division playoffs. At 5 p.m., Beverly Hills will play Loyola, followed by Chaminade against Downey at 7 p.m.

The winner of the Beverly Hills, Loyola game will play Palos Verdes in the semi-finals Monday at 7 p.m. at Beverly High. The finals are scheduled for Wednesday at Mira Costa High School.

Ray said he sees interest in the sport continuing to grow in Southern California as junior varsity teams prepare players to make the switch to varsity. Palos Verdes High School’s junior varsity hasn’t lost a game in two years, while Mira Costa has one of the better junior varsity programs, he said.

“Once the fall and winter coaches at Beverly (High) realize it is a great spring sport for their athletes to play in order to keep in game shape, we’ll be behind those programs,” Ray said. “We’ve been fortunate over the last few years to be still riding off our strong middle school program from a few years ago, but it has been fading.”

He said the school’s junior varsity team hasn’t won a game in two years, while the middle school program fielded a team this season with only eight players.

“Right now I’m worried about our future success of the program,” Ray said. “Unless we have the support and encouragement from the football and basketball coaches we’ll be playing catch up for years. I’m hopeful that with the help of the other coaches we’ll be able to tap into the athlete talent pool at the school and continue to build our foundation at the school.”

The Business Press: Riverside County eyes firms from Israel

03:32 PM PDT on Wednesday, May 12, 2010 (www.thebizpress.com)

By CHRIS H. SIEROTY
Contributing Writer

Trade between Israel and the United States has been making news as it has become one of the most important issues in American-Israeli relations. Since 2000, Israel has become America’s largest trading partner in the Middle East, according to the American-Israel Cooperative Enterprise.

Tom Freeman, Riverside County’s foreign trade commissioner, said exports from California topped $1.7 billion in 2009. Riverside County officials are hoping to benefit from that relationship by offering incentives to attract Israeli firms to the region or assisting local firms in their efforts to do business in Israel.

To gauge their potential interest, Freeman and Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone on April 30 met with officials at the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles to discuss the benefits Riverside County can offer Israeli companies and to identify specific industries that might have an interest in doing business locally.

“Israel already has extensive trade relationships in California,” Freeman told The Business Press. “What we were asking for and have agreed upon is for them to gauge the interest of (Israeli) firms in doing business in Riverside County.”

He said by the end of the two-hour meeting both sides had identified potential bio-medical and alternative energy firms that might be interested. Both Jacob Dayan, consul general of Israel in Los Angeles, and Freeman expected another meeting would take place in a couple of weeks.

That meeting was expected to give consul officials a better idea of the local firms who are interested in doing business with Israeli companies, Dayan said.

Trade ties between California and Israel have continued to strengthen since former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson signed a bilateral trade agreement with Israel in 1992, seven years after President Ronald Reagan signed the U.S.-Israel Free Trade Agreement, which eliminated tariffs on most products imported from Israel.

“We identified industries that could have an interest in the region,” Dayan told The Business Press. Dayan said Israeli technology companies that specialize in alternative energy would be the focus of any partnership. He said Israel was home to several cutting edge companies that focus on solar energy and water reclamation issues that could be interested in doing business in Inland Southern California.

“With the right incentives and right projects, Israeli companies will be interested in Riverside,” Dayan said. “I see no reason such a match can’t work.”

Dayan said consulate officials would extend an invitation to Riverside-based technology companies to attend the ILSI-BioMed 2010 Conference to be held in June in Tel Aviv. He said the next step was to send Sigel Admony-Ravid, Israel’s consul for economic affairs in Los Angeles, to Riverside to meet with county officials and business leaders.

“The key thing that we impressed upon them during our initial meeting was a series of incentives that no other county could offer them,” said Freeman. Those incentives include assistance with obtaining EB-5 visas, along with securing $30 million in loans and guarantees for businesses available this year from the Import Export Bank in Washington. The EB-5 visa for Immigrant Investors provides a method of obtaining a green card for foreign nationals who invest money in the United States. To obtain the visa, individuals must invest at least $1 million, creating at least 10 jobs, he said.

Press-Enterprise: Cal Bank & Trust grows footprint in Inland region

11:07 AM PDT on Wednesday, May 12, 2010 (http://www.pe.com/business)

By CHRIS H. SIEROTY
Special to The Press-Enterprise

California Bank & Trust, a subsidiary of Salt Lake City-based Zions Bancorporation, announced it had opened a new lending division focused on small to mid-sized businesses in Inland Southern California. The new division will be based in Corona with offices in Chino and Rancho Cucamonga, according to a company executive.

“We really want to grow our footprint in the region,” said Patrick Davern, senior vice president and regional manager of the bank’s Orange/Inland Region. “There is plenty of demand for small business banking and a lot of great businesses out there.”

Davern, who declined to disclose the division’s start-up costs, said with the hiring of bankers, analysts and support staff, the new division represented “a major investment” on the part of California Bank & Trust. He said the new division was targeting businesses with revenues between $10 million and $15 million annually.

“We are looking to do at least $40 million to $50 million in the year going forward in the Inland Empire,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be profitable this year or profitable next year, but we expect the division will merit our investment.”

To oversee the Inland Empire Small Business Division of California Bank & Trust in Corona is Ted Hildreth, a 24-year veteran who has focused on small business lending for more than a decade, according to a company statement.

Based in San Diego, the company operates 11 branches in the two-county region, including six outlets acquired from Vineyard Bank. California Bank & Trust acquired the deposits and loans of Vineyard Bank on July 27, 2009.

“We have found that small businesses are under served,” he said. “It’s rare to find a community bank that has the strength behind it …. and access to capital that we have.”

On April 29, California Bank & Trust reported net income for the first quarter of $9.9 million compared with $17 million in the first quarter of 2009. The decrease was mainly due to higher provision expense and operating expenses and a one-time tax charge, partially offset by a reduction in securities related losses.

In a note to customers, David Blackford, California Bank & Trust’s president and chief executive officer, said “last year we took steps to reduce risk on our balance sheet with the goal of positioning the bank for improved financial performance this year.”

The first quarter of 2010 did not include any securities losses, compared to $9.9 million in the first quarter of 2009, the company said.

The Business Press: Inland bank earnings show surprising strength

01:38 PM PDT on Thursday, May 6, 2010 (www.thebizpress.com)

By CHRIS H. SIEROTY
Contributing Writer

Security Bank of California, Chino Commercial Bank, Premier Service Bank, and Provident Savings Bank have all reported better than expected earnings but remain cautious as economic conditions in the two-county region remain weak.

The regional banks, which have been hurt by foreclosures in the housing market and losses to their commercial real estate portfolios, continue to set aside revenue to cover loan losses, albeit at more moderate levels than in the past quarters.

Most of the profits reported were due to increases in non-interest income. Michael R. Natzic, senior vice president Community Bank Group at Stone & Youngberg in Big Bear Lake, said increases in non-interest income wasn’t a surprise since Inland banks continue to deal with real estate loans that have soured.

“As the lending environment improves, interest income will improve,” Natzic told The Business Press. “It doesn’t look like an attractive market at the moment, but these guys are in an advantageous position to grow over the next several years.”

While loan losses are showing some signs of easing, banks such as Premier Service said that their profits for the first-quarter were partially offset by an increase in their allowance for loan losses.

Based in Riverside, Premier Service Bank reported net income of $94,000, or 0.07 cents per share, for the first quarter, compared to net income of $32,000, or 0.02 cents per share, for the same period a year ago. The bank attributed the increase to better control of funding costs and non-interest expenses, however, the provision for loan losses in the first quarter totaled $340,000, compared to $110,000 last year.

As of March 31, Premier Service had $6 million of non-performing loans, equal to 4.68 percent of the bank’s total loans, compared to $4.7 million, or 3.8 percent, for the same period last year.

The allowance for loan losses totaled $2.19 million at March 31, or 1.71 percent, of total loans as of that date, compared to $1.67 million, 1.35 percent, last year, according to Premier Service’s earnings report. Despite reporting a profit, the bank said at the end of the first quarter its total assets had declined by $2.2 million to $158 million, compared to the same period a year ago.

“We are cautiously optimistic with the progress we have made in improving our core earnings, as well as our operating efficiency,” said Kerry Pendergast, Premier Service’s president and chief executive officer, in a statement. “This provides additional cushion for the institution as we continue to make contributions to the Bank’s allowance for loan losses, to address dynamics within the credit portfolio, as well as to meet the guidelines articulated by the regulators.”

Chino Commercial Bank, the subsidiary of Chino Commercial Bancorp, reported net earnings for the first quarter decreased 65.4 percent to $41,285, or 6 cents per share, from net income of $119,269, or 17 cents per share, for the first quarter last year.

Dann H. Bowman, president and chief executive officer, attributed the drop in earnings to the bank’s decision to make significant provisions to loan loss reserves in the quarter. The provision for loan losses increased by $247,534 to $263,685 in the first quarter of 2010, compared to $16,151 in the first quarter of 2009.

Bowman said that actual “charge offs were $148,000 and were a reflection of grading of loans and trends in the economy” such as continued foreclosures and unemployment.

Loans decreased $940,706 during the first quarter from Dec. 31, with a remaining balance of $60.5 million at March 31. Non-interest income totaled $293,835 for the first quarter, or an increase of 18.8 percent from $247,452 earned during the first quarter of 2009. As of March 31, total assets were $110.8 million, an increase of $7.2 million, 7 percent, from Dec. 31, and an increase of $21.9 million, or 24.7 percent, from March 31, 2009. This is a direct result of the growth of the bank’s deposits and the company recently opening a third branch in Rancho Cucamonga, he said.

Meanwhile, Security Bank of California, wholly owned and sole subsidiary of Security California Bancorp, announced a profit in the first quarter. Based in Riverside, the bank reported net income of $201,588, or 6.7 cents per share, compared to a loss of $487,369, or 16 cents per share, compared to the same period a year ago.

In its earnings report, Security Bank of California said its assets increased by 19.5 percent to $307.9 million, loans grew 20 percent, or $43.5 million, to $261.7 million and deposits grew by 29.3 percent, or $59.8 million, to $263.9 million, compared to the first quarter of 2009.

For the second straight quarter, Provident Savings Bank, a subsidiary of Provident Financial Holdings Inc., reported a profit from operations.

For the quarter ended March 31, the company reported net income of $371,000, or 3 cents per share, compared to a net loss of $2.57 million, or 41 cents per share, in the comparable period a year ago. Income in the third quarter was primarily attributable to a decrease in the provision for loan losses, a decrease in non-interest income and an increase in operating expenses, the company said.

However, for the nine months ending March 31, Provident reported a net loss of $2.09 million, or 26 cents per share.