These days, most of us have access to a 401k retirement plan at work. But there places to invest right here in the Central Valley, and in many cases, those investments aren't tied to the whims of Wall Street.
In a special CBS47 report, we look at some local Valley investments that are paying off. From Wall Street to main street, more investors are looking to the Valley to protect and grow their financial futures.
Wall Street is the bellwether of the economy. Or is it? From riots in Greece - to unrest in the Middle East - to the dot com bubble of the 90's - to the housing bubble just a few years ago, investing can be unpredictable. Its no wonder that some investors are looking for less volatile returns here in the Valley.
Brad Triebsch heads a successful and profitable venture capital firm that focuses on the Central Valley. "We're not anticipating growing the next Google in Chowchilla... We invest in basic industry companies in the Central Valley," said Brad.
Business is good too. Since 2004, Central Valley Fund (CVF) Capital Partners looked at literally hundreds of Valley businesses. Brad's firm is in the process of investing over $175 million in key growth areas in the Valley. So what's the future look like? "We think the opportunity over the next five to ten years in the Valley... We're very bullish on energy and ag related investments," said Brad.
So who is investing and what are they investing in? Tolteca Candies of Fresno is a good example. Mary Ordaz's dream was to start a candy business. When it was time to expand, the banks didn't want to work with her, but the Fresno Community Development Financial Institution did. "That's where we come in. We figure out where we can help, where the best help could be," said Jeremy Hofer with Fresno C.D.F.I. Fresno C.D.F.I. provides help with money and planning . So where does C.D.F.I. get its money? They get money from the federal government, institutional lenders and even private, small-time investors like you.
Another homegrown successful business with local funding is OnFarm Systems, cutting edge high-tech software for farmers. Water, weather, pesticides, soil samples and more. "And we bring it into one tool so growers can make a decision about their farming in one system," said Lance Donny with OnFarm. Lance is a Valley native and Fresno State grad that developed the idea and the software to help launch OnFarm. Lance was able to get started with money from private investors, but he says there are so-called "angel investors" right in the Central Valley who are always looking to pick a winner.
Investors are also cashing in on Valley ag land. "We're seeing land values that sometimes are exceeding $20,000 an acre, which just a few years ago was just unheard of, said Ryan Jacobsen, Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO. Who is buying the land might surprise you. "In many cases, it's coming from investment institutions; whether that's banks or equity groups from Wall Street," said Jacobsen.
Overseas investors from the Middle East, China and elsewhere are also buying Valley ag land. It's about cash, crops, future demand, and commodity prices as well as grabbing up the Valley's fertile soil. "They're not making anymore ag land," said Jacobsen.
Opportunities are so ripe here in the Central Valley that Fresno State now offers seed money for some promising investments. "It's the first CSU System to ever do something like this, to actually have some funds," said Tim Stearns with the Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Fresno State. Tim has helped to launch of over 100 successful local businesses over the past decade. One of those ideas was "CLICK" an all-in-one espresso protein breakfast drink. "So the idea is to give them the nutrition base they need - which is the protein and essential vitamins but also give them the coffee that they need," said Greg Smith, founder of CLICK, located in Clovis.
CLICK is one of those products where you say, "Why didn't I think of that?" It's a winning combination: It's coffee, it's caffeine, it's protein and more. "It's good. We've been averaging about 30% growth almost every year," said Smith.
Another local example is Grilled Chz restaurant. "I was able to come across an angel investor here locally here in Fresno," said Juan Ortega, founder of Grilled Chz. The concept was simple: Great, innovative and creative grilled cheese sandwiches. Ortega says there are investors here in the Valley but they are few and far between. Just the same, he hopes to expand toward Bakersfield and have 20 stores by 2017.
Speaking of Bakersfield... Bakersfield is becoming a phenomenal place for growth and development. Why Bakersfield? Because there's oil there. Halliburton just move their Western U.S. Headquarters to Bakersfield. So what does Halliburton see in the Central Valley? A wide swath of California shale, ripe for fracking, that runs from Bakersfield to Monterey. The Wall Street Journal recently estimated that it could provide potentially to the State of California, one trillion in economic value.
From oil, to produce, to land, to business opportunities... more and more investors, even some from Wall Street, are bullish on the Valley. "We're the part of California that has been in the background. But every part of California has its day and I think the Central Valley is getting ready for its day," said Tim Stearns at the Lyles Center at Fresno State.
Click the related links for more information on some of the companies in this special report.