Tate Hill, left, owner and chief strategist of Urban Strategic Enterprises, a public relations and community development consulting company, speaks with Chef Paul Pearson at Pearson’s restaurant Chef Paul’s in Fresno’s Chinatown on Wednesday, July 1, 2020. Hill says there are only a handful of Black-owned businesses in southwest Fresno and a small minority of businesses, mostly sole-proprietorships, across the city.


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Good morning, and welcome to the Fresnoland Lab newsletter. Today is Saturday, Jan. 16th.

This week in Fresnoland, Monica wrote about how residential fires are contributing to a layer of hazy smog-like pollution covering the Valley floor for the next few days and about the latest expansion of the San Joaquin River Parkway; Dympna wrote about the looming eviction tsunami as part of a series of stories with the Retro Report on the past, present, and future of housing insecurity in Fresno.

Dympna Ugwu-Oju, editor for Fresnoland, here.

Last summer, as part of The Fresno Bee’s “Fresno Voices” project, I wrote “‘Black businesses are hurting now.’ Racism, inequality, COVID-19 shatter Fresno business dreams.” I started that story with “Harlem,” a poem by Langston Hughes that opens with the line: “What happens to a dream deferred?

The next line in the story was “Ask James Hannah, 60, who has tried to secure a business loan for an auto repair shop since he graduated from Fresno City College’s auto mechanic program in 1986.”

Despite training at both Fresno City College and Fresno State, Hannah’s application for a small business loan was repeatedly rejected.

“I was told every time, ‘Your credit isn’t up to par,’” Hannah said. “I never had credit before that. I thought, ‘They’ll give you an opportunity to build your credit up.’”

In the 34 years between the beginning of his application process and the story in which he was featured, Hannah said he prayed and waited patiently. Shortly after the story was published on Aug. 17, Hannah was contacted by Tate Hill, executive director of Access Plus Capital, a Fresno-based community development financial institution that provides funding to minority-owned businesses, especially “those businesses that can’t get a traditional bank loan.”

It took several months, but in the end, Hannah was approved for $50,000. “It’s not everything that I want,” he said. “But I believe it’s a start.”

It is more than a start. It is a dream achieved and evidence that a media spotlight can result in a very positive outcome. Hannah’s’s dreams, deferred 35 years, are now within reach.

“Two young ladies [from Access Plus Capital] worked with me. It was really good,” Hannah said. “Now, a third young lady is working with me to help me get started. So it was a team effort.”

Before everything can be finalized, he needs space — a place for his brand new “Hannah’s Smog Center.” While he shopped for the ideal location, he discovered that the city of Fresno has rezoned some parts of southwest Fresno in a way that precludes many types of businesses. “It’s just sad the way they’ve done it,” Hannah said. “People had to come out North in order to open up a business.”

While he was waiting for the funding, he had started looking for a place to locate his business and thought he had found one. He and the owner agreed on price and conditions that he incorporated into his planning. Once the funding was confirmed, Hannah said the landlord changed his tune. “He changed up on me, and the funding was already set for the amount he had told me, so I couldn’t take it.”

Hannah is determined to get things going and to succeed in this business endeavor.

“I’m just excited. I am excited about it,” he said. “it was all God’s doing. He was waiting for the right time for me.”

Hannah also sees his loan approval and business goals as a win for his entire community.

“I’m not just thinking about me,” he said. “I’m thinking about probably hiring people in my community and, and also allowing people to know that we never give up on that dream.”

And now, the week’s top reads:

(For the most recent local coronavirus updates, visit www.fresnobee.com/coronavirus.)

Housing, Transportation, and Land Use

Bakersfield officials say they have ended chronic homelessness, even during the pandemic. How’d they do it? Fast Company

Rental home construction climbs as purchase prices surge. Wall Street Journal

Major development coming to Blackstone/Shaw intersection in Fresno. Fresno Business Journal

As more people leave the Bay Area during the pandemic, rents have gone down. But it appears that the benefits of lower rents are mainly going to those in luxury units. CalMatters

The Sequoia Complex Fire, in Tulare County’s Sequoia National Forest, has finally fizzled out. Foothill Sun Gazette

Segregation between Black and white students has reached levels not seen since 1968. Axios

An estimated $2.6 billion in rental relief is coming to California from the stimulus law passed by Congress in late December. Here’s what it could mean for you. Los Angeles Times

ICYMI: Reporter Ryan Sabalow takes on California’s fraught relationship with the natural environment, in the series ‘Nothing Wild’. Sacramento Bee

Economy and Neighborhood Inequality

Reporter Brianna Calix profiles Fresno’s newest police chief, Paco Balderrama. Fresno Bee

A proposal in President-elect Joe Biden’s COVID-19 economic stimulus package will raise California’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, a year sooner than planned. Sacramento Bee

America’s largest owner of farmland is now Bill Gates. Forbes

The number of new unemployment claims filed jumped by 181,000 to 965,000 last week, the largest increase since the beginning of the pandemic and the highest number of new unemployment claims since August. Washington Post

Don’t expect the bank’s interest rate to go up anytime soon, according to Jerome H. Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve. With the incoming Biden administration pushing for more economic stimulus and with multiple coronavirus vaccines already approved, some investors have been wondering whether the Federal Reserve might soon start to ease off its support for the economy. New York Times

President-elect Joe Biden has unveiled an economic relief plan that would deliver $1,400 to most Americans and invest in a national vaccination program — and also endorses a whole host of Democratic policy priorities from increasing the minimum wage and expanding paid leave to extending unemployment benefits. Huffington Post

A new trend has slowly unfolded — thanks to the coronavirus which has been responsible for massive business closures, job losses, and deepening inequality. Americans are starting businesses at the fastest rate in more than a decade. By September of 2020, applications for the employer identification numbers (EIN) had surpassed 3.2 million for the year, up more than 500,000 compared to the year before. NPR

According to a report from Feeding America, 1 in 4 households with children experienced food insecurity in 2020, partially because of the pandemic-related shutdowns. NPR

A proposal in President-elect Joe Biden’s COVID-19 economic stimulus package will raise California’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, a year sooner than planned. Sacramento Bee

Water and Air Quality

A survey in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta has found no signs of the delta smelt – a fish at the heart of California’s water wars – for three years in a row. Stockton Record

The pandemic is forcing cities to rethink water, as the pandemic has ushered in a water-debt crisis of unprecedented proportions. Slate

The National Weather Service issued a red-flag warning for a weekend of fire danger, resulting from record-breaking temperatures, gusty Santa Ana winds and bone-dry conditions. Los Angeles Times

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