CPA firm has new partners

Two partners have joined certified public accounting advisors C&D LLP of Solvang. The new partners are Certified Public Accountants Stephen B. Palmer and Matthew J. Watson. Palmer will counsel business owners on tax matters and retirement planning. Watson, a former employee with C&D, owned his own practice in Carpinteria and now has merged his firm with C&D. More information is available from 688-5505.

 

Mortgage debt may be taxed

California’s Franchise Tax Board has announced that taxes may be due under the new Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007, which was signed in December by President George Bush. Unless the California Legislature enacts conforming legislation, debt forgiven after foreclosure or mortgage renegotiation is considered income for tax purposes and could be a tax liability.

State Controller John Chiang said “California is making every effort to help those taxpayers who are in the unfortunate circumstances of losing their home by introducing conforming legislation.” The legislation, Senate Bill 1055, could provide modified conformity to provisions of the federal legislation, he added. The bill was introduced by state Sens. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, and Michael Machado, D-Linden. It provides that mortgage debt forgiveness is not to be considered taxable income in California. More information is available at (800) 852-5711.

 

Oscar Night Gala raises funds

The 12th annual Oscar Night Gala, sponsored by the Buellton Chamber of Commerce, will feature Jim Fiolek, executive director of the Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Association, as master of ceremonies. During the gala, set for Feb. 24 at 4 p.m. at the Marriott, 555 McMurray Road, Buellton, he will present a Lifetime Achievement Award and “Oscars” to local business and community leaders.

Those attending should wear formal attire, such as glamorous gowns or costumes depicting the nominated films, “Atonement,” “Juno,” “Michael Clayton,” “No Country for Old Men” and “There Will Be Blood.”

The evening will include a red carpet, paparazzi, a gourmet dinner prepared by Chef Ofelio, and the telecast of the 80th Academy Awards live on ABC. Jon Stewart will host this year’s event at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.

Cost is $65 per person. All proceeds will benefit the Buellton Chamber of Commerce. For more information or for reservations, call 688-7829.

 

SY Viognier wins gold medals

Two Santa Ynez vineyards are producing Viognier wines that are making headlines. Wine critics are only recommending a few California Viognier wines. This is because French Viognier grapes, grown in France’s Condrieu appellation on the northern Rhone River, are said to be “extremely alluring,” producing a “glorious wine with an intoxicating fragrance, flavors of white peach, honeysuckle and mineral, and a silky, supple texture,” according to Laurie Daniel, well-known critic.

She said that gold medal winners from this area producing viognier wines are the 2006 Curtis and 2006 Bridlewood Central Coast Reserve. “The Curtis is aromatic and fresh, with peach and pear flavors, while the Bridlewood displays white peach and an intriguing, almost salty overtone,” Daniel stated.

 

Celite announces additional layoffs

Celite Corp. of Lompoc is beginning another round of layoffs, this time affecting almost half of its workforce. The announcement, made Jan. 26, said that more than 130 employees received layoff notices by Feb. 1, with layoffs expected to begin this spring. Approximately 30 salaried and hourly workers were laid off last November and December.

A spokesman for the French-owned company, which produces diatomaceous earth at its local mine, said the firm will continue to modernize its plant operations. Corporate counsel Jim Kuykendall said the plant was purchased in 2006 and upgrades were immediately implemented because some equipment at the mine was determined to be from the 1940s and seriously compromised health and safety standards.

The new equipment being installed requires a minimal staff because most operations that used to be manual and required two to 10 employees per station, now require only one to oversee the automated machinery. Additional upgrades are expected over the next few years, which will further automate the facility and provide greater ability for workers to excavate the product using a minimal workforce as the machinery will handle most of the duties that miners have done manually for almost a century.

“While we regret having to layoff some employees, it is necessary if the Lompoc facility is to not only survive and maintain a portion of its employees, but also to become a vibrant, modern-day facility that can remain competitive for years to come,” Kuykendall said. “All of the changes are designed to meet the challenges of global competition and alternative technologies, and to deliver the highest quality products to our customers.”

Kuykendall said Imerys, a French corporation, bought Celite in 2005 for $217 million and that the new owner anticipated “significant changes were needed at the Lompoc facility in order to ensure its viability.”

Tom Hansen, president of Local 146 of the Chemical Workers Union, said the layoffs are having a serious effect on the employees. He added that some workers with seniority might be able to avoid being laid off by accepting positions at a lower rate of pay, a procedure called “bumping rights.”

In March, 2007, after a show of force by management during contract negotiations, union members reluctantly approved a three-year contract, but later publically criticized the company for the way it handled the negotiations.

Lompoc Mayor Dick DeWees said he was concerned not only for the people being laid off but also for the local economy.

 

Verizon introduces broadband

Consumers in Santa Ynez, Solvang and Santa Barbara will be three of 37 California communities now able to access a new broadband option from Verizon. On Jan. 24 the company introduced an ultra-fast Verizon High Speed Internet service that more than doubles the download speed of its current fastest digital subscriber line offering, providing an alternative to cable Internet.

The new service offers qualified customers a downstream connection speed of up to seven megabits per second for as little as $39.99 a month when ordered with an annual service plan. The addition makes the Verizon service available in 400 communities across the country.

“This is for people who are looking for an alternative to high-priced cable broadband,” said Kathy Koelle, Verizon’s general manager for the West region. “Our super-fast broadband provides the speed for online access -- and at a reasonable cost. From digital music and streaming video to photo sharing and online gaming, to video conferencing and working from home, we can provide the services people require.”

Verizon Communications Inc., headquartered in New York, delivers broadband and other wireline and wireless communication to mass market, business, government and wholesale customers. Verizon Wireless operates America’s most reliable wireless network, serving 63.7 million customers nationwide.

Verizon’s wireline operations include Verizon Business, which delivers innovative and seamless business solutions to customers around the world, and Verizon Telecom, which offers converged communications, information and entertainment services over an advanced fiber-optic network. A Dow 30 company, Verizon has a workforce of nearly 238,000 and last year generated consolidated operating revenues of more than $88 billion. For more information, visit www.verizon.com or call (877) 483-5898.

 

Get ‘passport’ for weekend

The annual “A Wine Fantasy in February,” sponsored by the Santa Ynez Valley Wine Country Association, will be Feb. 9 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The winetasting passport event, hosted by 14 award-winning local wineries, offers visitors from across the country a sample of wines grown in the Santa Ynez Valley region. Passport guests can visit with winemakers and vintners while they sample premium wines and complimentary hors d’oeuvres. The weekend includes free winetasting on Feb. 10 to those with a logo wineglass.

Wineries participating include Alexander & Wayne, Arthur Earl, Bridlewood Winery, Buttonwood Farm Winery, Casa Cassara, Daniel Gehrs Wines, Lincourt, Lucas and Lewellen Vineyard, Mandolina, Presidio Winery, Rideau Vineyard, Royal Oaks Winery, Scott Cellars, and Sunstone Vineyard and Winery.

Passports are available at local wineries and at the SYV Wine Country office. Tickets are $35 per person. More information is available at (800) 563-3183, or online at www.santaynez winecountry.com.

 

Mosebar has national post

Santa Ynez resident Doug Mosebar has been elected to the American Farm Bureau Federation Board of Directors. Mosebar recently was re-elected for a second term as California Farm Bureau president. He farms hay, squash, flowers and pumpkins, and raises cattle in Santa Ynez. Mosebar won election to the national board during the AFBF annual meeting Jan. 21 in New Orleans.

“Serving on the American Farm Bureau board is an honor and a high responsibility,” said Mosebar. “It’s critical for those of us from the West to make sure that our colleagues from around the nation fully understand the unique issues that face family farmers and ranchers in our part of the country.”

Mosebar expects to represent California on such issues as immigration reform, water supply and opening international markets for all farm products.

He pledged to bring higher attention to issues facing Western farmers and ranchers.

The American Farm Bureau board includes state Farm Bureau presidents who combine forces to work for better understanding of farming issues and solutions.

UCSB Extension cuts staff

Almost half of the employees at the UCSB Extension program, the campus’ continuing education division, will receive layoff notices by the end of March, according to Paul Desruisseaux, UCSB associate vice chancellor for public affairs. The cut includes 18 of the department’s 41 employees as well as a major reduction in programs. This follows five years of posted losses for the extension division.

“This action was predicated on the need to address a large budget deficit and the elimination of programs that were not self-sustaining,” he said. UCSB Extension is expected to be a self-supporting unit. The job cuts include instructors with contracts through June and staff with contracts that are renewed each term. He said about half of the programs, such as watershed management, will be cut. Paralegal, business management and digital arts classes will remain.

 

Business leaders visit schools

More than 30 business and community leaders in the Santa Maria Valley will be a principal for a day at public and private school campuses on March 12 when the Santa Maria Valley Industry Education Council and the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce co-sponsor the annual Principal For a Day event.

The group will spend the morning at a school site to learn more about the challenges facing educators, interacting one-on-one with the school principal. The event is held to create ongoing partnerships between businesses and schools.

The luncheon includes a presentation of computer packages to students through the Computer Connections program as a joint partnership of the SMVIEC and the Chamber. Since the program began in 2002, more than 100 students have received equipment.

More information is available by contacting Peggy Greer at 349-0443.