Donn Ross-Jones of Transition Music Corporation

Expanding with High-Speed Rail

Tucked away near the Tuolumne Street Bridge in downtown Fresno, Val Print has served as the Valley’s top choice for creative marketing solutions since 1951. The graphics and printing company recently expanded its printing and distribution capabilities, thanks to high-speed rail.

Born and raised in Fresno, Val Print President and CEO Jack Emerian has watched the downtown area change dramatically. He recalls hearing about high-speed rail construction planned for downtown Fresno. He notes, “Fresno needed a good shot in the arm and I thought this was one of them – and we need a modern transportation system in this state.”

As work moved forward on Construction Package 1, Emerian learned his G Street warehouse and all of his firm’s distribution products would need to be relocated. With the help of the Authority’s right-of-way team, he soon came across a building on F Street, less than a mile away. “I hadn’t thought about going anywhere outside of downtown Fresno because we’re pretty much entrenched here,” Emerian said.

Read more about how small businesses are benefiting from high-speed rail in our Small Business Newsletter.

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Music Sets the Mood for Success

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Donn Ross-Jones of Transition Music Corporation

With the right rhythm and sound, a video can deliver a message that moves people. Music supervisor and media producer Donna Ross-Jones realized there was an underserved market needing music to accompany video content. “Music is such a major part of our lives,” she notes, “but few people outside of the music industry have real access to the power of music and the best the business has to offer.”

In 2011, Ross-Jones started Transition Music Corporation (TMC) which currently provides music for 8 networks and over 20 television series. Added up, her firm’s unique sounds play a role in more than 250,000 broadcasts across the nation and more than one million performances worldwide.

Audiences started hearing the unique beat of TMC’s music on high-speed rail videos when the firm landed a contract and starting working with the Authority’s multimedia team. She has received many other awards for her success as a female entrepreneur, including being named one of the “Fifty Most Influential Women in Entertainment” by the Hollywood Reporter magazine and “Media Firm of the Year” by the city of Los Angeles and Mayor Eric Garcetti.

For more small businesses taking part in the high-speed rail program read the latest Small Business Newsletter.

Faces of High-Speed Rail: Jeremy Stutes

Jeremy Stutes, President of railLA

Jeremy Stutes, sporting his signature English cap, crisscrosses the LA basin by rail and bicycle attending events, meetings and getting to work in Santa Monica – living the multimodal lifestyle he actively promotes as President of railLA.

railLA is a unique resource that helps people learn how to use rapidly expanding public transportation services in Southern California. Members help potential Metro rail riders purchase tickets and get on and off at various stops. As Stutes explains, "It's about helping people attain a sustainable lifestyle - on the train, you can read a book, use your laptop, watch a film and even catch up on email."

Stutes joined railLA about 5 years ago and his goal is simple, "I want to ride on a train across the state going 220 mph and visit my friends in San Francisco. It is exciting to think that HSR will create job centers across the state, increase productivity and rail safety. No more canceled meetings due to traffic and lost time behind the wheel of a car."

Recently one of his most challenging rides was from Los Angeles Union Station to Fresno to participate in a CHSRA construction site tour. First, he had to take a bus from LA to Bakersfield, then an Amtrak train to Fresno.

"It turned out to be a five-hour trip due to a bus breakdown. We missed our first tour connection!" Stutes says in disbelief. The group decided to turn their disappointing adventure into an insightful video that you can see at

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Main Event Graphics

Picture of Al Perez - Main Event Graphics

One of the first properties needed for the high-speed rail project belonged to Al Perez, owner of Main Event Graphics in Fresno. When he found out he'd have to move his printing business, he was nervous.

"I was very fearful in the beginning," Perez explains in a letter to the Authority's contractor that coordinated his relocation. "We were the second in line to be moved and nobody really knew how things would flow."

Perez says, despite his early fears, the agents he worked with were attentive and helpful. And he says the Authority offered him fair compensation for his property and the move.

Now, just four blocks away from its previous home, business is booming at Main Event Graphics.

"My business has grown," says Perez. "I occupy a larger shop and I've been able to take on more clients."

Stars Dance Studio

Dance Studio Grand Reopening

Melinda Scharnick recently celebrated her business's tenth anniversary with a brand new dance studio in Northwest Fresno. She moved her studio from Fresno's Highway City neighborhood, after learning it was in the future path of high-speed rail. Although the relocation process took longer than she hoped, Scharnick says the move was worth it.

"I really love this area that we moved into," she says. "I'm very happy with the relocation and how we got into our studio."

Scharnick says the Authority helped her with moving and advertising costs. Stars Dance Studio held its grand reopening in early June.

"They didn't miss one day of dance," Scharnick says of her students. "We put our floors in while they were still dancing at the old studio and just opened the doors and they came in. They were very excited."

The new studio is twice as large as the old one, boasting more classroom, lobby and office space.

"Once we moved in here, we just really expanded and having the extra room has been great," Scharnick says. "We've gotten a couple of extra teachers. It's been great - we've grown a lot."

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Veteran is Vanguard for High-Speed Rail Third-Party Agreements

Douglas Scheidt, Vice President of Vanguard

Douglas Scheidt's cubicle office isn't quite what you would expect for Vice President of Operations for Vanguard Construction Services, Inc. The bustling shared space houses engineers working on Construction Package 2-3 (CP 2-3), 65 miles of the high-speed rail project which stretches through the counties of Fresno, Kings, and Tulare.

Vanguard is a minority- and veteran-owned construction services company based in Fresno. It is a subcontractor to Arcadis, the prime contractor handling project and construction management on CP 2-3. As the Third Party and Utility Coordination Segment Manager, Scheidt is ensuring that the design-build contractor meets the Authority's expectations. He's working with over 40 entities including cities, counties, water, and irrigation districts as well as communications and power companies. Often times, a negotiated agreement must be reached before any work can commence.

Scheidt believes in improving the place he calls home. He's also worked on other local projects such as Chukchansi Park, the downtown Fresno baseball stadium and the Veterans Home of California-Fresno, a 300-bed, long-term care facility. Despite juggling multiple priorities, Scheidt explained why he chose to be on the high-speed rail. "This is where my heart lies," he declared. "I have worked on a lot of large projects, but none like this one."

Rick Ferdinandsen

Image of Rick Ferdinandsen

Nineteen years ago, Rick Ferdinandsen made the decision to become his own boss by founding Sequoia Western Construction. Amongst many services, the Fresno-based company secures vacant properties; provides parcel cleanup services, rehabilitate properties, installs fencing, plumbing fixtures and electrical, changes out windows and doors and provides weeds abatement.

Working as a subcontractor to Authority Right of Way Contractors Universal Field Services and Overland, Pacific and Cutler, has allowed him to "smooth out the bumps" in an otherwise seasonal business. "I like to keep myself and my workers busy, and this project allows me to fill in the gaps and keep working," said Ferdinandsen.

Opportunities with these contractors represent a little less than a third of his company's business which employs anywhere from 3-12 people. Incentivized by this project and the prospect of additional contracts, Rick went through the process of getting his Small Business Enterprise certification. He hopes to continue growing Sequoia Western Construction and his newer business Centec Environmental Inc. Centec's 4-5 person licensed crew abates hazardous material such as lead and asbestos.

2R Drilling

2R Drilling Image

Count 2R Drilling as among the first certified Small Business Enterprises to do preliminary construction work on the high-speed rail project in the Central Valley. The firm rolled out giant drilling rigs and sucked up soil samples in more than 24 locations in Fresno and Madera. Some of the borings punched down 100 feet or more below the earth's surface.

"We were boring samples to test soil where the foundation for a bridge has been planned and we're always in before heavy construction begins," explained owner Brian Serl. "The samples will tell construction contractors what kind of conditions to expect when finalizing designs."

2R Drilling got the job done with Tier IV rigs. "Those Tier IV machines have ignition and exhaust systems that put out fewer emissions into the atmosphere," Serl said.

2R Drilling based in Ontario, California, was started by Serl"s father in 1978.

Title California High-Speed Rail: Putting Californians to Work

Honoring National Women in Construction Week

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FRESNO, Calif. – In recognition of National Women in Construction Week, the California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) is honoring the women who are working to build the nation's first high-speed rail program in the Central Valley. You can read the profiles of three of the women working on this project by clicking on the picture above. As construction advances, the Authority remains committed to promoting diversity and inclusiveness in the workplace.

Eddie Drayden

Picture of worker, Eddie Drayden.

The first worker to be dispatched to the high-speed rail project was Eddie Drayden from local 294. When Drayden initially joined the Laborers' Union 23 years ago, he never imagined he would be working on a project of this magnitude.

"I put a lot of effort into my work," says Drayden. "I helped build Valley Children's Hospital, various highway interchanges, and now I can say I helped build high-speed rail."

Today, he works on the future Fresno River Viaduct where he carries out various tasks and facilitates the success of the crews around him.

Born in Los Angeles, Drayden now calls Fresno his home. In fact, he hopes to retire on the project in a couple of years and looks forward to riding what he built in the not-so-distant future.

Larry McDonald

Picture of worker, Larry McDonald.

More than fifteen years ago, Larry McDonald made a decision to change careers that allowed him to stay in the Central Valley. After an extensive time in construction and automotive management, McDonald is pleased to have found an opportunity on the high-speed rail project not far from his home in Clovis, California.

"This is awesome. I was waiting for a couple of years for this project to start, " McDonald said.

He was one of the first workers to break ground on the project. He's a heavy equipment operator and has used large Caterpillar loaders, excavators and blades to build a construction yard, help test soil, steel rebar and concrete for bridge foundations and grade properties after buildings have been demolished.

Tutor Perini/Zachry/Parsons, the design-build contractor for Construction Package 1, was impressed by McDonald's work. "I was their first rehire. And so far, I've been called back four times." He's worked on a couple dozen properties which were purchased for the high-speed rail project.

McDonald is optimistic about the future, "I'm working at one of Tutor Perini's sister companies while I wait for more work with high-speed rail. I have no doubt that they're going to call me back again."

Bike to Work Week

Photo of Alex Kenefick

In honor of National Bike to Work Week we introduce you to a Southern California multimodal enthusiast.

Growing up in bike-friendly Davis, California, Alex Kenefick knew the joys of bicycling at an early age. After moving to Los Angeles for his job, Alex realized that cycling wasn't just for fun, but it was a great way to meet up with friends, save money and get some great exercise.

Alex once worked in downtown Los Angeles within five miles of most of his frequently visited destinations, and close to transit service. He made a large number of friends in the bike community and found himself questioning the hassles of driving and parking. "If more people would bike to work, there wouldn't be oceans of wasted parking space," said Alex.

Along with his chance to work on the High-Speed Rail team, Alex accepted a 40-mile commute from his home in downtown LA to Chino. He currently blends driving to the office days with transit and biking days. "I am happy with my commute now - I feel like I am interacting with the city when I ride to work," he explained.

Alex's philosophy is practical. "My bike is a tool. It benefits my health. It's nice to ride and I like not being stuck in a car all the time."

He recommends before making biking a part of their day-to-day commute, cyclists should be able to change a flat bike tire, and build the fun of cycling into their lives through social bike rides. "I am looking forward to a future of whole mobility - riding high-speed rail north and south up and down the state of California - and using bike share at each station along the way."


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