Store Manager Andrew Masso sorts and tidies a center-aisle bin of blankets Tuesday afternoon at the Kohl's store on Rosedale Highway in preparation for Black Friday.

Kohl's is about to kick off a hiring spree that it says will bring a surge in new employment to its store in northwest Bakersfield.

The Wisconsin-based retail chain announced Wednesday it plans to fill "early seasonal positions" to help it serve shoppers at 500 stores — including the one at 9400 Rosedale Highway — during the back-to-school, fall and holiday seasons.

Hiring will begin in August and continue through the holiday season, Kohl's said. It added that it is also hiring 3,000 people to help support "in-store omnichannel processes" at all of its stores.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a bill sponsored by state Sen. Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, that will locally reinvest fines from the new category of grand theft of agricultural property.

Senate Bill 224 requires fines collected from such crimes be distributed to Central Valley agriculture and rural-based crime prevention programs.

"Agriculture is a unique industry, and unfortunately, farmers' needs are often overlooked," Grove said in a news release. "One of those needs is commonsense legislation which seeks to protect them from agricultural theft."

A recent survey of Kern County agricultural land values found areas unrepresented by water districts have fallen about 50 percent off their recent highs, making them the hardest-hit of all categories of local farmland.

The report by Alliance Ag found second-quarter ag-land values "continue to be under pressure" because of new state regulations intended to make groundwater pumping sustainable combined with a recognition state and federal water projects might never again deliver a 100-percent allocation, according to a summary by principal Mike Ming.

Southern California Gas Co. has opened a regional base and training center in Bakersfield that it says uses "zero-net energy."

The company said its new, 31,000-square-foot LEED-certified building at 35118 McMurtrey Ave. features a photovoltaic solar energy system, a compressed natural gas fueling station for public and company use, drought-resistant landscaping, natural lighting and "super energy-efficient" air-conditioning.

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