Gilroy Chamber Business Focus August 2023

August 21, 2023

2023 Spice of Life Man of the Year: Mark Turner

Mark served the community of Gilroy for more than 20 years. 11 years serving as an Associate Pastor at South Valley Community Church and then 9+ years as the CEO of the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce.

Over the years, Mark has implemented various programs and initiatives that have had a positive impact on Gilroy residents and businesses alike. While on staff as an Associate Pastor at South Valley Community Church, he launched the Upward Sports program which included flag football, basketball and cheerleading. This sports program served approximately 150 families each year with nearly half of those families receiving scholarships to participate. He also started the Bread of Life program in partnership with a local grocery store which provided various food items that Mark and other volunteers delivered to underserved residents in Gilroy and Morgan Hill. Mark coordinated the efforts of 5 local churches and their volunteers in a year-long program called, Adopt-a-Block, to assist a 6-block, underserved neighborhood, providing necessities to multiple households such as food, clothing, school supplies, as well as assistance with minor house repairs, building wheelchair ramps, and other needed maintenance.

Mark brought that same collaborative effort to the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce when he became the CEO in 2013.

Working alongside Jane Howard, who was the Executive Director of Visit Gilroy, they developed the Gilroy Economic Development Partnership (GEDP) bringing together 6 other organizations including the Gilroy Economic Development Corporation, Gilroy Gardens, Gavilan College, Gilroy Downtown Business Association, Gilroy Garlic Festival and the City of Gilroy. While Mark has many proud moments from his time at the Chamber, he takes great pride in his and Jane’s work on two items, 1) getting the City Council to pass a resolution declaring Gilroy a recreation destination, and 2) establishing the GEDP’s first 3 key initiatives including setting the stage to bring the Sharks Ice facility to Gilroy.

Mark was a founding member of the Gilroy Police Foundation where he served as its Board President for 2 years.

In 2014, Mark launched South County’s effort for Wreaths Across America. For the last nine years, Mark has raised more than $18,000 per year in order to place a Christmas wreath on each of the more than 1,200 veterans’ graves located in Gilroy and Morgan Hill.

Along with the business and political advocacy that Mark engaged in during his time at the Chamber of Commerce, he also worked to build a close partnership with the Gilroy Unified School District by re-establishing the Chamber’s Business and Education Committee. Working closely with Superintendent Dr. Debbie Flores, they implemented the first Rock-the-Mock program in Gilroy back in 2015. Rock-the-Mock has seen hundreds of Gilroy and Christopher High School students learn how to prepare for job interviews and in recent years, opened the door for more than 150 students to get part time jobs.

After the City ended the funding of the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and the departure of the EDC’s executive director in 2019, Mark was quick to develop a plan which was approved by the Gilroy Chamber and EDC Board’s allowing the Chamber to take on the role of doing economic development. Mark indicated this seemed to be the best fit since the EDC was originally a committee of the Chamber back in the 1990’s.

During the Garlic Festival incident in 2019, Mark assisted emergency personnel with several of the gunshot victims and helped other wounded individuals to safety. Mark led several of the community vigils that followed that tragic day helping to bring a sense of recovery and healing to Gilroy.

In 2020, the Western Association of Chamber Executives, which is the largest state or regional association of chamber of commerce executives in the United States, named Mark the Chamber Executive of the Year.

Prior to Mark leaving the Chamber of Commerce at the end of December 2022, Mark launched one final effort called the Gilroy Workforce Development Initiative. Its mission is to Identify, Educate, Train, and Create Pathway Options for a Diverse Workforce. With the Chamber as the lead organization, Gavilan College, GUSD, the City, County, and other organizations will participate to create a workforce pathway that connects workers and employers.

Mark served at the President of the Gilroy Rotary Club in 2019/2020 and throughout his tenure at the Chamber, served on the Boards of Visit Gilroy and the EDC. Mark was often seen at fundraising events as the auctioneer raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for non-profit groups such as Operation Freedom Paws, DreamPower Horsemanship, Informed Choices, YMCA, Salvation Army, and the Ronald McDonald House to name a few.

Proud Members of the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce

The Gilroy Chamber of Commerce appreciates the support of our members. Investment dollars are dedicated to vital programs such as economic development, business marketing, leadership programs and more. We applaud each of you for helping make Gilroy a better place to live, work and play. This month, we honor the anniversaries of the following members:


30 Years & over

Community Solutions
Gilroy Chiropractic Health & Wellness Center
Gilroy Dental Associates
Greco & Filice, CPAs
Rotten Robbie Station #31
Saint Mary Parish


20 Years & over

Gilroy Center for the Arts
Gilroy Healthcare & Rehab Center
Gina Lopez – State Farm Insurance


10 Years & over

Congregation Emeth
Datamate Bookkeeping & Tax, Inc.
Guild Mortgage – Jayson Stebbins Team
South County Truck Works (formerly South County Line-X)
South Valley Symphony
South Valley Windows
The Ford Store, Morgan Hill


5 Years & over

Cannery Apartments
Footsteps Preschool
Gilroy Automotive Repair
KM Design & Photography

Spotlight with the Mayor: Housing Element
By now you’ve likely heard chatter about cities who have or have not had their “Housing Element” certified and talk of “Builder’s Remedy” that may ensue. I’d like to explain what these terms mean and where Gilroy stands in the process. A Housing Element refers to a specific portion of a local jurisdiction’s General Plan, a 20-year document that spells out the long-term framework for Gilroy’s physical development and future growth and development goals of all types (commercial, residential, industrial, etc.). The General Plan addresses everything related to development, including traffic circulation and city services. Specific subject matters are referred to as “elements” of the General Plan. Gilroy’s most recently approved General Plan is the 2040 General Plan, and in it is the Housing Element that sets forth the City’s overall housing objectives in the form of goals, policies, and programs. While the General Plan is updated every 20 years, the Housing Element (for all local jurisdictions statewide) must be updated every 8 years and submitted for certification to the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). Gilroy is one of 212 jurisdictions in the State (40%) whose Housing Element was still pending certification as of June 30, 2023. Many of these jurisdictions had Housing Elements due in 2021 and 2022, while Santa Clara County and other Bay Area jurisdictions had a due date on January 31, 2023.
I am dedicating this Spotlight to explaining where we are in this certification process and how “Builder’s Remedy” may come into play during the certification process. As always, the next Conversation & Coffee with the Mayor will elaborate on what you read here and offer an opportunity for questions and more detailed information. Please join me and Community Development Director Sharon Goei on Saturday, September 9 at 9:30am in Council Chambers. All are invited!
Mayor Marie Blankley, CPA

The Certification Process

Gilroy first submitted our Housing Element to HCD for their 90-day review on Oct 31, 2022, after receiving input from the community, the Planning Commission, and the City Council. The State had until January 29, 2023 to respond. On January 27, 2023, we received from HCD a list of comments to address. In general, these comments referred to insufficiencies in the detail we provided to adequately demonstrate our compliance and cooperation with statewide housing production goals in various categories of housing. On May 8, 2023, following City Council adoption on May 1, 2023, city staff submitted our Housing Element for HCD’s 60-day review. On July 6, 2023, we received a list of HCD comments aimed primarily at additional language to clarify our current and planned efforts on housing types and locations that meet state goals.
The Housing Element is a document of over 300 pages. To see it in its entirety, or to see the highlighted changes as a result of the July 6, 2023 HCD comments, click here. These minor clean-up modifications are within the parameters already approved by the City Council and within the authorization given to staff to address changes requested by HCD to achieve certification and to submit them to HCD. City staff have discussed the modifications with HCD staff and believe that the modifications will lead to expeditious certification of our Housing Element.

Builder’s Remedy

California Government Code contains a section in the Housing Accountability Act known informally as the “Builder’s Remedy.” Builder’s Remedy is based on the assumption that local jurisdictions are denying housing projects proposed by developers. As the name suggests, Builder’s Remedy refers to what a housing developer can do to remedy a situation where a local jurisdiction may be resisting housing developments. This section of State law provides that if a Housing Element is not fully compliant with state law beyond the original due date (January 31, 2023 for this 8-year cycle), developers may submit applications for housing projects that are not necessarily consistent with a city’s existing zoning or general plan. For example, a builder may submit plans to construct single-family homes in an area zoned for high density housing, or in an area not zoned for housing at all.
Whether or not a builder can successfully assert Builder’s Remedy for purposes of proceeding with their housing development plans is a legal question that depends on all of the facts and circumstances surrounding the issue. It is not solely based on the date upon which Housing Elements are certified. Unfortunately, the nature of the Builder’s Remedy section and the questions that it raises make it difficult to avoid jumping to conclusions that alarm the public. Builder’s Remedy projects have been filed in several jurisdictions across the State and in Santa Clara County. As of August 13, 2023, Gilroy has received two preliminary applications citing the use of the “Builder’s Remedy.” No action is taken on a preliminary application, other than to determine if the preliminary application is complete. Once a preliminary application is determined to be complete, an applicant has 180 days to submit a formal application, or the preliminary application will expire. To date, the City has received no formal application. Only when a full formal application is received can the City perform a detailed review, including the “Builders Remedy” parameters.
Silicon Valley Clean Energy (SVCE) Rebates and Offers to Help you Save Money and Go All-electric

Did you know? Silicon Valley Clean Energy(SVCE) has several residential and business initiatives in place to help you save money.

Currently, SVCE has several residential and business initiatives that could be of interest to your members.   

Small-to-Medium Business Rebates: SVCE small-to-medium business customers can apply for up to $20,000 in rebates for updating their gas appliances to efficient, electric technologies. Plus, non-profits can get an additional $5,000 in rebates.  

FutureFit Home Rebates: SVCE residential customers can receive up to $8,000 in rebates for upgrading from gas appliances to efficient, electric water heaters and indoor heating and cooling systems. Income-qualified customers can receive additional rebates of up to $5,000.  

Supplier Diversity: If you are a diverse business owner and interested in working with SVCE or other California utilities on contracting opportunities, apply for the CPUC Supplier Diversity Program. Diverse business owners can get certified for access to resources, bid information, and networking opportunities with public utilities across the state.  

For more information, visit 


August 14, 2023

2023 Spice of Life Young Professional of the Year: Mark E. Jacobsen

Mark Jacobsen became the youngest member of the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce in 1999 at the age of 9, so he understands the importance of allowing the younger community members to get involved. This is largely due to watching his mother, former Chair of the Board and 2001 Woman of the Year, Susan Jacobsen, spend her time giving back to the community.

Mark went on to receive the Volunteer of the Year award in 2009 for his hard work serving the community through countless volunteer hours, many of which were spent helping put on the Gilroy Garlic Festival. Mark’s experiences volunteering with the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce and the Gilroy Garlic Festival, as well as the relationships he’s built with community leaders, has shaped the way he thinks about community, leadership, and connection.

While you won’t often find Mark in the spotlight, you will always find him working hard behind the scenes to get things done. He is passionate about building community, supporting others, and providing opportunities for young community members to learn and grow. Mark opened a restaurant in Gilroy, where he encourages his staff members to ask any, and all questions about the ins and outs of running a restaurant, as well as reminding them of the importance of giving back. Since opening his restaurant, he has continued to give back to the community by participating in and donating to events that support organizations and schools in Gilroy.

Mark encourages young leaders to take an active role in serving their community, so they can truly learn the importance of volunteering and community building. As a leader, you must consider how you can support those around you, rather than focusing on your own personal gains.

2023 Santa Clara County Early Care and Education (ECE) Facilities Study Needs Your Input

The Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE) is conducting a study to update the countywide ECE Facilities Plan serving children 0 to 4 years old. The Gilroy Chamber of Commerce is supporting this effort and has agreed to reach out to our members regarding this important issue in the County.

For this study, the SCCOE is surveying a wide range of stakeholders in the County to gain various perspectives and experiences regarding childcare and identify resources that could be used to develop new ECE facilities. Your input is essential to help the SCCOE develop sound public policy and program support for ECE facilities. Please participate in this important countywide survey concerning early education, childcare, and children’s well-being.

Please complete this survey by August 21st, 2023, end of day at the latest.

An independent research firm, Brion Economics, Inc. (BEI), is assisting the SCCOE in studying these issues and preparing the updated 2023 Plan. If you have questions regarding this survey, please contact Joanne Brion of BEI at or 707-494-6648.

Bay Area Housing Finance Authority (BAHFA) Virtual Workshops: Investing in the Future of Bay Area Housing

Next week, the Bay Area Housing Finance Authority (BAHFA) will hold the first of two virtual workshops for the public about a proposed regional housing measure. BAHFA was created to help solve the affordable housing shortage and is considering a bond measure for the November 2024 ballot to invest in building and preserving affordable homes.

  • Workshop #1
    Wednesday, August 16, 2023
    5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
    Join via Zoom video
    Meeting ID: 879 0781 6698
    Passcode: 307329
    Join via phone (one tap mobile): +14086380968,,87907816698#,,,,*307329#
    Join via phone: (408) 638-0968

  • Workshop #2
    Thursday, August 24, 2023
    12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.
    Join via Zoom video
    Meeting ID: 819 8658 6787
    Passcode: 683004
    Join via phone (one tap mobile): +16699006833,,81986586787#,,,,*683004#
    Join via phone: (408) 638-0968

The Bay Area needs to create more affordable housing — a lot of it. The region must plan for more than 180,000 new affordable homes by 2035. Tackling this problem in the coming years is key to making the region more affordable for the nearly 8 million people who call the Bay Area home. Building at this scale and meeting the affordable housing demand is a tall order — one that will require robust, regionally coordinated public investment.

These virtual workshops will provide attendees with the opportunity to learn about the proposed bond, provide feedback and ask questions.

For those unable to attend, a meeting recording will be posted to Note that the presentation content of both workshops will be the same.

For questions, please email


California’s 2024 Minimum Wage Increases to $16 Per Hour

On Monday, July 31, the California Department of Finance Director Joe Stephenshaw officially certified that beginning January 1, 2024, California’s minimum wage will increase from $15.50 per hour to $16 per hour for all employers, regardless of size.

Per California’s Labor Code, once the state’s minimum wage reaches $15 per hour — which already has occurred, as the current minimum wage is $15.50 per hour — the California Director of Finance must determine on or before August 1 of each year whether to adjust the minimum wage for inflation and, if so, calculate the increase.

The director calculates the increase by applying whichever of the following two options would result in the smaller increase:

  • A 3.5% increase; or
  • The actual rate of change per the U.S. Consumer Price Index (CPI).

For the 12-month period from July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023, the department’s calculations showed that the CPI increased by 6.16% compared to the 12-month period from July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022, meaning the minimum wage will increase by 3.5% — to $16 per hour — on January 1, 2024.

This hourly increase also affects the minimum salary requirements for full-time exempt employees, which currently is $64,480 per year ($5,373.34 per month). Beginning January 1, 2024, the minimum salary for a full-time exempt employee will be $66,560 per year ($5,546.67 per month).

Employers also must keep in mind that some cities and counties in California have adopted their own local minimum wage rates that are separate from the state rate. If the ordinance where employees are performing work requires a higher minimum wage rate than the state minimum wage rate (such as Berkeley, Los Angeles, Milpitas and San Francisco, to name just a few), the local rate must be paid. Keep in mind that only the state minimum wage — not local minimum wages — determines the minimum salary requirements for exempt employees.

Looking ahead, a measure that is eligible for the November 2024 ballot would, if passed by California voters, further accelerate the pace of minimum wage increases. If passed, by January 1, 2025, for employers with 26 or more employees, the statewide minimum wage would increase to $18 per hour, and employers with 25 or fewer employees would pay the same wage on January 1, 2026.

August 7, 2023

2023 Spice of Life Woman of the Year: Jane Howard

Jane Howard, the 2023 Woman of the Year, has been involved in Gilroy for the last 28 years. She worked as the Executive Director of Visit Gilroy for the last 17 years. One of the things Jane loves most about her time with Visit Gilroy is the spirit of collaboration between community organizations and the City of Gilroy. Jane said, “When we are working towards a common goal, Gilroy gets things done!”

Jane has a long list of accomplishments over the time she has spent in Gilroy. She led the development and implementation of the city-wide wayfinding sign program, established the Gilroy Tourism Business District to secure funding for promoting Gilroy as an overnight destination, relocated the Gilroy Visitors Bureau to the Gilroy Premium Outlets, rebranded the organization as Visit Gilroy, and successfully completed the designation as one of 21 California Welcome Centers in the state. In addition, she co-founded the Gilroy Economic Development Partnership with Mark Turner, CEO of the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce to identify and move forward recreation destination initiatives supporting long-term economic recovery and growth in the region.

Over the years, Jane has been involved in many different efforts and organizations. Below are just a few:

  • GUSD School Board Trustee
  • Gilroy Chamber Board Member
  • Director – Gilroy Garlic Festival
  • President of Leadership Gilroy
  • President of Gilroy Rotary
  • Elected to the Santa Clara County Board of Education
  • Gilroy Gardens Board Member
  • President of the Central Coast Tourism Council
  • Gilroy Economic Development Board Member

When asked about giving back to the community, Jane said, “Giving back is the natural outcome when having the opportunity to work with so many individual people and organizations over the years. I am blessed to have been one of many contributing to improving the quality of life for the Gilroy Community and visitors to our destination.”

What's New with Business?

Good Friends Make Great Neighbors living near your old friends is even better! 

We’re thrilled you’ve made Merrill Gardens your home — why not share the love with your friends? Our Good Friends Make Great Neighbors program is the ultimate win/win — you refer a friend who moves into Merrill Gardens and the two of you split $4,000. That’s right, you and your friend each receive a $2,000 check and you both get a terrific new neighbor.*


* Expires August 31, 2023. Referral must move in and reside at Merrill Gardens for 60 days to qualify. Amount may be taxable. A W-9 IRS form will be required to process payment. Please consult your financial advisor.

Digital Equity and Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Planning Update

Digital Equity and BEAD Planning has wrapped up a significant portion of the engagement and data acquisition phase. We extend heartfelt thanks to over 50,000 California residents, partners, and stakeholders for their participation and input during this phase. 

Digital Equity Planning Process Update

A detailed report was given at the Statewide Digital Equity Planning Group meeting on July 26. Additionally, the last Tribal Collaboration Working Group took place on July 28. Please find past meetings’ video recordings, transcripts, and presentations here.

We are now focusing on analyzing the input from the various planning phase components and developing the draft digital equity plan. Target completion of the draft and public comment period in early Fall. The State Digital Equity Planning landing page will also be updated in the coming weeks to support the next planning phase. 

Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program Update

The CPUC released a draft version of California’s high-level BEAD Five-Year Action Plan for comment on July 17th, 2023. As part of BEAD, the CPUC must submit a Five-Year Action Plan to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) establishing California’s needs, priorities, and existing programs for closing the digital divide. Parties in the BEAD proceeding (Rulemaking 23-02-016) may submit opening comments addressing specific questions or suggest edits to the Five-Year Action Plan until August 7, and reply comments are due August 11. The CPUC will submit the final version of the 5-Year Action Plan, along with all comments received, to NTIA later this month and will use the comments to inform the forthcoming Initial Proposal, which will establish detailed program rules according to federal requirements and guidelines. 

The CPUC also issued an Assigned Commissioner’s Scoping Memo in the BEAD proceeding establishing the policy issues in the proceeding and an anticipated proceeding timeline. Through the proceeding, the CPUC will seek extensive input on the forthcoming Initial Proposal from stakeholders and members of the public prior to submitting the Initial Proposal to NTIA by the federal deadline of late December 2023.

August 1, 2023

Luxury Travel Trends in 2023

Luxury travel is a trend to pay attention to in 2023. Despite some economic concerns travelers may have, upscale travelers are still spending an increasing amount of money on luxury travel and unique, luxury experiences.

According to a report from the ARC (Airline Recording Corporation), luxury travel is on the rise, and the global luxury travel market should increase from around $5200 million in 2019 to $8460 million in 2024. These travelers are ready to spend money on memorable, unique, exclusive, adventurous experiences, and they want to experience them with their families.

This is an opportunity for our local businesses, attractions, restaurants, wineries, and more to consider what they can offer luxury travelers. For those thinking about opening a new business in Gilroy—perhaps a luxury boutique hotel, spa, or restaurant is in order. For current business owners, try adding a special luxury experience or service. For example, a winery could offer a private tour with the owner or winemaker, with a special tasting included. A restaurant might offer a special prix fixe menu with wine paired with each course served in a private room. Imagine a luxury package or menu at a spa with a glass of champagne served along with it.

After being stuck at home for so long during the pandemic, those who have money to spend are looking for unique, luxury options. There is still pent-up demand for luxury experiences, with even younger generations wanting to splurge on something special.

Luxury travelers are also traveling with their families and are looking for combined multi-generational activities or an activity for each generation. A family could rent a cabana at Gilroy Gardens Water Oasis water park and watch the kids play while resting and enjoying food and cold drinks in the shade. The family might reserve a table at a family-friendly winery, with kid-friendly activities provided while the adults do some wine tasting. The family could also enjoy a private tour of a local gallery or a private studio session to learn a new craft or create something artistic together.

Luxury travel trends are something that local businesses should take advantage of. These trends offer new, unique ways to enhance their offerings and draw in new clientele (and Gilroy visitors), while also boosting profits for them and the local economy.

2023 Spice of Life Firman B. Voorhies Volunteer of the Year Award: Mike Brownfield

Mike has lived here in Gilroy for 45 years. Mike loves that it is a small town where you know your neighbors. Knowing your neighbor and your local businesses is what makes this such a great community to call home.

Mike was the owner of Vacuum Center of Gilroy for over 43 years. He has been helping and enjoying all the downtown events for all these years. Helping promote the small businesses in town and helping people enjoy their town is what makes volunteering so rewarding.

Mike has been helping with downtown and Gilroy events for many years doing things from cleaning sidewalks to pouring beer at the Garlic Festival. He started helping out with the downtown car show 18 years ago. He has seen the car show grow from a few local families and their cars to the big wonderful function it has come to be. He has
been on the car show committee and also chaired and co-chaired the committee for this show. He was instrumental in bringing Dennis Gage to our car show event a few years ago. The Dennis Gage show then broadcast the event on National TV. It was wonderful for our local car owners, volunteers and Gilroy Gardens.

Mike has enjoyed all of his years helping with Chamber events. He has made many friendships and met many great people. Everyone who has worked on these events are dedicated and hard working people. It is very important to give your time to your town. When you volunteer you help your entire community prosper.

California Office of the Small Business Advocate (CalOSBA) External Trainings & Webinars

California funds a network of small business technical assistance centers that provide no-cost one-on-one consulting and low-cost training services to small businesses and entrepreneurs with all stages, including but not limited to:

  • Startup business plans
  • Access financing (i.e., loans and grants)
  • Enter new markets
  • Strengthen operations and build resiliency and more

With over 30 languages available, find your local center and connect with an advisor today.

View their calendar for upcoming training events available through our network.

CalChamber Supported Bill Helps Voters, Clarifies Local Bond Measures

By Ben Golombek

Support Californians regularly face local ballot measures proposing general obligation bonds to pay for parks, schools, and other local facilities—paid for by increasing local property taxes. Oftentimes, these measures can obscure the actual cost to voters of these complex proposals.

A California Chamber of Commerce-supported bill would help improve voter understanding of these local measures.

SB 798 (Glazer; D-Contra Costa) makes local bond measures easier to understand for voters by simplifying the ballot description of the amount of new taxes a property owner would pay.

Under current law, when submitting a measure for voter approval for bonds, local governments must provide estimates of the tax rates required to fund the bonds expressed as the rate per $100 of assessed valuation on all property to be taxed.

SB 798 would instead require that the estimated tax rate in the statement be expressed as the rate per $100,000 of assessed valuation.

Having this information expressed as the rate per $100,000 as opposed to per $100 will give a more accurate picture of the true impact on constituents—and make it easier for property owners to understand the potential tax increase on their own properties.

As voter guides have expanded to well over 100 pages in some instances, clearly stating this information will help to inform voters of the true impact of these bond proposals.

SB 798 awaits action by the entire Assembly when legislators return from their summer recess.

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