Gilroy Chamber Business Focus – January 2024
January 29, 2024
Celebrating 35 years of Sister Cities - Gilroy California and Takko-Machi Japan
Contributed by Mary Gurries, Tourism & Community Engagement Coordinator
Travel and tourism are a gateway to building strong relationships across seas and over
generations. Sister City programs offer many benefits that resonate within small towns,
and the Gilroy Sister Cities Association is honored to have relationships across 6
different countries, with the initiative to “…acquire a consciousness of each other, to
understand each other as individuals, as members of their communities, as citizens of
their countries, and as a part of the people of Gilroy and the people of similar cities of
foreign nations fostered.” (Gilroy Sister Cities Association).
A requisite quality of these programs is promoting peace and understanding, and
fostering dialogue within the community contributes to extended partnerships. Most
recently, Gilroy has celebrated a milestone anniversary of 35 years with Takko-Machi, a
small town in Japan. Both cities share a common identity in the agriculture industry:
being known for their production of garlic. Gilroy representatives, led by the president of
the Gilroy Sister Cities Association, David Peoples, and his wife Marianne Peoples,
made a trip to Takko-Machi in late October of 2023; an exciting rebeginning to in-person
visits following the pandemic. The Takko-Town Garlic International Association and the
Gilroy Sister Cities Association signed a Declaration of Friendship promising to continue
to respect each other’s diversity with the hope to further strengthen cooperation and
collaboration while learning from each other. A symbolic planting of a garlic clove took
place as a Declaration of Friendship at Garlic Center 1, on Gilroy Street in Takko-Machi.
As said by the Mayor of Gilroy, Marie Blankley, “The recent visit from Gilroy’s sister city,
Takko-Machi, Japan celebrates 35 years of our sister city relationship.” Gilroy has
welcomed two members from Takko-Machi in January 2024, the first visitors to re-ignite
the momentum of in-person visits since the pandemic in Gilroy. A letter from the Mayor
of Takko-Machi, Harumi Yamamoto, to the mayor of Gilroy, Marie Blankley, expressed
excitement and appreciation for the special time shared to celebrate with the visitors
from Gilroy to Japan last year, noting “…friendships and trust that have been fostered
through our interactions over the years have been invaluable to our community.”(Harumi
Yamamoto, January 16, 2024).
Mayor Blankley recalls the generous hospitality during her own visits to other sister
cities like Angra, located in the Azores islands of Portugal, most recently visited in 2023.
She concluded by saying, “Long lived relationships such as these bring tears of love
and joy with every visit.”
January 15, 2024
Gilroy Chamber Ranks #10 out of 25 in Silicon Valley
Congratulations to the Gilroy Chamber for ranking #10 out of #25 Chambers!
Silicon Valley Business Advocacy Groups Ranked by Revenue, in the most recent fiscal year. Information for this list was obtained from IRS 990 Forms and Business Journal research.
What's New with Business
Now Chamber members at the Business Builder tier and above, and new members, may submit a 150 word paragraph about what’s new in their business, promotions, and spotlights to our community! Your business is our business and we want to celebrate you!
Email Community Relations Coordinator, email@example.com to spotlight your business in our upcoming bi-weekly Business Focus newsletter.
Updates to Your Energy Bill
PG&E plans substantial investments in its energy system in coming years to pay for permanent wildfire risk reduction, critical gas and electric safety and reliability work, and capacity upgrades to support new business connections and California’s bold clean energy goals.
The cost of some of these investments will appear in customers’ bills beginning Jan. 1, 2024, along with other rate changes approved by regulators– including rates that account for lower natural gas prices compared to last winter. January gas bills are forecast to be about 9% lower, reducing the typical customer gas bill by about $17.
PG&E wants to help customers understand why their bills will change, how we’re working every day to keep bills as low as possible, and how customers can reduce their costs.
PG&E is saving costs for customers through:
- Improving standard work practices
- Adding quality controls and efficiencies
- Seeking nontraditional sources of financing to reduce borrowing costs
We’re also committed to helping our customers save energy and money by helping them find their best rate plan, sharing ideas on using less energy and offering financial assistance programs to income-eligible customers, including an expanded bill support program.
“The investments we plan in 2024 and beyond focus on three goals: Keeping our energy system safe and reliable for our customers, meeting growing energy demand and adding even more renewables to our energy mix,” said Carla Peterman, PG&E Corporation Executive Vice President, Corporate Affairs and Chief Sustainability Officer. “At the same time, we’re aggressively focused on finding new ways to work so that we can keep future bill increases at or below a broader, long-term inflation rate of 2% to 4%.”
For the typical non-California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) residential combined gas and electric use customer who receives both energy supply and delivery from PG&E, monthly bills will increase by about 13% or about $34.50 compared to current bills.
For the typical CARE residential combined use customer, monthly bills will increase by approximately 12% or $20.
Investments support safety, clean energy
Following California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approval in November, PG&E’s 2023-2026 General Rate Case (GRC) goes into effect in January. Energy rates reflect the actual costs of continuing to provide safe and reliable service to customers. More than 85% of PG&E’s proposed increase targeted risk reductions in gas and electric operations, including:
- Undergrounding 1,230 miles of powerlines in PG&E’s highest fire-risk areas. It’s one of PG&E’s multiple layers of protection that have reduced wildfire risk from company equipment by 94%.
- Replacing 139 miles and 24 miles of plastic and steel distribution gas pipeline respectively.
- Deploying state-of-the-art tools to inspect gas transmission pipelines and use advanced mobile leak detection technology to quickly find and fix gas leaks.
- Performing grid work to support adoption of electric vehicles and bolster resiliency during extreme weather and peak energy demand.
“Our GRC prioritizes safety above all else, with its emphasis on undergrounding and installing stronger poles and covered powerlines,” Peterman said. “At the same time, this funding ensures we can deliver a cleaner, decarbonized electric system that supports California’s clean energy transition and air quality goals to build a better future for our customers and for California.”
The GRC is the largest share of the January rate change. Over three years, the GRC will increase non-CARE monthly combined bills by 3.6% on average.
In addition to the GRC, other rate changes will be implemented as part of annual rate adjustments called true-ups. These adjustments go through a transparent regulatory approval process to ensure that dollars collected from customers are just and reasonable, and reflect the changing cost of energy purchased for customers.
PG&E does not control market prices for gas and electricity and, like other utilities, does not mark up the cost of gas and electricity that it buys for customers. State regulations require PG&E to adjust electricity and gas rates to return over-collected revenue or cover under-collected revenue.
A mild winter—so far
Weather drives winter gas and electric bills in two ways:
- Energy use rises as customers need more gas and electricity to warm their homes
- That rising demand causes higher market prices for natural gas
So far, the weather is giving customers a break compared to winter 2022-2023, when regional temperatures fell below average and gas prices in the western U.S. spiked 90 percent year over year.
Since the heating season’s November start, temperatures across PG&E’s service area have been warmer than in November 2022, said PG&E meteorologist Ted Schlaepfer. PG&E’s six-city gas-temperature composite, which surveys temperatures in Sacramento, San Jose, Oakland, Fresno, Redding and Salinas, is running about five degrees higher than a year ago.
Looking ahead, Schlaepfer forecasts slightly above-average temperatures during peak winter from December through February.
However, weather “wild cards” could affect temperatures beyond the forecast, Schlaepfer said.
A dry winter could mean lower temperatures, as fewer clouds lead to colder nights. Plus, the service area is overdue for a “polar vortex”—an intense cold wave in which a high-pressure ridge over Alaska and northern Canada pushes Arctic air into the lower United States.
The likeliest window for cold snaps is mid-December through mid-February.
Regardless of the weather, PG&E has a plan to provide energy at the lowest possible cost to its customers.
Keeping bills as low as possible
The company takes a number of actions to reduce the effects of volatile natural gas prices on customers’ winter bills.
“Our customers are at the center of what we do,” said Gillian Clegg, PG&E Vice President, Energy Policy and Procurement. “We know that every dollar we spend buying energy goes on someone’s bill. All the tools we use are designed to ensure that we have a reliable supply of energy that’s also the most affordable supply we can obtain in the marketplace.”
These measures helped PG&E save over $1 billion for customers last winter, and include:
- Maintaining pipeline access to gas production basins in Canada, the Rocky Mountains and the Southwest United States. That diverse supply helps the company meet reliability standards and tap into the lowest-cost sources.
- Purchasing and storing gas when prices are lower, such as summer, for use when demand jumps. PG&E gas storage fields such as McDonald Island in San Joaquin County help the company maintain gas reliability and lower, more stable prices throughout the year.
- Using its financial hedging program to protect residential and small-business customers from price increases. Hedging works like insurance: PG&E pays a small premium to buy hedges that cover some expected winter demand for gas. If prices settle above a predetermined level, PG&E receives a payment to lower customers’ rates and bills.
Investments in PG&E’s GRC will also reduce long-term costs to customers.
Undergrounding powerlines in high-fire risk areas, for example, will mean less future spending on vegetation management and other operations and maintenance expenses.
Through improved standard work practices and quality controls, PG&E has:
- Saved $300 million in vegetation management expenses in 2023 alone while meeting compliance and customer commitments
- Reduced undergrounding costs by $70 million through design improvements and innovations and efficiencies in construction
We’ve also worked with customer advocates on an alternative to commercial insurance to save our customers up to $1.8 billion over the next four years.
And we’re looking at nontraditional financing including lower-cost U.S. Department of Energy loans to reduce borrowing costs by hundreds of millions of dollars over the life of the loans.
Those efforts are designed to help keep customers’ bills within overall inflation rates in coming years.
Customers can take action
A few simple steps can help customers reduce energy use and limit monthly bills:
Set thermostat and water heater for savings. Dialing down your thermostat to 68 degrees (health permitting) can save you about $35 a year. Set your water heater thermostat at 120 degrees or lower to reduce energy used to produce and maintain hot water. The change can save you more than $400 a year when factoring in water demand for showers, laundry and dishwashing.
Improve home energy efficiency. PG&E offers energy efficiency programs and services to help customers save. The Home Energy Checkup estimates what uses energy in the home and suggests improvements. Free service HomeIntel provides in-depth analysis of energy use and offers recommendations to reduce use.
Enroll in Budget Billing. This program uses participating customers’ energy-use history to balance energy bills across the year for predictable monthly payments. PG&E averages annual bill totals over 12 months to avoid seasonal spikes in bills.
Customers should also check if they qualify for bill assistance, including:
- California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE), which provides a monthly discount of 20% or more on gas and electricity
- Family Electric Rate Assistance (FERA), which provides a monthly discount of 18% on electricity for households of three or more people
- Arrearage Management Plan, a debt forgiveness plan for eligible residential customers who may have experienced pandemic-related hardship
Additionally in 2024, PG&E will make a significant contribution to the REACH program, with record funding to help income-eligible households. Expanded bill assistance details will be shared early next year.
As part of our commitment to transparency, PG&E will continue to keep customers informed about rate changes and other factors that affect the cost of energy service, and how those changes affect bills. We look forward to working with our regulator, customer advocates and other stakeholders on ways to deliver our service at the lowest-possible cost.
 Based on the methodology established by the CPUC in the Safety Model Assessment Proceeding and implemented by PG&E, accordingly.
Job Killer Bills Die
As the new legislative year began, several job killer bills were laid to rest again following continued strong opposition from the California Chamber of Commerce, local chambers of commerce and allied groups.
View the list of bills that weren’t passed – here.
January 1, 2024
2024 Laws You Should Know
From employment to public health, here is a list of new state laws coming to California in 2024.
2024 California Employment Laws
- State Minimum Wage Increase: The state minimum wage will increase to $16 per hour starting on Jan. 1. California’s minimum wage previously stood at $15.50. Some cities and counties have a higher local minimum wage, according to the Department of Industrial Relations.
- Minimum Wage Increase for Healthcare Workers: Introduced by State Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, SB 252 will raise the minimum wage for health care workers to $23. Workers must be employed under covered health care facilities in California. This bill goes into effect starting June 1.
- Paid Sick Leave: Introduced by State Sen. Lena Gonzalez, SB 616 would apply to employees who have been working in California for the same employer for 30 or more days within their starting year. The bill will require an employee to have no less than 40 hours or five days of accrued sick leave or paid time off by the 200th calendar day of employment, or in each 12-month period. The bill will go into effect starting on Jan. 1.
- Reproductive Leave: Introduced by State Sen. Susan Rubio, SB 848 would require employers to offer reproductive leave. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act makes it unlawful to refuse or grant a request by an employee to take up to five days upon the death of a family member. This bill would allow reproductive leave within three months of the event and will use other leave balances otherwise available to the employee. An employer may deny leave for more than one reproductive loss within 12 months. The bill will go into effect starting Jan. 1.
- Work From Home: Introduced by State Sen. Angelique Ashby, SB 731 requires an employer to provide a 30-day advance written notice before requiring remote employees to return to an in-person setting. The notice would also explain the employee’s right to remain remote as an accommodation, if applicable, to their disabilities. This bill will go into effect starting Jan. 1.
- Penalizing Cannabis: Introduced by State Sen. Steven Bradford, SB 700 would make it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a person in hiring, termination, or any term or condition of employment
- H-2A Information for Agricultural Workers: Introduced by Assemblymember Ash Kalra, AB 635 Section 2810.5 would require an employer to give an employee written notice of the federal H-2A visa in English or Spanish, at the employee’s request. Other languages may also be included and require the Labor Commissioner to create a template that complies with these requirements. The bill will go into effect starting March 15.
View other laws that have changed here.
Gilroy 2023 Travel in Review
Gilroy 2023 Travel in Review
The California Welcome Center in Gilroy serves as a source of information for California visitors from across the globe. In 2023, the Welcome Center hosted visitors from 66 different countries. The year saw an increase, with a total of 14,100 visitors, marking a growth of 908 from the previous year.
The top three nations whose citizens visited the Welcome Center were: Germany, Mexico and England. Visitors from Germany are most interested in our outdoor offerings; Mexican travelers often explore California with their families; and visitors from England, frequently have family ties in the U.S. For these international guests, we often note that many are not first-timers, and many have been to the California Central Coast at least once prior. Total Overseas and Mexico arrivals at California ports of entries in November 2023 were up 30.1% from November 2022 and down 25% from November 2019. Mexico alone reported an increase of 43% port of entry arrivals to California in November 2023 compared to last year, and an increase of 7% vs. 2019, bringing the total percentage of travelers past the mark of pre-pandemic thresholds. [U.S. Dept. of Commerce, National Travel & Tourism Office (NTTO)].
2024 – “U.S.-Japan Tourism Year”
In the aftermath of the pandemic, with travel challenges and restrictions, we’ve tracked a shift in visitor demographics, with a decline in guests from places such as Asia and South America. In recent news, for the first time ever, The Japanese Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism has signed a Memorandum of Cooperation along with U.S. Ambassador to Japan stating 2024 as “U.S.-Japan Tourism Year” between the two countries in a dually beneficial effort to boost travel and tourism (U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Japan).
Gilroy’s regional importance remains constant, serving as a gateway not only to our town but also to neighboring destinations such as Monterey, Santa Cruz, and San Jose. The Central Coast offers a unique blend of regional treasures, from Hearst Castle to The Pinnacles National Park, that act as a draw to visitors from around the world. The structured flow of visitors and their diverse interests not only showcases Gilroy as a dynamic destination, but it also gives us the opportunity to know those who frequent our city, enriching the culture of Gilroy.
Contributed by Mary Gurries, Tourism and Community Engagement Coordinator, Visit Gilroy