November 25, 2019

Tourism Media Updates & Trends

Compliments of Visit Gilroy


Economic Outlook

  • The economy is still growing, but at a slower pace. Supported by solid wage and employment, growth, consumer spending remains strong.
  • Moving forward, economists believe that the economy will cool across 2019, but not stumble into recession just yet (2020 may be a different story).
  • Consumer spending, which had a slow start in the first quarter, rebounded strongly in the second quarter, increasing 4.3% and contributing nearly 3 percentage points to GDP growth.

Travel Outlook

  • International visitation to the U.S. is down nearly 2% through May, according to the National Travel and Tourism Office. International visits have decreased year over year for four out of the first five months of 2019. Year-to-date, 30.8 million international travelers visited the U.S. over the first five months of 2019.
  • U.S. bound travel overseas destinations has increased by 9.9% in 2019.
  • The failure of Thomas Cook, while not impacting many U.S. travelers, could have a significant impact on destinations, particularly those with a large number of inbound European travelers.

New Travel Research

  • New warnings cautioning international travelers from visiting the U.S. have been released in the wake of the tragic mass shootings that took place in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio in early August. Countries that have issued new travel advisories against the U.S. due to the increasing threat of gun violence include China and Japan. Human rights campaign group Amnesty International has also issued a worldwide warning for all potential visitors to the U.S.
  • A new study from reveals the intentions, desires, and aspirations of Gen Z travelers all over the world. The research shows that Gen Z, specifically those between the ages of 16 and 24, prioritizes travel over material possessions. About 65% of study participants ranked ‘travel and seeing the world’ as most important when thinking about how they spend their money, higher than saving for a house, investing in higher education and saving for retirement. Gen Z also already has ambitious travel plans for the future: nearly 7 in 10 have a travel bucket list of things to do or see before they die, and more than one-third plan to travel on their own at least once over the next decade. The majority of Gen Z (56%) seek adventure experiences from their travels and sustainability and environmental issues are also at the top of their minds.
  • As the meetings and events industry continues to evolve – both globally and regionally – there’s been a shift toward authenticity, sustainability, and smart technology integration according to CWT Meetings & Events’ “2020 Future Trends Report”. Dramatic changes are expected to transform the business over the next few years, particularly around digitization, attendee demographics, and a complex global landscape. This means that meeting and event planners need not only integrate these latest trends to keep and grow their share of the market, but stay ahead of the trends.

Gilroy Chamber Supports Terrorism Risk Insurance Act

Written by Gilroy Chamber of Commerce President/CEO, Mark Turner

The Gilroy Chamber of Commerce has joined forces with a number of other Chambers across the state and across the country, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to support S.2877, a bill to reauthorize the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002.

On November 20, the Senate Banking Committee reported out S. 2877, the “Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2019,” by a voice vote. This legislation, which was introduced two weeks ago by Senators Thom Tillis and Tina Smith with a broad group of bipartisan cosponsors, is nearly identical to the bill reported out of the House on November 18 by a vote of 385-22.

Several amendments which would have created differences between the House and Senate products were offered and withdrawn so the product that they are currently working with remains a seven-year reauthorization while providing for a study on the evolving risks in cyber-terrorism and the affordability and availability of TRIA coverage for places of worship.

November is Rotary International Month

The Gilroy Rotary Club is proud to be celebrating Rotary International for the month of November! Rotary is a worldwide service club of over 1.2 million members whose foundation helped sponsor and support local and international humanitarian work all over the world. They are most widely known for their work to abolish polio.

How does providing clean water in an emerging country promote peace? Well, countries that lack resources have found themselves in conflict for thousands of years. Folks with resources gain power, where folks without flounder, are oppressed, often without proper nutrition, education, or basic housing. Rotary International spreads its message of “Service Above Self” through action, by helping those without basic necessities to thrive. Often bringing a better quality of life and bringing peace.

What some people don’t realize is that the RI Foundation also provides matching funds for many smaller local works around the world. The most needed projects are often clean water, sanitation facilities, education resources, medical equipment, and micro loans to fund small start-ups. Rotary clubs across the world from one another can also partner on a project. Rotary uses their Foundation funds to match money raised by one or more clubs, help with overseeing the project and following up on its completion. This makes the success rate of these projects an excellent long-term investment in human welfare.

One of the most rewarding projects finished recently was sponsored by our area Rotary clubs, Morgan Hill, Hollister, San Juan Bautista, Gilroy Sunrise, After Hours Gilroy, Rotary of Almaden Valley and the Rotary Club of Gilroy. With monies collected from the Foundation campaign, pooled from local clubs, we were able to submit a grant proposal, approved by RI for matching funds, and see it implemented in Nigeria. We provided water filtration, sanitation training, and infrastructure to create safe water and toilet facilities for a school in Nigeria. Through this we were able to create clean learning facilities and an equitable education, because now girls and boys could have their own restroom facilities, making school more accessible for girls (a major factor in the progress of an emerging country).

So many things we take for granted, are not available to these countries. With the long arm of Rotary and the power of the RI Foundation, we have a created a dedicated world community service group that worked hard to see this project through. One of the amazing things about the power of Rotary is also that they implement a follow-through program so that projects do not collapse or become unused in future years.

For the entire month of November and beyond, our local Rotary clubs will be raising funds for the RI Foundation, including Polio Plus, and celebrating the good works done by Rotary clubs all over the world! For more information about Rotary or joining a local club, please visit

Family Leave Expansion Ahead

By CalMatters

California was first in the nation to offer workers paid time off to care for a new baby or sick family member. That was 2004. Now, at least five states have passed laws that offer workers more paid family leave than California.

Familiar ring: Earlier this year, Gov. Gavin Newsom and lawmakers approved two additional weeks of paid family leave to Californians. Beginning in July 2020, workers will be entitled to eight weeks of leave.

In a hearing in Sacramento on Wednesday, Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, a Santa Barbara Democrat, and Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, a San Diego Democrat, signaled they will push to further expand the paid leave program next year, perhaps to 12 weeks, and ensure that more low-wage workers can use the benefit.

  • Jackson: “While California was once in the lead on this issue, we are no longer in the lead. And it is time for us to catch up. … We need to again become the state that invents the future on this.”

What’s ahead: Newsom has set a goal of ensuring that every baby is cared for by a family member for the first six months of life. Expect more moves in that direction in 2020.

Big Changes in Oil Production

By CalMatters

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration Tuesday announced broad changes in the regulation of oil production, amping up health and safety rules and placing a moratorium on high-pressure steam injections—a common oilfield practice that can be dangerous to workers and foul water sources.

The moves are part of an overhaul of the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources in what is the sixth-largest oil-producing state. As part of that, the division will get a new name, the Geologic Energy Management Division, or CalGEM.

The announcement’s language was striking, aligning the management of fossil fuels in the state with larger carbon-reduction goals, and presaging the gradual ramping down of the industry in California.

Newsom stopped short of banning hydraulic fracturing but did add oversight:

  • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory experts will review all pending fracking permits.
  • The Department of Finance will audit the fracking process.

Fracking is not common in California, unlike steam injection, which is used extensively in older wells, particularly in Kern County.

Some environmentalists praised the move, and representatives of California’s oil region protested.

  • Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove, who represents Kern County, said the announcement “simply means the Golden State will rely on more of our oil supply shipped in from foreign countries whose environmental policies and humanitarian treatment are far below California’s standards.”

November 18, 2019

What's New with Business?

Be on the lookout for a request to participate in a survey from the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce. Each year the Chamber Board reviews the results of the survey to see where we have strengths and weaknesses. We all know how frustrating it is to answer all the questions, as there are always better things to be doing, your participation is greatly appreciated. Please, take the extra few minutes and help us out.

The Gavilan Employer Advisory Council is happy to present their year-end seminar, 2020 Law Updates. William M. Betley will return to discuss important, and sometimes, unexpected implications of recent employment trends, as well as new legislation for 2020 and practical applications to avoid potential penalties and employer liability. The seminar will be on Wednesday, December 4 from 7:30-10:00 am at the Gilroy Hilton Garden Inn, 7060 Monterey Road. $40/member & $55/non-member (breakfast included). To register, call (408)216-6145, or email

Mathnasium is your neighborhood math-only learning center that teaches kids math the way that makes sense to them. Their experienced math tutors utilize their proprietary teaching materials and techniques, The Mathnasium Method™, to deliver a customized learning plan designed to address each student’s needs, whether they started out far behind or are already ahead in math. Shubhra Jain is the Center Director at Mathnasium of Gilroy. Prior to Mathnasium Shubhra was a mathematics teacher at East Side Union High School District, Basis Independent Silicon Valley and the Harker Private school. Shubhra has been in the education field for more than 25 years and has taught in India, Singapore and Indonesia prior to settling in America. She has a Master’s degree in Mathematics and is just finishing up another Master’s degree in Education. Mathnasium is located at 7210 Camino Arroyo Suite #107. Call Shubhra at 408-329-6284 or better yet, stop in and speak with them.

FedEx Office, located at 7150 Camino Arroyo, is corporately owned (not franchised) and takes pride in providing a consistent customer experience no matter which store you visit. Store Manager, Mike Montoya, has lived in South County since1975 and enjoys seeing all the familiar faces at his store, which is located inside Wal-Mart. In addition to stand alone stores, they are also located in hotels and convention centers, on university campuses, and onsite at several corporate businesses. There are currently 300 FedEx Office locations located inside Walmart’s across the nation, with another 200 scheduled to open in the next 2 years. FedEx office has over 2,000 networked stores with the ability to share work across their network to meet the ever-changing needs of customers. Long gone are the days of printing your materials and taking them with you on a plane. Mike can digitally transmit your project to a store near your destination and then have it delivered to you. Give Mike a call at 408-500-4907.

Three Mount Madonna School (MMS) fall athletic teams, girls varsity volleyball, girls cross country and boys cross country have each received the Central Coast Section (CCS) highest academic honor by the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF): “2019-20 Fall Season Scholastic Championship Team Award.” The girls varsity volleyball team is being honored as having one of the top five scholastic averages among all CCS volleyball teams, 3.881. “We find the hard work and discipline it takes to excel in athletics also carries over into the classroom,” commented MMS Head of School Mary Supriya McDonald. “We are so proud of each of these scholar-athletes!” The girls cross country team is recognized as having the highest collective scholastic average among CCS girls cross country teams, 3.944. The boys cross country team is being honored as having one of the top five scholastic averages among all CCS cross country teams, 3.805. These awards were instituted by the CCS Board of Managers in 1985 as a way to recognize the top five teams with the highest collective grade-point average in their respective sport during that season of competition.

Since 1982, the Gilroy Foundation has awarded over $14 million in grants and scholarships. Foundation grants have made a positive difference in the Gilroy community: strengthening our schools, improving our health, appreciating the arts, enhancing technology and protecting our environment. In 2019, $338,000 was awarded to local organizations and programs. The 2020 Grant Cycle opens on December 1, 2019 and closes on January 31, 2020. All nonprofits with a 501(c)(3) status, GUSD schools, and Gilroy City programs are eligible to apply for a Gilroy Foundation grant that will serve the Gilroy community. To apply, download a 2020 grant application, available at Grant application, supporting documentation and copies must be submitted to the Foundation by posted mail, postmarked no later than Thursday, January 31, 2020. Organizations are notified of their status by the end of March. Contact with any questions about the grant application process.

Gilroy Chamber Convenes Meeting Regarding Anderson Dam

By Mark Turner, President/CEO – Gilroy Chamber of Commerce

The Gilroy Chamber of Commerce convened a meeting of South County leaders last week, including Director John Varela from Valley Water, to discuss the concerns and delays with the seismic retrofit work scheduled for Anderson Dam. Gilroy Mayor Roland Velasco, Morgan Hill Mayor Rich Constantine and State Assemblymember Robert Rivas also attended the meeting.

The Anderson Dam Seismic Retrofit Project is not scheduled to begin work until October 2022. Regulatory delays have caused the project numerous delays creating a public safety concern should there be a large earthquake.

The dam sits on a series of fault lines including the Calaveras Fault and Coyote Creek Fault. A large earthquake on either of those two faults could cause significant damage resulting in a failure of the dam and uncontrolled release of water. Valley Water has been operating Anderson Dam at 58% capacity in order to reduce the risk.

Valley Water’s efforts include working with both state and federal agencies in order to secure the appropriate environmental permits. Therein lies the challenges and delays. Coordinating agencies such as the National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife can be a bureaucratic nightmare. Valley Water has enlisted the aid of Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren and has seen good progress with her help.

The Gilroy Chamber of Commerce will continue to work closely with Valley Water tracking the progress of the work scheduled for the seismic retrofit and will coordinate meetings with local and state elected officials to apply pressure on regulatory agencies who cause unnecessary delays.

Click on the link for more information about the Anderson Dam Project.

The Gilroy Chamber’s Government Relations Committee Talks Taxes

By Mark Turner, President/CEO – Gilroy Chamber of Commerce

The Gilroy Chamber’s Government Relations Committee hosted Chief of Police, Scot Smithee and Interim Fire Chief, Jeff Clet to discuss the potential sales tax initiative being considered by the City of Gilroy.

Chief Smithee and Interim Chief Clet discussed the challenges both of their departments face and how, if the residents of Gilroy approved such a tax, the additional revenue could help overcome those challenges. The proposed sales tax initiative is designed to enhance public safety and would be designated specifically for police and fire services.

At tonight’s (November 18) City Council meeting, Council members are scheduled to hear input and vote whether or not to move forward with adding the sales tax initiative to the March 2020 ballot. Such an initiative on the ballot would require two-thirds (Gilroy) voter approval in order to take effect.

The item can be found on the City Council Agenda – Section X – New Business – Item A. Presentation of the Community-Wide Polling Results #2 by EMC Research to Measure Resident Satisfaction of City Services

California State Senate to Focus on Power Shutoffs

By CalMatters

The Senate is holding an oversight hearing today into utilities’ practice of shutting down electricity to avoid wildfires, as hot, dry, wind-driven fire weather returns this week.

Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins will attend the hearing.

Scheduled to testify: William Johnson, chief executive officer of Pacific Gas & Electric, and top executives of San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison.

Also testifying: Gov. Gavin Newsom’s lead on the electricity crisis, Ana Matosantos, and Marybel Batjer, president of the California Public Utilities Commission.

The public is taking a dim view of the utilities’ use of power shutdowns. Expect greater regulatory and legislative oversight.

Scattershot Emergency Alert System

By CalMatters

California has no statewide standard for emergency evacuation, and no set of uniform plans that can be used to alert people of fires, flooding, earthquakes and other emergencies, CalMatters’ Julie Cart reports.

Lacking a comprehensive system, few people who lived in Paradise were aware that the deadly Camp Fire was approaching last year.

  • Cart: The fire incinerated cell towers and communications equipment, revealing a vulnerability of the telephone-based disaster alert system.
  • The Butte County Grand Jury: “The only notification systems left were emergency vehicle sirens and bull horns … word-of-mouth with families and neighbors… and immediate action.”

Cell phones were useless for many people affected by October fires, prompting an inquiry by the California Public Utilities Commission.

The Legislature has required local government to have a mechanism to warn residents during emergencies. The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services released guidelines, which advocate a scattershot approach to alerts:

  • Sirens, loudspeakers, social media, texting, even ringing church bells.
  • The rules require alerts when there is an “imminent threat to life, health or property” and emphasize that time is critical.
  • Worries about triggering mass panic are not an excuse to avoid or delay issuing a warning.

To read Julie Cart’s report, please click here.

Shower Thoughts

From the online publication, The Hustle

  1. When you buy pizza from a place that sells it by the slice, you’re essentially having a pizza party with a bunch of strangers that day.
  2. The speed limit is the only law that people get mad at you for obeying.
  3. If you trip and fall but don’t die, you’ve survived a collision with a planet.
  4. Thanks to space suits, humanity still hasn’t touched the Moon.
  5. There was probably once a tree that got cut down, turned into paper, and then used in a presentation about why we shouldn’t cut down trees.
    1. via Reddit


  • “The words ‘bough’, ‘through’, and ‘ought’ are exactly the reason why the English language is completely messed up.”

November 11, 2019

Rock the Mock, Rocks

By Mark Turner, President/CEO – Gilroy Chamber of Commerce

Members of the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce, Gilroy Unified School District, volunteers from the business community and educators alike all came together last Thursday and Friday to conduct job interview training workshops for over 200 high school students. The event, called, “Rock the Mock,” was designed to allow students the opportunity to experience real life interviews with bankers, small business owners, HR personnel, general managers and others.

Giving students this opportunity allowed them insight to what a job interview might be like. This event helped students to see there’s more to the interview process than simply sitting down with a prospective employer and having a conversation. Students learned they need to be properly prepared long before the interview occurs.

Rock the Mock consisted of a series of workshops which lasted approximately 25 minutes each and provided helpful hints from properly greeting someone to researching the company where a student is hoping to be hired. In the workshop, “How to Prepare for the Interview,” students learned about researching a company, important information to include on a resume, how hiring managers research potential candidates and why caution should be applied when posting information on social media platforms.

In the workshop, “Dress for Success,” students were instructed on topics such as professional clothing styles, how too much bling can ruin a good thing and not overdoing colognes and perfumes to name a few.

In the workshop, “What Social Media Says About You,” students were shown how posting inappropriate information on social media can come back to haunt you when you apply for a job. Employers do extensive background checks and information posted on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and other platforms says a lot about an individual.

Students also learned the proper way to shake someone’s hand and introduce themselves in the “Handshake” workshop that occurred just before the interviews.

The “Interview” workshop placed students squarely in front of adult volunteers who asked various behavioral style questions causing students to think beyond “yes” and “no” answers. In some cases, a single student interviewed with two volunteers experiencing a type of interview panel. Students seemed to hold their own as many of the interviewers expressed how they were impressed with students’ openness and abilities to respond to difficult questions.

Students from Christopher and Mt. Madonna High Schools participated on Thursday, November 7 at Christopher High School while students from Gilory High School, Gilroy Early College Academy joined together at the Gilroy High School campus on Friday, November 8.

The Business and Education Committee of the Chamber of Commerce first implemented this program 5 years ago. Members of the Committee wanted to provide an interactive experience for students that would help them learn the skills necessary to be prepared for all aspects of a job interview.

Apple Investing in Affordable Housing

Apple is the latest tech giant to invest in affordable housing near its campus
Article by The Hustle

Yesterday, Apple committed to spending $2.5B on improving access to housing in California.

Housing crises exist all across California, but they’ve been particularly acute in Apple’s backyard, the San Francisco Bay Area: According to a recent report reviewed by The New York Times, 5 of the 6 most expensive places to live in the US are in the Bay Area.

Thanks to soaring fortunes at tech companies, the Bay Area has added 676k new jobs in the past 8 years. But the region has added only 176k additional housing units, which has caused displacement.

And Apple, the largest employer in Silicon Valley, has been a big part of the problem.

But now, Apple wants to reverse its role in the housing crisis

So, how does it plan to do that? Apple’s newly unveiled plan will apportion $1B to an affordable housing investment fund and another $1B to help first-time home buyers (particularly service workers, school employees, and veterans).

The iPhone-making colossus also plans to make $300m of Apple-owned land available for affordable housing, donate $150m to a local housing nonprofit, and invest $50m in fighting homelessness in Silicon Valley.

And Apple’s not the only Silicon Valley giant investing in housing:

  • Google pledged $1B in land and housing in June
  • Facebook gave $1B in grants, land, and loans in October
  • Salesforce founder Marc Benioff personally pledged $30m to fight homelessness in San Francisco

Other companies including Microsoft and Amazon have also begun investing big bucks in addressing the housing problems that they helped create. But not all critics believe investment in fixing crises after they come is the best approach.

Affording housing expert Robert Silverman told The New York Times that plans like Apple’s “definitely relieve some of the pressure on the housing market,” but that comprehensive state and federal policies are necessary to “reach more people.”

Five Things to Know About Microgrids

Article by Julie Cart, CalMatters

More than 1 million Californians were left in the dark for days recently as their big utility companies shut off power for fear of sparking wildfires. Frustrated by those outages, some homeowners say they’d like to turn their backs on the companies in favor of smaller providers who might do a better job of keeping the lights on. The mayors of San Francisco and San Jose say they want to sever ties with Pacific Gas and Electric, which serves much of Northern California, and create separate utilities for their cities.

Grasping for solutions, people toss around ideas like joining “microgrids” or setting up banks of generators to keep the electricity flowing during widespread power cutoffs. Would that really help?

What, exactly, is a microgrid?

A microgrid can be as simple as a single home operating on its own solar power, or a complex series of connections between a power source and distribution lines to end users. It can run a business, a neighborhood or even a city. It can be any size and may be fueled by renewable energy stored in batteries, or by generators run on a conventional fuel such as diesel.

Here’s Chris Marnay, a senior scientific fellow at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who wrote the definition of microgrid that is used by the U.S. Department of Energy: “There are two characteristics: It is a locally controlled system, and it can function either connected to the grid or as an electrical island.”

How many microgrids are in California?

It’s difficult to say how many have sprouted across the state and are now dotting the landscape, producing and sharing their own energy. Such systems include small neighborhood operations and one that runs the desert town of Borrego Springs.

That town, and others like it, are known as end-of-the-line communities, lying just beyond the reach of power companies’ distribution lines. For those small locales, and for residents in many rural parts of California, a microgrid is the only choice if they want power.

Many state universities have training-wheels versions that use small solar arrays to power a building or a section of the campus. UC San Diego runs a much larger system that provides up to 90% of campus electricity.

If some California lawmakers have their way, there will be many more such systems. A bill in the Legislature would require utility companies to identify the best areas of the state for employing microgrids and then build them.

A 2018 law sets a deadline of Dec. 1, 2020, for creation of a program for how they might operate, especially during times of emergency. The state Public Utilities Commission, which regulates California’s power companies, the California Energy Commission and the Independent System Operator—which runs most of the state’s electrical grid—are developing the plan.

Not surprisingly, former Gov. Jerry Brown is an enthusiastic supporter of microgrids. He said in his 2015 inaugural address that they should be greatly expanded. His rural retirement compound, Rancho Venada, at the end of a dusty road in Colusa County, is powered by a microgrid system.

How can microgrids be used during emergencies, such as fires?

Natural disasters have a way of prying open windows of opportunity. But “California is a bit behind the curve,” Marnay said. “The fires are going to be our Superstorm Sandy. They are going to bring about change.”

Hurricane Sandy lashed the East Coast in 2012, leaving millions of customers in 21 states without power for days and weeks. The superstorm’s aftermath brought about policy changes in several states in the Northeast. Connecticut became the first in the country to create a statewide system of microgrids to provide emergency power.

Marnay and others noted that a microgrid research project kept operating after a magnitude 9.1 earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan in 2011 and knocked out power. The project, at a local university, performed well in the wake of the twin disasters, cementing the idea that independent power systems could maintain service in emergencies.

“It was a complete wake-up call,” Marnay said. “It woke up policymakers. The genie got out of the bottle, and (it) wasn’t just energy nerds such as myself interested in microgrids.”

In the last few years, “resilience” has become the watchword for the advantages of microgrids as a backstop when disasters obliterate the larger grid’s ability to distribute power. During the 2017 fires in Sonoma County, Stone Edge Farm drew electricity from its microgrids for 10 days while utility power was down.

State officials hope that eventually, electricity generated by microgrids can keep critical services operating in emergencies: hospitals, communications systems, community centers, etc. One city that has already adopted this approach is Fremont: It has outfitted three fire stations with their own power supplies.

What about other backup options, besides microgrids?

Many homeowners and small businesses use their own generators, powered by diesel fuel, natural gas or propane, during outages. They work well but carry some limitations. Diesel motors can be loud, for example, and cannot be operated indoors because of dangerous fumes. In addition, the fuel for the generators must be stored nearby, and it’s highly flammable.

The Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District put together this helpful information about diesel generators.

Many residential solar systems now include storage, offering homeowners a way to avoid generators if they wish. With the rapid improvement of batteries to store energy from rooftop panels, companies are selling such packages for residential use.

During a blackout, these systems can allow homeowners to flip a switch and use their own stored power to keep their lights on. If used sparingly, running only critical appliances and devices, such storage systems can provide five to 10 hours of power, depending on the size of the setup. The batteries can replenish themselves during the day, so the homeowners may be protected even in a prolonged outage.

The systems are popular, as are solar-powered generators, all being heavily marketed as fires burn across the state. One company’s model is called The Californian.

“People can power their refrigerators or computers, providing some resilience during extended power outages,” said Susannah Churchill, California Director for Vote Solar, which advocates for sun-powered energy.

Churchill noted that these systems can be critical for people dependent on electricity to operate at-home medical equipment. “For some it’s a convenience,” she said. “For others, it can save lives.”

What if we all ditched the big utilities and went our own way?

A poke in the eye to big companies and their power cutoffs may provide momentary satisfaction and give customers a sense of control. But it’s not going to solve the blackout problem.

The vast majority of us are connected to the grid and to the big utilities that have spent 100 years building it.

The rise of small, locally run utilities, known as community choice, provides an alternative to big, for-profit utilities. In most cases, these entities use power that comes from clean energy. Scores of small towns and counties have gone this route and now operate their own mini-utilities. These suppliers reported 2.5 million customer accounts at the end of 2018.

But even they depend on the infrastructure owned by the big utilities: They’re power retailers that don’t own distribution equipment. They’re plugged into the big utilities’ wires and poles.

Example: When Pacific Gas and Electric recently shut off power to some residents in Sonoma County for fear its equipment could start a fire, Sonoma Clean Power — a community choice utility — was unable to provide power. Its customers have been in the dark along with everyone else. No backstop there.

At least one community utility, Peninsula Clean Energy, which serves 290,000 homes and businesses in San Mateo County, recently announced a $10 million investment in emergency backup power systems that would keep electricity flowing to its customers even when PG&E’s customers are in the dark.

“Peninsula Clean Energy is concerned about residents for whom power shutoffs could be life-threatening, for example, those who rely on respirators,” company CEO Jan Pepper said by email. “The idea is to keep them in their homes where they are comfortable, with clean battery backup that can keep their essential medical equipment functioning.”

More Employees Quit Because They Don’t Like Their Boss

By Vannessa Maravilla, Editor, CalChamber

Unfortunately, many workers have dealt with a bad boss in their career, and in some cases, even quit their job because of them. This kind of employee turnover is more common than you may think, and if you are losing a lot of talented employees, you should make sure your managers are not driving them away.

Almost half of professionals (49 percent) have quit a job because of a bad boss, according to an October 8, 2019, Robert Half survey.

“We’ve all heard horror stories about difficult managers — or experienced one firsthand,” Robert Half senior executive director Paul McDonald said in a press release. “Work styles and how well a person gets along with their supervisor can determine whether someone decides to join or remain at a company.”

Young professionals ages 18 to 34 (54 percent) resigned slightly more often due to a bad manager compared to professionals ages 34 to 54 (49 percent) and 55 and older (41 percent). And among the 28 U.S. cities in the study, Sacramento (66 percent) had the most workers who left a job because they didn’t like their supervisors.

“Many times open communication and training can help to resolve issues and strengthen the professional relationship between bosses and their direct reports. Employers should also commit to regularly gathering feedback on managers and developing the skills of new or potential leaders,” McDonald added.

Employers should encourage open communication (such as feedback) between supervisors and employees, and, also, train supervisors and managers on how to resolve any issues employees may have in the workplace in a diplomatic and professional manner.

Sharp Jump in Illegal Weed Seizures

By CalMatters

Authorities have seized more than 950,000 illegal marijuana plants from nearly 350 growing operations this year, up from the 614,000 plants uprooted from 254 sites in 2018, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra reports.

Voters approved Proposition 64 in 2016 legalizing commercial marijuana sales, in large part based on the promise that it would end the black market. It hasn’t.

  • The L.A. Times’ Patrick McGreevy: “California is the largest supplier of marijuana to the rest of the country, yet it is illegal to sell cannabis outside the state from licensed California farms. A new study by the research group New Frontier Data estimates that California produces 58% of the cannabis grown in the United States.”
  • Meanwhile: The Bakersfield Californian reported that law enforcement officials bulldozed hemp fields near Arvin in Kern County after tests showed the roughly 10 million plants were actually marijuana.

Hemp has industrial uses and produces CBD but doesn’t have the intoxicating level of mind-altering chemical THC found in marijuana. However, the supposed hemp plants turned out to have concentrations of THC far beyond the limit allowed for hemp.

With more than 7,000 registered acres in cultivation, Kern County has emerged as a leading producer of hemp.

November 4, 2019

Spice of Life Awards 2020

The annual Gilroy Chamber of Commerce’s Spice of Life Awards including Man and Woman of the Year have been announced to the recipients. Each year the Chamber attempts to surprise the award recipients by catching up with them at a local restaurant, their place of work or at a Chamber breakfast.

The Chamber Board of Directors added a new category, “Young Professional of the Year.” With numerous nominations to consider, the Board decided to award two young professionals with this year’s honor.

Following the incident at the Garlic Festival, several agencies and organizations rose up and demonstrated incredible courage, strength and leadership following the tragedy. The Chamber Board also wanted to recognize those organizations for their efforts as well. Below are the names and categories of the 2020 Spice of Life Awards.

Man of the Year – Jaime Rosso

Woman of the Year – Elaine Bonino

Large Business of the Year – Cresco

Small Business of the Year – Straw Hat Pizza

Non-Profit Organization of the Year – South County Tail Waggers

Volunteer of the Year – Lisa Blagof

Young Professional of the Year – Majesta Patterson and Gianfranco Felice

Susan Valenta Youth Leadership Award – Jane Tovar

Special Recognition Awards – Gilroy Police, Gilroy Fire and The Gilroy Foundation

The Spice of Life Awards Dinner is scheduled for Saturday, February 1 beginning at 5:00 pm and will be held at the Granada Theater in Morgan Hill. This year’s theme is “The Roaring 20”s.” Tickets are $90 each and expected to go fast.

To purchase tickets, call the Chamber office at 408-842-6437.


For Leaders Only

By Gilroy Chamber of Commerce President/CEO, Mark Turner

3 Lessons Learned From Frogs About Making Procrastination Croak

Having recently watched The 10 Commandments, starring Charlton Heston, I was reminded of the Biblical account of the plagues that came upon Egypt, most notably the plague of frogs and how we can sometimes feel overrun by all the things we need to get done. There was no escaping frogs as they were everywhere. Frogs where in their houses, bedrooms, beds, ovens, even in their jars of flour. Sometimes it can feel that same way when our to-do list grows as we go from one meeting to another taking on more action items to complete. Everywhere we turn there is something that needs to be done. No matter where we are, whether at home, in bed trying to sleep, making dinner, or with our friends, we think about all the tasks that need our attention.

When Pharaoh had seen enough frogs he summoned Moses to finally put an end to the problem. When Moses asked Pharaoh when he wanted Moses to take action, Pharaoh replied, “Do it tomorrow.” With millions of frogs in the land of Egypt and the opportunity to rid the land of the problem, Pharaoh did what so many of us do when overwhelmed by a growing list of demands, he delegated it to tomorrow. Pharaoh, the King of Egypt, in one act, became Pharaoh, the King of Procrastination.

Overcoming procrastination is never easy but there are some steps that can be taken to help move toward a more aggressive approach to completing tasks, satisfying commitments, and fulfilling responsibilities.

Summarize the Problem (Tasks)

Creating a to-do list is one of the most important components of completing and fulfilling one’s obligations. Too often people attempt to keep a running list of all their tasks, promises and commitments in their heads only to forget what was promised to who and by when. Don’t forget, there’s an app for that. Task management software and apps by the dozen are available to assist in one’s effort to compile and track all your to dos. “Ta-da List,” “Evernote,” and “Remember the Milk,” are just a few of the more popular apps that can be downloaded. If writing out a list of tasks is simpler, then grab a piece of paper and do so. Use a journal to track your daily list, a wire bound note book or a Franklin Planner, but whatever you do, write it or log it somewhere.

Prioritize the List

Since thoughts of what to do come at us randomly, it’s good to list the items as they come. Take the time to list all that you need to do and then assign a priority rating to each item. Develop a priority rating schedule that works best for you but you may want to consider 3 priority categories to choose from, 1) the tasks that must be done promptly or immediately, 2) the tasks that should be done soon, and 3) the tasks that can be delayed without any problem.

Capitalize on the Opportunity to Do It Now

Once your list is summarized and prioritized it’s time to capitalize on the opportunity to do it now. Get to work on completing the items on your list, check them off as you go and move unfinished tasks to the next day. Keeping a prioritized list will minimize your thoughts to procrastinate and help you to get more things done allowing you to sleep better at night.

Remember, when there are frogs in your flour, act now!


PG&E Knew for Years...

PG&E Knew for Years Its Line Could Spark Wildfires, and Didn’t Fix Them
By Katherine Blunt and Russell Gold, Wall Street Journal

PG&E Corp. knew for years that hundreds of miles of high-voltage power lines could fail and spark fires, yet it repeatedly failed to perform the necessary upgrades.

Documents obtained by The Wall Street Journal under the Freedom of Information Act and in connection with a regulatory dispute over PG&E’s spending on its electrical grid show that the company has long been aware that parts of its 18,500-mile transmission system have reached the end of their useful lives.

The failure last year of a century-old transmission line that sparked a wildfire, killed 85 people and destroyed the town of Paradise wasn’t an aberration, the documents show. A year earlier, PG&E executives conceded to a state lawyer that the company needed to process many projects, all at once, to prevent system failures—a problem they said could be likened to a “pig in the python.”

Even before November’s deadly fire, the documents show, the company knew that 49 of the steel towers that carry the electrical line that failed needed to be replaced entirely.

In a 2017 internal presentation, the large San Francisco-based utility estimated that its transmission towers were an average of 68 years old. Their mean life expectancy was 65 years. The oldest steel towers were 108 years old.

PG&E, which supplies electricity and natural gas to 16 million people, or about one in 20 Americans, operates one of the oldest long-distance electrical transmission networks in the world. It was built beginning in the early 1900s to carry hydroelectric power from the Sierra Nevada to the San Francisco Bay Area. Many of its original steel towers and other equipment are still in service.

The danger posed by PG&E’s neglect of its transmission lines increased around 2013, when a historic drought dried up much of California, creating extraordinary fire conditions. In its 2017 internal presentation, the company said it needed a plan to replace towers and better manage lines to prevent “structure failure resulting [in] conductor on ground causing fire.”

Nevertheless, PG&E repeatedly delayed upgrades of some of its oldest transmission lines, ranking them as low-risk projects, while it spent billions of dollars on other work it considered higher priority, such as substation upgrades, according to federal regulatory filings.

Among the problems, the utility has struggled to figure out which of its lines needed the most attention.

Until recently, PG&E hadn’t regularly climbed its towers to inspect their condition, despite the suggestion of an outside consultant it hired, according to interviews with current and former company officials and documents filed in connection with a spending dispute between PG&E and state regulators. It began detailed inspections of its transmission lines only after the Camp Fire that destroyed Paradise.

In addition to those inspections, PG&E said it began using drones and helicopters earlier this year to capture images of its transmission structures to analyze their condition, identify potential points of failure and prioritize repairs.

State fire officials concluded in May that a failure of PG&E equipment on a line known as the Caribou-Palermo, built in 1921, caused the fire, the deadliest in California history.

Federal and state regulators have paid little attention to the condition of PG&E’s transmission system, and have largely left it up to the company to decide what to upgrade and when. California officials are proposing adding more inspections and oversight.

Utilities across the U.S. have neglected to maintain older high-voltage lines, many built to support booming population growth in the decades before and after World War II, said Gregory Reed, director of the Energy GRID Institute at the University of Pittsburgh.

“We have known for a long time that we are dealing with aging and antiquated infrastructure,” he said. “In a lot of cases, the business model was to wait for a failure and then respond.”

PG&E sought bankruptcy protection in January, citing more than $30 billion in potential liability stemming from lawsuits and other claims related to its role in sparking fires. The company in December began “enhanced inspections” that included climbing towers, some for the first time in decades.

After completing those inspections, the company disclosed June 19 that it needs to make thousands of repairs. And it decided to permanently shut down the Caribou-Palermo line after assessing the amount of work it would take to operate it safely.

PG&E said it already has repaired or made spot fixes to the most severe problems it uncovered throughout its system. Risks remain, and the company said it is working to prioritize and address them as wildfire season progresses.

“The reality is the number of safety risks that we’ve found from our standpoint is unacceptable,” said Sumeet Singh, vice president of the company’s community wildfire safety program.

Elizaveta Malashenko, the safety and enforcement chief for the California Public Utilities Commission, said that after reviewing the inspection results, she “would not be comfortable making a statement that [the Caribou-Palermo] was an outlier.”

Ms. Malashenko said the CPUC’s safety auditors have historically relied on utility records rather than field inspections, which are far more costly to conduct. After the Camp Fire, the agency has asked the state for $25 million to create a three-year program to put its own inspectors in the field, in part because of the problems PG&E has discovered within its system.

“No matter how you look at it, PG&E has a lot of work to do,” she said.

The part of PG&E’s grid that includes the Caribou-Palermo line, known as the Caribou-Valona system, is so old that segments were considered candidates for the National Register of Historic Places at one point by federal agencies. Approximately 800 of the original steel towers built to hold up the transmission lines are still in use, according to PG&E correspondence with federal officials, uncovered through a public-records request.

PG&E delayed safety work on the Caribou-Palermo line for more than five years, the Journal reported in February.

The company needed to replace 49 steel towers “due to age,” and hardware and aluminum line on 57 towers “due to age and integrity,” according to memos PG&E officials sent in 2017 and early 2018 to the U.S. Forest Service, whose territory the line crosses. The Journal learned the scope of the work, which hasn’t previously been reported, through a Freedom of Information Act request to federal forest managers.

PG&E has delayed maintenance work on several lines in Northern California’s highest-threat fire areas, including at least one near the Plumas National Forest, federal documents show. The company hasn’t detailed the scope of the work needed for each line, but it has disclosed that some require upgrades similar to those needed on the Caribou-Palermo line it stopped using.

The deferred maintenance became a problem when drought this decade killed millions of trees, greatly heightening the risk of wildfire throughout Northern California. State fire officials concluded that the company’s equipment sparked 18 wildfires in 2017, in most cases because trees made contact with lower-voltage lines.

In response, the company doubled down on tree trimming. The Camp Fire forced PG&E to turn its attention to higher-voltage lines, which typically run through wide paths cleared of trees.

Documents show that PG&E is unaware of the exact age of many of its transmission towers and wires. In 2010, PG&E commissioned consulting firm Quanta Technology, a subsidiary of Quanta Services Inc., to assess the age and condition of transmission structures throughout its 70,000-square-mile service area.

The firm was unable to determine the age of about 6,900 towers in the 115-kilovolt system. It found that nearly 30% of the remaining towers in that system, more than 3,500, were installed in the 1900s and 1910s. About 60% of the structures in the 230-kilovolt system were built between 1920 and 1950.

It is common practice for utilities to use laser imaging equipment to inspect towers instead of having workers climb them. Because PG&E had so many old towers, Quanta concluded that the company should consider climbing at least a sample of them every three to five years.

PG&E didn’t implement that recommendation, said Placido J. Martinez, a former PG&E head of strategic asset management. “We felt we were doing enough,” he said.

Regulators have little say over such transmission-maintenance planning. Although PG&E files transmission-spending plans with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the agency’s jurisdiction is over rates and terms of service. If state officials or electric companies that rely on PG&E’s wires want to challenge the utility’s spending, it is up to them to parse the annual federal filings, which often exceed 1,500 pages. Projects that involve routine maintenance, such as replacing aging towers, hardware and conductors, don’t require state or federal approval.

California regulators have hundreds of pages of rules for many aspects of utility operations. Their rules for transmission are three sentences long. They simply say that each utility must come up with its own procedures and follow them.

With no regulator keeping a close eye, the timetable for completing important upgrades slipped. PG&E told federal regulators it planned to overhaul the Caribou-Palermo line in 2013, yet it still hadn’t made improvements when a piece of hardware holding a high-voltage line failed last November, sending sparks into the grass and igniting the Camp Fire.

After the Journal reported earlier this year that the planned upgrades to that line had been delayed, PG&E released a statement saying the work was “not maintenance-related (i.e., work relating to identifying and fixing broken or worn parts).”

Internally, however, that is how the company characterized it. In a 2017 email to Forest Service officials, PG&E land planner Paul Marotto wrote that the company’s “planned maintenance includes structure replacement, conductor replacement, conductor re-tensioning, installation of new insulators and structure modifications.” PG&E officials said the work was needed in part because the strength of the aging towers and wires had deteriorated.

Asked about the email, PG&E said it still disputes that the work was maintenance related, saying it was needed to adhere to 2010 industry guidelines that called on companies to ensure their transmission lines met design specifications.

PG&E has told state regulators it has struggled to consolidate data on the condition of its equipment. Kevin Dasso, PG&E’s vice president of electric asset management until earlier this year, said the lack of comprehensive information made it difficult to determine which transmission lines were approaching the point of failure.

In 2018, when PG&E proposed a spending plan to federal regulators for thousands of transmission-line upgrades, it used a risk-based system to prioritize the projects. Nearly 600 projects, with an estimated $2.7 billion cost, had a higher risk score than Caribou-Palermo, indicating PG&E considered that work more urgent.

PG&E said it has improved its records in recent years by conducting inventories in the field and has built databases to upgrade its analytical capabilities.

Other PG&E transmission lines at least as old as the Caribou-Palermo remain in service. One leg of the Caribou-Valona network, known as the Ignacio-Mare Island line, delivers power to an electric switchyard at the edge of a high-fire-risk area in Marin County north of the Golden Gate Bridge and a now-closed naval shipyard. At least 28 of the towers on the line have been in place since 1921, according to a company inventory.

PG&E has repeatedly delayed work on the line, which has segments sagging too close to the ground, since first proposing it in 2014, federal regulatory filings show. The $6.9 million project, which involves increasing the height of 44 towers, was initially expected to be completed in 2015 but now is slated to start next year, the company said.

The company also has delayed upgrades to several 115-kilovolt lines passing through national forests that have become California’s highest-risk fire areas, the filings indicate. A line partly in the Plumas National Forest was slated for work this year, but was delayed and now is on hold because of the Camp Fire investigation.

A line built to carry hydroelectric power through the Eldorado and Stanislaus national forests was scheduled for upgrades in 2016, but work isn’t expected to start until the second half of next year. A line in the Los Padres National Forest near San Luis Obispo was initially set for upgrades in 2015 that now are scheduled to start in 2021.

PG&E acknowledged in its 2017 internal presentation that it had poor age data on the towers in its 60-kilovolt system. The company recently targeted one leg for extensive work after discovering that 10 towers within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area were at high risk of failure.

A June 5 letter from PG&E said the towers are in “critical condition with noticeable material loss and ground erosion” and require round-the-clock monitoring. The company estimated it will take more than a year to replace towers and make permanent repairs.


California Has One of Worst Lawsuit Climates in Country

California Has One of Worst Lawsuit Climates in Country, Business Survey Shows

California has one of the worst lawsuit climates in the country, affecting companies’ decisions on whether to do business in the state, according to a recent survey of senior U.S. business executives.

The state comes almost last in the overall national ranking, at No. 48, in the 2019 Lawsuit Climate Survey: Ranking the States, conducted for the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform by The Harris Poll.

The survey confirms that a state’s litigation environment has an impact on important business decisions, such as where to locate or do business. In fact, 89 percent of survey respondents reported that a state’s litigation environment is likely to affect important business decisions at their companies, which could have economic consequences for California.

Survey Findings

Survey respondents were asked to rank the state a whole, rather than focus on specific cities or counties.

In an effort to pinpoint the states’ strengths and weaknesses, the survey asked respondents about 10 key areas of state liability systems. These key element areas were then organized by the top five best and worst states.

California landed in the “Worst” category for nine out of the 10 key areas; it did not land in any “Best” category. The state stands among the worst in:

  • Enforcing meaningful venue requirements;
  • Overall treatment of tort and contract litigation;
  • Treatment of class action suits and mass consolidation suits;
  • Damages;
  • Proportional discovery;
  • Trial judges’ impartiality;
  • Trial judges’ competence;
  • Juries’ fairness; and
  • Quality of appellate review.

When asked to single out specific cities or counties that might affect a state’s ranking, respondents identified two out of the five worst jurisdictions as being located in California: San Francisco and Los Angeles.

PAGA Lawsuits Have Been a Concern for Business Community for Years

By Rich Peters, Northern California Record

SACRAMENTO – Stanislaus County Supervisor Kristin Olsen issued a warning in a recent op-ed in The Modesto Bee explaining that businesses in her county have spent millions settling Private Attorney General Act (PAGA) lawsuits, taking away money that would be better spent in other places that serve more purpose.

“Several well-known, award-winning businesses in our county have spent millions settling PAGA lawsuits, taking that money away from being able to reinvest in their businesses and employees, not to mention in our community,” wrote Olsen. “It’s time that we, as a community, call upon state leaders to fix issues with PAGA claims.”

Olsen called PAGA an existential threat to businesses and is calling for reforms. Her warning comes in the wake of Gov. Gavin Newsom signing Senate Bill 142, which expands the rights of lactating mothers in the workplace, requiring employers to set aside space. Some employer attorneys say PAGA lawsuits will increase due to the provisions of SB 142.

A California Chamber of Commerce leader says PAGA has been an issue with businesses for a long time.

“The Private Attorney General lawsuits under the labor code has been a concern for the business community for years and it’s just growing with the addition of new laws in the labor code,” said Jennifer Barrera, executive vice president of the California Chamber of Commerce. “Basically, any amendment to the labor code can potentially create a new avenue for litigation under PAGA.”

It’s not a case of whether or not a push for reform of the law will take place, but whether efforts will be successful as previous attempts have been sidelined due to lobbying efforts of supporters.

“There’s been multiple efforts to amend the Private Attorney General Act to add some common sense reforms to it, but those bills have all been stopped in their first policy committees by the trial attorneys and labor unions who generally oppose it,” said Barrera.

Olsen, along with many others across the state, are hoping that their message sticks in an effort to push through business-favorable changes to the bill.