By Tracy Correa
TULARE – Hard hats and utility trucks joined cowboy hats and tractors at the 46th annual World Ag Expo, held recently in the heart of the agriculturally-rich Central San Joaquin Valley.
The show attracted 100,000 people from some 70 different countries. And PG&E was there, too, seizing the opportunity to connect with its ag-based customers and anyone else in attendance at the International Agri-Center in Tulare, about 50 miles south of Fresno.
“Agriculture is a very important customer class and a huge segment of our customer base,” said Patrick Mullen, director of local service integration in PG&E’s Customer Care department and a member of its Ag Task Force.
Mullen said the expo “is one of the key venues” for PG&E to reach an increasingly important business sector and the company’s presence has become an annual tradition.
The importance of agriculture can’t be overstated. Ag is big business in California and a major segment of PG&E’s service sector representing about 15 percent of all of PG&E’s non-residential revenue and about 90,000 accounts. The industry is a major economic driver representing about one in 10 California jobs.
In California’s ag industry, everything from dairies to fruit farms rely on PG&E-supplied energy to keep operations running smoothly and efficiently. And Freddy Alcoser, utility supervisor at J.G. Boswell Tomato Company in Corcoran, said he was interested in energy-saving tips from PG&E as he toured the company’s exhibit area.
“In our business, high power bills can take away from profit,” said Alcoser.
The world’s largest agricultural gathering
Anyone who cares about agriculture is familiar with the World Ag Expo. The event is billed as the largest annual agricultural exposition of its kind with more than 1,400 exhibitors displaying cutting-edge ag technology and equipment on 2.6 million square feet of show grounds.
In addition to exhibits, the event offers seminars ranging from international trade to irrigation and general agricultural-related topics.
This year, PG&E had a consolidated exhibit area compared to years past when the company’s information and displays were in several locations. At its corner site, PG&E featured a vintage truck, a Mobile Command Vehicle, an inline pipeline inspection tool known as a smart “pig,” utility pole-climbing demonstrations and even a photo area where young attendees could don PG&E hard hats and vests and have their picture taken. The company also had employees on hand to talk to customers and answer questions about public safety, vegetation management, service planning, rebates and even recruiting.
As part of its commitment and partnership with agriculture, PG&E recently presented the Future Farmers of America with $30,000 to help fund ongoing educational programs and scholarship. The FFA works with students to prepare future generations for the challenges of feeding a growing population. Students worked with PG&E to help welcome visitors to the Ag Expo.
A family affair
Also visiting PG&E’s booth was the Gutierrez family from the small Fresno County town of Orange Cove. They are an example of how the Ag Expo has grown to attract families in a sort of county fair-like way.
Luis Gutierrez, cold storage supervisor for Mountain View Cold Storage in Reedley, comes out every year. Now, he is joined by wife Margaret and their son and daughter, ages 11 and 13.
“I like to look at what is out here, like the new type of forklifts,” said Luis Gutierrez.
He said learning about new products, including how to save money on energy costs, makes the annual trip to the Ag Expo worthwhile. He said PG&E has helped his employer, which stores fruit and other products, save money after conducting an energy audit and suggesting changes for operating more efficiently.
The Ag Expo returns again next year during the second week of February.
Email Tracy Correa at firstname.lastname@example.org