By Tracy Correa
FRESNO – PG&E was honored as the Corporation of the Year by the Fresno Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on Friday night (May 17) in front of a packed room of about 400 business and community leaders.
The award was presented to Greg Pruett, PG&E’s senior vice president of corporate affairs, at the chamber’s annual Developing Hispanic Leaders Gala Night held at the Bankers Ballroom in downtown Fresno. The formal gala – featuring a keynote speech by former U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis – is the chamber’s largest annual event.
The award recognized PG&E’s ongoing commitment and support of the Hispanic chamber in recent years as it teetered on the financial brink.
PG&E helps in challenging times
“This really could be the Corporation of the Last Three Years award,” said Dora Westerlund, president and CEO of the Fresno Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce as she prepared to present the award on stage.
“When we were faced with very challenging times, they stood by us. When others were stepping back, they stepped forward,” she said. Then, Westerlund announced the Corporation of the Year award to PG&E for “their outstanding support and commitment.”
Pruett accepted the award on behalf of PG&E. He said, “It’s truly our privilege to support Dora and the chamber and the work that they do… We could think of no better partner than the chamber.” He added, “We look at it as investment that is paying dividends far beyond anything that we could have imagined.”
In 2013, PG&E will provide the chamber with a $75,000 grant that will help support the Developing Hispanic Leaders Night Gala, business workshops, monthly membership breakfast events called Negociantes Unidos and the continued expansion of the Downtown Business Hub building and programs.
Last year, the utility contributed $75,000 to the Hispanic chamber and in 2011, PG&E gave $80,000 to help launch its business incubator. The funding went to the Fresno Area Hispanic Foundation, the non-profit arm of the Chamber of Commerce, to help support economic development programs, workshops and classes for startup and existing businesses covering a range of business, financial and legal topics. The business incubator – named the Downtown Business Hub — offers advice, training, office space, workshops, financial assistance, and other services to grow job-creating startup companies.
Corporate support helps chamber grow
Westerlund said support from companies such as PG&E has allowed the chamber to continue to foster the growth of new Hispanic-owned businesses. Last year, the chamber assisted 700 businesses and helped create more than 400 jobs. And, Westerlund said the Downtown Business Hub will be expanding with 10 additional second-floor offices that will allow the chamber to help even more businesses.
The event program included the keynote address from Solis on “The State of Latinos in the Economy and Workforce.” And Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin spoke about the state of the city.
Among the hundreds of community and business leaders in attendance were Fresno Assembly members Henry T. Perea and Jim Patterson and Fresno City Council members Blong Xiong and Paul Caprioglio.
In addition to PG&E, the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians was recognized with the Lifetime Achievement Award and former Mexican Consul Martha Elvia Rosas was presented with the Start-Up Business of the Year award as CEO of the new America Hispanic Consulting Group.
E-mail Tracy Correa at Tracy.Correa@pge.com