Partnerships, diversity and investment, the three words most emphasized by Southern California Edison (SCE) last week when it honored three Hispanic-owned businesses and a scholarship foundation during a special program held in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.
The event, part business, part education forum and part entertainment, was held at SCE’s Energy Education in the City of Industry. It was billed as a celebration of business and community partnerships.
An enthusiastic Gene Rodrigues, Director, Customer Energy Efficiency & Solar Division, started the program by telling the 200 or so guests that SCE sees “Diversity as something that brings us together to create a more robust system.”
“We do not just want to be a company in California, we want to be part of California,” he said, so that means diversity has to be a part of everything we do. Why? “Because it just makes good sense,” he said.
Rodrigues said Hispanic Heritage Month is a good time to pay tribute to Hispanics business owners for the contributions they make to our communities, referring to the economic development they create.
SCE is committed to building relationships with Hispanic-owned businesses, “Not to just get your business, but to understand your business,” Rodrigues said, adding that the company tries to work with its customers to help them find the best solutions for their energy needs, and to save money.
Ted Craver, chairman, president and CEO of Edison International, SCE’s parent company, noted that the company and its employees contribute millions of dollars and thousands of volunteer hours to the community. We don’t think of it as philanthropy, charity, but an investment in the community, he said. “We can’t just pick up our business and move, so it makes sense that we invest in the community, in education” to strengthen the economy and improve the workforce, he said. “If we don’t, we won’t have a business.”
That sentiment was echoed by two guest speakers invited by SCE.
J. Michael Ortiz, PHd., president of California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, discussed the latest numbers on Hispanic educational attainment. He emphasized the importance of “expectations,” and the role it plays in Latinos furthering their education. He said more than ever, education is key to economic security: “For our people (Hispanics) education is the front door, it’s how we move forward in the future.”
Monica Gil, Senior Vice President Public Affairs and Government Relations for Nielsen, a global provider of information and data on everything from television viewership to Internet usage and grocery shopping patterns, drove home the point that “Latinos are the most coveted demographic — whether they play “futbol or football, dance salsa or eat salsa”— by corporate America. “And I have the data to prove it,” she said.
She said corporations don’t know what to do about Hispanics, even Nielsen had a hard time figuring out what to do with her, but added it’s time for companies to “embrace” the things that make Hispanics unique,” and for Hispanics to be proud of their culture. Hispanics in the U.S. have one trillion dollars in purchasing power, and if they “were their own country, they would be the 12th largest economy in the world, just below France and right above Korea,” she said.
SCE also introduced its Hispanic business award recipients, chosen for their efforts and partnerships with SCE that have resulted in substantial improvements in energy usage.
Two companies received SCE’s Energy Efficiency Participation Award. C & F Foods, owned by the Faura family, distributes and exports dried beans, peas, rice and popcorn. In 2011, they installed the Smartcool refrigeration system that saves them about 76.444 kilowatt-hours annually.
Glasswerks LA, Inc specializes in glass products and services, and was founded by Ruben Huerta, Randy Steinberg and Ed Rosengrant. The company participated in SCE’s customized and Express Solutions program, and received $77,000 in rebates for installing energy saving technology that saved them 742,913 kilowatt hours annually.
Carob Valley Electric provides technical and construction assistance to SCE, for its substations for public utilities and municipalities. Company President Edward Chavez accepted SCE’s Diverse Business Enterprise Award.
A non-business group was also honored last Friday. The Esperanza Scholarship Foundation was the recipient of SCE’s Community Partnership Award. Since its beginning, the foundation has provided more than $500,000 in scholarship with assistance from their community and business partners.