PG&E, City of Fresno team up to help businesses

FRESNO, Calif.

The incentive program would lower the power costs of businesses by 35 percent if they stay in the Valley or come from out of state. The new rate is being welcomed by many businesses trying to catch a break.

A lot of man power goes into producing more than 15 million pounds of salami a year at the Busseto Foods plant in Southwest Fresno. But energy used to run the machines is eating up much of the operational costs. "To produce these 15 million pounds, we spend about $800,000 a year in electricity.

And that high power cost has president Mike Grazier thinking about moving his plant out of Fresno - and out of the state - to save money. And he's not the only one. On Tuesday, Fresno mayor Ashley Swearengin joined other city mayors from the Valley to express their support for an incentive program to keep businesses put.

"We see businesses fleeing all the time. It's usually the case that there's 2 or 3 reasons why and all related to costs and regulations as to why they're leaving this area," said Swearengin.

The mayor has crafted a proposal with PG&E to lower the energy costs of medium to large sized businesses that use more than 200 kilowatts of power. "It would enable businesses that are expanding in any of the high unemployment areas in the PG&E service territory to receive a 35 percent discount on their power bills," said Swearengin.

The new electric rate is aimed at retaining as well as luring new businesses to the Valley to help spur job growth. But first, the proposal must go through the state's Public Utilities Commission. A public hearing was held in council chambers Tuesday to get input.

"As we continue to grow, one day, we want to combine operations and base that either in the West, which is our preference, or in the East. So we hope measures like this help just solidify the reasons to stay right here in Fresno," said Grazier.

If passed, the new rate would likely go in affect within a year. And Grazier said that would give him more than enough reason to keep and expand his factory in Fresno - and hire more workers.

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