|Chevron Steps up to the Plate
May 22, 2005
According to the Richmond City website, Chevron employees 2,442 persons in Richmond, about the same as in its headquarters in San Ramon. It is unclear whether this includes Chevron Research, which could make the Richmond figure even higher. The following story from the May 21 San Francisco Chronicle is interesting for comparing the image of Chevron in San Ramon to that of Richmond.
In Richmond, Chevron makes the products that make the company money, leaving 999,328 pounds of toxic emissions in Richmond annually. In San Ramon, Chevron just makes money. We know that Chevron participates in and helps fund Richmond community activities and non-profit organizations, but we will wager that San Ramon and surrounding communities, not exactly in the needy category, benefit far more than Richmond.
When Richmond closed its branch libraries and shrunk service at the Main Library to subsistence level, Chevron stepped up the plate – in San Ramon: “The company, for example, spearheaded a drive one year to raise thousands of dollars in corporate donations to save the San Ramon Library from severe budget cuts, Brink said. The company also underwrites the library's jazz collection, one of the largest of its kind, he said.”
According to the Chevron website, the company gave about $117,000 to Richmond organizations in 2002, the last year for which detailed information is available on Chevron’s website. The largest recipients, at about $25,000 each, were Kid’s First, the Richmond Improvement Association and PAL. The same year, Chevron gave about $135,000 to organizations in cities in the I-680 corridor, including San Ramon and Walnut Creek. Chevron gave a total of $61 million to charitable causes in 2003.
It is estimated that Chevron spends more on lobbyists and campaign contributions in Richmond than it contributes to community organizations. We, for one, encourage Chevron to re-examine its financial commitment to Richmond. There are huge unmet needs in this city, and Chevron could really make a difference.
San Ramon Mayor Abram Wilson remembers standing in a reception line in Beijing recently with other U.S. mayors when U.S. Ambassador to China Clark Randt saw Wilson's name tag and where he was from.
"He said, 'San Ramon. ChevronTexaco. I want to talk to you,' '' Wilson recalled Randt saying. Wilson said the two later talked about business opportunities for Chinese entrepreneurs in San Ramon, the growing Contra Costa County city that hosts the world headquarters of oil giant Chevron, which dropped Texaco from its name earlier this month.
"A lot of this had to do with the perception of San Ramon, that Chevron is there, they have a world-class business park there, they must know what they're doing,'' Wilson said. "It's been amazing as far as putting San Ramon on the map.''
Chevron, which had $155.3 billion in revenue in 2004, has called San Ramon home since 2002, when it officially transferred its corporate flag after more than 120 years in downtown San Francisco.
The transfer completed a slow transition of the company's administrative offices that started in the mid-1980s, when employees first moved into the 143- acre Chevron Park complex. Back then, San Ramon, which incorporated as a city in 1983, was a small suburb with about 20,000 residents.
It also had an unfavorable nickname to those employees being transferred from the big city because the town seemed to be stuck in the middle of nowhere.
"A lot of people used to refer to San Ramon as 'San Remote,' " said Toby Brink, president and chief executive officer of the San Ramon Chamber of Commerce.
Today, San Ramon has more than 50,000 residents and expects to have a population of 90,000 by the end of the decade.
Chevron isn't the city's largest employer. A regional SBC Communications complex in the Bishop Ranch Business Park will grow to about 7,500 workers in the next 12 months, according to city officials. By the city's estimates, Chevron employs about 2,500 at Chevron Park, although a company spokeswoman declined to confirm that number, citing security reasons.
But beyond the obvious economic impacts of having its employees shopping and dining in the city, Brink and other civic leaders say Chevron's mostly unheralded contributions to local business, educational and cultural activities have helped the city erase that "San Remote" nickname.
The company, for example, spearheaded a drive one year to raise thousands of dollars in corporate donations to save the San Ramon Library from severe budget cuts, Brink said. The company also underwrites the library's jazz collection, one of the largest of its kind, he said.
Esther Lucas, the city's manager of recreation services, said Chevron has donated about $6,500 a year to fund the San Ramon Senior Center van for the past decade. The company also donates money to support the city's annual Art and Wind Festival, Fourth of July fireworks show and summer concert series.
And Terry Koehne, a spokesman for the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, said the company has had a tremendous impact by donating funds for educational programs, providing translators to help out non-English-speaking students, sponsoring an Ethics Day for local high school students and business leaders, and allowing employees to volunteer at schools on company time.
"I don't know of any other company that has structured a program that allows their employees to take paid time off in order to volunteer in their child's classroom,'' Koehne said.
And then there's the instant around-the-globe name recognition Chevron brings to San Ramon whenever the company is in the news, such as the firm's $18.4 billion deal to buy rival Unocal Corp.
Wilson, the mayor, said the city even gets a positive spin from news events such the anti-Iraq war protests staged outside Chevron's front gates.
Wilson said he heard from protesters who said, "Your police are so nice. If we have to be arrested, we'd like to be arrested in San Ramon.''E-mail Benny Evangelista at firstname.lastname@example.org.