By Robert Rogers
Chevron Corp. invested $1 million in seven nonprofits focused on improving science and math education and enhancing economic development in Richmond. On Wednesday, about more than 100 people came to the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts to hear leaders from the seven organizations report on what they accomplished with the money over the last year.
Leaders from each group presented short videos highlighting what they did with the money and provided statistics demonstrating everything from improved high school students’ grade point averages to employment placements for job trainees in North Richmond.
Nigel Hearne, general manager of Chevron’s Richmond Refinery, said the experimental funding program which Chevron tried for the first time in 2011 was a success, and was something the corporation would continue in the community where it has operated for more than a century.
“We want this community to be successful, and we’re going to do that in three areas,” Hearne said. “One is education, because that is the foundation. The second is about vocational training and jobs and careers. And the other one is supporting local businesses—spending more of our money on local businesses, because ultimately those three things flow together.”
The event, titled “Education and Entrepreneurship: Powering Richmond’s Economy,” allowed nonprofit leaders to highlight the importance of closing the skills gap amongst young people and adults to improve Richmond’s economic health.
The seven nonprofits among which the $1 million was divided are: Chevron Mathematics Coach Initiative of the West Contra Costa Unified School District, which funded math instruction coaches to work improve area teacher performance. The Gooden College Connection STEM Project, which provided students at John F. Kennedy and Richmond high schools with science, technology, engineering and math tutoring. The MESA Schools Program at California State University East Bay, which also focused on STEM education. Rubicon’s North Richmond Transitional Work Program, which provided certificate job training programs and helped 16 residents gain employment. Greater Richmond Interfaith Program’s (GRIP) Career Pipelines Workforce Development Initiative, which resulted in more than 30 job placements. RichmondBUILD Green Careers Academy and West Contra Costa Business Development Center’s Local Economic Development Initiative (LEDI) were the other two, with the Business Development Center working to train local contractors on how to obtain public contracts.
There was no discussion Wednesday of Chevron Corp.’s failed bid to sue the Contra Costa County Assessor’s Office for property tax reductions, which was rejected by an Assessment Appeals Board earlier this month. Chevron’s lawyers argued unsuccessfully that the Richmond refinery was unfairly assessed and that the county and cities should refund the energy corporation up to $73 million. Instead, the board ruled that Chevron must pay millions more.
Councilman Jim Rogers, who opposed Chevron’s appeal, praised the company for investing in local education programs at a time when public funding sources are increasingly strained. Rogers added that he felt that leaders at the local refinery were doing all they can to sustain and expand philanthropic efforts in Richmond.
“I hope this isn’t confidential,” Rogers told the crowd. “But I hear there is talk of a doubling of nonprofit [contributions] with [Chevron] leaders in San Ramon, and I deeply appreciate Richmond Chevron for helping make this happen.”
The $1 million grant program for science and math development is just one portion of Chevron’s philanthropic efforts. According to a company press release, Chevron donated about $3.5 million to community programs in Richmond and other West Contra Costa County Communities in 2011. Click here to see chart of Chevron’s local giving: 2011 Community Spend Flyer
Hearne added in a closing speech that Richmond can expect an expanded role for Chevron and it’s local employees in community affairs. “There is more than just money available at Chevron,” Hearne said. “There are 1,200 people there, that I have made an explicit expectation to that they find a way to participate in community growth.”