Company pledges charitable involvement
by Jon Mendelson
Mar 29, 2013 | 1551 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The sale of a company that ran a power plant west of Tracy has cast doubt on thousands of dollars a local committee had planned to distribute to charities in town.

GWF Energy, which had run a power plant off West Schulte Road since 2003, was purchased Dec. 13 by Houston-based Star West Generation LLC.

Since its plant first fired up, GWF had given up to $55,000 a year for 10 years — in addition to a lump sum of $200,000 — to a committee of Tracy residents who decided how to spend the money on local scholarships and charities.

In 2012, GWF officials agreed to extend the company’s annual giving after committee treasurer Gene Birk found that $240,000 of the money went missing under the direction of a Pleasanton-based holding company, Tri-Valley Community Foundation.

But the sale to Star Energy terminated GWF’s agreement, according to Star West CEO Malcolm Jacobson. As of March 20, Birk said there was “zip” in the committee’s account.

Without the money, Birk said the committee could not fulfill four $2,500 scholarships for graduating high schoolers or give away an anticipated $45,000 to charities such as Tracy Interfaith Ministries and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Tracy.

“There’s all these organizations and young people hoping they get the scholarships and hoping they get the funding, and we can’t honestly say to any of them yes or no,” he said. “We don’t know.”

But on Wednesday, March 27, Jacobson said his company would likely fund at least the scholarships.

“We want to figure out a way sooner rather than later to make those scholarships happen,” he said. “I think it’s fair to say over the next month or so, we’d like to figure that out at least for those immediate needs. I don’t want scholarship recipients, who I understand have already been chosen, to not receive a scholarship.”

As for the rest of the money, Jacobson said Star West wanted to contribute to local charities, but he and Star West managers in Tracy were still trying to figure out how to “put dollars where it means the most.”

“We’re trying to figure out what’s the best way to move forward — how can we have the biggest impact in the community?” Jacobson said.

He said Star West, which operates five natural gas-fueled power plants in Arizona and California, has sponsored groups like the Boys and Girls Club in other cities and would have done similar work in Tracy even if GWF had not been a charitable giver.

“Frankly, we’re thrilled to be a part of that,” he said. “We would be doing that anyway — it’s what we do as a good corporate citizen.”

Birk felt “very good” about a March 20 meeting with Jacobson, fellow committee member Shawn Kelley, Tracy City Manager Leon Churchill and two officials from the former GWF.

He said Star West could have a substantial impact on Tracy charities.

“It’s important to us — it’s important to the city,” Birk said. “We just hope we’re successful in having them on board.”

Jacobson said that although no money had officially been pledged and another meeting with the committee had not been scheduled, he would “absolutely” follow up.

“We are part of the community,” he said. “Our people who are living and working in the community, we want to make sure they’re the face of Star West and that we’re the corporate citizens that we need to be.”

• Contact Jon Mendelson at 830-4231 or jmendelson@tracypress.com.
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