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CPUC small business expo draws hundreds to Salinas

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Giving small business a lift in Salinas.

Rapidly changing business models and utility needs are providing opportunities for small businesses in the twenty-first century. That was Commissioner Catherine Sandoval’s message to several hundred entrepreneurs in Salinas yesterday, at a small business expo and matchmaking fair sponsored by the California Public Utilities Commission.

Sandoval pointed to new rules that were just adopted that allow online ride sharing companies, such as Lyft and Uber, to provide on demand service, despite vehement objections from entrenched – and protected – taxi companies.

“We created a way for them to legally move forward and create new opportunities,” she said. It’s the CPUC’s job to ensure that regulated utilities “provide safe and reliable service at just and reasonable rates”.

To do that, the CPUC classified crowdsourced ride sharing platforms as charter party carriers, which fall under a different set of rules than traditional taxis.

Other opportunities include innovative technologies and business models that help Californians save energy and water, two resources that are in perpetually short supply here.

The event was co-sponsored by Comcast and organised by the Monterey County Business Council and its Procurement Technical Assistance Center. Major telecommunications, water and energy companies were on hand, along with several state agencies. They met one-one-one with small business people who traveled to Salinas from all over California. One even flew in from Connecticut.

More expos will be held in coming months elsewhere in the state. It’s part of an ongoing CPUC effort to connect regulated utilities and state procurement officers with small businesses.