elow, in alphabetical order, we present the Top Utilities in Economic Development for 2013, selected by the following mix of objective and subjective criteria: Analysis of corporate end-user project activity in 2012 in that company's territory; website tools and data; innovative programs and incentives for business, including energy efficiency and renewable energy programs; and the utility's own job-creating infrastructure and facility investment trends.
One of three Southern Co. utilities to garner either Top Utility or Honorable Mention honors this year, Alabama Power continues to provide the support it has offered to growing companies ever since 1913, when the company established a Commercial and New Business Division. "In 1920, Alabama Power President Tom Martin officially formed a New Industries Division, the first at an electric-utility company," says the company history. "For decades, Alabama Power's industrial recruitment program was the only one in the state."
One Martin initiative was funding post-World-War-II research to show pine trees could be used to make paper.
Today the utility's economic development team, led by Ken Novak, vice president of economic and community development, continues to support projects such as the blockbuster Airbus project going to Brookley Field in Mobile and continuing success at the state's steel makers and three automotive assembly plants operated by Mercedes, Hyundai and Honda. Last year the team helped bring 3,832 new jobs to its territory, accompanied by more than $2.3 billion in investment. Projects are landing in Alabama from such companies as BioHorizons, Steris Corp. and Universal Forest Products.
Novak's team offers a range of services, in addition to assets such as a Technology Applications Center to help customers improve energy efficiency, productivity or environmental performance; and flexible electricity rates that are below the national average. Focus areas for the team have included data centers (helped by new state incentives legislation passed in 2012); customer intelligence; international trade and GIS tools. Their mission is captured in this statement from Project Manager Blair King: "We have an Economic and Community Development Department, but we view the company as a whole as an economic development organization."
American Electric Power
Led by Mark James, vice president of economic and business development, the AEP team last year helped bring in 16,339 jobs and more than $2.2 billion in investment, including projects from such companies as Benteler Steel in Shreveport, La.; Vaughan-Bassett Furniture in Galax, Va.;Caiman Energy in West Virginia; and Discover Card in New Albany, Ohio, as well as Garmin in Tulsa, Okla; Caterpillar in Victoria, Texas; and Tenneco in Ligonier, Ind.
It also implemented an intensive search for data center sites that could be certified in its 11-state territory. This summer Biggins Lacy Shapiro & Co. announced the rollout of the first nine AEP "Data Center Qualified Sites" in seven of those states.
"The data center pre-qualification process allowed us to clearly understand the needs of the data center users and distinguish AEP as an electric utility able to support those needs," said James in June. "It gives our service territory an advantage in the highly competitive site selection process for data centers." (Visit www.aepdatacenters.com for more information.) The team also launched a new comprehensive website and social media strategy and various targeted marketing and analytics initiatives.
CenterPoint's Economic Development Department surveyed 20 Houston-area EDOs and found they had attracted 17,676 new jobs associated with 129 landed projects, according to the team's 2012 annual report. The team humbly took credit for helping land just 20 of those projects and 16 percent of the jobs, but those collaborations alone involve $3.2 billion in corporate investment.
Among other findings, the report notes, "After reaching a low of 70 in 2009, the number of jobs per project for the overall region has steadily risen. In 2010, the average reached 92 and climbed nearly 49 percent to 137 jobs per project in 2012. This is the highest the metric has been since Economic Development began compiling this data and suggests the rise of larger projects."
Expansions accounted for 45 percent of jobs created. Any guesses as to the dominant sector? You'd be right if you chose petrochemicals, which CenterPoint says accounted for 24 percent of job creation from projects tracked in 2012.
"Last year was an exciting year for Duke Energy's Economic Development Program as we expanded our footprint significantly through the Progress merger," says Stuart N. Heishman, vice president, economic development, business development & territorial strategies. "This included an aggressive rollout of Duke's Business Development, Site Inventory & Site Readiness Programs throughout the former Progress footprint in Florida, Eastern North Carolina and South Carolina. We were able to launch these programs while staying focused on our core mission of ‘moving the needle' in capital investment and jobs in the communities we serve. Our team has grown, our programs have expanded and our corporate commitment to economic development has never been stronger."
Heishman says the major merger, which means serving 7.2 million electric retail customers in six states and 104,000 sq. miles of service area, "created a platform for a fresh look at our best practices and a bold strategic rollout of our economic development programs across our expanded footprint. In addition, a new organizational structure was deployed with an ‘Enterprise Strategy/Local Delivery' approach."
The Duke team helped attract $3.6 billion in private-sector investment that's creating 13,140 jobs, including projects from Sierra Nevada Brewing and Ashley Furniture in North Carolina; Michelin and Amazon in South Carolina; Vitag Biosolids in Florida; Cummins and Amazon in Indiana; Eagle/Linamar in Northern Kentucky and Total Quality Logistics in Ohio. Among other accomplishments, the Duke team selected five new South Carolina properties for participation in Duke's 2013 Site Readiness Program in collaboration with McCallum Sweeney, which now has more than 15 sites in the fold.
The team also conducted a "business development blitz" in its new footprint in Florida and the Carolinas, reviewing more than 50 sites in a site inventory study. And it continued to support community projects such as brownfield redevelopment by the Hamilton County Port Authority in Ohio.
New Orleans, La.
Across its 2.8-million-customer, multistate territory in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi, Entergy's economic development team last year helped attract more than $26 billion in projects that aim to create 9,884 jobs. Among them were blockbusters from Sasol, Methanex and CF Industries in Louisiana; and from Nissan and Kimberly Clark in Mississippi, among others.
Among the tools the team has put to good use on behalf of dozens of EDOs is its Site Selection Center website, which saw 20 percent more visitors last year than the year before.
Among the latest Entergy Qualified Sites is the 2,000-acre Panther Creek Commerce Center in Madison County, Miss., not far from Nissan's plant near Canton. In Arkansas, the Web resources have been augmented recently with data from Xceligent, and community resources have been improved in the communities of Batesville, Cross County and Marion thanks to the hiring of new economic developers with assistance from Entergy Teamwork Arkansas.
The team also has introduced a new Commercial and Industrial Custom Program to help companies with peak demand greater than 100 kW improve energy efficiency.
In Louisiana, the Entergy team has helped identify eight certified sites in concert with Louisiana Economic Development, as well as four Certified Ready Development Communities. New civil engineering services have also made a great impact on the team's level of service and quality of site evaluation.
The FirstEnergy team led by Patrick J. Kelly, director of economic development, helped $2.7 billion of projects come to pass in its six-state, 65,000-sq.-mile territory, which will create 7,900 jobs. Those projects include locations and expansions from the likes of Target, Medical Mart and Rubbermaid in Ohio; Rocky Gap Casino in Maryland; Thor Labs in New Jersey and East Penn Manufacturing and Aquion Energy in Pennsylvania.
Among special programs and initiatives in recent months, FirstEnergy partnered with the Material Research Institute at Penn State University to promote tech transfer. It also continues to offer specialized analysis tools to site seekers and communities alike through its FirstProspector (www.firstprospector.com) and IMPACTfactor+ programs.
The utility also continues to push the envelope when it comes to smart-grid and renewable power: FirstEnergy has more than 2,400 MW of hydro, pumped-storage hydro, wind and solar generation either owned or under contract.
Florida Power & Light
Juno Beach, Fla.
The past year has seen the successful flowering of the new economic development arm at FPL, which in 2012 helped make possible $1.8 billion in new corporate facility projects that will create more than 16,900 jobs.
Led by Lynn Pitts, director of economic development, the FPL team serves a territory encompassing 35 Florida counties and some 4.6 million customer accounts. But they go above and beyond territorial lines:
"FPL understands that to be successful, our economic development program must go beyond offering a discounted electric rate," they said in response to Site Selection's annual questionnaire. "We launched innovative initiatives that are significantly shaping economic development across the entire state of Florida. These programs include the PoweringFlorida® seminar series, PoweringFlorida.com website and Resource Center. We offer these programs to all communities in the state, not just those in our service territory, because we believe that a strong state economy benefits everyone."
The utility and its parent company, NextEra Energy, also continue to be a national leader in renewable energy deployment, as well a sustainability programs such as FPL's effort to green its vehicle fleet with hybrid and EV models. FPL also continues to partner with a real estate developer in southwest Florida to build the world's largest solar PV power plant at Babcock Ranch, Fla., with plans to make it the world's first city powered by solar energy.
Affordable and dependable power has always been a mainstay of economic development in the Southeast. Georgia Power is a big reason why.
Just ask Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal.
"Georgia can offer comprehensive energy solutions to new and expanding companies because utilities are active partners in growing the state through economic development, and years ago implemented long-range plans to anticipate the state's needs," writes Gov. Deal, diplomatically choosing not to name the state's biggest utility of all while also pointing out that big-load customers can put their service up for bid. "Georgia's energy providers have played an important role in virtually every company the state's economic development team has helped locate or expand."
That statement could just about apply to Georgia Power alone, whose economic development team led by Vice President of Community & Economic Development Pedro Cherry in 2012 helped attract $3.3 billion of investment among 82 projects expected to create 11,370 jobs. On the list were locations and expansions from Caterpillar in Athens; Mohawk in Summerville; Baxter in Covington; and Mando in Greenville, among others.
Among the tools the team is employing is its On-The-Map demographic analysis tool; a new SelectGeorgia Mobile system, a completely online property search application that's accessible by smart devices; and a thorough inventory of brownfield redevelopment sites that could benefit from new brownfield legislation signed into law in May 2012.
"2012 was a great year for Georgia, one of the best ever," says Em Williams of Georgia Power's community and economic development department. "We're excited about the new companies coming to the state, as well as the existing industry expansions, and are hopeful that 2013 will be another successful year."
LG&E/KU Energy (PPL)
Led by Alan McGinnis, manager of economic development & major accounts, the LG&E-KU team in 2012 helped attract $1.7 billion in projects creating 9,279 jobs across a territory that includes 93 Kentucky counties and five Virginia counties. Among those projects were locations or expansions from Rare Breed Distilling, Sealed Air Corp., Caterpillar, Teletech, GE Consumer & Industrial and Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky, among many others.
In 2012 the team signed its first customer on the recently introduced Economic Development Rider, a five-year reduction-in-demand charge. In addition, the team's communities continue to enjoy the benefits associated with the Location One Information System (LOIS), which LG&E-KU launched in June 2012.
The utility continues to invest in green energy and energy efficiency programs, as well as lead the way in renewable power and environmental research such as its partnerships with the Commonwealth of Kentucky and with the Electric Power Research Institute in such areas as carbon storage and greenhouse gas emission reduction.
Tennessee Valley Authority
A perennial winner in these pages, TVA's economic development team, led by John Bradley, senior vice president, economic development, helped attract $5.9 billion in corporate facility investment in 2012, expected to create 48,500 jobs across TVA's 80,000-sq.-mile, seven-state territory with a population of 9 million.
Projects came from such companies as GM in Spring Hill, Tenn.; Brown-Forman Corp. in Hillsboro, Ala.; Magneti Marelli in Pulaski, Tenn.; Roxul in Byhalia, Miss; and Teletech in Hopkinsville, Ky.
Initiatives in 2012 included an expanded Rural Development Strategy; continuing growth of the now 26-site Data Center site identification program in partnership with Deloitte; and progress on the redevelopment of 1,000 acres of TVA property at Muscle Shoals Reservation. And the Valley Investment Initiative, jointly offered by TVA and certain distributors of its power, offers incentives to qualifying companies.
The utility's successful Megasites program, launched in 2004, won a Gold Award from the International Economic Development Council for excellence in economic development.
TVA Economic Development also sponsored its second annual Rural Leadership Institute, graduating 18 officials from rural counties. And it continued developing its inventory of what it calls quick-turn buildings: those that allow companies to set up operations fast to meet changing market demands.