Ask any sales pro: If you know your customer as well as you know your territory, you’re halfway home.
In the case of serving the utility needs of existing, expanding and new companies — as well as serving the communities in which they operate — getting to know customers’ needs and challenges is helping them grow. It can mean making a lot more connections than the electrical kind. And ultimately, it helps those companies feel right at home.
Each year since 1999, Site Selection evaluates the performance of utility economic development teams based on corporate facility project jobs and capex figures from the previous calendar year in the utilities’ service areas. Metrics include both straight totals and per-capita calculations, as well as website tools and data; innovative programs and incentives for business; and the utility’s own job-creating infrastructure and facility investment trends.
Here, in alphabetical order, we present this year’s Top Utilities and Honorable Mentions.
Serving the southern two-thirds of Alabama, this Southern Company utility helped deliver $2.43 billion in corporate facility investment in its territory last year, which will help create 2,325 jobs among the region’s population of 1.4 million. “In 2015, we put emphasis on developing new initiatives in Economic Development, Marketing, Supply Chain, and other areas of the company to better understand the factors driving our customers’ success as well as identifying new ways to create opportunities for them,” writes Patrick Murphy, economic & community development vice president.
That includes target sector strategies for aerospace (Airbus just produced its first aircraft in Mobile), automotive (Magna and Mercedes expansions in 2015), chemicals and data centers. As part of marketing alliance the Alabama Allies, the Alabama Power team attended AAMA Southern Automotive, Center for Automotive Research, Hamburg Aviation, Informex, SelectUSA and other targeted industry forums in 2015. In September 2015, Alabama Power received regulatory approval to construct up to 500 MW of renewable energy generation in the state over the next six years: The first two projects are large military solar projects at the Anniston Army Depot and Fort Rucker.
American Electric Power
The AEP Economic & Business Development team (AEPED) helped draw more than $8.1 billion in corporate facility investment in its 11-state territory in 2015, from companies aiming to create no less than 9,613 jobs.
In addition to the utility’s network of power plants, the 200,000-sq.-mile (518,000-sq.-km.) territory of AEP is now served by an updated Web portal, unveiled in July 2016. “From a blog to infographics, maps and presentations, the site provides information and interactive tools designed to serve corporations who may be interested in AEP’s 74,000 industrial-ready acres of available property, 3,000 communities served or access to the fastest growing shale plays in the US,” said a release.
Among the tools are portfolios of sites specially prepared to welcome industrial users (certified in partnership with McCallum Sweeney), data centers (Biggins Lacy Shapiro & Co.) and food processing operations (Austin Consulting).
Economic Development Manager John Cook and his team at CenterPoint helped facilitate $3.6 billion of corporate facility investment in Greater Houston, expected to create 15,400 jobs. That couldn’t be more welcome news in a region suffering from the drop in energy prices. Cook highlights the Daikin/Goodman decision to locate its headquarters/manufacturing campus in the Houston area, “which is under construction as we speak.” He salutes area economic development entities, cities, counties and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development in helping the company evaluate a consolidation, repeating a process first considered in 2008 and then revisited after Daikin acquired the firm in 2014.
“This team approach is how projects are usually won, and this was a big win,” writes Cook. “Not only did Daikin consolidate all operations in the US to one location in the Houston area, they will be manufacturing products here that have never been produced in this country before. “The net new direct jobs to this region was over 2,000, and if we had lost this project to a competing location the direct and indirect job losses would have been over 11,000.”
Charlotte, North Carolina
More than $3.5 billion in corporate investment that will help create 12,043 jobs was the quarry mined by Duke’s economic development team in 2015 across its six-state territory, where some 7.4 million customers are served amid a population of 24 million people. Enhancing the three primary pillars of site readiness, industrial recruitment and economic development was central to success, writes Stuart Heishman, vice president economic development, business recruitment & territorial strategies for Duke Energy. Site readiness efforts were tailored to the needs of each state, with more new options for site enhancement offered, he says. The team also deployed a new model for business recruitment, with staff operating out of key target markets including San Francisco, Detroit, Atlanta, Orlando and Raleigh.
“Finally, our economic development managers in each jurisdiction assumed a leadership role in the enhancement of numerous megasites throughout our service territory,” he says. “This included the Liberty and Siler City megasites in North Carolina, the Newberry megasite in South Carolina, Mt. Orab in Ohio and River Ridge in Indiana.”
ElectriCities of North Carolina
Raleigh, North Carolina
More than $1.5 billion in investment aiming to create 5,316 jobs spelled success in ElectriCities territory. ElectriCities is a membership organization including public power communities in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. It also provides management services to the state’s two municipal power agencies: North Carolina Municipal Power Agency Number 1 and North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency. Among its community services are marketing assistance, client proposals, trade show opportunities and even aerial photography.
Shovel-ready sites at Tarboro Commerce Center, Statesville Business Park and Wilson Corporate Park were named in September 2015 as the inaugural class in the utility’s new Smart Sites program. Meanwhile, since the team brought Atlanta-based Global Consulting board in 2012 to field inquiries from European prospects, more than 70 European-based direct investment prospects have come on the radar. “In fact, one British company is currently setting up a manufacturing facility in the Piedmont,” said ElectriCities in a newsletter this past spring, “and three other companies are expected to announce new facilities in the next 12 to 18 months.”
New Orleans, Louisiana
Entergy directly supported the establishment in 2015 of projects that will result in nearly $10.3 billion of capital investment and the creation of more than 4,835 new jobs in the utility’s four-state region. These include 100 from Shintech’s $1.4-billion investment in Louisiana, 225 from Ozark Mountain Poultry’s project in Arkansas and many others. Entergy continues to dramatically step up its economic development efforts with the formation and growth of a Corporate Business and Economic Development Department that augments and supports the economic development teams in each of the four states Entergy serves.
“The attraction, retention, and expansion of commercial and industrial customers is a very competitive process, not just in the Gulf South but domestically and globally,” says Paula Waters, Entergy’s vice president of utility sales and development services. “Utilities like Entergy must be actively involved in the economic development process by working closely with the various state agencies and local communities to create a positive outcome as well as taking proactive steps to help uncover new opportunities for the communities we serve. Entergy is consistently looking to secure new load growth and recently helped drive $90 million in new sales in our service territory. Pivotal to the continued success, working alongside our customers and state and local partners, is our understanding of the region’s highly competitive utility rates, superior infrastructure, constructive business climate, and able workforce that will lead to the sustainability and growth of the overall economic expansion in our region.”
One hundred and two projects worth $3.68 billion and creating 13,456 jobs boosted this Southern Company flagship once again to the upper echelon. The long list of 2015 projects included the headline news of Mercedes-Benz USA moving its HQ to the Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs from New Jersey; Tyson Foods’ $110-million, 500-job expansion in Vienna; Aspen Aerogels’ $70-million, 106-job project in Statesboro; and ADP’s $20-million, 450-job expansion in Augusta.
Initiatives implemented during 2015 included enhanced 3D animation; advanced storymaps (including their use in a publication called “Exploring Atlanta as a Millennial”); acquisition of the new CareerBuilder workforce information tool; formation of a creative services team; SAM, the Site Analysis Matrix; and a pilot partnership with the University of North Georgia that will enable the university to justify investing in new curriculum offerings — a program likely to be replicated with other Georgia schools soon.
LG&E-Kentucky Utilities (PPL)
This utility’s three brands are Louisville Gas & Electric, Kentucky Utilities and Old Dominion Power, which serve 16 Kentucky counties, 77 Kentucky counties and five Virginia counties, respectively. The collective economic development team in 2015 helped bring to fruition corporate projects worth $2.7 billion, creating 9,416 jobs.
Event marketing included missions to Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, New York, Cincinnati, Atlanta and consultant events in Richmond and Hopkinsville, Kentucky. LG&E and KU continued a long-term investment strategy to support the development of industrial land in two Kentucky communities. The zero-interest loans allowed one community to complete its first land sale in 20 years. The team is increasingly called upon as a resource to design and implement new programs and strategies, including working closely with the Kentucky Workforce Investment Board as it nurtured the Work Ready Community program.
In April, utility officials and political leaders unveiled the state’s largest solar facility at E.W. Brown Generating Station in Mercer County. “We’re embarking on a new era and introducing a new source of energy to our generation portfolio that will work in concert with our coal, natural gas and hydroelectric fleet.” said Paul W. Thompson, COO for LG&E and KU.
PECO, An Exelon Company
As the region’s electric and natural gas utility, PECO works directly with the Pennsylvania Governor’s Action Team, Select Greater Philadelphia and each of the five county economic development corporations in its service territory. In 2015, that work resulted in corporate end-user projects worth $7 billion, creating 8,000 jobs.
“Stakeholder outreach is key to our economic development program, but we also work internally with our large account managers, capacity planning, rates and regulatory departments and energy efficiency team,” writes Maureen Sharkey, senior economic development specialist. “We recently instituted a Rapid Response Growth Team within PECO to salute large prospects, address questions and customize assistance during the site selection process.”
Two of the biggest projects on the dance card are the $2.5-billion Sunoco Logistics Mariner East Pipeline, which along with anticipated growth in the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex area resulted in the construction of a new PECO substation; and the $1.2-billion Comcast Innovation and Technology Center, expected to create 3,000 jobs over time.
Long-term projects PECO is integrally involved with include UCitySquare, a development project that will grow the city’s University Science Center six-fold by the time the 10-year, $1-billion plan is completed; and the $3.5-billion, 20-year plan for Schuylkill Yards, a next-generation innovation community created through a partnership between Drexel University and Brandywine Realty Trust.
Tennessee Valley Authority
Cumulative investment of $7.8 billion from 224 companies, expected to create 76,200 jobs across the seven states and 80,000 sq. miles (207,200 sq. km.) of TVA territory — not a bad year’s work for TVA Economic Development. Topping the list in story value was Google’s decision to invest $600 million in a 75-job data center at the site of a retiring TVA coal-fired power plant.
In celebrating receiving Site Selection’s Top Utilities award in 2015 for the 10th consecutive year, says senior TVA ED consultant Haley Sorrells, “ ‘The Power of 10’ became the group’s theme throughout 2015, celebrating a decade of service. We take great pride in being cited for economic excellence by Site Selection Magazine, and want the quality of the work we do to yield excellence in living for the people in our service territory for decades to come.”
In 2015, in order to better prepare communities, the team ramped up promotion to consultants of its InvestPrep™ program, a product development readiness initiative to help communities market industrial sites and buildings. New in 2015, Rural Development staff created an economic development training course for elected officials. TVA Community Development also entered its third year with the Valley Sustainable Communities Program, which now counts 28 communities in its fold.
“Economic development is in our DNA, and has been right from the start,” said TVA President and CEO Bill Johnson in April. “Some might say that everything TVA does funnels down to strengthening the economy of our region.”