Everybody wants to be a top 20 program. But it takes hard work, perseverance, ferocious teamwork and the will to win.
We’re not talking about spectator sports. We’re talking about the serious work of business attraction and retention as practiced by this year’s Top 20 U.S. utilities in economic development, based on corporate facility investment and job creation in their territories in 2018, evaluated in both cumulative and per-capita terms.
This year, instead of citations for the unranked Top 10 and a list of honorable mentions, we present them all together as an elite group of 20, who earned the honor amid a field of around 3,300 electric utilities across the country (including around 900 cooperatives). Nobody finds honorable mention honorable. And for those upset to be grouped in the Top 20 instead of Top 10, we hope knowing you’re still in the upper 1% of all utility economic development teams will help you tough it out.
To better serve our corporate end-user readers — who are more concerned with evaluating regions first — we have made another change, presenting honorees in their geographic context rather than by the first letter of their names. Corporate investors, after all, care more about economic geography than they do about the alphabet.
More than half of this year’s honorees have footprints in the center of the country, reflecting not only where the power and gas lines are robust and affordable, but the transportation corridors are too. Visit these organizations’ territories and you’ll see why the factory lines, fiber-optic lines, hiring lines, lines of credit and yes, power lines, are humming.
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Corporate facility investment: $1.4 billion
Jobs created: 3,667
Population & Territory: 2 million in parts of Iowa and Wisconsin
Highlights: A successful year attracting 49 projects was in part due to a new marketing campaign, including marketing directly to site selectors and target industries, says Mark Seckman, senior business attraction manager for Alliant. “We have made an effort to be a lead economic development partner in Iowa and Wisconsin,” he says, with so much activity a second business attraction manager was hired to cover Wisconsin. “Prior to 2018, we were very reactionary.”
In addition to phase-two certification efforts at the 730-acre Prairie View Industrial Center in Ames, Iowa, and the launch of the 560-acre Beaver Dam Commerce Center in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, early this year, Helgerson Flats Industrial Center, an industrial park created in Ottumwa by Alliant and the Ottumwa EDC, became Iowa’s 23rd certified site. It joins Alliant’s 1,400-acre Big Cedar Industrial Center, the large
Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois
Corporate facility investment: $1.7 billion
Jobs created: 22,391
Population & Territory: 9.4 million across the northern third of Illinois
Highlights: As part of the Illinois Data Center Coalition, ComEd drove successful passage of new sales tax incentives for qualifying data centers. “Large project activity has already increased,” says Ed Sitar, ComEd’s manager, economic development. The impact of the Future Energy Jobs Act continues to pivot Illinois toward a clean energy economy, he says, including ComEd’s addition of around 4,000 new solar installations totaling more than 60MW since 2017. But ComEd has been on the energy efficiency bandwagon since 2008, with more than 88,000 business customers earning more than $660 million in incentives and realizing more than $1.5 billion in cost savings — $133 billion in incentives are available in 2019, says Sitar, with no project size cap.
In addition to traditional project support across northern Illinois and research partnerships with Argonne National Laboratory and the Center for Smart Grid Applications, Research, and Technology (CSMART) at Illinois Institute for Technology, ComEd continues to support the start-up ecosystem through active backing of the Energy Foundry, a venture capital and partnership driven organization, and City Tech Collaborative, an innovation accelerator that transforms cities into testbeds for new ideas.
Corporate facility investment: $2.1 billion
Jobs created: 6,520
Population & Territory: 6.7 million across 68 counties in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula
Highlights: Lisa Pung, economic development program manager, writes that in 2018, the company increased efforts in its business attraction strategy to grow energy load, create jobs and attract new investment to Michigan by reaching out to two target audiences: growing companies, and the site consultants who serve them. The Consumers Energy team used lead generation, events, expanded marketing and communications, association membership (joining the Industrial Asset Management Council) and even a new consultant newsletter to keep in touch.
The utility continued to build its Energy Ready site inventory. And it developed with key stakeholders its Clean Energy Plan, a “business blueprint looks out 20 years and is a response to customers who care deeply about how we handle issues such as air quality, water management and greenhouse emissions,” Pung writes. “The plan puts Consumers Energy on a path to eliminate coal; reduce carbon emissions by over 90 percent; and meet customer’s future electric capacity needs with 90 percent clean energy resources by 2040.
Corporate facility investment: $3.9 billion
Jobs created: 10,935
Population & Territory: 13.3 million within a 65,000-square-mile area in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New Jersey, Maryland and New York served by 10 electric utility operating companies
Highlights: Patrick Kelly, director of economic development, writes, “I am looking through my weekly reports and it is amazing how many projects we touch on a yearly basis. Bitcoin inquiries were hot in the beginning of the year, so much so that one of the crypto currency companies hired away my top staff member. Interest in steel increased dramatically, especially in Ohio,” he says, citing Cleveland Cliffs’ $700 million hot-briquetted iron facility in Toledo. “Materials — including metal fabricators, polymers, powder coatings, hard woods and glass projects — remain an integral part of our economy.” FirstEnergy territory saw its share of Amazon fulfillment centers too, including two in Cleveland built on sites of former shopping malls. Distribution centers in general were surging (especially in Eastern Pennsylvania), with 40 million sq. ft. of proposed, under construction or just completed projects in 2018. Data centers also are a target, and FirstEnergy co-hosted an energy efficiency program for data center operators in fall 2018.
The utility has hired an FDI lead generation professional, and has established an office in Europe. On the innovation front, FirstEnergy is spending over $1.2 billion a year on its Energizing the Future campaign, and customers assisted by the FirstEnergy team achieved over 1.4 million megawatt-hours of energy efficiency savings in 2018. “We also announced and started construction on our new Center for Advanced Energy Technology,” Kelly says, as well as supporting an Energy Storage Cluster with Team NEO and the Tech Belt Energy Innovation Center in Warren, Ohio. Last but not least, writes Kelly, “Our CEO, Chuck Jones, placed a strong emphasis on diversity and inclusion in 2018 and that continues this year as well.”
Corporate facility investment: $730 million
Jobs created: 2,515
Population & Territory: 686,000 served by 18 member cooperatives in 59 counties in central and southern Indiana and southeastern Illinois
Highlights: In 2018, Hoosier Energy introduced a new economic development rider (EDR) incentive rate for industrial customers that provides a six-year phase-in of power costs for new investment that ultimately leads to approximately 17% savings on an industrial customer’s total bill over the duration of the EDR, says Harold Gutzwiller, manager, economic development/key accounts. “Further, Hoosier Energy introduced a new policy that allows industrial customers adding significant new electric load to potentially purchase power through Hoosier Energy from the open market,” he writes. Hoosier has also taken steps to bolster renewable energy options to industrial customers, including offering the ability to build on-site customer-owned solar generation and assisting customers in purchasing renewable energy credits. Additionally, Hoosier launched www.hoosiersites.com, a new economic development website that includes a comprehensive site and building database, workers’ compensation estimator tool, and a tax abatement estimator tool.
Corporate facility investment: $300 million
Jobs created: 500
Population & Territory: 340,000 in 61 communities across Indiana and one in Ohio
Highlights: The Indiana Municipal Power Agency was created by a group of municipally-owned electric utilities in order to share power resources and provide electricity more economically to their customers. In addition to offering a typical electric incentive to business customers investing at least $1 million and demanding at least 1 MW of new load, IMPA staff help facilitate state incentives, and maintain a sites and building database that this summer included 21 parcels and more than 140 buildings ready for investment.
Among various news, accolades and accomplishments, Frito-Lay is expanding in Frankfort, Indiana. Raj Rao, IMPA’s president and CEO, recently received the Mark Crisson Leadership and Managerial Excellence Award from the American Public Power Association. IMPA has helped cut the ribbon on new solar parks in Richmond, Advance and Rensselaer, Indiana. And in October, the not-for-profit wholesale power provider announced a drop of 1.1% in wholesale electricity rates for 2019, after an average drop of 5.25% in 2018 and 1% in 2017.
Corporate facility investment: $10.9 billion
Jobs created: 27,018
Population & Territory: 6,500,000 across the eastern two-thirds of Virginia, and northeast North Carolina
Highlights: Renewables and data centers are two strong threads running through Dominion’s year in economic development — unless you count the tapestry of economic activity around that little Amazon HQ2 project. Among the utility’s accomplishments in 2018 was Schedule RF, a renewables tariff developed in partnership with Facebook. Early this year the two entities announced that, in addition to two solar power plants already in development, six more solar installations totaling 350 MW of power would be developed for Facebook’s use, three each in North Carolina and Virginia. The utility also received regulatory approval for renewable energy tariffs to provide renewable energy options to customers of all sizes, as Dominion commits to adding 3,000 MW of solar and wind energy to its portfolio by 2022. Part of that picture is a new offshore wind pilot project that also received regulatory approval.
In addition to developing a new Customer Retention Credit to help retain large, existing customers, the economic development team also developed a launched a new website with new tools for site selection. Finally, utility-wide, Dominion’s Military Veteran Workforce Initiative means one in five new hires is a veteran.
Charlotte, North Carolina
Corporate facility investment: $5.3 billion
Jobs created: 13,907
Population & Territory: 24 million across parts of six states
Highlights: “Without a doubt, 2018 was an incredible year for our team,” writes Stuart Heishman, vice president, economic development, business recruitment, territorial strategies for Duke. In addition to the team’s 94 project wins, key highlights for the year included an innovative new drone program and expansion of Duke’s suite of site readiness offerings — 26 completed the program in 2018, meaning 261 sites now have been evaluated since the program kicked off in 2005. Expansion of the economic development team included the addition of a new business recruitment teammate — former Deputy Secretary of the Mississippi Development Authority Jim McArthur — focused on the aerospace industry. He joins a squad that includes one-stop-shop experts in other target markets: Data Centers/Blockchain, Industrial Manufacturing, Automotive/Batteries, Plastics/Composites, Life Sciences and Food/Beverage Processing.
“In addition to our efforts to recruit companies to sites in our service territories, it is also worth noting that Duke Energy is an economic development engine in itself,” says Heishman. “We are prepared to launch a $25 billion, 10-year modernization plan to bolster our electric grid.”
Corporate facility investment: $4.3 billion
Jobs created: 16,031
Population & Territory: 10,520,000 in all 159 counties in Georgia
Highlights: A year with a record 133 project wins hardly needs more evidence, but the economic development team at this Southern Company utility keeps pressing the accelerator. Among their accomplishments was the launch by the GIS team of a fresh version of the SelectGeorgia.com website’s custom site selection tool, and including additional layers of information such as contours, tax boundaries, and the ability to search by drive times. Digital electric utility maps for transmission and distribution were created for all sites listed in the utility’s database, making the RFI process more efficient for prospects. The research team went macro by developing a new Georgia-Global Connections website for prospects from abroad, and went micro too, with a story map highlighting Atlanta neighborhoods’ quality of life and housing offerings. Meanwhile, Project Management 201 was added to education offerings from the Community Development team, whose guidance has also contributed to curricula and pathways for 20 college and career academies throughout the state.
The team’s drone initiatives now incorporate live-action video with 3D modeling and rendered movies to show before-and-after visualizations of a site, and with live-stream site tours, prospects can control the drone flight and share the footage in real-time with colleagues anywhere in the world. Meanwhile, much as the state’s successful library of TV and film sites keeps attracting activity from that booming industry, the library of drone footage from top sites throughout the state keeps growing. And yes, Georgia Power’s involved with the state’s $9.5-billion film industry too, teaming with location scouts to provide shooting locations, lighting, and parking solutions for film crews.
Juno Beach, Florida
Corporate facility investment: $1.8 billion
Jobs created: 9,984
Population & Territory: 10.4 million serving 43 counties from Pensacola to Miami
Highlights: Looking for a full-circle ecosystem? Try this one: NextEra’s Florida Power & Light unveiled its plan to install 30 million solar panels by 2030, with a focus on having those solar panels made in Florida. As a result, explains FPL Director of Economic Development Crystal Stiles, NextEra Energy and its Office of Economic Development worked with JinkoSolar to open its first U.S. solar factory in Florida, and NextEra now is buying the company’s panels, made in Florida, to power the Sunshine State’s solar fields. An independent review of FPL’s economic development office, now in its eighth year, found it’s had an impact worth nearly $90 billion, including more than 88,200 new or retained jobs and $21.16 billion of capital investment.
Among the tools in NextEra’s toolbox: the PoweringFlorida Illumination event convening economic developers, site selection consultants and corporate real estate executives; Energy 101, a course developed for economic developers; the PoweringFlorida Resource Center, a website that puts data and analytics tools into the hand of Florida’s economic development community; and Florida First Sights, a portfolio of project-ready industrial sites with the due diligence completed to minimize risk and accelerate speed to market.
Columbia, South Carolina
Corporate facility investment: $385 million
Jobs created: 3,554
Population & Territory: 1.6 million served by 20 electric cooperatives across South Carolina
Highlights: A goal of attracting $2.9 billion in capex and 13,000 jobs from corporate end users, established in 2014, has been blown out of the water by SC Power Team. “Our board and all 20 electric cooperatives gave us unprecedented resources to work with,” says James Chavez, president and CEO. “And the results were far beyond what we could have hoped to achieve: $5.9 billion in capex, and over 27,000 jobs.” Among other accomplishments, that board approved more than $9.7 million in Site Readiness Grant Funds to acquire land, develop sites, expand infrastructure and pad sites to move them beyond certification to market-ready status. The program requires a minimum of 1:1 matching funds from grantees, who responded by nearly reaching 2:1.
In addition to unveiling a suite of services allowing the team to complete master planning services for industrial sites, parks and buildings; due diligence assessments and other projects, the team released “Project Pioneer,” South Carolina’s first statewide labor study providing data that allows users of the sites and buildings database at scpowerteam.com to create customized labor reports that include insights into labor availability, underemployment, true commute patterns, turnover and skills gaps. “The unintended result of the study is how it is being used by some of South Carolina’s largest employers,” says Chavez. “In 2018, our team did deep dive data analysis and review with BMW and the BMW network of suppliers, Michelin and Trane. The data has allowed their human resource executives to take a deeper look … and focus their recruitment tactics and marketing to the specific motivations of individuals within their draw area.”
Corporate facility investment: $2.1 billion
Jobs created: 4,472
Population & Territory: 1,745,046 across 45,000 square miles in the southern two-thirds of Alabama
Highlights: Patrick Murphy, vice president, marketing and economic development, notes that Alabama Power Corp. (APC) last year created a new team focused specifically on Community Development to support communities through asset assessments, strategic planning and site development, including an innovative online grant portal that allows regional grant needs to be better met with both public and private sources of grant funding. Last year also saw the debut of a new commercial business development team with the goal of facilitating growth in the retail and commercial sectors. APC also helped drive the formation of a new 501(c)3 called Opportunity Alabama dedicated to connecting investors with investable assets in Alabama’s Opportunity Zones, driving capital into Alabama’s distressed communities. The business development team also helped lead the MAST chemical corridor initiative focused on furthering growth of the sector in the four Mobile-area communities of McIntosh, Axis, Saraland and Theodore.
In the workforce development arena, APC was represented on each of the state’s regional workforce councils, and also worked with the Alabama two-year college system to better understand the numbers of individuals within appropriate advanced manufacturing programs, thus allowing the economic development team “to better demonstrate an effective workforce pipeline, which in turn has encouraged companies to locate in Alabama,” Murphy says. “We are currently developing a data platform that focuses on accurate, informed data analytics on all two-year college systems’ enrolled and graduating individuals by program.”
New Orleans, Louisiana
Corporate facility investment: $13.4 billion
Jobs created: 4,750
Population served: 6,477,049 spread across 63 counties in Arkansas, 59 parishes in Louisiana, 45 counties in Mississippi and 27 counties in Texas
Highlights: Workforce Development Entergy made a commitment to invest $5 million over five years in local workforce readiness programs across all four Entergy states, says Bryan Hebert, senior manager, project & technical services, noting that Entergy’s workforce training grant recipients — split between industry-specific training grants and school-to-career grants — are selected to help local communities target specific high-growth industries ranging from petrochemical processing to advanced manufacturing to software design/engineering to healthcare. Since that initiative’s launch, 87 companies have located within Entergy’s footprint resulting in almost 10,000 permanent new jobs.
In other arenas, Entergy Louisiana assisted Louisiana Economic Development (LED) in certifying seven out of 12 sites that were certified in Entergy Louisiana’s service territory in 2018. Louisiana currently has 100 certified sites, 74 of them within Entergy’s service territory. Entergy Mississippi last year continued its Excellerator Grant program to help communities be more competitive for industrial development.
Corporate facility investment: $2.5 billion
Jobs created: 2,937
Population served: 1 million in 87 Kentucky counties served by 17 member cooperatives
Highlights: Brad Thomas, economic development manager, notes that his organization was recently awarded the ACEC National Engineering Excellence Award for its PowerVision initiative, as well as the SEDC Excellence in Economic Development Awards for the same program, as well as for its PowerTools Economic Development Toolkit. Employing drone technology, the company Qk4 gathered land survey mapping data, video and aerial images for industrial sites throughout Kentucky. Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives then showcased the data, video and images in its PowerVision initiative, using mobile apps and a web site marketed to site selection professionals for major industrial expansions and relocations.
“Our technology-driven approach to economic development has provided great opportunities for our service territory that have resulted in landing 48% of all project investment in Kentucky in 2018 and 57% of projects with investments above $20 million,” Thomas observes. “Our 2018 investment numbers set an all-time record for our organization and have pushed our impact numbers since we restarted economic development efforts beginning in January 2015 to over $5 billion invested and over 10,000 jobs created.
Corporate facility investment: $2.2 billion
Jobs created: 7,549
Population & Territory: Louisville Gas & Electric, Kentucky Utilities Company and Old Dominion Power Company serve 3.5 million people in 16 Kentucky counties, 77 Kentucky counties and five Virginia counties, respectively.
Highlights: Brad Sowden, economic development project manager, says LG&E KU (LKE) invested $2.2 billion in infrastructure improvements to benefit existing and future customers, with customers already seeing increased reliability. In addition to increased clean energy thanks to upgrades to two hydroelectric plants, the utility’s Solar Share program gave business/industrial customers the opportunity to share in local solar energy and receive credits monthly. In the R&D arena, LKE collaborated w/EPRI on an energy storage research/demonstration site to allow utilities to develop, test & evaluate the potential benefits and operating needs of large-scale battery technologies.
LKE provided almost $1.5 million in economic development demand credits, and continued a long-term investment strategy of zero-interest loans to support industrial land in two communities, investing more than $360,000 to enable these communities to recruit new industry. The team also played an integral role in sharing best practices in economic development with partners and stakeholders, and provided ideas for an enhanced public policy program, which included a statewide product development initiative.
Corporate facility investment: $11.3 billion
Jobs created: 65,400
Population & Territory: 10 million across 80,000 square miles in portions of seven states in the southeastern United States
Highlights: Joanna Muscatello, coordinator, global business, notes that TVA’s record-breaking $11.3 billion in project investment included major projects from Facebook and Mazda-Toyota — the latter plans to create 4,000 jobs at its new $1.4 billion JV plant in Huntsville, Alabama. Product development continues to be a focus area, with TVA’s InvestPrep site readiness initiative helping to spur $1 billion in capital investment from 73 announced projects (including 16 new plant locations) through six rounds of the program. Community development programs also play a vital role in TVA Economic Development, including such programs as the Rural Leadership Institute, Valley Workforce Institute, Young Talent Initiative, Community Livability and Valley Sustainable Communities. As a result of the TVA’s Rural Cabinet’s brainstorming and leadership activities, the group rolled out a new program in 2018 called the Rural Economic Development Certification Program.
TVA continues to focus on such target sectors are advanced manufacturing, aerospace and defense, power intensive industries, consumer products, industrial products and transportation-related manufacturing. Among other projects in 2018, TVA identified a preferred route for a new transmission line to support economic development at the Infinity Megasite near Artesia, Mississippi; and partnered with Northwest-Shoals Community College and Johnson Contractors to start a new training program for machinist apprentices. This year has seen the debut of TVA’s EnergyRight Solutions (ERS) team, which offering incentives to help business owners revitalize once-forgotten and unused spaces in new, fresh and energy-efficient ways.
This summer the TVA board approved nearly $548 million in tax equivalent payments in fiscal year 2019 to state and local governments served by its energy generation or in areas supporting TVA properties — $24 million more than the previous fiscal year. Two-thirds of the total went to Tennessee and its communities.
St. Louis, Missouri
Corporate facility investment: $2.9 billion
Jobs created: 11,389
Population & Territory: 6,635,921 across 64,000 sq. miles in central and eastern Missouri and central and southern Illinois.
Highlights: “2018-2019 was such a pivotal year for us with the passage of the Smart Energy Plan by the Missouri legislature,” says Michael Kearney, director, community & economic development for Ameren. Ameren Missouri’s Smart Energy Plan includes an economic development incentive providing an average 40% discount from base rates for a five-year term for qualifying new and expanding customers — another example of how utilities are working with state and local partners to attract and support new investment and jobs.” The plan also includes $6.3 billion of investments to automate the electric distribution system; upgrade aging and under-performing assets; enhance underground revitalization; employ smart grid technologies, and develop a network to monitor and enable analytics from connected grid devices.
Grid modernization continues to provide both Ameren Missouri and Ameren Illinois customers with more reliability and resiliency, while also providing a cleaner and more diverse generation portfolio and giving customers more choice in managing their energy usage. Since the Ameren Illinois grid modernization program began in 2012, electric service interruptions have been reduced by 19%, nearly 1,400 new jobs have been created, and customers have saved an estimated $45 million each year through avoided outages and increased service reliability. Meanwhile, Ameren Missouri developed a Renewable Choice Program designed to help customers meet their energy needs from clean, renewable wind generation, and entered into commitments to acquire up to 857 MW of wind energy representing an investment of approximately $1.4 billion. Ameren Illinois continues to make progress on its largest transmission project, Illinois Rivers, a 375-mile-long, $1.4 billion project expected to be completed in 2020.
Corporate facility investment: $1.1 billion
Jobs created: 4,300
Population & Territory: 846,000 across 5,000 sq. miles in 13 counties in southeast Nebraska
Highlights: In 2018, the Omaha Public Power District’s service area was involved in 44 projects from such companies as Applied Underwriters, MetLife, VMInnovations, Kiewit and Toast. In 2018, OPPD established its own site development initiative and is currently underway in speculative site development, in addition to working with the state, economic development organizations, utilities and cities on preparing shovel-ready sites. OPPD also launched an innovative marketing pitchbook platform in 2018, which is customizable for prospects, projects and site selectors. The platform focuses on key target industries where the region has a competitive advantage, including data centers, manufacturing and biotech.
OPPD continues to work toward the goal of having at least 50% of retail sales coming from renewables, including with the construction of a new Sholes Wind Energy Center (160 MW) that will come online this fall. OPPD also announced a community solar program in 2018 for customers, who can purchase shares of solar energy at a new facility that is nearing completion. OPPD closely partnered with commercial and industrial customers to help them meet their own renewable energy goals, including Facebook, which broke ground on a 1.6 million-sq.-ft. data center expansion in May 2018 and is utilizing OPPD’s innovative Rate 261M to help achieve 100% renewable energy, and the University of Nebraska Medical Center, which now has the state’s largest rooftop solar array.
OPPD CEO Tim Burke is the current chairman of the Prosper Omaha initiative, which is focused on people, place and prosperity over the next five years in the bistate, five-county Greater Omaha Chamber region. The initiative is nearing its $32 million goal, with a focus on attracting tech startups, creating a stronger urban core, modern transit, increased community marketing and an elevated global standing. Next year, Burke will be the chair of the Greater Omaha Chamber.
Corporate facility investment: $1.3 billion
Jobs created: 3,665
Population & Territory: 2.7 million in 11 of Arizona’s 15 counties
Highlights: David Bentler, manager of statewide community & economic development for APS, notes that the team welcomed 21 projects last year, including huge announcements from such companies as Microsoft, Stream, Compass and Nike. He also notes that 2019 is already approaching or surpassing 2018 numbers, with 17 projects, more than 2,000 jobs and more than $2.1 billion in capex after only half the year. Maricopa County is the fastest-growing county in the United States, and estimates project 340,000 new customers will move into APS service territory by 2030.
APS announced plans this year to add new solar and wind resources that will help expand the company’s renewable energy portfolio to about 2,500 megawatts by 2021 — enough to power more than half a million Arizona homes. Also, in addition to adding battery storage to its existing solar plants, APS plans to build an additional 500 megawatts of solar storage and stand-alone battery storage by 2025.
Among other community development programs, APS teamed with the Phoenix Suns to help teachers bring hands-on STEM learning to 6,000-plus students through financial grants totaling $50,000.
Corporate facility investment: $7.5 million
Jobs created: 11,000
Population served: 4 million in Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery Counties in southeastern Pennsylvania
Highlights: Maureen Sharkey, senior economic development specialist for PECO, says one of the utility’s newest initiatives is a partnership with the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC) to develop a Connected Communities Master Plan for the Philadelphia Navy Yard. “We are supporting PIDC’s efforts to take the 1,200-acre smart energy campus to the next level, addressing innovative energy systems, electric transportation, smart streetlights and sensors, advanced microgrid applications and new grid supply options,” she says of the development that has attracted 165 companies, 15,000 employees, 7.5 million sq. ft. of development and over $1 billion of public and private investment. “PECO’s Economic & Business Development Department has supported PIDC every step of the way,” she says.
That department is increasingly focused on the life sciences, as breakthroughs originating in Philadelphia’s University City are attracting venture capital and inspiring new development. “We are supporting a concerted effort among our economic development stakeholders to target the life science industry as a source of continued growth, providing utility economic development services to the developers of uCity Square, a 6.5-million-sq.-ft. project where Cambridge Innovation Center is anchoring the first of 10 planned buildings. PECO also is supporting development of Schulykill Yards, the 6.9 million-sq.-ft. project where Spark Therapeutics, a commercial gene therapy company, pre-leased space and expects to create 500 new jobs.
“We are also responding to market trends for same-day delivery of consumer goods, especially ‘last-mile’ distribution warehouses,” says Sharkey. “While typically not energy-intensive, this new generation of automation and, in some cases, refrigeration, requires utility economic development services; and so does the indoor agriculture industry which requires significant electric capacity, almost like data centers. Prospects in those industries totaling nearly 3 million sq. ft. of space have gotten our attention this year.”