You don’t have to go far to uncover utilities’ primary role in economic development. Right now their primary focus is on working with customers to keep the lights on in dark times. But whether behind the scenes or leading the way, their teams are always hard at work stoking the production at the heart of the economy.
In August alone, three of the Top Utilities we honor here were crucial players in major projects: Facebook’s $800 million data center in Gallatin, Tennessee (TVA); AM/NS Calvert’s investment in a steel manufacturing expansion in Calvert, Alabama (Alabama Power); and Commercial Metals Company’s $300 million micro mill now coming to Mesa, Arizona (Salt River Project).
But their power runs deeper than transmission lines, substations and transformers. It reaches into workforce development, industrial site preparation and marketing, and unique partnerships with area governments, institutions and employers.
Each year we salute the Top Utilities in Economic Development based on corporate end-user project investment and affiliated job creation in these utilities’ territories, evaluated on a cumulative and per-capita basis. These are the cream of the crop among many strong candidates that stand out from the nation’s 3,300 utilities (including 900 electric cooperatives). Visit their websites to explore how their capabilities may very well enhance yours.
Corporate facility investment: $1.2 billion
Jobs created: 2,632
Population & Territory: 2 million in parts of Iowa and Wisconsin
Highlights: The new Community Growth Investment program assists communities in funding quality of place opportunities including workforce, housing, industrial site certification and unique local needs. Alliant also launched the Digital Manufacturing Lab powered by Alliant Energy in Ames, Iowa. The project — a collaboration with the Iowa State University Center for Research and Service and the Iowa Economic Development Authority —helps educate small to mid-size rural Iowa manufacturers about technologies. The Powerhouse at Beloit College was a partnership with the college to re-develop the 100-year-old former Blackhawk Generating Station into a student union and recreational center in downtown Beloit. A new interactive economic development website designed for site location consultants has increased web traffic by 209%. Alliant also continues to add new sites to its Alliant Energy Growth Sites program, now up to 16 sites, including the three largest industrial parks in the program in Cedar Rapids, Ames and Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, which are controlled by Alliant.
Corporate facility investment: $4.1 billion
Jobs created: 8,636
Population & Territory: 12.4 million people in 11 states
Highlights: In addition to the team’s 89 project wins, key highlights from 2019 include a focused business retention and expansion program with AEP’s top 1,000 customers; continued investment in site readiness and the expansion of AEP’s Quality Sites inventory; economic development rider incentive rates now available in nine of AEP’s 11 states; the launch of the redesigned aeped.com; and expanding the number of AEP-served counties certified as AEROready™ to over 30, to facilitate the growth of aviation and aerospace industries. Among other highlights: AEP’s operating utility in Oklahoma (Public Service Company of Oklahoma) transferred 2,000 acres of land at the Inola River-Rail site to the Tulsa-Rogers County Port Authority for economic development. Grid capacity increases are paving the way for large-scale data centers in central Ohio from such investors as Facebook, Google and Amazon. And AEP continues to focus on the revitalization of its Appalachian states hit hard by changes in the coal industry via initiatives such as the West Virginia Advantage Plan, a funding source of $3.4M for site readiness projects, small business training and other economic development projects.
Corporate facility investment: $1.37 billion
Jobs created: 3,457
Population & Territory: 6.7 million across 68 counties in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula
Highlights: At the same time Consumers launched its Clean Energy Plan, a 20-year strategy to achieve net zero carbon emissions, end coal use and dramatically increase clean energy resources by 2040, the utility also expanded its economic development and business attraction team, and continued to offer support for innovation and entrepreneurial activity in 2019 ithat ncluded The Lean Rocket Lab of Jackson, Michigan, and May Mobility of Grand Rapids. Last year, the Consumers Energy Foundation contributed more than $425,000 to support STEM programs, including FIRST Robotics teams. FIRST Robotics in Michigan has grown to 500 school teams — the most of any state.
Corporate facility investment: $4.5 billion
Jobs created: 12,129
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: “We spent much of 2019 working with our FirstEnergy Business Strategy Department and a cross section of employees to enhance our economic development strategy,” says Patrick Kelly, FirstEnergy director of Economic Development. Forty potential initiatives were boiled down to four projects: a new economic development website, a pad-ready site program (FirstSites), a program to maximize distribution assets for economic development projects and a potential substation leasing program. FirstEnergy’s analytics group has developed EDIT (Economic Development Information Tool), a GIS-based system that will help the utility plan for targeted capital investments in its distribution and transmission system to support locations with significant economic development activity. In addition to other leadership roles, Kelly is leading an ad hoc committee of the Fund for Our Economic Future to help promote Job Hubs in Northeast Ohio. A Jobs Hubs strategy will help align infrastructure and economic development investments that will build upon existing strengths, preserve valuable farmland and green space, reduce tax burden, connect workers to employment centers and transportation systems, concentrate talent and research and make Northeast Ohio more competitive in the global market.
Corporate facility investment: $485 million
Jobs created: 2,540
Population & Territory: 686,000 served by 18 member cooperatives in 59 counties in central and southern Indiana and southeastern Illinois
Highlights: The Hoosier Energy team initiated a data center site qualification study to identify the best sites within service territory to locate an enterprise level data center. The effort yielded five primary and five secondary sites that met or exceeded site requirements. Among other activities, the team also assisted in the development of the Indiana Power Partners (IPP) to promote Indiana domestically alongside other Indiana electric utilities; hosted regional local economic development organization (LEDO) trainings; assisted member cooperatives with site identification and the USDA Rural Loan and Grant program (REDLG); provided aerial photography for LEDOs and cooperatives; and funded a scholarship program for LEDO staff to enhance professional development.
Corporate facility investment: $5.1 billion
Population & Territory: A total of 6.5 million across the eastern two-thirds of Virginia and parts of the Carolinas
Highlights: Though full dollar figures weren’t available for all of Dominion territory, these numbers from just Virginia are enough to put this utility in august company. Data centers, food and beverage and energy-intensive industries such as semiconductors continue to be the sweet spot for Dominion. The utility’s traditional economic development efforts are always robust, and as a difficult 2020 continues to unfold, its larger goals are helping too: Not only is Dominion exploring with Duke Energy and Southern Co. the possibility of a new regional system for trading electricity across interstate transmission lines, it is also stepping forward with a six-year, $35 million “HBCU Promise” initiative (part of a 40-year partnering tradition with HBCUs) and fully engaging in the development of solar power as well as Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (the largest offshore wind project in the U.S.) and the development of an offshore wind supply chain anchored in Hampton Roads.
Corporate facility investment: $7.1 billion
Jobs created: 15,400
Population & Territory: 24 million across parts of six states
Highlights: The Duke team’s 102 project wins in 2019 included strong activity in logistics, plastics, data centers, advanced manufacturing and life sciences, among other sectors. They included an Amazon fulfillment center in Florida that was one of six projects to land in a location in Duke’s unique Site Readiness Program, which identifies, assesses, improves and increases awareness of industrial sites in Duke Territory. A total of 21 sites went through the program in 2019. The Duke team in Indiana was behind the crafting of successful data center incentive legislation. In North Carolina, 15 community colleges received a cumulative $2.5 million from Duke to support apprenticeship programs. Duke Energy Florida launched two new programs in 2019: the Next Level Economic Development Series designed to help communities elevate their ability to compete for economic development wins, and Advancing Sites, which supports advancing the readiness of sites that have completed the Duke Site Readiness program by providing funding for Phase 1 ESAs, natural resource studies and other due diligence. And in Indiana, Duke collaborated with fellow power providers to launch the Indiana Power Partnership that led five sales trips with economic development partners to Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Greenville, and New York City.
Corporate facility investment: $5.2 billion
Jobs created: 16,029 jobs
Population & Territory: 10.6 million in all 159 counties in Georgia
Highlights: The Georgia Power Community and Economic Development team’s results from 99 corporate facility projects represented one of the highest levels of capital investment in a decade. Among the services and program enhancements, the utility’s customized site selection tool was enhanced with an ability to identify Georgia’s properties inside newly designated Federal Opportunity Zones. The GIS team further expanded the property search tool by placing the latest real-time custom ESRI demographics reports at their communities’ fingertips. 2019 saw the utility’s engineering team expand its site and building drone footage library to include most of the state’s large acreage sites and industrial developments — a key improvement for pandemic times when so many site tours turned virtual. Georgia Power’s film initiative continues to work with the state and local communities. The team also directly impacted the expansion of more than 5,000 jobs and $2 billion in capital investment through a new retail recruitment effort in partnership with NextSite, and continued to help the state address important issues through summits on Opportunity Zones, housing, workforce development and smart cities, as well as a series focused on project management.
Corporate facility investment: $5 billion
Jobs created: 10,191
Population & Territory: 10.4 million serving 43 counties from Pensacola to Miami
Highlights: Continuing to leverage its position as the world’s No. 1 generator of wind and solar energy and a world leader in battery storage to help build Florida’s economy, NextEra and its main utility FPL are leveraging new economic development tools too. PoweringFlorida.com has added new features. And the FPL economic development team worked with the state to roll out target sectors for lead generation: aviation and aerospace; production technologies; sustainable technologies; data centers and ag tech/life sciences. FPL continues to focus on producing and distributing energy to its commercial/industrial customers at a rate up to 45% below the national average, helped by its Commercial Industrial Service Rider for qualifying projects that create at least 2 MW of new demand and by an Economic Development Rider that offers a discounted rate over five years for businesses that create at least 25 new jobs per 350 kW of new demand. Gulf Power also assisted its regional partners in their business attraction efforts by providing Gazelle and EMSI as research tools, and sponsoring a second year of a comprehensive retail attraction strategy.
Corporate facility investment: $527.8 million
Jobs created: 2,927
Population & Territory: 1.5 million served by 20 electric cooperatives across South Carolina
Highlights: South Carolina Power Team is the economic development organization of the state’s 20 electric cooperatives. Electric cooperatives provided $6 million in grant dollars to communities for site acquisition and development through South Carolina Power Team Site Readiness Fund. Since 2015, electric cooperatives have invested more than $42 million to advance and develop sites. This commitment has leveraged an additional $160 million from communities and other partners to develop market-ready sites. One of them unveiled in 2019 was the new Tri-County Global Industrial Site on the I-26 corridor between Orangeburg and Columbia. Meanwhile, the team’s Project Pioneer combines traditional workforce data sources with comprehensive primary research. Initial implementation included more than 200 employer interviews and the polling of 12,000 South Carolina workers. Data gathering for Project Pioneer is continuous.
Corporate facility investment: $2 billion
Jobs created: 2,519
Population & Territory: 1,745,046 across 45,000 square miles in the southern two-thirds of Alabama
Highlights: Alabama Power began offering Asset Assessments to communities within the Alabama Power service territory in 2019, offering insights via over 15 asset assessments that have supported multiple communities during 2019 and 2020 by analyzing assets and opportunities for growth and development. The utility last year partnered with CSX Transportation, the state of Alabama and Baldwin County to provide funds for the improvement of the 3,000-acre South Alabama Mega Site in Baldwin County, Alabama. Alabama Power also partnered with the Economic Development Association of Alabama’s Rural Development Initiative to encourage cross-county cooperation in developing regional strategic plans based on asset assessments. In addition to partnering with partnered with the state and Techstars, a national tech accelerator, to create the Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator, the utility also partnered with Alabama Launchpad and CO.STARTERS to help build entrepreneurial ecosystems in five regions (so far) consisting of 17 rural counties.
Corporate facility investment: $18.2 billion
Jobs created: 5,463
Population & Territory: 6.5 million spread across 63 counties in Arkansas, 59 parishes in Louisiana, 45 counties in Mississippi and 27 counties in Texas
Highlights: Entergy’s Site Development program directly affected 31 counties delivering the following site videos, 360-degree interactive site videos, interactive building fliers and ESRI story maps to further enhance the competitiveness of industrial sites. Entergy was awarded the West Baton Rouge Chamber Large Company of the Year award for efforts to facilitate a virtual FAM tour of the parish’s sites and buildings in 2019. Entergy Louisiana assisted Louisiana Economic Development (LED) in certifying 12 sites — Louisiana currently has 118 certified sites, 91 of which are within Entergy’s service territory. Entergy Mississippi continued its Excellerator Grant program to help communities be more competitive for industrial development, and brought in representatives from ACT to perform “boot-camp” training sessions for communities seeking to become a Certified Work Ready Community. Entergy Mississippi also announced approval to build a $57 million substation at the Madison County Mega Site in the Jackson metro area. Entergy Texas was recognized by SETX Workforce Solutions with the 2019 Special Initiative Workforce Partner Award for contributions to the Jobs for American Graduates Program, which includes paid work experience in the energy, petroleum and chemical products industries.
Corporate facility investment: $2.8 billion
Jobs created: 5,794
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: Out of the 21 top new and expanding businesses in Kentucky in 2019 rthat esulted in more than $4.5 billion in investment and 8,190 jobs, 10 are LG&E and KU customers, including four of the top five investment announcements. “This is a significant achievement for Kentucky, and for LG&E and KU’s own Economic Development and Key Accounts teams,” said John Bevington, LG&E/KY director of business and economic development, earlier this year. “Our team contributed to 116 announcements of new or expanding businesses, which include 5,794 jobs and investments of more than $2.8 billion,” including projects from aluminum wheel maker CMWA in Paris; Corning in Harrodsburg; Ford in Louisville; Toyota in Georgetown; Phoenix Paper in Wickliffe; and Meggitt Aircraft Braking Systems in Danville. “These investments not only reflect our company’s efforts to attract new business to the state, but it’s also a reflection of the dedicated account managers who provide exceptional and personalized service to our key account customers,” Bevington said.
Corporate facility investment: $8.9 billion
Jobs created: 66,500
Population & Territory: 10 million across 80,000 square miles in portions of seven states in the southeastern United States
Highlights: This marks the 15th straight year this utility economic development pioneer has earned the Top Utility honor. But it’s not the only award the nation’s largest public power utility has garnered. Meanwhile, the work goes on, attracting projects like Amazon’s 5,000-job operations center of excellence in Nashville, the single largest initial jobs announcement in TVA Economic Development’s storied history. Other investors include Mitsubishi Motors, VW, Corelle Brands and Pennington Stave & Cooperage. The work also includes continuing investment in the team’s InvestPrep program that, since 2012, has led the country in helping communities with site development and spurred over $1 billion in capital investment, with 19 plant locations and over 5,000 jobs. TVA’s Rural Leadership Institute continues to train economic developers, with 192 state, regional and local economic development professionals and local power company representatives having graduated from the program. TVA Economic Development partnered with Atlas Integrated to develop and integrate Workforce IQ, a data visualization tool, to showcase crucial workforce, industry and demographic information. Another new initiative is the Community Innovation Academy, which helps communities dive into concepts such as community collaboration, capacity-building models, ecosystem and asset mapping, prototyping and more.
Corporate facility investment: $2.7 billion
Jobs created: 4,609
Population & Territory: 6.6 million across 64,000 sq. miles in central and eastern Missouri and central and southern Illinois.
Highlights: Ameren Illinois implemented new economic development incentives to encourage economic growth in its largely rural service territory and the development of shovel-ready sites by providing flexible payment options for upfront costs and refundable deposits toward the cost of energy infrastructure. The utility closed on 23 projects in 2019, including facility investments from Amazon, Mueller and World Wide Technology. Smart technologies and meters are improving reliability by 20% overall. Ameren Missouri’s Innovative Economic Development Plan will enhance community preparedness, leverage technologies in site selection and deliver customized messaging to targeted business sectors. 2019 saw the launch of the Ameren Missouri Site Readiness Planning Grant program to enhance inventory of certified, community-based shovel-ready industrial sites. The utility implemented Rider EDI, an aggressive energy-based incentive providing a five-year, average 40% discount on base rates for qualifying clients that helped 17 successful business development projects, resulting in over 4,000 new/retained jobs. Finally, 2019 was the first year of the Smart Energy Plan featuring $1B of investment to modernize the grid. The plan has secured 55% of its supplier base from Missouri and resulted in more than $5 million in increased tax revenue for Ameren-served communities.
Corporate facility investment: $335.5 million
Jobs created: 3,466
Population & Territory: A bi-state service area of 5.7 million stretching across 102,700 sq. miles of eastern Kansas and western Missouri, including the Kansas City and Wichita metro areas and one-third of Kansas.
Highlights: In 2019, Evergy helped create the legislation in Missouri for the Limited Large Economic Development Rider, which provides a 40% discount on rates for each of five years for non-retail customers with a peak demand higher than 300 KW and a load factor of at least 55%. The program was duplicated in Kansas service territories in 2020. Evergy’s economic development team continues to offer key support in areas such as certified sites, site visit hosting, research and analysis and community competitiveness and development services. Targeted industries continue to include aerospace, automotive, data centers and manufacturing. Like many leaders, Evergy has instituted a grant program (the Hometown Economic Recovery Program) to support non-profits during the pandemic. In January, the utility announced with Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly that it will expand its wind energy portfolio by 660 MW and reduce carbon output by 80% below 2005 levels by 2050.
Corporate facility investment: $1.26 billion
Jobs created: 2,540
Population & Territory: 846,000 across 5,000 sq. miles in 13 counties in southeast Nebraska
Highlights: In 2019, OPPD, whose CEO Tim Burke is the chairman of the Greater Omaha Chamber, established its own site development initiative and is currently under way in speculative site development including site control along its rail line, which provides dual access to Union Pacific and BNSF service. In addition to growing its own solar and wind energy portfolio, OPPD closely partnered with commercial and industrial customers to help them meet their renewable energy goals, including Google, which announced plans to build a $600 million data center in Papillion in 2019. Google cited OPPD’s rate, designed to help meet the needs of large-power high-voltage transmission-level customers, as one of the main reasons for choosing the area. OPPD also is investing heavily in its infrastructure, including high-level transmission voltage lines that went online in 2019 to support existing customers’ plans for growth and open new development opportunities.
Corporate facility investment: $2.6 billion
Jobs created: 4,125
Population & Territory: 3 million in 11 of Arizona’s 15 counties
Highlights: APS’s always improving Arizona Prospector website provides community and region-specific data on labor force demographics, wages, top industries, business clusters, consumer spending, education levels, transportation and housing, as well as office, industrial and retail building and land availability. Like Evergy in the Midwest, APS also works with SizeUp to provide small-to-medium sized businesses and entrepreneurs around the state with market research and data analytics. The APS team has also helped communities such as the City of Casa Grande, the Verde Valley Regional Economic Organization and others develop economic development strategic plans. Following on major new solar and battery storage projects in recent years, the utility early this year announced a plan to go from 50% clean power to 100% carbon-free by 2050, ending all coal-based generation by 2031, seven years sooner than previously projected.
Corporate facility investment: $815 million
Population & Territory: 3 million people in a territory encompassing over 2,900 square miles in central Arizona, serving 15 municipalities in two counties
Highlights: “SRP has been a leading force in the development of the Greater Phoenix metropolitan area for more than 100 years as a water and power provider and a community partner,” the company says, and has the unique capability to provide customers in a variety of industries with power, water resources and fiber network services. Among its accomplishments in 2019, the SRP team created an Economic Development Rider based on net new jobs, expanded its energy efficiency programs and developed sustainability goals, one of which is a 90% reduction in carbon emission by 2050. SRP’s work on behalf of industrial customers last year included a public process to provide energy services and infrastructure to Google on its new 187-acre parcel for a data center in Mesa. Dubbed “Project Red Hawk,” it involved a switchyard and multiple transformers interconnecting 230Kv structures. SRP continues to offer its deep water management expertise to the growing Phoenix region and its customers, and is working with the Arizona-Mexico Commission on a binational desalination study.
Corporate facility investment: $7.4 billion
Population & Territory: 2.5 million in Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery Counties in southeastern Pennsylvania
Highlights: PECO in 2019 refocused its economic development efforts on the electric and natural gas infrastructure requirements for Greater Philadelphia’s largest redevelopment projects. Among them is the 1,200-acre Philadelphia Navy Yard, where PECO is working with the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC) to support an additional 10 million sq. ft. of development. Other projects in the works include serving as ombudsman in addressing energy requirements for Wexford’s uCity Square development at University City Science Center; assessment and implementation with Hilco of a long-term infrastructure plan to support turning the 1,300-acre former Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) oil refinery in South Philadelphia into 13 million to 15 million sq. ft. of industrial and logistics space; analyzing customer-owned gas and electric facilities to support the sale and redevelopment of U.S. Steel’s 2,000-acre Keystone Industrial Port Complex; and working with MRA Group to transform a former Rohm & Haas chemical complex into a thriving life sciences site known as Spring House Innovation Park.