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2021 TOP UTILITIES IN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
From Site Selection magazine, September 2021
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Unstoppable

This Year’s Top Utilities — Like Their Customers and Communities — Demonstrate Perseverance, Ingenuity and the Spirit of Service

2021 TOP UTILITIES IN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
In March 2020, the 1.7-million-sq.-ft. State Farm Stadium — home to the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals — became a Salt River Project Business Demand Response participant, resulting in about $75,000 in savings over its first year. The utility pays the stadium to temporarily reduce energy use when an emergency threatens the stability of the power grid.
Photo courtesy of SRP

by Adam Bruns

While everyone argues about how to define infrastructure, nobody denies that electricity counts. Take away power and you take away the economy.

“If we don't have electricity, the economy stops. From our perspective, electricity is more than a commodity,” said Southern Company Chief Economist and Director of Planning and Regulatory Support Kenneth Shiver in March 2021 during an Electric Power Research Institute panel discussion on resilient energy infrastructure.

Utilities’ human infrastructure is proving to be resilient and is gearing up. Utilities in the U.S. employed 817,344 as recently as 2019, says the latest analysis from the U.S. Census Bureau, and 1,380,000 Americans overall work in the sector. Transmission, distribution and storage added more than 156,000 new jobs from 2015 to 2019, for a growth rate of 13%.

The importance of power to industry was never more apparent than in the findings of the 2021 State of Commercial and Industrial Power Reliability Report released by S&C Electric Co. in March 2021. Based on survey of 253 commercial and industrial (C&I) companies with average annual revenues of $75 million, the report found companies affected by momentary outages lasting less than five minutes jumped from 20% to 40% in one year, signifying outages are becoming more prevalent and noticeable because of their impact on operations. A portion of companies would be willing to pay their utilities a premium for a 20% reduction in outages, yet 31% of companies felt they were not given the opportunity to talk with their utility directly about their reliability concerns. “This presents an opportunity for utilities to discuss the extent of C&I companies' power concerns,” said S&C, “and gain an in-depth understanding of the solutions these businesses need.”

Understanding companies’ needs and devising solutions is the sort of work pursued every day by utility economic development departments. While many utility employees are on the front lines of power provision, utility economic development departments are tending to their own front lines in cultivating employer attraction, expansion and growth.

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 the previous calendar year, evaluated on a cumulative and per-capita basis. The citations that follow appear alphabetically by utility name within designated U.S. regions.

These high performers stand out among nation’s 3,300 utilities (including 900 electric cooperatives). Talk to their people and visit their websites to explore how their capabilities may very well enhance yours.

EAST NORTH CENTRAL

Alliant Energy
Madison, Wisconsin
alliantenergy.com/economicdevelopment

Corporate facility investment: $906 million

Jobs created: 2,267

Population & Territory: 2 million in parts of Iowa and Wisconsin

Highlights: At nearly the same job creation level as 2019, Alliant’s economic developers teamed with economic development partners on 31 project wins in the 1,300-plus communities Alliant serves across Iowa and Wisconsin. Activity was strong in food processing, animal nutrition, packaging and advanced manufacturing, among other sectors. Significant projects included a major investment from Japanese company Spiber in Clinton, Iowa, which this year claimed the No. 1 spot in Site Selection’s rankings of Mississippi River corridor communities’ economic development activity per capita.

“As a difficult year unfolded, our goal of advancing business strategies and economic development propelled us to launch a new interactive mapping project on our website,” says Mark Seckman, senior economic development manager. “It is essential to maintain close relationships with our region’s utility partners, and Alliant Energy continues to support our efforts as contributing members of a thriving community,” says Andy Sokolovich, vice president of economic development, Clinton Regional Development Corporation.

Edison Electric Institute recognized Alliant’s team for the restoration of electricity following the derecho that hit the Iowa service area, causing an estimated $11 billion in damage and prompting the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to call the derecho the most costly thunderstorm in U.S. history. Alliant’s Clean Energy Blueprint has accelerated the utility’s sustainability goals to eliminate all coal from its generation fleet by 2040 and achieve net-zero carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity it generates by 2050.


American Electric Power
Columbus, Ohio
www.aeped.com

Corporate facility investment: $2.7 billion

Jobs created: 10,870

Population & Territory: 12.4 million people in 11 states

Highlights: AEP’s job creation count was up by more than 2,000 jobs over 2019’s totals, even as total corporate facility capex was down by 1.4 billion. “The pandemic has had a major effect on our customers and communities, and we have been working hard to meet their needs in a variety of ways,” says AEP Vice President, Sales, Economic & Business Development Tim Wells. “As one example, we had a team dedicated to helping small businesses apply for relief programs that assisted more than 1,900 business customers through that process. Our new reshoring & supply chain resiliency initiative assists our customers and suppliers as they look to relocate manufacturing facilities back to the United States or to identify more domestic sources within their supply chains. Through partnerships with the Reshoring Institute and the Reshoring Initiative, we provide resources and support to customers as they explore these options.”

Among other activities, the team pivoted from in-person meetings to deliver web-based prospect visits and more drone site videos; enhanced site identification GIS capabilities; established new site readiness programs and AEP Quality Sites; provided web-based economic development training to partners and expanded grant programs to assist partners with expenses during the pandemic. AEP also continues to pursue opportunities to leverage its system to support broadband expansion in rural and underserved areas, starting with AEP-Appalachian Power’s inaugural broadband project in Grayson County, Virginia. AEP, which is deploying 375 charging stations in Ohio through AEP Ohio and new stations in Tulsa in concert with the Indian Nationals Council of governments, is a founding member of the Electric Highway Coalition, a utility partnership to ensure EV drivers have access to a corridor of charging stations across several regions in the U.S.


Commonwealth Edison Company (ComEd)
Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois
www.comed.com/econdev

Corporate facility investment: $2.7 billion

Jobs created: 6,400

Population & Territory: 9.38 million (more than 4 million customers) in more than 400 municipalities across the northern third of Illinois

Highlights: ComEd continues to pursue new renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions in the wake of the passage of the Future Energy Jobs Act in 2016, which enabled ComEd to offer rebates of $250 per installed kW of onsite solar energy per business customer site. In 2020, a record of 10,500 residential, commercial and industrial customers installed 183MW of distribution generation, and ComEd also connected 20 community solar projects. ComEd-led training programs resulting in over 1,690 trainees completing the Craft Apprenticeship Program, Solar Pipeline and Multicultural job training programs with 25% securing jobs.

Implementation of the state’s smart grid law has resulted in more than 16 million avoided customer interruptions, equating to $2.7 billion in societal savings. Highlights of several signature programs from ComEd’s Economic & Workforce Development team in 2020 include plans electrify 30% of the ComEd fleet by 2025 and 50% by 2030; and the creation of the State Pitch: Energy Asset Knock-Out (SPEAK) Tool, a new state-comparison tool that uses publicly available data in conjunction with project-specific information such as demand, load factor, and utility rates to compare and contrast the locational advantages for a project on a state by state basis. This resource has supported more than 10 project wins and was recognized in Exelon’s 2020 Innovation Expo. The team also conducted eight ComEd-led events focused on pandemic-related business support and relief, ComEd’s ongoing programs and services, and economic activity for 500-plus attendees.


Consumers Energy Company
Jackson, Michigan
consumersenergy.com/econdev

Corporate facility investment: $2.7 billion

Jobs created: 4,236

Population & Territory: 6.7 million across 68 counties in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula

Highlights: Consumers Energy (CMS) announced it will stop using coal as a fuel source for electricity by 2025, 15 years faster than originally planned. The plan would make the company one of the first in the nation to go coal-free. If approved by the Michigan Public Service Commission, the updated plan would ensure that renewable fuel sources such as solar and wind will comprise more than 60% of the utility’s electric capacity by 2040. Among many outreach and philanthropic actions during the pandemic, the Consumers Energy Foundation since March 2020 has provided over $5.4 million to Michigan nonprofit organizations, and made a $12 million contribution that provided a lifeline so many families and businesses to stay on their feet. 

2020 saw record accomplishments of electric load growth, jobs and investment secured in CMS service territory. The utility continues to support small business with SizeUp, a small business insights tool, and to support electric mobility with a new program to help businesses transition to carbon-free EVs through PowerMIFleet, which follows its successful PowerMIDrive residential program. In total, CMS plans to help power 200 fast charging locations — and over 2,000 chargers at homes and businesses — over the next three years in Michigan. CMS is also one of six energy companies facilitating the construction of a vast network of fast charging stations across the Midwest from Michigan to Kansas.


FirstEnergy
Akron, Ohio
www.fe-economic-development.com

Corporate facility investment: $5.5 billion

Jobs created: 14,500

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: Both totals above are higher than the impressive $4.5 billion and 12,129 jobs FirstEnergy Economic Development helped attract in 2019. The team influence 107 project wins, led by the $2.8 billion investment by GM and LG Chem in Ultium Cells in the Youngstown-Warren region known as “Voltage Valley.” Others include Clorox's announcement of a new100-job cat litter production facility in West Virginia (Project Ferrari); and Kroger's 500-job robotic fulfillment center in Maryland. “In December, we launched our new economic development website at www.fe-economic-development.com/,” writes FirstEnergy Economic Development Director Patrick Kelly.

In addition to several webinars (including one precisely focused on FDI in the food processing sector), the team in 2020 concluded work on several strategic initiatives, including its FirstSites program that puts the utility’s stamp of approval on pad-ready sites. FirstEnergy also sponsored (and was an active participant) of the Fulton County, Ohio Industrial Corridor Site Development Plan. “One trend we are seeing is the tremendous amount of distribution centers that are being built in the eastern part of our territory in Pennsylvania,” says Kelly. “It is close to all the population centers on the East Coast but far enough away from the gridlock on I-95.”


Indiana Municipal Power Agency
Carmel, Indiana
www.impa.com

Corporate facility investment: $472 million

Jobs created: 1,245

Population & Territory: 350,000 in 61 cities and towns in Indiana and Ohio

Highlights: “IMPA leadership has taken to heart the comments and desires from our existing customers and CEOs around the world about the direction of energy generation,” writes Bryan Brackemyre, vice president of member services for IMPA. “With that in mind, we've been instrumental in Indiana and the Midwest in pivoting away from traditional generation resources by constructing over 30 solar parks and have no sights on slowing down as we transition to a greener portfolio. What's been more impressive is that we've been able to transition to a more environmentally portfolio while still be amongst the lowest wholesale electric rates in Indiana.” The array of economic development services IMPA offers continues to include energy cost and comparative rate analysis; incentive rates; power conservation analysis for new or proposed facilities; digital inventories of sites, buildings and potential suppliers and customers; financing of new and expanded facilities; workforce and tax analysis; and retention and expansion services and incentives.


MID-ATLANTIC

Baltimore Gas & Electric
Baltimore, Maryland
bge.com/economicdevelopment

Corporate facility investment: $2.36 billion

Jobs created: 2,458

Population & Territory: 3.1 million people across 2,300 square miles encompassing Baltimore City and all or part of 10 central Maryland counties

Highlights:

  • BGE’s Economic Development team had several other key accomplishments in 2020. 
  • BGE played an influential role in the passage of data center legislation in Maryland by engaging the MD Chamber of Commerce to mobilize a coalition of stakeholders that successfully advocated for the bill. The sales & use tax exemption has since generated significant data center interest in the state and directly resulted in several data center project wins.  
  • BGE pledged $15 million to assist Maryland’s small businesses with COVID-19 relief and recovery, offering eligible businesses a $20,000 Energizing Small Business Grant. The program, designed by the Economic Development team, is the first of its kind for BGE and part of its comprehensive Customer Relief and Energy Infrastructure Investment Plan, designed to help the state’s economic recovery from the pandemic.
  • BGE’s Economic Development team also completed the most successful year to date for its innovative Smart Energy for Economic Development (SEED) incentive program, which provides discounts on service extension and distribution charges for new and expanding customers in BGE’s territory. For the program year ending July 31st, BGE incentivized 36 projects (most in SEED’s 5-year history), supported the creation of 4,958 jobs and distributed over $1.4 million in discounts.
  • BGE’s team also continued to support aggressive business attraction for Tradepoint Atlantic, a 3,300-acre global logistics center transformed from a former steel mill. BGE’s team supported the attraction and infrastructure build-out for several high-profile projects, and completed a new, state-of-the-art sub-station to support the current and future needs of the site.

SOUTH ATLANTIC

Duke Energy
Charlotte, North Carolina
locationdukeenergy.com

Corporate facility investment: $9.1 billion

Jobs created: 18,000

Population & Territory: 24 million across parts of six states

Highlights: Duke’s numbers were both up from the 15,400 jobs and $7.1 billion its economic development team helped attract in 2019. 2020 project wins includes the two-for-one power of Nestle Purina Petcare’s 300-job, $550 million distribution center in Clermont County, Ohio, and its 300-job, $450 million manufacturing facility in Rockingham County, North Carolina. Among other projects were a 204-job, $389 million investment by FCA (now Stellantis) in Howard County, Indiana; an 800-job, $650 million project from Raytheon’s Pratt & Whitney in Buncombe County, North Carolina; a 1,000-job, $600 million e-commerce fulfillment center from Walmart in Hancock County, Indiana; and a 460-job, $470 million investment by Indiana-based Eli Lilly and Co. in Durhan, North Carolina.

A total of 21 sites were evaluated through the Duke Energy Site Readiness Program in 2020. Indiana and Florida rolled out the Strategic Sites Inventory program to expand the inventory of developable sites in the communities Duke Energy serves even further. Duke Energy Florida created a Site Readiness Guide as a resource for land development to share with its economic development networks across Florida. Duke also is a member of the Indiana Power Partnership which coordinated five virtual events during 2020 in tandem with economic development partners, visiting virtually with 70 consultants from Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Cleveland, Greenville and New York City.


Georgia Power 
Atlanta, Georgia
selectgeorgia.com

Corporate facility investment: $5.2 billion

Jobs created: 22,900

Population & Territory: 10.8 million in all 159 counties in Georgia

Highlights: The capital investment Georgia Power’s economic development team helped attract was exactly the same as the $5.2 billion attracted in 2019, while the job total took a huge leap up by more than 6,000 jobs from the 16,029 jobs attracted that previous year, setting a new record. Among the 126 projects tallied by the team were Home Chef’s 1,250-job facility in Lithonia; Creative Flooring Solutions’ $70 million, 300-job investment in Adairsville; 902 jobs in three cities from Atlanta’s own The Home Depot; MSI’s 225-job, $53 million facility in Savannah; and SK Innovation’s next $940 million, 600-job phase of its huge battery plant along I-85 in Commerce. Members of the business recruitment, research, and engineering teams were key contributors to Southern Company’s Data Center Strategy, designed to competitively position Southern to capture more data center customer loads. Researchers on the team meanwhile developed a COVID-19 Resources Site; a county index enabling communities to analyze their strengths and weaknesses vs. other counties; and an enhanced website product for interactive prospect RFIs that includes sections on diversity, inclusion, and equity.

The Georgia Power Community and Economic Development team actively supported the Lt. Governor’s Georgia Innovates Taskforce, a state-sponsored initiative to advance the state’s status as the technology capital of the East Coast. The team also launched a virtual learning series, CommUNITY Conversations, that evolved into a larger scale series of town hall webinars that reached more than 3,500 community leaders across the state. Meanwhile, as part of the continual push to foster regional economic development growth by Georgia Power, Toombs and Montgomery counties, along with the cities of Vidalia and Lyons, have begun taking steps to create and build a Vibrant Community Partnership. Finally, the team engaged 110,000+ students in person and virtually in 2020; convened four workforce development summits; launched Poweringcareers.com to support energy sector workforce growth; and was a founding member of the Center for Workforce Innovation (CWI) at Atlanta Technical College, where it also launched the Electrical Lineworker Apprentice Certificate program.


South Carolina Power Team
Columbia, South Carolina
scpowerteam.com

Corporate facility investment: $811 million

Jobs created: 2,222

Population & Territory: 1.6 million served by 20 electric cooperatives across South Carolina

Highlights: In 2020, advanced manufacturing accounted for nearly $232 million of the SC Power Team’s $811 million in attracted facility investments (29%), and nearly half of the total of 2,222 jobs created by those investments. The team attracted a total of 32 projects, with more than 34% of them expansions and nearly 28% of them from foreign direct investment. “By late April of 2020, new projects were coming in the door daily,” wrote SC Power Team Chairman Bob Paulling, president and CEO of Mid-Carolina Electric Cooperative, in the organization’s annual report. Among the investors: Niagara Bottling establishing operations in Florence County creating 150 jobs with a $134.8 million capital investment; KRA Operations establishing and expanding operations in Newberry County creating 177 jobs with a $35 million capital investment; Pure Blue Fish establishing operations in Orangeburg County creating 82 jobs with a $28.1 million capital investment; and Techtronic Industries expanding operations in Anderson County creating 625 jobs with a $135 million capital investment.

Project Pioneer is the comprehensive, statewide labor study maintained by the South Carolina Power Team. 2020 highlights of the study included minimal impact on industrial hiring; a larger share of firms reporting low turnover; continuing industrial wage inflation (in keeping with national trends); and a “very favorable view of worker productivity in South Carolina.”

Launched in 2014 and expanded in 2019, the Site Readiness Fund has leveraged a total of $217 million in combined funding on 36 projects. So far, sites in the program have welcomed 40 MW worth of projects from companies investing nearly $1.5 billion and creating 4,965 new jobs.


SOUTH CENTRAL

Alabama Power Company 
Birmingham, Alabama
amazingalabama.com

Corporate facility investment: $2 billion

Jobs created: 2,967

Population & Territory: 1.8 million across 45,000 square miles in the southern two-thirds of Alabama

Highlights: In 2020 the Alabama Power Co. (APC) team rebranded its nearly 30-year-old site development revolving loan fund as Build To Grow, and increased funding to help impact more communities, already resulting in a successful $15.4 million, 73-job investment in a spec building participating in the program. Last year the team also provided asset assessments and regional strategic plans to all five regions participating in the Rural Development Initiative, which APC partners on with the Economic Development Association of Alabama. In 2020 the Strategic Analytics Team (SAT) was formed to support APC’s Economic and Community Development organization. SAT is a centralized analytical and GIS technical team that optimizes resources and creates new technology solutions to respond to active economic development projects. SAT technology offerings and solutions fostered interactive remote user experiences using multimedia to showcase analyzed data, renderings, virtual site visits and 3D models.

In 2020 APC partnered with national, state, and local allies to fund and launch three different tech accelerators: Techstars, Bronze Valley and the Montgomery TechLab. APC also partnered with internet service providers to help bridge the digital divide by bringing high-speed, fiber-based services off APC’s infrastructure. In Montgomery, the Chamber of Commerce is leveraging APC’s fiber network to support their innovation hub called MGMWERX.

In 2018, the Alabama Power Foundation in conjunction with the Alabama Workforce Council started a Public-Private Partnership Committee (PPPC), consisting of more than 30 nonprofits from across Alabama, to address barriers to workforce access and success. In 2020, the PPPC helped to secure over $23 million in funding to support programs and services related to the state’s Success Plus initiative.


Entergy Corporation
New Orleans, Louisiana
goentergy.com

Corporate facility investment: $12.9 billion

Jobs created: 7,572

Population & Territory: 6.5 million spread across 63 counties in Arkansas, 58 parishes in Louisiana, 45 counties in Mississippi and 27 counties in Texas.

Highlights: Job creation was up by more than 2,000 jobs over Entergy’s total project attraction efforts in 2019. Projects included two delivery stations and one fulfillment center from Amazon in Arkansas; Gron Fuels’ $9.2 billion renewable fuels complex in Louisiana; a Google operations center in Mississippi; and Iriapak’s packaging film operation in New Orleans. A new quarterly digital newsletter includes information about the Site Selection Center (2,000 plus available properties). Entergy in 2020 also conducted a survey of select manufacturing companies in the United States to collect information about the company’s overseas manufacturing operations, and the company’s relocation/expansion plans for the near future.

In 2020, Entergy territory felt like the crossroads for calamity, as the hurricane season, with 30 named storms and five that hit Louisiana, was the busiest ever recorded. But Entergy was ready, deploying more than 54,000 resources including employees, contractors, and mutual-assistance workers from more than 30 states. The region’s momentum may have paused, but never stopped. “2020 saw numerous new and expansion billion-dollar petrochemical projects slow their process down but none cancelled,” Karl Segura, senior manager, business development at Entergy Texas, told me in early 2021. “We have already seen signs of them ramping back up.”

Program activities included 13 site development projects and nine site certifications by Entergy Louisiana, which also conducted webinars and lead generation efforts for its community partners. Entergy Mississippi continued its Excellerator Grant program to help communities be more competitive for industrial development, and hosted both virtual site visit training and its first annual virtual meeting on the Mississippi legislative session with its communities.


Tennessee Valley Authority
Nashville, Tennessee
TVAsites.com

Corporate facility investment: $8.6 billion

Jobs created: 67,000

Population & Territory: 10 million across 80,000 square miles in portions of seven states in the southeastern United States

Highlights: Among projects in TVA territory in 2020, Facebook announced plans to locate operations in Gallatin, Tennessee, creating 100 new jobs and investing $800 million in a data center. Facebook partnered with TVA to bring over 200MW of new solar energy to the Valley. Other projects included investments by Mazda Toyota in Alabama, Wacker Group in Tennessee and Amazon, which is creating 2,500 jobs at three locations in TVA territory. TVA Economic Development offers companies and site selection consultants a broad array of targeted services and relocation incentives. It offers a similarly broad array of services to its communities. TVA’s InvestPrep program since 2012 has helped leverage funding in communities for site development needs. The program’s success has spurred over $1 billion in capital investment, with 26 plant locations, and over 7,000 jobs in the Valley.

TVA ED developed a training, Electricity 101, to help partners and site selectors ask the right questions to get the most accurate data for their clients’ projects. TVA’s Rural Leadership Institute, Rural Certified Communities program and Valley Sustainable Communities program all continue to foster new levels of awareness, connectivity and proactivity across the hundreds of communities TVA serves. TVA ED also launched a coworking spaces initiative as well as a Community Coworking Space Network Information exchange group. TVA ED’s Ready for Next Cities was developed to encourage Valley communities to be aware of the need to prepare for the uncertain future of baby boomer business transitions, be prepared in succession planning, and build a roadmap for retaining the next generation of its workforce. According to a statement on August 18, 2021, by TVA President and CEO Jeff Lyash, TVA ED already has “helped create or retain more than 65,000 jobs and $7.8 billion in capital investments to the region during the first three quarters of FY21.”


WEST NORTH CENTRAL

Ameren Corporation
St. Louis, Missouri
ameren.com/company/business-partners/economic-development

Corporate facility investment: $1.1 billion

Jobs created: 6,657

Population & Territory: 6.6 million across 64,000 sq. miles in central and eastern Missouri and central and southern Illinois.

Highlights: The job creation total was up by more than 2,000 over the bi-state Ameren team’s 2019 accomplishments. Through Ameren Cares, Ameren Illinois and Ameren Missouri provided $23 million in direct energy assistance and mobilized resources along with community partners to meet the needs of struggling businesses and residents during the pandemic. Meanwhile, 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. It also partnered with advisory firm NextSite to bring cost-effective commercial development recruitment solutions to Ameren communities; continued to provide rebates of $250 per kilowatt under its Distributed Generation Rebate Program for solar energy; and filed an optional EV charging program tariff as a foundation for its electrification strategy.

In the first two years of implementation, the Ameren Missouri Smart Energy Plan has completed more than 1,500 projects across territory that spans 24,000 square miles. The $8.4 billion plan for 2021 to 2025 will further efforts to create a stronger, smarter, cleaner, more resilient and secure electric grid. Among other aspects, the plan will generate $10 million in tax revenue for local communities in 2021, and offers what Ameren calls “one of the best economic development incentives in the country” with an average five-year, 40%-off-base-rates incentive. Also in 2020, Ameren Missouri launched the Site Readiness Planning Grant to assist communities with up to $15,000 in matching grant funds as they look to advance existing sites to Missouri Certified Site status. Four new certified sites should be added in 2021. Among Ameren Missouri’s most significant planning engagements is the creation of the Ameren-supported Greater St. Louis Inc., a newly created regional development organization. The group's companion plan, STL 2030 Jobs Plan: Driving a Decade of Inclusive Growth, was released to the public on January 1, 2021.


Evergy
Kansas City, Missouri
www.evergyed.com

Corporate facility investment: $1.2 billion

Jobs created: 3,875

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: Both the job creation and capex totals from corporate facility investments in Evergy territory were up from last year’s totals of 3,466 jobs and $335.5 million invested. In May 2020, Evergy committed $2.2 million to help agencies, communities and customers respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing its 2020 planned community giving to more than $8 million. “We know our communities and customers are dealing with nearly unprecedented uncertainties due to this virus,” said Terry Bassham, Evergy President and CEO. “We are making the largest focused charitable commitment in our history. We’ve been serving these communities nearly 150 years, and we want to do our part to help them move forward.”

Evergy’s Hometown Economic Recovery Program focuses on efforts in Evergy communities in such areas as small business needs, business attraction and retention, and workforce training and development. In addition, Evergy provided the SizeUp economic development tool to help local communities develop and nurture new and expanding businesses.

Among other measures, Evergy created a New Utility Incentive Rider called Limited Large Customer EDR designed to incentivize large economic development projects. In addition, Evergy partnered with the State of Kansas in launching a statewide site certification program. 


Omaha Public Power District
Omaha, Nebraska
oppd.com

Corporate facility investment: $865 million

Jobs created: 3,281

Population & Territory: 849,000 (3,000 more than last year) across 5,000 sq. miles in 13 counties in southeast Nebraska

Highlights: The dollars were up and the job total was slightly down from the $1.26 billion and 2,540 jobs OPPD helped attract to its region in 2019. 2020 projects included an Amazon robotics fulfillment center (1,000 jobs, $250 million) and facility investments from Dollar General (400 jobs, $85 million), Northend Teleservices (180 jobs), Facebook (a $250 million data center expansion) Applied Underwriters (100 jobs), Scoular ($9.2 million in its HQ) and Gruma Corporation (240 jobs).

OPPD also held more than a dozen leadership positions across local, regional and statewide boards in 2020, including president of the Nebraska Economic Developers Association. OPPD CEO Tim Burke was the 2020 chairman of the Greater Omaha Chamber, leading the raising of more than $30 million for a transformative five-year economic development campaign dedicated toward Greater Omaha’s 2040 vision focused on people, place and prosperity. OPPD also provided leadership and support on the 2020 passage of Nebraska’s new, modernized tax incentive program, the ImagiNE Nebraska Act, for new and expanding businesses. The program became effective in January 2021. “With the utility’s established site development initiative currently underway,” writes Brook Aken, OPPD’s manager of economic development, “monumental progress was made in speculative site development,” including site control, engineering services and marketing of sites, and was fundamental to landing a key distribution center in 2020. In 2020, OPPD’s leadership team launched Powering the Future to 2050, a strategic visioning process for OPPD’s next 30 years, and also began siting locations for its planned 400 and 600 megawatts of utility-scale solar capacity and announced natural gas back-up locations. OPPD is also embarking on its first battery storage pilot called BRIGHT (Battery Research Innovation Guided by High-Potential Technologies), and in 2020 implemented a streamlined online application system, as well as resources, for those considering customer-owned Generation.


Xcel Energy
Minneapolis, Minnesota
www.economicdevelopment.xcelenergy.com

Corporate facility investment: $3 billion

Jobs created: 5,000 jobs

Population & Territory: 8 million in parts of Colorado, Minnesota, New Mexico, Texas, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Michigan

Highlights: Projects landing in Xcel territory in recent history have included a Costco depot on an Xcel Energy Certified Site and Kärcher North America’s new HQ and manufacturing hub in Aurora, Colorado; Andersen Corporation’s $35 million manufacturing expansion in Cottage Grove, Minnesota; DHL’s $6.8 million warehouse in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin; and SSI Foods’ new 150-job meat processing facility in Amarillo, Texas.

In Colorado, the economic development rate is available to new and existing customers adding three to 20 megawatts of new load at a single location. In Minnesota, customers are now eligible to receive an immediate 40% electric demand rate reduction through the Business Sustainability Rider, now available to new and existing commercial and industrial customers with new or additional load of 350kW or greater.

Xcel maintains a sophisticated digital inventory of more than 90 Certified Sites, Ready Sites and Ready Buildings across its eight-state territory. The utility’s economic development team can conduct preliminary site evaluations, assist with site visits, and compare and analyze costs. When I spoke in 2020 to to Brett C. Carter, Xcel Energy’s executive vice president and chief customer and innovation officer, he said, “Our costs are below the national average, and when combined with our energy efficiency incentives, rate incentives, renewable energy and real estate offerings, we have a strong value proposition in place for businesses looking to relocate or expand. Our ‘Steel for Fuel’ investment strategy — the dramatic build out of our wind generation fleet — is not only a sustainability initiative. By investing in owned renewable generation, we are continually driving down costs of generation, which translates to lower bills for our customers.”


SOUTHWEST

Arizona Public Service
Phoenix, Arizona
arizonaprospector.com

Corporate facility investment: $13.2 billion

Jobs created: 7,618

Population & Territory: 3 million in 11 of Arizona’s 15 counties

Highlights: A major semiconductor project sure can boost the numbers. This year’s figures are substantially higher than the $2.6 billion and 4,125 jobs attracted to APS territory in 2019 in large part because of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company’s purchase of 1,128 acres of state land in north Phoenix for their projected $12 billion semiconductor facility. Their plans include an initial 2.5-million-sq.-ft. factory, creating 1,500 new jobs.

In 2020, APS, like many of this year’s honorees, partnered with SizeUp, launching SizeUpArizona.com, a statewide business intelligence tool providing data support to small/medium sized businesses and entrepreneurs. The site provides the ability to research costs, revenue, customers, location, and marketing strategy scenarios comparative to similar businesses around Arizona and the U.S.

APS recently expanded an existing RFP seeking APS-owned solar generation as it ramps up the pace toward its goal of a carbon-free power mix by 2050. It’s ramping up overall infrastructure spending too: APS investments in infrastructure for 2021 are projected to be $1.6 billion, up from $1.3 billion in 2020. Of that, $645 million has been budgeted for 2021 projects related to transmission and distribution. As APS’s Arizona Prospector economic development web portal reminds us, Arizona’s population blossomed to more than 7.3 million people in 2020 from 6.4 million in 2011.


Salt River Project
Phoenix, Arizona
PowerToGrowPHX.com

Corporate facility investment: $935 million

Jobs created: 6,203

Population & Territory: 3 million people in a territory encompassing over 2,900 square miles in central Arizona, serving 15 municipalities in two counties

Highlights: Totals are up from $815 million invested and 4,426 jobs in 2019. But that will happen when a crush of new residents and new company growth happens all at once: The Phoenix metro area is experiencing population growth more than three times the national average. As documented in these pages, thanks to careful management of water and other resources by SRP and its partners, projects such as Intel’s multibillion-dollar investment at its 700-acre Ocotillo Campus in Chandler continue to move forward despite the region’s drought. “Since the mid-’90s, we’ve recharged more water into the underground aquifer than our reservoirs can hold,” SRP Manager of Surface Water Resources Charlie Ester told Site Selection Editor in Chief Mark Arend earlier this year. “Effluent can be used as well. All those supplies together and the way we manage our reservoir system results in Phoenix having one of the best and most reliable water supplies of any large western city in the United States.”

That appeals to a popular sector in the region: data centers. “As large users of energy, our clients have demanding but varied goals for sustainable data center development and operation,” SRP customer Matt Muell, senior vice president, development, at EdgeCore, told Arend in 2020. The company operates a 1.25-million-sq.-ft. data center campus in Mesa that can support 225 MW of critical load. “SRP has shown a willingness to listen to those goals and to work to develop programs which address them in an economically feasible manner. Phoenix is a key data center market because of its proximity to Southern California, economic cost of power, minimal natural disasters and other reasons. SRP strives to keep the economic advantage of power while also delivering the sustainable solutions demanded by some of the most sophisticated IT users in the world.”

SRP continues on that path toward sustainable power generation by moving to close its coal-fired generation plants and expand operations such as Coolidge Generating Station, a quick-start natural gas power plant located in the Southeast Valley. And it continues to sustain its region’s workforce through programs such as SRP Learning Grants: This school year, SRP gave more than $124,000 to be used by 28 teachers for a variety of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) projects, ranging from robotics to lab equipment.


NORTHEAST

PECO- An Exelon Company
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
peco.com/economic

Corporate facility investment: $2.41 billion

Jobs created: 5,615

Population & Territory: 4 million in Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery Counties in southeastern Pennsylvania

Highlights: Though the totals were significantly down from the $7.4 billion and 18,900 jobs in 2019, PECO’s results nevertheless shone bright in a dismal pandemic year. “We worked closely with the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC) to supply the power needed to serve new business at the Navy Yard, where Ensemble Real Estate Investments and Mosaic Development Partners launched a $2.5 billion plan to create thousands of jobs with opportunities for cGMP (current Good Manufacturing Practice) in the life sciences industry,” writes Phillip T. Eastman, Jr., PECO’s senior manager, economic & business development. Iovance Biotherapeutics is among the companies growing there. Similar PECO support is backing Wexford Science & Technology’s 6.5 million sq. ft. of redevelopment at University City and another five-building plan from University Place Associates in West Philadelphia.

PECO also continued to address new electric infrastructure for redevelopment of the former Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) oil refinery where Hilco Redevelopment Partners is spending millions to decommission, demolish and remediate the 1,300-acre heavy industrial site.

“As development of warehouse-distribution space boomed, we coordinated resources to provide electric capacity for a 1-million-sq.-ft., 8-MW electric requirement for UPS in Northeast Philadelphia,” says Eastman. “We help facilitate power for Urban Outfitters’ new 300,000-sq.-ft. suburban warehouse; we supported Amazon’s continued expansion into a network of last-mile distribution facilities throughout the five-county area of Southeastern Pennsylvania; and we supported the Port of Philadelphia’s expansion at the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal with new energy supply facilities for electric cranes that support new distribution facilities there.” Finally, PECO’s team also worked with Northpoint Development Company as it moved to acquire the heavy industrial 2,000-acre former U.S. Steel site, which already has welcomed three new companies that have been supported by PECO economic development services.  

Adam Bruns
Managing Editor of Site Selection magazine

Adam Bruns

Adam Bruns has served as managing editor of Site Selection magazine since February 2002. In the course of reporting hundreds of stories for Site Selection, Adam has visited companies and communities around the globe. A St. Louis native who grew up in the Kansas City suburbs, Adam is a 1986 alumnus of Knox College, and resided in Chicago; Midcoast Maine; Savannah, Georgia; and Lexington, Kentucky, before settling in the Greater Atlanta community of Peachtree Corners, where he lives with his wife and daughter.

   



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