New group is building relationships that last
Co-ops shown as strong partners for business expansion, growth
EnergyLines August 2019
Electric utilities across Indiana have formed a new economic development partnership to attract jobs and capital investment to co-op communities called the Indiana Power Partners (IPP).
This group formed when the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC), the state’s lead economic development organization, ended a popular outreach program after a decade-long run. As the new program was being built, participants decided to add a unique twist.
Through the IPP’s direction, local, regional, and state economic development organizations join utility partners to visit markets where corporate real estate brokers and site location advisors are based. This group is unique but the twist is in their interaction. Through the IPP, Indiana delegations host half-day sessions that connect real estate decision makers with Indiana economic development partners. These in-person interactions are where relationships are being forged.
Session topics include free flowing roundtable discussions and even cooking competitions. Most recently in Atlanta, corporate real estate brokers, economic developers and utility partners were divided into five teams that competed to create the best bruschetta. In a twist, each team was given a mystery ingredient that had to be incorporated in their recipe. Judging was based on presentation, team work, and overall taste. While a fun exercise for all, it also required team members to identify each others’ strengths and to work together, but most of all, it lead to a lot of laughter, good food and memories.
“The difference in our approach is that we work toward building relationships that matter. This human element gives us a distinct competitive advantage,” said Hoosier Energy’s Economic Development Coordinator Jeremy Sowders.
Hoosier Energy continues to build partnerships with corporate real estate brokers and site location advisors because of the role they play in helping businesses decide where to build new facilities or expand existing ones. As businesses grow, they often hire site location advisors to find land or buildings available.
Oftentimes there is little difference between multiple communities being considered on the shortlist for a business expansion project. This is where the human element comes into play. If a corporate real estate broker or site location advisor has a personal relationship with a local economic development official or utility partner it can give them an advantage over the competition. Hoosier Energy has been on the receiving end of many calls like this over the past few years as a direct result of forging relationships with the consultant and broker communities.
Throughout the year, IPP is hosting sessions in Indianapolis, Dallas, New York City, Chicago and Atlanta. Each session provides interaction with up to 30 brokers and consultants. Meeting in-person with these key groups provides opportunities for Hoosier Energy to promote all 18 member systems as well as the overall advantages of the cooperative model.
“This is a long-term approach. It’s about building a long-term relationships to have a pipeline of industrial projects to bring to our member co-ops,” said Sowders.
Electric cooperatives have more flexibility to offer incentives and to complete projects faster than investor-owned utilities do. Co-ops make this happen by working directly with their board of directors rather than being required to work through the Indiana Utility Regulatory Council for approval.
“We believe our members have a great story to tell and our goal is to share that story and bring businesses to our members,” said Hoosier Energy Manager of Economic Development and Key Accounts Harold Gutzwiller.