Hoosier Energy made the cut when Site Selection magazine recently revealed its 2022 Top Utilities in Economic Development.
For Hoosier Energy, which was also featured in the publication for its efforts with ESG, being just one of 20 utilities so honored was no small feat. Hoosier’s economic development efforts are guided by manager Harold Gutzwiller, along with Jeff Pipkin and Jeremy Sowders.
The team shared thoughts with GridLines about the honor and ongoing department efforts.
Q: Let’s start with the recent nod from Site Selection magazine. What does it say about Hoosier Energy as a company to have the Economic Development department rated among the top 20 in the country?
A: Being named a 2022 Top Utility in Economic Development by Site Selection Magazine is an honor. The selection criteria are partially based on capital investment and job creation activity from private sector industrial and large commercial projects in our member territory, and it is evaluated on a cumulative and per-capita basis.
Another important aspect of being selected are the value-added services Hoosier Energy provides Member cooperatives and local, regional and statewide economic development organizations. These projects, through their investments and job creation and all the ancillary activities, make a difference in the Member communities.
Q: What kind of questions are businesses asking and how have those changed with an increased focus on the environment and renewable energy?
A: We receive all kinds of questions from prospective companies. They can vary depending on the industry and type of project, but we mostly receive questions about the cost of power, the ability to serve their project and any associated infrastructure costs and timelines. Recently, we have experienced a significant increase in renewable energy and sustainability-focused questions. We believe this is driven by many manufacturers adopting carbon reduction goals, industries shifting towards electrification and corporate boards placing more emphasis on sustainability.
Q: Most of us only hear about the successes, but there are also times when a proposal doesn’t work out. How do you handle the ups and downs?
A: Corporate site location is extremely competitive. We spend a lot of time and effort assisting our Members in submitting proposals that go unanswered. This is part of the process. It can be frustrating, but it’s our job to make sure Members have their best opportunity to compete for commercial and industrial growth.
It’s important to note that so many people at Hoosier support economic development efforts. We frequently rely on colleagues for finance, engineering and operations data. It’s truly a team effort. Without efficient and effective collaboration, our jobs would be much harder.
Q: The last couple of years have provided challenges for everyone with the COVID-19 pandemic. What kind of challenges did you face in economic development and are you still feeling some of those effects?
A: On the macro level, uncertainty is the enemy of corporate site location, and COVID-19 created a myriad of new challenges. Consumer spending habits changed. E-commerce exploded. All while factories were struggling to keep their doors open and their employees safe. Demand increased, supply decreased, and production was unable to keep up. Companies needed to increase production, but they couldn’t find workers. Exasperating the situation, international companies were not allowed in the U.S., so it brought international economic development opportunities to a near standstill.
Closer to home, our team thrives on making connections and maintaining relationships with corporate site location decision-makers. We make it a priority to go sit across the table from them to sell our member territory. The pandemic forced us to come up with new strategies to maintain these important relationships and get the word out that Indiana was still open for business.
Q: What’s the outlook for Hoosier Energy’s economic development efforts with 2023 just around the corner?
A: We have concerns about the current state of the economy and what that means for commercial and industrial expansion, but we’re bullish on the future.
Hoosier Energy is doing a great job positioning itself to compete in the evolving economy. Merom’s transition and our move towards a less carbon-intensive portfolio are viewed as positives by corporate decision-makers. We’re aggressively working with our partners to identify and help develop new sites for the industries of tomorrow. We expect growth and transformation in manufacturing, especially the electric vehicle industry, and food processing to name a couple. Our Members are well-positioned for these industries.
Hoosier will continue telling the cooperative story and promoting our Member sites, and we expect 2023 to be another excellent year for economic development success in our Member territories.