The Wabash Valley Power Alliance: Helping Businesses Grow
By offering affordable, reliable power and working with its community partners, this alliance of electric cooperatives is drawing businesses to its Midwest service territory.
Creativity has long been a hallmark of the organization which, over the years, has built a layered approach within their wholesale supply portfolio, limiting reliance on any single power plant or fuel source, allowing the organization to more effectively mitigate sudden market volatility. Additionally, the supply strategy includes ”a shrinking reliance on fossil fuels and a growing supply from wind and solar renewables,” explains Brian Anderson, WVPA’s director of Economic Development and Public Relations.
The Wabash Valley Power Alliance is comprised of 23 electric distribution co-ops powering communities throughout Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri. While the Alliance’s roots are based in the residential sector, the commercial and industrial market is the organization’s fastest growing segment. “Keeping our existing businesses thriving, while attracting new organizations to our local communities, is always a primary focus. Our programs are designed to help local businesses grow and expand, while providing them incentives to actually use less of our product by becoming more energy efficient,” states Anderson. Over the last several years, through its Power Moves efficiency program, the Alliance has awarded nearly $30 million in efficiency incentives to help both residential and commercial and industrial members save on their electric bills.
Client-Centric Economic Development Paying Off
A major reason why WVPA is thriving stems from the belief “our members come first,” says Anderson. “We’re a not-for-profit, so we approach economic development in terms of partnerships, not shareholder value. That means there is success and benefits given to both sides from any deal made.”
In recent years, the organization has become more aggressive with its business attraction activity, notes Anderson. Today, the Alliance and its community partners work with a myriad of site selectors on a weekly or monthly basis. In many of those conversations, Wabash has taken the lead in efforts to bring new opportunities and leads to their states.
A major reason why WVPA is thriving stems from the belief “our members come first,” says Brian Anderson, WVPA’s director of Economic Development and Public Relations. The organization also is focusing more on attracting a few target industries to its service territory. As an example, data centers have “become a new focus thanks to new legislation that passed in Indiana. In the last year, legislation passed that now allows a 100 percent sales tax exemption for data storage equipment as long as projects meet certain requirements,” notes Anderson. Prior to this change, projects for this industry were given tax credits and less-targeted incentives. Now, with all three states in its service territory providing strong incentives, the organization has seen a noticeable uptick in interest from the data center community.
Concurrently, since July 2019, WVPA has “upped our game in how we serve that industry,” he adds. Selling points about the benefits of redundant power, flexible power supply, and market-based rate tariffs are now resonating within that targeted customer, where future growth is anticipated.
Moreover, since early 2019, WVPA has received a lot of “positive affirmation” from the site selection and business community due to the fact that major power companies (particularly in Indiana) have joined forces to promote the state as a whole — rather than engage in regional competition as has been the status quo. “This power partnership allows us to see that any project in the state is a win for us all and let the chips fall as they may for exactly who gets it,” Anderson says.
Anderson anticipates that in the near term, WVPA expects to see more economic development interest with more companies “pulling the trigger” with new projects in 2021. “We have a very stable outlook for long-term power costs and feel very good about our ability for supplying affordable, steady stream of power,” he concludes.
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