Thursday, December 3, 2009

TVA Working with Local Industries to Keep Jobs Here

Maintaining employment is not only important to local industries and local government, it is equally important to the Tennessee Valley Authority who recently unveiled a reward program to qualifying industries in several targeted sectors for keeping jobs right where they are now.
Within its seven-state region, TVA launched a $40 million campaign in October to encourage existing businesses to make investments and maintain production in the area. The TVA Valley Investment Initiative offers cash incentives for plant investments, even when they only maintain, rather than expand, overall employment. And in Lewisburg, that means there are 12 local industries who may qualify to save 4-12 percent on their utility bill thanks to their commitment to maintain or expand employment in their current facilities over the next five years.
To qualify for the program, industries must be existing TVA customers, use a minimum of 250kW peak monthly demand, have a minimum of 25 full-time employees, have no plans to reduce employment by 50 percent over the next five years and be financially sound. Some of the local industries who qualify for the VII include Smurfit Stone, Southern Carton, Cosmolab, Trison Coatings, Teledyne, Moon Products, Nichirin, ICP and Lewisburg Printing Company.
Deborah Cameron, TVA Economic Development Project Manager for the Middle Tennessee Region, came to Lewisburg on Tuesday to speak with some of those qualifying industries about the Valley Investment Initiative and how the program can benefit them.
“We are seeing a great deal of interest in the program,” Cameron said. “It is a very unique program you won’t see from other power utilities across the country.”
Cameron explained how TVA began discussing ways to assist economic development in their region with the current economic downturn approaching. Cameron said TVA realized most of the industries in areas such as Lewisburg were branch plants that faced possible consolidation and movement out of the region. So, TVA developed the TVA Valley Investment Initiative as a reward program for industries in the region who commit to keeping their doors open and their workers working. The program is also an argument against those parent companies that are looking to close and consolidate local industries and move them out of the TVA region.
“If they (local industries) need evidence on the program and the cost savings it will mean for their facility to show to their parent company, we can do that for them,” Cameron said. “It is my job to be their advocate.”
Industries that qualify and want to participate in the program in order to receive their power bill credits from TVA must fill out an application, undergo an evaluation by TVA and then see their savings on their monthly utility bills based on capital investment, jobs created or retained, wages paid, energy efficiency and load factor. The savings can be substantial averaging between 4 and 12 percent.
Local power distributors such as Lewisburg Electric System appreciate the program as well. LES President Richard Turner attended the Tuesday meeting to hear more from TVA about the program.
“TVA has tried to assist industries through rates and I think they have realized this is a better way,” Turner said. “I think it’s a good program and I am proud it’s out.”
The meeting Tuesday morning at Lewisburg City Hall was arranged by Lewisburg ECD Director Terry Wallace and ECD Specialist Lisa Jackson so that qualifying industries in Lewisburg could get a better understanding of the program and how to apply.
“We a very happy to see that TVA is developing ways to assist our local industries during this turbulent economic period,” Wallace said. “We need to utilize everything we can here in Marshall County to try and stabilize and eventually turn around our unemployment figures.”
Job creation remains a focal point for the Lewisburg ECD office; but across the country as well as here in Tennessee, more focus is being placed on job retention. The TVA Valley Investment Initiative is only one program to help local industries keep their workers working in Tennessee and Marshall County.

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