The Crunch: From its modest beginnings as an electricity provider in small-town Arkansas, Entergy has grown into one of the largest electric utilities in the United States. The Fortune 500 company’s 13,000 employees bring affordable, reliable power to almost 3 million retail customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Along with corporate growth, Entergy has embraced social responsibility, investing millions in worker training, education, and charitable causes. Through its Business and Economic Development group, it works proactively with communities and agencies to increase capital investment and job growth in its service areas.
Entergy got its start in 1914 as the Arkansas Power and Light Company, connecting the small towns of Malvern and Arkadelphia with 22 miles of transmission lines. Now Entergy transfers power across approximately 15,700 miles of wire.
With more than 40 plants, the company delivers 30,000 megawatts of power to a 114,000-square-mile service area. But Entergy is a power company that also powers communities.
In 2016 the company launched a five-year, $5 million workforce development initiative to train workers in its four-state service area for in-demand, high-wage jobs.
“We’re extremely proud of our focus on workforce development,” said Paula Waters, VP of Sales & Development Services, Entergy Corporation. “Our goal is to help our communities grow their talent pool and attract more businesses to our thriving region.”
The workforce development initiative was a collaborative effort between Entergy’s Business Development group, local business, and community leaders, Paula said.
The Business Development group serves as the Entergy region’s go-to source for information, support, and relocation and expansion research.
It’s also part of a multifaceted approach to the corporate social responsibility Paula said is in Entergy’s DNA. “Integrity is something we focus on every day as a reflection of our values and ethics,” Paula said. “When a company practices what it preaches, it naturally translates to how we do the work we do.”
Workforce Development Initiative Helps Fuel Economic Prosperity
The workforce development initiative is Entergy’s answer to the labor challenges posed by the development of complex technologies such as artificial intelligence and advanced robotics. Research shows that the high-tech industries Entergy seeks to attract to its service region are driving increased demand for skilled workers, not threatening to replace them with automation. Better qualified workers help communities land industrial and corporate expansion and relocation projects that bring jobs and greater prosperity.
Industry-Specific Workforce Training Grants improve the quality of the talent pool through programs that increase the number of certified workers in high-demand, high-wage industries. The programs assist adults, especially unemployed and underemployed individuals, in earning nationally or regionally recognized certifications and associate degrees.
Meanwhile, school-to-Career Readiness Grants improve the quality of the talent pipeline. The programs target youth between the ages of 14 and 25, especially at-risk, unemployed, and underemployed individuals. The goal is to increase high school graduation rates and ensure that students are career or college ready when they do graduate.
By providing programs that prepare students and workers for high-demand jobs, Entergy helps bolster the regional workforce and grow the economies in the communities it serves.
Charitable Foundation and Corporate Giving Improves Communities
The targeted training and education programs Entergy supports through its workforce development initiative help communities build a more prosperous future. Entergy’s commitment to philanthropy through corporate and foundation giving helps them shape the communities when employees live and work. Over the last five years, Entergy has contributed more than $82 million to help build healthier, better educated, and more productive communities.
Entergy’s corporate-based Open Grants Program focuses on improving communities as a whole by supporting a diverse range of locally based arts, community enrichment, and sustainability programs. The company also champions programs that have a positive educational and emotional impact on children and families. Entergy offers Micro Grants of up to $1,000 to support programs at the county or parish level.
The company’s volunteer initiative, Community Connectors, recruits Entergy employees and retirees to serve as volunteers in the communities where they work and live. The program also provides grants that volunteers can designate to the eligible nonprofits of their choice. For every 20 volunteer hours, an employee or retiree earns a $250 grant.
Focusing on low-income initiatives and solutions as well as educational and literacy initiatives, the Entergy Charitable Foundation positively impacts families, children, and the elderly.
Paula said that recent foundation grants have supported school transformation initiatives in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, STEM initiatives in Jackson and the Mississippi Delta, scholarships for single parents in Arkansas, and GED/employment skills training for opportunity youth in Texas.
“We’re only as successful as the communities we serve,” Paula said. “We’re committed to philanthropic support, volunteerism and being active in our communities — every day.”
Entergy Business Development Fosters Investment and Job Growth
The Entergy Business Development group actively recruits businesses to relocate and expand in communities the utility company supports with its programs.
“We understand what businesses need to be successful, and our comprehensive support helps companies facilitate their decision-making in each phase of the relocation or expansion process — from site selection to energy planning and technical engineering and then all the way through to ongoing operations,” Paula said.
In 2016, the Business Development team helped bring nearly $27.5 billion of corporate project investment and more than 5,500 new jobs to the Entergy service region. The team also facilitates communication with public and community partners in service areas to help connect companies with compatible resources and, in some cases, relocation incentives.
“We’re a Fortune 500 company with annual revenues of approximately $10.8 billion,” Paula said. “And because of the major role energy plays in business operations, we’re uniquely positioned to foster business expansion in the areas we serve.”
“A significant advantage for large industrial customers is that our rates are usually 20% below the national average. That’s due not only to good management but also to our membership in MISO, a regional transmission organization linking 15 states in an interconnected network using real-time smart grid technology, which helps us build a stronger, more reliable electric grid.” — Paula Waters, VP of Sales & Development Services, Entergy Corporation
The Business Development team takes a comprehensive approach to recruitment based on extensive research as to the specific goals in each service area. Targeted industries include, but aren’t limited to, automotive manufacturing, chemical products, datacenters, distribution, food processing, metal fabrication, and wood and paper products.
“A significant advantage for large industrial customers is that our rates are usually 20% below the national average,” Paula said. “That’s due not only to good management but also to our membership in MISO, a regional transmission organization linking 15 states in an interconnected network using real-time smart grid technology, which helps us build a stronger, more reliable electric grid.”
A Partner in Building Corporate and Community Success
Entergy’s service region historically has encompassed some of the most economically challenged areas of the United States. Although the 21st century brought increased potential for economic growth, it also brought a succession of natural disasters, such as winter storms, tornadoes, and hurricanes, including Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. That double-barreled blow to the region’s infrastructure forced Entergy to move its corporate headquarters from New Orleans to Jackson, Mississippi, for nine months in 2005-06.
Entergy played a crucial role in rebuilding infrastructure so that communities affected by Katrina and Rita could revitalize their economies. A recent manifestation of the company’s continued commitment to economic growth is the 2016 creation of an online Site Selection Center to help businesses contemplating relocation or expansion find the real estate they need. Bolstered by extensive community and demographic data, the easy-to-use site connects companies to available buildings and sites.
“We want to continue to be a globally competitive provider of power with high reliability, but we also hope to be a force for attracting new capital investment and jobs to our service area for a long time to come. It’s exciting, particularly considering the industrial customer interest in our service territory,” Paula said.
With the Site Selection Center playing such a vital role in Entergy’s overall strategy, in 2017 Site Selection magazine named Entergy one of the nation’s top 10 utilities in economic development — for the 10th year in a row. Over the past year, the company has also been recognized for its diversity and inclusion as well as its commitment to community building and economic development.
“It’s an honor to represent a company that continues to support the growth of the communities it serves in all the ways we do,” Paula said.