|EDGE Development is a program as unique as Georgia’s Energy Cities. Designed specifically for the elected officials and staff of communities with enterprise operations, it provides the tools and support they need to lead prosperously. With an emphasis on strategy, industry and academic experts introduce a no-nonsense, customizable approach to improving a community’s quality of life through vision, planning and focused leadership.
Georgia’s Energy Cities have a long history of success driven by strong leaders and an enduring commitment to economic well being. Continued prosperity in today’s new age of acceleration requires the elected officials and staff of these communities to embrace change, adapt, and establish a broader perspective of modern economic development principles. Those with a competitive edge understand that cross-generational strategies are essential to building assets that will last for generations.
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In a recent Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) filing in support of a Connecticut natural gas pipeline expansion project, the Industrial Energy Consumers of America (IECA) organization filed comments that scrutinized the motives and means of anti-fossil fuels activists. Their filing encouraged regulatory authorities to consider the economic impact of natural gas, the need for more streamline permitting procedures and to approve this particular project.
The IECA represents manufacturing operations in the United States who stated “if we do not have sufficient deliverability capabilities to move natural gas to operate our facilities, we’ll have no choice but to relocate to other states or offshore.” The IECA represents leading manufacturing companies in diverse industries, including chemical, plastic, food processing, glass, pharmaceuticals, building products, and other products employing more than 1.6 million people in the US.
The filing urged the FERC to dismiss the “Keep it in the Ground” activists’ claims because they do not represent the will or needs of energy consumers. According to FERC documents, “These activists do not represent consumers in the state and they are not accountable for millions of employees who work in our factories in order to sustain their families and lifestyles. They represent an ideology that is not realistic when it comes to commerce or the wellbeing and safety of consumers who need the natural gas from this pipeline to heat their homes. For the record, IECA and its member companies support cost-effective production of renewable energy and its many environmental benefits. However, renewable energy is not a viable alternative to replace natural gas in manufacturing.”
“Manufacturing companies cannot operate facilities on electricity alone, whether it is produced from renewable energy, natural gas, nuclear, hydro, or coal. Our equipment will only operate on natural gas. And, natural gas on a Btu basis costs substantially less than a Btu of electricity. This is important because manufacturers compete globally and the competition is very tough. Business orders can be won or lost based on pennies on the dollar. If costs are not kept low, our products will be displaced by foreign imports. Due to technical limitations of manufacturers, if we were forced to stop using natural gas, we would have no choice but to shut down.”
The filing goes on to urge approvals for the pipeline project so as to not negatively impact commerce across the US, citing the integrated supply chain of manufacturers and how disruptions due to energy would have costly ramifications across the chain of goods required in manufacturing processes. IECA stated that manufacturing companies cannot grow without increased supplies of natural gas and that, in fact, a more accelerated and streamlined pipeline permitting process is necessary to enable companies to more agilely make capital investments and compete more effectively in their respective global markets.
The IECA has aggressively been representing the manufacturing sector before the FERC in several pipeline projects under review and continues to make these bold and emphatic arguments in favor of keeping natural gas at the forefront of America’s energy policies.
|Successful companies and organizations, and even individuals, rely on planning to get them where they are going. In fact, it’s hard to accomplish anything without a plan. Whether you are cooking Christmas dinner for the family, coaching your son’s little league team, or running a business, you need a plan to guide you to success. When it comes to organizations, strategic planning helps leaders determine where to invest their valuable time, human capital, material resources, and money, and it all boils down to answering three key questions:
Where are we now? Start by reviewing your organization’s foundation – its mission statement and core values. Is the mission statement still a reflection of what your organization is about? And are your core values really central to your daily business and a guide for your employees’ daily activities? Taking a close look at where you are can sound easy, but often leaders see themselves and their organizations as they want to see themselves and not actually how they appear to others. It’s important to conduct a thorough analysis. External and internal audits can help leaders get a clear understanding of their organization, its marketplace, competitive environment and competencies. Traditionally organizations perform a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, and this type of analysis helps to assess the organization’s strategic position with an eye on its operating environment. Where do we want to go? Next the organization and its leadership need to identify what’s important and what it would like to achieve. What will the organization look like in the future? What is the future I want to create for the organization? This is an opportunity to consider the organization’s competitive advantages and develop goals that capitalize on those, while also looking for ways to shore up any organizational weaknesses that might impede progress toward defined goals. Often organizations will create short-term “vision statements” that prioritize goals and guide employees’ activities over the course of 5 – 10 years as the organization moves toward its strategic goals. How will we get there? With goals defined it’s now time to consider the timeline and steps necessary to achieve each individual goal. Who is accountable? What are the key activities that need to occur to achieve the vision? How will resources be allocated to move the plan forward? What are specific, measurable and realistic targets of accomplishment? How will performance and achievement be monitored and tracked? And how often will the plan be re-evaluated and course corrections considered through the process? This is the final stage of strategic planning, but by no means the end of the process. Here organizations and their leaders clearly state the strategic objectives, the short-term goals, priorities and initiatives that will help them achieve their objectives. They define the action items, develop the benchmarks for each goal and its action items, and then roll out the plan to key stakeholders who will work the plan and hold the organization and its leaders accountable for progress. As the plan rolls into action it is critical to review the plan on an ongoing basis and refine it as necessary. Over time it’s possible that goals evolve into new goals or perhaps even become obsolete as the marketplace dictates, but with a plan in place it becomes easier for an organization to assess and navigate whatever challenges and opportunities arise in the future. A well-defined strategic plan ensures your organization stays on track and focused for success. How can the Gas Authority help? If you participated in one of the Fall Regional Meetings you heard about our plans to expand the work we do in helping our Members prepare annual budget forecasts. Today, we prepare an annual forecast of revenue from the sale of gas and purchased gas cost, resulting in expected gross margin. Estimates of operating and maintenance costs, transfers to the general fund, and any capital expenditures are prepared locally in budget preparation. Collectively, this gives the Member the necessary information to establish a fiscal budget for the natural gas enterprise. While this is good and important work, it does little to help a Member anticipate or plan what is to happen over the next five or ten years, or to analyze past trends. In an effort to be of service to our Members, we are planning to expand the standard budget forecast to include multi-year projections. This will help identify and measure trends being experienced by the Member, and very importantly, provide a means to establish system growth goals. The end-game is for our Members to retain and grow customers and burner-tips. We all know there is no such thing as status quo when it comes to utility enterprises, they are either growing or declining. A growing gas system is a healthy gas system.
|by Scott Tolleson, Director, Member Services & Government Affairs
The Coosa River Basin Initiative (CRBI) continues its efforts to limit access to natural gas reserves in the Conasauga Shale of northwest Georgia by asking the State of Georgia to preemptively regulate drilling practices that include hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.” CRBI is conducting town hall meetings and attending city council and county commission meetings throughout northern Georgia in its efforts to sharply control an industry that does not even operate in Georgia today. On November 14th, the CRBI attended the Summerville’s City Council meeting and asked the city to pass a resolution aimed at pressuring state lawmakers to update the current law that regulates the oil and natural gas industry in Georgia. The resolution contains language that expresses opinion presented as facts, and includes inflammatory language such as, “oil and natural gas exploration present a clear and present danger to the quality of life in our rural communities as well as our groundwater and surface water resources.” These statements ignore the proven safety record of the oil and natural industry and findings by multiple government agencies. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted a study of approximately 30,000 oil and natural gas wells that were “fracked” between 2006 and 2012 and found no incidents of “fracking” fluids in ground water. The EPA concluded that “fracking” had not led to widespread, systematic impacts on drinking sources in the United States.” As natural gas providers, we know the benefits that clean, affordable, secure, reliable and available sources of natural gas can provide. Natural gas prices are at 15-year lows and that reduces the cost of heating our homes, running our businesses and fueling our factories. Georgia continues to be named as one of the best states in which to do business, and low energy costs remain a key factor of job creation. As we hone our skills as natural gas “ambassadors,” it’s important to recognize and effectively address efforts to severely limit access to this important fuel. Whether it is limiting access to oil and natural gas reserves or blocking construction of pipelines, these needless battles only lead to higher costs for consumers and create hurdles to economic development. If CRBI or other organizations approach your city or town, please contact Scott Tolleson at 404-218-1749 or email@example.com to obtain the facts about “fracking.”
Shortly before the Gas Authority Annual Membership Meeting we emailed the first draft of our Vision 2020 Strategic Plan (Plan). The Plan was issued in draft form so that Members may review and comment on the complete document, which is the culmination of input from all stakeholders over the last year. We are asking for comments on the draft by mid-June. Based on feedback received we will develop a revised draft, which will be reviewed with the Gas Authority Board in late June. A final Plan should be issued in early July.
This draft Strategic Plan was developed over the last year, gathering input from our staff and from the Board, combined with interactive breakout sessions among Members at both the Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 regional meetings. The discussions focused on identifying the critical success factors necessary for municipal gas utilities to thrive in the year 2020 and beyond. Importantly, the conversations were also intended to define the role of the Gas Authority in helping its Members achieve and sustain that vision.
The purpose of having a written strategic plan is to outline a vision for the Gas Authority that all stakeholders in the process can identify with, and support as a direction that will enhance the value of their joint-action agency and create additional value for Members. The Plan includes our mission and values, which remain unchanged. We know who we serve and our role, and we know how important having a natural gas distribution system is to each of our Member’s municipalities. What has changed, and continues to change is the environment in which we operate, and it is these changing business conditions that drive the strategic issues we believe need to be addressed through the Plan.
Our three Corporate Goals are similar to the goals in our last strategic plan, but are entirely focused on what we heard from our Members; specifically, what will be required for them to grow the value of owning and operating a natural gas distribution system for their customers and communities. To implement these goals, we identified three new initiatives, which will guide us in deploying resources, and hopefully engage all Members in implementing thoughtful strategies to sustain and grow their gas systems.
Please invest a few minutes to review the draft Plan, and provide any feedback that will help us finalize the Plan. If you like the way the draft looks, please let us know that too. While we have worked together for a year to develop this vision, it will take years and the ongoing commitment of all stakeholders to achieve the vision we have jointly cast.
If you did not receive a draft Plan, or if you have any questions concerning how to provide feedback, please do not hesitate to contact Chris Strippelhoff or your Member Services representative.