Last August, Hurricane Ida ensured Louisianans didn’t take their electricity for granted as the state, once again, faced a devastating, overwhelmingly widespread natural disaster. As we safely watched the destruction unfold from afar, heartbreaking images of homes blown away, power line crews from six North Carolina public power utilities headed into the hurricane.
The group of more than 70 workers, including crews from Greenville, High Point, Statesville, Tarboro, Wake Forest, and Wilson, along with three members of the ElectriCities Safety and Training team, provided vital help (and hope) in Houma, Louisiana. This was the worst they had ever seen: streets covered by fallen poles, fallen power lines, and fallen trees – a fallen city. The conditions were so bad that the crews couldn’t lodge in Houma while they worked in 80 percent humidity. The volunteers commuted two hours each way every day. The American Public Power Association issued Mutual Aid Commendations to the six ElectriCities utilities for their power restoration dedication in Houma.
ElectriCities, a non-profit, service-driven membership organization of municipally owned electric utilities in cities across North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, empowers their member communities in many ways. The organization is driven to “focus on people, not profit.” Any municipally owned electric provider in North Carolina, South Carolina, or Virginia can become an ElectriCities member.
Nearly 1.3 million North Carolinians live and thrive via public power. These residents experience the value of public power – safe, affordable, reliable electricity – every day in their homes and workplaces. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, public power delivers on reliability and outage response time for their customers in North Carolina.
“Reliability is about more than just convenience,” said ElectriCities CEO Roy Jones. “When factory downtime equals real dollars lost and jobs are on the line, communities value power that is on 99.8 percent of the time and restored three times faster than other areas.”
The power provided for its members is more than the dependable electricity it delivers. Utility revenues remain within the member community. Public power invests in local infrastructure, employees spend their salaries in local businesses, and no revenue goes to distant shareholders. Public power customers have local control so they may prioritize local energy needs. If a member community wants to invest in cutting-edge technology for its electric system, its city council has the power and budget to do so. When a member wants to make any decision, its city council has the flexibility and power to do what is best for its people.
Doing what’s best for its residents includes propelling local economic growth and fueling workforce development for every member. ElectriCities has the reach and resources to advocate for public power communities at the state and federal levels while also offering administrative, technical, communications, legal, and legislative benefits. Through its broad support system, ElectriCities, in conjunction with its members, champions new business and creates jobs across its cities and towns. Since the organization connects its communities to national and international networks, ElectriCities can sell each city’s unique offerings to lure potential employers from around the world.
ElectriCities also collaborates with the North Carolina Community College System to attract, develop, and retain skilled talent and produces Career Development Programs for municipal power lineworkers to advance their knowledge. The organization partners with its members to help them evolve compensation and training programs.
For public power communities, doing the right thing includes making mutual aid a top priority. When Hurricane Matthew hit North Carolina with flooding and outages, ElectriCities member power line workers from across the state joined forces to restore power quickly for neighbors in need. When Terrebonne Parish Utilities Department in Houma, Louisiana called for help last August, crews from NC public power united to travel towards one of the worst: Hurricane Ida.
Houma volunteer E.J. Burcham, line crew supervisor for the City of High Point (18 years in linework), shared that he enjoys being on a public power crew because, as municipal employees, “We’re there representing our city. We take pride in what we do, like we’re building our system at home.”
Whether providing power for their own neighborhoods or restoring electricity for families facing a nightmare thousands of miles away, public power lineworkers embody a well-deserved sense of pride. These workers love their jobs because they love helping others. Public power communities pride themselves on empowering people through the reliable, affordable, and superior service their customers appreciate every day.
Behind each business in North Carolina are the ideas, partnerships, and people that fuel our state’s success. Behind each business is a story and a vision for the future. As the voice for business, the NC Chamber is committed to telling these stories and highlighting the organizations that keep our state moving forward. Behind the Business is a series of profiles featuring NC Chamber Cornerstone members doing great work in North Carolina. Interested in being featured? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.