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Our quarterly Developments newsletter brings you economic development news and trends from NC Public Power. View the entire newsletter here.

  • Brenda Daniels: Making a Real Difference in NC Public Power Communities

    Brenda Daniels was recently recognized on Southern Business and Development’s listing of “Ten People Who Made a Difference.” Each year, this leading economic development publication picks its top 10 based on their industry knowledge and contribution over the past year.

    Brenda joined ElectriCities in 1986, first as an executive assistant, then as a home energy auditor. She’s been manager of economic development for almost 20 years, working
    to bring jobs and investment to NC Public Power communities.

    As Graham Edwards, ElectriCities CEO explains, “Economic development is critical to our members’ success, so it is imperative that we have a strong economic development focus. Brenda has led our economic development team for more than two decades, delivering a vital service to ElectriCities members. She works tirelessly and is well respected throughout the economic development community and our members. Brenda has enhanced our programs and processes for the benefit of about 1.2 million public power consumers. I am pleased that Brenda’s work is recognized nationally – it is truly well deserved!”

    This seemed like the time to focus on Brenda and all she does. She’s created strong, long-lasting relationships with key decision makers within each of our member communities, so we reached out to her colleagues.

    Kathy Howard, VP, NCEast Alliance: “I’ve enjoyed partnering with Brenda over 15 years on many initiatives in economic development, and no matter what the task at hand, she’s always there to support or lead the effort striving for the common goal for generating jobs, investment and economic growth. This recognition is truly deserving.”

    D. Mark Pope, Executive Director, LCED: “Having Brenda as an economic development partner has provided Lenoir County with many opportunities to recruit new investments and jobs.”

    Donny Hicks, Executive Director, Gaston County EDC: “In the past four years, more than $250,000,000 of investment has occurred and 900,000 square feet of industrial space has been built in Gastonia in the ElectriCities Prime Power Park. Brenda’s efforts have been instrumental in these recruitment projects creating wins for public power and us.”

    Donna Phillips, Business Recruitment Manager: “Her spirit is that of one willing to go the “extra mile” to accomplish tasks at hand and be a part of the team.”

    Congratulations, Brenda!

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  • An Innovative Approach Helps Kings Mountain Reach New Heights

    Kings Mountain has developed a unique approach to economic development — one that not only makes good sense, but has seen good results. It’s based on identifying your community’s strengths and capitalizing on them to provide real value to your existing customers and the businesses you attract.

    According to Nick Hendricks, Jr., Kings Mountain’s Energy Services Director, it all starts with a solid foundation.

    “You have to take a look at your infrastructure, your surroundings, your people,” he says. “You ask yourself, what can I do that will be of value to residential, commercial or industrial customers? For example, here in Kings Mountain, it doesn’t hurt to have a main transmission line and a main transcontinental pipeline running through town!”

    Listening and learning are absolutely essential. As Nick explains, “You go out in the world and you make new contacts — and you hear success stories and you hear failures. You take those success stories and you apply them to your area, and some of them will be a good fit. Reaching out to our contacts — experienced, knowledgeable people, we put together a plan of action.”

    The listening doesn’t stop there. Hendricks says, “We find out what customers want. We did it with our Smart Meter project and we did it with our new fiber project. Once we explained the concept and saw the interest, we’d do a pilot program and see how it works, then step in deep. The city of Kings Mountain has a number of data centers: AT&T, Disney, Apple. We put in the fiber optic infrastructure throughout town when we put in the cable to serve those centers. And we saw that smaller companies could take advantage of that backstand in smaller amounts. Whether it’s overseas or just across town, we can link their facilities. We offer dark fiber, which they can light.” It’s a process that Nick sees as both productive and financially responsible. “We have to make sure as we spend funds that we’re creating a revenue return. We don’t want to go out on a limb not knowing what we’re going to get.”

    This outside-the-box take on economic development, along with a sharp focus on the community’s future and ongoing projects like the smart meter program, have certainly paid off for Kings Mountain. As Nick explains,

    “We’ve been blessed to see our utilities as a whole continue to increase, even in the tough economy.”

    The recent announcement of the NTE power plant, now under construction, is further proof of this approach. As Nick says, “With NTE, we heard what they were looking to do and we put a team together to help locate a site. NTE will become our largest water customer, one of our top five electric customers, and one of the largest taxpayers. They will also be a big user of our fiber, linking their different facilities.”

    Wrapping up, Nick again stressed listening and establishing relationships. “Once you hear what people are looking for, you begin to work toward those things. You talk to people who’ve been in these situations, and you learn from them — experienced, knowledgeable people like your city staff, your planning team, and folks like Brenda Daniels and the ElectriCities staff. You pull together as a team, working together toward a common goal. It can lead to real out-of-the-box thinking.” Visit

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  • Green is the New Black: The Style and Substance of Cleantech

    Being green may not be easy but – now more than ever – it’s essential to our environment, our economy and our future.

    And we’re happy to say we’ve jumped right in.

    How? By becoming a member of the Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster—a program of the Research Triangle Regional Partnership designed to promote the cleantech market. Specifically, we’re part of a group whose goal is to generate ways to develop cleaner, more sustainable energy alternatives that positively impact the environment and the economy.

    According to Lee Anne Nance, managing director of the Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster (RTCC), “ElectriCities has been at the forefront of helping their members modernize and integrate clean technologies into their electric power generation and distribution systems for decades ... promoting economic growth in the communities they serve.”

    Nance adds, “Our cluster will benefit greatly from the knowledge, perspective and expertise they bring from serving and connecting the many players involved in meeting the energy needs of customers and communities.”

    Note: the current runs both ways.

    After all, membership in the RTCC will help ElectriCities stay at the leading edge of grid modernization technologies and closely connected to the organizations that are developing them. What’s more, this exclusive access gives ElectriCities the opportunity to test and deploy innovations, which benefits our overall industry as well as the individual customers we serve.

    “Our job is to deliver value to our members,” says Roy Jones, ElectriCities’ chief operating officer. “One of the best ways we do that is by vetting and recommending new technologies, such as smart grid. Collaborating and networking with cluster companies and universities who are on the forefront of smart grid innovation will help us deliver that value.

    "It’s a great fit.”

    As a member of RTCC, ElectriCities joins more than 500 companies, including major organizations such as ABB, SAS, Siemens, Schneider and Duke Energy. All told, these companies are coming together to fuel technological innovation and energize economic development in the growing cleantech industry within North Carolina and beyond.

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  • Solar Power Shines in Eastern North Carolina

    North Carolina has abundant sunshine— millions of people flock to our state each year to enjoy its sunny blue skies. Fifty years ago, harnessing the sun’s energy to power North Carolina’s industry would've been a dream.

    Today, however, that dream is a reality as eastern NC’s inexpensive land is developed for solar energy projects. Indeed, this regionhas shown to be the perfect spot for solar energy facilities.

    The ideal solar energy site has flat terrain, limited trees,affordable land for lease and local electric utilities that make it easy to interconnect with the local distribution system. North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency (NCEMPA) Participants, Edenton and Washington, both have significant solar energy development.

    The White Post Road Solar Project in Washington is the largest solar development project in the state. The 12.5-megawatt project was constructed by Duke Energy Renewables and produces enough electricity to power 2,115 homes. Keith Hardt, the City of Washington’s Electric Director, was Duke’s key contact on the project.

    “Duke Energy selected the Washington site for its abundant land and the city’s 35 kV distribution system,” said Hardt. “Thirty-five kV lines are the sweet spot for solar,” he added.

    Construction started once the city completed the interconnection agreement with Duke Energy. Hardt’s technical experience, coupled with help from ElectriCities, ensured the project was a winner. The City benefited from the substation upgrades and power line work that was required to interconnect the project. All work was completely reimbursed by Duke Energy Renewables and will aid the city by reducing line loss.

    Nearby in Edenton, two solar projects are underway, one at the airport and one on land that’s owned by the Edenton Chowan Partnership, anon-profit economic development group. Anne-Marie Knighton, Edenton’s town manager, says developers are interested in Edenton because of their affiliation with NCEMPA.

    “The Power Agency and ElectriCities’ staff are extremely helpful and willing to work hard to get through the purchase power agreement process,” she says.

    Solar developers often seek out projects in municipally-owned electric utilities and electric cooperatives. These utilities are seen as easier to work with since all decision-makers are local to the community.

    For bright ideas on how you can harness NC’s solar energy power, contact Brenda Daniels, ElectriCities’ Economic Development Manager at today.


    A poll by the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association found that 88% of respondents favored the growth of solar energy to meet energy and electricity needs.

    Clean energy, including solar, makes a huge contribution to the state’s economy. It's one of the state’s fastest growing sectors.

    In NC, more than 15,200 employees work in clean energy; the sector generates more than $3.7 billion in business revenue annually.

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