CEO’s Report: Offering programs designed to add value to your community

Heartland offers an array of customer service programs to promote growth, encourage the efficient use of electricity and protect utilities from cybercrime.

In some cases, programs are offered to our customer utilities. In others, we partner with our customers to provide incentives to their retail customers.

Our programs are not new. However, many of you are. As we continue to see new faces in many of our customer communities, it is important for us to provide reminders of how you can utilize these programs for the betterment of your community.

Therefore, I want to take this opportunity to give you the 101 on our programs and how we can partner to help your community thrive.

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Heartland offers a variety of incentives to encourage new businesses as well as assist with business retention and expansion.

HELP Fund

The HELP Fund, or Heartland Economic development Loan Program, utilizes money from USDA’s Intermediary Relending Program (IRP) to promote growth and development in Heartland customer communities.

The HELP Fund can be used by businesses in customer communities to help with expansion, job creation or other entrepreneurial activities. Heartland customers and their local development corporations can apply for funding to finance infrastructure improvements or prepare for growth.

The program also promotes local lending institutions by requiring participants to partner with them for financing. This provides risk distribution and allows Heartland to better utilize the local banks’ expertise and resources.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of the HELP Fund is the fact that it’s revolving. Every dollar lent through the program returns a profit for Heartland in interest. Every dollar we make is put right back to work in our customer communities.

Growth Incentives

Heartland customers can apply on behalf of their retail customers for electric rebates on new and expanding loads.

Qualifying businesses are eligible for up to a 50% rebate on their electricity bill in the first year of operation, 35% in the second year and 20% in the third. The rebates end up equating to about one year’s worth of free power after the three-year period.

While certain minimum qualifications apply, Heartland knows that starting a new business can be tough, and the idea is to help reduce electricity expenses during those first few startup years, allowing businesses to focus on operations.

Energy ONE Incentive

The Energy ONE Incentive is designed to entice large loads to operate in a Heartland community. The program offers an energy-only rate for new or expanding retail loads with a demand of one megawatt or larger.

Heavy users of electricity typically pay a separate demand charge to have energy capacity available to them at all times. Since it can be difficult for a new business to estimate what its monthly demand will be, the Energy ONE Incentive eliminates this concern for the first few years of operation.

In customer communities with a population of 3,000 or less, new loads of 500 kW or larger may be considered for the incentive rate.

Grants

Heartland customer communities and their local economic development corporations can apply for economic development grant to spark growth and development. A community project that promotes economic prosperity, supports new business opportunities or improves the social and economic well-being of local residents may qualify for the grant program.

Grants have been awarded to assist with infrastructure improvements, community signage, city building upgrades and daycare facilities, to name a few.

Should you have questions on Heartland’s economic development program, reach out to Director of Economic Development Casey Crabtree.

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Power Forward

Heartland created a rebate program to entice retail customers to make energy efficient purchases. While the program has evolved over the years, the goal of helping use electricity more efficiently has remained the same.

Rebates are currently offered for purchasing efficient lighting, water heaters, electric heating and cooling systems and commercial refrigeration systems and components.

Heartland manages the rebate program by approving applications and distributing funding to customer utilities once per quarter. Customers are ultimately responsible for distributing those funds to their customers.

Applications for the various rebates are available on Heartland’s website.

Grants

Similar to economic development, Heartland offers grants to customers for making efficiency improvements at city facilities. Grants have been awarded in the past to assist with street lighting upgrades, lighting at city facilities or other efficiency improvements at city-owned buildings.

Questions on Heartland’s energy efficiency programs can be directed to Chief Communications Officer Ann Hyland.

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A lot of utilities are under the misconception that if they don’t offer online bill pay, they aren’t at risk of being hacked. Or they think they are too small of an operation to be a target. Some might think having an anti-virus software is good enough or that their IT company has it handled.

The truth is, if you have a connection to the internet, you are at risk.

Heartland takes the cybersecurity of our municipal utilities seriously and works with industry partners to provide professional services to ensure your utility is secure.

Questions on Heartland’s cybersecurity program can also be directed to Ann Hyland.

Other Offered Services

In addition to these programs, Heartland offers assistance to customers in a variety of other ways. Customer Relations Manager Kelly Dybdahl is often out and about visiting customers and providing needed help.

We also host meetings throughout the year to offer education on topics relevant to our industry. We keep an eye on legislative issues both at the state and national levels and work with qualified lobbyists to ensure our customers’ interests are protected.

We continually evaluate all of our programs and services offered and look for new ways to serve you better. As always, if you have suggestions or questions, we encourage you to reach out.

We strive to be a valued partner to you, our customers, and look forward to continually adding value to your communities.