CEO’s Report: Planning for the future of your community

April 30, 2020

During this coronavirus pandemic, there is a new sense of appreciation for the men and women who keep our critical infrastructure running smoothly. From doctors and nurses to grocery-shelf stockers to parcel delivery personnel, the importance of these essential workers to our society and our economy cannot be overstated.

The men and women who work for our public power utilities are no exception. They are quite literally powering America through this crisis.

The COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t stop public power utilities from providing reliable power as well as performing essential services throughout the city. During challenging times like these, the last thing we want anyone concerned about is the reliability of their electric system or the safety of infrastructure within their community.

Keeping the lights on

With more than 90 percent of the U.S. population confined to their homes, home energy use has predictably increased.

But it’s not just homes that depend upon public power. Our customers also provide power to local hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, factories, police stations, grocery stores, and other critical facilities.

Many of our customer communities have infrastructure projects planned for the coming months and years to ensure not only a reliable supply of electricity, but also that quality water, roads, and community amenities such as pools and parks are available. 

At Heartland, we are actively monitoring work by Congress, including stimulus packages, to support the economy. We are hopeful at some point Congress will earmark funding for infrastructure needs and we plan to work with our congressional delegation to secure funding for projects in our customer communities. 

As we’ve seen from funding issued thus far, it goes quickly, so we must be prepared.

Heartland is collecting information from customers on any upcoming projects that may be planned. By gathering this information now, we will be able to quickly show the need for funding if stimulus dollars become available for critical infrastructure needs.

An email was sent to customers on Monday, April 27 with a link to a survey. If you haven’t already, please take a moment to complete the survey as soon as possible.

We will work diligently to find the resources to help with updates in your community, if needed.  We don’t have all the answers at this time, and we cannot promise the federal government will make funds available, but if so, we plan to make them aware of your needs, so they can help find a solution.

We are collecting similar information from healthcare facilities in our customer communities and have e-mailed them a similar survey. We also partnered with the South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations and Avera Health to contact their members in our customer communities. We thank them for partnering with us on this endeavor.

Quality healthcare and reliable energy go hand in hand, and we want to make sure healthcare workers are focused on their patients, not worrying if the proper equipment is in place in the case of an outage. If an outage should occur, having a reliable system will be of utmost importance.

Resources available

Heartland has created a page in our Newsroom with a variety of different resources available to businesses and cities. I encourage you to check it out and let us know if you have any questions.

The American Public Power Association also has several resources available from webinars to a webpage which is updated regularly.

Unfortunately, APPA decided to cancel their National Conference which was to take place in June in Long Beach due to ongoing safety concerns and travel bans increasing the likelihood that many members could not attend.

The good news is they are instead hosting the Public Power Connect Virtual Summit & Business Meeting, which will capture key elements of the conference, including board and business meetings, keynote and breakout sessions, and will provide an opportunity for public power utilities to come together, share and make connections in these unique times.

If you have never attended a national conference, this is a great opportunity to get the content without leaving your office.

Heartland staff continues to operate remotely from our homes and will do so until we feel it is safe to return to the office. However, rest assured nothing has changed in the way we do business.

Please continue reaching out to any staff member when you have questions or need assistance. While we cannot visit you in person, we firmly believe we can provide the same level of service via phone or virtual meetings.

I hope you are all staying safe and healthy and look forward to a time when we can see you in person again.