CEO’s Report: Powerful partnerships

It’s hard to believe we’ve turned the page on another year. It’s even harder to believe the year 2020 will mark my fifteen-year anniversary with Heartland and my seventh year as CEO.

During my time at Heartland, one thing I’ve noticed is that partnerships have been the key to much success. Our customers have thrived thanks to partnerships between local development groups, city officials, local banks, state organizations and more.

Heartland has played a role in many success stories and is proud to be a reliable partner to our customers.

In fact, it is in our vision to be a partner of choice to our customers, and that means more than just a reliable power supplier. But it also means more than economic development.

We want to be the ones you turn to when you have questions or are facing challenges. We understand the unique situations utilities face today as well as the opportunities present. Our dedicated staff is here to help.

While we strive to visit customers on a regular basis and host educational events, the relationship doesn’t stop there. We are always only a phone call or email away and encourage you to reach out anytime.

If one of our staff members doesn’t know the answer to your question, rest assured we will find someone who does.

As we enter a new decade, I hope the partnerships between Heartland and our customers only strengthens. Our vision isn’t just a catchphrase. It is something we work towards every day.

Committed to Customers

We entered 2019 riding on the coattails of the sale of our portion of the Missouri Basin Power Project, including our 51 MW output of Laramie River Station. We looked forward to a year of focusing on our customers and the many beneficial services we provide, as we no longer had excess generation hanging over our heads.

Kelly Dybdahl

Even with that burden eased, things didn’t slow down. We did focus on our customers, starting 2019 with a major economic development announcement, welcoming tru Shrimp to Madison, SD. Today, tru Shrimp continues working toward raising capital to build its first shrimp production facility in Madison’s Lakeview Industrial Park.

We also welcomed Kelly Dybdahl to the Heartland team in early 2019 as our new customer relations manager. Kelly has been a great addition to the Heartland team, and we are grateful to all our customers who have warmly welcomed him to your communities.

Heartland also formed a partnership beneficial to our customers in 2019 with architecture and engineering firm ISG, giving customers access to cost-effective municipal capital improvement planning (CIP) and development park master planning (DPMP) services. Cities may also utilize Heartland’s economic development grant program to help cover the cost of implementation.

Madison resident Lori Waldner, second from left, won a fire pit and other goodies in our Tailgating Giveaway contest on Facebook.

We once again welcomed student interns to our team over the summer, created a solar calculator to evaluate the costs for both installers and utilities of solar installations, hosted successful customer events, and received USDA’s Friend of Rural Development Award.

We also stepped up our social media game in 2019, conducting a few fun contests and running targeted ads to increase our online exposure.

We also ensured customers with a WAPA allocation keep that allocation by preparing and submitting Integrated Resource Plans as required by law.

Heartland also spent much of 2019 advocating for our customers, particularly as the rural electric cooperatives in South Dakota introduced legislation to freeze existing electrical service territory, taking away municipal utilities’ right to annex and grow with their communities. That issue remains in flux, as the two sides continue working toward an agreeable solution.

In November, Heartland hosted a lunch with Missouri River Energy Services for South Dakota legislators to provide background on municipal electrics and the importance of locally owned utilities. Heartland Director of Economic Development and Governmental Affairs Casey Crabtree discussed our suite of economic development programs and how public power is a partner in community development.

Entering a new decade

As we started 2019, we began the process of revamping our strategic plan which was adopted back in 2016. The sale of LRS made most of that plan obsolete as we accomplished most of the long-term goals we had set by getting rid of our excess generation.

While we may have had good intentions, a host of other projects delayed the implementation of a new plan, but we remain committed to formulating new goals as well as strategies to accomplish those goals early in the new decade.

For the third year in a row, Heartland announced there would be no rate increase heading into 2020 and has plans to continue that trend for several years. However, that doesn’t mean we are sitting back.

Heartland continues pursuing new customers, new loads within existing customer communities, and means to reduce costs to ensure long-term rate stability for customers.

One goal that will always remain the same is dedicated customer service. We will continue offering our comprehensive suite of programs designed to helped customers grow and thrive including economic development, energy efficiency and cybersecurity.

We look forward to a prosperous new year for each of our customers and strengthening partnerships with each and every one of you.

Happy New Year.