CEO’s Report: Ready to face the New Year

It’s no secret the year 2020 brought many challenges. But, public power employees persevered. They remained dedicated to providing reliable electricity and services essential to their communities.

Each of our customers faced unique challenges throughout the year. But they all provided top-notch service, and we are proud to partner with every one.

Heartland customers will see a bright spot heading into 2021. Wholesale customers will see steady rates for the fourth year in a row.

Heartland took several actions over the last few years to provide affordable power. Our goal was to provide stable rates to customers for the foreseeable future. Fortunately, we weathered the uncertainty of 2020. Prudent past decisions prepared us to handle the unexpected.

Heartland is always looking for new means to strengthen our position for the benefit of customers. We promised customers steady rates. Our staff worked throughout the year to ensure we kept that promise going into 2021.

The new year is sure to bring its own challenges. While we can’t predict the future, we can do our best to prepare to face those challenges head on.

It is our vision to be a partner of choice. We want to help each of our customers enter the new year with renewed strength. We look forward to working together to capitalize on opportunities to help customers thrive.

Workforce challenges

Many Heartland customers will be facing the same challenge in the coming years: workforce.

Many long-time municipal employees will be looking at retirement. So, customers will look to bring in new talent.

The areas of power line construction and maintenance appear to be of greatest concern.

We know this will be a big hurdle for customers and we want to help.

Heartland budgeted funds for 2021 to assist with workforce development in customer communities. Because every community is different, and challenges vary, the funding will be flexible.

We have outlined a few different options to put funds in place. But, we are open to discussing others based on your community’s unique needs.

We can provide signing bonuses or relocation allowances as lump sum payments.

We are also exploring a workforce recruitment program with scholarships and loans. Funding would be for those entering a Power Line Construction and Maintenance program. It would also require working at a customer municipal utility.

Stipulations would be set for each program to ensure program success.

Parameters have been set for the program, but above all, we want funding made available when needed. No red tape will exist, I assure you.

We also recently sent out a survey to assess customers’ needs for new employees in the coming years. The Customer Connections Committee will be meeting in January to assess the results. They will also brainstorm further ideas to assist where needed.

Opportunities in the new year

Heartland customers continued to thrive throughout 2020, despite challenges faced.

Heartland issued over $60,000 in growth incentives throughout the year. We also assisted with the purchase of two businesses by local entrepreneurs through our HELP Fund loan program.

Housing continued to boon in several communities. We saw new businesses pop up or begin construction.

Many also saw economic hardships throughout the year. COVID-19 varied from person to person, community to community and state to state. The same is true for it’s economic effect.

But, we saw our communities step up during 2020 to support their local businesses. Local support made a large impact. Heartland also offered a variety of marketing resources to help promote supporting local.

As we begin 2021, I have great optimism our customers will see more successes. The year is sure to bring its own challenges, but we are prepared to face them head on.

Heartland Customer Relations Manager Kelly Dybdahl has enjoyed getting back on the road to visit customers. He will continue making rounds as we kick off the new year.

However, if your utility has areas in need of help or you have ideas where Heartland can offer assistance, don’t wait for him to grace your doorstep. Give us a call so we can start working on solutions immediately. You know your communities best. Let us know how we can help.

Here is wishing you all good health and prosperity in the new year.

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.