Building the Future of Energy

With a goal of building a smarter energy infrastructure that is more flexible, reliable and resilient than ever, Gulf Power has invested hundreds of millions of dollars over the last several years in infrastructure upgrades across Northwest Florida.

“The key to keeping reliability high and ensuring the grid is prepared for our customers’ future is investing in technology, maintenance and upgrades,” said Stan Connally, Gulf Power chairman, president and CEO.

Some of the upgrades across the service footprint have included the installation of the latest technology such as smart, self-healing equipment, substation upgrades and replacing most wooden transmission structures with concrete poles and wooden cross arms with steel arms.

“These investments help improve our ability to withstand the rigors of our coastal environment, better secure the energy grid and prepare for future growth,” added Connally. “Making sure our customers can count on us for reliable energy is critical, and the investments we continue to make in our system are paying off.”

With recent and ongoing infrastructure upgrades to make the energy grid stronger, Gulf Power customers are also enjoying fewer outages than in any time in recent history. In fact, investments in the energy grid have improved reliability for the utility’s 460,000 customers by almost 20 percent since 2010.

“This work is just a part of many investments we’re making to ensure we continue to deliver the best value to our customers,” said Connally. “From investing in technologies and upgrades, to adding renewables to our portfolio, our team is working hard to make sure we can provide the safe, clean, reliable and affordable energy our customers need today, and in the future.”

Expanding Opportunity

Signed into law 15 years ago by Gov. Jeb Bush, the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship is one of the most innovative education programs in America. This fall, it’s helping 93,000 students access schools that work best for them.

Florida businesses deserve the lion’s share of credit. The corporate community has contributed $2.7 billion, and funded 570,000 scholarships.

“We are enthused about seeing these kids succeed when, chances are, they wouldn’t have in a traditional setting,” said STEVE KNOPIK, CEO of Beall’s, one of the program’s founding donors.

The cause couldn’t be more worthy. Average income for a scholarship family is $24,075, and years of data show scholarship students were typically the ones who struggled most in their prior schools. But now they are making solid progress.

“The program does an excellent job of partnering with schools to distribute scholarships, and makes a difference in so many lives,” said STAN CONNALLY, chairman, president and CEO of Gulf Power, also a founding donor.

Giving is a snap. If your company has a corporate income tax or insurance premium tax liability in Florida, it can earn dollar-for-dollar tax credits in return for contributions to scholarship funding organizations.

Step Up For Students, Florida’s premier scholarship organization, has served students since the program’s inception. It earned a perfect score in accountability from Charity Navigator this year, and a platinum rating from GuideStar. Next year it expects to serve 100,000 students as the state-set contributions cap rises from $559 million to $698 million.

If you’d like to help, click here or call Step Up at 1-866-344-9553.

Florida is a Tremendous Place to Do Business

 

The Florida Chamber believes that welcoming diverse businesses from around the state takes advantage of Florida’s business friendly climate and helps Florida remain competitive. Businesses look at many factors when choosing where to expand of grow, which Gulf Power Company understands firsthand.

“Florida is a tremendous place to do business. As you noted, Gulf Power Company has had a long history in Northwest Florida- some 90 years here in the panhandle- and there’s a reason for that… we just simply found Florida to be a place where you can build and grow a company that puts customers first and cares for communities.”

Gulf Power’s investments in the panhandle, particularly in its electric grid modernization work, benefit not only Florida’s economy, but the communities in Northwest Florida. By targeted investments and by leveraging local and statewide partnerships, Gulf Power is helping a diverse region address the issues that matter most.

“Certainly, Gulf Power sees that as an economic development benefit. There’s certainly jobs and a tax base that is created when we invest in the community. We are here for the long run so we work with  local agencies, economic development organizations, local chambers and we of course have a great partnership with the Florida Chamber of Commerce that helps us to help make our community a better place to live, work and play. We work with the Chamber Foundation, Bentina Terry our Vice President of Customer Service and Sales is a past chair and that Foundation has helped us focus on looking at gaps in our communities and what can we do to close those gaps and solve the challenges that businesses face in our region.”

And although Florida’s Panhandle is home to some of the most diverse counties in the state, uniting under a common goal will be key to addressing gaps and challenges.

“As a Florida Chamber Regional Chair, I look forward to working with all the business leaders across this region and join together to speak as one voice for business. I think that’s the important element here is that we speak as one voice.  By working with the other regional chairs across the state, I hope that we can be that voice for this region. I think the [Florida] Chamber’s success comes in part from uniting those diverse business interests and diverse economic drivers under one common goal- and that’s to make Florida simply more competitive. I hope to continue to play a large part in that goal.”

To Stan and Gulf Power Company, free enterprise is a long-term commitment.

“To me, free enterprise means being able to grow and to thrive- as a company, individually and as families. The Florida Chamber’s fight for free enterprise has been a key to helping our state move in the right direction and I do believe we are heading in the right direction. I’m proud to say Gulf Power has been a part of that history for some 90 years and we look forward to being a part of that free enterprise future for a long time to come.”

Share Your Thoughts

We want to know- what are some of the issues and challenges your company faces? Email us at emartin@flchamber.com.

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Business VIPs Address Chamber

By Deborah Buckhalter, Jackson County Floridian

Stan Connally dropped a news bomb near the end of his talk Friday at the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce power lunch — the Gulf Power president announced plans to help create six training academies in the Panhandle to teach skills needed for work in the manufacturing sector.

Connally is helping steer a Panhandle alliance which aims to make the region more competitive in attracting worldwide manufacturing concerns to set up shop here and put people to work. That’s been known for some time. The alliance wants to help set up the training academies between here and Pensacola over time.

Gulf Power is also a driving force behind a related effort—the certification of 11 Panhandle sites as essentially shovel-ready for development. Three of those are in Jackson County, and include land near the Family Dollar Distribution Center, another near the State Road 71 interstate ramp, and a third site near the Marianna Municipal Airport. Working with a world-recognized consultant to get those certified can make those sites more marketable too potential manufacturing concerns as essentially shovel-ready for start up. With most permitting issues, environmental studies and other preliminary having already been taken care of in the certification process, the sites could be more attractive to companies looking for a place to get up and running quickly.

Attracting manufacturers is a key element in the critical need to diversify the local economy, he said.

He estimated that 15,000 manufacturing jobs will be available in the state over the next five years, while tourism might generate 63,000 in the same time period. Manufacturing jobs can command salaries of $60,000 on average, while in tourism the average is around $20,000. While tourism is important and ultimately might generate more jobs in the state over the next five years, it’s seasonal and very dependent on the economy from year to year. In the manufacturing sector, the establishment of one business can generate other start-ups that bring other jobs, as well, he pointed out.

Connally wasn’t alone in bringing that diversity message to the Chamber guests Friday. He had a fellow guest speaker. Taking the podium ahead of him was David Christian, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Christian also talked about the importance of expanding the scope of local economies, but focused on an overview of his organization’s lobbying efforts in support of legislative actions that can help small, medium and large business concerns thrive in the Florida sunshine. He talked also about the importance of embracing educational curriculum policies that help students, from pre-K forward, prepare to manage their personal finances, gain marketable workplace skills in the fields of science, technology and other areas that prepare them to take high-paying jobs perhaps right out of high school.

Both men spoke of the importance of people working together within their communities and across county borders to make this region more attractive to job-producing businesses.