BRIDGEPORT – The Charles Pointe development in Harrison County has become the first major customer of the new 20-megawatt capacity substation constructed by the Harrison Rural Electrification Association, Inc. (HREA) this past year.
In response to the request to serve the 1,700-acre model community project in Bridgeport, Charles Pointe and the HREA have entered into an informal partnership. In turn, HREA is naming their first high-voltage substation the Charles Pointe Substation.
The substation, built earlier this year, launched HREA’s evolution into a more efficient and reliable distribution system; likewise the Charles Pointe request for service has helped the HREA further their commitment to economic development. The substation, a $2 million investment into the county’s infrastructure, was HREA’s single largest project of 2003.
"Rural electric cooperatives outside of West Virginia have played a strong role in economic development by facilitating loans and grants available through the rural development programs of the US Department of Agriculture that encourage economic development," Charlie Gloeckner, Director of Business Development for the Washington, D.C. based National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), said. The NRECA created the Touchstone Energy Cooperative brand that is now shared and used by over 600 electric cooperatives.
"HREA is the only rural electric cooperative in the entire state of West Virginia," Gloeckner explained, "and is therefore in the unique position of being the only avenue for some types of these economic development funding opportunities to be made available within the state."
Genesis Partners, developer of Charles Pointe, and HREA agree that the partnership is conducive to economic development in the area. "We’re furthering our commitment to Harrison County, and fostering growth in the area. Both companies are goal-oriented in that direction," said Rob Stuart, Director of Development of Genesis Partners.
HREA has been hard at work to make strides in every aspect of their business, even taking their commitment to excellent customer service on the air, according to George Carter, Chief Executive Officer and General Manager of HREA. "HREA’s television advertising campaign took first-place honors for Best Advertising Campaign in the recent annual awards competition between 478 Touchstone Energy Cooperatives across the nation. The advertisements feature our employees, the most important element of excellent customer service." Carter said that the campaign was designed to strengthen relationships with customers and show that HREA is a progressive partner with Touchstone.
HREA, a non-profit electric cooperative that serves more than 5,800 residents of north central West Virginia, said they would use the increase in commercial and residential customer base brought on by the partnership to benefit all their customers.
The Genesis-HREA partnership is strengthened by HREA’s plan to hire a dedicated engineer to handle the design and development of all electrical services for the Charles Pointe development. "We want to ensure all our customers an above average level of service," Carter said. "HREA will implement state-of-the-art technology within Charles Pointe."
"The entire electrical service within the Charles Pointe development area will be totally underground. That’s highly progressive for this region," Carter said. "HREA is committed to providing this higher level of member service."
In addition, HREA has plans to stay focused on leading edge efforts such as automated meter reading, energy monitoring technologies and alternative power generation technologies.
"HREA has demonstrated to us that they listen to the needs of their customers and value everyone on their power system," said Stuart. "We know that if potential partners show respect to our present development concerns, then we can count on them to listen and show respect to the concerns of the future occupants of Charles Pointe. We share the philosophy that a positive customer experience is paramount."
Carter said, "We’re excited about this opportunity. It helps us fulfill our mission of providing energy services in a timely manner with personal service. It’s a winning collaboration for us, Charles Pointe, Harrison County and the residents of the development."
Harrison Rural Electrification Association, Inc. serves over 5,800 customers in parts of Harrison, Marion, Taylor, Barbour, Lewis, Doddridge and Upshur counties. HREA is a Touchstone Energy cooperative.