New Business Section, Electric Vehicle
Pages, Address Future Member Needs
When it comes to delivering on promises to customers, the electricity has to be there all the time. And that’s one reason why leadership at KWS Manufacturing in Burleson has called Johnson County home since 1982, said James Johnson, director of manufacturing and EHS manager.
Originally opened in 1972, KWS designs and manufactures conveying equipment geared to accommodate every bulk material handling application. Whether it’s screw and belt conveyors, bucket elevators or standard or customized parts, Johnson said KWS officials strive to provide a quality product that meets the customer’s needs, delivered on time with good customer service and sold at a competitive price.
“We know the power’s there every day,” Johnson said. “We can rely on it. We need reliability. The few times when we’ve had issues, such as a transformer issue or an electrical storm, the United guys were out there less than an hour getting us back online. We’re absolutely thrilled with the service we get.”
Landy Bennett, chief administrative officer for United Cooperative Services, said more and more companies are moving into United’s service territory. The purpose of the new “United is Open for Business” tab is not only to recognize the companies United serves, but also to showcase United’s capability for serving all types of electric load classes.
It’s one of two new sections recently released on United’s recently redesigned website.
Open For Business
“As a member-centric utility, it is crucial that United effectively and efficiently communicates with each of its members,” Bennett said. “Proactive and timely communications, while important for all member groups, is paramount when dealing with large industrial/commercial consumers. Along with providing a 24/7/365 access to a designated United key account representative, we hope this webpage provides our key account members a greater resource for all things associated with their electric service at United.”
Bennett said the recent growth in industrial and commercial sectors is based largely on the proximity of United’s service area to the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Companies can maintain access to the city while locating their plants and distribution facilities in areas more suitable to their processes.
The industrial and commercial sectors make up an important portion of United’s membership, and they balance the demand for electricity, he said. In many ways, that residential/business balance helps to cost-justify many of the benefits of a continually improving and state-of-the-art electric distribution system.
Along with brief descriptions of some of the businesses United serves, the new “Open for Business” tab provides a glimpse of some reasons these companies located to the area, the experiences they have being members of United and explains the co-op’s role in economic development.
“We understand that time is of the essence with every development,” Bennett said. “We wholeheartedly believe that the relationships we have with each municipality and economic development organization located within our service territory enables the end user to start construction sooner and ultimately to begin turning a profit that much quicker. United continually meets and stays in communication with these organizations to ensure timely processing and dissemination of information pertinent to each project.
“We may serve a largely rural area, but we have the capacity and sophistication necessary for meeting the electric service needs of large industrial and commercial prospects looking for a new home base.”
Plugging Into the Future
In the late 19th and early 20th century, electric vehicles (EVs) made up close to 40 percent of the U.S. vehicle market share.
They quietly zipped around cities where driving distances were short and charging stations were readily available.
Despite their early popularity, they began to disappear from the streets after just a few years.
Recently, a more substantial push for electric vehicles has developed. Electric vehicles were reintroduced to the market in 2010, and each year more shoppers are choosing to forgo gasoline models and opt for new all-electric or plug-in hybrid electric models.
That growing interest in consumers and a shift in the market to more major car manufacturers adding electric and hybrid electric vehicles to the options consumers can choose is one reason why United recently added the "Electric Vehicles" tab.
“Each year, more and more United members have expressed curiosity and interest about electric vehicles,” said Blake Beavers, vice president of power supply. “The purpose of the Electric Vehicle section of the website is to educate and inform our members and to serve as their resource to make an educated decision on purchasing an EV. While we’re not seeing a sweeping change yet, we believe more members will want EVs in the very near future. That’s why we’re discussing this now, so we’re ready for that time.”
Beavers said that while the EV market share is still minimal, many market analysts believe the EV growth will continue expanding throughout the coming years. In 2018, EV sales increased 44 percent from 2017, with a total of 361,307 electric vehicles sold in the U.S., according to insideevs.com, a website that features in-depth information about plug-in electric vehicles. That number is expected to increase for 2019.
“The major benefits of EVs include lower fuel costs, less maintenance and costs associated with maintenance, and environmentally friendlier response to emissions,” he said. “These are the major benefits of driving an electric vehicle, and part of the reason more members are wanting to know more about them. More questions from our members on EVs isn’t the only evidence of growing interest, though. Growing market penetration of EVs within our region market will affect our distribution system. For example, Texas Best Smokehouse gas station in Alvarado (a United member) just installed multiple Tesla superchargers at their gas station as they prepare for this EV growth.
“Just like with solar installations, we want our membership to know that we’re looking out for them, and want them to have unbiased, objective information they can use. They’re welcome to look at our fleet data on costs as well as take a peek at an electric car if they so choose.”
A Year and Counting
As promised, Mauri Montgomery, vice president of media and community relations, said the co-op’s communications team has and will continue to enhance the newly redesigned website to meet the needs of the membership.
The co-op launched the initial redesign this past January, he said, and new sections have continued popping up for members on a variety of topics.
“We face a daunting task in determining the best methods for communicating with a membership that grows more diverse every day, and the communication platforms we use to reach our audience must be equally diverse,” he said. “We want to reach our members where they are with content they can use so they will always be informed about every aspect of their cooperative.”
Montgomery said that reaction to the online changes has been overwhelmingly positive, and usage has skyrocketed. Last May, the website set a record with more than 19,500 users, eclipsing a former record of about 16,000 in February 2018, according to data from Google Analytics.
In the previous July story, website changes highlighted included a redesigned Careers page created to fully explain the United working culture as well as entice new talent to apply with United.
The story also covered a new searchable database that can connect members to unclaimed cash on the Member Dividends page.
Other new additions included online forms for requesting a subscription to United Community Solar and arcing demonstrations, and a map of the upcoming tree/brush trimming through the cooperative’s Integrated Vegetation Management program.