'five questions' with Steve Pilgrim of Entergy Texas

Published: 07/25/2017

Did you know that the Port of Beaumont is the fourth largest seaport in the United States in terms of tonnage processed? If not, the Entergy Texas economic development team is here to show customers that Texas is wide open for business. 

In today's installment of 'five questions,' we sit down with Steve Pilgrim, director of business and economic development, to discuss why cities within our service area are good places to operate a business.

1. Steve, walk us through the planning process of working with a business to move to our service area.

Landing new business is often an exercise in attrition. We typically start with a lead suggesting that a company is looking to locate or expand. (Oftentimes, many states and communities will show interest in landing the same prospect.) We then develop and coordinate proposals with state or regional partners. We may go through several iterations and, hopefully, survive to the final cut of potential sites. At this point, site visits and serious negotiations will typically take place. We work to stay in the hunt to meet all of the prospect's needs. Ideally, this results in the location of a new or expanding business. The process can take weeks, months, or even years.

2. Key to your group's mission is bringing new businesses to our service area. But once they're here, we certainly want them to stay and thrive. Describe your business retention and expansion efforts.

You're right. As you probably know, the majority of our best opportunities come from existing customers. I feel that it is up to us to establish a reputation of first-class customer service and reliability. We want our customers to feel that if they expand in our service territory, they will have a very high probability of success. Therefore, our industrial account executives work hard every day to address the technical and commercial needs of our largest customers. That pays off when we have opportunity to land an expansion.

3. The economic development team offers services to make decision making easier in each phase of the process, from site selection, to energy planning and technical engineering, to financing - all the way through to ongoing operations. But that's not all that your team does. Talk to us about community development outreach efforts.

Melissa Bochat heads up our community development efforts in our overall economic development efforts. We want the communities that we serve to be successful. That, in turn, makes ETI successful. Melissa looks for ways to leverage opportunities to bring the most information and assistance to our communities as she can. The takeaway from these efforts is communities who can develop target markets, leverage strengths, identify and address potential gaps, respond to Requests for Information, assemble incentive packages, and develop business retention and expansion programs of their own.

4. In a recent report, the U.S. Census Bureau named Conroe as the fastest-growing U.S. city, with a population of at least 50,000. It puts Conroe's growth rate at more than 11 times that of the rest of the other cities across the nation in the same population category. With all these new people moving to Conroe, what are some the economic and business development opportunities that exist for Entergy?

The growth in Conroe is amazing. And it's not happening by chance. We have worked to develop strategic economic development plans with Conroe that manage growth in a fashion that meets the community's vision. For us, this is resulting in new opportunities in all customer classes including residential, commercial, and industrial. New housing developments are popping up all over Conroe to facilitate people's desire in live and work in the area. Mixed-use developments are also going up. These include homes, apartments, schools, healthcare, grocery stores, and more. And let's not forget industrial growth. While you'll not find huge refineries or petrochemical facilities in Conroe, the city's industrial park is filling up fast with traditional manufacturers.

5. Last question, Steve. How does your group's work make for a stronger and more robust Entergy Texas?

Low rates and good reliability are keys to our success. If we can land new businesses and expand existing ones, we can spread costs over more megawatt hours and keep our rates low. This perpetuates a "life cycle" of then re-investing in our infrastructure to sustain strong reliability. 

To learn more about Entergy Texas' economic and business development efforts, visit the Go Entergy website or call 800-729-7483.

Phallan K. Davis