HED: Oxford industry beneficiary of new TVA incentive program
By Marty Russell
OXFORD – The Whirlpool Corp. in Oxford got a refund on its electric bill Thursday to the tune of more than $44,800 courtesy of the Tennessee Valley Authority, and can expect another sizable rebate next year.
Whirlpool is one of about 40 businesses in Northeast Mississippi, including about 13 in the Tupelo area, participating in a new Enhanced Growth Credit Program that offers credits on electric bills for eligible companies over a three- or a six-year period.
The program is designed to lure new businesses into the seven-state TVA service region and to encourage existing businesses in the region to expand.
“It can add up to some significant dollars,” said Jimmy Allen, customer services manager for the Tupelo TVA office.
Whirlpool chose to participate in the three-year program, which grants a rebate of $6 per kilowatt used over the usage prior to an expansion. For new businesses, the credit would apply to the entire amount of the bill since there was no prior level of usage.
A six-year version of the program offers a $6 per kilowatt rebate the first year declining to $1 per kilowatt in the sixth year.
“This program has been a tremendous tool in attracting new jobs to north Mississippi,” Allen said. “The incentives paid over the first few years after an expansion or new opening can significantly reduce the utility costs for an industrial or commercial operation.”
Whirlpool expanded it operations two years ago when the program first began because of added demand that resulted in the creation of a distribution warehouse and the air conditioning of its Oxford facility. The manufacturing operation, which makes ovens and cook tops, now employs 475, according to Kathleen Nelson, plant manager.
Nelson said the money saved through the TVA has been put back into making the plant more energy efficient.
Whirlpool still has one year of eligibility for the program and will continue to receive the credits through 1997.
“We’re just getting around to giving them their first installment,” Allen said of the reason for the large check presented Thursday for the first two years of participation.
Allen said, to qualify for the program, businesses must meet certain criteria, such as falling within certain Standard Industrial Code categories or having an all-electric facility where climate control, lighting and cooking make up 50 percent of electrical usage or expansions that result in at least a 250-kilowatt increase in electrical usage.
At Whirlpool, electrical usage because of the expansion increased about 2,600 kilowatts a month, according to Oxford Electric Department Superintendent Johnny Earnest.