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New Entergy complex designed to ‘better meet’ commitments

For New Orleans-based Entergy Corporation, Mississippi has long held importance. Not only is Entergy Mississippi headquartered in Jackson, so is Entergy Nuclear and other key operating units.

Recently, the electric utility unveiled plans to grow its presence in the Magnolia State even further, much of which was prompted by Hurricane Katrina and her aftermath. Entergy is building a new Operations Complex on Echelon Parkway, which already houses several Entergy units. Plans call for a new facility and an increased payroll as the utility looks to consolidate its operational structure while at the same time remaining close to the Coast in the case of a natural disaster without becoming a storm victim itself.

“Having a greater presence in Mississippi and the other states Entergy serves helps provide considerable flexibility to meet whatever challenges the company might face while maintaining business continuity,” says Carolyn Shanks, president and CEO of Entergy Mississippi.

“The new complex will be designed to help us better meet our commitments to our customers. Those include providing reliable, affordable power and preparing for future needs.”

Pulling together

The campus-style center will include the company’s transmission headquarters as well as expansion of the company’s existing nuclear headquarters. The projected completion date is 2009.

The Operations Complex represents a capital investment of more than $25 million. Design work was ongoing at press time.

Perhaps more important than the new facility is what will be conducted there and who will be doing the work. Once it becomes operational, it will accommodate more than 500 employees. That is a significant increase over the current Mississippi employee count.

Within the complex, functions associated with managing the delivery of electricity throughout the corporation’s four-state service territory will be performed from a new transmission headquarters that will accommodate approximately 200 employees.

Yet another payroll-expander is Entergy Nuclear. (Entergy is the nation’s second-largest nuclear energy producer.) Currently, the Echelon Parkway houses those employees who manage Entergy’s nuclear assets in the South. But the new complex will also house those who manage the company’s nuclear operations in the Northeast and Midwest. With the consolidation of Entergy’s 11 nuclear power plants, which is expected to increase efficiency, is complete, the headquarters will be home to 300 Entergy Nuclear personnel, again a significant increase over current numbers.

Yet another potential addition is Entergy’s non-utility nuclear business. Earlier this month, Entergy announced it would spin off its non-utility nuclear assets in a move to strengthen shareholder value. Shanks says nothing definitive has been decided upon yet, but the spin-off business could be located on Echelon Parkway, as well.

Echelon Parkway is also the current headquarters for its storm response command and training center. The center, where the company’s response to major events in all four states is conducted, will continue to be located on the parkway.

From the complex, Entergy personnel will:

• Maintain Entergy’s transmission infrastructure of more than 1,500 substations and 15,000 miles f transmission lines, which serves as a kind of interstate power highway system spanning four states, transporting energy to Entergy customers and other consumers.

• Further solidify Jackson’s position as headquarters for the nuclear.

• Allow for future growth.

After the storm

A large part of the reason for this consolidation is Katrina. The storm blasted the Mississippi Gulf Coast and flooded the company out of New Orleans.

In the storm’s wake, Entergy moved its corporate headquarters to Clinton, occupying the former MCI/WorldCom building. By all accounts, the move was successful, and Shanks says that experience certainly influenced Entergy’s decision to expand its Mississippi operations.

Like other New Orleans businesses, Entergy worked hard to keep its workers paid and on the job. Katrina was a major challenge to its business continuity, and the move to bring more assets into Jackson is seen as a way to avoid future disruptions.

Other Katrina-related factors included Jackson’s ideal location — it is far enough away from the Coast to be out of harm’s way yet close enough to afford quick response. And many of the employees that were forced out of New Orleans and other locales have now made Jackson home. So, the move is also good for the utility’s personnel, who have become a part of the community’s fabric and whose children are now in local classrooms.

“Mississippi was happy to temporarily host Entergy’s headquarters following Hurricane Katrina, and we welcome the permanent location of these new corporate facilities,” Shanks says.

Shanks also points out that it is not just the number, but the quality, of the new workers in Jackson that should be noted. Many of these workers are highly trained and well paid, and their tax dollars as well as their talents will be a plus to the local economy and quality of life. She says that the campus environment of the new Operations Complex is ideal for the kind of highly skilled, professional employment opportunities that best benefit Mississippi’s economic development efforts.

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at wally.northway@msbusiness.com.

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