National Grid on Investing for Impact: Energy-Driven Economic Development in Upstate New York

Aug 1, 2016 11:00 AM ET

The following article is taken from the “Investing for Impact” chapter of Dean Seavers’ Democratization of Energy eBook.

It’s no secret that Upstate New York – once recognized nationwide as a manufacturing leader – has yet to fully stake its claim in a globalized economy. What might still be a secret to some is how close the region is getting to reclaiming that leadership position. I won’t pretend to be an expert in the emerging fields getting us there: nanotechnology, advanced manufacturing capabilities, or anaerobic digesters enabling process waste to be converted into electricity, to name a few. But I can tell you, from my travels throughout our service regions, our customers understand them. In fact, they’ll tell anyone who’ll listen. At National Grid, we’ve made listening part of our mission.

Across the 24,000 square miles of our diverse upstate New York footprint, we’ve listened – and beyond that, we’ve heard. We’ve heard about industrial parks making products in demand around the world. About abandoned brownfield properties burdening communities and taxpayers, yet teeming with potential. About untried startups that, with the right support, will have no limit to their reach. About established businesses – large and small, urban and rural – primed to innovate and grow. And about jobs – good jobs, lasting jobs. The key, of course, to real sustainability in these communities. 

Decades of hearing about our customers’ visions have made us visionaries too. We believe in our customers’ goals, their workforces, and the communities and futures we all share. And we invest in them, in every way that matters.

Attracting the semiconductor industry to New York has been a 20-year process, and National Grid has been keenly involved from the start. Investing millions and providing critical engineering and planning support for the sophisticated electricity transmission infrastructure that today’s intensely high tech firms demand. Sharing in the dramatic success of the SUNY Polytechnic Institute’s Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering Nanotech Megaplex in Albany. Expanding on that success with the NANO Utica initiative in the Mohawk Valley, where the 450-acre Marcy site we helped launch is set to break ground in the spring of 2016 – and expected to add more than 4,000 new jobs over the next ten years. And that’s just the beginning.

Food processing and agribusiness industries are among the fastest-growing sectors in the upstate economy, and National Grid grant programs play a major role in that growth – funding electric infrastructure upgrades for the new $40 million, 60-employee Agrana fruit processing facility in Onondaga County, enabling the Intergrow Greenhouses operation in Orleans County to undertake a $15 million expansion, and more. In the past year alone, our matching grants for lean manufacturing and other productivity and growth support provided funding for 35 small and medium-sized manufacturing businesses across 15 Upstate New York counties.

At the same time, family farms and other smaller rural customers are using our power incentive grants to realize expansion plans that depend on upgrading to three-phase electrical service – helping revitalize the region’s economy even at hyper-local levels.

Across the region, our Upstate New York customers have much more success to share. While National Grid may not always make the headlines, we’re often part of the story – and we’re proud to have earned a place as our customers’ strategic partner. It’s our responsibility, our challenge, and our privilege.

My prediction? Businesses will continue to discover, or rediscover, upstate New York. Because we are ready.

About the Author

Dean Seavers joined National Grid in December 2014 as President of National Grid in the U.S.

Dean’s long career has included leadership roles at GE, United Technologies, and Tyco. He led GE Security, a $2 billion product and technology group, and he also led a $4 billion global services portfolio for United Technologies.

At Red Hawk Fire & Security, Dean’s most recent venture, he was a founder and served as President and CEO. Red Hawk quickly became the second largest independent fire and security platform in the U.S., providing integrated security solutions to large and mid-sized commercial customers.

Dean has a strong background in financial strategy, performance improvement, and operational leadership. At National Grid, his focus is on continuing the performance progress that underpins the company’s U.S. business while driving its Connect21 agenda of building the advanced natural gas and electricity networks that are the foundation of our 21st century digital economy.

A native of Sandusky, Ohio, Dean graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in business from Kent State University and earned an MBA from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.

Dean and his family have a home in Boston.

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