From staff and press reports
Brandon Presley, Mississippi Public Service Commissioner for the Northern District and two Atmos Energy representatives outlined incentives small businesses could use when starting up or expanding through utility companies.
“We are on a 15 city tour to encourage small businesses and those thinking about opening a small business that the public service commission and utility companies are here to help,” said Presley.
In 2011, Presley and the Mississippi Public Service Commission had Mississippi Power Co., Entergy Mississippi and CenterPoint Energy Resources and Atmos Energy submit plans to help offer some kind of incentives or payment modification plans to small businesses. All of which did and agreed to extend those plans until December 2013. Atmos’ offer may expire in September 2013 but Presley noted he and the commission would request the company to extend the program.
The commission has approved riders for Entergy Mississippi, Mississippi Power Company, Atmos Energy, CenterPoint Energy and Wilmut Gas, offering incentives ranging from reduced rates and waived security deposits to the encouragement of development of vacant buildings. Those incentives have been in place for more than a year, and Presley said more than 1,032 small businesses in Mississippi have benefited.
Officials representing Atmos Energy attended the meeting. Presley said Atmos and Entergy have been the most active with incentive programs. Atmos has signed up 777 businesses on its small business rider, while Entergy has had 255 companies to take advantage of its incentives.
“We’ve viewed this program as a success,” said William J. Senter, vice president of rates and regulatory affairs for Atmos. “Our customers may receive the incentives for up to 12 months.”
Presley said more business owners need to know about the incentives.
“The purpose of this meeting today is to let people know these kinds of things are out there for small businesses,” Presley said. “This is for new business as well as a business expanding to another location.”
“This is a good thing for people thinking about starting a business,” added Presley.
Senter of Atmos noted that Atmos offers a 25 percent discount all non gas charges on bills for 12 months and may waive the required deposit.
The discount is designed to encourage the revitalization or growth of business.
“We did this because businesses were still experiencing tough economic times,” Presley said. “That’s still the case. We want to do what we can to help our small businesses. They are the backbone of our communities.”
Presley noted that any money that small businesses don’t have to spend on utility costs can be invested in growing that business via new jobs or expansion.
“As the economy grows, entrepreneurs will begin to see opportunities to open businesses and create new jobs. We should not allow utility costs to dissuade them from this goal,” Presley said.
For more information on the small business incentives, visit the PSC website at www.psc.state.ms.us or call 800-356-6428.
During his visit, Presley also announced that the commission recently approved a natural gas deal that would have Atmos putting $5 million in natural gas expansions in the state each year for 10 years. The initiative is a partnership between the PSC, Atmos and the Mississippi Development Authority.
“We’ve discussed the need for natural gas for businesses to grow. This is something that could aid that in the future,” Presley said. “This will be $50 million put into our state for natural gas expansion over the next 10 years. We are working with another company to do the same thing, and that would increase that to $100 million over the next 10 years.