Date of Award

5-2013

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Economic and Workforce Development

Committee Chair

Chad Miller

Committee Chair Department

Economic and Workforce Development

Committee Member 2

Brian Richard

Committee Member 2 Department

Economic and Workforce Development

Committee Member 3

Brent Hales

Committee Member 3 Department

Economic and Workforce Development

Committee Member 4

David Parker

Abstract

This research seeks to determine if electric utilities participate in economic development, and if so, how might the trend of electric deregulation affect that relationship. The researcher reviewed the academic literature to determine that electric utilities do, in fact, participate in economic development and significantly contribute to economic growth. They participate in all areas of economic development, including business attraction, business retention and expansion, and community development; they arguably influence business development and economic vibrancy more than any alternative business in the community.

Since 1992, electric deregulation has influenced the way these utilities participate in economic development. State governments intend to stimulate the economy by diverting from electric regulation, governmental control over the industry, to electric deregulation, open market competition. However, previous electric deregulation attempts, such as in California and Texas, cause analyst to question if deregulation benefits the economy. The researcher further examined these deregulation attempts to determine if, in fact, they did affect the role of electric utilities in economic development. Deregulation did impact the way electric utilities participated in economic development in these states.

Subsequently, the researcher interviewed ten electric utility directors, five from regulated states and five from deregulated states, and conducted a website analysis of twenty electric utility company websites: ten regulated states and ten deregulated states. The primary research questions consisted of: why do electric utility companies participate in economic development, and how does deregulation change the role of electric utilities in economic development. Electric utilities participate in economic development to maximize profits, and electric utilities in deregulated states actually participate in economic development less than electric utilities in regulated states. EUCs in deregulated states assist economic development rather than lead it, by working as an extension to the EDO. Unlike EUCs in deregulated states, EUCs in regulated states emphasized their proactive efforts to uncover leads, visit potential prospects, pursue opportunities, etc. Ultimately, electric deregulation detracts from electric utility company participation in economic development.

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