Dickson Electric System (DES) provides power to 30,000 residential and business customers in Dickson, Hickman, Cheatham, Houston, and Montgomery counties in Middle Tennessee.
Teaming Up Boosts Economic Development
The region’s industrial growth has been fueled by partnerships such as those DES and TVA have forged with Middle Tennessee Industrial Development Association, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development and local organizations. Together, they are able to strategize and coordinate resources to connect companies with viable locations in the area where they can expand or move operations. DES general manager Darrell Gillespie is especially invested in this process as he also represents electricity distributors on the Middle Tennessee Industrial Development Association board.
Back in 2018, these collaborative efforts brought Canadian boat manufacturer Ebbtide Holdings, Inc. to White Bluff, Tennessee, which created 100 jobs. Two years later, during the early months of the pandemic, the company experienced a surge in sales. Gillespie said, “Since boating doesn’t require mixing in with people in close proximity or taking an airplane, it became an even more popular form of recreation. They couldn’t make boats fast enough.”
As COVID-19’s persistence continued to influence lifestyle, boat purchases skyrocketed. To meet the unexpected production demands, in the spring of 2021, Ebbtide accepted acquisition by Limestone Boat Company Limited. Their output’s capacity was greater than what Ebbtide was able to do as its own entity, so they now manufacture Ebbtide’s Aquasport and Boca Bay marine product brands. This move has kept workers employed, and the water recreation economy buoyant.
Food Manufacturer Adds Facility in Dickson
Memphis-based Monogram Assembled Foods, LLC has acquired a manufacturing facility in the Dickson County Industrial Park, and will invest $53.5 million in improvements. Monogram will also retain current employees and create 400 additional jobs. Economic development partners DES, TVA, Dickson County Economic Development Alliance and Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development helped the company establish its first plant in Tennessee.
Monogram’s Chief Executive Officer Karl Schledwitz said, “Our new Dickson facility will allow us to expand production and bring more in-demand food products to our store and retail partners across the country. Dickson is a thriving community with a dynamic workforce, and we are proud to call it home for our newest location. We look forward to bringing more jobs to the community and serving the Dickson area.”
When Disaster Strikes, Helping is in DES’s Nature
The DES community has faced challenging times since the pandemic began. In August 2021, floods tragically took lives and homes in Dickson and neighboring counties, with communities served by another utility getting hit harder than DES. Dickson County stepped up and provided many residents of surrounding areas temporary shelter, supplies, and short-term housing options as they began to recover and rebuild.
“The flooding was very close to us, so we pitched in where possible. DES was able to help the Dickson County YMCA, which opened up its doors to local families as a place for safe refuge. We also served homes nearby with materials for repairs. And others showed up with truckloads of water,” Darrell Gillespie, general manager of DES said. TVA provided financial support as well through a donation to the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee’s Emergency Response Fund.
Turns out, there was no time for calm before the next storm. In December 2021, tornadoes ripped through the Tennessee Valley, directly impacting the DES service area as winds demolished homes and businesses and damaged many others. Power was out for many days and DES line crews worked around the clock to restore electricity and repair and replace downed lines.
Elizabeth Kuhns, assistant to the general manager of DES said, “We are community powered, which means we are members of the communities we so proudly serve. When we were knee-deep in storm work, small businesses, hotels, restaurants, friends, neighbors and customers went above and beyond to help us. Individual members of the community checked in to find out what we needed and quickly filled the request for snacks and water.”
Kuhns added that DES customers fed line crews to show gratitude for the work they were doing to bring power back. And others accommodated urgent housing or laundering needs for contractors and out-of-town crews. Determined to help one another, it seemed anyone not severely affected found a way pitch in. Rebuilding will certainly be an ongoing battle, but the spirit of caring proves to be stronger than any storm.
Providing youth with science, technology engineering and math (STEM) is a value that endures. Gillespie said, “A few of the schools we serve have been fortunate to get TVA STEM grants. This offers a great opportunity to introduce kids to community energy at an early age.”
Stuart-Burns Elementary School in Burns, Tennessee received TVA STEM grants in 2022 and 2020. And New Directions Academy in Dickson, Tennessee was awarded a TVA STEM grant in 2021.