McMinnville Electric System and TVA were founded on a mission to serve — through reliable and affordable energy, a safe and protected environment and thriving economic development.
In 2014, the city of McMinnville was looking for ways to reduce energy costs. Randy Garrison, the city’s Energy Advisor at the time and recently retired from McMinnville Electric System (MES), recommended that the city install LED streetlights. As a result, McMinnville became the first city in the Valley to install LEDs. Debbie Sain, Communications and Marketing Manager for MES, says that TVA helped MES secure incentives and provided guidance on selecting the proper lighting for the project. The innovative project was recognized statewide and earned the Government Environmental Stewardship award, which is presented annually to recognize outstanding environmental projects and conservation efforts.
MES and TVA continue to partner on several programs that benefit the community. During the COVID-19 pandemic, MES secured some much-needed funding through TVA’s Community Care Fund. MES, TVA and Upper Cumberland Human Resources collaborated on this effort to help those in need, including matching funds of $10,000 each provided by MES and TVA. The grant provided critical funding to help many MES customers pay their electric bills. Sain says that educating customers about the fund has been a rewarding part of her job.
The McMinnville community continues to feel a lingering economic impact due to the pandemic. Because of this, there is now a greater emphasis on a need for jobs in the area. Sain says the TVA InvestPrep program and data provided by TVA has been helpful as McMinnville strives to secure new industrial building and sites in the area. This kind of data and preparation is key to drawing new industry and better-paying jobs for residents. “It’s a step-by-step process, but we’re in this for the long haul,” Sain says.
TVA resources benefit the greater McMinnville community beyond providing utility service. Sain shares that she is also a member of the McMinnville Breakfast Rotary Club, which organizes an annual cleanup each July of the three main local rivers, Barren Fork, Hickory Creek, and Collins. TVA is a major sponsor of the event.
Sain says, “We have over 200 miles of rivers in our county. It’s one of our greatest natural resources. It’s amazing how many people like to be on the water.” About 400 volunteers have participated in the cleanup program since it began 14 years ago, covering 55 miles of the river. Teams float to their mile markers and then clean their designated area. Afterward, participants are rewarded by floating on the river for the rest of the day.
Sain says the event is a great example of TVA’s environmental stewardship in the McMinnville community, “That partnership [with TVA] has funded most of our expenses for our river cleanup. People don’t think about TVA and the rivers. They think about TVA and electricity. We’ve had really great success with TVA being a Platinum Sponsor of our river cleanup. When this started 14 years ago, our waters were gray. Now they’re blue and green and beautiful.”
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