MISO Plans Operations Center, Up to 50 Jobs in Little Rock

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Wednesday, May. 8, 2013 11:01 am  

The Midcontinent Independent Transmission System Operator Inc., a regional power transmission provider that boasts Entergy Arkansas among its members, is planning an operations center in Little Rock that could employ up to 50 people.

The Carmel, Ind.-based company, which recently changed it name from Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator, said the center will serve as the hub for its new southern region. The company said it plans to hire 35 to 50 "highly-skilled employees" at an average salary of about $85,000 per year.

MISO expects to invest between $5 million and $8 million in the new facility. 

MISO said it hasn't finalized a location for the center but expects to reach a decision "within the next few months." The Associated Press reported that MISO is receiving state incentives that include a cash rebate of 3.9 percent of payroll for new jobs for four years and a sales tax refund on building materials, taxable machinery and equipment.

The center will house real-time operations personnel, market operations staff, customer service representatives, government and regulatory affairs staff, information technology and "key support personnel." It will also include facilities to accommodate training and meetings. 

"Opening this facility in the Little Rock area will provide a command center for the Southern Region so MISO can ensure greater reliability and lower costs across the region while maintaining its close connection to state interests and stakeholders," MISO President and CEO John Bear said in a news release.

MISO officials joined Gov. Mike Beebe and representatives from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission at the state Capitol for Wednesday's announcement.

The Arkansas Public Service Commission cleared Entergy Arkansas to join MISO last month. Entergy has said the move to the regional power pool, which runs from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, will save its customers $263 million over 10 years.

Entergy Arkansas had been working since the late 1990s to exit the system agreement it held with other Entergy operations in several surrounding states and join a regional transmission operator. 

Arkansas Economic Development Director Grant Tennille told the AP that having Entergy as a MISO member factored into negotiations that landed the $1.1 billion Big River Steel plant planned for Osceola. Entergy is to supply electricity to the facility and Tennille said the low rates that come with membership in a regional transmission group will be important in securing future projects, as well.

On Wednesday, MISO said the Little Rock center will accommodate the integration of Entergy operating companies in four states, along with several area transmission owners and generators.

"MISO's arrival marks the latest set of well-paying, knowledge-based jobs created in Arkansas," Beebe said. "Our innovative programs of cooperation between our higher-education system and the private sector have produced a workforce well-prepared to help MISO succeed."

Another regional transmission provider, Southwest Power Pool, competed with MISO to land the Entegry companies as members. Last year, SPP opened a 20-acre, $63 million campus in Little Rock.



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