Formed in 1889, ALP Utilities in Alexandria, Minnesota is among the oldest electric utilities in the nation and well known today for delivering excellent electric, water, and business communications services. Yet, the organization faces many of the same infrastructure, financial, customer engagement, energy resources, and workforce issues as utilities across the U.S. As a new general manager determined to unify his board and staff on the future direction of ALP Utilities, Ted Cash launched in 2019 a five-year strategic planning process. He chose as their strategic plan facilitator Hometown Connections, Inc., the non-profit utility services organization specializing in the unique challenges facing community-owned utilities.
Through onsite facilitation, workshops, and follow-up consultations, Hometown Connections guides the utility staffs and governing boards through the development of a step-by-step blueprint for transformational results and organization alignment.
Hometown Connections believes strongly that a strategic plan can only be successful if it has full ownership by all stakeholders. To this end, Hometown Connections designed its strategic planning process to be inclusive and reflect the priorities of customers and the community.
Serving about 10,000 electric meters and 4,000 water meters, ALP Utilities employs a staff of 36 and is governed by a five-member utility board known as the Board of Public Works. Hometown’s strategic planning process allowed the ALP board and personnel to assess ALP’s strengths and weaknesses, better understand the resources needed to support its changing community, and set major priorities for the next five years.
“I believe strongly in bringing in a neutral third party to facilitate a strategic planning process,” Ted Cash said. “We all have the tendency to pursue projects that match our current strengths or experiences and avoid those that feel unfamiliar or risky. But just as we need help pursuing projects beyond our comfort zone, it’s equally important to bring in a facilitator that is very familiar with organizations like ours.”
Cash noted, “Throughout my career, I have been through strategic planning efforts that failed spectacularly because they were run by people who did not know our business. Within the first fifteen minutes of our first workshop with Hometown’s Steve VanderMeer, I knew this process would be successful. Steve has worked with dozens of utilities like ours and his personality is engaging and reassuring. He put everyone immediately at ease.”
According to Cash, his staff enjoyed in particular the ability to describe in detail the values of ALP Utilities personnel including support for all efforts toward a safe environment, helping improve the communities where they work and live, working as a team for better outcomes, acting with integrity and respect, and being dedicated to satisfying customer needs. As the ALP Utilities board and staff embrace the priorities identified by the strategic plan, the organization will track its success against specific goals related to financial stability and strength, community engagement, utility infrastructure, products & services, and the workforce.