GAINESVILLE, Fla. (April 27, 2017) Earlier this year, Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) engaged HCP Associates for strategic planning. GRU is a municipal-owned utility service with about 93,000 residential and commercial customers.
A change in senior management ushered in a new era of operational goals that emphasized adaptive business-based decision-making. Leadership touted the company’s orientation towards positive customer service and support; however, there was no strategic plan in place to direct efforts or metrics to show progress. HCP was engaged to help senior management create a five year strategic plan.
“We’re trying to go from good to great,” said GRU General Manager Ed Bielarski. “We want our name to be something that people recognize and associate with good service and proven management.”
HCP conducted in-depth interviews in early February with both the executive management and leadership teams followed by fielding surveys of around 50 key managers. A good number of managers and leadership team members were long-tenured employees, hired under prior management, which ran the organization as a government entity rather than a corporation. Gaining an appreciation for the split perceptions of GRU internally—whether it was still considered a government organization or a corporation—was a critical starting point for HCP’s involvement.
Upon completion of the individual interviews and surveys, HCP Senior Strategists spent a full day session with GRU leadership in an offsite location in Gainesville. During the session, the group discussed their vision, mission and values. They discussed aspirations for the future while addressing current restraining forces and the immediate issues requiring triage.
HCP delivered a whitepaper outlining the mission, broad 5-year strategy and priorities. This document formed the basis for a presentation to GRU employees, suppliers, their utility advisory board, elected city officials that oversee the organization and their most important stakeholder group—their customers.
“We wanted to bring an unbiased personal perspective to the evaluation process,” said HCP Chairman, Pat Hill. “Service excellence and innovation is essential to GRU and implementing these strategies will help deliver sustainable growth.”
Over the last month, GRU has made significant headway on one of its major drivers for improved customer satisfaction. Under prior management, GRU was locked into a major contract with a bio-fuel supplier that fell short of pre-agreement expectations. The contract calls for the city to pay the plant $2.1 billion over the next 27 years; even if its services aren’t used. This contract led to rate hikes that negatively impacted many of GRU’s customers.
GRU’s current leadership has diligently worked with the city on behalf of its customers to gain approval for a buyout of the biomass plant involved in the contract. According to The Gainesville Sun, after months of back-and-forth negotiations, GRU and biomass plant officials reached an agreement regarding the city’s acquisition of the Gainesville Renewable Energy Center on March 22.
A signed memorandum of understanding (MOU), which bears GRU General Manager Ed Bielarski and biomass plant President Jim Gordon’s signatures, shows the two sides have officially agreed on a $750 million price tag for the GREC facility, located at 11201 NW 13th Street.
Bielarski said the city would save about $650 million under the currently structured MOU and would get the city out of a 27-year, $2.1 billion contract with the biomass plant.
As for future plans for GRU, HCP Senior Research Director, Sarah Lindemuth, said, “Management understands the importance at this juncture of establishing department-by-department customer satisfaction benchmarks, gathering market pulse data from its base of customers and prospects, as well as fielding employee culture research. These studies will inform leadership as to how well they are moving the needle as an organization on the KPIs that align with the strategic plan.”
For more information on GRU, please visit their website at www.gru.com.