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PSO, AEP, External Partners Teamed Up for Sofidel Success

by on April 20, 2018
A successful groundbreaking was had by all! From left, Mike Neal, President and Chief Executive Officer-Tulsa Regional Chamber; Stuart Solomon, PSO President and Chief Operating Officer; Luigi Lazzareschi, Chief Executive Officer-Sofidel Group; Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin; Johannes Schlatter, Project Manager-BHM Ingenieure; Janet Smith, Manager-PSO Economic and Business Development; Peter Oksakowski, Managing Director, BHM Ingenieure Construction; and Mark James, Vice President-AEP Economic and Business Development. The Sofidel project in Oklahoma will be similar to one that’s nearing completion in Circleville, Ohio.

(Story by Ed Bettinger)

Everything related to the new Inola, Oklahoma, tissue paper manufacturing plant announced by Sofidel recently is big.

  • The manufacturing facility will have 1.8 million sq. ft., with potential to double.
  • Sofidel’s investment in the plant will total approximately $360 million.
  • It will provide approximately 500 construction jobs over three years and about 300 regular, full-time jobs when it goes into operation.


Another big number is the size of the effort expended by many entities internally and externally to attract Sofidel’s interest in locating their new plant in Oklahoma and, ultimately, to the Inola River Rail Industrial Park.

A unique aspect is that Sofidel purchased the 240-acre site from Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO). The site was part of 2,500 acres owned by PSO that was the location of PSO’s planned Black Fox nuclear power project cancelled in the 1980s. In 2013, PSO elected to make the site available for large economic development projects and had “certified” the site through AEP’s Economic and Business Development Quality Site Program. The program was critical to making sure the property was “Prospect-Ready”.

Ownership of the land meant PSO and AEP were involved in nearly every aspect of the project. Many work groups across PSO and AEP helped make this project happen, including Customer Service, Transmission and Distribution, Land Management, Workplace Services, External Affairs, Legal, Environmental, Rail Transportation, Finance and Accounting and Power Generation.

“If you are an AEP employee who helped with the Inola site certification process in 2014 -2015, or if you responded to a request relating to “Project Autumn” (the code name of the project to ensure confidentiality) over the past few years, then you helped land the project for PSO,” said Janet Smith, manager of PSO Economic and Business Development, who led the effort with Sofidel. “There was great collaboration and there are many employees to thank for their effort.”

More than 14 external partners also were involved in the effort attract and land Sofidel. Without their assistance there would not have been adequate infrastructure, work force or incentives for the Inola site. These included: the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, Tulsa Regional Chamber, Rogers County, Rogers County Industrial Authority, City of Inola, Creek Nation, Cherokee Nation, Indian Nations Council of Government, Grand Gateway, Mayes County Rural Water District, Northeast Technology Center, Inola Public Schools, state and federal agencies including  the Department of Environmental Quality, Oklahoma Department of Transportation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

The core PSO team working on the project consisted of Smith along with  Micah Burdge, PSO Customer Services Engineer; LaDonna File, Senior Real Estate Agent-Real Estate Asset Management; and Michael Gordon, Manager-External Affairs for Northeastern Oklahoma.

“On the electrical power side of the project, PSO and AEP conducted a big effort to ensure we could serve the plant reliably and at an attractive energy cost for Sofidel,” said Burdge.

The core AEP Transmission team included Joe Gilbert, Transmission Project Manager; Ashley Beasley, Transmission Project Management; James Smith, Transmission Planning Engineer; and Alan Ward, Transmission Planning Manager.

On the Distribution side, the job required a joint effort by everyone at PSO’s Chouteau Service Center as well as the line crew from the Vinita Service Center.

“Everyone took into consideration the importance of Sofidel’s decision to locate in this area, and their attitudes and diligence showed it,” said Greg Haire, Supervisor-Distribution Systems, Vinita. “There was a short time period and a lot of work to do to make this happen. Jason Lawson, customer service technician, worked his tail off to keep up with everything, including tree trimming, meetings, and designing the job as well. Our crews completely re-built the three-phase overhead line going to the plant construction area in a very short time. We contracted with Davis Elliot to build a small portion of the line for the temporary power for two 2,000-kVa transformers, and they also did a great job.”

PSO President and COO Stuart Solomon addresses the crowd at the Sofidel announcement.

Haire credited Lawson and Steve Clifton, storekeeper-Vinita, Grove, Chouteau, for coordinating all of the material and getting it delivered on site in a timely manner.

Smith said the AEP Transmission team also deserves applause for their excellent performance working on this very important project. She said Transmission is working toward a target of delivering substation-level service in April next year.

Gilbert is working with a team of transmission line and station engineers to complete the project within an aggressive timeline.

“While we have adequate time for the engineering, procurement and construction activities, completing the project by our internal deadline of April 23, 2019, is critical so as not to delay Sofidel’s start-up schedule,” Gilbert said.

The next step for the transmission team is to focus on engineering of the station with site work planned to begin this June.

The countless efforts by everybody engaged in this project culminated successfully on a sunny, windy day on the Inola site as Sofidel officially announced construction of their major new manufacturing plant, in front of 180 community, state and regional leaders, which was followed by a ceremonial groundbreaking. There were smiles all around.

AEP’s Quality Site Program

In 2013, AEP Business and Economic development initiated a “site certification” program, called the AEP Quality Site Program, to help encourage the development of quality industrial sites in our service territory.  Sites that are ready for construction are critical to success in recruiting new businesses.  More than 40 sites have been certified through various AEP programs since that time.

PSO will continue to market the remaining Inola property for economic development projects in the future.

For more info see


From → News From AEP

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