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How AEP Helps Bring the Intel Chip Plant to Ohio

by on February 17, 2022

By now you may have heard the news: Intel is planning to build the world’s largest semiconductor factory in central Ohio. What you may not know is that AEP played an important role in landing the huge plant in central Ohio.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the months of careful planning that went into the announcement.

A Once-in-a-Generation Opportunity

In May 2021, AEP’s economic development team received a call from its partners at One Columbus, a private nonprofit designed to drive job creation in central Ohio. One Columbus collaborates with AEP on promising leads for business opportunities and AEP crafts development plans, identifies properties and puts together  an initial proposal.

One Columbus asked AEP about relocating a recently constructed 345-kilovolt line that bisected land a prospect was considering. One Columbus then passed along an RFI (request for information) document from an unnamed company spelling out the requirements for the project. Though an RFI is a typical step for any possible venture, this one was very different.“Our relationship with One Columbus is very close and integral to what we do,” said Ashley Savieo, a director of economic development at AEP. “They’re an industry-leading economic development organization. We’re also closely aligned with JobsOhio, the state’s lead economic development group.”

“It was very specific. We could tell right away from looking at the RFI that the customer had done this before. This was a sophisticated company that had already done research into the state and had specific electric requirements,” Savieo said.

“This was a once-in-a-generation economic development project. It was all hands on deck.”

It was clear to everyone involved that the project would have a huge impact not just on AEP but the entire region. The initial job creation projections, supply chain demands and spinoff numbers related to the project were staggering. Savieo said the magnitude was unlike anything she had ever seen – bigger even than the nationally publicized Amazon second headquarters project.

Cottrell knew right away this effort was going to be massive, and complicated. Interconnection Services manager Corey Cottrell also got involved. He leads a team at AEP that facilitates the process of getting very large industrial businesses connected to the electrical transmission system. Interconnection Services plays a large role in the earliest stages of a project to determine its scope and get answers to immediate, difficult questions.

“I asked, ‘Is that right?’ It looked like someone moved a decimal point,” Cottrell said. “It was immense. You don’t see things like this that often, if ever. It was stunning.”

The First Pitch

Working with AEP’s Grid Solutions and Energy Delivery teams, Interconnection Services began pulling together conceptual plans and initial preliminary estimates to present to the customer that was soon unveiled: Intel. Data-filled spreadsheets were sent, and within a week, an in-person meeting was scheduled to talk more about it.

“You have to remember, we were all working from home, and I hadn’t had an in-person meeting in a year and a half,” Cottrell said. “We were kind of scrambling, not just from a content perspective but also doing things the right way from a COVID perspective – being social distanced, wearing masks, following the right protocols. It was tough.”

Long story short, the exploratory meeting was a success.AEP’s contingent included representatives from Interconnection Services (Cottrell and Nicole Pascucci),  AEP Ohio’s Economic & Business Development (Liberty Schindel and Matt Cybulski) and Raja Sundararajan, then AEP Ohio’s president and chief operating officer. They were joined by representatives from JobsOhio, One Columbus, the city of New Albany and the New Albany Company, a real estate developer.

“They slotted us in for an hour and they met with us for almost the whole afternoon,” Cottrell said. “They were really engaged and you could tell they were happy with what we were providing them.

Working Blind

“It went fast. Right off the bat we started talking temporary and permanent service. We had to understand their power needs and come up with a game plan,” Greve said. “I really didn’t know who we were talking about or what the customer was. It was confidential. So, we were working blind and trying to understand just what the project was going to entail.”Shortly after the June meeting, Tony Greve, An AEP Ohio customer account manager, was brought into the effort. Greve took the lead on determining the distribution requirements for the top-secret project.

The project was fast-tracked. There was a strong desire to make this happen.

“From the beginning we started talking to our leadership team about what this would look like and what we would need to do to fulfill the customer’s request,” Greve said. “They were fully on board with whatever we needed to do to secure the project, within reason.”

Making the Case

As the summer wore on, the end result was far from known.

Greve and the AEP Ohio distribution team were still trying to get a full grasp of what they needed to serve the customer; Cottrell and his team fielded more questions and provided additional context when necessary; Savieo, as AEP’s point of contact with Intel, maintained constant communication with all parties to stay on top of potential issues.

By August, AEP representatives believed they were one of four finalists for the factory. A date was set in late September for AEP Ohio to present its final pitch to Intel.

“We were treating this as a very real possibility and wanted to clarify all questions with Intel,” Savieo said. “Potential rates. Timelines. Sustainability goals. We kept making tweaks and checking to see if we were aligned. There was a lot of back and forth. Many spreadsheets. We spent close to a month refining our proposal.”

Talking points were rehearsed; visual aides were triple checked. AEP wanted to be ready.

“Our partners were telling us this meeting was important,” Savieo said. “We assembled a small but powerful team. We needed leadership who had authority to make certain statements so it was clear it was not just a sales pitch.”

Savieo, Cottrell and Greve attended that pivotal meeting. Schindel and Pascucci returned, too. They were joined by Marc Reitter (AEP Ohio’s president and chief operating officer), Steve Nourse (vice president in AEP’s legal department) and Andrea Moore (managing director of regulatory case management).

During the face-to-face meeting with Intel – with JobsOhio in the room – AEP officials presented what it was offering and asked: Does this work for you? Is this what you’re after?

‘Lots of Things Still Could Have Gone Wrong’

With negotiations narrowing, discussions about the final details extended through the fall as Intel weighed the pros and cons of each potential location. The team continued to carefully navigate any potential pitfalls, pulling in people to quell issues as they arose. That included Reitter elaborating on strategic questions and reconfirming AEP’s ability to meet deadlines. Together with One Columbus and JobsOhio, AEP assembled the final job package, complete with a “punch list” of things that were needed to get the project from concept to execution.

“We went from extremely conceptual to let’s start sharpening our pencils,” Cottrell said. “There was a lot more teeth to what we were doing. We knew this was the real deal.”Cottrell began to see the finish line come into focus. He and his team coordinated in-depth meetings with Intel to discuss maps, electrical diagrams and framing up the details that would be needed to bring the project to real life. The routes for power lines, the size of the substation, the exact location of the facility – each item was crossed off the list one by one.

In early December AEP was told that Ohio was the frontrunner.

“A lot of things still could have gone wrong,” Savieo said. “Not necessarily just us, but there were tens of other Ohio departments who were also involved with this.”

Fortunately, nothing went wrong. Word came to Governor Mike DeWine in a handwritten note on Christmas Day.

Central Ohio had won.

‘Pure Excitement’ … and Forging Ahead

In the euphoric aftermath of the decision, those involved are basking in the accomplishment while appreciating the huge undertaking that remains ahead.

“With all the growth in New Albany, from an infrastructure perspective, it’s kind of like a giant puzzle with lots of pieces,” Cottrell said. “There are gaps. If we didn’t have that level of engagement from so many planning and engineering groups, it’s almost impossible to get a project that large inside a compact area with everything that’s going on there. I just don’t think this happens.”

Intel has yet to talk much about possible future phases of its investment, which will cause the plant’s already large electrical demand to grow even more.

“We have to put together the whole power needs for the customer site, which we’re still working on,” Greve said. “The good news is they don’t need permanent power until the middle of 2024.”

Everyone involved knows the importance of their work on this once-in-a-generation project.

“It was pure excitement. People saw right from the get-go how big this is and the impact it will have on our community,” Cottrell said. “Everybody had that drop-everything mentality. People saw how big a deal this is going to be for Columbus and for AEP.”

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