Andrew Cola and Todd Poche have a lot in common: they graduated from Lutcher High School, settled down in Gramercy, and devoted the last three decades to serving their St. James Parish neighbors.
"We're dedicated to St. James Parish and all the parishes we serve, and we take our jobs seriously," said Cola, a lineman who joined the company in 1985 as a meter reader. "People here know us, and they admire the job that we do."
Based at Entergy Louisiana's office in Reserve, Cola and Poche help keep the lights on for customers in St. James, St. John the Baptist and Ascension parishes. The Entergy veterans describe their group as a tight-knit team of professionals who are uniquely skilled for the rigors of line work.
"Entergy's been in the community for a long time, and customers appreciate us," said Poche, who also began his Entergy career as a meter reader more than 33 years ago, in 1984. "The area we cover is rural and spread out, so we stay busy every day and we're also on call. When a storm pops up, you may end up working all night. You never know what's going to happen next, but you have to be ready."
As recently as April, they were called out after a tornado touched down early one Saturday morning in St. James Parish near Paulina, damaging homes and knocking out power in a cluster of communities.
"I got the call about 5:30 that morning in Grand Point," Poche said. "We worked until 1 a.m. the following morning, all day and all night, to restore service for customers."
"It's not just turning a switch back on -- you have to assess the situation and have a plan, and you have to know the circuits and equipment," Cola said.
They've also seen technological advancements over their careers that have helped improve reliability for customers and made their jobs safer.
Away from work, Cola and Poche love spending time with their families and unwinding with favorite hobbies. But no matter what they're focused on in their off time, they're always ready to spring into action for Entergy Louisiana's customers if the call comes.
"You've got to love this job, and you have to be dedicated," Cola said. "It feels great when someone recognizes the work I do, because we're part of the community. When we're out working, people know us by name. That means a lot."
Entergy Louisiana crews repair tornado damage along River Road in Convent in February 2016
In addition to providing highly reliable service, Cola and Poche are part of a team that's earned a reputation as the best in the business when it comes to storm response. Entergy has received national recognition a record 21 years in a row for excellence in emergency response.
The Edison Electric Institute awarded Entergy a 2017 Emergency Recovery Award for employees' support of customers after Hurricane Harvey and a 2017 Emergency Assistance Award for helping other utilities recover from Hurricane Irma. And Entergy just recently earned another Emergency Assistance Award for its assistance to utilities in the mid-Atlantic states and New England hit by nor'easters this past winter.
Entergy has received a total of 29 EEI awards and is the only utility in the nation to have won an EEI Emergency Response award every year since its inception.
Entergy Louisiana has invested nearly $5 billion over the last five years modernizing and strengthening infrastructure while keeping rates among the lowest in Louisiana and the nation -- and they're about to get even lower in the coming months.
Entergy Louisiana customers will see a series of rate reductions in 2018 under an agreement approved in April by the Louisiana Public Service Commission. Initial reductions took effect in May as a result of $210 million in federal tax-reform-related savings, $105 million of which will be returned to customers through the end of 2018 and the remaining half returned to customers over the following four years. As a result, a typical residential customer using 1,000 kWh per month will see a roughly $4.20 decrease on monthly bills from May through December of 2018.
When broken down by parish, St. James Parish residential customers can expect to save more than $400,000 through the end of 2018, thanks to rate reductions tied to tax cuts and paying off bonds used to finance storm restoration costs following hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Entergy is the power behind the state's revamped site selection website. All of Louisiana's state and regional economic development agencies can use the online tool from Entergy that gives the state maximum visibility in the competitive arena of site selection.
Entergy Louisiana is a leader in helping bring industry and jobs to the state -- including St. James Parish.
Since 2010, Entergy has actively participated in 140 announced economic development projects in Louisiana totaling more than $77 billion in capital investments and nearly 18,000 new direct jobs. Twelve of those projects located in St. James Parish, including Nucor Steel, Yuhuang Chemical Inc. and Formosa Petrochemical.
Our low rates convinced YCI to sign an agreement for Entergy Louisiana to power its new $1.85 billion methanol complex on the old St. James High School property.
It is the most recent example of Entergy Louisiana's successful partnership with state and local economic development agencies. For 10 years running, Site Selection magazine named Entergy Corporation as one of the nation's Top 10 Utilities in economic development.
Support from Entergy Louisiana also powers the Louisiana Site Selection
Center website, which helps attract more businesses and industries to
the state. More than 50 sites in Entergy Louisiana's service territory
that have been certified as ready for industrial development thanks to
the partnership between the company and its state, regional and local
Entergy Louisiana provided support to workforce training programs across the state including creation of the Certified Line Worker Training program at Fletcher Technical Community College in Schriever.
Entergy Louisiana's role in economic development includes helping prepare the workforce of the future. In 2016, Entergy launched a five-year, $5 million workforce development initiative across the company's four-state service territory. Entergy Louisiana is applying its $1 million portion to boost several programs designed to educate, train and prepare residents for a variety of careers.
In addition to those programs, Entergy Louisiana and other members of the Louisiana Energy Workforce Consortium announced the Certified Line Worker Training program. Entergy Louisiana provided a $50,000 grant to launch the program at Fletcher Technical Community College in Schriever. Graduates receive National Center for Construction Education & Research (NCCER) certification, are qualified for employment as line helpers and receive job placement assistance.
Entergy Louisiana was recently recognized for helping Power Life in St. James Parish through grant contributions and volunteerism. Pictured, from left, are Bedar Warren, St. James Parish director of human services; Milton Cayette, St. James Council on Aging chairman; Flo Dumas of Entergy; Rhonda Colar of Entergy; Timmy Roussel, St. James Parish president; and Ingrid LeBlanc, St. James Parish assistant director of human services.
Entergy Louisiana has served St. James Parish residents and businesses for more than 90 years. Through charitable grants and volunteer activities, Entergy supports a wide range of causes that are key to building stronger communities. Recipients have included Sixth Ward Elementary School, St. James Parish Hospital, Woods Learning Academy, American Cancer Society, St. James Parish Council on Aging, Fifth Ward Elementary School and Lutcher High School.
Entergy has donated nearly $260,000 to nonprofit and other organizations to help the people of St. James Parish over the last five years.
Entergy Louisiana was recently singled out by St. James Parish for its role as a community partner. St. James Parish's Council on Aging and Department of Human Services presented the Community Action Agency Partner Recognition Award to Entergy Louisiana to highlight the company's financial and volunteer support for programs such as free tax preparation services, energy-efficiency programs and community projects. Entergy also supports the Council on Aging's toy and coat drive, which provides coats for needy schoolchildren every year.
Entergy Louisiana also offers The Power To Care, a program that provides emergency bill-payment assistance for elderly and disabled Louisiana customers, and presented a $920,000 check to the program in 2017.
Entergy strives to be a leading corporate citizen. Entergy continues to be recognized as a trailblazer in environmental stewardship and corporate sustainability. Entergy was the first U.S. utility to voluntarily commit to stabilizing CO2 emissions, and for 16 consecutive years the Dow Jones Sustainability Index has included Entergy on either its World or North America index or both.
Entergy has taken a leading role in working to create a more resilient Gulf Coast. The company has funded research and pilot projects and participated in public outreach efforts to build a consensus for action. Our employees are making a difference, too, volunteering to help rebuild wetlands as well as other environmental improvement activities.
Entergy also works to do business with suppliers that operate in socially and environmentally responsible ways. The company manages its supply chain using a defined supplier code of conduct, incentives to build a more sustainable supply chain and a program that encourages and facilitates greater supplier diversity. In fact, the Women's Business Enterprise National Council recently presented Entergy with the America's Top Corporations for Women's Business Enterprises award.