Progress Energy takes stock of giving

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — As it nears its 100th anniversary in 2008 and prepares for big growth in demand for electricity, Progress Energy in Raleigh is assessing its philanthropy.

No major changes are planned in 2006 in the size or focus of the company’s charitable giving, which this year is projected to total $12.7 million combined in North Carolina and Florida.

That represents just less than 1 percent of estimated pre-tax income before profits of $1.4 billion for the fiscal year that ends Dec. 31, falling within the company’s target in recent years of 1 percent to 1.2 percent, says Nancy Temple, vice president of corporate communications.

Giving has held steady, she says, despite permanent cuts this year of $75 million to $100 million in the company’s operating budget to offset rising expenses in areas such as health insurance, corporate insurance and pensions.

Temple say CEO Bob McGehee has said “any cuts we made would not compromise our safety or reliability, or in giving back to our community.”

As part of those cuts, nearly 1,500 employees opted to retire early under a voluntary program, although staffing for the company’s corporate giving program has not been reduced, Temple says.

Woody Dicus, an employee of nearly 27 years who most recently was supervisor for internal and external events, has been named manager of corporate community relations, succeeding Tammy Brown, who left the company.

But as the company looks ahead, Dicus says, it will be working with Virginia consultant John Coy on a thorough review of its giving, including volunteer programs, employee giving programs and a fund that provides energy assistance for low-income people.

While the company has focused its philanthropy on education, economic development, the environment and employee involvement, Temple says, expected growth in demand likely will cause it to expand that focus to include energy conservation and energy education.

With 1.4 million customers in North Carolina and 1.5 million in Florida, Progress Energy expects 700,000 more customers by 2015, growth that will require more “baseload generation” that could prompt the company to add new nuclear and coal plants, Temple says.

“We want to remain a successful company,” Temple says, “so we can give back to the community.”

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