By FRANK LEWIS
PDT Staff Writer
A local shoelaces manufacturer has successfully helped in the fight to keep electric rates down.
State Rep. Dr. Terry Johnson, R-McDermott, and small business owner Bryan Davis met with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) on Feb. 14 to voice their opposition to the utility’s recent rate increases.
Davis, vice president of Sole Choice Inc., credited Johnson with quick reaction to the problem, and promptly dealing with the issue by setting up the meeting with PUCO officials.
“Terry (Johnson) set it all up,” Davis said. “Terry’s office was wonderful. He was on it as fast as he received the complaint.”
Davis said he first talked about the effect the rate increase would have on small businesses.
“As far as Sole Choice Inc., it was increasing our rates by 42 percent,” Davis told the Portsmouth Daily Times. “It was going to hurt us and all the progress we had made in becoming more energy-efficient. It was just cutting our legs out from underneath us.
Davis said AEP-Ohio recently raised his electric rate 42 percent.
“I told them, this is a job killer,” Davis said. “Decisions moving forward to hire people, this would have to be a determining factor. Say we wanted to hire six, we may only hire three.”
Davis said he got nowhere when he first spoke to AEP officials, so he took his case to the PUCO. They were very receptive, Davis said.
“I told them there were other companies suffering the same thing,” Davis said. “Southern Moon Bar-B-Q over here recently opened under new owners, and he was getting killed by the electric rates. I talked with Doug Brown out at Brown Brothers Lumber in McDermott. They received a 66 percent increase. As a matter of fact, two lumber mills were shut down in the last couple of months in Southern Ohio — not necessarily in our county. They got hit with these electric rates and it put them under. They said, ‘We can’t do this,’ and they just closed.”
Johnson applauded the PUCO’s decision to reject AEP’s electric security plan, which — according to a release by the commission — “does not benefit ratepayers and is not in the public interest.”
“I am very happy the PUCO has reversed the electric security plan,” Johnson said. “In a time when we are doing everything we can to bring jobs to Ohio, the last thing we can afford to do is cripple small businesses, which create 70 percent of new jobs. Bryan is a shining example of what we need to see more of in Southern Ohio: a company that produces a tangible product. We need more manufacturing in our area, and this rate increase would have made that next to impossible.”
Recently, the new AEP rate plan caused a public outcry after rates were found to significantly increase on both residential and business customers. Small businesses and schools around the state protested the increase. As a result of the PUCO’s decision, AEP must return its rates to levels similar to those in place in December 2011 and will remain at these levels until a new rate plan is adopted.
Frank lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at email@example.com.