By Zachary Hoffman – manager of communications and publications
In their book Images of American: Marshall, authors Susan Collins and Jane Ammeson note that the City of Marshall has one of the largest National historic Landmark Districts in the nation, with more than 850 buildings in the district in the architectural styles of Victorian, Greek Revival, Italianate and more. It is a literal treasure trove of history. Even so, the city has not been lost to time. From the first-in-class in service provided by the Marshall Electric Department to the city’s outstanding economic development efforts, Marshall has all the tools necessary to succeed in a modern world.
Located in southern Michigan on the banks of the Kalamazoo River, just off the intersection of Interstates 69 and 94, Marshall is a city well positioned for growth. With direct access to rail transportation, multiple interstate natural gas pipelines, high-voltage electric transmission lines and a high-quality, productive workforce, the city has become a draw for potential businesses in the region.
“Marshall has numerous industrial development sites available, and there has been considerable interest from prospective businesses,” said Kevin Maynard, Marshall’s director of electric utilities. “Right now, we are seeing interest in the Brooks Industrial Park and the Build Ready Site Marshall, also known as the Marshall Megasite, which has potential for large manufacturers.”
The city offers businesses a highly desirable location with easy access to nearby interstates and rail transportation, high voltage electric lines, ultra high-speed fiber optic internet service, an Opportunity Zone and a full array of development incentives. The city is also a certified Redevelopment Ready Community, and promotes opportunities through a strong partnership with the Marshall Area Economic Development Alliance (MAEDA).
In recent years, since the State of Michigan passed legislation to legalize marijuana, the city has attracted four large commercial growing facilities, which have since become the Marshall Electric Department’s largest electric customers. The decision of these companies to locate in Marshall has proven to be a success, with two of the facilities planning future expansions within the city.
While location and infrastructure are important considerations for a business when it comes to selecting new sites, the reliability of utility services is equally important. With the Marshall Electric Department’s track record, reliability is something that the City of Marshall has in abundance.
Established upon completion of the Marshall Hydroelectric Project in 1893, the Marshall Electric Department has served the community with pride ever since. With the hydroelectric plant still in operation after nearly 130 years, the department boasts the third oldest hydroelectric facility operating under its original ownership in the United States.
The Marshall Electric Department has provided a consistent, reliable source of renewable electric generation to its residents and businesses for much longer than most utilities can claim. More importantly though, as the city has grown, the department has not sat idle and doesn’t plan to start any time soon.
“Our primary area of focus is reinvestment in electric generating and distribution infrastructure,” Maynard said. “We are investigating additional behind-the-meter generation options, have begun replacing remaining electomechanical electric meters with AMI-enabled digital meters, and are ensuring that the utility continues its record of excellence well into the future.”
Through a series of recent projects, the Marshall Electric Department has focused on maintaining and improving reliability.
For example, the utility is assessing the condition of wooden electric distribution poles throughout the city by conducting a pole-by-pole survey. The survey will help to identify potential safety and reliability issues and prioritize pole replacements.
In another ongoing project, the department is working to upgrade older 4,160-volt electric distribution circuits to 12,470-volt operation. Doing so increases the power carrying capacity, improves reliability, reduces system losses and distributes loads more evenly across the city’s substation transformers.
Moving forward, the department has plans to construct the Brooks Substation, a 138-kV to 12.47-kV distribution substation featuring two 20/27/33 mega volt-amp transformers on South Kalamazoo Street, one of the city’s fastest growing industrial areas. In total, this project will represent a $6.6-million-dollar investment in the electric system. The city believes that it will be a contributing factor in the continued high-quality service that the utility provides, as well as a greater draw for commercial and industrial customers.
While these projects may represent consistency and reliability to prospective businesses, they mean something more to city officials and utility employees.
“My Marshall experience began relatively recently, when I became the director of electric utilities in October 2021,” Maynard said. “Since then, my experience has been positive and everyone in the city has been very welcoming. The people who work for the city really strive to do what’s best for the community, including providing reliable electric service at a competitive rate that is tailored to the community’s unique and changing needs.”
The Marshall Electric Department has continually shown a willingness to grow and evolve in order to better meet the needs of the community throughout its history. In addition to becoming involved with AMP’s hydroelectric projects, the AMP Fremont Energy Center and the Prairie State Energy Campus, the department has created its own energy efficiency and conservation program and introduced economic development electric rates to further assist in attracting, retaining and expanding local industry.
“The Marshall Electric Department is staffed by dedicated, knowledgeable professionals, who truly put their customers’ interests first,” said Maynard. “They work in all kinds of weather, at all hours of the day or night to keep the lights on in a reliable, safe and cost-effective manner. They are always willing to lend a helping hand for community events and to help keep Marshall a great place to live, work and play. The community is lucky to have them, and I am honored to be working with them.”
With a consistency of excellence that not many utilities can boast, it is an easy bet that the City of Marshall will continue to grow, and residents and local businesses will continue to benefit.
The City of Marshall was founded in 1830 and is the Calhoun County seat. The city has approximately 4,574 meters, 200 miles of electric line and an average peak of 22.25 MW.
To learn more about the City of Marshall, visit their website at www.cityofmarshall.com.
Read the original member profile in Amplifier.