100 Years of Serving the Community

2012-02-19T00:00:00Z 100 Years of Serving the Communityby Heather Augustyn NWI Now nwitimes.com
February 19, 2012 12:00 am  • 

On August 2nd this year, NIPSCO will celebrate the marvelous milestone of 100 years serving the Northwest Indiana community. Their story is one of growth, dedication, commitment to the residents and business that are the foundation of our region. They continue to develop in ways to meet the needs of even more customers with an eye on reliable and affordable service.

"Celebrating this milestone gives us a great opportunity to look back and see how far NIPSCO and northern Indiana have come. It also inspires us to learn from and build upon our past and to continue our focus on safety, service, economic development and the environment," said NIPSCO's Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Mike Finissi.

NIPSCO's origins actually go back further than a century ago. Although the company was officially incorporated on August 2, 1912 as the Calumet Electric Company before a merger changed their name to the Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) on June 2, 1926. Prior to these landmark years, NIPSCO's early years involve utility ancestors that go back as far as 1853 with the Fort Wayne Gas Light Company and in 1868 with the South Bend Gas Light Company who helped to established the utility industry in the state. When three major corporations came to Northwest Indiana, Standard Oil Company in 1889 in Whiting, Inland Steel in 1901 in East Chicago, and U.S. Steel in 1906 in Gary, the need for gas and the newly emerging technology of electricity, grew exponentially. The construction of the South Shore Line Passenger Service further solidified the need for electricity in the region.

Through acquisitions and mergers of small area utilities, what is today known as NIPSCO organized in 1909 to consolidate utility interests, and in 1912 they officially incorporated by a group of Gary partners, who after founding the Gary Railway Company, wanted additional sources of power to extend their streetcar lines southward and westward to Crown Point, Valparaiso, and LaPorte. A transmission line and two substations were built to supply the electricity needs of urban customers. They later built 170 miles of rural circuit to serve the smaller towns and villages of Lake, Porter, and LaPorte counties. They continued to acquire properties along these routes.

After further utility company mergers and acquisitions, in 1926 NIPSCO officially became known by its name today. Samuel Insull became NIPSCO's first chairman and his son, Samuel, Jr., became the company's first president. The company continued to grow, building the Michigan City Generating Station in 1931. Parts of this plant are still in use today. NIPSCO grew into the towns of Goshen, Warsaw, and Monticello in the 1930s and in the 1940s they began selling their stock publicly and they became active in acquiring water utility properties. They sold these properties in the 1950s so they could focus entirely on the gas and electric side of their business. During the 1950s and 1960s they continued to broaden and consolidate. This was also a period when major new facilities were added to the system to meet the expanding needs of their dynamic service territory. In 1957 the first unit of the generating station in Gary was completed. NIPSCO also expanded their natural gas side of the utility since gas became the preferred method for residential, commercial, and industrial heating fuel.

Other key years in NIPSCO's history include the construction of the Bailly Generating Station in Chesterton in 1962. In 1976 they built the R.M. Schahfer Generating Station in Wheatfield. In 1986 the company restructured to better deal with a more competitive environment. In the 1980s, despite difficult economic times in the region, NIPSCO continued their growth and added two additional units to the station in Wheatfield. In 1987, NIPSCO evolved into a holding company structure, beginning an era that would transform the company from being merely a gas and electric provider serving a regional area into a forward-thinking organization competing on many fronts. NIPSCO continued to acquire and merge with rural gas and electric companies as well as construct pipelines to allow for the movement of natural gas to customers.

In 1999, shareholders approved a name change, from NIPSCO Industries to NiSource, a name they felt better reflected their beginnings in the utility industry while reflecting their growth as a company. The name better reflected the new direction of the company as a multi-state supplier of energy and water services. The years that followed demonstrated this philosophy come to life as more growth continued, as it continues today and in the future.

"We're building toward the future and it is focused toward our customers, providing safe, reliable service," says Tom Stevens, director of internal communications for NIPSCO. "We've invested more than $350 million in environmental improvements, resulting in more than a70 percent drop in emissions over the last two decades, and we're working to do even more. Our recent purchase of the Indiana-based Sugar Creek Power Plant helps us take advantage of the environmental benefits of a natural gas-fired electric generating facility and with two hydroelectric facilities and our recent investment in 100 MW of wind energy, we are increasing our commitment to sustainable energy," says Stevens.

NIPSCO has also embarked on an electric car program. They have added four electric cars to their own fleet and are undergoing a market study to install charging stations around the community for electric cars. They also hope to add future residential discounts to encourage homeowners to put charging stations in their garage and perhaps some off-peak charging incentives in as well, Stevens says. NIPSCO has also instituted a net metering program and a feed-in tariff program where customers receive a credit for energy supplied back to NIPSCO through use of their solar, wind, biomass or new hydro-electrical generating facility.

Although the past century has included many changes, growth, and adaptations, some things haven't changed for NIPSCO-the company's goal to provide customers with dependable gas and electric service at reasonable prices; to provide investors a fair return; to provide employees with careers that will allow them to enjoy a good standard of living; to be a good corporate citizen in the communities they serve; and to promote growth and development throughout northern Indiana. These goals have been NIPSCO's focus for the past 100 years and they will remain their focus long into the future.

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