OG&E CEO says Fort Smith is ‘well-positioned’ for economic development

by Aric Mitchell ([email protected]) 1,102 views 

Fort Smith is “well-positioned” for the future in spite of recent challenges, said Sean Trauschke, chairman, president, and CEO of OGE Energy at the utility company’s 115th annual shareholders meeting from the north rotunda of the Fort Smith Convention Center Thursday (May 18).

In a symbolic gesture of the company’s confidence in Fort Smith, OGE relocated the meeting from their headquarters in Oklahoma City for the first time since the company was founded in 1902.

“It’s been a long time coming, but we are certainly happy to be here,” Trauschke told attendees of the event. “We are certainly proud to serve Fort Smith and the surrounding communities here in Arkansas as well as cities in the region.”

Fort Smith “has endured some challenging times, but by all indications, it is well-positioned for the future,” Trauschke said, alluding to issues like poor jobs growth when compared to the national and state averages and the manufacturing hits the city has taken over the last decade. However, Trauschke pointed out, there has been “great economic development taking place in Fort Smith over the last few years.”

“The Fort Smith Regional Chamber (of Commerce) has taken on more than 100 projects and helped create more than 5,000 jobs as well as over $680 million in capital investments, and we are a strong supporter and partner of the Chamber.” Recently, Trauschke noted, the company “signed on to continue this commitment.”

“Our team works with both the Chamber and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) in an effort to promote economic development in the area,” he said.

While the Chamber has not provided any recent updates on its economic development campaign for 2017, in November it cited OG&E along with First National Bank of Fort Smith as early “pacesetter” companies in a $2 million campaign. On Thursday, Trauschke also touted the $1.4 billion in capital investments and 3,500 jobs at Chaffee Crossing as a “shining example” of what is right with Fort Smith.

Sean Trauschke, chairman, president, and CEO of OGE Energy

As far as their own capital investments are concerned, Trauschke said OGE Energy has sunk more than $10.5 million into the area in recent years and observed that about 750 of the company’s  employees work in Fort Smith. Additionally, the OG&E utility contributed more than $3.6 million in franchise fees to the city of Fort Smith’s budget during 2016.

Trauschke’s remarks were part of a daylong event that started at 7 a.m. and consisted of internal Board and Commission meetings.

In voting business, shareholders approved a $1.803 million realized compensation package for Trauschke, $840,000 of which is straight salary. The number was a reduction of about 27% from 2013, but was almost double the $1.046 million 2015 total.

Additionally, the company reported an increase in dividends for shareholders to $1.21 with 10% growth each year promised through 2019. The dividend approval marks the 70th consecutive month OG&E has offered a dividend to shareholders and the 11th consecutive annual increase.

Lastly, shareholders voted to approve Frank Bozich, James Brandi, Luke Corbett, David Hauser, Kirk Humphreys, Robert Lorenz, Judy McReynolds (chairman, president and CEO of Fort Smith-based ArcBest Corp.), Sheila Talton, and Trauschke to its nine member Board of Directors.

OG&E has more than 800,000 customers in Oklahoma and western Arkansas and its distribution system covers more than 30,000 square miles. On May 4 the company reported first quarter earnings of $36 million, better than the $25 million in the same period of 2016. Systemwide revenue totaled $456 million, above the $433.1 million during the same period of 2016.

The OGE Energy Corp. share price (NYSE: OGE) closed Thursday at $33.92, up 11 cents. During the past 52 weeks the share price ranged between $37.41 and $29.55.