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Missouri electric co-op provides incentives to boost family-owned business expansion

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It’s great that folks at Citizens Electric and Wabash Valley Power are putting programs together to help economic development. They’ve been really open to talking about different opportunities available to help us.

– Tim Buchheit

CEO of Buchheit, Inc.

Employees at Carriage House Premier Cabinets were excited about working with their new power provider when the business moved to its new facility.

It was a unique project that had nothing to do with electricity.

Tim Buchheit, CEO of Buchheit, Inc., at the company’s Carriage House building in Ste. Genevieve, Mo. The building houses the cabinet maker and grew into warehouse storage for the company’s retail business after sales drastically increased after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Buchheit Inc., a family-owned company that owns more than a half-dozen businesses including Carriage House, over the last decade received numerous economic development incentives from its local electric cooperative, Citizens Electric. This spring, Citizens Electric and Wabash Valley Power Alliance, the co-op’s wholesale power provider, awarded Buchheit an $8,000 Automation Workforce Grant to train five new employees and transition existing workers to new technology. Citizens Electric also has awarded Buchheit more than $29,000 in energy efficiency rebates that lowered long-term energy costs and a $2 million interest-free loan through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant (REDLG) Program.

“It’s great that folks at Citizens Electric and Wabash Valley Power are putting programs together to help economic development,” said Buchheit Inc. CEO Tim Buchheit. “They’ve been really open to talking about different opportunities available to help us. It’s great to have somebody like Citizens Electric in our community.”

Paid to Save

Carriage House boxes at its facility in Ste. Genevieve, Mo. Buchheit, which owns Carriage House, received $8,000 in Automation Workforce Grant funding offered by Citizens Electric Corp. for employee training on new technology at the site.

In 2012, Buchheit worked with Citizens Electric on its first Power Moves® rebate: $3,119 for upgrading to energy efficient lighting. The Power Moves program offered by Citizens Electric and administered with Wabash Valley Power includes prescriptive and custom rebates for businesses to upgrade to energy efficient systems and equipment that lower long-term energy costs.

“They’ve been really easy to work with,” Buchheit said of Citizens Electric. “We’ve done multiple projects, and everything’s gone really smooth.”

Employees from Buchheit regularly meet with Citizens Electric, and based on the company’s goals, Citizens Electric employees discuss funding available. In 2013 and 2017, Buchheit received Power Moves rebates for energy efficient heating and cooling system upgrades. In all, the company has completed 20 projects for $29,458 in rebates.

“One way that we can demonstrate we are committed to the community is by investing in local businesses,” said Joan Huck, finance manager for Citizens Electric who has worked with Buchheit on several economic development projects. “Buchheit is one of our larger members, so it’s great to be able to show that commitment to them.”

Vested (No) Interest

Buchheit collaborated with Citizens Electric Corp. on a $2 million interest-free loan through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant Program. The loan was part of a $2.5 million expansion and renovation project that included a new silo (at right in the photo) at Buchheit Agriculture’s facility in Biehle, Mo.

In 2019, Huck worked closely with employees at the company on a unique opportunity: Buchheit’s agriculture division was expanding its capacity by automating seed cleaning, grain handling and bagging equipment at several facilities. Citizens Electric could offer Buchheit a no-interest loan through the REDLG program. In the program, the USDA loans money to a local utility, which then passes it through to businesses for projects promoting job growth and retention in rural areas.

Citizens Electric secured the $2 million loan for the Buchheit Agriculture expansion. Buchheit’s success extended beyond the more than 600 people it employs; the company purchases seeds, grain and other products from local farmers.

Carriage House employee Gary Klein assembles a cabinet. Buchheit hired five new employees for the new site, as well as transferred some employees from existing Buchheit locations.

“It not only helped our company, but it helped our customers,” Buchheit said of the REDLG loan. “We were able to develop markets for local grain in the growth that we experienced.”

The project also improved employee safety while increasing productivity, said Petrina Jannin, human resources director for the company.

“We bought some electronic robots, so employees are not lifting those heavy bags every day,” Jannin said. “It was great to have that help to support our team.”

Window of Opportunity

In 2021, Jannin began working with Citizens Electric on the Automation Workforce Grant. Buchheit was moving Carriage House from Scott City, Mo., to a refurbished facility in Ste. Genevieve, Mo. that previously housed a window manufacturer.

The grant funds up to $15,000 per year to offset the cost of training new employees or transitioning current workers to new technology. Carriage House moved several employees from Scott City to Ste. Genevieve, hired three new workers and transferred others from nearby Buchheit locations.

“I would definitely recommend the grant,” Jannin said. “They were very easy to work with and were very patient because the move took a bit of time.”

Carriage House employee Kelly Zeiss operates a forklift at the facility in Ste. Genevieve, Mo. Buchheit expanded its presence at the site to include 100,000 square feet of storage for its retail business.

The new building for Carriage House, which assembles cabinets for wholesale dealers and Buchheit’s eight retail stores, includes an assembly area, shipping dock and warehouse. During the coronavirus pandemic, Buchheit’s retail business grew significantly; in October 2021, Carriage House occupied only part of its building, which had been subdivided and available to other tenants. By April 2022, Buchheit occupied the entire building: 100,000 square feet for Carriage House, and another 100,000 square feet for a warehouse storing popular products Buchheit sells in its stores and online.

“The Buchheit family of businesses has a long history of benefiting countless families in Missouri, the Midwest and beyond,” said Van Robinson, CEO of Citizens Electric Corp. “We are committed to supporting those we serve to meet their energy needs so they can thrive. Our partnership with Buchheit demonstrates the unique ways that an electric cooperative can partner with a business to ensure success for the organization and the entire community.”