Spotlight

A CONVERSATION WITH U.S GAS & ELECTRIC’S CIO GREG TAFFET

South Florida may be home to U.S. Gas & Electric’s national headquarters (North Miami Beach) and call center (Doral), but the company, one of the fastest growing energy suppliers in the nation with a three-year growth of 221% and more than $169 million in revenues in 2010, doesn’t service local customers —or statewide, for that matter.

One of the fastest growing energy suppliers in the nation with a three-year growth of 221% and more than $169 million in revenues in 2010, USG&E’s operations focus on supplying natural gas and electricity to commercial and residential customers in 12 states.

Awkward? Maybe. Unique? Hardly. Hundreds of companies, large and small, join USG&E in the long list of firms that choose to set up their command centers in our area without actually doing business here.

In his one-on-one conversation with Greg Taffet, USG&E’s Chief Information Officer, MiamiEmpresarial’s Publisher, Arquimedes Trujillo discovered that the energy company, whose operations focus on supplying natural gas and electricity to commercial and residential customers in 12 states through five branches —the Indiana Gas & Electric, Michigan Gas & Electric, New Jersey Gas & Electric, New York Gas & Electric, and Ohio Gas & Electric— is honing-in on one of Miami’s advantages to help fuel its growth: Access to a sizable skilled, multicultural, bilingual or polyglot workforce.

“USG&E is a deregulated supplier of natural gas and electricity in North America. At the current time, we are serving 12 states, but Florida is not one of them,” Taffet clarifies.

How does the deregulation process work with gas and electricity?

“Just like you can buy your long distance phone service from many different companies and it doesn’t make a difference who has the telephone line up to your house, you can buy your natural gas and electricity from deregulated suppliers like us in many states,” he adds, “no matter which utility has the pipes and wires going up to your house.”

The energy company is honing-in on one of Miami’s advantages to help fuel its growth: Access to a sizable skilled, multicultural, bilingual or polyglot workforce.

When he joined U.S. Gas & Electric at its C.I.O. in December 2007, Greg Taffet brought a wealth of expertise in retail energy supply acquired at MXEnergy, a provider for the U.S. and Canada.

“I started out there as employee #4 and left when we were a billion dollar corporation. That’s basically what I’m here to do with USG&E, to support the growth of the company from a small company to a multimillion dollar enterprise.”

Prior to working at MX Energy, he was Systems Manager at the Bodine Corporation, a manufacturer of high speed assembly machines, and was in consulting for multiple years, working, as he describes it, “on all sorts of financial systems.”

USG&E, he says, “has been growing at a very rapid rate. In each of the past four years, we have doubled in size each and every year. This is a very growth-oriented company. We are the 9th fastest growing energy company in America and have been recognized by our inclusion in the INC500 and as one of the best companies to work for in South Florida in 2009 and 2010. We’ve made lots of these lists in South Florida and in America.”

“We’re now opening a new 24,000 square foot service call center in Doral and expect [to take on] another 200 employees.”

“Our big success is the fact that not only have we doubled in size as far as growth and number of customers,” Taffet explains. “It’s also in the value that we are bringing to the industry and to South Florida. USG&E is also now experiencing major growth in employees. We’re now opening a new 24,000 sq. ft. service call center in Doral and expect [to take on] another 200 employees. We look to a very good market of trained, skilled people that we can hire and who will continue to fuel our growth. One of our major successes is that we’re hiring people. We’re able to provide the jobs and we are looking to continue on that path.”

At a time in which firing and unemployment are tag words in most business articles, U.S. Gas & Electric is providing training for the new hires: “In our call center, we have classes about once or twice a month. We’re bringing in new people, training them and then adopting them into our organization.”

As he speaks about training new employees, Taffet, a former Connecticut resident who now lives in Hollywood, Florida, directs the attention to the significance of information technology in today’s world and speaks of his commitment to programs that help expand the reach of the internet throughout communities.

“One of our major successes is that we’re hiring people. We’re able to provide the jobs and we are looking to continue on that path.”

“Over the years, I have taken on many charitable roles of providing expertise and time to companies and organizations that I really believe in. I was one of the key people in the town of Stamford promoting and pushing through the wiring of all school systems back in the late nineties. We got together a group of concerned parents and joined forces with the school board. We did the marketing, the planning and the budgeting necessary to wire-up all the school systems. I still serve on the board of Goodwill Industries of Western Connecticut.”

When he came to Miami, Taffet got involved with the Miami-Dade Broadband Coalition.

“It feels like coming home again,” he says. “My involvement with the Coalition began this year. I’ve known Jim Osteen, [MDBC Executive Director] for about three years since I came down here, because of my association with other technology organizations. When he moved into this position at MDBC, he talked to me about it and that’s when I decided that it would be an organization that sounded like something I’d like to help. I’ve been very involved with the Coalition to the best of my ability. I became a member-director and now I work on some of its directives and how to promote the organization also.”

“I clearly think that there’s a need for having everybody connected to the internet. It is the way people communicate today.”

When asked which aspect of the coalition excites him most, Greg Taffet indicates, in no uncertain terms, that it is MDBC’s mission of making the internet accessible to even the most disenfranchised within the South Florida community.

“I clearly think that there’s a need for having everybody connected to the internet. It is the way people communicate today. It is even now the way I communicate more with my daughter than before the internet,” he confesses. “I wish that on everybody: That they could communicate with their families, communicate with their businesses, their households. More and more the world is going that way and the people should have access.”

Why does a company such as USG&E join MDBC?

“The Miami-Dade Broadband Coalition is building up the community, providing a more stable workforce.”

“While there is the future possibility of getting services from MDBC, as we are tied up with our providers for a while, right now we see good work coming out of the Coalition. It’s building up the community, providing a more stable workforce. For us to be able to hire people, [MDBC] helps provide more skilled employees. We see this as a very circular environment where, if we do some good, the community benefits and we get benefits by hiring better people. It’s a big, round circle. We’re looking to support the community and help people improve their lives. Eventually, it will benefit everybody.”

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Miami Empresarial Magazine’s Spotlight section is brought to you by Conceptual Advertising

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