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CEO says BrightRidge is powering the future

Robert Houk • Aug 13, 2019 at 12:00 AM

Jeff Dykes, BrightRidge’s chief executive officer, says the public utility’s mission goes beyond simply providing electricity to its 79,000 customers.

Dykes told the East Tennessee Republican Club on Monday he believes BrightRidge’s goal is to also power economic development opportunities in the community through its broadband and solar programs.

He said those services attract businesses and provide opportunities to young people who want to live and work in Northeast Tennessee.

“We want to be out front and leading,” Dykes told area Republicans at the Carnegie Hotel. “We are doing things that will have a huge impact on the community.”

Dykes, who grew up in Elizabethton and is a graduate of Milligan College, said he was forced to leave the region to pursue his career in the power industry. He said far too many local residents still face a similar dilemma.

“That’s very disappointing,” said Dykes, who worked in South Carolina and Kansas City before returning to the region in 2013.

He said BrightRidge has become an “economic driver” in the region by providing wireless broadband to rural areas. He said the broadband speeds that the utility offer are on par with Atlanta and major data centers near Washington, D.C.

Dykes said the former Johnson City Power Board’s decision to become an energy authority has given BrightRidge the ability to enter public/private partnerships, like the solar farm near Jonesborough that it has developed with Silicon Ranch and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

“This facility generates electricity and has opened up the solar community,” Dykes said. “It’s very exciting.” 

The energy authority restructuring has also helped BrightRidge pursue new streams of grant funding. Dykes said this has allowed BrightRidge to develop charging stations for electric vehicles in Washington County.

One was recently opened at the Hands On! Discovery Museum at East Tennessee State University’s Fossil Site in Gray, and more are planned for Jonesborough, in downtown Johnson City and at the utility’s offices in Boones Creek.

Dykes said BrightRidge is looking next to move into offering “smart home” options, which include counseling businesses and residential customers on the best use of modern technology.

“We want to be your energy adviser,” he said. “We want to get behind the meter.”

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