New Orleans is on the rise, and that is great news for everyone who loves this city the way we do at Entergy New Orleans.
As the president and CEO of Entergy New Orleans, I'm energized about the opportunities our quickly rebounding economy gives our community and our company. It is inherent in Entergy's culture to take an active role in improving the quality of life in the communities we serve. And with our corporate parent company also located here, we take special pride in the success of our city.
We should all be impressed with how far New Orleans has come. Just six years after Hurricane Katrina, Southern Business & Development Magazine called our city the "Co-Major Market of the Year." Forbes ranked it No. 2 on its 2011 list of Best Cities for Job Growth. And in that same study, Forbes said New Orleans is the No. 1 city in the country for jobs in the information sector.
I'm pleased to report that Entergy New Orleans is also in growth mode. We are at 85 percent of our pre-Katrina customer count as new residents move to New Orleans to join the thousands who move back home every year. And we are privileged to serve more than 160,000 Entergy electric customers and 100,000 gas customers — and those numbers continue to grow.
We are doing everything we can to participate in our city's renaissance, from the ordinary to the extraordinary. For example, one of the less-discussed effects of Katrina was the flooding that devastated New Orleans' gas system. Entergy New Orleans launched the largest natural gas rebuild effort in the history of the gas industry — the replacement of more than 800 miles of underground pipe. This unprecedented feat has been recognized internationally by Platt's for project success and innovation.
For our electric customers, we've undertaken hundreds of projects throughout the New Orleans area to modernize and improve our electric distribution system. The company's proposed membership in the regional transmission organization, Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator, will also help improve efficiency. In addition, we're ensuring that Entergy New Orleans electric customers will soon see the fourth consecutive rate reduction in as many years.
Safe, reliable and affordable power for our customers — that's our commitment.
As for the extraordinary and going the extra mile, we do more than keep the lights on and gas flowing. We are active corporate partners in the community, and together with Entergy corporate, we've donated more than $25 million since 2006 to the New Orleans area. We impact thousands of lives through grants, donations, volunteer efforts, sponsorships and support of local non-profit organizations.
We also help promote the city we're proud of. Our economic development team focuses on retaining, growing and attracting new business and industry to New Orleans. Just last year, Entergy New Orleans was instrumental in five major projects that will bring more than 1,000 new jobs and $100 million in new investment to the area.
All that we do in New Orleans, both the ordinary and the extraordinary, adds up to a significant impact. A recent study by Dr. Timothy Ryan, past chancellor of the University of New Orleans, found that, in 2010, Entergy and its employees contributed more than $866 million in total annual spending and supported more than 6,000 jobs in the New Orleans metro area.
Without question, New Orleans, the city I'm proud to call home, is on the rise. This is where I was born and raised, and this is where my wife and I have chosen to settle and raise our children. So when I see the activity all over town, when I read about our high rankings, and when I consider the statistics showing the progress of our city, some of which we at Entergy have been a part of, I can't help but smile. There really has never been a more exciting and rewarding time to be in New Orleans.
Charles Rice became president and chief executive officer of Entergy New Orleans, Inc., a $750 million a year electric and gas utility, on June 14, 2010.
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