From Scott Carlberg

The energy industry in the Carolinas is about a lot more than utility workers. A lot more. There are people making products and providing services not only for the Carolinas, but around the world. That’s good because their work provides energy for our citizens and also supports our economy as they bring in dollars. Here are a few of those folks. Hard workers. Good thinkers.

Paul is fourth from the left.

Paul Nikolich is Head of Manufacturing Hot Gas Parts (MHG) at Siemens Energy in Charlotte. The pant makes turbines used to make electricity. Paul is responsible for the Hot Gas Parts product line manufacturing facility operation and its employees. In addition, he is in charge of the project management and implementation of strategic product initiatives to support the MHG network.

Paul has been at Siemens for nearly 23 years. He began his career with Siemens in Ontario, Canada, where he held several production roles from ensuring production schedules were on time for delivery to implementing plans to align with customer requirements. In 2011, Paul relocated to Charlotte as a Production Manager when gas turbine manufacturing relocated from Hamilton, Canada to become a part of the portfolio of the Siemens Charlotte Energy Hub. He assumed his current role in January 2018.

When asked for one of his proudest moments at Siemens is, Paul said that it was when his team took ownership of reducing the overall cost of the Siemens gas turbine product by insourcing basket manufacturing in the Charlotte facility. “This accomplishment would not have been possible without the collaboration of our hardworking team members and our ability to diversify,” said Paul. (BTW, the combustor basket is a key component to the gas turbine. It is the hottest part of the engine, where the compressed air and fuel are ignited. This piece of the gas turbine directly affects the output and efficiency of the entire turbine.)

The Carolinas have people working on new approaches to making power, too. Katharine Kollins, President of Southeastern Wind Coalition (SEWC), is one of them. She leads the efforts to educate decision makers, utilities, and ratepayers of the economic benefits that wind energy provides, both through development and through the manufacturing supply chain.

SEWC is an organization formed in 2012 to advance the wind energy industry in ways that result in net economic benefits to industry, utilities, ratepayers, and citizens of the Southeast.

Katharine was awarded the Charlotte Business Journal‘s “Energy Advocate of the Year” award in 2017. Here’s an example of the way Katharine uses her knowledge about wind energy. It is an opinion column about a highly debated energy issue in North Carolina, called, Our Military, Wind Farms Can Coexist.

So far we have written about the way energy workers do energy. There’s more, though. Energy workers have a reputation of community involvement. Here’s one story.

Jody Blackwell stepped inside the front entrance of the old church. Long, wooden strips of floor trim are stretched across the tops of the pews, which are still arranged in a semicircle around the preacher’s platform, only three steps off the floor, same as it ever was.

Blackwell, a combustion turbine tech at the Duke Energy Buck Combined Cycle Station, has a vision for this Salisbury, N.C., church that he bought. For decades, the old building was Second Presbyterian Church. Eventually it closed, and pieces of it, including the windows, went to salvagers, while everything else got dusty. Sheets of plywood cover gaps in the windows that for nearly a century were occupied by stained glass.

He renamed it Beacon Hall.

“What do you see when you look at it all?” a visitor asked him.

“It’s what I hear,” he said, gazing up at the ceiling.

“This church was built in 1913,” he said. “What this building’s going to be is a music teaching center for at-risk children.”

Blackwell can envision the trim on the baseboards and the windows installed and the floor polished. He can see hallways leading to new bathrooms outside, and beyond that, a giant community garden.

When he closes his eyes, he can hear the sound of children playing their first notes on a piano or pulling a bow across a violin for the first time. He’s 64 years old and says he was called to do this.

“You imagine that kid when he walks in there and just looks up – it’ll be nearly like walking through the train with Harry Potter going from one world to another,” he said. “When you walk in, you know where you’re at, how you should behave, and you know why you’re here.”

Thank you, Jody. And on this Labor Day, thank you to all the energy industry people in the Carolinas who make sure there is a secure, reliable flow of electricity for our citizens!