Anyone passing through South Boston over the past year will likely have noticed several new banners suspended throughout Halifax County. Some are hanging on the fences of our elementary schools where children play, some are floating across the athletic arenas at our high school, and one large one on the hillside greets travelers on Hwy. 58. Each one has the same signage and logo in red letters that spell out, “Hitachi Energy.” Whether native or visiting, viewers may recognize that a new company is present in our beautiful country town and wonder what impacts it will have on residents.
I was curious, and as a graduate of Halifax County High School, connected with a classmate, Ryland Clark, who currently serves as the Community Relations & Engagement Manager for Hitachi Energy in South Boston. In his position, he works to maintain and establish new community relations that not only benefit the company’s employees but the businesses and residents of our community as well.
The Community Development Program
Clark and his colleague, Mike Levesque, provided a timeline of Hitachi Energy in Halifax County. The distribution transformer building was built in 1968, and in 2008, the power transformer building was added. Many residents worked in these structures when they were part of the ABB company. In 2020, ABB and Hitachi Energy launched a joint venture, and by 2021, Hitachi Energy went live and is now continuing to revitalize the industry by growing in its purpose to advance sustainable energy for all. While witnessing this transformation and seeing social media posts about the company’s engagements among various organizations, businesses, and our education system, I wanted to know more about the company and its involvement in the community.
My initial question was, “What is the mission behind the community development initiative?” Clark responded, “The community development initiative is the right thing to do for our employees and their families. This is how we are finding our way back to supporting the community.” He added that, as Hitachi Energy grows, the company wants to keep its employees engaged and ensure that they all have a say in the company’s growth. Hitachi Energy is striving to be the employer of choice in Halifax County, he believes.
My Community, Our Community
Clark outlined the numerous ways that Hitachi Energy supports South Boston, which includes being a financial contributor for local events like the Halifax Fair; bringing a Frederick Douglas impersonator for students at the middle school to experience; providing transportation in partnership with Halifax Tourism to bus the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Youth chapter to visit a black history museum in Farmville, Va., and acting as a key sponsor for events like the Strawberry Festival hosted by Viny’s Italian Restaurant and the Town of Halifax. The company partners with local higher education institutions like Southern Virginia Higher Education Center and Danville Community College to provide tuition reimbursement, education development, and certifications for employees. Along with partnering to support organizations, it seeks enduring projects such as the Hitachi Inspiration Alleyway in Halifax which depicts exquisite cultural artwork. This is a project that multiple generations in our community will be able to admire for years to come.
In addition, Hitachi Energy participates in local parades such as Veterans Day, Harvest Festival, and Christmas. It hosts events that include family days, basketball tournaments to increase awareness of drug use and aid in prevention, and presentations on career development at the TJM Community Center’s youth etiquette classes. Hitachi supports local public school athletics by helping to upgrade fields and equipment. It is also a part of fire department fundraisers to benefit rescue squad upgrades. All this is no doubt why Hitachi Energy received the Danville Community College Business Partner of the Year Award. Although the company is located in Halifax County, it has a positive ripple effect on border-sharing communities like Pittsylvania County.
Partnerships Are Essential
Clark noted that, as of this fiscal year, Hitachi Energy supports over 270 partners and said he is working on even more partnerships. He explained his strategy for establishing new partnerships: “They break partners into a specific category among the following: recruitment, employee engagements, employee recognition, community sponsorship, advertisement, competitive advantage, companies in the region, or companies outside of Halifax. Once the category is identified, they look at the mutual benefits and then the diversity [in] the company because diversity is a core value of Hitachi Energy. Lastly, they look at the communication and the partner’s overall excitement for wanting to partner.” After my conversation with Clark, I believe the company not only embodies the outer appearance, but more importantly, the heart of an organization.
Hitachi Energy supports partners by being a connection between businesses if it sees one partner will benefit another. The company appreciates the partnerships it can build, and creates unique employee experiences to guarantee employees are gaining from each partnership, according to Clark. Throughout our conversation, he emphasized that Hitachi Energy is a company that cares about its employees and the community. It takes care of employees by providing access to events, educational development, bonus programs, and improved work-life balance for all. Internally, the company has orchestrated engagement teams that drive change and improvements. Further, Hitachi Energy has incorporated a few tangible perks for employees, such as massage chairs on their breaks, upgraded outdoor space, a new cafeteria, and renovated offices.
The Hitachi Effect
I asked Clark how it feels to be the face of this initiative and what he loves most about serving in this role. Without hesitation, he said, “I always wanted to be able to help people and be able to make change. This role allows me to do that every day. I can attend various summits within our region for leadership training and development and I get to travel across the world for the company.” He detailed his excitement about meeting diverse people in the community, learning about various organizations, and preserving South Boston’s history. In his role he is able to represent both Hitachi Energy and his hometown. He added that he recently experienced an exciting moment when he met the governor during his visit.
Due to the ongoing community support and involvement here, other Hitachi Energy plants have reproduced this role in various locations. Clark noted that Hitachi Energy boasts great and diverse staff members, which is what makes it strong. It is the different points of view that separate it from other companies, he said. He mentioned Regional Factory Manager Joey Chandler, describing him as “a great leader and the best listener.” Chandler refers to their work environment as “The Family Farm” because everybody does their part and helps so that everyone is successful.
If you have missed Hitachi Energy’s events or contributions, do not be disappointed because more is on the calendar, including a 5K run on Thanksgiving morning; raising funds for the local food bank; ($10,000 has already been raised) company expansion with 165 new jobs; more partnerships, and the publishing of the company’s history in a book for the Historical Society.
After talking with Clark, I understand why Hitachi Energy is successful and effective in community engagement. With the tagline to create a “Sustainable Future for All” and an eagerness to support employees, I agree with his concluding statement that the future is strong. The next time you ride through South Boston, be sure to pause and view the bright red “Hitachi Energy” signs. The company is dedicated to supporting employees and elevating our community.
2135 Philpott Road
South Boston, Va. 24592
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