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Black Hills will bring more jobs to Lincoln, state

Black Hills Corp. of Rapid City and Great Plains Energy Inc. of Kansas City say they're formally closing their purchase and merger of Aquila Inc.

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Black Hills Corp’s purchase of Aquila will result in about 80 additional jobs in Nebraska, including 30 in Lincoln, the company said Monday.

Rapid City, S.D.-based Black Hills officially completed its $940 million purchase of five Aquila utilities in four states Monday. Black Hills acquired Aquila’s electric utility in Colorado and Aquila’s four natural gas utilities in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska.

The utilities will operate under the name Black Hills Energy.

As part of the purchase, the company said it would be adding about 200 jobs in three states.

Of the new Nebraska jobs, about 50 are at the Omaha office in information technology, regulatory services, natural gas supply services and customer service. In addition, Black Hills said about 30 jobs will be added at the Lincoln service and dispatch center.

That will bring the company’s total Nebraska employment to 475, more than half of which will be in Lincoln.

“It’s a good transaction when you have not only job retention but also job gains,” said Steve Pella, who was in charge of Nebraska’s operations under Aquila and is being promoted to vice president, natural gas utilities, with responsibility for all of Black Hills’ natural gas utility operations.

Pella said Nebraska will play a larger role in Black Hills than it did in Aquila — for instance, the Lincoln call center will be one of only two in the entire company — hence the need for more jobs.

Black Hills also said Monday that it named Dan Mechtenberg to succeed Pella as vice president of  its Nebraska operations.

Mechtenberg, who was formerly Nebraska director of business operations for Aquila, said customers should expect little change in operations, other than new signs and logos on their bills and new phone numbers.

“We’ve worked to provide a smooth transition for customers so that other than the name change, they shouldn’t notice any difference,” Mechtenberg said.

The company said that trucks, signs and bills will be changed to the new name over the next 3-4 months.

The new 24-hour customer service phone number for all Black Hills/Aquila customers is (888) 890-5554. The new 24-hour emergency service phone number is (800) 694-8989. Aquila customers can continue to access their account information and other online services at Black Hills plans to integrate the Aquila Web site into in the near future, the company said.

Aquila has nearly 200,000 natural gas customers in more than 100 eastern Nebraska communities, including Lincoln, Beatrice, Blair, Columbus, Fairbury, Norfolk, Wayne, York, Papillion, La Vista, Ralston, Plattsmouth and a portion of Bellevue.

Reach Matt Olberding at 473-2647 or


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