Consumers Energy has hired an additional 160 employees to be part of a team dedicated to installing and replacing gas mains and services throughout its gas service territory.

"We are pleased to welcome this additional staff to the 450 employees who have been hired since 2012 as part of our enhanced infrastructure replacement program (EIRP) team," said Richard Snyder, gas system improvement and enhancement manager for Consumers Energy. "This team is dedicated to gas main installation projects and will help enhance our ability to provide safe, reliable natural gas service in communities we serve."

Consumers Energy began hiring EIRP employees in 2012 to better focus on providing the kind of services customers wanted, when and how they wanted them, Snyder said. By developing this dedicated work force, the company has been able to more quickly respond to requests for gas main installation due to an increase in municipal, commercial, industrial, residential and other large construction projects, allowing other Consumers Energy employees to concentrate on emergent work and other projects.  

The EIRP employees are unique because they:

  1. Are assigned to one of three geographic locations around the state – Birch Run, Brighton and Bellevue – where equipment and project assignments are collected.
  2. Do not respond to gas emergencies, allowing them to focus on completing enhancement projects in a safe and timely manner. Having this dedicated work force frees other Consumers Energy natural gas field employees to quickly respond to emergencies.
  3. Are a full-time work force that is managed seasonally. These employees are covered by the Utility Worker Union of America/Consumers Energy working agreement.

The majority of 160 employees should be ready to begin field projects by May 2015 after successfully completing company training related to safety and their specific positions, as well as Department of Transportation Fitness For Duty testing.

Approximately 60 of the new EIRP team members are equipment operators who will focus on installing new gas mains and service lines. These employees will operate heavy equipment such as backhoes, front end loaders, track excavators, directional drilling devices and walk-beside trenchers.         

About 100 are general labor positions. These employees will assist with locating underground utilities, loading and unloading materials, assisting operators with project work, and are responsible for property restoration and clean up when projects are completed.

Consumers Energy, Michigan's largest utility, is the principal subsidiary of CMS Energy, providing natural gas and electricity to 6.6 million of the state's 10 million residents in all 68 Lower Peninsula counties.