DALLAS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Officials of Atmos Energy Corporation (NYSE: ATO), the Texas Railroad Commission, the City of Plano and The University of Texas at Dallas today dedicated the natural gas distribution company’s new Charles K. Vaughan Center, noting its significance for advancing natural gas safety, service and technology.
“The Charles K. Vaughan Center emphasizes Atmos Energy’s commitment to safe and reliable natural gas service. The center trains our service technicians, pipeline operators and other employees using the industry’s best practices, and it delivers around-the-clock service to 117,500 customers in Plano, North Dallas, Richardson, Murphy and other nearby cities,” said Robert W. Best, executive chairman of Atmos Energy Corporation.
“In addition, our central dispatching group works at the center 24 hours a day assigning our service technicians in the 1,600 communities where we operate,” he said.
Railroad Commission of Texas Chairman Elizabeth Ames Jones and Commissioner David J. Porter joined with other dignitaries to ceremonially turn on a bank of natural gas meters to formally open the facility.
“In Texas, reliability of supply and safety of delivery of natural gas go hand in hand. With the dedication of this state-of-the-art facility, Atmos Energy has demonstrated its commitment to the Railroad Commission’s goal of a safe and reliable natural gas distribution system,” said Railroad Commission Chairman Jones.
“The Charles K. Vaughan Center is clearly a visual tribute to the importance Atmos Energy places on safety and reliability,” said Texas Railroad Commissioner Porter. “From Gas City to the Flow Lab, Atmos has created a dynamic model of the gas distribution business from the ground to your appliance, once again proving the company’s commitment to making sure the natural gas flowing to our homes is secure and dependable,” Commissioner Porter said.
Located on 10.825 acres in Plano, Texas, the Vaughan Center spans 48,600 square feet and employs approximately 80 people.
“This state-of-the-art facility further reinforces the reputation of Atmos Energy as a model corporate citizen,” said Plano Mayor Phil Dyer. “The company’s major investment in this clean technology, coupled with this LEED-certified building, fits perfectly with Plano’s focus on sustainable growth.”
The center is named in honor of Atmos Energy’s founding chairman, Charles K. Vaughan, who led the company from 1983 to 1997. Vaughan continues to serve on the company’s board of directors as lead director and as chairman of the board’s executive committee.
Vaughan moved the company’s headquarters from Amarillo, Texas, to Dallas in 1986 and set its long-term strategy for growth by acquiring natural gas utilities in 11 other states.
“Charles Vaughan began his career painting gas meters and digging ditches and rose through customer operations to lead our organization,” Best said. “He was named chairman and CEO when the company became an independent corporation in 1983. He has long been the spirit behind our dedication to safety, reliability and excellence in customer service.”
A unique aspect of the Vaughan Center is Gas City, which simulates a mini-community with houses, apartments, commercial buildings, and city streets as well as natural gas distribution pipelines and other underground utility infrastructure.
“Gas City lets our employees apply the theory and knowledge they learn inside the Vaughan Center’s classrooms by practicing on-the-job skills in real-life situations,” Best explained.
The Vaughan Center was built on land acquired from The University of Texas at Dallas and reflects the university’s goal of advancing innovations for social improvements. The facility is LEED® Silver certified by the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council. USGBC promotes energy efficiency in the design and use of sustainable building processes and practices.
Another distinctive feature of the center is a gas-flow laboratory. Virtually any configuration of natural gas valves, regulators, manifolds or data-monitor devices can be assembled there for study or testing. Compressed air is used inside the lab to safely simulate the flowing gas.
“The Flow Lab can be set up, configured, operated and then dismantled and reassembled in countless ways with any of the various devices used in our pipeline and distribution system,” Best said. “The lab includes some of the most advanced meters and other flow components in the industry today, so that our engineers and technicians can learn to use and repair them.
“Most important, we have a highly experienced staff of technical instructors who teach and coach our employees on our best practices. The technical transfer occurring at the Vaughan Center in the Flow Lab, Gas City and classrooms is truly state of the art,” Best said.
Best said the company expects to train more than 650 employees and to host an estimated 6,000 visitors this year at the Vaughan Center.
“Visitors to the center come from other utilities—even some from other countries, from state regulatory agencies, from fire departments and emergency-responder organizations and from the community, including public officials and school children, to learn more about natural gas distribution,” he said. “We are excited about all the possibilities the center provides.”
Partnering with UT Dallas
To encourage higher education for technical and managerial careers, Atmos Energy officials presented a donation to The University of Texas at Dallas for $100,000.
The funds from the company’s shareholders will be used by UT Dallas to offer scholarships to deserving students and to fund academic programs.
“Shortly after Charles Vaughan started college in 1957, his father died, and Charlie had to get a good job to pay for his education. He joined the predecessor to our company, working part-time, typing reports and doing manual labor,” Best said. “We want these scholarship funds to help deserving and talented young people get a good education, as Charlie did, and to contribute significantly to society.”
“UT Dallas sincerely appreciates the generosity of Atmos Energy and the impact this gift will have on our students,” said Dr. Aaron Conley, vice president for development and alumni relations at The University of Texas at Dallas.
“Our university shares more than just a close proximity to Atmos Energy through the new Vaughn Center. We share a common vision of improving the quality of life for people in North Texas and beyond through the development and application of new technologies and by a continuous commitment to serve our core constituents,” Dr. Conley said.
“Knowledge and learning are the essence of what we do at the Vaughan Center, and our goal is to use this knowledge to provide excellent service to our customers,” said Best. “We are proud to partner with UT Dallas, which has been so supportive of our developing the Vaughan Center, to advance the goals of both the university and Atmos Energy.”
About Atmos Energy
Atmos Energy Corporation, headquartered in Dallas, is the country’s largest natural-gas-only distributor, serving more than 3 million natural gas distribution customers in more than 1,600 communities in 12 states from the Blue Ridge Mountains in the East to the Rocky Mountains in the West. Atmos Energy also provides natural gas marketing and procurement services to industrial, commercial and municipal customers primarily in the Midwest and Southeast and manages company-owned natural gas pipeline and storage assets, including one of the largest intrastate natural gas pipeline systems in Texas. Atmos Energy is a Fortune 500 company. For more information, visit www.atmosenergy.com.
LEED® stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a registered trademark of the U.S. Green Building Council, headquartered in Washington, D.C.