Portes Energy Services Acts as Reseller

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Natural gas and electricity provider Energis Resources, Edison, NJ, is tapping into the resources of a third-party provider to woo Hispanic businesses from Maine to Maryland.

Under the terms of the agreement forged last month, Portes Energy Services Inc., North Bergen, NJ, will purchase electricity and gas from Energis and resell it to the Hispanic businesses.

"The alliance with Portes gives us a foothold in the Hispanic community," said Tony Gardner, director of alternate sales channels at Energis. "The resources that Energis would have to put into that to know the geography of the Hispanic market could cost millions of dollars. Portes already has a great knowledge of the Hispanic industry and knowledge of what motivates them to buy."

Gardner would not reveal further financial details of the arrangement but said that Portes is a "strategic partner" that will work closely with Energis.

"Portes will be acting as an agent for us," added Gardner, whose company serves more than 5,000 business in the Northeast.

Carlos Portes, president of Portes Energy Services and its sister company, The Portes Group, has two decades of experience in acting as an agent on behalf of major companies facing industry deregulation.

In the 1970s, he began selling life, health and automobile insurance to Hispanic businesses and residents for insurance firms. About two years ago, he landed a contract with NYNEX to market products and services such as Caller ID to Hispanic customers.

Over the years, Portes has built a database of more than 100 million Hispanic businesses and residents across the country. Although plans still are being finalized, Portes said, he will tap into his database and use a combination of direct mail and telemarketing to target Hispanic businesses. He plans to offer customers a prepaid calling card as an incentive to do business with Portes Energy Services.

Portes Energy Services, which touts itself as the first Hispanic company to enter the deregulated energy market, will offer savings programs to Hispanic businesses with their gas bills followed by electricity discounts as each state represented opens its market. Portes expects to target Hispanic residents in the near future.

According to Gardner, Energis is pursuing partnerships with additional companies to target other minority groups, but he declined to provide more details.

"This is a huge learning experience for all utilities," he said. "This is the last big frontier as far as deregulation goes."

U.S. Rep. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) brought the two companies together after seeing the need for an alliance.

"[Latinos] are the fastest growing ethnic group in the United States and represent a significant and burgeoning share of registered voters," Menendez said. "We are key players in entrepreneurism, job creation and contribution to the tax base and are increasingly prosperous. But even with our combined purchasing power of nearly $300 billion, very few products and very little direct marketing targets the growing Latino community."

Energis Resources was launched last year by its parent company, Public Service Enterprise Group Inc., Newark, NJ. It also is the parent company of Public Service Electric & Gas, one of the largest combined electric and gas companies in the United States.

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