Northwest Natural Gas Company, dba NW Natural (NYSE:NWN) at its annual meeting of shareholders today reported that the company delivered record results in 2009 and is on target for 2010. A major highlight of 2009 was lower commodity costs and the associated drop in rates for customers. NW Natural returned about $36 million in gas-cost savings to customers last summer, and then lowered residential rates again in November by about 16 percent in Oregon and 22 percent in Washington. Last year’s drop in gas prices also benefited shareholders. Earnings per share in 2009 were a record $2.83 based on net income of $75.1 million, an 8 percent increase over 2008 results for both earnings per share and net income, primarily due to the benefit of lower gas costs and the associated sharing mechanism in Oregon. The company has performed well during the economic recession by continuing to standardize business processes, implement new technology systems and reduce staffing levels through attrition and a voluntary severance package. “Last year, we made the difficult decision to resize our work force to adjust for the economic downturn. Today, we are a leaner organization, with new technologies that promise to continue to improve our productivity,” NW Natural President and Chief Executive Officer Gregg Kantor told shareholders at the 2010 annual meeting. Kantor also mentioned the company’s continued emphasis on customer service and community involvement as a cornerstone of its success. Last year, NW Natural ranked in the top two in the West in the J.D. Power and Associates Gas Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study for the sixth consecutive year. In addition, the company also received top honors in the 2010 J.D. Power and Associates Gas Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study, ranking first in the West. And rounding out recent achievements, Kantor announced NW Natural had been named as a 2010 recipient of the Oregon Ethics in Business Award sponsored by the Rotary Club of Portland, Portland Business Journal and Willamette University MBA program.