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Cherryland Doubles Voter Participation With Online Voting

By | June 26th, 2017|MECA News|

Cherryland members were introduced to a new voting option for the 2017 board election. In addition to voting via a mail-in ballot or in-person at the annual meeting, members could cast their vote using any device with an internet connection. Cherryland partnered with Survey & Ballot Systems of Minnesota to administer the voting.

The outcome? The 2017 board election had the most ballots cast in Cherryland’s history! Votes were up over 100 percent from last year.

2016: 1,170 TOTAL (1,066 mail-in ballots, 104 in-person)
2017: 2,474 TOTAL (869 mail-in, 1,506 online, 112 in-person)

The annual meeting itself was a success as well. Over 1,000 members gathered together at Incredible Mo’s on June 15 for Cherryland’s 79th Annual Meeting. There was plenty of good old-fashioned family fun to be had including bowling, pizza and arcade games. Cherryland also offered bucket truck rides, balloon animals, face painting and corn hole. Two director seats were up for re-election and both incumbents were re-seated.

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Ontonagon Annual Meeting Highlights

By | June 21st, 2017|MECA News, Uncategorized|

Chassell High School was the setting for the 2017 Ontonagon County Rural Electrification Association’s (OCREA’s) Annual Meeting held on Saturday, June 17. Approximately 150 members from the co-op’s five county service area attended the event which featured food, prize drawings, reports from the co-op manager and the board of directors and seating of new directors.

According to General Manager Debbie Miles, “This is the first meeting since 2014 that we have had a quorum and this provided a lot of input from the membership.” During the business portion of the meeting three resolutions were presented regarding bylaws, redistricting and transparency. After a spirited open discussion between members and staff these resolutions were voted on and passed.

Reports regarding overviews of the 2016 co-op operations, finances and highlights from the past year were presented by both President Koski and General Manager Miles. Board of Directors ballots were opened and counted by a committee chaired by Peggy Macko. James Moore ran unopposed for the vacancy in District 7 Boston/Lake linden and incumbent Paul Koski defeated Jerry Kitzman to win District 3 Ewen/Trout Creek. Both directors were seated at the meeting.

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Thumb Electric Cooperative Holds 80th Annual Meeting At New Venue

By | June 14th, 2017|Uncategorized|

Louis Wenzlaff, president of the board of directors, opened the 80th Annual Meeting of Thumb Electric Cooperative (Thumb) members on June 10 at the Thumb Octagon Barn- a brand new venue for the annual meeting.

“The Octagon Barn is a very fitting venue for our event,” explained Brad Essemacher, member services manager at Thumb. Built in 1924, the historic Thumb Octagon Barn stands today as the result of two decades of community partnerships and is perfectly located in the center of Thumb’s tri-county service area.

“Thumb has been a fabulous partner and we were happy to host their annual meeting, said Rose Putman, President of the Barn. “It’s a wonderful spot for centralizing our rural and agriculturally-focused community.”

 An estimated 800 people attended the meeting, which is a considerable increase from previous years.

 “I was really encouraged to see such a great turnout of families with kids,” said Essenmacher.

 From bounce houses to bucket truck and pony rides to face painting, there were plenty of family activities to keep everyone busy.

 All the incumbent directors and board officers were re-elected.

 “The new venue worked out great for this event,” said Essenmacher. “We hope the Octagon Barn continues to draw more members to our annual meeting in the years to come.”

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Members Make Alger Delta’s Annual Meeting A Success

By | June 14th, 2017|Uncategorized|

A beautiful, sunny Upper Peninsula day provided the perfect backdrop to Alger Delta’s 79th Annual Meeting held on Saturday, June 10, at the U.P. State Fairgrounds. More than 400 members attended the event which featured a picnic-style cookout, games and activities for the whole family and many prize drawings.

“This event gives us a chance to show our members how much we appreciate them,” said CEO Tom Harrell. “Being a member of a co-op comes with some responsibilities and we appreciate that, so it’s just a really good time to be with our members and celebrate how far we’ve come.”

Harrell opened the business portion of the meeting by giving an overview of 2016 operations as well as updates on continuing electrical development work at the Ojibwa Casino, Eagle and Aquila mine.

Board President David Anthony chaired the meeting during the discussion of new business. This included a proposal to increase the Energy Optimization rate as well as the potential termination of the program in 2021. The increase will result in a member who uses the system average of 600 kilowatt-hours paying $.84 more per month. The other rate-related issues proposed were adding LED lighting rates to the tariffs and creating an industrial rate class. After an opportunity for member comment and discussion, the board moved to adopt the proposals.

The board also seated its newest member, Kirk Bruno representing District 7. “I’m certainly looking forward to representing the Stonington-Rapid River district,” Bruno stated, “and I hope to do the best that I can to help the co-op continue to be successful.”

Harrell concluded his remarks by expressing optimism for the future, confidently stating, “In 2018 we are looking forward to growing and becoming stronger to serve our members more effectively and efficiently.”

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Fall Training Registration is Now Open

By | May 25th, 2017|MECA News|

Online registration is now open for both the Electric Co-op Foundations and Member Services training sessions this fall!

Member Services Training
About the course
This course focuses on customer communication skills and is designed to help each service provider understand the importance of providing positive “moments of truth” through each and every encounter he or she has with customers. An emphasis will be placed on personal responsibility and accountability for service through professionalism, communicating with tact and diplomacy, the utmost courtesy as well as self-awareness and self-control needed to guide service situations to a most positive conclusion.

Who should attend?
This interactive workshop is designed for any employee, new or long-tenured, who has direct interaction with cooperative member-consumers, especially call center and/or front-office member service representatives.

Electric Co-op Foundations
About the course
By learning about the cooperative principles, values and the economic impact of electric co-ops, participants will deepen their understanding of the cooperative business model and be able to communicate it effectively. This workshop will provide insight on the historical context and ideas that gave rise to the cooperative movement; the evolution of cooperative enterprise; comparative models and practice; and the relevance of the cooperative business model. This highly-interactive course allows participants to see how individual electric co-ops are part of a state, national and international network that seeks to make the world a better place, one community at a time.

Who should attend?
This program is designed for any employee, new or long-tenured, who has not had the opportunity to learn the special nature of the cooperative way of doing business. The interactive workshop format uses videos and exercises to reinforce the co-op principles and applications of the co-op business model in our everyday work.

Both courses are offered on multiple dates in different locations. Visit the MECA website to view the schedule.

If you have questions contact Laurie Millen at or 231-779-3393.

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Tom Sobeck Appointed Chief Executive Officer of PIE&G

By | May 25th, 2017|Uncategorized|

Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op board of directors has appointed Tom Sobeck as chief executive officer. Sobeck succeeds CEO Brian Burns, who retired on May 5, 2017.

“We are delighted to have Tom in his new role and leading PIE&G forward into the next chapter of the co-op’s history,” said John Brown, board chairman. “We’re pleased to have successfully completed the CEO succession process and remain focused on ensuring that the cooperative continues to fulfill its important mission in rural America.”

Mr. Sobeck has more than 23 years of experience with PIE&G, most recently as chief financial officer, with responsibility for all financial and treasury operations.  Sobeck is a United States Army veteran and holds a bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Northern Michigan University in Marquette.

“I am grateful for the confidence of the board and for the opportunity to build on PIE&G’s long track record of success,” Sobeck said. “Presque Isle remains financially and operationally strong, with an outstanding value proposition and a reputation for excellence. I look forward to working with the board and employees as we continue to deliver energy to rural homes and businesses.  My focus will also include working closely with our community partners, while improving the cooperative’s capabilities and the overall experience we strive to offer to our members.”

Chairman Brown also thanked Mr. Burns for his 32 years of service to PIE&G, including the last sixteen as chief executive officer. “We’re grateful for Brian’s leadership and for his outstanding service to the organization.  We wish Brian only the best as he begins the next chapter of his life.”

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Bob Hance Testifies in Front of Senate Agriculture Committee

By | May 9th, 2017|MECA News|

Midwest Energy Cooperative’s CEO, Bob Hance, was invited by U.S. Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas to testify before the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee in Frankenmuth last Saturday, May 6.  Mr. Roberts is the Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman and hails from Kansas.

The title of the hearing was “Growing Jobs and Economic Opportunity: Perspectives on the 2018 Farm Bill from Michigan.”  Both MECA and NRECA worked very closely with U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Staff as well as personal staff for Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, the Committee’s top-ranking Democratic member to help secure a spot for Michigan’s electric cooperatives at the field hearing.

Mr. Hance testified on rural development and the critical role played by the Rural Utilities Service through programs such as REDLEG, REAP and the RUS Smart Grid Loan program–the program being used by Midwest to finance its current smart grid/broadband project.  A copy of Mr. Hance’s written testimony can be found here.

Hance was joined by several witnesses from throughout Michigan on a wide variety of items/programs that are included in the current Farm Bill, which is set expire in 2018.

During the Q&A session, Chairman Roberts asked each of the participants to cite the one thing they felt could most improve the area in which they operate in rural America. In response to that question, Mr. Hance indicated freeing up the money already collected in the FCC’s Connect America Fund would go a long way in spurring additional broadband deployment in rural America.

A complete listing of those who testified on Saturday can be found below:

Witness List

Dr. Ronald Hendrick, Dean, Michigan State University College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, East Lansing, MI 

Panel 1

Mrs. Janna Fritz, JDF Farms, LLC, Bad Axe, MI, Corn, Dry Bean, Soybean, and Wheat Farmer, and Board Member, Michigan Corn Growers

Mr. Chris Alpers, RedPath Orchards and Alpers Farms, Lake Leelanau, MI, Apple and Cherry Grower, U.S. Apple Association

Mr. Rick Gerstenberger, Gerstenberger Farms Inc., Snover, MI, Sugarbeet, Alfalfa, Corn, Dry Bean, Soybean, and Wheat Farmer, and Chairman of the Board, Michigan Sugar Company

Mr. Darrin Siemen, Prime Land Farm, Harbor Beach, MI, Dairy, Beef Cattle, Corn, Sugarbeet and Wheat Farmer, and Member, Michigan Milk Producers Association

Mr. Andy Snider, Snider Farms, Hart, MI, Hog and Organic Turkey Producer, and Corn, Rye and Soybean Farmer

Mr. David Williams, W Farms, LLC, Elise, MI, Soybean, Corn and Wheat Farmer, and President, Michigan Soybean Association

Mr. Adam Ingrao, Bee Wise Farms, Lansing, MI, Beekeeper and Founder, Michigan Farmer Veteran Coalition

Mrs. Pam Bouma Miller, Hopyards of Kent, Greenville, MI, Hop and Floriculture Grower


Panel 2

Dr. Oran Hesterman, President & CEO, Fair Food Network, Ann Arbor, MI

Faith Maguire Watson, Montcalm County SNAP Recipient, XXX, MI

Mr. Jim Nugent, Fruit Grower and Chairman, Michigan Tree Fruit Commission, Suttons Bay, MI

Mr. Kyle Rorah, Great Lakes & Atlantic Region Policy Specialist, Ducks Unlimited,      Ann Arbor, MI

Mrs. Jerry Ann Hebron, Urban Farmer and Executive Director, Northend Christian CDC, Detroit, MI

Mr. Collin Thompson, Manager, Michigan State University, USDA Organic Certified North Farm, Chatham, MI

Mrs. Kristen Matson, Inventory & Planning Specialist, Michigan Department of Natural Resources Forestry Division, Shingleton, MI

Mr. Bob Hance, President & CEO, Midwest Energy Cooperative, Cassopolis, MI

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Brian Burns, PIE&G’s CEO, Retires After 32 Years of Service to the Co-ops

By | April 27th, 2017|MECA News|

After 32 years of loyal and dedicated service to the Michigan electric cooperative family, Brian Burns, CEO of Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op (PIE&G), will retire on May 5, 2017.

“Brian has been a tremendous asset to our team,” said Craig Borr, CEO of the Michigan Electric Cooperative Association. “Over the years his integrity and insights have been invaluable. He will be greatly missed by members, directors and co-op employees alike.”

Brian began his journey with PIE&G in 1985 as an engineer. From there he was promoted to the manager of operations and engineering in 1993. In 2001, he stepped into his current role as president & CEO.

Among his proudest career achievements was helping bring natural gas to underserved rural homeowners in northeast Michigan. Only a handful of electric co-ops in the country offer this service and Brian acknowledges it was a challenge to get there. Today, PIEG’s natural gas business remains strong, serving nearly 10,000 homes and businesses.

“I am looking forward to retirement, but I already know there are things I will miss,” he said. Ranking high on the list of things he will miss are the PIE&G employees. “I am honored to have worked with this talented group; they’ve certainly made my job easier. Any success I’ve had in my career I attribute to them.”

So what are Brian’s plans for retirement?

“I’m going to ease into it,” he said. “None of us are guaranteed tomorrow, so I plan to spend quality time with my son and focus on my spiritual bank account.”

He also plans to make good use of the motorcycle sitting in his garage. This summer he and his brother are going to take a motorcycle trip around Lake Superior.

Please join us in extending best wishes to Brian in his retirement!

Alger Delta’s Power Supply to Include Electricity from Wisconsin’s Largest Solar Energy Center

By | February 23rd, 2017|MECA News|

Alger Delta Cooperative Electric Association will meet more of its customers’ electricity needs with power harnessed from the sun thanks to a recently announced agreement between Alger Delta’s not-for-profit power supplier, WPPI Energy, and NextEra Energy Resources.

WPPI Energy and NextEra Energy Resources recently announced plans to build a 100 megawatt solar energy center – Wisconsin’s largest – with a capacity to serve more than 23,000 people with affordable, clean energy.

“This solar energy center adds diversity to help us meet WPPI Energy member utilities’ long-term needs in a way that’s more cost-effective than other opportunities currently available to us,” said Mike Peters, president and CEO of WPPI Energy. “In addition, our membership has achieved significant emission reductions over the past 10 years, and the clean, renewable energy generated by this project will help us continue that effort.”

NextEra Energy Resources plans to build and operate the Point Beach Solar Energy Center on land adjacent to its existing Point Beach Nuclear Plant in Two Rivers, Wis. The project is scheduled to come online in 2021.

WPPI Energy has entered into a 20-year power purchase agreement to buy the electricity from the solar energy center to serve its 51 member utilities across Wisconsin, Upper Michigan and Iowa, including Alger Delta.

“We are pleased that the addition of this major power supply resource complements Alger Delta’s commitment to serving our community as cost-effectively as possible and will help us continue reducing our emissions,” said Tom Harrell, Alger Delta’s CEO. “The timing of this deal could not be better for Alger Delta and its members.  The energy bills passed at the end of the last legislative session call for increased reliance on renewables, among other things.  Securing 100 megawatts of solar energy through WPPI helps us meet those goals while keeping energy clean, reliable, and affordable.  What a great thing for our members and for the UP” Harrell added.

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Adventures For Rural Veterans – Apply By Jan. 1

By | December 8th, 2016|MECA News|

As far as Michigan’s electric cooperatives are concerned, there should be “No Barriers” to veterans with disabilities.

That’s the name—and the idea—behind Co-Bank’s No Barriers initiative.

Designed to help veterans with disabilities transform their lives through curriculum-based experience in challenging environments (think: climbing, rafting and hiking), the program takes place over a five-day expedition in Colorado.

As the program sponsor, CoBank will cover the full cost, including travel expenses, for each veteran.

Michigan’s cooperatives, along with other eligible CoBank borrowers, are invited to nominate veterans from our local community to participate in the No Barriers program.

So we are reaching out to you!

If you are a veteran, or you know of a veteran in our community who would like to participate in the No Barriers program, please complete this form to express interest.

The first round of applications will be turned into CoBank on January 1, and only 50 spots are available for the program.

Enter today!

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