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Michigan utility lineworkers begin next chapter of training

By |2017-10-04T16:23:27+00:00October 3rd, 2017|MECA News|

When Wolverine Power Cooperative (Wolverine) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 876 (IBEW Local 876) announced a partnership in May to continue utility linemen training in the state of Michigan, their partnership marked the beginning of the new Joint Michigan Apprentice Program (JMAP). The program’s inaugural class began in September, welcoming 61 apprentices from 28 Michigan utilities.

The new program features smaller, segmented classroom, training labs, and field training at a single location in Northern Michigan—Wolverine Power Cooperative’s Training Center in Lake City, Mich., located near Wolverine’s headquarters in Cadillac, Mich. In addition, Wolverine partnered with the Northwest Lineman College (NLC), an industry-leading educational institution that provides pre-apprentice, apprentice and journey-level training, to provide related instruction.

To construct the program’s climbing yard in time for classes, 32 workers from five cooperatives (Cherryland Electric Cooperative, Great Lakes Energy, HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative, Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op, Wolverine Power Cooperative) worked diligently to complete the 73-pole climbing yard in just eight days—two days less than initially planned and four times less than a project of this scale typically takes to complete.

The program has received positive initial feedback from instructors and apprentices alike, noting a well-run program and facility, knowledgeable instructors, and an appreciation for classroom and field training to be conducted at a single site.

With the first session of training successfully completed, Wolverine, IBEW Local 876, and NLC are all excited for the future success of JMAP and the next generation of lineworkers it will shape.

Enrollment for JMAP is now open for the next session of classes to be held in Spring 2018. Michigan utilities interested in participating can learn more by visiting www.MichiganApprentices.com.

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MECA Hosts Co-op Foundations Workshop

By |2017-09-29T14:05:10+00:00September 21st, 2017|MECA News|

MECA hosted an Electric Cooperative Foundations workshop at the Wolverine Power Cooperative office in Cadillac on Sept. 20.

“This workshop has three main goals,” said Doug Snitgen, Executive Vice President at MECA. “We want every participant to gain a better understanding of the cooperative model, connect the cooperative principles and values to their own daily work, and meet employees from other Michigan co-ops in order to expand their personal co-op network.”

Snitgen led the group on a “virtual road trip” to learn more about each of the Michigan electric co-ops, and Adam Schwartz facilitated the NRECA “Power of Cooperatives” (101.5) training course. Schwartz is the founder and principal of The Cooperative Way, a consulting firm dedicated to assisting co-op businesses succeed. He teaches a course about co-ops at the University of Mary Washington and has appeared on MSNBC and CNN to promote co-ops as the better business model for economic and social change.

“We’re very fortunate to have Adam facilitate this workshop,” said Snitgen. “He’s a nationally-respected advocate for all types of co-ops.”

The interactive workshop used videos and group exercises to reinforce the co-op principles and applications of the co-op business model in everyday work. One participant noted on their evaluation, “I didn’t know much about co-ops before today, but now I understand how and why they exist.” Another said, “It was a fun way to learn about co-ops — the instructor was informative, relatable and funny.”

While the workshop is designed for any employee who hasn’t had an opportunity to learn the unique nature of the co-op way of doing business, average tenure among the nearly 40 participants was less than one year.

“Our member co-ops are hiring a lot of new people,” said Snitgen. “This is the fourth time we’ve offered this orientation workshop in the last 24 months, and enrollment has been consistently strong.”

Watch the MECA Training & Events Calendar for other in-state networking and professional development opportunities.

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Michigan Co-ops Head To Georgia To Assist With Hurricane Restoration Efforts

By |2017-09-12T10:13:49+00:00September 11th, 2017|MECA News|

Hurricane Irma has plowed into Georgia leaving hundreds of thousands in the state without power. Today, 31 Michigan co-op linemen are headed south to help Georgia co-ops, Irwin EMC and Middle Georgia EMC, bring the lights back on.

The Michigan team will stay in southern Indiana tonight.  After a safety briefing tomorrow morning lead by Joe McElroy, MECA’s safety director, the group will head to Athens, Tennessee where they will stay tomorrow evening before heading into Georgia on Wednesday morning.

A big thank you to MECA safety personnel Joe McElroy and Tom Ulatowski for spending a good portion of their weekend working with electric co-op mutual aid coordinators from the impacted areas to offer Michigan’s assistance and develop a plan of support. And thanks to all MECA distribution co-op members, for your support and participation in this mutual aid initiative. Please keep our linemen in your thoughts and prayers as they help our fellow co-ops in southern Georgia over the coming several days.

Cherryland – 4 linemen
Midwest – 3 linemen
Ontonagon – 2 linemen
Thumb – 2 linemen
Alger Delta – 2 linemen
Great Lakes – 9 linemen
Presque Isle – 5 linemen
HomeWorks – 4 linemen

HomeWorks Tri-County holds 80th Annual Meeting, Complete With Live Streaming

By |2017-08-30T14:50:11+00:00August 30th, 2017|MECA News|

A day in the life of a lineman and the Michigan Partners for Power 2018 project in Bolivia headlined the 80th Annual Meeting of HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative on August 19 in Mount Pleasant.

Blanchard linemen Rick Warchuck and Cody Teegardin talked about their jobs as linemen and how being away from home for mutual aid during storms affects their families. Both men also jokingly volunteered for the 2018 project in Ponton Yata, Bolivia, although Warchuck was already one of the cooperative’s two volunteers in Buena Vista, Guatemala, in 2015. General Manager Mark Kappler kicked off fundraising for the international project at the meeting and members responded. One winner of the $100 cash prize drawing turned her gift back in as a donation to the Bolivia project.

A record number of members (202) registered for the meeeting, with guests adding up to total attendance of just over 400. Members passed an advisory resolution for the board to consider moving to mail balloting for director elections. Currently, members vote at their district meeting in May, or request an absentee ballot. Mail ballots should help increase participation at a reasonable cost, estimated at about $1 per member in the districts holding elections.

HomeWorks Tri-Country live streamed the Annual Meeting on Facebook for the first time, making it easy for members to attend the event without leaving the comfort of their homes.

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Wolverine Purchases New Home For Apprentice Education

By |2017-08-08T14:02:43+00:00August 8th, 2017|MECA News|

Wolverine Power Cooperative announced today an agreement to purchase Baker College of Cadillac’s Center for Transportation and Technology (CTT). The facility, located at 4800 S. Morey Road (M-66) in Lake City, Mich., will become a state-of-the-art electric utility training center, and house the Joint Michigan Apprentice Program (JMAP).

“Michigan electric cooperatives have a rich tradition of training utility apprentices spanning the last 30 years through the Joint Apprenticeship and Training Program,” said Eric Baker, president and chief executive officer. “As we transition to JMAP, Wolverine and its members are proud to carry on this tradition by delivering world-class lineman training at a single location.”

The new training center will feature indoor classrooms, hands-on training lab, and outdoor climbing facilities to support the JMAP, a U.S. Department of Labor-certified program administered in partnership by Wolverine and IBEW Local 876. The program is expected to train about 50 students per year.

Enrollment for JMAP is now open for classes beginning this fall. Utilities interested in participating can click here for registration or learn more at www.MichiganApprentices.com.

For questions regarding the Joint Michigan Apprentice Program, please contact JMAP@wpsci.com.

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Cherryland Doubles Voter Participation With Online Voting

By |2017-06-27T09:59:11+00:00June 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 |2017-06-26T13:20:17+00:00June 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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Fall Training Registration is Now Open

By |2017-05-25T10:31:51+00:00May 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 Lmillen@meca.coop or 231-779-3393.

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Bob Hance Testifies in Front of Senate Agriculture Committee

By |2017-05-10T13:20:38+00:00May 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 |2017-05-01T12:09:33+00:00April 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!