MECA News

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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 Lmillen@meca.coop or 231-779-3393.

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.”

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

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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MMEA and MECA Run Storm Exercise

By | December 7th, 2016|MECA News|

The Michigan Municipal Electric Association (MMEA) and MECA recently ran a storm response exercise, in which a major ice storm hit south central Michigan. In the simulation, damage from the storm was widespread and impacted multiple municipal and cooperative utilities across the State.

The exercise dictated that more than 60 crews were requested by seven different utilities. It was the task of the MMEA and MECA mutual aid coordinators to put out the call for help to the other utilities across the state and to ensure coordination among the various requests for crews and the offers to help.

michigan-map

During the exercise, MMEA, MECA and member utilities were able to utilize emerging technologies that are changing the way utilities prepare for and respond to storms, including CommPower’s iNOTiFY alerting and notification tool, as well as Veracity Connect for storm event communication and coordination.

“If this had been an actual emergency,” customers in the affected areas can rest assured that MMEA, MECA and their member utilities are prepared to respond.

Memories of the 2013 ice storm are still fresh and provide reinforcement of the need to ensure that utilities are prepared to respond in a timely fashion. Jim Weeks, MMEA executive director explains “Our member utilities are eager to provide assistance to their neighbors in their time of need. In the event of a localized or large-scale disaster, the network of requesting and responding resources can expand exponentially.”

“While we don’t wish for significant weather events that result in widespread damage and outages, when they do occur, cooperatives utilities consistently demonstrate their preparedness by calling upon our mutual aid networks to restore power to our members,” said Joe McElroy, director of safety for MECA. “The manner in which utilities rally as a larger community to support one another during times of need is one of the strongest attributes of cooperatives — and it’s something we all should be proud of.”

McElroy is very pleased with how successful mutual aid efforts have been between the electric co-ops and municipals, and credited much of it to the use of mutual aid coordinators. “Communication between the MMEA mutual aid coordinators and MECA was very strong,” McElroy reports. “In many cases, we have used cooperative crews on municipal properties and vice versa, during the same mutual aid event.”

“Communicating closely about when the co-ops and munis could help others was key,” he said. It can save time and money getting crews in since they are not being paid to drive to an area only to find that help wasn’t needed after all. “‘Call early and call often’ to let us know what you need is our motto for both the co-ops and munis,” he adds.

The collaborative efforts of MMEA and MECA are a great example of an industry leading, proactive approach to Mutual Aid planning and preparation. By working together, MMEA and MECA  create value for their utility members.

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Spartan’s New Journey

By | December 7th, 2016|MECA News|

Spartan Renewable Energy (Spartan) is one of seven member-owners of Wolverine Power Cooperative (Wolverine). It was created in 2006 with the goal of selling power at retail under Michigan’s Electric Choice Program.

The long-term vision for Spartan has always been the development of renewable energy projects. For this reason, it was set-up as a for-profit corporation. As a for-profit entity, it can use the Investment Tax Credit to help reduce the overall cost of renewables for the cooperative family.

In 2016, Spartan began the journey to bring that long-term vision to life. Construction of the SpartanSolar-Wolverine array began early this fall and it will be commercially operational before the end of this year. Located across from Wolverine’s headquarters on M-55 between Cadillac and Lake City, this project will be the largest solar array in northern Michigan.

“With the increased desire for solar power in Michigan, including in the distribution cooperative’s service territories, third party vendors began knocking on the cooperatives’ doors. It simply made sense to the Wolverine family that one of its own members would be the partner to bring solar to the cooperatives,” said Kim Molitor, CEO of Spartan.

“Building a larger-scale solar array allows Wolverine’s member-owners to offer energy to their retail members at a competitive cost because Spartan can leverage economies of scale and take advantage of the tax credit,” says Molitor.

“We’re a close family and communication has been key to making this a successful project,” says Molitor.

For more information about Spartan go to spartanrenewable.com. For more information regarding the solar array, visit spartansolar.com.

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Midwest Donates to Veterans

By | November 18th, 2016|Uncategorized|

On Veterans Day, Midwest Energy Cooperative donated more than $2000 to two programs that provide services and supports for local veterans. The member-owned cooperative encouraged the community to recognize veterans by lighting up homes and neighborhoods with energy efficient green LED bulbs. Midwest purchased bulbs and made them available for a minimum $5 donation. All proceeds, plus an additional $250 Midwest donation, went to support designated local programs. In southwest Michigan, the effort generated $1,360 to support the Post Relief Fund administered through the Decatur VFW Post 6248. Housing Help of Lenawee was beneficiary of the southeast Michigan efforts, and received a total of $750 for veteran support.

Midwest Energy Cooperative is a member-owned electric utility providing electric distribution and an assortment of energy and telecommunications programs and services to more than 35,000 customers in 11 counties in southern Michigan and northern Indiana and Ohio.

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MECA Welcomes Ulatowski as Safety and Loss Control Instructor

By | November 15th, 2016|MECA News|

The Michigan Electric Cooperative Association (MECA) is pleased to announce the addition of Tom Ulatowski as Safety and Loss Control Instructor starting November 23, 2016. Ulatowski’s primary responsibility will be to deliver safety program training in order to enhance safety awareness and to minimize injury, lost-time accidents and property damages.

“The goal is for all of our safety program participants to return home safe to their families each night,” said Joe McElroy, MECA’s director of safety. “The skills, background and industry knowledge that Tom brings with him will play a key role in helping us deliver upon that goal.”

A seasoned lineman, Ulatowski has over 17 years experience in the industry. His career began with Davis Electric as a telephone technician in 1999, and he built his industry acumen by working for companies such as Hydaker-Wheatlake and C.C. Power. Prior to joining MECA, he spent nine years as a Journeyman Lineman at Cherryland Electric Cooperative.

Throughout his career, Tom has always believed in using his skills to help a bigger cause. When hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, he assisted with reconstruction efforts.  Last year, he traveled to Guatemala as part of the Michigan electric cooperatives’ Partners for Power project and brought electricity to 54 families in rural Guatemala.

Outside of his professional responsibilities, Tom enjoys spending time with his wife, Ronda, and his three kids; Max, Mally and Mason. He coaches the kids’ swim team, the YMCA Breakers, and is an avid hunter and fisherman in his free time.

Please join us in wishing Tom the best in his new position.

If you need to reach Tom, you may contact him at his new email address, tulatowski@meca.coop, or by phone at (517) 599-4871.

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