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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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Energy Optimization Program Participants Selected as Finalists for Governor’s Energy Excellence Awards

By |2017-08-09T14:25:27+00:00August 9th, 2017|Uncategorized|

Lansing, Mich. (June 28, 2017) – Four Michigan businesses that completed large-scale energy efficiency improvements with the help of the Energy Optimization program are finalists for the coveted 2017 Governor’s Energy Excellence Awards.

The four finalists include: Ewen-Trout Creek School District (Ewen), Friske Orchards (Charlevoix), Don Earl Heating & A/C (Sault Ste. Marie), and Sklarczyk Seed Farm (Johannesburg).

Now in its third year, the Governor’s Energy Excellence Awards honors Michigan organizations and individuals for outstanding achievement in reducing energy waste. Nominations were spread across eight different categories to showcase exceptional commitment to responsible energy production and consumption across a variety of project types.

Ewen-Trout Creek School District

Constructed 20 years ago, the outdated K-12 Ewen-Trout Creek School building boasted unreliable heating and cooling equipment, a leaky and poorly-insulated roof, and an array of other failing systems—all of which began to negatively impact the student learning experience. In 2016, the District worked with the Energy Optimization program to install new, energy-efficient boilers, water heaters, and fan coil units; an entirely new roof; and energy-saving indoor and outdoor LED fixtures. The upgrades are projected to save the district more than $27,000 per year in utility costs. The Ewen-Trout Creek School District, served by Ontonagon County REA, was named a finalist in the “Best Project—Public” category.

Friske Orchards

Friske Orchards, a family farm founded in 1962 in Charlevoix, grows a variety of fruits and vegetables—but is particularly known for the fresh apple cider they produce throughout the winter months. Friske Orchards invested in the construction of a highly-efficient and low-maintenance labor housing building in 2016, which features a sizeable solar photovoltaic system which generates renewable energy for the housing unit. A combination of mini-split air-source heat pumps, LED fixtures, ENERGY STAR®   appliances, and more in the new labor housing unit is expected to save the Friskes nearly $4,000 per year in electricity costs. Friske Orchards, served by Great Lake Energy Cooperative, was named a finalist in the “Best Project—Agriculture” category.

Don Earl Heating & A/C

Don Earl Heating & A/C of Sault St. Marie, which operates in the Cloverland Electric Cooperative service territory, earned a finalist nomination in the “Contractor of the Year” category. Don Earl Heating & A/C contributes valuable savings to Cloverland members in the eastern Upper Peninsula  by installing high-efficiency heating and cooling equipment. The business is committed to increasing awareness of the benefits of energy efficiency, and was the Energy Optimization program’s second-largest submitter of electric energy savings in 2016. Additionally, Don Earl Heating & A/C helped its customers save a combined $14,737 on their utility bills last year.

Sklarczyk Seed Farm

Sklarczyk Seed Farm, a family farm in Johannesburg, is a national leader in the seed potato industry. Manager Don Sklarczyk has invested heavily in making farm operations as energy efficient as possible. In 2016, Mr. Sklarczyk installed 90 LED grow lights, resulting in annual electricity savings of $21,000. The installation of the LEDs allowed the farm to meet growing demand without the need for costly new facilities. In 2016, Sklarczyk Seed Farm harvested over six million high-quality, disease-free seed potatoes. Sklarczyk Seed Farm, served by Great Lakes Energy Cooperative, was named a finalist in the “Best Project – Agriculture” category.

“We are incredibly proud of the energy-saving projects completed by these four participating businesses and institutions,” said Art Thayer, Director of Energy Efficiency Programs for the Michigan Electric Cooperative Association (MECA). “The Energy Optimization program exists to improve Michigan homes, farms, and businesses by providing cash incentives toward the purchase of energy-efficient products and equipment. We’re happy to see these businesses reap the rewards of these smart investments now and into the future.”

For more information about the Governor’s Energy Excellence Awards, visit mienergyexcellence.org.

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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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Thumb Electric Cooperative Holds 80th Annual Meeting At New Venue

By |2017-06-15T09:25:29+00:00June 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 |2017-06-14T15:33:43+00:00June 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 |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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