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MECA Conducts First-Of-Its-Kind Training Assessment

By |2018-02-12T14:47:16+00:00February 9th, 2018|MECA News|

MECA and its member co-ops are conducting a first-of-its-kind, statewide employee education and training assessment this month. Results will be used to develop an in-state training program to be hosted by MECA later this year.

“We’re very good at using data to measure almost everything we do in the energy industry,” says Doug Snitgen, MECA executive vice-president. “But when it comes to selecting employee education and training opportunities, it’s very difficult to quantify what will have the greatest collective impact.”

MECA has worked very closely with the education and training team at NRECA to develop and test an assessment process that will help identify the most relevant in-state training opportunities for co-op employees. The assessment is based on the NRECA Electric Cooperative Competency Model, which was designed to help co-ops align the talent of their employees in three broad categories: Core Competencies, Role-Specific Competencies, and Supervisory, Management and Leadership Competencies.

The Michigan assessment has been pilot tested with a group of Cherryland and HomeWorks employees, and is now ready for the bigger task of collecting statewide data. Each participating co-op will ask its employees to complete an anonymous, online survey, then MECA will analyze the results and work with NRECA to develop an in-state training program. The training will be similar to NRECA certificate programs that MECA has hosted in previous years, but customized to address the unique needs of Michigan’s electric co-ops.

“It’s been a fun project because it’s part science and part art,” says Snitgen. “It’ll help us create a comprehensive training needs ‘gap analysis’ that we’ve never had available before, but there are also a lot of creative ways to interpret the data.”

While the primary goal of the assessment is to determine statewide training needs, the same data could be used to determine needs for individual co-ops, departments or job roles.

Learn more about the NRECA Electric Cooperative Employee Competency Model in RE Magazine or at Cooperative.com.

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‘Weather Bomb’ Causes Widespread Outages In Upper Peninsula

By |2017-11-07T16:55:45+00:00November 7th, 2017|MECA News|

30-foot waves rolled across Lake Superior on Tuesday, October 24. Winds near the shoreline gusted to over 60 mph taking down trees and powerlines in over two dozen locations in Alger, Marquette and Schoolcraft counties.

The Upper Peninsula was hit with a weather bomb. A ‘weather bomb’ is an unofficial term for a rapidly intensifying storm that typically develops over the water when a warm and cold air mass clash. It’s characterized by a low-pressure system where the central barometric pressure drops at least 24 millibars in 24 hours. And the hurricane-force winds it produced were not good for Alger Delta’s electric system.

“The calls started to come in fast and furious on Tuesday morning about 5:30 a.m.,” said Tom Harrell, CEO.

“It was an all-hands-on-deck approach to fielding outage reports,” explained Harrell. By Tuesday evening, Members Services Representative Elizabeth Manninen had fielded 650 phone calls. Chief Financial Officer Amanda Seger had taken 250 calls herself. Staff was dedicated to supporting members on smarthub, too.

At the end of the day, a grand total of 3,500 Alger Delta members were left without power.

Alger Delta put in a call for mutual aid and received help on Wednesday from Great Lakes Energy, Wisconsin co-ops and on-site contractors who happened to be working on the system when the weather bomb exploded.

Working together, power was restored to most Alger Delta members by Friday afternoon.

This was the first outage event where facebook played a large role in communicating with members. Alger Delta staff, including Harrell himself, diligently provided updates and responded to member comments around the clock.

“People seemed to really appreciate it and it served as an effective tool for us,” said Harrell.

A big thank you to all the mutual aid crews who came out to help. This is yet another great example of co-ops working together.

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Great Lakes & Ontonagon Shine at Governor’s Energy Excellence Awards

By |2017-11-07T16:47:27+00:00October 31st, 2017|MECA News|

The Governor’s Energy Excellence Awards honors Michigan organizations and individuals for outstanding achievement in reducing energy waste. This year, MECA EO Collaborative members received awards for Best Project – Public for Ewen Trout Creek School District (Ontonagon) and Best Project – Agriculture for Friske Orchards (Great Lakes Energy).

Ewen Trout Creek is one of Michigan’s most rural school districts with only 205 students. Like many rural schools, their school building was deteriorating and the school administration was forced to divert scarce funds from education towards fixing the school. In 2015, voters approved a new $4.9 million bond referendum and the necessary upgrades, in conjunction with Ontonagon and MECA’s EO program, began. Ewen Trout schools installed new high-efficiency boilers, water heaters, and fan coil units as well as a new chiller and high-efficiency lighting. The project is estimated to save 33,500 Kwh of electricity on an annual basis.

Friske Orchards, south of Charlevoix, is known statewide for its apple cider and the wide array of fruits and vegetables grown on site. When owner Richard Friske noticed that his workers’ mobile homes needed considerable work, he decided to build new bunkhouses for his many seasonal workers. The new, all electric, housing units have Energy Star appliances and lighting, new air source heat pumps, insulation, and receive a good deal of their electricity from new solar panels. Friske Orchards expects to save approximately 44,000 Kwh of electricity per year.

A special “thank you” to Great Lakes and Ontonagon for their efforts, along with MECA EO Director Art Thayer and WECC for their direction and support in advancing the applications from both co-ops.

 

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Alger Delta Cooperative Electric Association Celebrates 80th Anniversary

By |2017-10-16T10:29:37+00:00October 16th, 2017|MECA News|

Alger Delta Cooperative Electric Association (Alger Delta) celebrates its 80th anniversary this year.

Alger Delta Electric is a proud member of WPPI Energy, a not-for-profit wholesale energy provider and joint action agency. The co-op’s milestone anniversary was recognized at an awards luncheon during WPPI Energy’s annual meeting in September. Alger Delta’s CEO Tom Harrell, Directors Mike Lawless (District 3, Grand Marais) and Darryl Small (District 1, Big Bay) accepted a token of esteem on behalf of the co-op.

“I’d like to extend my congratulations and appreciation to Alger Delta for 80 years of service,” said Mike Peters, president and CEO of WPPI Energy.

Alger Delta was founded in 1937 and is one of about 900 not-for-profit electric co-ops in the U.S. It now serves approximately 10,000 members in six counties in the central Upper Peninsula.

Over the years, the co-op has contributed to the quality of life in the central Upper Peninsula by providing affordable and reliable electric service to homes, businesses and recreational properties. Alger Delta also supports charities and organizations that provide service and critical support to its members throughout its service territory including the YMCA, the Salvation Army, Honor Flight, Toys-for-Tots, sports programs, food pantries and others.

“Anniversaries are a great time to reflect both on what has brought us to this point and where we want to go in the future,” said Harrell.

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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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