We’re not just another power company. We’re a cooperative. Cooperatives are owned by the people they serve. That’s why those who receive electric service from a cooperative are called members, not customers. Members maintain democratic control, which means they elect fellow members to represent them on the cooperative’s board of directors. All involved with a cooperative are working together toward a common goal. At Great River Energy, our members are at the heart of what we do. We’re owned and guided by them and their interests as we make decisions toward a sustainable future.

Following are a few examples of our uniquely cooperative actions.

$5 million refunded to membership

As a cooperative owned by our 28 member-owner cooperatives, Great River Energy shares our success with our membership. At the close of a very successful 2019, we issued a refund to our member-owners. Great River Energy far exceeded its 2019 margin goal, which allowed the cooperative to pay down future financial obligations and send $5 million to its member-owner cooperatives.

This refund was distributed among Great River Energy’s 28 member-owner cooperatives and returned through power bills. Our members then determined how to use their refunds to best serve their memberships.

A culture of business improvement

Great River Energy employees are passionate about finding the most innovative, efficient, safest and cost-effective ways to do their jobs and identifying ways to protect and enhance the environment. Our business improvement program encourages them to do just that. Nearly $23 million was saved in business improvements in 2019 thanks to more than 76% of our employees participating in the effort. Every single one of the 249 approved submissions contribute to Great River Energy’s bottom line and is a direct savings to our member-owners – not to mention the countless improvements that didn’t include a cost savings but enhanced the way we do business.

Business improvements support a way of thinking that helps us keep costs competitive and have resulted in more than $300 million in savings and avoided costs for Great River Energy’s member-owner cooperatives since 2002.

Employee feedback shapes strategic planning

Great River Energy regularly reviews its vision and mission, and updates the strategic imperatives that guide the company. One of the unique aspects of our organization is that employees play a prominent role in ensuring we have the proper plans in place.

A team of employees conducts one-on-one interviews with 10 of their colleagues to gain insight on company strategies. That input is reported back to our senior leaders who use it to frame the strategic plan that is ultimately presented to our board of directors and member manager group for their approval.

This is an example of how Great River Energy engages its employees, ensuring their investment in the future of the cooperative.

Buy local

A company the size of Great River Energy has the opportunity to positively impact the communities in which it operates and serves. We make a concerted effort to seek local companies in Minnesota and North Dakota for the products and services we need to do business. Our goal is to use a local supplier when available and if it makes sense for our members. In 2019 Great River Energy spent approximately $92 million in Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin. This spend supports the local business that underpin the economies of our communities.

Helping our member-owners cooperatives thrive and grow

Great River Energy and our member-owners take pride in serving the region with competitively priced, reliable energy. We are also committed to helping start and grow their businesses by helping them plan and manage their energy needs. We work closely with local and state organizations to assist businesses planning to locate or expand in our service area.

Tom Lambrecht, economic development manager at Great River Energy, was honored for his leadership in the industry by the Economic Development Association of Minnesota (EDAM) in early 2019.

Lambrecht received the Economic Developer of the Year from EDAM, in recognition of his dedication to the economic development of Minnesota. As a recipient of his award, Lambrecht is recognized as a leader who exemplifies excellence in economic development. The award denotes use of best practices, collaborative thinking, creativity and a spirit of innovation.

A partnership formed between Great River Energy and The Entrepreneur Fund will benefit small businesses and entrepreneurs in the two organizations’ shared service areas with a $1 million program loan provided by Great River Energy. For more than 29 years, the Entrepreneurship Fund has provided flexible financing and strategic services to entrepreneurs, stimulating growth in the region. Headquartered in Duluth, Minnesota, the Entrepreneur Fund works with people in 11 counties in northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin.