Investing where they serve - Great River Energy

Investing where they serve

New headquarters demonstrate cooperative focus on economic development

Many Great River Energy member-owner cooperatives have recognized the need to update their headquarters buildings, service centers and other facilities in recent years to better serve their members and ensure the safety of their staff. The unique ways they have approached these projects have created significant economic development impacts for their communities.

Various factors drive the need for these upgrades, including improving services, enhancing reliability and meeting the growing demands of businesses and residents for reliable energy and advanced technological capabilities. But it is the cooperative focus on community that makes these projects catalysts for further growth.

Spurring economic growth as cooperatives make necessary upgrades
Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative (MLEC), located in the heart of Aitkin County, Minnesota, has long been a pillar of the community, serving over 13,500 members.

Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative’s new headquarters facility, located 10 miles south of its current location, will be equipped with state-of-the-art technology and infrastructure.

MLEC considered building a new headquarters for over a decade. While its facilities were functional, they had become increasingly inadequate to meet the demands of a modern and growing electric cooperative.

A unique confluence of events, including the loss of access entries and land along Highway 169 due to the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s road expansion, prompted MLEC to explore new possibilities. The opportunity to purchase a 30-acre parcel of high ground in Aitkin County provided the perfect solution.

The facility, located 10 miles south of MLEC’s current location, will be equipped with state-of-the-art technology and infrastructure. This strategic move will improve response times for outages and maintenance as well as enhance the cooperative’s ability to serve its members efficiently.

Moreover, the new headquarters will allow MLEC to meet the community’s needs more competitively for affordable energy, efficient services and high-speed internet. Since introducing MLEC Fiber in 2016, serving over 1,400 customers, the cooperative is positioned to adapt to future energy and information technology innovations for the next 80 years.

Building for the future
The impact of MLEC’s new headquarters extends beyond operational efficiency. Most of MLEC’s employees are residents of Aitkin County and are deeply invested in the area’s lakes along with hunting, fishing and recreational activities. The cooperative takes pride in providing critical infrastructure and being a significant employer in rural central Minnesota, contributing to the region’s economic vitality and quality of life.

“We are proud to say that the new headquarters will be built with sustainable materials and energy-efficient systems, aligning with our commitment to environmental responsibility. MLEC plays a crucial role in maintaining service reliability for our members by providing energy to homes and businesses and we are committed to doing so sustainably and responsibly.”

— MLEC Chief Executive Officer Sarah Cron

The new headquarters will empower employees, improve operational efficiencies and provide the room needed for expansion. The cooperative’s upcoming open house and annual meeting event in September will allow members and the community to witness firsthand the benefits of the new facility, reinforcing the cooperative’s commitment to a prosperous future.

Stearns Electric breaks ground on new operations center, headquarters

Stearns Electric Association celebrated a significant milestone on May 6 with the groundbreaking ceremony for its new operations center and headquarters. The 89,000-square-foot facility will provide the necessary space and infrastructure to support the cooperative’s expanding operations. Located along Interstate 94 in Melrose, Minnesota, the new headquarters is poised to enhance operational efficiency and service delivery.

Stearns Electric Association celebrated the groundbreaking of its new facility with its board of directors and key staff, including: (from left): Director Bob Niehaus, District 6; Director Jerry Fries, District 9; Director Scott Dirkes, District 7; Director Arlyn Lawrenz, District 2; Director Eric Peterson, District 8; Chief Executive Officer Matt O’Shea; Director Michael Cramer, District 3; Director Jeff Koehler, District 5; Director Greg Blaine, District 1; and Director Randy Rothstein, District 4.

The $21.5 million project represents a strategic investment in Stearns Electric’s future and its ability to meet the energy needs of its members. The new facility will feature modernized garages, an enhanced mechanic shop, meeting areas and storage spaces for critical materials and equipment. Designed for efficient workflow and collaboration, the updated workspaces will boost productivity and operational effectiveness.

This project underscores Stearns Electric’s commitment to providing reliable and cost-effective energy services, ultimately driving economic development in the region by ensuring a robust and efficient energy infrastructure. Expected to be completed by late summer or early fall of 2025, the new headquarters will be a cornerstone for the community’s growth and sustainability.

Trending: New and upgraded member-owner facilities

  • Lake Country Power: Moved into the Cohasset Industrial Park, anchoring an 80-acre expansion of an existing industrial park in 2019.
  • Kandiyohi Power Cooperative: Built a new facility, repurposing the old building for commercial development.
  • Nobles Electric Cooperative: Recently broke ground on a new headquarters in Slayton to replace outdated office spaces with modern work areas and storage facilities that are crucial to the co-op’s technological advancements and growth.
  • BENCO Electric Cooperative: Recently completed a major retrofit of its headquarters.
  • McLeod Cooperative Power: Recently constructed a new headquarters to better serve its members.
  • Itasca-Mantrap Electric Cooperative: Purchased an additional 40 acres adjacent to its headquarters, reserving it for economic development.
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