Member Moment: Brown County Rural Electrical Association

Better together: When cooperatives work together, they can accomplish great things. Throughout its history, Brown County Rural Electrical Association (Brown County REA) has served its members by forming unique partnerships among other cooperatives to accomplish what one cooperative simply could not.

Employees at Brown County REA have worked with other cooperatives to meet their members’ needs by offering services beyond safe, affordable and reliable electricity.

In 1992, Brown County REA, along with BENCO Electric Cooperative, Federated Rural Electric Association and South Central Electric Association, founded Cooperative Television (CTV) to offer affordable, over-the-air antenna television service. CTV now offers approximately 45 digital channels for a very low monthly subscription rate.

Brown County Rural Electrical Association line technicians perform maintenance on a utility pole.

Then in 1999, Brown County REA and eight other electric cooperatives joined forces to create Heartland Security Services, which offers security systems for residential and commercial members. The company has grown to include five additional cooperatives over the years and provides protection to more than 8,000 customers through home and business security systems, agricultural monitoring and medical alert systems.

In 2015, Brown County REA and 11 other cooperatives serving southern Minnesota formed Southern Minnesota Energy Cooperative for the purpose of acquiring service territory formerly served by Alliant Energy, a for-profit utility. Brown County REA gained approximately 400 new member accounts, primarily in the communities of Comfrey and Hanska.

Serving its community

Whether it’s donating money to charitable organizations or sponsoring a community health day, Brown County REA regularly gives back to its local community.

Since its inception in 1995, the Brown County Electric Trust has awarded more than $206,000 to charitable organizations, individuals and families in crisis and scholarships through Operation Round Up, a voluntary program that encourages members to round their electric bill up to the nearest dollar.

Brown County REA partners with the Sleepy Eye Chamber of Commerce and other local businesses to host a Safety Day Camp for fourth graders from area schools each fall.

In March each year, Brown County REA co-sponsors a Community Health Day with Sleepy Eye Medical Center, Brown County Public Health and Sleepy Eye Community Education to offer health screenings and information to area residents.

Partnering with Great River Energy

Brown County REA also partners with Great River Energy to bring programs and services to its members. For instance, the co-op hosted a Great River Energy-sponsored Play Ball! Minnesota youth clinic, where Twins leadership teach participants fundamentals including hitting, throwing and defense in a fun, safe and encouraging environment. All necessary equipment for the clinics is provided by the Twins Community Fund; participants are only asked to bring their own gloves.

In addition, GRE helps lead Brown County REA’s strategic planning–assisting the cooperative in its long-term, strategic initiatives.

Brown County REA also partners with Great River Energy’s member services and economic development teams to learn more about the refrigerated storage industry and what it means as a load for the electric co-op and the local supply chain.