Member Moment: Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative

“Member Moment” highlights one of Great River Energy’s member-owner cooperatives and how they uniquely demonstrate what it means to be a cooperative.

In 1939, the newly formed Mille Lacs Energy Cooperative (MLEC) proudly served 300 people on a few miles of line. Throughout its 80 years of service, MLEC now serves over 13,000 members, of which 50% are seasonal, and maintains nearly 2,000 miles of electric line.

Besides its residential members, MLEC serves many standout businesses including American Peat Technology, Grand Casino Mille Lacs and Savanna Pallets.

American Peat Technology, based in Aitkin, Minnesota, develops granulated peat products, including agricultural and water remediation solutions, that serve several industries.

With over 40 years in the industry, Savanna Pallets in McGregor, Minnesota, is the largest new Minnesota wood pallet manufacturer in the region as well as the largest producer of wooden pallet components.

The Grand Casino in Onamia, Minnesota, on Mille Lacs Lake attracts many tourists where they can experience a northland fun get-away.

“We are proud that all of these key companies share our concern for community,” said Kassie Kokesh, communication specialist at MLEC. “They all give back to their communities through sponsorships and scholarships. We are proud to serve them.”

Concern for community

MLEC supports the communities it serves in a variety of ways. The co-op has donated over $1,100,000 to local groups and organizations through Operation Round Up, a voluntary program where generous members round-up their electric bill payment to the nearest dollar. All the funds raised go into the trust fund which is donated back to the community.

Denim Days are another way MLEC gives back. Each quarter, employees can choose to donate money to wear jeans on Fridays. Deserving organizations are nominated by employees.

In addition to the financial donations, MLEC also participates in community events such as local school electrical safety presentations. Employees and board members are involved in community events all year long as well, including parades, community meals, highway cleanup, school supplies drives, and Relay for Life.

“The commitment to community cooperative principle is very evident here at MLEC,” Kokesh said.

Collaborating with Great River Energy

MLEC and Great River Energy work together in various capacities. Great River Energy has assisted the cooperative in economic development planning as well as energizing its 20.5-kilowatt community solar array.

Great River Energy Vice President and Chief Corporate & Member Services Officer Mark Fagan has also directly collaborated with MLEC. In 2018, the MLEC board of directors asked Fagan to serve as acting general manager for an interim period while the it conducted a general manager search.

Looking toward the future, MLEC is currently in the process of installing an on-site electric vehicle charger.

“EV owners will be able to charge at the MLEC office, and someday we’ll be able to charge our own electric company car,” Kokesh said.