East River Electric Power Cooperative Holds 69th Annual Meeting

East River Electric Power Cooperative Holds 69th Annual Meeting

East River Electric Power Cooperative held its 69th annual meeting Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019, at the Best Western Plus Ramkota Hotel in Sioux Falls. The theme of this year’s annual meeting was ‘Shaping a Stronger Tomorrow’. The meeting highlighted the many ways that East River is working together with its member systems on shaping a stronger tomorrow for the electric cooperative industry as well as to continue delivering on the cooperative network’s strong history of providing safe, reliable and affordable electricity.

During the morning general session, speakers highlighted East River’s increasing efforts to support regional economic development. A new $10 million workforce housing development financing partnership between Avera Health and the Rural Electric Economic Development (REED) Fund aims to address increasing concerns regarding a lack of adequate workforce housing across the region. The REED Fund is a nonprofit corporation that is governed by 26 member electric cooperatives. REED partners with commercial and other economic development lenders to provide financing and leverage private investment in more than 69 counties throughout South Dakota and Minnesota. Funds from the partnership will be used for lending in partnership with banks and other agencies to provide loans for housing development and housing infrastructure in Avera-served communities.

“All business sectors including health care and electric cooperatives in rural areas are looking for highly-skilled staff,” said East River Electric Power Cooperative General Manager Tom Boyko. “It can be a real challenge to recruit workforce without quality housing options. We’re going to work on solving this critical issue.”

The cooperative’s leaders also updated attendees on East River’s aggressive 10-year transmission system upgrade plan that began at the start of this year. The plan will update aging infrastructure, maintain the cooperative system’s strong reliability and allow the co-op network to accommodate continued load growth.

“East River exists to enhance the value of its members and we are committed to focus on that mission every day,” said Boyko. “East River was formed by the determination and collective effort of our member systems. The great working relationships between East River and our member systems will enable us to shape an even stronger tomorrow.”

During the meeting’s lunch, East River’s leadership presented two individuals with the cooperative’s Eminent Service Award. The Eminent Service Award is the most prestigious honor given by East River’s Board of Directors. The award recipients were East River Electric’s Former Chief Operations Officer Jim Edwards as well as East River Electric’s Former Chief Financial Officer Greg Hollister. The lunch ceremony also included a check presentation to announce a donation of $47,500 from East River Electric, Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Rushmore Electric, the South Dakota Rural Electric Association and CoBank to the South Dakota Veterans Council for the proposed State Veterans Cemetery in Sioux Falls.

The afternoon session began with an update from Basin Electric Power Cooperative. A business meeting followed the panel discussion where the director election was held and the cooperative’s policy statements were adopted.

Avera Health and Rural Electric Economic Development Fund Announce Workforce Housing Development Financing Partnership

Avera Health and Rural Electric Economic Development Fund Announce Workforce Housing Development Financing Partnership

Avera Health and the Rural Electric Economic Development (REED) Fund Tuesday announced a new $10 million workforce housing development financing partnership. Avera has committed $2 million to the partnership and REED has committed an initial $4 million, with plans to grow the total fund to $10 million. The partnership was announced at a joint press conference on September 3.

“Avera is pleased to partner with the Rural Electric Economic Development Fund with this $2 million investment in workforce housing,” said Avera Health President and CEO Bob Sutton. “Avera is committed to our rural roots and the communities we serve. Workforce housing has become a growing concern in rural South Dakota over the past several years and we’re happy REED is addressing this issue”

The REED Fund is a nonprofit corporation created and operated by electric cooperatives that partners with commercial and other economic development lenders to provide financing and leverage private investment in more than 69 counties throughout South Dakota and Minnesota. Established in 1997, REED is governed by 26 member electric cooperatives and assists projects that promote community well-being and contribute to employment, business and wealth creation, as well as improve the infrastructure, services and economic base.

“REED’s member electric cooperatives are excited to launch this housing development partnership with Avera Health,” said REED Board President Ken Schlimgen. “We want to assist communities in developing housing that meets the needs of today’s workforce. A partnership with Avera will help this region begin to address the urgent need for quality workforce housing.”

Funds from the partnership will be used for lending in partnership with banks and other agencies to provide loans for housing development and housing infrastructure in Avera-served communities. Communities and developers can contact the REED Fund for more information on the application process.

“All business sectors including health care and electric cooperatives in rural areas are looking for highly-skilled staff,” said East River Electric Power Cooperative General Manager Tom Boyko. “It can be a real challenge to recruit workforce without quality housing options. We’re going to work on solving this critical issue.”

Avera Health Chief Human Resources Officer Kim Jensen, agreed, saying, “Recruiting and maintaining talent throughout the Avera Health organization can be a challenge at times due to the rural nature of our footprint. When we start getting into smaller, rural communities it is imperative that there is quality housing that is affordable for prospective employees.”

Since it was established, REED has invested more than $100 million dollars in the region through more than 338 loans. The REED Fund and partner lenders have combined to distribute more than $858 million dollars in economic investment, 9,400 jobs have been impacted, and 2.3 million square feet of facilities have been constructed or renovated.

Photo: Central Electric General Manager Ken Schlimgen, Avera Health President and CEO Bob Sutton, and East River Electric CEO/General Manager Tom Boyko

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