East River Electric Hires Fosheim as Economic Development Manager

East River Electric Hires Fosheim as Economic Development Manager

Eric Fosheim of Madison will be the next Economic Development Manager at East River Electric Power Cooperative. Fosheim will lead East River’s economic development efforts and the organization’s Rural Electric Economic Development (REED) Fund which East River administers on behalf of its member cooperatives. He takes over the role from Linda Salmonson who retired following a 30-year career with East River.

“I’m incredibly excited to join the East River team,” Fosheim said. “They have an incredible reputation of helping to build communities and driving economic development efforts throughout eastern South Dakota and western Minnesota and I’m ready to step in and help continue to advance the goals of the organization.”

The REED Fund was created in 1996 by the region’s electric cooperatives as a revolving loan fund, helping to finance hundreds of projects since its inception. The fund provides financing for businesses, non-profits, communities, health care and other vital services important to rural South Dakota and Minnesota. Fosheim will lead the efforts of the REED Fund as well as work on other economic development efforts on behalf of East River’s 25 member electric distribution systems.

Fosheim’s prior experience includes stints in banking, business development with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and South Dakota Department of Agriculture and most recently he served as the executive director of the Lake Area Improvement Corporation based in Madison.

Fosheim will begin his role at East River Electric at the end of August.

Electric Cooperatives Send Letter Urging Members of Congress to Provide Economic Relief for Rural America

Electric Cooperatives Send Letter Urging Members of Congress to Provide Economic Relief for Rural America

Over 30 cooperatives serving members across the Upper Midwest have signed on to a letter urging members of Congress to provide economic relief for rural America. The letter was addressed to members of Congress from Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska. Specifically, the letter calls for Congress to support additional stimulus package relief for food and ethanol processing plants, and the farmers and ranchers who serve themmost of whom are also electric cooperative members. The electric cooperatives represented on the letter combined serve over 3 million consumers across the region.

“We are respectfully requesting much-needed economic relief for rural America, which continues to suffer from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic,” the letter said. “Rural electric cooperatives were created to provide electricity to farms and rural communities and have continued to expand this essential service as rural America has grown and prospered. Our member-owners have invested in not only the electric infrastructure through their cooperative to serve these areas, but also in helping to develop the rural economy in which they live. These investments have allowed for diversification into biofuels, food processing, and other business development opportunities.”

The nationwide steep drop in liquid fuel demand has resulted in a major economic impact on biofuels processing plants across the country. Estimates show as much as half of U.S. ethanol production has been idled. In addition, the pandemic has forced several food processing facilities to either idle or shut down. These events have left producers of several agricultural commodities without a market for their product, forcing some to euthanize animals or destroy their products. The pandemic has compounded the impacts of low commodity prices and extreme weather events that had already created a struggling farm and rural economy.

“Reduced ethanol production and livestock processing threatens our food and energy security, and, in turn, results in reduced electric load, a burden that ultimately falls on the individual members of an electric cooperative,” the letter reads. “The combination of these issues poses a significant threat to the overall well-being of the rural communities that we serve.”

Congress is currently considering passage of another stimulus package as the nation continues to experience significant impacts from the coronavirus pandemic. The region’s electric cooperatives are urging others to also reach out to Congress to ensure the needs of rural America are addressed in the package.

Members of Congress receiving the letter were North Dakota Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer; South Dakota Sens. John Thune and Mike Rounds; Iowa Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst; Nebraska Sens. Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse; and Minnesota Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith; North Dakota Rep. Kelly Armstrong; South Dakota Rep. Dusty Johnson; Iowa Reps. Steve King, Abby Finkenauer, Dave Loebsack and Cindy Axne; and Nebraska Reps. Adrian Smith and Jeff Fortenberry.

Read the full letter that was sent to Congress here.

East River Electric and Member Cooperatives Providing Essential Services through Pandemic

East River Electric and Member Cooperatives Providing Essential Services through Pandemic

East River Electric Power Cooperative has been activating different portions of its Pandemic Response Plan to continue to provide essential electric services to its member cooperatives and municipal electric systems through the coronavirus pandemic. The cooperative has over 140 employees who work out of 8 different communities in South Dakota and Minnesota and provides electricity to member electric systems that serve over 250,000 consumers across the region. East River Electric sent a letter to the South Dakota Office of Emergency Management to update them on the response from electric cooperatives.

“Our top priority is the safety and health of our employees and the public as we continue to provide reliable electric service to our member-owners,” said Tom Boyko. “We’re monitoring the news of the coronavirus closely and have plans in place to respond to multiple scenarios. We hope we don’t have to implement all of these plans, but we’re prepared to do so if we need to. We’ve updated the state Office of Emergency Management to let them know we’re prepared to continue to provide reliable electricity while making sure that our employees are safe.”

Boyko said some of the cooperative’s employees have started remote work schedules, but they have many employees who work on outdoor electric infrastructure including power poles, transmission wires and substations which doesn’t allow these specialized technicians, linemen and others to remote work. Keeping them healthy and on the job is critical in a time like this.

“We provide electric transmission system operations and emergency response services 24 hours a day,” Boyko said. “We will be prepared to respond to any outages or problems on the system if they arise. We have cross-trained employees and have developed work schedules that will ensure that our crews are separated and we’re able to continue to operate the electric system in the event some of our employees can’t report to work. We also have cybersecurity and information technology protocols in place to make sure we have all areas of our service territory and business operations covered.”

In response to the threat of coronavirus, the cooperative has restricted any entry into its facilities, implemented a more frequent cleaning and sanitizing schedule throughout its buildings, minimized unnecessary group interaction and coordinated with interdependent utilities, contractors and suppliers to evaluate how operations could be impacted by potential disruptions. The cooperative will continue to monitor the situation closely and respond according to its emergency response plans.