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'Brand camp' for co-ops

Electric cooperatives from the Dakotas and western Minnesota gathered in Bismarck – for what was called “brand camp.”

Basin Electric Power Cooperative and Touchstone Energy are co-sponsoring it. They say with the changing demographics of co-op members, it’s time to reconnect with members – and emphasize the importance of the co-ops.

"Cooperative members that remember when the lights came on are no longer with us," said Basin spokesperson Mary Miller. "We see a new generation coming. We need to re-engage and redefine who we are and bring that level of engagement to the communities. It's a critical time."

Carrie Law is with Sioux Valley Energy in South Dakota. She says her co-op has launched a program called “Empower Youth Leadership.”

"A lot of people that we have on our lines now never saw the lights come on," said Law. "They simply know that when they turn on the light switch, the power comes on. So what we're trying to do is grow leaders who can eventually become co-op board members, employees, or who will simply be members, to understand there is a difference in the culture and the business model for co-ops."

Miller says the changing workforce is also an important and on-going discussion.

"Because cooperatives are great employers, and because many of the people who work for them see it as a way of life, they started their career at a cooperative, and they're ending their career at a cooperative," said Miller.

The "camp" was held at Bismarck State College.

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