ECE celebrates 75 years of business

A 1935 letter to Pine County’s newspaper editors planted the seed, and
local farmers rose to the challenge. Combining brainpower and brawn,
they built themselves an electric system and started a legacy that has
blossomed for three-quarters of a century.

A 1935 letter to Pine County’s newspaper editors planted the seed, and local farmers rose to the challenge. Combining brainpower and brawn, they built themselves an electric system and started a legacy that has blossomed for three-quarters of a century.

“Building on the Legacy” is the theme for East Central Energy’s (ECE) 75th anniversary in 2011. Special festivities are planned at the cooperative’s annual meeting Saturday, April 9. The meeting will be held at East Central Schools, Finlayson, Minn., beginning at 9 a.m. with coffee and rolls. Members will have time to visit with their ECE directors, employees, and President/CEO Steve Shurts before the business meeting at 10 a.m. Lunch will be served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Family-friendly activities will include bucket truck rides, a pie walk and other carnival-style games.

Originally known as PICK Electric Cooperative, ECE was officially incorporated with the Minnesota Secretary of State on Jan. 13, 1936. Beauford Johnson of West Rock, Minn., author of that momentous letter to the editor, was its first general manager.

Imagine the scene in December 1937 at the Carl Peterson farm in Rock Creek, the first to receive electric service. Picture the faces of the Swan Hammer family members who came home from a holiday party to find their radio playing and their new lights aglow.

Electricity changed life in rural America. In the house and in the barn, every chore became easier and was finished faster. Farm families finally had more free time to socialize and get involved in their communities. They gathered around the radio in the evenings, listening to their favorite programs without worry that the battery would die. They delighted in getting cold beverages from the new refrigerator and water from a faucet on the kitchen sink.

Today, most people cannot even imagine life without electricity. Its use has expanded every year since 1949. Consumers discovered televisions, microwave ovens, cell phones, computers, and now electric cars. From the beginning, ECE has made sure its members kept pace with the new innovations, investing in an electric distribution system that started with 80 miles of line and now includes nearly 9,000 miles.

The challenges of each decade have been met with the same vision, determination, and zeal that started this electric cooperative. Guided by seven co-op principles, neighbors and friends formed a partnership that has flourished.  Mergers in 1995 and 2003 expanded ECE’s boundaries, strengthened its workforce and brought new members into the ECE cooperative family.

More than 57,000 homes, farms and businesses in east central Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin receive their electricity from ECE today. Thirty-four substations dot the 4,300 square mile service territory, delivering reliable and affordable electricity in 14 counties. More than 160 employees advance the tradition of service that was started by their predecessors and polished through the years. As ECE’s next quarter-century dawns, they are Building on the Legacy.

 

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