Electric co-ops win national economic development award

Rodney Hitch, right, director of Economic Development for Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives, visits Nucor Corp.’s steel plant in Ghent, with Nucor’s Randy Spicer, Hot Mill/Pickling & Galvanizing Line manager. In September, Nucor announced plans for a $650 million expansion of its Gallatin County plant, creating 70 new jobs. Photo: Tim Webb

In November, the economic development team for Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives received the 2018 Organization Excellence Award from the National Rural Economic Developers Association (NREDA), an organization of economic development professionals focused on the issues and opportunities of rural America.

“Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives are an innovative organization which uses that innovation to market their cooperatives in the economic development realm,” says Dennis Mingyar, NREDA Awards chair. “They took cutting-edge technology, combined it with a new marketing concept, and formed one unique brand with which to market their cooperatives. This effort has helped secure almost 10,000 new jobs in their cooperatives’ service territory.”

The award recognizes Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives for using technology such as data from aerial drone flights, online videos and mobile mapping apps to market rural Kentucky communities globally, attracting jobs and investment to Kentucky. Those initiatives are highlighted on the co-ops’ economic development site, www.DataIsPower.org.

“This award is especially gratifying because the leaders and members of NREDA understand the unique challenges faced by rural communities in attracting jobs and investment,” says Rodney Hitch, Economic Development director for Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives.

Terry Gill, secretary of the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, applauded the cooperatives’ work and ongoing service to the state.

“Whether it’s a prospective investment by an internationally based tech company or an expansion by a longtime local manufacturer, the team at Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives recognizes economic development projects take trust, partnership and a long-term commitment,” Gill says.