Author: Wade Harris

Kenergy announces new president and CEO

Kenergy Corp’s Board of Directors has announced the selection of Tim Lindahl as the cooperative’s new President and CEO. Lindahl succeeds Jeff Hohn, who will be retiring in March.  Hohn, who has served as CEO since October 2015, will remain at the co-op until Lindahl starts his duties on Monday, March 13.
 
“Tim has more than 28 years of experience in executive management in the agricultural, information technology and energy industries, and for more than 15 years has worked at rural electric cooperatives.  He also served on the board of directors at a rural electric cooperative for a year,” says Billy Reid, chairman of Kenergy’s Board of Directors.  “He believes wholeheartedly in this business model and understands the important relationship between a cooperative and its member-owners.  The Kenergy board is confident in Tim’s experience and leadership abilities.”
 
In addition to his time spent with rural electric cooperatives, Lindahl was a co-founder and led a technology group dedicated to bringing technology and telecommunications to rural areas from 1995-2005.

Frankfort Youth Tour scheduled for March 22


The statewide office is pleased to announce the Frankfort Youth Tour is now scheduled for March 22 and will include the launch of the 2023 Co-ops Vote initiative in partnership with Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams.

The new Manager of Cooperative Outreach is Mallory Wafzig who will lead the youth tour programs, among other duties. Mallory brings over 7 years of association experience to Kentucky Electric Cooperatives. Most recently, she served as Director of Members Services for the Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities where she focused on member services, grassroots initiatives, and event management. Please welcome her to the cooperative family – mwafzig@kyelectric.coop.

Board honors Prather | Farmers RECC President attends final statewide meeting

The Kentucky Electric Cooperatives Board honored retiring Farmers RECC President Bill Prather at its December meeting on Tuesday in Louisville. Statewide President Chris Perry paid tribute to Prather’s leadership and cooperative values in his 43 years of dedicated service, including 15 years leading Farmers RECC. Prather was gifted a commemorative Louisville Slugger bat.

Here Come the Funds: Co-ops Should Get Ready for Flood of Broadband Projects

Unprecedented sums for rural broadband will begin flowing next year from the 2021 infrastructure law, and that means electric cooperatives—even those without plans to enter the internet business—should get ready.

“Expect a deluge of make-ready work requests and requirements from projects launched by the release of these funds, even if your co-op is not deploying broadband,” said Katie Culleton, NRECA legislative affairs director for broadband issues.

The law provides about $65 billion for several rural broadband programs to deliver “internet for all” under set deadlines that have gotten tighter because of delays in the disbursal process. This is increasing the urgency for internet service providers to hit the ground running.

“So many communities have waited so long for high-speed internet access for schools, health care and to lift their economy,” Culleton said. “With so much funding for rural broadband on its way, now is a good time to think about what this means for your co-op and parts of your service territory or adjacent areas that lack service.”

In March, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration plans to announce the winners of its $1 billion Enabling Middle Mile Grants for closing the digital divide.

Also in the spring, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will begin disbursing $1.15 billion for the fourth round of ReConnect.

States and territories in the summer may begin receiving $100 million or more from the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program after NTIA incorporates public challenges to new broadband coverage maps from the Federal Communications Commission.

Culleton said co-ops may want to take certain preliminary actions, including:

  • Talking with the major internet providers in the area about their plans.
  • Identifying potential resources, both internal and external, that could be utilized to handle a surge in pole attachment applications.
  • Conducting a “pole audit” to collect the latest information on the location and condition of poles.

Co-ops also should be mindful of skilled labor shortages and persistent supply chain issues that may delay materials and equipment, she said.

“We don’t want to be blamed for slowing the process down by not completing make-ready work or pole replacements in a reasonable time frame,” Culleton said. “No one wants an internet service provider to point to a co-op as the holdup.”

Cathy Cash is a staff writer for NRECA.

Beautify I-65 Project in Warren County Receives 2022 Beautify the Bluegrass Governor’s Award

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Sept. 28, 2022) – Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear and Kentucky Electric Cooperatives President and CEO Chris Perry announced the Beautify I-65 Project in Warren County is the winner of the 2022 Beautify the Bluegrass Governor’s Award. For the sixth straight year, the Governor’s Office, Kentucky’s electric cooperatives and their flagship publication, Kentucky Livingcollaborated on the Beautify the Bluegrass initiative to recognize and celebrate efforts that enhance the Commonwealth and make us proud to call Kentucky home.

“It’s a privilege to congratulate the Beautify I-65 project, along with all the other Beautify the Bluegrass initiatives, for their incredible efforts to make Kentucky a better place to live and raise a family,” said Governor Beshear. “The Beautify the Bluegrass program is one of my favorite examples of what it means to be on ‘Team Kentucky.’ I am so grateful to every individual, family and organization who volunteered their time to improve their community.”

“All five of these projects are worthy of this award,” said Johnny Webb, the project’s organizer and fundraiser. “We hope to make other communities in Kentucky jealous of us, but jealous in a good way. We would like for other communities in Kentucky to do what we’ve done because we want to elevate the commonwealth of Kentucky. It creates community pride, and it’s an economic development tool for our community.”

Warren Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation (WRECC) nominated the Beautify I-65 project, which involves planting flowers and trees, installing fencing along five local interchanges and creating “gateway” exits with attractive signs and colorful flags. The project is a partnership among Operation PRIDE, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, the City of Bowling Green, and Warren County. Organizers hope to entice travelers to explore the community and engage with local businesses.  

“Because co-ops belong to and are led by people in the communities they serve, improving the quality of life in those local communities is at the heart of the electric cooperative mission. I’m especially pleased that Warren RECC and the entire Bowling Green area rallied around this project to earn this recognition,” Perry said. “The statewide association of electric cooperatives takes great pride once again highlighting impressive, homegrown projects across our Commonwealth that are making Kentucky a better and more beautiful place.”

Kentuckians cast votes for their favorite beautification project from five finalists on KentuckyLiving.com. The other finalists included: 

  • Veterans Memorial Park Beautification Project, Liberty;
  • Eastern Elementary Garden Club, Pleasureville;
  • Lifeline Recovery Center Playground, Paducah; and
  • Hodgenville Elementary School Natural Trail and Outdoor Classroom

North Carolina co-ops and employees donate over $20,000 to Kentucky flood relief

North Carolina’s electric cooperatives have joined together to support co-op communities in Kentucky affected by recent flooding. In late July, portions of eastern Kentucky were struck by torrential rainfall and devastating floods that led to the destruction of homes, businesses and livelihoods. At least 39 people have died as a result of the historic flooding, and two women remain missing. Thousands of people lost their homes, and it remains to be seen how many businesses and jobs will be restored.

In response to this disaster, North Carolina’s electric cooperatives activated the Human Connections Fund to provide needed support to people and communities impacted. Electric cooperatives and co-op employees from across North Carolina made generous donations to aid relief efforts, raising a total of $20,205 to assist communities and families impacted by the flooding.

“The long-term recovery from the flooding devastation in eastern Kentucky is going to need a lot of assistance” said Chris Perry, president and CEO of Kentucky Electric Cooperatives. “We are humbled but not surprised by the generosity and leadership of North Carolina’s electric cooperatives who immediately stepped up to help their co-op family in this critical time Kentucky’s electric cooperatives enjoy a long and sincere friendship with our counterparts in the Tarheel State, from mutual aid after disasters to advocacy for the members we serve. When I think of the co-op spirit of North Carolina’s electric cooperatives, I am reminded of their state motto: To be, rather than to seem. Thank you for being there for Kentucky.”

“In times of crisis, co-ops and their employees always step up to assist our neighbors,” said Nelle Hotchkiss, senior vice president and COO of association services for North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives. “Whether it’s through sending line crews to assist in outage restoration efforts or donations to local charities and non-profits, the cooperatives’ focus on community and the power of human connections shines when their members need it most.”

The Human Connections Fund was established in December 2005 and gives North Carolina electric cooperatives and their employees the ability to assist sister cooperatives and their members in times of need. The initiative has previously provided donations to those affected by severe storms, hurricanes and other disasters here at home and throughout the country.

In Time of Rapid Change, Matheson Tells Electric Co-ops ‘It’s Good to Be Us’

NRECA CEO Jim Matheson urged electric cooperative leaders at Regional Meetings 1&4 to take on the historic changes and opportunities emerging across the industry and know the association is ready to lead and partner to ensure co-ops are equipped to best serve their members.

“It’s all about change and the opportunities it brings,” Matheson said in his keynote address Wednesday in Indianapolis.

“This meeting is your chance to meet the people at NRECA who are leading these efforts, and for you to learn more.”

Matheson noted three key areas of transformation and opportunity for co-ops—broadband, infrastructure and politics—and how NRECA is evolving in its own right to meet their needs.

“It’s the most important work we’re doing right now, and we want you to make the most of these opportunities to invest in your co-op’s reliability, resilience and relevance,” he said.

NRECA Broadband launched in July for co-ops delivering high-quality internet, building networks or finding other ways to help close the digital divide. Its team of experts are steeped in telecommunications policy, regulations and its highly competitive politics, he said.

“We’re positioning NRECA to best support our members [and] to make darn sure we are on a level playing field,” said Matheson.

When it comes to infrastructure, the $1.2 trillion federal law offers enormous opportunities for co-ops to invest in electric vehicles, disaster mitigation and technologies for a smart grid, microgrids and cybersecurity.

To help smooth the complex compliance process, NRECA is bringing co-ops together to work on projects and grant applications.

“NRECA is here to make it as easy as possible to access these programs and put them to work for you,” Matheson said.

In the political arena, polarized gridlock may be a constant, but “electric co-ops will be as respected, as relevant and as effective in politics as we’ve ever been,” he said.

“You have credit and credibility on both sides of the aisle for the work you do. NRECA’s reputation, your reputation, is sterling. And that matters more now than ever before.”

For example, Congress came together last month to pass the budget reconciliation bill with provisions giving direct-pay tax credits for electric co-ops to deploy new energy technologies—a top priority for NRECA.

“It covers any tax credit for energy technologies—renewables, storage, carbon capture—anything the federal government might offer as an incentive to a for-profit utility, a not-for-profit co-op can now use, too,” Matheson said. “Now, and in the future. And that’s a pretty big deal.”

In many ways, NRECA member co-ops “are much bigger than politics,” he said. By revolutionizing the electric industry and making key investments in their communities, co-ops draw bipartisan recognition in Washington, he said.

“It is a time of rapid change—to be sure—but it’s also good to be us,” Matheson said. “Thanks to the work of your co-op, we have every advantage with us as we lead the way to that bright future.”

Cathy Cash is a staff writer for NRECA.

Allen Purnell of Purnell’s ‘Old Folks’ Country Sausage Honored as Distinguished Rural Kentuckian

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (August 17, 2022) – Kentucky’s electric cooperatives honored Allen Purnell as the 2022 Distinguished Rural Kentuckian. Purnell of “Old Folks” Country Sausage has been making “gooo-od” sausage in Simpsonville for more than half a century. The company has over 250 employees. The Distinguished Rural Kentuckian award is the highest honor bestowed by Kentucky’s electric cooperatives, which consists of 26 member co-ops across the Commonwealth.

Chris Perry, CEO and president of the Kentucky Electric Cooperatives, presented the award following a special video tribute to Purnell at the 76thAnnual Meeting of the Kentucky Electric Cooperatives on Monday, August 15. The tribute and remarks from the meeting can be viewed on the association’s YouTube channel.

Photo by Tim Webb


“The Good Lord has been with this company,” Purnell said in an interview for the video tribute. “We’re country and proud of it! I do the best I could, and I really love what I do. It’s not hard.”

“For generations, Kentuckians have been greeted by Al with a wave and a warm ‘Hello, Friend.’ His entrepreneurial success, paired with his love for the Commonwealth he calls home, make him a wonderful choice for this year’s Distinguished Rural Kentuckian award,” said Chris Perry. “Every year, this award recognizes someone who leaves a lasting impact on Kentucky and its people. I’m proud Al ‘the Sausage Man’ Purnell is joining the ranks of our honorees.” 

The Annual Meeting’s Monday night banquet also featured a keynote address from former college basketball coach and ESPN sportscaster, Bob Valvano, in front of several hundred co-op members, friends and guests.

Background on Distinguished Rural Kentuckian Award:
Since 1982, the Distinguished Rural Kentuckian honor has been awarded by Kentucky’s member-owned electric cooperatives. Previous Distinguished Rural Kentuckians include elected leaders, authors, journalists, business executives, physicians, and sports champions. The award recognizes outstanding individuals who have devoted their lives to Kentucky in a way that matches the co-op mission of enhancing the quality of life here.

NRECA Broadband Will Give Co-ops a ‘United Voice in Washington’

NRECA has launched a new level of service for electric cooperatives that provide broadband or are considering offering it.

NRECA Broadband, which opened July 12 to NRECA voting members, offers a growing number of exclusive resources, including additional legislative and regulatory experts to represent participating co-ops’ interests in Washington, D.C.

“Co-ops entering the competitive broadband business face a whole new set of regulations, reporting requirements, tax implications and other issues specific to the telecommunications space,” said NRECA CEO Jim Matheson.

“Through this new service tier, we aim to be a strong, united voice in Washington to represent our unique interests and stand toe-to-toe with big telecom.”

Co-ops that participate in NRECA Broadband will gain access to new strategic communications services, education and events, and focused business and technology support in addition to targeted advocacy. The first NRECA Broadband Leadership Summit for tier participants will take place Nov. 17-18 in Washington, D.C.

“This new level of service will amplify our voice as a national organization in Washington, where telecommunication issues are discussed and where telecommunication business policies are decided,” NRECA Chief Operating Officer Jeffrey Connor said.

“This is about building partnerships that NRECA can develop to be a more powerful voice for our members’ interests,” he said.

Participation in NRECA Broadband is voluntary and open to any NRECA voting electric co-op. The annual fee for co-ops that are in the broadband business is $12,000 plus $1 per broadband customer. The annual fee for co-ops not yet delivering broadband is $6,000.

Matheson said the time was right to expand NRECA’s service in broadband as hundreds of member co-ops work to bridge America’s digital divide.

“NRECA’s mission is to be an advocate for quality of life in the rural and diverse communities our members serve and has been for 80 years,” Matheson said. “NRECA Broadband services are a natural extension of our advocacy. We are committed to serve electric cooperatives for broadband as we do for the electric side of their business.”

Cathy Cash is a staff writer for NRECA.

Shelby Energy welcomes international copper producer Wieland 

Shelby Energy Cooperative today welcomed Wieland North America to Kentucky as the international copper producer broke ground for a $250 million copper and copper-alloy recycling facility in Shelbyville, Ky. 

“Wieland’s tremendous dedication to quality, people and sustainability makes the company a perfect fit for our community, and we welcome them with open arms,” said Jack Bragg, President & CEO of Shelby Energy Cooperative, which worked with state and local officials to help recruit Wieland. “We are proud Wieland chose Kentucky and particularly Shelbyville as the location for the next chapter in its 200-year history.” 

Wieland is constructing the new recycling facility on a 79-acre site near Interstate 64 in Shelbyville. With 75 full-time employees, the operation will melt copper and copper-alloy for recycling for use in manufacturing semi-finished copper and copper-alloy products for customers throughout North America. The facility is expected to begin production in 2023. 

“With customers located throughout North America and the globe, Wieland was looking for a centrally located site with outstanding transportation access, and we knew this site would fit their needs,” said Brad Thomas, Manager for Economic Development for Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives. “We are thrilled to play a role in helping Wieland find a home here in Kentucky.” 

Wieland North America manufactures copper and copper-alloy products, including sheet, strip, foil, tube, bar and other fabricated components for its North American customers. The company also rerolls and forms other metals, such as stainless and carbon steel. 

Last year, Wieland, based in Ulm, Germany, brought its North American headquarters to Louisville. 

Story: Nick Comer