By George Berg, President & CEO
Thirty-seven years ago this month, I walked into Nodak’s headquarters office to inquire about a job posted in the Grand Forks Herald. I was about two years out of college, and I knew just enough about Nodak to guess it would be a good place to get a permanent job. I had grown up on a farm near Edinburg, and I knew Nodak provided our electricity,but until then I didn’t know the main office was in Grand Forks. The office at that time was pretty well hidden in a mostly residential area west of Washington Street and north of the railroad tracks. Unfortunately, the job advertised was seasonal, but I did learn about a full-time position, which would soon be announced. I applied for the full-time position and was hired two weeks later.
Earlier this year, I informed your board of directors of my intent to retire as of the end of the year 2011. They are now in the process of taking applications for a new President & CEO. A letter from the board of directors, along with the announcement, has been posted on our webpage www.nodakelectric.com under the menu item “About Nodak.” I have been fortunate to work at and manage Nodak during some exciting times. When I was hired in 1974, underground distribution lines were a relatively new option. Nodak was aggressively replacing hundreds of miles of World War II vintage overhead lines each year with underground rural distribution (URD) cable. Also during the mid-1970s, Minnkota Power Cooperative and the 12 distribution cooperatives introduced the concept of “off-peak” heat as a strategy to build new load without creating the need for more generation. This strategy would ultimately blossom into a program which would heat tens of thousands of houses and businesses in the Minnkota system with a low-cost alternative.
I began my employment at Nodak at a time when mainframe computers and data processing were changing the way all business functions were handled. Nodak had recently purchased a mainframe computer from IBM, and most employees were learning new ways to manage data and perform their day-to-day duties. Any one of the above changes by themselves would be enough to create some chaos in an organization. Combined, they meant there were few dull moments, and it was not a fun environment for anyone resistant to change. It was a great environment and a great time to be a new employee.
I hope new employees coming into our organization today will look back upon retirement and feel grateful they were part of meaningful change. Maybe their experiences will be related to high-tech solutions and the development of what is now referred to as a “smart grid.” The ultimate vision is that you, as a customer, will not need to think and worry about being energy efficient on a day-to-day basis. Instead, you will buy and install appliances that can “talk to” an electrical grid, which will instantaneously price electricity based on various economic factors. We all have to admit that kind of change sounds exciting. Hopefully, it will happen because it will be a good way to save money and not only because of rapidly increasing cost of electricity.
I have never regretted my stop at the Nodak office in September of 1974. I have had the privilege to work with and for many dedicated board members elected by you to govern the cooperative. I worked alongside basically hardworking, conscientious employees that, like me, have felt fortunate to be employed by an organization like Nodak. I always have and always will be proud to tell people I have been associated with this organization.
Good luck to the next fortunate person chosen by your board of directors to be President and CEO of Nodak.