56th Annual Meeting Recap

The 56th annual meeting of the Montana Council of Cooperatives was convened January 20-21, 2016, in Great Falls since it was a non-legislative year.  Special thanks go to the following generous sponsors of this annual membership event:

  • CHS, Inc.
  • Flathead Electric Cooperative
  • Hill County Electric Cooperative
  • Montana Credit Union Network
  • Nemont Communications
  • NorVal Electric Cooperative
  • Ravalli Electric Cooperative
  • Triangle Communications

The keynote speech was delivered by Clay Berger, Program Director of the Northeast Montana STAT Air Ambulance Cooperative, who described the growth and success of this alliance among the small hospitals that serve communities along the Hi-Line.  Two flight crews are scheduled at all times for the emergency flights to Billings largely for trauma care. The co-op employs 26 highly skilled staff whose children help support the local schools and whose wages make a significant economic impact.

In the afternoon session members were treated to a series of speakers who largely focused on workforce development and succession planning in cooperatives. Council board member Farrah McGregor of Northwest Farm Credit Services moderated the two panels that discussed 1) best practices for employee recruitment and retention at cooperatives, and 2) opportunities that exist for training the next generation workforce, such as internships and apprenticeships.  We greatly appreciate the time each speaker dedicated to preparing and delivering their presentations:

  • Lori Evans, Human Resource Manager – Triangle Communications/Hill County Electric Co-op
  • Steve King, President/CEO – Montana Federal Credit Union
  • Jared Lee, Credit Officer/Campus Ambassador – Northwest Farm Credit Services
  • Tom LeTillier, Program Specialist-Field Staff – Montana Registered Apprenticeship Program
  • Erin McCormick, Associate Director – MSU Career, Internship & Student Employment Services
  • Mark Willmarth, Vision West Consulting

The featured panel on the Clean Power Plan opened the second day of the annual meeting with a lively and informative dialogue moderated by Secretary/Treasurer Dave Kelsey of Yellowstone Valley Electric Cooperative.   Covered by the media and the Montana Electric Cooperatives Association, this panel probed the history and politics of the EPA ruling; Governor Bullock’s action in forming an ad hoc committee to begin state planning; and how two electric cooperatives on the eastern and western sides of the state view their responsibilities with regard to reducing carbon emissions.  The audience was well-engaged and – educated after this 90-minute session, for which we thank:

  • Tim Baker, Policy Advisor for Natural Resources – Office of Montana Governor Steve Bullock
  • Mark Grotbo, General Manager – Ravalli County Electric Cooperative
  • Brandon Wittman, CEO/General Manager – Yellowstone Valley Electric Cooperative