CEO Message — February 2021

Posted: Monday, February 1, 2021, 12:00 am

The Electric Cooperative Purpose

Brandon Wittman headshotEvery business, in order to survive, must have a purpose. A concise purpose serves as an overreaching standard against which business decisions can be measured. The purpose, then, needs to be clearly defined and understood in order for a business to operate from its core and remain steady, even during times of uncertainty. The purpose is much like a compass; it keeps the organization traveling in the right direction and helps it maintain high performance and customer loyalty. Certainly, difficult times and circumstances still occur, even for organizations with a clearly defined top to bottom understanding of purpose, but it is purpose that makes the correct decision much easier to reach for employees and trustees alike.

What is the purpose of Yellowstone Valley Electric Cooperative (YVEC)? Our slogan is "Providing the Power to Make Life Better." Moreover, the purpose of electric cooperatives, including YVEC, is to power communities and empower members to improve the quality of their lives. That is what "Making Life Better" means to all of us at YVEC. The electric cooperative story is about ordinary people who banded together to improve their quality of life by bringing electricity to their communities when no one else would. This is not only the history of electric cooperatives; it is our heritage. In other words, it is who we are. Knowing the history of coops is beneficial, but knowing the heritage is equivalent to understanding the clear purpose of the organization. Electric cooperatives are not distinct because of the products and services they offer; rather they stand out because of how their "bottom line" differs from investor-owned utilities. Not only do we not strive to produce profits for investors in far off places, we adhere tightly to empowering our member-owners. The member-owned structure proves a unique opportunity to work with our members. YVEC does not necessarily deliver outcomes, we are but a catalyst for our members to solve problems and make their communities a better place to live.

Our focus has been our members since the beginning. In 2021, we've continued that focus with, "Our Mission is Our Members." No time period has proven that more than the last 10 years. YVEC has seen unprecedented growth over the last decade and recently that trend has definitely intensified. Since 2011, YVEC has gone from 17,000 to 22,000 meters on our system. To support the increased load, we've added over 500 miles of new line, built two new substations, and upgraded 8 existing substations, all in the same time frame. All of this improvement comes at a significant cost. In fact, we've invested over $30 million into our total utility over that last 10 years. While the numbers and the productivity that has occurred at our co-op are quite impressive, the most incredible thing about this time frame is that YVEC has accomplished all of this without a rate increase. We have not had a rate adjustment since May 2011, and do not foresee the need for one in 2021! Not many businesses can make that statement.

Our purpose doesn't just motivate our co-op, it inspires us. The employees, trustees, and management of YVEC don't think merely of having a job at YVEC - we know we are making a difference. Our purpose is clear and our mission is our members.

Brandon J. Wittman
CEO / General Manager