CEO Message — October 2020

A Tribute to Cooperative Month

Brandon Wittman headshotEach year October is designated as “Cooperative Month” and we use this time to celebrate the accomplishments and positive impacts cooperatives around the nation have on their respective business sector. Co-ops operate in a variety of industries and are found throughout the economy. Some of the business sectors common to cooperatives include Agriculture, Credit Unions, Housing, Insurance, Manufacturing, Technology, Food Production, and Utilities. In total, more than 29,000 cooperatives in the United States operate at some 73,000 places of business. These cooperatives own more than $3 trillion in assets, generate over $500 billion in revenue, and pay $25 billion in wages annually. Such staggering figures suggest that cooperatives are not only essential to those who rely on their products; they are also a key component to our nation’s economy.

Co-ops range in size from small store-fronts to large Fortune 500 companies. In many ways, co-ops are like any other business; but in several important ways, they are unique. Coops do pay property and payroll taxes like any other business but are not for profit. However, cooperatives are owned and democratically controlled by their members or those that use the co-op’s services and buy its goods. They are not controlled by outside investors. Co-op members elect their board of directors from within the membership. The board of directors hires a CEO to run the daily operations. Any margin or profit left over after expenses are paid is returned to the members on a basis proportionate to how each member used the goods or services of the cooperative. Truly, cooperatives operate to solely serve and meet their member’s needs.

Yellowstone Valley Electric Cooperative, Inc. (YVEC) was formed in 1937 and is the second-largest cooperative in Montana, while belonging to almost 900 cooperatives in the United States.

YVEC’s plant consists of 20 distribution and two transmission substations and over 2,600 miles of line which serves more than 21,000 meters in six counties. We currently have 47 employees all focused on providing quality electric service at the most affordable rates possible. Yellowstone Valley Electric Cooperative, Inc. is proud to be a living example of what a cooperative is and does in your community. For example, during the pandemic, our cooperative recently made special contributions to help assist four local non-profit organizations that serve multiple age demographics with food and supplies. This is one of our cooperative principles in action; cooperation among cooperatives.

As an essential service, and to ensure reliability of your power supply, we’ve modified our operations to safeguard business continuity during these pivotal times. Like all the electric cooperatives across the country, we are committed to “Power On.” We have adjusted our walk-in office availability, while keeping the drive-up window open. Meetings in the field and in-person service calls are handled safely to ensure the health and safety of our employees and valued members alike. We’ve also placed an extreme emphasis on the technology and electronic part of our business. This month, we launched a new website with easier navigation, more convenient payment options, and updated member information. We encourage you to visit and explore our website.

Lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the incredible effort of our employees. Who would have fathomed in March, that the COVID-19 virus would be such a test for our communities and our nation? Without hesitation, our employees have stepped up and continued to serve you, both during normal business hours and after hours in outage situations. I am so very proud of their unrelenting can-do attitude! It’s humbling to be a part of this great team.


Brandon J. Wittman
CEO / General Manager