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History

Historic Northern Electric Office Image

Until rural electric cooperatives (RECs) came into being in 1937, most farms and many small towns in South Dakota were without electricity. Brown County was no exception. By 1940, several counties in the state had organized to receive central station power. In 1941, the history of Northern Electric had its birth when 11 area farmers filed articles of incorporation for a cooperative originally known as the James River Valley Association. Work began on rural electrification for the people in the James River Valley that year.

Spirits were high and determination was strong to grow the newfound cooperative, but World War II brought activities to a standstill. With an unrelenting focus on the promise rural electricity offered, farmers reactivated the association in late 1944 and early 1945.

In 1945, line construction was well underway and by late 1945 the first cooperative lines were energized. After a series of setbacks and disappointments, cooperative members finally received rural electric power. Previously, life in the rural areas of the James River Valley had been essentially a sunrise to sunset proposition. The new power opened up new opportunities. In 1947, the Cooperative’s name was changed to Northern Electric Cooperative, Inc.

Growth was rapid and continues to this day. After the second section of line was completed in mid-1948, Northern Electric crews started doing their own power line construction. Today, outside contractors are used only to bury underground line. Northern Electric crews handle all repairs and new construction.

Spirits were high and determination was strong to grow the newfound cooperative, but World War II brought activities to a standstill. With an unrelenting focus on the promise rural electricity offered, farmers reactivated the association in late 1944 and early 1945.

In 1988, Northern Rural Cable TV Cooperative, Inc. (NRCTV) was created to bring “cable” television to the rural areas again not served by municipal TV services. NRCTV launched the nation’s first rural cooperative “wireless cable” TV system and our rural members could throw away their "bunny ears" and watch a selection of more than three channels! It was eventually renamed Northern Wireless and provided quality TV programming to more than 1,000 subscribers in rural and suburban areas until August of 2010.

On April 1, 1997, Northern Electric partnered with James Valley Cooperative Telephone Cooperative and incorporated Northern Valley Communications L.L.C., with the initial project to install our own Internet server in James Valley’s telephone switch office thereby creating a wide area multi-telephone exchange local Internet Service Provider (ISP). Local access is now available to all NEC members and many others in the surrounding communities. Through NVC, Northern Electric, and James Valley also provide free Internet service to all the schools in our service areas.

Northern Electric, through Northern Wireless, has since developed its own wireless Internet service. Today, hundreds of rural (and municipal) residents have ditched their slow, dial-up Internet service and switched to our broadband, high-speed wireless Internet solution.

On May 1, 1997, the merger of Northern Electric and Spink Electric Cooperative became effective after several months of studies and membership approval. Northern Electric is the surviving entity with Spink merging into Northern. An outpost was retained in the city of Redfield to ensure efficient operations and repairs, and to provide a customer service alternative for members in Spink County.

In the beginning, almost all members were farmers, but this has changed over the years. Because of the growth around Aberdeen, which is located in the center of the cooperative area, suburban and commercial consumers now constitute a significant part of the membership and the energy sales with mutual benefit to all.

Today, Northern Electric Cooperative has grown from a dream of lighting up the country to a full-service electric cooperative which serves more than 4,500 residential, commercial, and industrial members.

The first Northern Electric meter is turned on

Electricity is here! Pictured above standing next to the first Northern Electric meter are some of the leaders of the group in Brown county who were instrumental in bringing electricity to the area. Reprinted with permission from the Aberdeen American News (1945).

 

 

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