Cooperative shows off new buildingCentral Electric now in 60,000-square-foot service center.
By: Ross Dolan, The Daily Republic
A quiet location and room for growth — both were attributes that Central Electric Cooperative General Manager Loren Noess said he noticed when he first reported for work at the new $6 million, 60,000-squarefoot Betts Road Service Center west of Mitchell.
Noess told a crowd gathered Thursday for the building’s grand opening that the solitude is a benefit, but the space is essential for the efficient future operation of the cooperative.
Located just south of Interstate 90, the new headquarters has 17,500 square feet of office space, a massive 12-bay garage and service complex, and storage space for trucks, trailers, poles and other co-op inventory.
Visitor counts were incomplete Thursday, Noess told his audience, but he estimated nearly 1,000 people visited the new service center.
The project was designed and built by Puetz Corp., of Mitchell, and the interior design features numerous photographs by South Dakota photographer Greg Latza.
Wayne Puetz said his father Clarence, who died July 28, built the first Central Electric building when the co-op was still known as Intercounty Electric. Puetz said completing the new service center was, in a way, continuing his father’s work.
“Thanks for giving me this chance for a special moment,” he said.
Rob Schelske, chairman of the Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce’s Ambassadors Club, recalled the July groundbreaking a little more than a year earlier, when temperatures soared to 102 degrees.
“Today, we have a perfect day,” he said. “Thank you for your commitment to, and your investment in, the Mitchell area.”
Davison County Commissioner John Claggett said the completed project makes a positive statement for businesses in the area.
“You, as a business, are ready for your customer’s needs before your customer knows his needs,” Claggett said.
Board of Directors President Duane Wolbrink said his board decided to pull the trigger on a new center in 2010. The co-op had outgrown its north Main Street location and the down economy promised a good facility at an excellent price. Davison County is in the process of purchasing the North Main facility for conversion to county health nurses’ offices and a commissioners’ room.
Wolbrink thanked the Smith family, which sold the 32-acre site to the cooperative, and joked that the ribbon cutting was being held in the Smiths’ former sweet corn patch.
“It will be a great location for Central Electric to conduct business for years to come,” he said.
While rural electrification started in the mid-1930s, it took time for electricity to reach rural South Dakota. Intercounty Electric started in 1937 and in 2000 consolidated with Tri-County Electric, of Plankinton, to become Central Electric.
Central Electric, Noess said, serves eight counties and maintains 4,450 miles of electric line and 7,000 electric meters — a density of 1.6 customers per mile.
“This is one of the approximately 850 rural electric cooperatives in the U.S.” Noess said. “Together we serve 75 percent of the land mass in the United States, and 15 percent of the population.”
Noess said Central Electric will strive to fulfill its mission statement of “providing reliable electric energy at good value.”
East River Electric, a wholesale power supplier based in Madison, will rent two service bays and office space at the new Mitchell facility. East River CEO and General Manager Jeff Nelson said Thursday’s celebration was not the celebration of a building or an organization but the customers served by the cooperative.