By Guy Gregory
MCDC Communications Specialist
Cooperative business leaders from across three Northeastern Montana counties celebrated Cooperative Impact Week May 7-9, which highlighted the economic impact their co-ops have on the region. The Great Northern Development Corporation (GNDC) and the Montana Cooperative Development Center (MCDC) traveled to four communities (Poplar, Glasgow, Wolf Point, and Scobey) and three schools (Fort Peck Community College, Wolf Point High School, and Scobey High School) to tell the history of cooperatives in Montana and local co-op careers that are available to young people in this area.
On Monday, May 7th, MCDC Executive Director Janice Brown and GNDC Executive Director Tori Matejovsky were morning guests on RezKast, the new online radio station broadcasting from Poplar. Brown and Matejovsky met briefly with the Fort Peck Tribal Council as well as the Tribe’s planning and economic development staff where they identified needs for potential new cooperatives. A lunch presentation at Fort Peck Community College’s Poplar campus drew students and faculty interested in learning more about the co-op business model.
Later that afternoon in Glasgow, NorVal Electric Cooperative hosted a public reception where Manager Craig Herbert detailed the electric services NorVal provides to almost 2,000 member-owners in Valley, Daniels, and Roosevelt counties. The first day concluded with a public “meet and greet” at the Cattleman’s Cut Restaurant east of Wolf Point. GNDC and MCDC led a public conversation on the economic impact of cooperatives in Northeastern Montana.
On Tuesday, May 8, MCDC and GNDC were guests at both Wolf Point and Scobey High Schools. Brown spoke to junior high finance and high school business classes at Wolf Point and addressed an all-school assembly in Scobey.
Students learned about Montana cooperative history and career opportunities as well as the benefits of co-op membership. During her presentation, she showed each class videos that highlighted the different types of cooperatives currently operating in the state.
Later that evening, Brown moderated a panel discussion among three area co-op leaders hosted at Nemont headquarters in Scobey. Nemont Sales and Marketing Manager Leif Handran spoke about the telecommunication co-op’s role in providing multiple services to their rural member-owners that include land and cellular phone services, internet and television. PRO Co-op General Manager Tanner Trower briefly described the history of how seven cooperatives in Northeastern Montana came together to form the current co-op that serves agricultural producers across three counties. Scott Westlund, Marketing and Member Services Manager for Sheridan Electric Co-op, emphasized the importance of cooperative principle #7, “Concern for Community”. Westlund shared how employees at Sheridan Electric Co-op volunteer in many different community service organizations.
Cooperative Impact Week concluded with an appreciation BBQ sponsored by CHS/AG Partners at which local cooperative managers and employees learned more about the range of services and job opportunities afforded by cooperatives.
The Northeastern Montana Cooperative Impact Week was funded in part by a Cooperative Education Grant from the CHS Foundation (funded by charitable gifts), the Montana Farmers Union, and the Montana Council of Cooperatives.