Our Cooperative Response to COVID-19 with David Spradlin, CEO of Springer Electric Cooperative
David Spradlin, CEO of Springer Electric Cooperative, sits down with our host, Bazi Kanani, to discuss how his cooperative has responded to issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Across our cooperative family, amazing work is being done by our members as business practices have piloted in an effort to tackle challenges related to COVID-19. As part of this series, Bazi Kanani interviews CEOs from our member cooperatives and public power districts to discuss how they are responding during this difficult time.
Springer Electric Cooperative provides electric service to its members of five counties in Northeastern New Mexico. CEO of Springer Electric Cooperative, David Spradlin, explains how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted his cooperative's area. The oil and gas industry has been hit especially hard, which is a large contributor to the state's revenue. But there have been positives during these hard times, including how employees are overcoming and the appearance of additional opportunities for cooperatives to work together in support of their communities.
To learn more about what Springer Electric Cooperative is doing in their communities, watch the video below.
Read the Interview Transcript Here
"Our employees have been able to do their jobs and perform their jobs. I think the biggest part is that they now understand how essential that they are, and I think that's a great thing for them. Just that constant reminder that, yes, they are important to the communities that we serve." - David Spradlin
Bazi: Across five counties in Northeastern New Mexico, Springer Electric Cooperative is showing its concern for community during this viral pandemic. In this series we're learning more about how cooperatives like Springer are responding to the crisis while making sure vital electricity is something their members can count on.
Joining this video call is David Spradlin. He is CEO of Springer Electric. So David, can you tell us a bit about how the pandemic is impacting your area so far?
David: Sure, Bazi. So at this point, we've only had a few confirmed cases in the area that we serve. So, you know, from a virus standpoint, it's not having a huge effect.
There's definitely a big economic impact. And, for example, we've seen our residential non-payments go up. They, at the very first, were about three times what we would normally have. But I'll give my consumers credit, once my members got their stimulus checks from the government, their first instinct was to pay their utility bill. And so we've seen that number actually come down.
From the economic standpoint, probably the biggest effect on us has been for the oil and gas industry, which we serve a lot of. There's been a lot of shut down. I've had two of my largest loads basically shut their operations off, and that's due to the economics of the oil industry right now with the price getting hammered like it been hammered, and also from the drop in demand due to COVID and people not traveling. So they kind of got the double whammy.
That's having a huge economic impact on the co-op, but also it'll have a long-term economic impact on the state because the state's budget is really highly dependent on oil and gas revenue. So when those guys shut down, the state budget goes down, which eventually trickles down to our communities through funding for their projects, infrastructure projects, education, those types of things. So those will be the long-term economic impacts of this.
Bazi: David, you've obviously had to make a number of changes to how your employees are working in order to protect them. So how is that going?
David: So Bazi, it's going very well. I think our employees have responded very well to that. We've done typical things that most co-ops have done. You know, locking the front door to block public access to contain that. Talked to our crews about social distancing when they're gathering in the lineman's office, you know, don't do that.
I think some of the interesting effects of this have been on the communication. I think, actually, we've improved our communication within the company because of this pandemic. And since we can't get together as a big group in a room like we normally do, we've had to use other means to do that. So we've developed the email list for every employee, text messaging strings, all those kinds of things to really communicate to the employees what is important, what we're doing to change our operation this week. You know, the things that will make them feel comfortable that we are protecting them during this pandemic. And so that's what we've done on the communication side.
Another aspect is that since the governor's order did say that we are an essential service, we really wanted to highlight that to our employees. Our employees have been able to do their jobs and perform their jobs. I think the biggest part is that they now understand how essential that they are, and I think that's a great thing for them. Just the reminder that, yes, they are important to the communities we serve. So there have been some positive things that have come out of this.
Bazi: As you well know, concern for community is one of the cooperative principles. How has that played into your response?
David: So in probably three different ways I'll touch on. The first is hand sanitizer. You know that was a really scarce commodity when this crisis first began. So we really put together a program to try and get hand sanitizer. We have one co-op that found some hand sanitizer from a distillery in Kansas. So all the co-ops in New Mexico got together and did a bulk purchase. And then we found a way to get that delivered by driving it to a central location, which happened to be my co-op. After that was done, Tri-State and our statewide association decided that it might be a good idea to go ahead and order a big bulk hand sanitizer from the same distillery. And so what we're doing with that is we've each got some extra hand sanitizer, and so we're offering it up to our local first responders and those who are going to be on the front lines.
And the second thing that we've done is we're ordering lunches from the restaurants that are staying open just to keep them going, hoping we can help sustain them through this pandemic. So we're doing that.
The third thing that we're doing is with the school graduations, which you know are not going to happen because of the restrictions on sizes of gatherings. A couple of the schools in our service area have produced big banners that have the pictures of their high school seniors on them. And so we're working with those schools to actually hang those banners on our poles within those towns. The school is going to organize some event around seeing those banners. Also the visitors just driving through, they'll see the banners of our high school seniors. And, you know, we're proud of those kids. They've accomplished something and they deserve something, so we are very happy to help with figuring out how to get those banners hung up on our poles.
So those are the three things that we've done with our communities here.
Bazi: Definitely, those are all great ideas. David Spradlin is CEO of Springer Electric. David, thanks for your time today.
David: Absolutely, my pleasure.
COVID-19 Community Response
As a family of electric cooperatives and public power districts, our distribution members reach consumers at the end of the line, many of whom have been directly impacted by COVID-19. To learn about our response, how our members are responding and the amazing work being done in communities across the West, watch our videos and read the articles here.
Tri-State is a not-for-profit cooperative of 46 members, including 43 member utility electric distribution cooperatives and public power districts in four states, that together deliver reliable, affordable and responsible power to more than a million electricity consumers across nearly 200,000 square miles of the West. For more information about Tri-State and our Responsible Energy Plan, visit www.tristate.coop.