Our Cooperative Response to COVID-19 with Dennis Herman, GM of Highline Electric Association
Dennis Herman, General Manager of Highline Electric Association, 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 pivoted 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.
Highline Electric Association, headquartered in Holyoke, Colo., serves part of northeast Colorado and into neighboring Nebraska. Dennis Herman joins Bazi Kanani to discuss how this pandemic is affecting their communities and how their area's economy is uniquely susceptible to strain as a result. Highline has enacted several creative solutions to keep their communities connected and supported during these difficult times.
To learn more about what Highline Electric Association is doing in their communities, watch the video below.
Read the Interview Transcript Here
"One of the things we've focused on is our local businesses and trying to connect with our local community and let them know that there are businesses that are still open, maybe just operating a little bit differently. So we've used our Facebook page to just highlight those local businesses."
Bazi: Across 11 counties on the fruited plains of Northeastern Colorado into neighboring Nebraska, Highline Electric Association is connecting with the community during this viral pandemic. In this series, we're learning more about how cooperatives like Highline are responding to the crisis while making sure vital electricity is something their members can count on.
Joining this video call is Dennis Herman. He is the General Manager of the Highline Electric Association. Dennis, can you tell us a bit about how this pandemic is affecting your area?
Dennis: Sure, Bazi. Some of the impacts here are just the same as they are anywhere else. Schools are closed, people are staying at home or practicing social distancing and, definitely, our restaurants and some of the small retail businesses are really struggling. The big difference here is our economy's really agricultural-based and, up to this point, it's kind of been business as usual for the farmers. The concern we have going forward is we raise a lot of irrigated crops here, like corn. Corn is used in ethanol production, and our concern is that with the downtrend in oil and gas markets that's been exacerbated by the pandemic, that that downward pressure on the corn market will really affect our economy going forward.
Bazi: Electrical cooperatives have a long history of really showing concern for community. Dennis, can you tell us how there at Highline Electric you've been able to connect and help your community in these times?
Dennis: Yeah, related to our concern for the economic activity, one of the things we've focused on is our local businesses and trying to connect with our local community and let them know that there are businesses that are still open, maybe just operating a little bit differently. So we've used our Facebook page to just highlight those local businesses and just kind of point out that, yeah, they're still open. But maybe their hours of operation have changed or maybe they're doing things differently, like curbside or delivery. So we've used our social media presence to do that, as well.
One of the things that was really different for this year is we weren't able to hold our annual meeting due to limitations on large gatherings. Historically we would get donations from our vendors and we would then utilize our prize drawings throughout that annual meeting. One of the things we did is we took the cash portion of those donations and redirected it to our HEA Cares Fund. HEA Cares is an employee-funded fund that we use to help our membership in need. And then one of the other things we missed by not having that annual meeting was the chance to announce our scholarship winners at that meeting. So, again, we used our Facebook page and our website to announce those through our social media presence.
Bazi: Taking a look at your Facebook page, Dennis, I also like that you've been thinking about all the kids that are home from school.
Dennis: Yeah, one of the things we've tried to do is to help out kids that are home from school and the parents that are home with them. We came up with the concept of Watts Up Wednesdays where we encourage kids to ask a question about electricity and then every Wednesday we have an employee that will answer one of the questions from the previous week.
Bazi: That's a great idea. Dennis Herman is from the Highline Electric Association. Thanks for your time, Dennis.
Dennis: Thank you.
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 are 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.