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Lane-Scott Electric Cooperative Inc.: Demonstrating the Value of Co-ops
Lane-Scott Electric Cooperative Inc. (LSEC) believes strongly in the importance of community. All employees are intricately tied by the concept that working together makes everyone stronger. The company was founded 67 years ago as part of a cooperative to help bring electricity to rural areas around Kansas. Banded with five other electric cooperatives, LSEC has followed through on this commitment and collaborates to provide western Kansas with top-notch infrastructure and consistently fair rates.
“We are a real electric cooperative,” says Earl Steffens, LSEC general manager. “We’re one of six owners of the Sunflower Electric Power Corporation [based out of Holcomb, Kan.], which generates the power that we then distribute.”
LSEC is based out of Dighton, Kan., and the cooperative serves over 6,200 customers with a total of 2,000 miles of electrical line, according to Steffens. Looking to provide members with more than just distribution, the LSEC is a proud member of the Kansas Electric Cooperatives Inc. – an organization that serves cooperatives in the areas of governmental relations, apparatus testing, loss control and safety, regulatory compliance, communications, education and training, legal assistance as well as management consulting services. These resources allow LSEC to implement sound, forward-thinking strategies to benefit its communities.
Caring About the Community
“There are around 900 co-ops in the United States, and there are probably only four or five that are similar to us,” Steffens says. LSEC separates itself from the competition in a number of ways, Steffens explains. “One of the things that’s different about us is that we have a wholly owned subsidiary called High Line Services LLC [HLS]. This company employs 40 people and we focus on power line construction.”
HLS handles the upgrade and maintenance of power lines, fiber optics and telecommunications, also handling such facets as tree trimming, storm restoration and sub-transmission line construction. This assures LSEC members receive the finest, cost-effective services, and HLS also generates additional revenue for LSEC by working throughout Kansas and surrounding states for other cooperatives.
In addition, Steffens points to the numerous ways in which LSEC invests and prepares the younger generations. LSEC has established a “Junior Board of Directors” that helps prepare young employees for the challenges and joys of working within a cooperative. In fact, it was this very program that got Steffens into the industry.
“In 1968, when I was a junior in high school, I was on the junior board. Through that I got to go to Washington, D.C., and the Hoover Dam,” he explains. “I went to college and graduated with a teaching degree. After teaching for about eight or nine years I got into the coop business and I’ve loved it ever since.” Cooperatives are not as popular as they were in the 1940s and 1950s, but LSEC and the other companies that together own the Sunflower Electric plant can attest to their relevance in the 21st century, especially in times of crisis.
It’s when disaster strikes that the cooperative best displays its virtues. Steffens explains, “In 2006 and 2007 every co-op in Kansas got hit by an ice storm that affected countless miles of their line. HLS started as a co-op to work for other co-ops. HLS isn’t a typical contractor from that point of view. So we were able to help out our fellow co-ops immensely during those times.” Steffens further explains that storm hit 400 miles of line, and HLS became one of three contractors, plus LSEC personnel, to help restore the damage. It took over four years to finish, but thanks to the leadership, integrity, innovation and accountability of all involved the community is stronger than ever before.
Number One in Safety
The ability to react quickly and efficiently is certainly a mark of pride for LSEC. However, there are three key indicators to the success of the business, according to Steffens. The first is customer satisfaction, and in surveys the vast majority of member-owners express that LSEC has exceeded expectations and that the cooperative is moving in the direction that is believed to be best. Safety, and finally the cooperative’s finances follow handling members’ needs. “Member service is always number one, but safety is right there in terms of importance. We have a very dangerous business environment. Our employees work around hotlines all the time.”
As a result, LSEC has instituted strict safety measures for all its employees. The Kansas Electric Cooperatives statewide organization produces the safety manual that LSEC and most all Kansas Cooperatives follow. Such provisions have earned LSEC the distinction of being number one in the state for most hours worked without an accident, according to Steffens. LSEC employees have logged more than 570,000 hours of “No Lost Time Accidents,” a stretch which dates back to January of 1999.
LSEC is a company that cares. It cares about the safety of its employees, all those who have a stake in the co-op, and the community at large. The cooperative likes to remind members that LSEC is not some soulless company bent on making a buck at any cost. Sticking to the original concepts upon which the company was founded, LSEC tells members, “We are your neighbors, friends, husbands and daughters. We work hard because it’s our community too.”
Serving through leadership, integrity, accountability, innovation and community involvement, Lane-Scott Electric Cooperative Inc. continues to be an integral part of regional development in Kansas.