WisBusiness: UW finalizes National Rural Electric Cooperative training deal

By Joanne M. Haas

MADISON — After spending nearly two years scrutinizing 13 universities nationwide, the head of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association said it is the dedication to the cooperative business method plus academic excellence that put the University of Wisconsin-Madison out front.

“This is the one place that had that kind of atmosphere,” Glenn English told a Tuesday morning news conference at the UW’s Fluno Center.

English was on hand to announce the association was moving its university-based education and training programs for its executives and senior staffers to Madison. The program had been housed on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus, but was cut due to state budget reductions.

“As we approach that point at which we will have a new generation, a substantial turnover of managers, directors and senior staff,” English said, “This is
the place where which we will have to pass the torch. This is the place that determines what that future is going to be like.”

A 10-term congressman who represented Oklahoma’s 6th District, English said Madison stood out due to its historic commitment to the cooperative method.

“We were fortunate to find in Madison a deep and enduring commitment to the cooperative business model and at the university a roster of faculty and staff equally committed to cooperative businesses in a changing marketplace,” he said.

Among the first programs expected to be offered as part of the new cooperative include seminars on financial planning and strategies, and a six-week course covering co-op management, finance, accounting, human resources, technology, marketing and project management. Summits for experienced executives and board chairs also will be developed.

The Virginia-based association represents more than 900 private consumer-owned cooperative electric utilities, providing service to 37 million people in 47 states.

Ted Beck, the associate dean of executive education and corporate relations at the UW-Madison School of Business, said the multi-year deal begins this fall, and involves about 28 weeks of programming to be held at the Fluno Center.

“We worked hard to overcome stiff competition from several other universities,” he said. “We look forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship.”

Gov. Jim Doyle was represented at the conference by state Agriculture Secretary Rod Nilsestuen, who has a long and deep history advancing cooperatives in Wisconsin and nationally, called co-ops “a big part of our economy.”

According to the Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association, there are 42,300 miles of electric distribution lines owned by electric cooperatives in the state serving 211,000 members.