Electric co-ops celebrate 10 years, 160 economic projects in region

5 Jun 2015


A map with 160 dots is a symbol of economic success in eastern South Dakota and western Minnesota. Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives are celebrating 10 years of financing more than $32 million in economic development projects in the region through the Rural Electric Economic Development (REED) Fund.

In 1996, a group of electric cooperatives developed the REED Fund to provide loans to assist business, industry, value-added and community projects. In celebration of 10 successful years, the REED Fund's recent annual report highlights a variety of successful economic development loans that have resulted in new jobs, commercial ventures and civic improvements. The annual report titled "Ten Years of Rural Electric Economic Development" was recently published.

The REED Fund was organized in 1996 by the member systems of East River Electric Power Cooperative. Initially financed with $1.9 million in lending capital, the REED Fund has grown to a total capital of more than $19 million today. Touchstone Energy Cooperatives made 160 loans for $32.6 million through REED, according to the 10-year report.

"The Mission of the REED Fund is to provide financing and help leverage investments in communities and rural areas to make a difference in our region," according to Linda Salmonson, Economic Development Manager at East River Electric. "By making economic development loans, Touchstone Energy Cooperatives are helping to stimulate the development and expansion of businesses, industries, jobs, value-added agriculture and community projects throughout eastern South Dakota and western Minnesota."

During the first decade, electric cooperatives made 32 agricultural loans for $13.6 million, 73 business/industry loans for $9.9 million and 55 community development loans for $9.1 million through the REED Fund. The project investments by all parties totaled $242 million, and these projects created or retained more than 4,500 jobs. Some 89 percent of the loans were made in towns of under 3,500 population, and 94 percent went to locally owned businesses.

Agricultural loans have supported innovations in processing, services and marketing activities for producers. Business and industry loans have stimulated employment and wealth creation in the manufacturing, technology, retail, service and tourism sectors. Community development loans have helped make improvements in healthcare, child care, education, fire protection, the arts and civic facilities/infrastructure.