Up until the Rural Electric Cooperative came into being in 1937 most farms and many small towns in South Dakota were with our electricity. Brown County was no exception. By 1940 several counties in the state had organized and were receiving central station power. In 1941, the history of Northern Electric Cooperative had its birth. Work began on rural electrification for the people of the James River Valley in 1941 when 11 area farmers filed articles of incorporation for a cooperative originally known as the James River Valley Association.
Spirits were high and determination was strong to build the newfound cooperative, but World War II brought the activities to a standstill. Yet, with unrelenting strength and a focus on the future the farmers reactivated the association in late 1944 and early 1945.
With line construction well on its way in 1946 by 1947 the first cooperative lines were energized. Among the share of setbacks, disappointments, yet with the generous amount of success the year 1947 brought electric power to cooperative members at last. Until that time arrived, life in the rural areas of the James River Valley had been essentially a sunrise to sunset proposition. And, in that same year, the Cooperative’s name was changed to Northern Electric Cooperative, Inc.
Growth was rapid and continued through the nineteen seventies. After the second section of line was completed in mid 1948, Northern Electric started doing there own construction and has continued to do so to this date, with outside contractors used only to bury underground line.
In 1988 Northern Rural Cable TV Cooperative, Inc. (NRCTV) was created and on December 1st launched the nations first rural cooperative “wireless cable” TV system. At one time, NRCTV provided quality TV programming to some 2500 subscribers in rural and suburban areas. Over time the numbers of subscribers declined and in August of 2010 NRCTV stopped their cable service.
On April 1, 1997 Northern Electric partnered with James Valley Cooperative Telephone Cooperative and incorporated Northern Valley Communications L.L.C., with the initial project to install our own Internet server in James Valley’s telephone switch office thereby creating a wide area multi telephone exchange local Internet Service Provider (ISP). Local access is now available to all NEC members and many others in the surrounding communities. Through NVC, Northern Electric and James also Valley provide free Internet service to all the schools in our service areas.
On May 1, 1997 the merger of Northern Electric and Spink Electric Cooperative became effective after several months of studies and the memberships approval. Northern Electric is the surviving entity with Spink merging into Northern.
In the beginning almost all members were farmers or farmer oriented but this has changed over the years. Because of the growth around Aberdeen which is located in the center of the Cooperative area, suburban and commercial consumers now constitute a significant part of the membership and the energy sales with mutual benefit to all.
Today, your cooperative, Northern Electric has grown from a dream of lighting up the country to a Cooperative which serves more than 5,000 residential, commercial, and industrial members.