By Tom Sobeck, President & CEO
Old acquaintances, new beginnings, I feel the same way every January as I look back on the past year while planning for the next 12 months. The process and my recollections are usually familiar from year to year. This January, not so much. While I’m pleased to continue working with many of our old acquaintances, 2021 will bring several new beginnings for us.
First, the familiar acquaintances include our three directors who were successfully re-elected for new three-year terms, Allan Berg, John Brown, and Charlie Arbour. Congratulations! I look forward to your continued leadership. There are big things happening here at your cooperative, and your board of directors has been instrumental in leading the charge toward a more efficient, cost-effective and modern cooperative.
Initiatives that began over the last few years will either be completed or continue as we enter 2021. Construction on the new Headquarters and Service Center, which began in April 2020, is nearly 70% complete. We plan to relocate operations around August of 2021.
Our Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) project will begin to ramp up over the coming months. We’ve been working to identify strategic locations for communication towers. We have already installed several of them in anticipation of further meter deployment this winter. Although we’ve heard from a few members expressing concerns over health and privacy concerns, which we’ve addressed, most of the membership has responded that this technology is a positive step toward increased reliability, reduced outage times and improved service.
Our rebranding study continues as we evaluate whether we should redefine our identity. Several years have passed since we changed our name from Presque Isle Electric Cooperative to Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op. We’re considering a name that more closely reflects our Mission and Vision—not only as a trusted energy partner, but as a trusted community partner as well.
The rebranding discussion has been of particular interest to me and has become ripe for review as we continue to explore the feasibility of providing high-speed internet options for you. Obviously, the internet is not an “energy commodity” in the traditional sense, but it gives us, and our communities, the power to prosper in many ways. Increasingly, I receive more calls requesting information on high-speed internet and whether we are considering offering it as another service. The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated at-home work and learning for many. However, in rural areas of northeast Michigan, access to high-speed internet service is woefully lacking. We would like to change that. Just as we brought electric and natural gas utilities to improve daily life for members, we believe that fiber-to-the-home is another essential service that will enhance the quality of modern living. Our board of directors has been reviewing the possibility of building a fiber-to-the-home network across our service territory for several years. It continues to evaluate whether the benefits outweigh the costs of this undertaking. Look for more news on this exciting prospect over the next several months.
Here’s to a great new year! May it bring health, happiness and new beginnings for you and our communities.