Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative
We joined for the savings, We stay for the safety!
OTEC Keeps the Power Running for Thousands
Delivering affordable, reliable electrical power to Oregonians living in its more rural regions is a big undertaking. It’s a challenge the Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative (OTEC) has been meeting head on since 1987, despite what most folks would probably consider modest beginnings.
In 1987, a good portion of the citizenry living in rural northeast Oregon had electricity needs provided by an investor-owned utility, CP National Corporation, which was actually looking to jettison the electrical system it owned and managed. In response to several failed attempts by CP to sell the utility, Glenn and Peggi Timm along with Dick Haynes (all residents of Baker City at the time) embarked on the ultimate bootstrapping campaign. The trio collected a single penny from each of the 700 original residents to be served by the co-op as a symbol of the community’s support for a citizen-owned utility. With seven hundred pennies in seed money, they were able to attract a $33 million loan from the Cooperative Finance Corporation and, within a year, launch one of the state’s largest electric cooperatives.
Today, OTEC services around 30,000 meters supplied by some 3,000 miles of overhead and underground service lines. There are 18 electric cooperatives in the state of Oregon and OTEC continues to lead the way in efficiency and innovation while serving some of the most challenging terrain in the state.
Cooperation is not only in the name of OTEC, it is bred into its very spirit as an organization. It is one reason why OTEC has found an excellent fit for its workers’ compensation insurance needs through participation in the SAIF OBI CompSAFE program. OTEC has been relying on SAIF for workers’ compensation insurance since 2001 and the cooperative nature of the partnership is just one reason why.
“The level of service we receive from SAIF is really impressive,“ says Debby Ray, HR Director for OTEC. “They have excellent resources to support us and are always remarkably helpful.”
One big plus offered through SAIF is its connections and contracting with local services. This is especially important for rural areas like the four counties OTEC serves (Baker, Grant, Harney and Union).
“On the rare occasions when we have an incident, SAIF has contracted with managed care organizations whose membership includes many local clinics and providers to assist,” says Ray. “They also offer us access to local safety and loss prevention training for our crews and office staff.”
The support seems to work for OTEC. This past year, they have enjoyed an excellent weighted experience modification (ER Mod) rate of 0.67 (1.0 is the benchmark performance level and the lower the ER Mod the better.) OTEC is also wrapping up an entire year without having experienced a single time-loss incident.
“Like every business, we are always under pressure to do more with less,” says Ray. “It’s nice to be able to accomplish that without sacrificing safety and performance. SAIF really helps us in that regard.”
OTEC, and other members of the SAIF OBI CompSAFE program, have come to rely on the personalized, professional service both SAIF and Oregon Business & Industry offer members when they need it.
“It may be a small thing to some, but it really stands out that whenever we call SAIF with a question or an issue, there is somebody who knows us on the other end of the line,” says Ray. “It makes it feel like a personal relationship and not just a business relationship.”
For an organization that started with three friends and 700 pennies, it seems like the perfect partnership.