A Loud Thump Shapes A New Direction
My concentration was broken when I heard a loud thump that sounded as if someone dropped a 16-pound bowling ball on the floor. Though it was nearly four years ago, I remember being startled by this commotion like it was yesterday. I was sitting my office, reviewing monthly financial statements for our upcoming Board meeting, when I heard the noise in the entryway just outside my door.
I knew immediately what happened because it wasn’t the first time I’d heard that sound.
I bounded out of my chair, turned the corner, and saw one of our members gathering herself off the floor just inside the front threshold of our main office. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries – except perhaps a bruised ego along with a dash of embarrassment. But in that moment I wondered…what about next time?
Because this wasn’t the first such scenario, I decided on the spot we were going to address this issue once and for all - regardless of what it took - to prevent another incident from happening to anyone else. What if this were my own mother, or grandparent, or child? It was clear that we needed to conduct an honest and thorough appraisal of our facilities because no member, no employee, deserves to run the risk of injury simply by entering our doorway or moving about the building.
Later that year, the Board of Directors and I began having serious discussions about our current facilities. We made lists of the shortcomings of our properties and the investments that would be necessary to correct some of these issues. We came to realize that some concerns simply couldn’t be resolved at our current locations. Concerns such as having to unload material from a semi-truck while cars drive behind our forklift. There have been several close calls while unloading material. Again, we have been fortunate that there have not been any major accidents to date. However, I continue to grow more concerned that at some point our luck will run out.
Many of our members are aware that the Cooperative has two buildings that house our equipment, offices and most of our material. Our main office, which sits on the corner of Main Street and Franklin Street in downtown Elk Point, has served us well for nearly 50 years. However, the building was built in 1905 and I believe it originally housed a general store. I’ve heard several stories from some of our more “seasoned” members who still remember the days before the Co-op moved in. It still maintains some of the beautiful craftmanship and character of a building from the turn of the last century. Unfortunately, to address our growing needs, some significant renovation was in order. Even then, we would still have limitations due to its physical location on the corner of two of the busiest streets in town.
Our second building, known as the “Livingston” building, is located about a block away from our office. This was originally a welding shop built in the mid-1970s and serves as our material warehouse and garage for our larger trucks. Our trucks are getting to the point where they are almost too big for the design of this building. As a shop, it’s great. However, it’s inefficient having employees and a portion of materials located in one place and trucks with other material in another place. With the size of our equipment growing, inefficiencies with multiple locations and the limitations of our main building, we have been struggling to justify making needed upgrades at this facility as well.
As the Board and I explored all of our options, including major renovations, we realized the best course of action would be to locate a new property and build a single facility. With today’s favorable interest rates and knowing that we would not be able to solve some of the concerns we have at our current facilities, we felt this was the most prudent direction to take for the future of the Cooperative and our members.
We began to seek out a new location that would better meet our needs. This new facility would house all of our equipment, materials and offices in one location. We started with a very specific set of needs for a new property and began contacting landowners who had property that met these needs. After a three-year search, the Board approved the purchase of five acres located approximately one mile south of Elk Point on 477th Ave.
Given our expanding business, larger equipment, more materials, along with concerns of safety and accessibility, we are excited to begin planning a facility that will position the Cooperative to maximize efficiency, allow for expansion, improve access for members and enhance safety. This plan will not be extravagant, but will be designed to meet our needs now, and well into the future. As we enter our 84th year of service to our members, we look forward to setting the stage for success over the next 84 years.
In the coming months, as we finalize these plans, we will keep our members updated through our Facebook page and in the Cooperative Connections Magazine.
Finally, I hope to see you all at our drive-thru style Annual Meeting on Saturday March, 27th. We will be hosting it in the Immanuel Lutheran Church parking lot from 9:00am – 11:00am. Additional information regarding the meeting is in this edition of the Cooperative Connection.
Quote of the Month:
“When individuals join in a cooperative venture, the power generated far exceeds what they could have accomplished acting individually.” – R. Buckminster Fuller, Author/Inventor