Northern Electric Cooperative
Until rural electric cooperatives were created in 1937, most farms and many small towns in South Dakota were without electricity. Brown County was no exception. By 1940, several counties in the state had organized to receive central station power. In 1941, the history of Northern Electric had its birth when eleven area farmers filed articles of incorporation for a cooperative originally known as the James River Valley Association. Work began on rural electrification for the people in the James River Valley that year.
Spirits were high and determination was strong to grow the newfound cooperative, but World War II brought activities to a standstill. With an unrelenting focus on the promise rural electricity offered, farmers reactivated the association in late 1944 and early 1945.
In 1945, line construction was well underway and by late 1945 the first cooperative lines were energized. After a series of setbacks and disappointments, cooperative members finally received rural electric power. Previously, life in the rural areas of the James River Valley had been essentially a sunrise to sunset proposition. The new power opened up new opportunities. In 1947, the cooperative’s name was changed to Northern Electric Cooperative, Inc.
Growth was rapid and continues to this day. After the second section of line was completed in mid-1948, Northern Electric crews started doing their own power line construction. Today, outside contractors are used only to bury
On May 1, 1997, the merger of Northern Electric Cooperative and Spink Electric Cooperative became effective after several months of studies and membership approval. Northern Electric is the surviving entity with Spink merging into Northern. An outpost was retained in the city of Redfield to ensure efficient operations and repairs, and to provide a customer service alternative for members in Spink County.
In the beginning, almost all members were farmers, 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 energy sales.
Today, Northern Electric Cooperative has grown from a dream of lighting up the country to a full-service electric cooperative which serves more than 4,500 residential, commercial, and industrial members.
Electricity is here! Pictured above standing next to the first Northern Electric meter are some of the leaders of the group in Brown county who were instrumental in bringing electricity to the area. Reprinted with permission from the Aberdeen American News (1945).
Northern Wireless Communications
In 1988, Northern Electric Cooperative created Northern Rural Cable TV Cooperative, Inc. (
In July of 2017, Northern Electric Cooperative sold Northern Wireless Communications to Northern Valley Communications which is a subsidiary of James Valley Telecommunications.