Freeborn-Mower Electric Cooperative celebrates new headquarters

Published 4:16 pm Thursday, June 24, 2021

Freeborn-Mower Electric Cooperative, community leaders and contractors celebrated the opening of the cooperative’s new headquarters Wednesday afternoon with a ribbon cutting ceremony and tours of the facility.

Cooperative President and CEO Jim Krueger said the building was the culmination of many years of hard work, and despite the construction being done during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, all of the partners came together and worked well. The project even came in under budget.

“The new facility provides much-needed additional space, improved security, updated technology and enhanced operational efficiencies,” Krueger said. “All of our equipment, trucks and employees are now in one location.”

The need for the new space came after Freeborn-Mower Electric Cooperative and 11 other electric cooperatives came together in 2012 with the idea of approaching Alliant Energy to acquire its service territory in southern Minnesota, he said. In 2015, they closed on the deal, and with the acquisition, Freeborn-Mower alone acquired an additional 15,000 members, and they also took on many of Alliant Energy’s employees.

The cooperative began studying its facility needs with the increased employees, and River Valley Architects conducted a building study. They ultimately reached a conclusion to construct a new building on a new site.

The cooperative purchased land north of interstate 90 and in late 2019 decided to move forward with construction. On March 17, 2020, the project went out for bids, and shortly after the shutdown began because of COVID-19.

Krueger said the cooperative’s board had long discussions about whether to continue with the project  during the pandemic and ultimately decided to move forward. He said bids were priced aggressively and came in about $2 million under the $19.5 or $20 million price they had originally estimated the new facility would cost. They also thought it would be good to keep the local jobs during the pandemic.

The total building project was completed on time and ultimately came in around $17 million, which was an addition about $500,000 under budget.

He noted if the board had decided to wait another year, materials would have been 20 to 30% higher and many construction materials may not have even been readily available.

He thanked the board members, the cooperative’s employees, River Valley Architects, general contractor Market & Johnson, many local contractors, the landowner who sold the cooperative the company and city and county leaders for their help with the project.

Though building a new facility during a pandemic was slightly challenging, he said the overall project was smooth and successful.

“Market & Johnson and River Valley Architects were professional and completed the project on time,” he said. “Constructing a facility of this size was beneficial to our community as we were able to hire several local subcontractors and this project brought in additional contractors over the past year to stimulate our local economy.”

The new facility, at 3366 Bridge Ave., is about 97,000 square feet and was built on about 25.6 acres of land.

Krueger said the cooperative’s former location, at 2501 E. Main St., has been sold and is now owned by Ulland Bros.

“The timing was perfect for both parties and the sale is now final,” he said. “We’re fortunate that the process went so smoothly, and we wish the new owners well in that location.”

Following the ribbon-cutting ceremony, guests were invited for refreshments in the new building and people could take tours of the space as well.

The cooperative has been in Albert Lea since 1936.