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The Great Change

by Dennis Hill

Dennis Hill

The Touchstone Energy Cooperatives of North Dakota were humbled and honored last month by the State Historical Society of North Dakota and its Foundation at a special Recognition and Thank You Event on April 24th for a contribution we made to expand the North Dakota Heritage Center.

In 2008, the rural electric cooperatives operating in the state pledged over $1.3 million to expand the Center, part of a $12 million private sector fundraising goal. The 2009 legislature then approved $39.7 million for the expansion.  Our early contribution to Heritage Center project helped to build support in the legislature for this expansion.

On April 28th, the Heritage Center opened the doors with two of the four galleries installed and completed. The entire expansion is slated to be open the first week of November 2014, in conjunction with the celebration of 125 years of statehood for North Dakota.

We are proud to have made this contribution. We're proud of our past. We’re proud of our story. We’re proud of the contribution we have made to improving the quality of life and raising the standard of living in our great state through the delivery of electric power for the past 75 years. Best of all, we think the future is bright.

The newly-expanded Heritage Center is going to be a showcase for the North Dakota story. Many are already calling it the “Smithsonian on the Prairie.” It’s that spectacular.  It will be a regional and national destination for travelers.

The Touchstone Energy Cooperatives of North Dakota who joined together to help expand the North Dakota Heritage Center are: The North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives, Mandan (representing 16 local distribution cooperatives across the state); Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Bismarck; Great River Energy, Maple Grove, MN; Minnkota Power Cooperative, Grand Forks; and the National Information Solutions Cooperative, also in Mandan and Lake St. Louis, Missouri.

For this contribution, the Touchstone Energy Cooperatives of North Dakota earned naming rights for one of the galleries. We chose for our name to be associated with the Governors Gallery. This gallery will house temporary and traveling exhibits from local and international sources for periods of time.

The first exhibit in the Governors Gallery will be ours.  It will tell the story of rural electrification in North Dakota and the profound impact it has had on improving quality of life and raising the standard of living. This impact was recognized by UND history professor Elywn B. Robinson in his textbook, “The History of North Dakota.”

In Chapter 20, he wrote about Revolutionary Change in the Postwar Years. In it, he describes several positive things helping the state fight its way out of the Great Depression. Then, in the first line of the first paragraph on page 447 he writes:  "The great change, however, was rural electrification."

This “great change” is a story worth remembering. That’s why we’re so proud to have our story be among the many told and displayed in the newly expanded North Dakota Heritage Center.

 


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