It has been said that if you choose a job you love you’ll never have to work a day in your life. While that may be a bit of an overstatement, it is clear from our visit with Jeff Umphlett, manager of Big Horn Rural Electric Company (Basin, Wyo.), that this is a man who truly enjoys his days working at this northwest Wyoming co-op.
“It is very gratifying to work with such a great group of dedicated employees and I really get a lot of satisfaction interacting with our members every day – it’s a great job,” said Umphlett.
Of course, this is not too surprising when you consider that the Big Horn manager grew up learning about the co-op business model from a veteran of the industry, his dad, James Umphlett, former long-time manager of Shoshone River Power, based in Cody, Wyo. Shoshone River Power was part of the Tri-State membership until the mid-1980s, when the co-op sold its assets to PacifiCorp.
The younger Umphlett decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and after a few years of working for an accounting firm in Denver returned to Wyoming to work for another former Tri-State member cooperative, Riverton Valley REA (Riverton, Wyo.) In the late 90s Riverton Valley REA and another former Tri-State member system, Hot Springs REA (Thermopolis, Wyo.), merged to become High Plains Power, based in Riverton.
The Big Horn manager spent 18 years with Riverton Valley as an accountant/office manager and has served as manager of Big Horn for seven years.
Although the co-op is fairly small, in terms of member consumers – only about 2,300 – it is very big on supporting the communities and rural people who live within the co-op’s vast Big Horn Basin service territory.
By far the most ambitious economic development effort is in the works just a few blocks south of the co-op’s headquarters town of Basin. “About five years ago we donated money for a sound system for the Big Horn County Fairgrounds,” said the co-op manager. Now, with the financial support of its board, funding from the Daniels Fund, Wyoming Business Council, donations and other sources, the co-op is helping sponsor the construction of a $1.2 million indoor arena and multi-purpose facility near the site of the fairground’s outdoor arena, which is named in honor of the co-op.
“Our board takes the cooperative principle of community involvement quite seriously,” said Umphlett.
Read more about Big Horn REA in the upcoming edition of Network Magazine.