The Breckenridge Port Authority Board toured Summerville Electric in Breckenridge, Minnesota, to kick off their meeting Wednesday, April 24.
The business has been the recipient of several loans through the Port Authority, with a Tax Investment Fund loan most recently that helped fund the expansion of their footprint at 110 Third Street S.
Nathan Summerville gave the tour before speaking about the company.
“My dad started the business in 1985, with a building over to the south,” he said. “Some of the services we do include residential, commercial, industrial, farm stuff, underground trenching, locating, fault finding, data cabling, we can take care of that. Hazard monitoring, that’s something we do in grain elevators that monitors the temperatures and has become a big safety thing.”
The company also sells and maintains generators.
“We also have a large inventory and want to express that we are open to the public, so anybody can come in and buy anything they want. Anything that’s here is for sale,” Summerville added. “As far as farmers, cord ends, cords, all of that stuff is available. We do sell motors and we do fix motors up to a certain size otherwise we outsource if it gets to be too big.”
The family-owned business does design build, as well, for people who need an electrical plan for their project.
Summerville Electric employs 25 people with 12 residing in Breckenridge, five in Wahpeton, and one each in Fargo, Fergus Falls, Weetown, Moorhead, Dalton, and Clitherall, Minnesota.
“It’s interesting to see who comes to town to work here,” Summerville added.
Board member Dennis Larson asked if the company gets any inquiries regarding wind and solar power.
“We don’t have much experience with it,” Summerville answered. “With ag stuff, it ‘s so seasonal, that when they do need the power, it’s nothing solar can power anyways. There’s a lot of solar in a lot of areas but we just haven’t dipped into it yet.”
He said many of their clients are return customers, which is a testament to the quality of work and service the company provides.
Board member Scott Nicholson asked about the employees who live out of town, why they haven’t moved to town or if they’re interested.
Summerville said many had family in those towns and wanted to stay where they were, although the 12 who do live in Breckenridge is an all-time high for the company.
“It’s by far the most we’ve ever had,” he added.
Summerville said most of the workers have at least a two-year degree in electrician work, and they have about six at journeyman level, with his father, Tyler, at the master electrician level.
After a few more questions, Summerville said the company is appreciative of the assistance the Port Authority has been able to provide over the years.
“We’re never looking for handouts, but we’re glad we had help to let us do what we wanted to do,” he said.
In other news, Justin Neppl, executive director of the Southern Valley Economic Development Authority (SVEDA) gave an update.
“It’s been a pretty busy couple of weeks. I’m still visiting with some leads that are interested in Breckenridge, continuing to follow those up,” Neppl said. “I went down to the CVN event on April 12, that went really well. I think there are four or five companies that make sense for this area, there will be some maybe disqualified over time just because resources, such as natural gas, just won’t be a good fit. It would be a high natural gas user. But we’ll continue to work on those leads.”
Larson asked if Neppl is regularly running into the issue of companies who need an uninterrupted supply of natural gas and Neppl responded, “Big time. A business that’s a natural gas user isn’t going to come in here because they can’t go offline for 24 hours. They need to be able to have steady access.”
“Maybe that’s something we need to investigate,” Larson said.
Bringing uninterrupted natural gas to the city would mean running a new line from Fergus Falls, it was explained.
“I’m learning a lot about this as well, but it’s significant. It (the lack of the resource) will be prohibitive on any large processing plant coming in,” Neppl said.
The board reviewed March financials. The cash/investment balance is at $57,362, and MIF fund balance was at $810,803.05 as of March 31.
Discussion about the Stop ‘n’ Go property, going through a voluntary foreclosure process, included bids for the phase I assessment on removal of the underground fuel tanks. Bids were from WCEC at $1,675, Braun Intertec at $1,995 and Caltha at $2,150. No action was taken.
The next meeting will be at 4 p.m. Wednesday, May 8.
For many people, the best part of every Easter is the family get-together with relatives from near and far coming to celebrate.
Milton Krause’s house in Fairmount, North Dakota, was surrounded by water on Sunday, April 2. Because of this, his family had to get creative to get the party started at his home.
The family members loaded up on a pontoon and sailed across the flooded yard to spend the holiday with their 86-year-old patriarch.
“That’s definitely a memorable one. I don’t think we’ve ever had to to do that,” said Diane Johnson, Krause’s daughter. “(Krause) was actually kind of shocked. He was shaking his head like we were all crazy.”
Johnson moved in with her father to help lighten the load when he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The water had already been a problem for the family, but it was especially high on Easter.
“It’d been around for quite a while before Easter. We had it planned and then we didn’t think we’d have to come in by boat, but then of course they opened the dam and that was the end of the road,” Johnson said.
At one point the family thought about moving the celebration to another location, but the weather conditions weren’t ideal for Krause to travel.
“We did talk about going somewhere even close so that so many of us wouldn’t have to go in by boat, but we figured it would probably be easier for us versus him trying to get in a boat,” added Krause’s daughter-in-law, Kim. “It was not nice that day. It was cold and windy with whitecaps, so it was better for him to not go out. It would’ve been tiring for him.”
Milton Krause’s son and grandson each helped pump water out from inside the yard, kept the sump pumps going and also delivered food and water to the house. The boat trip was their most impressive undertaking.
“Everybody came in on a boat. We had a couple that were pretty nervous because it was pretty windy that day, but they made it in,” Johnson said. “After they were in everybody had fun.”
Milton Krause was joined by his two children, their spouses, four grandchildren and three great grandchildren, one of which was a newborn.
“Yes, (the baby) did come in on a car seat,” Johnson said with a laugh.
On an Easter they’ll never forget, it was fitting the family spent time sharing their favorite memories from when they were growing up.
“A lot of fun and memories were talked about. Especially the grandkids about what they did when they were little. Memories like that,” Johnson said. “Everybody stayed pretty late, had a good meal and all that good stuff.”
Rep. Austen Schauer, R-West Fargo, is explaining to a reporter how his first year at the Legislature has gone.
“A lot of great things can happen when people work together,” he said.
Then, reverting to a previous career, he points to the reporter and says, “That’s your quote right there.”
Schauer, a freshman representing District 13, is a savvy communicator. An interview with him flows like a conversation, devoid of long silences. When faced with a difficult question, he pauses and chooses his words carefully, as if analyzing their impact before they are uttered. During an interview, he tends to flip the script and ask the reporter questions, as he’s used to doing from his previous job as a television news anchor.
Schauer was in broadcast news for 35 years. He worked at WDAZ in Grand Forks from 1977 until 1980 while attending the University of North Dakota. He then worked as an anchor for WDAY in Fargo from 1980 until 2000, and as an anchor for Fox-affiliate KVRR in Fargo from 2000 until 2013. Now, he’s a hiring consultant for businesses.
Schauer said he got out of the television business because of his age. “If you’ve ever noticed, there seems to be pretty women and good-looking men that do television,” he said.
“I could’ve probably hung on. But there comes a point where you really have to reinvent yourself. It’s risky, because you have a profession you love and know, you’ve got the experience, you’ve got the name. ... and there’s a certain amount of ego too because you’re in television. To let that go and move into a new area is risky, but it’s also invigorating, energizing.”
Schauer said that although he never expected to be at the Capitol, he enjoys his new job as a state legislator. His running mate in District 13, Rep. Kim Koppelman, R-West Fargo, said he can tell when Schauer’s “TV voice comes out” and teases him about his television background.
“I always tell him, ‘Is the makeup straight?’ or ‘Cue the camera,’” Koppelman said. “We have a lot of fun with that.”
Koppelman said he first got acquainted with Schauer years ago, when they would pass each other in the hallways of the WDAY building, where Koppelman’s business office was located at the time.
“We never knew each other really well until he ran,” Koppelman said. “So, it’s been fun working together and getting to know one another better.”
Koppelman himself comes from a print media background. During high school and college, he worked part-time at a paper in Richland County. He later spent two years as editor of the West Fargo Pioneer.
Koppelman and Schauer agree that it’s much different to make the news versus reporting the news. Schauer said his first time being interviewed rather than conducting the interview was “awkward. Very awkward.”
The former media members have noticed changes in journalism and media over the years.
“We live in a different era, with bloggers and with the social media aspect. It’s a lot different than it was decades ago,” Koppelman said.
Schauer said the media’s watchdog role is crucial for lawmaker accountability.
“There’s fewer newspaper reporters, fewer reporters in general,” Schauer said. “We need more reporters. You need to make sure you keep these people, including myself, accountable. It’s imperative for you to keep these people as accountable as possible when dealing with public dollars.”
Schauer said he tries to impress fellow legislators with the importance of the media, but he doesn’t want to seem too critical, especially as a freshman. “You want to make suggestions, but don’t want to step on any toes,” Schauer said.
Rep. Bill Devlin, R-Finley, a former newspaper publisher, said the biggest thing former members of the media bring to the table is an appreciation for the importance of transparency in government. “We understand open meetings and open records better than anyone,” Devlin said. “I’ve never found a time when openness in government was a bad thing.”
For much of his legislative career Devlin’s colleagues included two other weekly newspaper publishers, Sen. John Andrist of Crosby and Rep. Glen Froseth of Kenmare. Steve Farrington ran a newspaper in Harvey when he was a legislator in the 70s.
And although Schauer too is a proponent of government transparency, he’s not above taking a joking jab at the news business and the reporter he’s been talking to, sharing his story.
“Well, if you need anything more,” he said, smiling, “just make it up.”