The economy is one of the big topics of discussion at this year’s annual meeting of the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives in West Des Moines. Mark Aeilps, the C.E.O. of the Southern Iowa Electric Coop in Bloomfield, says his organization is working hard on economic development projects to keep business in the slow economy.
“Because what builds electric loads for small business also makes a community thrive, so we have shared win-win resources trying to make that happen,” Aeilps says. That sharing includes partnerships with the S.B.A. and the Iowa Area Development group. Aeilps says the issue they face with businesses in Bloomfield are common across the state.
They’ve had a couple of major manufacturers in the industrial park that have closed and shut down several jobs. There have also been starts and stops with other businesses that he believes are linked to the economy. When it comes to generating the power needed for customers, the co-ops continue to try and increase renewable sources.
Aeilps says the success in that area depends on location. Southeast Iowa for example isn’t as windy as other parts of the state, such as northwest Iowa, so they’ve seen less windpower in their mix. “I think solar development is coming along quickly and will become a big player at some point,” Aeilps says.
Legislative issues are usually a hot topic at the annual meeting, but the federal budget stalemate has impacted those discussions. “There’s very little activity going on because of the gridlock in Washington, so even the things that need to be done, whether it be promoting renewable energy or whatever, can’t find the vehicle to push it through congress,” Aeilps explained.
Some 500 electric co-op representatives are attending the meeting that wraps up today in West Des Moines.