My career has taken me to 9 different locations, in three states, over a 41- year span. I have worked for two Corporations, a Commercial Company, a Competitive Local Exchange Carrier (CLEC), and DRN your Cooperative. My first job coming out of NDSU was in central MN and part of my responsibilities were to visit 8 party line customers that were not being very nice to their neighbors. The message was “either you quit rubbering or you will be disconnected”. My how things have changed over the years. Internet is now the service of choice and DRN is offering GIG service via its 100% fiber network. Well ahead of the national curve.
Since April of 2013, I have had the privilege of working with a very dedicated Board of Directors and group of Employees. Everyone here at DRN is focused on the Members. The Cooperative mentality has been our foundation for the past 68 years and will continue to be for the years to come. DRN is one of the strongest Cooperatives in the nation. Let me repeat, IN THE NATION.
I feel very good about my contribution these past 6 years to help to grow our members, employees, and company. Looking back, our company wide toll-free calling was a big boost for our local economy. The boards approval of free routers to improve the internet experience for our members along with 3 free digital boxes with our digital TV rollout was a sign of commitment to our members. The boards aggressive capital credit payouts each year is yet another sign of the commitment to members.
Our employees are simply the best! They are committed to serving your needs. Splicing fiber in the middle of the night with below zero temperatures due to pocket gophers chewing up the cable, is just one example of our team’s dedication. Our technical training and certifications by our employees are just amazing. Willingness to keep up with the rapidly changing technology in this business by our employees only helps to keep your cooperative on the leading edge. Education is a life long commitment and our employees understand the need and value of it. In the past two years, five and soon to be six employees that have completed their 4-year degrees while balancing family needs and a fulltime job.
As a company, our member equity has grown from $53 million to $66 million over the past 6 years. DRN is 100% fiber, yet debt free. Our cash position is strong. Our unretired capital credit balances are $29 million dating back to the year 2006. This is very aggressive compared to most cooperatives across the country whether it be a Telco or Electric Cooperative. Diversification into other markets and businesses is key to our continued growth. Competition from the outside into our traditional cooperative footprint is driving this adjustment on how we go about business. The business environment is changing and our traditional way of providing services the past 68 years will no longer keep your cooperative strong. Once again, our Board and Employees are prepared for this challenge and much more proactive than most of our peers in the industry.
Finally, I want to thank you for the opportunity to serve as your CEO/GM these past 6 years. With my retirement I leave Dickey Rural Telephone Cooperative stronger as a company for its members and employees. Our boards vision and collective commitment to you is top notch. I am a very proud North Dakotan, born and raised. Thank you for the memories.
Robert K Johnson – CEO/GM (Retired)