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Touchstone Energy Cooperatives Donate $1.3 Million to North Dakota Heritage Center Project

Posted 1/23/10 (Sat)

Governor John Hoeven speaks at the December 14 news conference announcing the Touchstone Energy Cooperatives donation of $1.3 million for the expansion of the North Dakota Heritage Center. Seated from left are Ron Harper, General Manager and CEO of Basin Electric Power Cooperative; Al Christianson, manager of business development and North Dakota governmental affairs for Great River Energy; Dennis Hill, vice president and general manager of the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives; Jon McMillan, president, SHSND Foundation Board of Directors; Gerald Gernholtz, vice chairman of the SHSND Board of Directors; Merl Paaverud, director of the SHSND; Marlo Sveen, SHSND Foundation development director, and Virginia Nelsen, executive director of the SHSND Foundation.

North Dakota’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives have combined to donate $1.3 million for the expansion of the North Dakota Heritage Center in Bismarck. In honor of their gift, a new gallery featuring traveling exhibits will be named the Touchstone Energy Cooperative Governors Gallery. Governor John Hoeven announced the gift December 14, 2009, in the main gallery of the North Dakota Heritage Center. He was joined by Touchstone Energy Cooperative representatives, state officials, board and staff members from the State Historical Society of North Dakota and its Foundation, and other Heritage Center volunteers and supporters. Touchstone Energy Cooperatives is a national alliance of rural electric cooperatives. North Dakota’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives include Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Bismarck; Minnkota Power Cooperative, Grand Forks; Great River Energy, Elk River, Minnesota; the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives (and its member cooperatives), Mandan; and National Information Solutions Cooperative, Mandan and Lake St. Louis, Missouri.

“The Touchstone Energy Group’s donation today is a tangible and enduring legacy to future generations of North Dakotans from the member cooperatives,” Hoeven said. “This $1.3 million is a huge step toward raising the $6 million needed to kick off construction of a $50 million interactive museum, a facility that will benefit the state not only from a historical standpoint, but also as an economic asset for North Dakota tourism.” Hoeven thanked the cooperatives for their generous donation, and lauded them for the important role they’ve played in building the state. “Now, with this donation, they are continuing to contribute to North Dakota’s future and the promotion of our state’s rich history,” he said. “North Dakota’s electric cooperatives are proud of the contribution we’ve made to the economic well being of our state, and the way in which we raise the quality of life for nearly a third of the state’s population,” said Dennis Hill, vice president and general manager of the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives. “That’s why we decided to become early supporters of this project, as our gift to the expansion will allow more of our story to be told and provide more space to showcase what North Dakota has become.”

View photos of the Power of the People Exhibit

“Basin Electric was one of the early supporters of this project,” said Ron Harper, general manager and CEO of Basin Electric Power Cooperative. “An enhanced Heritage Center will provide tremendous learning opportunities for our youth, draw visitors from across the country, and will give the State Historical Society the space and resources it needs to adequately share this state’s rich history. Rural electric cooperatives played an instrumental role in North Dakota’s history. Supporting this expansion was an easy decision for us.”

Great River Energy’s contribution to this Touchstone Energy Cooperatives gift is the donation of high performance concrete containing the maximum amount of fly ash from Coal Creek Station that meets construction specifications. “This donation is an opportunity for the North Dakota Heritage Center to use a local – and a recycled – product as part of the building materials. It’s another great story that demonstrates the energy industry’s many positive contributions to North Dakota’s economy and quality of life,” says Al Christianson, Great River Energy’s manager of business development and North Dakota governmental affairs.

The 5,000-square-foot Governors Gallery will host temporary and traveling exhibits, creating regional and world-class blockbuster events that capture the attention of visitors from the region and beyond. It will also be a venue for the State Historical Society to use more of its collections and develop large-scale exhibits that can travel worldwide. “This gallery presents the opportunity to bring the world to North Dakota and to share North Dakota's history with the world,” said Merl Paaverud, director of the State Historical Society of North Dakota.

The 2009 Legislative Assembly authorized $51.7 million for the expansion of the exhibits and collections spaces of the North Dakota Heritage Center. Of this, $39.7 million in state funds was appropriated. An additional $12 million must come from private and federal funds, and at least $6 million of this must be pledged before construction can begin. Foundation Executive Director Virginia Nelsen says Development Director Marlo Sveen and his fundraising team have received $3.4 million in private donations to date. She expects that the team will have raised more than the $6 million by the early months of 2010. The groundbreaking has been tentatively set for next summer.