The Spring Grove Communications Board of Directors includes, seated, general manager Craig Otterness, president Dave Morken, vice-president Fordyce Brevig and secretary/treasurer Bruce Hegge; standing are directors Mark Dokken, Leonard Myrah, Jana Crickman and Alan Frydenlund.
The Spring Grove Communications Board of Directors includes, seated, general manager Craig Otterness, president Dave Morken, vice-president Fordyce Brevig and secretary/treasurer Bruce Hegge; standing are directors Mark Dokken, Leonard Myrah, Jana Crickman and Alan Frydenlund.
"A lot of good things are happening in the company," Dave Morken, president of Spring Grove Communications (SGC), stated about the company, which continues its commitment to being the leader in providing the highest quality communications services and solutions to its members.

"And, there's good news in the theater and fitness center. We're always busy."

There were 280 patrons in attendance for the annual membership meeting held the evening of March 19 at the Fest Building, Spring Grove.

President says numbers solid

"It's great for the community to see the students here tonight, showing us how to use computers," Morken said in gratitude for the Spring Grove school students and staff who participated in demonstrations, showing how they use iPads, laptops and other technology in the classroom.

Having this educational technology in the school system is a drawing point for families with children. "This year enrollment is up over 30 students in the school," he added.

There's good news at the Spring Grove Cinema, a subsidiary of Spring Grove Communications. Business is up, Morken reported. "Not including Wednesday afternoon movies, over 14,000 tickets were sold last year. And also of note, 6,000 large popcorns were sold!"

Another subsidiary, the Spring Grove Fitness Center, is also doing well. It has 166 members, which is a nice solid number.

Spring Grove Communications has up to 650 broadband customers.

In the last 25 years, $5.8 million of capital credit has been given back to subscribers of the company.

"Burying fiber optic cable is really paying off. It's pretty amazing for this community."

Capital Credit distribution this year (2013) amounted to $481,038. "For the over 1,100 living here, that's a good average," Morken noted.

Manager talks about the future

In introducing Craig Otterness, general manager of the company, Morken stated of him, "He has given 35 years of his life to this company. He gets an idea, does the hard work and makes it happen."

Otterness began, "2012 was a great year as the company goes. I think it's phenomenal of all the dollars, all the money allocated since 1959 (less $275,000); it has been given back. Almost all has come back to you, because you do business with us. Be proud of our services."

Since SGC is a cooperative - it is member-owned - the method for capital credits is to reward the patrons who have been with the telephone company.

After all of the patronage amounts, SGC will then retire its Midwest Wireless sale allocation.

Of the total $481,038 distributed this year (March of 2013), 100 percent ($91,046) was retired from the year 2001. Fifty-percent was retired from the years 2002, 2003 and 2004 in the amount of $130,692. Twenty-five percent was retired from year 2005 in the amount of $21,287, and 75 percent retired from the years 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2011, in the amount of $238,013.

No allocations were made to capital credits in 2009 and 2010 as the company's profits were being put into fiber optic cable during that period.

"Our biggest achievement goal this year was the redundant Internet/video connection," Otterness explained. The company is connected via fiber from Spring Grove to Caledonia and Houston and the other way from Spring Grove to Mabel, Canton, Harmony, Preston and Rochester to form a loop.

"With Internet both of those ways, you have continuous service. If the fiber cable gets cut, you have service. It's great working with all the local telephone companies.

"Our financials look good. An $800,000 line of credit was paid off, and the company made an extra $500,000 last year. Our SGC is a $22 million entity.

"The FCC (Federal Communications Commission), our governing body, is our 'gorilla in the room,'" Otterness pointed out.

"We rely on support dollars to help serve our customers. The FCC wants you to pay more for your service. More than likely, we'll have to raise rates to get those support dollars. The state and national companies are trying to tell FCC this is not easy for small communities."

Otterness also cautioned, especially senior citizens, to beware of scams and telemarketing fraud.

"Telemarketing scams will not go away. They want your money and will tell you anything to get money. Do not give credit card or Social Security numbers out. Just hang up on them. Ignore those calls. And, you have to pay attention."

The company is planning to send out a survey soon. It is important to fill it out, Otterness urged.

"We need to get a pulse of the group and town, and what services we could offer you."

Election of board members

Incumbents Fordyce Brevig and Alan Frydenlund were reelected to three-year terms on the board of directors. They ran unopposed. The officers were all unanimously reelected to another year.