WBI Energy employee recognized with life-saver award

Ryan Muecke, senior area representative with WBI Energy, third from right, received the Liberty Mutual Life Saver Award for his actions to help a teenage boy in an ATV accident. Pictured with Muecke, from left, are Brian Voss, WBI Energy Worland District transmission supervisor; Muecke’s wife, Christy, and children, Curtis, Charlee and Tucker; Brandon Hoehn, technical consultant with Liberty Mutual; and Mike St. Clair, WBI Energy Worland District manager.


Ryan Muecke, a senior area representative in the Worland District for WBI Energy, was heading home from work recently when his sharp observation skills and instinct to stop may have saved the life of a teenage boy.

While Muecke was driving down a county road, he spotted the tire of an all-terrain vehicle sticking up out of a ditch. He slowed as he got closer and could see hands waving from under an overturned four-wheeler.

“I pulled safely off the road as quickly as I could and ran over to find a teenage kid with his leg pinned under the four-wheeler,” Muecke said. “He was not bleeding and didn’t appear hurt, but his leg was pinned and he couldn’t get out from under the machine.”

Muecke asked the boy if it was OK for him to try rolling the four-wheeler up enough for him to try to get out from under it. When the boy said it was, Muecke was able to lift it and the teen scrambled out.

Muecke said that after making sure the boy was OK and able to walk, the teen helped Muecke push the four-wheeler back onto its wheels. Another truck pulled up at that point, and the other driver also helped push the four-wheeler out of the ditch.

Muecke noted that the accident happened because the boy had a poorly secured load on his four-wheeler — a tank sprayer for spraying weeds. When a strap holding the tank came loose, it caught the front wheel and caused the ATV to flip down the steep embankment.

“I’m glad I was there to help, and that everything turned out OK. It could have been a lot worse if that ditch had been full of water or the tank had come loose and landed on him, or if fuel from the ATV had spilled,” Muecke said. “It was a good reminder to always make sure equipment is secured properly.”

For his actions that day, Liberty Mutual honored Muecke with the Life Saver Award “for outstanding courage and humanity.”

Ferderer named to Bismarck Mandan Chamber EDC’s “20 Under 40” list

We’re proud to announce that Nikki Ferderer, assistant to the chair of the board and the president & CEO, has been named to the Bismarck Mandan Chamber EDC’s 20 Under 40 list.

In her role at MDU Resources, Nikki provides support to the CEO and board of directors of the region’s largest publicly traded company. She is a trustworthy team player who, no matter how busy she is, maintains her professional and friendly composure and makes it all look easy!

Ferderer joined MDU Resources in 2008 and was promoted to her current role in 2016.

Read more about Ferderer and the other professionals recognized at https://issuu.com/bismarckmandanchamberconnection/docs/08chamberedc_connissuu_ae6fac43132d83

Utility group’s customer service supervisors share remote work success tips at industry conference

Jennifer Correia, customer service supervisor
Angie Robertson, customer service supervisor











While many businesses are attempting to bring employees back to the office, MDU Utilities Group has embraced remote work as a solution to recruitment and retention challenges for customer service positions.

In fact, Jennifer Correia and Angie Robertson, both customer service supervisors with the utility group, are leading the way within the utility industry on embracing and implementing a successful remote work strategy.

The supervisor duo recently shared their expertise with remote work by presenting at the Western Energy Institute’s Customer + Corporate Symposium. The topic caught the attention of many conference attendees, resulting in a standing-room-only crowd and the largest number of attendees at any breakout session.

Correia and Robertson said they wanted to share their success with hiring remote staff because utilities are losing employees due to employers’ return-to-office requirements, which makes the already difficult task of recruiting and retaining employees for inbound customer service roles even more challenging.

“We want our fellow utility companies to know that remote work can be successful, and we want to help make a shift in other companies,” Correia said.

“Many who attended our presentation found it mind blowing that this works,” Robertson added.

Telecommuting and generations at work
In their presentation, Correia and Robertson shared their strategy with using remote staff, as well as the importance of understanding the different generations in the workforce. Both topics tie into employee recruitment, retention, engagement and development.

“For the first time, the national workforce consists of five generations, and the Utility Group’s customer service team is a perfect example of this,” Robertson noted. “Our team includes employees as young as 19 years old, up to 73 years old.”

A third point Robertson and Correia also emphasized was the importance of support from leadership.

“We wouldn’t be as successful as we are without the support from our leaders,” Correia noted.

Due to the popularity of their presentation at the Customer + Corporate Symposium, WEI asked Correia and Robertson to write an article based on their presentation. It was featured in the association’s spring magazine.

About their team
Correia and Robertson manage their team of nine customer service team leads and 98 customer service representatives. There is a small staff who work from offices in Boise, Idaho, and Bismarck, North Dakota. The remaining employees work remotely from locations spanning the Utilities’ local service territories.

Support from the Utility Group’s local offices has been instrumental in helping build a culture and connection with remote customer service representatives and the company. Correia and Robertson introduce remote employees to the Utility Group’s nearest local office. After that, remote employees are invited to that office for safety meetings, United Way luncheons and other employee activities.

MDU Utilities Group is a subsidiary of MDU Resources.

Behnken named to national Innovation Institute

Nick Behnken



ESI Senior Project Manager Nick Behnken has been selected for the 2023 National Electrical Contractors Association’s Innovation Institute, a limited-entry, one-year professional training program for future executives and innovators in the electrical construction industry.

ESI President Matt Hartshorn nominated him.

“Being accepted into this elite program demonstrates Nick’s commitment to personal and professional growth and to becoming a leader in the industry,” Hartshorn said.

According to NECA, the Innovation Institute is an opportunity for electrical contractors to empower emerging industry leaders to become visionaries with the leadership skills necessary for practical success.

Selection is determined in part on the following items:

  • Examples of how the nominee demonstrates an innovative mindset, commitment to excellence and teamwork.
  • An outline for the future of the nominee within the organization.
  • Other materials supporting the nominee’s innovation ability and leadership potential.

Behnken will participate in a cohort that will meet in person four times throughout the year and engage virtually each week. The program includes one-on-one coaching, peer group discussions and a capstone project.

ESI, part of the MDU Resources family of companies, is headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, and has locations in Cleveland, Columbus and Dayton.

Loy Clark employee named Hoffman GUTS Champion for identifying safety hazard, stopping work

Brett Jerome


Hoffman Construction recently honored Brett Jerome with its GUTS Champion award for actions he took at a Corvallis, Oregon, job site that likely prevented a serious injury.

Jerome, foreman fuser with Loy Clark Construction, was at Oregon State University Reser Stadium to install gas service to a new building. A different subcontractor had vacuum excavated the area around the riser so Jerome and his crew could access it.

Jerome noticed that the excavation was too close to a base plate that was part of a six-story scaffolding structure along the face of the building. He immediately notified the Hoffman Construction superintendent and said he could not let his crew work in the space. Hoffman employees quickly shored up the hole to eliminate the hazard.

Hoffman Construction Superintendent Butch Riley praised Jerome for his actions.

GUTS Award presented to Brett Jerome.

“Brett not only cared about the schedule and production of his team but put safety for his team and those around him first,” Riley wrote in an email. “It takes a special person to see a safety issue and have enough guts to say something.”

Jay Davis, contract manager supervisor with NW Natural, said in an email that he commends Jerome for leading by example. He emphasized that everyone has the right to stop work when they feel something isn’t right. Loy Clark was working as a NW Natural subcontractor at the Reser Stadium job site.

Hoffman Construction’s GUTS Champion award, which stands for Get Us There Safe, serves as a reminder to get everyone home safely. Recipients of the GUTS Champion award must be nominated, and the nomination must be approved by several project superintendents who must all agree that the nominee’s actions went above and beyond their normal job description and that their actions saved one or more people from being hurt.

Based in Tualatin, Oregon, Loy Clark Construction is part of the MDU Resources family of companies.

MDU Resources utility companies earn high satisfaction rankings

Three of MDU Resources’ utility companies earned high satisfaction rankings in the J.D. Power 2021 Gas Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study released Nov. 30.

Cascade Natural Gas earned the highest ranking in satisfaction among residential natural gas customers in the midsize natural gas utilities segment of the West Region, according to a national survey. Cascade earned a score of 787, highest among midsize natural gas utilities in the West Region.

Intermountain Gas Company finished third with a score of 776, and Montana-Dakota Utilities ranked sixth with a score of 752.

Cascade’s score was the fourth highest in the nation out of the 84 utility companies that were part of the study.

“Having our utility companies so high in the West Region is an incredible achievement for our employees. We have filled the top spot in 12 of the last 13 years between Cascade and Intermountain,” said Nicole Kivisto, president and CEO of the utility group. “It’s so satisfying to see the remarkable results from the hard work of our employees. They take immense pride in serving our nearly 1.2 million customers across eight states.”

The utility group combined for an average score of 772, which is the equivalent of finishing 14th among the other 81 utilities in the nationwide study. The average score for the West Region was 757.

Great Plains Natural Gas is not included in the survey results because of its relatively small size.

In its 21st year, the study surveys customer satisfaction across six factors: safety and reliability, billing and payment, corporate citizenship, price, communications, and customer care.

MDU Construction Services Group ranks No. 12 on list of top 600 specialty contractors

MDU Construction Services Group is No. 12 on a list of the nation’s top specialty contractors. Engineering News Record, a leading construction industry publication, ranks the 600 largest specialty contractors in the United States based on annual revenue.

“Despite the continual challenges our industry has faced in the last few years, our employees keep delivering outstanding results,” said Jeff Thiede, MDU Construction Services Group president and CEO.

The company ranked in the top 10 in three subcategories.

  • 9 in electrical.
  • 6 in fire protection.
  • 6 in utility.

The company ranked 34th in mechanical.

MDU Construction Services Group, part of the MDU Resources family of companies, has more than 8,000 employees at 60+ locations across the country

ESI earns elite Voluntary Protection Program recertification

ESI, Inc. was recently recertified as a Voluntary Protection Program Star Mobile Workforce contractor through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

OSHA describes VPP as a model of excellence that can influence best practices industrywide. VPP Star Mobile Workforce was developed for contractors and subcontractors who move site-to-site to provide construction, maintenance and repair services.

ESI first earned VPP status in 2018.

Founded in 1966, ESI, Inc. is part of the MDU Resources family of companies. ESI, Inc. is headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, with locations in Dayton, Cleveland and Columbus.

ESI, Inc. honored with industry Safety Achievement Award for outstanding injury and illness statistics

ESI, Inc., was recently honored by Builders Exchange of Central Ohio with a 2022 Safety Achievement Award for having outstanding injury and illness statistics. Builders Exchange, a commercial construction trade association, presents this award annually to acknowledge the industry’s commitment to safety in central Ohio.

To be considered for this award, the Builders Exchange member must demonstrate its commitment to safety. A panel of volunteer safety professionals reviews each applicant’s statistical data, comparing them to national standards for their industry classification. In addition, the safety judges make unannounced visits to company jobsites to ensure they are enacting safety in the field.

“Not only did ESI’s statistical safety data prove to be below the national figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but our team members also demonstrated safety within the field during an unannounced safety audit performed by a panel of volunteer safety judges,” Barry Smallwood, ESI safety director, said. “Creating and maintaining a safe place of employment truly requires a team effort.”

ESI, part of the MDU Resources family of companies, provides industry-leading construction services across Ohio and the surrounding region.

Intermountain Gas earns 2022 ENERGY STAR® Market Leader Award

Intermountain Gas, one of MDU Resources’ utility subsidiaries, received the 2022 ENERGY STAR® Market Leader Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its outstanding efforts to promote energy efficient residential construction and help homebuyers and residents experience the quality, comfort, and value that come with living in an ENERGY STAR certified home or apartment.

Each year, the ENERGY STAR Residential New Construction program presents Market Leader Awards to outstanding partners who have made important contributions to energy efficient construction and environmental protection by building or verifying a significant number of ENERGY STAR certified homes and apartments, or by sponsoring a local program that supported these activities during the previous year. More than120,000ENERGY STAR certified single-family homes and multifamily units were built in 2021, for a total exceeding 2.3 million homes since 1995.

Intermountain Gas had 1,685 ENERGY STAR certified homes and/or apartments in 2021.

“Intermountain is proud to partner with ENERGY STAR and ENERGY STAR Certified home builders in energy-efficient new construction. Intermountain’s energy efficiency team has worked diligently to promote the use of high-efficient equipment and design to help customers save energy and money on home energy bills,” said Mark Chiles, vice president, regulatory affairs and customer service for Intermountain Gas.