By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
The Little Falls Chamber of Commerce has named Central Minnesota Electric (CME) as the Small Business of the Year for 2012. The annual award has been presented to deserving companies for five years.
CME Owners Al Poser and John Wippler grew up next door to each other in rural Randall.
Wippler remembers the day Poser moved in and said, “Al took my deer hunting spot.”
The two played not only softball together but were also good friends. When the two got to the time in their lives when they needed to go to work, they started Central Minnesota Electric. And they started it in the same place many people start a new business: in the garage. That was in 1984.
As CME grew, they moved in 1989 to a leased building in the Little Falls Industrial Park. In 1990, they purchased their current building and its contents from Falls Electric.
The building on Haven Road has not changed much, but Poser and Wippler did purchase the storage building next door in 2006.
“In 2010, when Belle Prairie was annexed to Little Falls, Haven Road was resurfaced,” said Poser. “We lost some parking area, so we had to cut trees to the south to add additional parking.”
CME works with a full gamut of customers. It does electrical work on new construction of both homes and businesses. It works with agriculture and dairy operations, remodeling, commercial and industrial businesses. CME also installs security and backup generator systems. The company’s electricians travel to work throughout Morrison County and parts of Todd County.
“With the downturn in the economy, people are building additions to their homes instead of moving to a larger residence,” said Wippler, who graduated from Staples Technical School. “They are remodeling and doing electric retrofitting with the rebates offered from power companies. People are making their homes more energy efficient. That seems to be today’s trend.”
Volunteering in the community is one criteria looked at when naming the Small Business of the Year. Poser works with the Chamber during the Arts and Crafts Fair, the Antiques and Collectibles Fair, the Dam Festival and helps with the Christmas lighting throughout the city.
An anonymous nomination for CME said the vendors at the Arts and Crafts Fair all know the CME crew as the “make it work” guys.
The nominating letter also said CME worked on the three granite “Welcome to Little Falls” signs. Besides installing the signs, CME continues to do regular maintenance.
“I was one of a few who instigated changing the Christmas lighting to LED lights,” Poser said. “The old ones burned out too quickly and were easily damaged by weather. The LEDs have a longer life and are made of hard plastic to withstand hail storms. It took a lot of time to change the damaged bulbs each time a storm came through.”
Wippler volunteers his time and energy supplying electrical equipment for various church bazaars and Randall’s Fourth of July celebration. He also donates equipment for other non-profits, such as the Boy Scouts.
Poser and Wippler are members of the Minnesota Electrical Association, Central Minnesota Builders Association, North Central Electrical League, the National Association of Home Builders, the Little Falls Chamber of Commerce, the Lincoln Area Business Association and the Randall Business Group.
Both Wippler and Poser credit their employees with their success.
“We wouldn’t be where we are today without our great employees,” said Wippler. “They represent the company out in the community.”
Poser also said that without the support of their families from the start, it would have been tough.
“We get calls at all hours, seven days a week. In the beginning, we did it all. Now we call around to find an employee able to do the work. If we can’t find one, John or I take the service call,” said Poser.
Wippler said he feels honored that someone thought enough of CME to nominate the company for the award.
Poser said it’s always nice to be appreciated for doing a job well.
Wippler and his wife Mona have three children, one grandchild and one on the way.
Poser and his wife Bernie have five children, five grandchildren and two on the way.
The Little Falls Chamber chooses the Small Business of the Year with criteria that it have less than 25 employees. CME has 12 full-time employees.
The Chamber also requires the company have a family-friendly work environment, be a member of the Chamber and be involved in the community through events or with financial support.
CME will be honored during a dinner at the Little Falls Ballroom Thursday, along with Perkins, the Large Business of the Year and Ashley Posterick, the Volunteer of the Year.