Electric co-ops’ Eddie Miller receives national award from USDA Secretary Thomas Vilsack

Raleigh, N.C. — Eddie Miller, vice president of community development for North Carolina’s electric cooperatives, along with David Thigpen, USDA-NC’s business program specialist, received the Secretary’s Honor Award for enhancing the economic vitality and quality of life in ruralAmerica.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden present the Secretary’s Honor Award to North Carolina’s electric cooperatives’ Eddie Miller (second from right) and USDA-NC’s David Thigpen (second from left) at the USDA 66th Annual Honor Awards Ceremony in Washington, D.C. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

Secretary Thomas Vilsack presented the award at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 6. Miller and Thigpen were nominated by Randall Gore, state director for USDA.

The pair was recognized for their significant work in increasing use of the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant (REDLG) program. As a result of their efforts, a number of the state’s electric cooperatives committed support to the program, which requires a 20 percent financial match to grant requests. This match goes into a revolving loan fund which continues to support future projects.

The projects funded over the past three years under the leadership of Miller and Thigpen include projects in community development, energy, education and manufacturing. Each of the projects is complete or in progress as the result of funding received through the REDLG program, resulting in more than $372 million in investments, and creating or retaining 1,700 jobs in rural North Carolina.

“The credit for these achievements must go to the boards and senior management of the local electric cooperatives,” Miller said. “Their support of the REDLG program reflects their commitment to their communities, and as a result North Carolina has had more REDLG-supported projects than any other state in the nation.”
Among the projects funded* through the REDLG program are:
• Hoke County sewer expansion, (Lumbee River EMC), $14.6 million and 300-plus jobs
• Gildan Yarns, Davie County, (EnergyUnited), $116.5 million and 292 jobs
• Town of Troy, Wright Foods expansion, $53 million, 505 jobs
• Klausner Lumber, Halifax County, (Halifax EMC), $110 million, 350 jobs.
*Please note, amounts listed are total investments.

Other community development projects included fire-fighting equipment for three communities, (Piedmont EMC), $1.3 million, and a landfill gas to electricity project (Edgecombe-Martin County EMC), $1.7 million.

North Carolina’s electric cooperatives provide energy to 2.5 million people in 93 of 100 counties, primarily in rural parts of the state.