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Otter Tail Corporation
Type Public (NASDAQOTTR)
Headquarters Fergus Falls, Minnesota
Employees 4,000

Otter Tail Power Company (NASDAQOTTR) is an energy company based in Fergus Falls, Minnesota. It is the main subsidiary of the Otter Tail Corporation, which is traded on the NASDAQ exchange under the symbol OTTR (see below). [1]

As of 2007, the company serves at least 423 towns at retail and delivers power to about 14 municipal utilities. The company currently has a workforce of over 750 employees, a generating capacity of 660 megawatts, and owns over 5,000 miles (8,000 km) of electrical power transmission lines (the majority of which are operated at 41.6kV). The company serves 128,500 customers in North Dakota, Minnesota, and South Dakota.



The company was incorporated in 1907 when funds were secured to begin construction of the Dayton Hollow Dam southwest of Fergus Falls. Once the dam came online in April 1909, the company transmitted power at 22kV over a 25-mile (40 km) line to serve the customers of the Northern Light Electric Company at Wahpeton, North Dakota.

Shortly thereafter, contracts were secured to provide power at wholesale to the cities of Breckenridge and Fergus Falls, MN (the latter after their own municipal utility's dam failed). After connecting Foxhome, MN to the system in 1912, the company connected or purchased electric distribution systems in 10 Minnesota towns (the most prominent being Elbow Lake and Morris, MN) and a second town in North Dakota (Fairmount) the following year. The first South Dakota community served by the company was White Rock in 1915. The company slowly grew to more than 100 towns served by the time the company reached Jamestown, ND in 1924. The company grew at an incredible rate over the next 5 years - reaching the Missouri River at Washburn in 1926 and approaching the Canadian border by 1928. By the end of the 1920s, the company's service area had tripled to serve more than 310 towns. During the Great Depression, the company was apparently not as badly affected as some of its neighbors but was still forced to focus more on survival than growth. By 1939, the worst was past and they were ready to move forward once more.

Between 1940 and 1944, Otter Tail added territory by merger or acquisition of 6 smaller power companies within or adjacent to its territory (these were all either companies that barely survived the Depression or were required due to passage of PUHCA in 1935). These purchases increased its territory to its present size of 50,000 square miles (130,000 km2) - about the same size as the state of Wisconsin. The one exception in this territory is the Red River Valley between Grand Forks and Fargo, ND - which was then and still is served by Northern States Power Company (now Xcel Energy).

After the final major acquisition in 1944, the company had reached its 'maximum system' of 496 towns served at both retail and wholesale. As the company matured over the next several decades, the number of towns served within the region would shrink (mainly due to towns served at wholesale changing suppliers and some smaller retail towns dying out). A few towns were added between 1944 and 1968 - the largest being the purchase of Fergus Falls' municipal utility in 1953 and the last addition being the transfer of several towns in Polk County, Minnesota from Northern States Power Company when their 33kV transmission line serving these towns approached its load limit.

A merger with Montana-Dakota Utilities was briefly explored in the late 1960s but was soon dropped due to all the regulatory hurdles involved. By the 1990s, flat revenues from the utility operations led the company to establish a subsidiary (Varistar) to acquire and oversee non-utility businesses. In 2001, the company changed its name to Otter Tail Corporation with the utility becoming a division within the company. In late 2008, the company completed a reorganization to move the utility operations into a separate subsidiary within Otter Tail Corporation.

See also

External links


The Power People: The Story of Otter Tail Power Company (Ralph Johnson, 1986)



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