Stay Basin: Always encouraging innovation, both at work and with family

Stay Basin, Laura Dronen

Dakota Gasification Company’s process engineering supervisor Laura Dronen says when she wants a new challenge in her job she doesn’t have to look beyond the building’s own front doors. “Dakota Gas is a very dynamic plant – the only one like it in the world. And it has very unique engineering processes, not like a refinery where they’re all basically the same,” she says.

Because of this, she says there is always something new to learn and innovative projects to develop, such as the urea project, an idea that started with the process engineering department. Construction on a urea production facility is under way. When completed, it will begin producing urea, a granular fertilizer used in the agriculture industry. The facility is expected to be complete later this year. Projects like this are what keeps Dronen excited about working for Basin Electric. “We’re always on the lookout for the next big thing,” she says. “It’s so exciting to know there are always new challenges awaiting us.”

The engineers she works with are another part of the job she values, saying they make her job easy. “We get along very well and we have a lot of fun,” she says.

Growing up in Bismarck, Dronen says she loves living in Hazen, where she has “elbow room,” and where she and her husband, Jon, Basin Electric procurement operations administrator, can raise their two children, seven-year-old Caitlin and four-year-old Dillon, in a safe, small-town environment.

Basin Electric’s dedication to innovation extends beyond the walls of the cooperative’s buildings, embracing problems employees face outside of work. When Dronen’s longtime daycare provider retired last spring, she learned firsthand of a serious need among Dakota Gas employees and the community as a whole. “There is a major daycare shortage in Mercer County,” she says. “We have had four different providers in the past year, and many of the engineers here are just starting families and facing the same struggles. So I approached my manager and asked if there was anything we could do to help solve this problem.”

In just one year’s time, Dronen and several other Basin Electric employees joined together with other Mercer County businesses and with the assistance of the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives, have formed the state’s first cooperative child care center, Energy Capital Cooperative Child Care, which is set to open its doors later in May.

True to the cooperative spirit, the Dronens have joined with many other parents and community volunteers to renovate the former New Bethel Congregational Church, which held its last service in fall of 2016. The building was purchased in November and except for the plumbing and electrical, has been remodeled completely by volunteers.

Dronen says she is proud to work for a company that places so much value in its employees, both on and off the job. “In June I will have been working for Dakota Gas for 13 years, but it doesn’t seem that long,” she says. “It’s a great thing to be able to come to work and love your job.”

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