UEC Announces Sale of Eastern Oregon Telecom

May 31, 2018

HERMISTON, Ore. – Umatilla Electric Cooperative announced today the sale of its subsidiary business, Eastern Oregon Telecom, to the telecom’s senior executive team.

Terms of the sale to the EOT executive team, doing business as Columbia Basin Development Group, were not disclosed.

With 17 employees and more than 3,500 internet and telephone customers, EOT reported $4.3 million in revenue in 2017. In April, the company moved into a newly constructed, 12,000-square-foot building on Southeast Kelli Boulevard that it leases from a developer.

Created on Aug. 18, 1999, EOT was initially owned by UEC, Douglas Electric Cooperative, four telephone cooperatives and a telecommunications consulting firm. Additional telephone company owners were added in 2001.

Frustrated that the incumbent telephone companies weren’t bringing in enhanced telecommunications services beyond dial-up internet, UEC led the partnership in the creation of a new telephone company.

By the summer of 2003, in addition to telephone services, EOT began offering high-speed internet. The company now offers internet speeds of 100 megabits and greater to homes in Umatilla, Irrigon, Boardman, parts of Hermiston and north Umatilla County, and gigabit fiber (1,000 megabits) to businesses in those markets. It offers IT support to businesses and telecommunications construction services as well.

With EOT on a firm financial footing, the time is right to take the next step in the evolution of the company, said UEC General Manager and CEO Robert Echenrode.

“The employees of EOT have demonstrated their commitment to the company and to the communities they serve,” Echenrode said. “An employee-owned business creates a strong base from which it can continue to grow, and we wish them great success in the years ahead.”

Joe Franell, EOT General Manager and CEO, said the founders of EOT were visionary in creating and sustaining a locally owned and controlled internet and telephone company.

“EOT has never taken a state or federal subsidy, yet we have been able to build one of the best telecommunications companies in rural Oregon,” Franell said. “Not a single dollar of profit has ever been distributed to the owners of EOT. It’s all been reinvested to provide better service to our customers.”

Franell said that while EOT will be initially owned by its senior executives, the intention is to offer all employees a stake in the business. The form of employee ownership has yet to be determined.

“The employees of EOT are committed to providing world-class telecom services to Eastern Oregon and believe that employee ownership is the best way for that to happen long term,” Franell said.

As a next step, EOT employees will be involved in strategic planning for the next year and beyond. “We will be looking at ways to wisely grow the business,” Franell said.

“Fast, reliable internet access is the true equalizer of our age,” added Franell, who chairs the governor-appointed Oregon Broadband Advisory Council. “With it, anybody can have access to good health care, education, economic development and government interaction they wouldn’t have otherwise. No other thing has such a potential for positive impact on people lives.”