A longtime leader in technology and rural utility cooperatives, Vern Dosch coupled the spirit of cooperation, a commitment to rural America, and cutting-edge technology to help cooperative utilities provide quality, affordable service to consumer-members. Under his leadership, the National Information Solutions Cooperative (NISC), became a leading provider of IT and software solutions to utility and telecommunication cooperatives, helping its members become more efficient and improve customer service while setting the stage for economic expansion in rural America.
Born and raised in Bismarck, North Dakota, Vern started his 40-year career as an accounting coordinator with Capital Electric Cooperative. He moved on to Basin Electric Power Cooperative before being recruited to serve as business manager for North Central Data Cooperative (NCDC) where in 1992 he became general manager. The data cooperative was one of six regional cooperatives recommended by a National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) study committee to develop technology solutions to reduce operating costs and streamline processes for rural cooperative telecom and electric systems.
With the advancement of digital technology and expanded use of computers in all aspects of life, the need for low-cost data software systems catering to a national market resulted in the consolidation of NCDC and Central Data Cooperatives in 2000 to form NISC. Vern became the organization’s CEO in 2002.
But the consolidation was only the first step in meeting the data and processing needs of rural cooperatives; financing was needed to write code and purchase software. Vern sought help from the National Rural Utility Cooperative Finance Corporation (CFC).
Armed with CFC’s confidence and a $7 million line of credit, Vern and the staff successfully raised enough capital from NISC members that the organization never needed to draw down on its CFC line of credit. The sophisticated software platform, now comprised of more than 25 million lines of code, has enabled NISC to enhance the quality of life in rural America by bridging the technology divide.
Under Vern’s leadership, NISC has grown to 1,300 employees serving rural utilities and telecoms across the U.S. and Canada. In 2020, NISC was named among ComputerWorld’s Best Places to Work in IT for the 17th straight year and was recently recognized as one of the Elite Top 50 for customer service by Help Desk International.
Vern retired from NISC in January 2020 and was immediately tapped to lead North Dakota’s coronavirus contact tracing efforts. The launch of the Care 19 app and strategy of testing university students returning to campus were among Vern’s accomplishments.
A noted speaker and published author of Wired Differently: How to Spark Better Results with a Cooperative Business Model, Servant Leadership and Shared Values, Vern’s cooperative spirit didn’t end with NISC. Active in local and national efforts designed to advance the cooperative business model, Vern has been a guest lecturer at University of Mary Washington’s cooperative business course and at North Dakota State University on ethics and leaderships. He was also the 2020 recipient of Prairie Business Magazine’s Leaders and Legacies Award.
A steadfast voice for cooperatives and the communities they serve, Vern’s servant leadership, collaborative spirit, vision, and persistence has enabled utility cooperatives to benefit from powerful information technology and has positioned them for a thriving future.