More than 65 finance and accounting professionals from VMDAEC member cooperatives gathered at the Virginia Crossings in late November for the annual CRAFT Conference.

CFC’s Brian Sloboda leads a conversation about opportunities surrounding electric vehicles.

CRAFT stands for Cooperative  |  Regulatory  |  Accounting  |  Finance  |  Tax

Thursday morning sessions included presentations on cash management by Joni Dailey of CoBank, electric vehicle opportunities and trends by Brian Sloboda of CFC, and a RUS update by Shelli Richardson and Richard Jenkins. The afternoon featured a popular presentation about social engineering and cyberattack awareness, detection and eradication from Sassan Parandeh with ChildFund International.

New this year was the addition of breakout sessions for procurement and warehouse representatives, who collaborated during a roundtable discussion about procurement and engineering. Leading the discussion were leaders from Koppers Utility & Industrial Products, CEEUS, Wesco, Altec and SFS Tool & Safety.

“Adding Procurement and Warehouse to the CRAFT conference provided a great opportunity to hear important topics, connect with fellow personnel and further grow existing relationships,” says Brian Laird, asset supervisor for A&N Electric Cooperative. “This group of cooperative staff has seen historic changes and volatility since 2020, so connecting and communicating has become even more vital for adapting to what is in front of us. This conference provided another resource to encourage deeper dives and reviews into those challenges.”

Friday included a roundtable about work orders, inventory and billing, an economic overview by Joe Mengedoth of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, and a regulatory update by VMDAEC Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and General Counsel Sam Brumberg. The conference closed with an ethics class presented by Clare Levison of the Virginia Society of CPAs and sponsored by Adams, Jenkins & Cheatham.

“I’m so happy for SMECO to be back as a member of the VMDAEC,” says SMECO Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Beth Kennedy. “The CRAFT Conference is a perfect example of the benefits of membership. It was informative and educational. The speakers were all wonderful, and the topics were timely and relevant. It’s great to be able to share insight and receive input from other regional cooperative staff members!”

One of the guiding principles for electric cooperatives is Concern for Community. That was on full display at this year’s CRAFT Conference as co-op professionals and industry partners collaborated on a service project to help those in need with toiletry items. More than 50 Mercy Mall clients were the beneficiaries.

The Association thanks this year’s generous sponsors — CoBank, Adams, Jenkins & Cheatham, CEEUS, CFC, Koppers UIP and Wesco — for their continued support of programs like CRAFT.

“The CRAFT Conference was a success in pulling together the finance, accounting, purchasing and warehouse cooperative employees, allowing them to communicate and cooperate between cooperatives,” says CEEUS President and CEO Chad Capps. “It was great to discuss topics like standardization, partnerships and transparency in the supply chain in order to make us all better.”

–Report by Jim Robertson, Manager of Member Services, VMDAEC.