Cooperative Network President and CEO Bill Oemichen has announced his retirement, effective Oct. 16, 2015, after 14 years with the association. Oemichen has served as president and CEO since 2002.
During Oemichen's tenure as president and CEO, Cooperative Network has grown to become an influential and highly respected advocate on legislative and regulatory issues for cooperatives at the capitols in Washington, D.C., Madison, Wisconsin, and St. Paul, Minnesota.
Cooperative Network's accomplishments under Oemichen's leadership include the following:
• Unifying the former Wisconsin Federation of Cooperatives and Minnesota Association of Cooperatives into Cooperative Network in 2007, forming the largest all-cooperative trade association in the nation with over 400 cooperative business members in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
• Drafting and leading legislative efforts to enact the Wisconsin Dairy Investment Tax Credit in 2004, which helped bring about more than $2 billion in reinvestment into a struggling Wisconsin dairy industry.
• Creating the Farmers" Health Cooperative of Wisconsin in 2007 to provide the state's agricultural producers and agribusinesses affordable and quality health insurance and to stimulate health care marketplace competition.
• Gaining global recognition as an information source on corporate and cooperative governance, including invitations to speak before the parliaments of several nations on cooperative governance issues in 2014 and 2015.
• Enacting new cooperative laws in Minnesota (2004) and Wisconsin (2005) that have enhanced local economic development by allowing community members to invest money into area cooperative businesses.
• Advocating before the U.S. Congress for health care cooperatives to be included in the Affordable Care Act. Cooperative Network then served in a leading advisory role to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in determining how $6 billion in federal funding would be used to support the development of 24 new health care cooperatives, which today provide health insurance to more than 1 million Americans.
"Bill has successfully led Cooperative Network through much change during his tenure, shaping it into the strong association it is today," said Cooperative Network Board Chair Curt Eischens, a Minnesota farmer who is assistant secretary-treasurer on the CHS, Inc., board of directors. "Cooperative Network is well positioned to continue to serve cooperatives in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and we look forward to bringing on new leadership to help us grow our future together."
Oemichen, a licensed attorney, previously served as head of the Wisconsin Division of Trade and Consumer Protection. Prior to this, Oemichen was deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and was a staff member in both houses of the Minnesota Legislature as well as the U.S. House of Representatives. Oemichen participates in a number of local, regional, and national boards and commissions, much of which he plans to continue in retirement.
Cooperative Network has begun the transition to new leadership and will soon begin the search for its next president and CEO.