The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

August 24, 2013

60 years and counting

By Dale Denwalt, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Employees at Pioneer Telephone Cooperative recently celebrated six decades of service to western Oklahoma, but that wasn’t the only milestone.

In Enid, the company’s cellular division marked 25 years with a special ceremony among staff.

General Manager Richard Ruhl presented plaques to employees at both Pioneer Cellular locations in Enid, and on top of the prize giveaways associated with an annual customer appreciation day, additional prizes and cake was served.

That, said company spokeswoman Cindy Gore, was the double celebration of reaching the important benchmark.

Pioneer Telephone Coopera-tive provides both landline telephone and cellular, but also has Internet, security system service, business systems and directory advertisements.

Another program offers digital television through Pioneer’s landlines for members of the cooperative.

Pioneer, she said, is one of the largest phone providers in the country in the cooperative business model.

“We have roughly 150,000 members and customers in the state, and in southern Kansas,” Gore said. “As far as the cooperative, we are the third-largest cooperative in the United States. That’s pretty impressive. And a lot of people still don’t realize.”

The cell service essentially covers areas west of Interstate 35, and has 29 business offices throughout the region.

“We have been in transition to remodel our offices to have a more customer-friendly environment, if you will, where customers can come in and look at cellular products and such,” Gore said.

Pioneer Telephone Coopera-tive also is active within the community. As of last year, the company had given away 269 scholarships totaling $814,927.27, according to its website.

The “Partner’s Pantry” food drive launched in 2007 donates food through food banks in western Oklahoma for the holiday season. More recently, Pioneer and its employees donated $19,600 to the American Red Cross of Oklahoma Relief Fund for tornado disaster relief.

Gore said a proud part of the business is that it offers full-service cellular stores with technicians on site, a one-stop shop for customers. That’s important, she added, when customers wanting the latest iPhone or Samsung device could just as easily walk shop elsewhere for their desired product.

“We are pretty much always on the cutting edge on the cellular side of things. That industry is rapidly changing all the time, but we do strive to offer the most recent products to our customers,” she said.

The success of the company over the past six decades is attributable to the members, customers, employees and a board of trustees that oversees the higher level of Pioneer’s operations, Gore said.

“It’s just a combination of all of the above. An advantage we have is that we serve rural Oklahoma, and our members are our neighbors,” she said.

In rural parts of the state, it’s not uncommon for Pioneer employees to also be active members of the small communities in which they live.

“We know people on a first-name basis. We have that advantage, and that’s what helps us,” Gore said.

There are challenges to operating in rural areas, though, especially with cell service that makes it more difficult to provide a wide area of service over low-population areas.

“Certainly some services can be distance-sensitive. The industry is continually coming out with products to sometimes allow us to expand or extend that service on out,” said Gore. “That’s what we strive to do — to seek out ways to provide services to all customers in our service area.”