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Lindley Estes is a business writer for The Free Lance-Star and This blog is on Fredericksburg-area business. Send an e-mail to Lindley Estes.

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Getting to know REC’s Kent Farmer

Kent Farmer

As president and CEO of Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, Kent Farmer has a pretty good read on the economic health of the Fredericksburg area.

When the region is growing, REC adds customers. In the boom of the mid-2000s the Spotsylvania County-based not-for-profit was adding 4,000 to 5,000 new customers a year, both business and residential.

Since the recession hit, REC’s volume of new hookups has slowed to about 1,000 to 2,000 annually. Thus far, despite signs of economic improvement locally, Farmer hasn’t seen a pickup in new connections. But he says more prospects are starting to enter the development pipeline, and he’s bullish on the region long-term.

Farmer has a number of reasons for that viewpoint, including the region’s quality of life, strategic location between Richmond and Washington, and stable employment market. Over time, as technology improves, he thinks more companies will decide to locate here rather than forcing their workforce to navigate the parking lot that is Interstate 95.

It’s Farmer’s job to make sure REC is ready to provide those incoming businesses and residents with affordable and reliable electricity. Most of Caroline and Spotsylvania counties are in REC’s service area, which includes portions of 22 Virginia counties and about 16,000 miles of electrical line and 155,000 connections.

Like other electric cooperatives, REC serves a territory that is too rural for investor-owned utilities to enter. Yet REC’s service area includes parts of counties that have rapidly urbanized, including Spotsylvania. Corporate customers include Bear Island Paper Company, Kings Dominion, McKesson Corp. and Terremark. REC wants to play a role in attracting more companies and hence jobs.

Farmer came to REC as a management trainee in November 1979, not long after earning his bachelor’s degree in business management from Radford University. He later got a second undergraduate degree in accounting and finance from the University of Mary Washington.

Over the past nearly 33 years Farmer has worked in just about every part of REC’s operation. He became president and CEO in February 2004, after five years as vice president and chief operating officer. He oversees a growing staff of about 420 people.

Farmer grew up in Caroline and still lives there today with his wife. They have two grown children. The James Monroe High School graduate is deeply involved in the community, including board positions with the Fredericksburg Regional Alliance and Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center.

This profile is part of The Free Lance-Star’s annual Guide To Living publication, which will run in the print version of the FLS on July 14.