History of Border States


Owning our future 

Since 1952, when two entrepreneurs founded Border States to serve the electric utility industry, our company has expanded to serve the construction and industrial markets. Today, we employ large number of experts with backgrounds in multiple industriesIndeed, our people are the key to providing innovative products, material management solutions, delivery and logistics expertise and other services to thousands of customers. 


As a 100% employee-owned company with customer service at the core of everything we do, we’ve helped businesses streamline their supply chain, reduce expenses, increase efficiency and deliver measurable, bottom-line results. We have an incredibly exciting history, and we look forward to serving our customers in the years to come. 

  • 1952

    Jim Stolee and James (Buff) Thompson each borrow $5,000 and start the Thompson-Stolee Co. from their respective homes in Grand Forks and Fargo, North Dakota, focusing on utility customers. All material is sold direct.
  • 1953

    The company enters the construction market, with the addition of General Electric Supply Company as a vendor, providing access to wire, conduit and electrical contractor supplies. Annual sales reach $219,800, and there remain two owners with no branch locations.
  • 1956

    Thompson-Stolee Co. moves to a facility in Grand Forks, North Dakota, establishing the first warehouse. They hire the first full-time employee, Roy Davidson.
  • 1958

    Harold Madson joins the business, and Thompson-Stolee Co. is incorporated. Buff Thompson is named President, with Jim Stolee serving as Secretary/Treasurer and Harold Madson serving as Vice President.
  • 1959

    With one branch in operation, annual sales top $1 million.
  • 1960

    Thompson, Stolee and Madson establish two new companies. Border States Electric Supply Co. moves forward as an electrical distributor in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and Thompson-Stolee Co. continues to operate as a waterworks distributor. Border States ends up acquiring Northwest Electric Supply in Fargo, North Dakota. Thompson serves as President of Thompson-Stolee Co., Stolee serves as President of Border States Electric Supply Co. and Madson serves as President of Border States Electric Supply Co. of North Dakota.
  • 1961

    – Border States acquires Northwest Electric Supply Co. in Fargo, North Dakota, which includes authorization to sell Allen-Bradley products.
  • 1967

    Computerization begins when Dean Ferguson, Controller/Credit Manager, takes a home study course in FORTRAN computer language. The company shares time on an IBM 1130 (1 megabyte with 8K of RAM). Annual sales top $5 million. There are two branch locations.
  • 1969

    Thompson-Stolee Co. is sold to Northern Plumbing Supply of Grand Forks, North Dakota.
  • 1974

    Border States opens a third branch location in Bismarck, North Dakota, to provide better delivery options to customers in western North Dakota, eastern Montana and parts of South Dakota. The company is ranked the 85th largest electrical distributor in the U.
  • 1977

    Border States merges into Border States Electric Supply Co. of North Dakota. Jim Stolee serves as CEO and Board Chair, and Harold Madson serves as President. Annual sales top $25 million and there are three branch locations.
  • 1978

    Border States acquires its first fleet of delivery trucks to serve locations not normally covered by commercial truck lines. Harold Madson serves as President and Board Chair.
  • 1979

    Border States opens its fourth branch in Minot, North Dakota. A demo van is added to bring products and solutions to customers. The computer system is upgraded to an IBM System 38, reducing the delay in inventory data from two days to one hour, and providing more timely and accurate product availability, pricing and order status.
  • 1980

    Border States opens its fifth branch location in Dickinson, North Dakota, to provide a more central location for shipping to western North Dakota and eastern Montana. A sixth branch is also opened, the first one outside of North Dakota, in Plymouth, Minnesota, to better serve utility customers in Minnesota.
  • 1981

    Border States is ranked the 25th largest electrical distributor in the U.S.
  • 1983

    A recession causes the company’s annual sales to drop 15%.
  • 1984

    Paul Madson is named President, with Harold Madson serving as CEO and Board Chair. Border States opens its eighth branch location in Rapid City, South Dakota, launching a new logo including that features the BSE “brick.”
  • 1985

    – The board establishes the Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), effective April 1, 1984. Border States joins Affiliated Distributors, a marketing organization for independent distributors.
  • 1986

    Border States acquires Heritage Electric Supply Co. in Billings, Montana. The Minot, North Dakota, branch location closes.
  • 1988

    The company’s official legal name changes to Border States Industries. Annual sales top $50 million. There are 255 employee-owners and eight branch locations.
  • 1989

    Border States implements the Rigel operating system and installs an IBM AS/400 computer that expands memory capacity by 24 and storage capacity by 48. The company opens its ninth branch location in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The fleet consists of 13 delivery trucks.
  • 1990

    Border States acquires Korber Electric in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to expand its footprint and diversify business, reducing reliance on oil and agriculture. The Fargo, North Dakota, branch location and corporate employee-owners move into their new 63,000-square-foot facility in Fargo, North Dakota.
  • 1992

    Border States deploys its first job trailer. Additionally, the company’s sharing trust merges into the ESOP. The company acquires Sterling Electric Supply with three branch locations in Minnesota.
  • 1993

    Electronic data interchange (EDI) automates vendor invoices and customer orders to improve accuracy and productivity. Border States is authorized as an Allen-Bradley distributor for Arizona. Additionally, the company acquires J.E. Redmond Supply with two branch locations in Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona. Annual sales top $100 million and there are 13 branch locations.
  • 1995

    The company begins promoting material management solutions to customers.
  • 1997

    The first Executive Committee is established. Border States creates an electronic commerce site for customers (a precursor to e-commerce).
  • 1999

    Border States implements SAP, a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Additionally, the company conducts its first successful storm response with a strategic business relationship (SBR), helping Sheridan Electric Cooperative restore power in a time of great need.
  • 2000

    Border States becomes 100% employee-owned and elects to be taxed as a Subchapter S corporation. The company also establishes a 401(k) plan. Branches open in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Janesville, Wisconsin, to serve a long-term alliance agreement with Alliant Energy.
  • 2002

    Border States establishes an industrial supply division. Brad Thrall is promoted to CEO and Board Chair.
  • 2003

    Border States implements Haht e-commerce software.
  • 2004

    Border States acquires its first truck-mounted forklift on a 40-foot tractor-trailer in Phoenix, Arizona. Additionally, the company acquires Bates and Associates in Grand Haven, Michigan, the first nonelectrical distributor acquired, adding gas materials and expertise.
  • 2006

    Tammy Miller is promoted to CEO and Board Chair. Border States acquires Nunn Electric Supply, adding 17 branches in Texas and New Mexico. Additionally, the company develops a strategic plan called “Blueprint to Billion.” Radio frequency transactions are implemented at the Fargo, North Dakota, branch location for Goods Receipt, Material Inquiry and Stock Put-away. The company launches a website, border-states.com.
  • 2007

    Border States acquires Minnesota Electric Supply Company, adding eight branch locations in Minnesota. Annual sales top $500 million. There are 1,089 employee-owners in 51 branch locations, and Border States is ranked as the 10th largest electrical distributor in the U.S.
  • 2008

    Border States takes on Ameren/PAR Electrical’s “Power on Project” sales model, where only services are provided. The company opens a branch location in Wentzville, Missouri, to serve this three-year project. Additionally, Border States acquires Harris Electric Supply Company, adding seven branch locations in Tennessee.
  • 2009

    Border States signs a long-term supply chain agreement with Xcel Energy and establishes a new branch location in Denver, Colorado.
  • 2010

    A recession causes sales to drop 13.8% for the year, resulting in all employee-owners taking a pay cut to avoid layoffs and preserve the company’s stock value.
  • 2011

    Border States’ “Service Excellence” initiative launches. Annual sales top $1 billion. There are 1,317 employee-owners and 58 branches. The company is ranked as the seventh largest electrical distributor in the U.S.
  • 2013

    Border States opens a branch location in Greeley, Colorado, to serve the oil and gas market. The company acquires Electrical Wholesale Supply of Utah, adding eight branch locations in Utah.
  • 2014

    – Border States launches its intranet site, “Borderline,” to bring real-time communication to employee-owners. Additionally, the company acquires Western Extralite, adding 17 branches in Kansas and Missouri.
  • 2016

    Border States acquires Shealy Electrical Wholesalers, adding 17 branches in North Carolina and South Carolina.
  • 2017

    Border States acquires Kriz-Davis Co., adding 19 branch locations in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas.
  • 2018

    Annual sales exceed $2 billion. There are 2,522 employee-owners and 109 branch locations. Border States is once again ranked the seventh largest electrical distributor in the U.S.
  • 2019

    Employee-owners move into the new Branch Support Center (corporate headquarters) in Fargo, North Dakota.
  • 2020

    – David White is promoted to CEO.

Giving Back

Commitment to community 

Border States is a 100% employee-owned company, and part of our ownership culture involves commitment to community. Our employee-owners truly care about giving back to the communities where we live and work. 


We value the lives and well-being of our neighbors and those who may not have the resources we have. That’s why we actively volunteer our time and serve our communities through countless fundraisers, cleanup projects, mentoring programs and community service efforts. 


We’re always ready to lend a helping hand to make the world a better place 


Divisions of Border States

Divisions of Border States

Our company, Border States, began in 1952 as Thompson-Stolee Company, Inc. Since then, we’ve grown organically and through mergers and acquisitions with exceptional companies.

These connections have helped us become the company we are today: Border States. We’ve built a solid foundation to provide quality products, services and solutions. The goal is clear: Provide supply chain solutions for electrical contractors; industrial operations; and power, natural gas and telco utilities.


We have a history of growth through mergers and acquisitions. These connections helped us gain industry knowledge, grow our product expertise and fulfill our customers’ needs.

Our company has become a source of incredibly talented people and great companies. These companies no longer operate under these names—they do business as Border States.

  • 2017

  • 2016

    Shealy Electrical Wholesalers
  • 2014

    Western Extralite
  • 2013

    Electrical Wholesale Supply

  • 2008

    Harris Electric
  • 2007

    Minnesota Electric Supply
  • 2006

    Nunn Electric Supply
  • 2004

    Bates & Associates
    Miller Electric
  • 2000

    Electro Service Center
  • 1998

    Gorman-Bruce Electric Supply
    Gorman de Mexico, S.A. de C.V.
    Gorman de Chihuahua, S.A. de C.V.
  • 1995

  • 1994

    J.E. Redmond Supply
  • 1992

    Sterling Electric Supply
  • 1990

    Korber Electric Supply
  • 1986

    Heritage Electric Supply
  • 1961

    Northwest Electric Supply


For more than 60 years, we’ve delivered innovative products and supply chain solutions to the construction, industrial and utility industries. And the core values from our very beginning have always stayed the same: We make customers our primary focus.

Our solutions and services—rooted in deep expertise and industry diversity—make us a powerful supply chain partner for businesses across a broad, growing customer base. Are you ready to partner with an industry leader and start delivering more revenue to your bottom line?

About Us

About Us

  • About Border States
  • Careers
  • Divisions of Border States
  • Giving Back
  • History of Border States
  • Industry Associations
  • Leadership
  • Agency Representation Partners


Industry Associations

Border States’ Industry Associations help you grow your business

Affiliated Distributors

Affiliated Distributors (AD) is a dynamic community of independent distributors and manufacturers of construction and industrial products. It’s the largest wholesale marketing group in North America with 450 members.

American Wind Energy Association (AWEA)

With 2,400 members and advocates, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) is the voice of wind energy in the United States, promoting renewable energy to power a cleaner, stronger country.

Association for Operations Management (APICS)

The Association for Operations Management (APICS) is the global leader in operations management—providing improvement solutions trusted by a worldwide network of industry professionals.

ELECTRI International

ELECTRI International is world-recognized as an independent organization that provides unbiased, cutting-edge information for the electrical construction industry. The Foundation works with industry leaders and uses its resources to commission and disseminate collaborative and innovative research, education, and technology solutions that advance the future growth and prosperity of the electrical construction industry.


IDEA is an e-commerce provider owned by the electrical industry that’s designed to drive costs out of the electrical supply chain—by setting standards and synchronizing data.

Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA

The Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA) is the recognized technical authority on illumination—advancing knowledge and disseminating information for the improvement of lighted environments.

Industrial Supply Association (ISA)

The Industrial Supply Association (ISA) is a leading trade association for the maintenance, repair, operations and production (MROP) supply channel, and helps its members improve through performance initiatives and knowledge sharing.

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)

With its global membership of 400,000, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is the world’s leading professional association for the advancement of technology.

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Power & Energy Society (PES)

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Power & Energy Society (PES) is a worldwide, nonprofit association of more than 29,000 members that provides scientific information on electric power and energy for the betterment of society.

The interNational Association of Lighting Management Companies

The interNational Association of Lighting Management Companies delivers services and information, forms industry relationships, and offers certifications to enhance the lighting industry.

MEA Energy Association (MEA)

MEA Energy Association (MEA) empowers the energy industry through education, leadership development, and industry connections. Energy delivery companies, contractors, and suppliers around the country benefit from our 55 summits, roundtables, and webinars, 400+ online technical courses, safety assessments, evaluator training, operator qualification compliance tools, and leadership courses for field personnel.

Minnesota Minority Supplier Development Council (MMSDC)

The Minnesota Minority Supplier Development Council (MMSDC) connects minority business enterprises and corporations—promoting information sharing, partnerships and cooperation.

National Association of Electrical Distributors (NAED)

The National Association of Electrical Distributors (NAED) provides networking opportunities, training and research to its members in the electrical distribution industry.

National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW)

The National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW) encompasses over 100 national line-of-trade associations—helping members network and benchmark their success.

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)

With its 70,000 members, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) provides and advocates consensus codes and standards, research, training and education to reduce fire hazards and increase quality of life.

National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA)

The National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) supports the businesses that bring power, light and communication technology to buildings and communities.

North American Association of Utility Distributors (NAAUD)

Members of the North American Association of Utility Distributors (NAAUD) share information and promote the newest ideas and best concepts for the electric utility industry.

Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration (SME)

The Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration (SME) is the largest organization that exclusively serves professionals in the global mining community—helping its 14,000 members network to develop new solutions for the mining industry.


supplyFORCE is a leading organization for maintenance, repair and operation commodity management and procurement services that delivers process, inventory and product cost savings for large industrial businesses.

Utility Purchasing Management Group (UPMG)

The Utility Purchasing Management Group (UPMG) is the utility industry’s source for sharing information, ideas, concepts and best practices related to procurement and materials management.

Utility Supply Management Alliance (USMA)

The Utility Supply Management Alliance (USMA) is a multinational association that serves water, electric and gas utilities—providing its members skills and tools to maximize their supply chain processes.

Committed to Community Reinvestment

Border States Invests In Its Communities

Our company is entirely owned by over 2,500 employees, so we take community support very seriously.

We value the lives and well-being of our neighbors and those who may not have the resources we have. That’s why we actively serve our communities through clean-up projects, coaching and mentoring, and community service groups.

Our employee-owners often participate in philanthropic foundations, church groups, service groups, youth groups and educational organizations. And we frequently donate money and volunteer our time to help qualified charitable organizations.

We’re always ready to lend a helping hand for members of our communities to make the places where we live and work even better. Whether it’s company-wide or specific to our branch locations—we make sure our impact on the community is strong, active and responsible.

“I am proud to be an employee-owner of a company that gives back to the communities where it does business. It’s important for everyone to be an active member, including local businesses, because it’s vital to the growth, development and betterment of the community.” -Laura Klimek, Staff Accountant, Fargo, North Dakota

About Border States

About Border States

We’re employees — but more than that, we’re owners.

Our Story

Border States is one of the largest 100% employee-owned companies in the United States, and each employee-owner has a real stake in our long-term success. Employee-ownership drives our commitment to delivering total satisfaction — each of us is empowered to exceed customer expectations.

Border States was founded in 1952, when two entrepreneurs in Grand Forks, North Dakota, wanted to serve the electric utility industry. Today, we provide quality products, material management solutions and industry expertise to tens of thousands of customers in the construction, industrial and utility markets.

Diversity and Inclusion

Border States is a company of employee-owners from different and diverse backgrounds. We are committed to improving our culture; building an even more diverse, inclusive and equitable organization; and eliminating hurtful discrimination, hatred and racism.

We established a Unity Council in 2020 to help celebrate diversity and promote equity and understanding, so all employee-owners can build a stronger foundation for Border States and the communities where we work and live. The council​ works to develop strategies and objectives, implement programs, create awareness and educate employee-owners as we work to address the important initiative of diversity, inclusion and discrimination.

Our Values

During Border States’ nearly 70 years in the electrical distribution business, our mission and values haven’t changed. We provide services and solutions to our customers by delivering innovative product and supply chain solutions. We believe in doing the right thing — for our customers, vendor partners, communities and fellow employee-owners.

For our vendor partners, it means sharing a commitment to provide excellent service and innovative solutions for our customers. We value strong, responsible business relationships with our vendor partners, and we rely heavily on them for quality products and exceptional services because these are exactly what our customers expect from us.

Our Purpose

In our industry, success relies on aligning with a strong business partner; that’s why we define our innovation according to our customers’ specific business goals because our customers’ success means everything to us.

Border States’ services and solutions — rooted in deep expertise and industry diversity — make us a trusted supply chain partner for businesses across a broad, growing customer base.

Our Promise

Whether you’re a prospective, new or longtime customer, here’s our promise to you:

  • Experience a broad product offering.
  • Access quality material management expertise to save time and money.
  • Count on timely deliveries — even in emergency situations.
  • Talk to a real person when you call us. We provide quality technical support in multiple areas.
  • Participate in customized training from our many product and technical experts.

We look forward to helping customers streamline their supply chain, reduce expenses, increase efficiency and deliver measurable, bottom-line results.

Agency Representation Partners




Eaton’s Cooper Power Systems makes medium- and high-voltage electrical equipment, components and systems that help bring electric power to homes, industries, businesses and institutions throughout the world. Used in substations, overhead, underground and in-plant medium-voltage distribution systems, Eaton’s Cooper Power Systems products include capacitors, voltage regulators, reclosers and sectionalizers, distribution switchgear and distribution automation equipment.




eSmart Systems builds and delivers next generation artificial intelligent (AI) based analytics software solutions called Grid Vision® for inspections and optimization of the world’s critical energy infrastructure, electric power lines and grid maintenance planning. In 2018 and 2019, eSmart was selected as a finalist for Microsoft’s AI Partner of the Year out of 2,600 AI companies. eSmart has commercial revenues from large and established utilities and transmission and distribution grid operators around the world. Key investors in the company are Energy Impact Partners, Kongsberg Digital, Equinor Ventures, Nysnø, Innogy Ventures and several Norwegian utilities. In 2019, eSmart Systems raised $34.4 million in funding to accelerate its growth in North America, where it continues to expand and grow market share.


Fielda is a field activity management software that combines customizable mobile data collection, geographic information system data captures, workflows, activity management, reporting and data integrations to enhance productivity and save time and effort. In addition to the elimination of paper-based inspection forms and their respective delays, Fielda supports organizations to manage field activities with speed, transparency and accuracy.





GE’s Grid Solutions, legacy Alstom Grid, provides high-voltage power transformers, instrument transformers, circuit breakers, gas-insulated substations, switches, power electronics and turnkey AC substations. Circuit breakers only in Colorado.





Partner Technologies Incorporated (PTI) manufactures and repairs liquid-filled distribution, small and medium-size power transformers up to base rating of 30MVA at 145kV.




Schneider Electric offers integrated solutions across multiple market segments, including leading positions in energy and infrastructure, industrial processes, building automation and data centers/networks. It also has a broad presence in residential applications.




SkySkopes is a professional service provider with a highly qualified operations and geospatial team. The team operates a wide variety of advanced sensors and aircraft for transmission and distribution line inspections, oil and gas applications and many other innovative use cases that focus on adding value. SkySkopes’ platforms include drones, helicopters and mobile systems.


Tantalus provides a multi-purpose Smart Grid solutions platform for advanced metering, demand response, distribution automation and grid optimization. TUNet® — the Tantalus Utility Network — is an award-winning end-to-end communications and applications system that enables electric, water and gas municipal and cooperative utilities to automate processes, improve business operations and deliver top-tier customer service. TUNet® is deployed at utilities determined to manage resources intelligently and meet ambitious efficiency goals.


The Von Corporation is known throughout the industry for its portable high-voltage test and cable fault locating equipment. Its primary goal is to provide top-of-the-line equipment along with great customer service, which is demonstrated through its on-site training and 24-hour technical service that is included with every purchase.