History of Border States

Two entrepreneurs founded Border States in 1952 to serve the electric utility industry. Our company expanded to additionally serve the construction and industrial markets. Today, Border States employs experts with backgrounds in multiple industries, so we can stay flexible for our diverse customers and adapt our approach to their unique challenges.

We have an incredibly exciting history, and with over 70 years in the distribution industry, one thing has never changed — our unrelenting commitment to serve our customers now and beyond.


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 directly.


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. Two owners remain with no branch locations.


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


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


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


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 acquires 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.


The company’s acquisition of Northwest Electric Supply Co. allows Border States authorization to sell Allen-Bradley products.


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.


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


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 United States.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Border States is ranked the 25th largest electrical distributor in the United States.


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


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 that features the BSE “brick.”


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


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


The company begins promoting material management solutions to customers.


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


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.


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.


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


Border States implements Haht e-commerce software.


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


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 putaway. The company launches a website, border-states.com.


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 United States.


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.


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


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.


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 United States.


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.


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.


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


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


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 United States.


Employee-owners move into the new Branch Support Center (corporate office) in Fargo, North Dakota. The company expands into the pipes, valves and fittings (PVF) market in western North Dakota.


David White is promoted to CEO. The Unity Council is established.


Border States acquires Advance Electrical Supply with one location in Illinois, bringing us into the Chicago market. We are ranked the sixth largest electrical distributor by the Electrical Wholesaling magazine. The company chooses to use “Border States” as its one name and ends the use of “BSE.” A new logo is also introduced.