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Carmi Kiwanis welcome David Coston at Thursday meeting

Know this about David Coston: he’s a family man.

And this, too: he’s extremely loyal to his roots here in White County.

United Energy Inc. founder David Coston of Carmi displays a photo of his grandkids during his presentation to the Carmi Kiwanis Club on Thursday, July 13. The importance of family was a recurring theme for Coston as he described his career as an electrical engineer in White County.

Coston, an electrical engineer and the owner of United Energy, Inc., was the guest of the Carmi Kiwanis Club on Thursday, July 13.  Coston grew up in Crossville, earned a degree in Electrical Engineering from the University Of Illinois in 1974 and despite offers to move to larger cities (with exponentially more opportunities to apply his trade), has remained in White County throughout his career.

And the reason is simple: family.

Every time the talented work of the husband of Marcia and father of Aaron, Laura, Caleb and Rebecca has resulted in a call to relocate, he has respectfully declined in order to remain here and raise his family.

The reward for his loyalty has been a very successful business, which happens to employ Caleb, Laura and Aaron, as well as Coston’s son-in-law, Jonathan Rush, and nephew-in-law, Daniel Kearns.

Coston told the Kiwanians that one of the greatest satisfactions from owning his own business is the chance to be around his family while at work.

United Energy was founded in 1996.  Coston’s company does energy efficiency studies, (primarily for industrial customers), lighting system design and management of energy systems, among other things.  Some of United Energy’s more recognizable clients have included the City of Carmi, Duke Energy(the largest utility in the country), First Bank in Carmi, Lamac Engineering in Mt. Carmel, Mt. Carmel Public Utility and Power Secure.

Coston’s association with Duke Energy helped the City of Carmi recently make some much-needed upgrades at its light plant.

“There was some old switch gear that had some circuit breakers that dated back to 1937,” said Coston, who serves as the city’s engineer.  “It would cost a lot of money for a town the size of Carmi to make the needed upgrades, so we got together with Duke Energy and they provided the up-front funding, the engineering and the designing of all the equipment.”

Coston was also instrumental in Carmi attaining a much-needed second transformer at the Bradshaw Park substation.  Coston is a member of the Executive Board of the Illinois Municipal Electric Agency.  As a member of that board, Coston learned that the city of Marshall had an excess transformer which Carmi bought for a nominal fee, then had rebuilt in Kansas and installed.  The transformer has not been activated yet.  The plan is for that to take place some time this fall (when the weather is cooler and the cost of running the city’s power by generator would be cheaper).

Those projects helped the City of Carmi win the System Achievement Award in May at the first-ever joint conference of the IMEA and Illinois Municipal Utilities Association.  Coston was on hand at the award ceremony in Springfield, along with City Supervisor Mike Buckman.

United Energy was also hired to do the lighting design for the “Dome Room” at Carmi’s First Bank.  The room features a stained glass ceiling that dates back to the early 1900s.

Coston’s affection for this area was obvious from the start of his presentation, when he mentioned that being in the White County Farm Bureau basement (the site of the weekly Kiwanis Club meeting for many years) evoked some great memories of his 4-H days as a youth.

“This is where we did the electricity school,” he said.“And electricity school was where I got my start in electrical engineering way back when I was in grade school.  People from Wayne-White Electric came down and volunteered their time to work with us on electrical projects.  I went on to teach electricity school to 4-H kids in this room and we used to have our 4-H Federation meetings here.  So this room has lots of good memories for me.”

As a youngster in Crossville, Coston worked at his father’s repair garage in Grayville and also at the family’s pig farm.

“I think one of the reasons my dad had me work in the pig farm was so that I would have incentive to do something else,” quipped Coston. “And believe me, it was a great incentive.”

While still at U of I, Coston started working for Amax Coal Company in the summer of 1973.  They had just opened the Keensburg mine, one of the first underground mines in this area.  He continued to work for Amax after graduation and married the love of his life, Marcia, in 1979.  By 1983, Coston was the Manager of Design and Construction and had an office in Evansville, Ind.  Amax wanted him to relocate to West Virginia, but Coston chose to remain here and started his first company, Coston Engineering, Inc.  He did some work for the city of Carmi at that time.  Coston pointed out that Kiwanian Lawrence Martin was the mayor in those days.

In 1989, GE Engineering Services recruited Coston.

“I had done a lot of work in the energy management business and the regional manager there said he had been wanting to start a new energy management business and wanted me to work in it,” said Coston.“So I started an Energy Management team.  We started out at GE Plastics there, then we would go to other GE Plastics plants around the world, then we started doing internal GE customers.  Before long, I was traveling three or four days of week, and I had four kids and a wife.  That wasn’t going to work.”

So once again, the devoted family man respectfully declined a chance at advancement with a bigger company and was rewarded with the birth of United Energy in 1996.

“By that time, we had moved from Crossville to Carmi and we have really enjoyed this town as a place to live,” said Coston.“I really enjoy the fact that I’m able to work with my family and so many of my friends in Carmi.”