18:00 PM

Perspective: Cooperative Difference

You don’t have a power company. Power companies have customers. You’re a member of an electric cooperative. There is a difference.

One thing that has always excited me about cooperatives is the power they give to a group or people to accomplish things they couldn’t do on their own.

When the rural families in Northeast Georgia couldn’t get electricity to their homes and farms any other way, they got together and made it happen themselves. It’s the same story no matter what kind of cooperative you’re talking about – farming cooperatives, banking cooperatives, insurance cooperatives – people made it happen.

So what’s really different about being a member of a cooperative?

In many utilities, the owners are people who have purchased stock in the company. They don’t necessarily use that utility’s electricity, but they have a say in how that company is run anyway. In a cooperative, the people who use the electricity are also the owners. That means, as members, you have a voice. You elect directors who make decisions about how we govern our co-op and set its policies.

And you’re involved in the decision making. In September, our members decided on amendments proposed to our Bylaws that expand the nomination and election process for the Jackson EMC Board of Directors. They made it easier for all members to participate by approving an early voting period held in locations around our service area, rather than just at our Annual Meeting.

Being a member of a cooperative also means you share in the costs of running the cooperative, as well as benefit when we have money left over.

Cooperatives operate to provide at-cost electric service to their members. However, when the cooperative has income left over after all expenses are paid, your Board of Directors can return excess funds to you as a margin refund. This year, we are returning $6.5 million.

One of the most successful cooperative stories I can think of is the Jackson EMC Foundation, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary this month. It’s amazing what those of you who participate in Operation Round Up® have accomplished together. You’ve enriched your communities with $10 million through grants to organizations and individuals in need in the counties we serve. Wow! That really is the power of a cooperative. By giving just a few cents each month, you’ve worked together to turn that into a million dollars a year and made a tremendous impact. Read more about how your generosity has impacted your community in this issue. Investing in our communities improves our quality of life. We do this together.

Cooperative, investor-owned utility or municipal system, at the end of the day, most people just want the lights to come on when they flip a switch. As a cooperative member, you can take pride in helping to make those lights come on – just as we do!