Perspective: What's a Co-op?
Have you ever met a new person and one of the first things they ask you is, “What do you do?”? I meet a lot of new people, so it’s a question that pops up on a regular basis. I’ll tell folks I work at my local electric cooperative and if they’re not familiar with Jackson EMC – or another electric co-op – I’m often asked, “What’s a co-op?”.
Cooperatives are different. Electric co-ops – including Jackson EMC – were built by the communities they serve. Our cooperative started more than 80 years ago when residents and business leaders came together to bring electricity to our area. Working together, those neighbors helped lay the foundation for how we continue to operate – serving our members and community.
You know what else makes a co-op different? We give back excess revenue to our members each year. As a not-for-profit organization, our members receive these funds – called margin refunds – as a check in the mail. Over the lifetime of our co-op, Jackson EMC has returned $135 million in margin refunds to its members. That’s pretty incredible!
If you’ve been a Jackson EMC member for a while, you know about our Annual Meeting. For newer co-op members or those unfamiliar with Annual Meeting, I like to describe it as a family reunion. There’s plenty of food, entertainment, and fellowship, but there are also members participating in the business affairs of their cooperative. As a co-op, we’re led by our members – which gives us a unique understanding of the needs of our local community. Annual Meeting is an opportunity to enjoy the festivities and participate in your co-op.
Even though we’re locally owned and operated, as a co-op, we cooperate with other electric cooperatives in Georgia and around the country. This benefits members because we work together to develop new technologies and infrastructure that help multiple co-ops provide reliable and affordable electricity to their communities.
When asked, we help other co-ops restore power to their communities after major storms, as they’ve done for us. It’s these types of collaborations that allow co-ops to address challenges together while remaining focused on their members.
I’ve been part of a co-op family for most of my life. My dad, who’s now retired, had a long career in electric cooperatives. So, I’ve been blessed to see what’s often called the “spirit of cooperation” at co-ops for many years. We’re here to serve our members with reliable, low-cost electricity delivered with personal service. And I can say it really is the most rewarding and fulfilling place to be!
Have an idea on how your electric cooperative can better serve members? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.