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So, What's a Cooperative Anyway?

This year marks 50 years that October has been recognized as National Co-op Month, a time to reflect on the thousands of cooperatives that serve millions of people throughout the nation. The tradition began in 1964 when U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman proclaimed October Co-op Month.

So, what’s a cooperative?

Simply put, cooperatives are associations formed to meet a common need through joint ownership. Co-ops operate at cost and are controlled by their members who are given a voice in the operation of their business.

Across the United States, almost 30,000 cooperatives provide products or services, including 905 electric cooperatives, like Jackson EMC. As an electric cooperative, Jackson EMC is:

  • Owned by the members we serve,
  • A private, independent, not-for-profit electric utility,
  • Incorporated under the laws of Georgia,
  • A distribution cooperative that distributes electricity to retail customers, our members, and
  • Governed by a board of directors, elected from the membership, that sets policies and procedures that are implemented by co-op management.

Electric cooperatives adhere to the Seven Cooperative Principles, the seventh of which calls for concern for community. Jackson EMC actively lives out this principle by promoting economic development and revitalization projects, being involved in the community and assisting in educational initiatives. Jackson EMC members demonstrate concern for community by rounding up their power bills to the next dollar with the extra change funding charitable grants provided through the Jackson EMC Foundation.

A Few Facts About Electric Cooperatives Across the United States*

  • There are 905 electric cooperatives in the U.S.
  • They serve an estimated 42 million people in 47 states.
  • They provide electric power to 18.5 million businesses, homes, schools, churches, farms and other establishments.

To Perform Their Mission, Electric Cooperatives:

  • Own assets worth $140 billion.
  • Employ 70,000 people in the U.S.
  • Assign $600 million in capital credits, or margins, annually.
  • Pay $1.4 billion in state and local taxes.
  • Own and maintain 2.5 million miles, or 42 percent, of the nation’s electric distribution lines, covering 75 percent of the nation’s landmass, while delivering 11 percent of the total kilowatt hours sold in the U.S. each year. (The disparity reflected here points to the rural nature of electric cooperatives’ main service areas, where fewer consumers live, generating the least revenue per mile of power line. While electric co-ops are not the primary electricity providers in the nation, they are the predominant provider in most of the country’s rural areas.)

Compared with Other Electric Utilities:

  • Co-ops serve an average of 7.4 consumers per mile of line and collect annual revenue of approximately $15,000 per mile of line.
  • Investor owned utilities average 34 customers per mile of line and collect $75,500 per mile.
  • Publicly owned utilities, or municipals, average 48 consumers and collect $113,000 per mile.