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You have a unique story to tell because you are part of an electric cooperative community. But if you’re like a lot of electric co-op members, you might not feel you know enough to tell that story well. So, here’s some help.

About one in 10 Americans receives their power the way you do, from a locally owned electric cooperative. Electric co-ops belong to the people they serve – that would be you and your neighbors. Electric co-ops were first developed in the 1930s because city utilities, owned by investors wanting to make a profit, refused to serve rural America. So, people in rural communities banded together and formed their own local electric co-ops governed by locally elected directors.

October is National Co-op Month, the time of year when cooperatives across the country celebrate the many ways co-ops are unique and more importantly, celebrate the members they serve. This year, we’re focusing on our ties to the local community.

Your co-op was built by the community, for the community, so let’s look at what that means for you, the members of the co-op.

Your co-op is here to stay.

Since your co-op belongs to the members it serves, it’s not going to move out of the country or even across the state. It’s staying right where it is.

Your co-op knows you.

Across the country, there are more than 900 electric co-ops, and no

two are alike. Iowa’s locally owned electric cooperatives are committed to providing safe, reliable, affordable and environmentally responsible power to 650,000 Iowans. Because each co-op belongs to the people who live there, the co-op listens to the community it serves. Whether it’s working with the latest energy efficiency technologies or keeping the electric grid safe and secure, your electric co-op can offer  solutions that make the most sense locally.

Your co-op cares about your community.

The co-op’s top priority is to power the community; it’s not owned by investors looking only for a good return on their money.

Your co-op also partners with local organizations on community events, fundraisers, youth programs and more. We’re your friends and neighbors. By investing in the local community, your electric co-op supports economic development and prosperity for all, right here at home.

Your cooperative is guided by seven key cooperative principles.

These principles are the foundation of everything Iowa’s electric cooperatives do to serve you. They include: Voluntary and Open Membership; Democratic Member Control; Members’ Economic Participation, Autonomy and Independence; Education, Training and Information; Cooperation Among Cooperatives; and Concern for Community. Each month, throughout the pages of Living with Energy in Iowa, you’ll see how these principles come to life throughout all of Iowa’s 99 counties.

These are just a few of the way cooperatives are unique. To learn more, I encourage you to visit with your local electric co-op employees and attend your co-op’s next annual meeting of members. They will be happy to visit with you!

Steve Seidl is the board president for the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives and a director for Raccoon Valley Electric Cooperative.

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