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In the heart of the Midwest, Iowa is known for its sprawling fields, tight-knit communities and a spirit of collaboration that has long been a hallmark of its success. While often associated with agriculture and its iconic cornfields, the state boasts a different kind of growth story – one driven by cooperatives. Co-ops are more than businesses; they are pillars of empowerment, resilience and sustainable development that are shaping Iowa’s local economies.

Many Iowans associate cooperatives with agriculture; however, co-ops also include rural electric service, credit unions, rural telephone, farm credit, petroleum and more. Co-ops are not-for-profit organizations that are owned and democratically controlled by their members. In fact, nearly one out of every two Iowans is a member of a cooperative. 

Commitment to rural communities

As part of National Co-op Month, Gov. Kim Reynolds has declared October as Co-op Month in Iowa. During this month, cooperatives 
of all types and from all industries reaffirm their member-owned mission and commitment to the communities they serve.

In a state where rural communities hold a special significance, cooperatives play a pivotal role in keeping these areas vibrant and alive. Rural cooperatives extend essential services such as energy, financial services, connectivity and healthcare to regions that might otherwise be overlooked.

Collectively, Iowa cooperatives pay more than $75 million in property taxes to Iowa communities each year. Property taxes paid, especially in rural counties, have a big impact on county budgets and help support critical infrastructure. By pooling resources and sharing expertise, these cooperatives provide a safety net, effectively turning adversity into opportunity.

Iowa’s rural electric cooperatives remain committed to powering lives and strengthening their communities. Locally elected co-op directors make informed decisions on behalf of their fellow members and neighbors to ensure reliable, affordable service for years to come. The average household served by an electric cooperative pays about $5.25 a day for power, which is an incredible value in a world increasingly reliant on electricity and connectivity. Locally owned and governed electric co-ops also embrace an “all-of-the-above” generation strategy as they face potential reliability challenges due to federal mandates.

A better future for everyone

The cooperative movement in Iowa is a testament to the power of community-driven endeavors. It embodies the spirit of collaboration, the commitment to sustainability and the pursuit of shared prosperity. As co-ops continue to shape local economies and empower communities, they remind us that growth is about fostering a better future for everyone. It’s a future that Iowa’s cooperatives are helping to build, one collective effort at a time.

Chuck Soderberg is the executive vice president/general manager of the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives; Dave Holm is the executive director of the Iowa Institute for Cooperatives; and Murray Williams is the president and CEO of the Iowa Credit Union League.

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