Local Is as Local Does

by Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Exec. Editor


Richard Johnstone

Concern for community’ is more than a catch-phrase to electric cooperatives. It’s what happens naturally when a business serves local folks, employs local folks and elects local folks to its board of directors.

No matter what product or service you need, chances are there’s a cooperative business that offers it. Cooperatives have been formed to provide banking services, hardware and groceries, babysitting and housing, and much more as well.

And, of course, there’s the electric service you and your neighbors receive at your homes and businesses.

But while what they provide varies widely, who owns them is the same from cooperative to cooperative: Co-ops are owned by those they serve.

So, as someone receiving electric service from a cooperative, you’re a member-owner of your utility.

In addition to ownership by the members they serve, cooperatives also share a commitment to seven principles, articulated almost 200 years ago by a group of weavers in England. Open membership. Democratic control. Economic participation by members. Independence. Cooperation among cooperatives. Keeping members informed.

And the seventh one: concern for community.

This last principle embodies the very heart of the cooperative business model, because first and foremost, a cooperative is a local business. The members own the business. The co-op’s employees work (and generally live) in the same community as the members they serve. And the members of the cooperative’s board of directors are themselves co-op members, elected by their neighbors.

So concern for community is as natural to a cooperative as concern for home or family, because it’s all just part of caring about the place where you live and the neighbors who live beside you.

And in an age when being “green” is as much a political statement as an environmental one, it seems almost too obvious to note that cooperatives have always been concerned about the health and well-being of the communities where our employees, board members and member-owners live.

Perhaps at least in part because electric cooperatives were started by farmers and other rural people, being good stewards of the land is not merely what cooperatives do, it’s who cooperatives are.

Electric cooperatives have always worked hard to balance and fulfill three important missions: To provide reliable electric service, at the lowest possible cost, in an environmentally responsible way.

Providing reliable service is an outgrowth of having employees living in the same community as the members they serve.

Providing the lowest possible cost is an outgrowth of the not-for-profit cooperative business structure, which also includes returning any margins to our members when financial conditions permit.  

Providing environmentally responsible electric service is an outgrowth of our presence in the communities we serve. We were formed by local people to provide electric service in the 1930s and ’40s. We’ve been part of the communities we serve ever since. We’ll remain part of these communities. The future of the communities we serve becomes our future.

So, in the end, looking out for your neighbor means you’re also looking out for your own family as well.

Electric cooperatives have a long history of deep involvement in energy efficiency and conservation programs, and in keeping our members informed about ways to use electricity wisely. Home and business energy audits, and regular articles in Cooperative Living magazine, have long been staples of Virginia’s 13 local electric cooperatives.

We’re always looking for additional ways to help our member-owners manage their electricity usage. It’s part of our ongoing effort to keep you informed about your business. So, if there’s an energy topic you’d like to see us cover in a future issue of Cooperative Living, please let us know. 

The benefits of growing, making, buying and using local products have rightly been celebrated a lot in recent years. We’re proud to be an old part of this growing new movement.




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