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The Changing Role of a Member

Baldwin EMC Board of Trustees

It’s an exciting time to be a part of rural America. According to a recent report issued by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), rural America is on the brink of a resurgence. While the recession of the mid-2000s didn’t exactly spare any part of the country, rural areas, which 46.2 million people call home, were dealt an especially tough blow. And while we aren’t exactly out
of the woods yet, the USDA’s data suggests we’re on our way.

In their publication called Rural America at a Glance, the USDA reported that rural communities are experiencing a rise in family incomes and a decrease in poverty levels, leading to the best economic conditions we’ve experienced in ten years.

Rural America also made quite the showing in the 2016 presidential election, according to the National Rural Electric Association. This is thanks in part to “Co-ops Vote,” the nonpartisan campaign among electric cooperatives to boost rural voter turnout, which had previously been on a downward slope.

If you consider yourself part of rural America, as many of you should, hopefully that information affirms what we’ve been telling you for years—you are powerful.

Just look at the success story that is Baldwin EMC, the cooperative formed by your rural predecessors back in 1937. This year, we’ll celebrate our 80th anniversary. In those eight decades, we’ve seen many businesses come and go, while we’ve grown and adapted to our members’ needs and advanced our position as a force for good in the communities we serve.

Our path wasn’t always an easy one. We were formed on the heels of the Great Depression. In our first 25 years, those from outside organizations continually issued what our first board president, Frank Earle, called “dire prophesies of failure.” In the 1962 Baldwin EMC annual report, Mr. Earle, who was one of the co-op’s original founders, wrote, “frankly, we too had misgivings, but
[also] a burning desire to have electricity.”

By banding together, recognizing our strengths and staying true to our original vision, we watched those prophesies of failure come and go. We’ve also watched multiple recessions, major hurricanes and unfavorable legislation come and go, while we’ve stayed put.

We have you, our members, people who call rural America home, to thank for that.

Just because we’re in a good position today doesn’t mean we’re officially on easy street. We must continue to take steps that help our economy thrive, which creates opportunities for our members to prosper and our communities to flourish.

There’s a consistent theme carried throughout the same annual report from 1962 referenced earlier: pride in serving rural America and pride in serving co-op members. That pride is still with us 55 years later, and like your co-op, it’s not going away anytime soon.

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