Why we celebrate cooperatives

Baldwin EMC CEO Karen Moore

Every October, cooperatives from all sectors across the country celebrate National Cooperative Month. The purpose of this annual celebration is to recognize the cooperative difference and remind you, the members of the coop, about Baldwin EMC’s purpose.

I must admit that occasionally, I too have been somewhat cynical of the many different “days” and “months” that are celebrated, but National Cooperative Month is truly an opportunity to celebrate.

Celebrating National Cooperative Month informs others about our unique business model, which is based on the Seven Cooperative Principles: Voluntary and Open Membership; Democratic Member Control; Members’ Economic Participation; Autonomy and Independence; Education, Training and Information; Cooperation Among Cooperatives; and Concern for Community.

For our employees and members that are familiar with the principles, the month of October is a great opportunity to renew our connection to each other and the purpose of our organization, to provide safe, affordable and reliable electricity and improve the quality of life for those we serve. Our purpose is not now and has never been about making a profit. That’s because Baldwin EMC was created by members, for members and exists only to provide a service, not to earn money for investors.

Rural America is served by a network of about 1,000 electric cooperatives, most of which were formed in the 1930s and 40s to bring electricity to farms and rural communities. Founded on April 22, 1937, Baldwin EMC was incorporated by Frank Earle of Blacksher, P.A. Bryant of Stockton, Alton Hankins of Robertsdale, Frank Hoffman of Elberta, and Tom Steele Jr. of Bon Secour, who also served as the corporation’s first directors. Experienced leadership combined with sound business principles have allowed us to thrive as an organization and today Baldwin EMC supplies electric service to more than 71,000 meters throughout Baldwin County and southern Monroe County in southwestern Alabama.

It’s interesting to note that the line density of Baldwin EMC remains very low compared to municipalities (averaging 48 customers per mile of line) or investor-owned utilities (averaging 34 customers per mile of line). Baldwin EMC serves an average of 16 people per mile of line. These numbers equate to significantly lower revenue per mile of line, yet the cost to provide electricity is still the same.

In the U.S., there are more than 29,000 co-ops serving in every single industry. Many co-ops from different sectors join together during the month of October to educate members in the community about cooperatives.

There are more cooperatives in our local community than most people realize, including supply co-ops and credit unions. Co-ops are even represented on the shelves at our local grocery stores, such as Land O’Lakes, Welch’s, Sunkist, Ocean Spray and many more.

This speaks to the heart of why we must take every opportunity to celebrate and teach others about the cooperative business model. So, plan your own co-op celebration by purchasing co-op products, look to do business with co-ops right here in our local community and be an active member of Baldwin EMC.

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