by General Manager Steve Stroshane
Happy Co-op Month!
When you think of October, our colorful fall foliage naturally comes to mind. But October is notable for another reason – it's National Co-op Month! This is the time of year when cooperatives across the county, including Polk-Burnett, celebrate who we are and more importantly, the members we serve.
Cooperatives are different than other types of businesses. When the market declines to offer a product or service, co-ops intervene to fill the need. Polk-Burnett Electric Cooperative was formed in 1938 to bring electricity to rural areas in our community that were not served by for-profit utilities. Our cooperative model puts the needs of our members first – Polk-Burnett exists to power our local community and enrich the lives of the members we serve. This is different than investor-owned utilities, which has ratepayers instead of members and is run mainly for the benefit of shareholders.
As a co-op, we are well-suited to meet the needs of the community because we are locally governed. Polk-Burnett's leadership team and employees live right there in the community. Our board directors, who help set long-term priorities for the co-op, live locally on co-op lines and have been elected by neighbors like you.
Our close connection to the community gives us a first-hand perspective on local priorities and enables us to make informed decisions on long-term investments, such as equipment and technology upgrades to improve reliability and service, our EnergySense rebate program to help members conserve energy and save money and the 10-acre SunTuria Solar array dedicated in 2017.
Another feature that sets us apart from a traditional utility is our core principle, Concern for Community. We partner with our local chambers of commerce and economic development organizations. We work closely with our schools to provide power line safety demonstrations, solar tours and school-to-work training.
Last year, we awarded $57,500 in scholarships to the Class of 2019 using unclaimed Capital Credits, and $57,071 in Operation Round Up grants to 72 local nonprofits. In addition, Polk-Burnett helped finance the new Alden Fire Station with a $694,880 zero interest pass-through loan from the USDA's Rural Economic Development Loan program. This provides $350,000 in savings for fire district taxpayers and improves our local quality of life.
Ultimately, our local communities benefit because of you! You empower the co-op through your membership and support. Happy Co-op Month!