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300 co-op employees volunteer to serve communities during Day of Service

[NASHVILLE] – Co-ops across the state today are participating in the first Tennessee Electric Co-op Day of Service. More than 300 co-op employees are scheduled to volunteer 1,200 hours in completing 19 unique service projects in co-op served communities throughout Tennessee.

“We build stronger communities – it’s the reason we exist,” said David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “The Day of Service is an opportunity for co-ops use our time, skills and expertise to create a positive impact on the places we serve – the places we call home.”

Twelve Tennessee co-ops developed 19 individual projects as a part of the 2017 Tennessee Electric Co-op Day of Service. This year’s effort included partnerships with Second Harvest Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity, Boys and Girls Clubs and United Way as well as projects to install LED nightlights at a nursing home, conduct litter pickups, install new ductwork for deserving members and construct wheelchair ramps. A majority of these projects will be completed on Thursday, Oct. 5, but conflicts required that some projects be scheduled for other days.

Participating in this year’s event are employees from Appalachian Electric Cooperative, Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation, Duck River Electric Membership Corporation, Gibson Electric Membership Corporation, Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative, Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation, Pickwick Electric Cooperative, Plateau Electric Cooperative, Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative and Volunteer Energy Cooperative. We are also grateful for AdPro for providing shirts for this year’s volunteers.

“We appreciate the co-ops that are a part of our first Tennessee Electric Co-op Day of Service,” says Callis. “We look forward to having an even bigger impact next year.”

View photos of the event here.

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Co-op careers: Close to home, far from ordinary

If you want to work where the action is, how about a job in the fastest-growing occupation in America?

As a wind-turbine technician you could make about $50,000 a year and know that your career is expected to grow 108 percent in the next seven years, says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

And you’d be part of the cutting-edge essence of the American economy, according to a report on electric utility jobs.

“Electricity is the backbone of our economy and is crucial to our national security,” concludes a recent report by M.J. Bradley and Associates, LLC, titled Powering America: The Economic Workforce Contributions of the U.S. Electric Power Industry. The report says, “Our high-tech society demands electricity to power or charge nearly every new product or technology that comes to market.”

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) sponsored that study, along with two other national utility groups, to show how electric utilities power the economy as a result of lighting our homes and businesses.

$100 million a year on infrastructure

Powering America cites the utility industry as the most capital-intensive economic sector, investing more than $100 million a year on the nation’s electricity infrastructure with advances in technology, environmental protections and other improvements. And that’s in addition to money spent on regular operations and maintenance.

All that adds up to supporting more than 7 million jobs. More than 2.6 million of those jobs result from direct employment, like utility employees and contractors. As all those people go to work and live their lives, they create another 4.4 million “induced jobs”—teachers, doctors, real estate agents and service workers.

The report calculates the economic impact of the electric power industry at $880 billion—about 5 percent of the nation’s $18 trillion Gross Domestic Product.

The U.S. Department of Energy slices and dices those numbers a different way, shedding a little more light on wind-turbine technicians and other renewable energy jobs.

DOE’s second annual United States Energy and Employment Report released in January views energy jobs more broadly than just electric utilities. It includes careers in energy efficiency, mining and transportation, and concludes: “Rebuilding our energy infrastructure and modernizing the grid, diversifying our energy mix, and reducing our energy consumption in both our built environment and motor vehicles, America’s labor markets are being revitalized by our new energy and transportation technologies.”

Wind power jobs may be growing rapidly, but the DOE report lists solar energy jobs as the largest share of people working on all types of electricity generation. Almost 374,000 people are working in solar power—43 percent of the electricity generation workforce. Wind employs about 100,000 people.

Powering America

Co-ops hire veterans

Those renewable energy jobs are in addition to a raft of other careers in energy, from mining, to energy efficiency, power plant operators, and social media and cyber security specialists. Jobs at electric co-ops especially offer openings in cutting-edge careers, says Michelle Rostom, director of workforce development for NRECA.

“There are a lot of great opportunities at co-ops,” says Rostom, noting that electric co-ops expect to hire as many as 25,000 new employees in the next five years. “Electric co-ops are doing a lot of research on integrating solar power and wind with coal and other cutting-edge solutions. There are opportunities to be part of the next generation of the energy industry.”

Part of the reason those jobs will be available is that the large Baby Boom Generation is retiring—Rostom says 6,000 co-op employees retired last year. Other parts of the energy industry went through that wave of retirements several years ago, but Rostom says it’s just catching up with electric co-ops. “People stay at the co-op for so long because they’re great jobs, with interesting work, a chance to grow professionally in a lot of different areas and they have a strong connection with their local communities,” says Rostom.

Electric co-ops formally addressed that need to hire more talent when NRECA set its six strategic objectives, one of which is to develop the “Next Generation Workforce.”  In 2006, NRECA joined with other national groups to form the Center for Energy Workforce Development as a way of making sure jobs get filled with high-quality workers.

NRECA sees military veterans as part of the solution: Another part of Rostom’s job is coordinator of NRECA’s Serve Our Co-ops; Serve Our Country veterans hiring initiative.

“Veterans have always been a core part of our co-op workforce, and this program creates additional intent to hire more veterans,” she says. “Veterans are mission oriented, disciplined and safety-focused… They show strong leadership capabilities and they work well under pressure.”

Rostom adds that the experience veterans bring to their jobs matches the culture of the local, member-owned electric co-ops: “There are a lot of parallels between the military and cooperative principles, like teamwork, autonomy, independence and community.”

Locally, co-ops employee more than 2,600 Tennesseans, and we are always hiring. Visit tnelectric.org/about/careers/ to learn more.


Tennessee delegate named youth tour spokesperson

Aaron Lay, a senior at Sequoyah High School, was named national spokesperson for the Washington Youth Tour.

Sponsored by local electric cooperatives and coordinated by the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Youth Tour brings thousands of high school seniors to the nation’s capital each summer to learn about public policy, rural issues and cooperatives. Lay was a 2017 Youth Tour delegate from Fort Loudoun Electric Cooperative.

More than 1,800 delegates from across the country participated in the 2017 Washington Youth Tour. Lay was named Tennessee’s representative to the Youth Leadership Council in June and recently appointed national spokesperson.

“We are celebrating this great accomplishment with Aaron,” says Jarrod Brackett, CEO of Fort Loudoun Electric Cooperative. “This is a great reminder that rural Tennessee students are second to none. We know that Aaron will be an excellent representative of our state and our co-op.”

Lay will address some 8,000 attendees of the 2018 National Rural Electric Cooperative Association annual meeting in Nashville to share his experiences from the Youth Tour.

“We are excited about Aaron’s selection as national spokesperson for the Youth Tour,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “He stood out on Youth Tour as a leader among leaders, and we are excited to see how he uses his talents to tell the story of rural Tennessee.”

Aaron is the son of Butch and Lisa Lay of Madisonville.


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Broadband Accessibility Act passes Senate

NASHVILLE – Today the Tennessee Senate passed the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act by a vote of 31-0.

There was no significant debate, however there were a number of clarifying questions that were asked by Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris, D-Memphis. In answering those questions, Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville once again presented an excellent defense of the legislation, eloquently discussing the cooperative business model and the advantages it brings to Tennessee’s rural communities.

“Their DNA, their birth, was to serve the rural areas of the state,” said Sen. Bell. “Taking that same model and applying it to broadband… is going to end the broadband problem we have in rural areas of the state.”

The companion legislation continues to move through the House. The House Finance Committee will hear the bill Tues., April 4 at 1:30 p.m., and assuming passage, the legislation will be sent to the House Calendar and Rules Committee later in the week. TECA expects the full House to hear the bill as early as next week.

You can view the discussion and vote in the Tennessee Senate below.

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Co-ops bring young leaders to Nashville

More than 45 high school juniors from across the state attended the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association’s annual Youth Leadership Summit March 13–15 in Nashville.

Sen. Jim Tracy on Tuesday, March 14, greeted delegates attending the three-day leadership and government workshop. Tracy welcomed the young leaders to the Senate Chamber of the Tennessee State Capitol where Alan Whittington, assistant chief clerk of the Senate, explained the process required to pass legislation. Students had the opportunity to debate and vote on a mock bill.

Reps. Mike Bell and John Ray Clemmons joined Sen. Tracy for a town hall meeting with attendees. The three discussed the legislative process and answered questions posed by summit attendees. Delegates then had the opportunity to listen in on debate in House and Senate committee meetings in Legislative Plaza.

In addition to a hands-on look at state government, delegates to the event learned team-building and problem-solving skills and developed a better understanding of their local electric cooperatives.

“I have learned a lot about the Senate and House of Representatives and how laws are passed,” says  Sarah Shoate, a junior from Adamsville High School attending the Youth Leadership Summit. “I’m really grateful for the opportunity to come here and improve my leadership skills. I’m grateful for Pickwick Electric Cooperative. My co-op really does a lot to make sure leaders of tomorrow get the opportunities they deserve.”

Delegates to the Youth Leadership Summit are encouraged to be leaders and use their talents to improve rural Tennessee. “Local electric co-ops, school officials and guidance counselors chose these deserving students to attend the summit based on their interests in government and strong leadership abilities,” says Todd Blocker, vice president of member relations for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and director of the Youth Leadership Summit. “They will be the next generation of leaders in rural Tennessee, and we want to prepare them for the challenges and opportunities they will face.”

“We want these students to share our passion for rural Tennessee and help them appreciate the things that make our rural communities special,” says David Callis, CEO of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Each year we are encouraged by the caliber of young people who call rural Tennessee ‘home.’”


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Electric co-ops sponsor delegates to TCC Young Leaders Conference

More than 300 young people from across the state gathered at the 2017 Young Leaders Conference held Feb. 24 and 25 at the Drury Plaza Hotel in Franklin. The annual conference brings couples and individuals together from rural communities to learn about cooperatives, share their views about agriculture and discuss current issues facing rural Americans. The agenda is targeted to rural Tennesseans 50 years old or younger.

The Tennessee Council of Cooperatives (TCC) co-sponsors the annual conference with Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation’s Young Farmers and Ranchers organization.

Electric cooperatives from across the state sponsor delegates to attend the event. “It is important to tell the co-op story,” says Todd Blocker, vice president of member relations and president of the Tennessee Council of Cooperatives for 2017. “This generation of young people are already leaders in their communities. The information and experiences they gain at the Young Leaders Conference can make them powerful co-op advocates.”

This year’s event began with a guided tour of the State Capitol. Breakout sessions covered a variety of subjects aimed at educating leaders about cooperatives and agricultural issues and strengthening their leadership skills. During “Getting Started” by Peyton Fair with Farm Credit Mid-America, attendees learned how to better analyze their farm finances. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Corinne Gould led a session on “Speaking Up,” and Alice Rhea of Farmers Services discussed “Keeping it Real.” House Speaker Beth Harwell gave the keynote address, and humorist and motivational speaker Lisa Smartt provided entertainment.

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Tennessee’s electric cooperatives celebrate National Co-op Month

Being part of a cooperative means being part of something special. Tennessee’s electric cooperatives are celebrating National Cooperative Month in October, along with 40,000 other cooperative businesses serving more than 120 million people nationwide.

“Cooperatives Build” is the theme of this year’s National Cooperative Month. “There are so many ways that cooperatives help to build a stronger rural America,” says Trent Scott, vice president of corporate strategy for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Tennessee’s electric co-ops have a significant impact on the communities we serve in ways that go far beyond the delivery of energy.”

Consider these ways that co-ops build:

Cooperatives Build Trust

Most co-ops strive to adhere to seven key cooperative principles, which combine to help build trust between the co-op, its members and the community. For example, the first principle is Voluntary and Open Membership, which means that we are a voluntary organization open to all people to use our services and willing to accept the responsibility of membership. The second principle, Democratic Member Control, gives members a voice in the cooperative’s policies and decisions. Through the fifth principle, Education, Training and Information, co-ops enable members to contribute to the development of our cooperative.

Cooperatives Build Community

The seventh cooperative principle is Concern for Community. Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through employee involvement in local organizations, through charitable contributions to community efforts and through support for schools.

Cooperatives Build Jobs

Cooperatives generate jobs in their communities, keep profits local and pay local taxes to help support community services. Cooperatives often take part in community improvement programs, ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to benefit from the cooperative experience. Tennessee co-ops employee more than 2,600 employees across the state, creating many technical and professional career opportunities otherwise unavailable in rural communities.

For more information, visit www.coopmonth.coop.

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Co-ops light state fair midway

Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation lineman James Crowder flipped a ceremonial switch to light the midway at the 2016 Tennessee State Fair on Friday, Sept. 9.

CEMC lineman Jame Crowder lights the midway during the opening ceremony of the 2016 Tennessee State Fair.

CEMC lineman Jame Crowder lights the midway during the opening ceremony of the 2016 Tennessee State Fair.

Attendees of the opening ceremony heard from legislators and elected officials, including Nashville Mayor Megan Berry and Robin Conover, editor of The Tennessee Magazine.

“Like the fair, electric cooperatives have a tradition service and innovation,” said Conover. “Our local cooperatives are leaders in their communities and are constantly working to find new and creative ways to better serve their members. Tennessee’s electric co-ops make a significant impact on the state’s rural counties and small towns. We serve more than 2.5 million Tennesseans, and our service areas cover 71 percent of the state. We provide jobs for 2,600 employees and pay more than $63 million in taxes. We also keep the lights on 99.96 percent of the time and invest about $10 million each month in infrastructure. Clearly, we believe each small town and community plays its own vital role in the fabric of Tennessee.”

Co-op linemen from across the state presented “Everyday Safe” demonstrations during the fair, educating students, farmers, first responders and others on the importance of electric safety.

“For more than 150 years, the fair has been a celebration of rural Tennessee life,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “It is where World War I hero Sgt. Alvin York showed his prize Hereford and generations have marked the beginning of autumn. It is an honor for Tennessee’s electric co-ops to be a part of this great event.”



Co-ops pull together at Super Pull

Tens of thousands of people attended the 2016 Lions’ Club Super Pull of the South in Chapel Hill on Friday and Saturday, July 22 and 23. The event was sponsored by the Touchstone Energy Cooperatives of Tennessee and TECA.

More than 70 volunteers from Tennessee’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives volunteered to make the event a success. At the Touchstone Energy Cooperatives of Tennessee booth, members registered to win a riding lawn more and learned about electric safety and efficiency. Visitors could win tubes of caulk, LED lightbulbs or receptacle gaskets while learning about energy efficiency and TVA’s eScore program. The Touchstone Energy hot air balloon team flew over the stands with the American flag during the opening ceremony and gave tethered rides each evening.

“I was very impressed by the spirit of cooperation and community commitment demonstrated by our volunteers. The support was tremendous,” says Steve Oden, director of member services for Duck River EMC. “We thank everyone who spent two hot days under the Tennessee Touchstone Energy Electric Cooperatives tent or helping with the hot air balloon.”

“It was encouraging to see our co-ops work together on this event,” says Trent Scott, vice president of corporate strategy for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “The partnership between Touchstone Energy, co-ops and TECA allowed us to have a presence and reach our members in ways that no single co-op could have done. We are exploring additional opportunities for us to work together to tell the story of Tennessee co-ops.”


2015 Youth Tour delegates collect shoes for kids

One thing all Washington Youth Tour winners have in common when they return home is sore feet! During their week-long trip to D.C. this year, students took more than 123,000 steps — walking a whopping 61 miles! So when asked to come up with a group community service project, it was no surprise the 2015 delegates decided to host a shoe drive.

The students engaged their communities, family and friends in their efforts and jointly collected more than 100 pairs of new, youth-sized athletic shoes. This was no ordinary shoe drive, though, as the students chose to donate the shoes to Ashland City Elementary, a local school in rural Cheatham County. Principal Chip Roney was overwhelmed by the generosity and excited about being able to distribute the shoes during the school’s upcoming open house event.

That same excitement was shared by the students who gathered the shoes. “The amount of shoes we were able to collect will bring smiles to the faces of many children who otherwise might not get a new pair of school shoes this year,” says Eli Creasy, a 2015 WYT alumnus.

Youth Tour participants often return to their hometowns as stronger leaders with confidence they can make a difference. The 2015 WYT delegates exemplified this through their dedication to this community service project.