by David Callis, Executive Vice President and General Manager for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association
As we continue to celebrate the International Year of Cooperatives, we like to showcase other ways that cooperatives benefit your local community — not by delivering a product or a service but by delivering on a commitment.
If we’re shopping, we tend to look for the best value for our money. It’s easy to think of a cooperative as a place where we shop or receive a service: seeds, fertilizer or electricity. But cooperatives don’t exist merely to sell a product — there are often a number of companies to take care of our needs.
Roy Spence is a well-known Texas entrepreneur, speaker and marketing genius. His success is tied to a philosophy that goes much deeper than merely promoting a product. His latest book is titled “It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For: Why Every Extraordinary Business is Driven by Purpose.” Spence writes that “purpose is a definitive statement about the difference you’re trying to make in the world.”
That’s the difference co-ops have been living since that first lightbulb began to transform rural America. Electric cooperatives deliver much more than electricity to our communities.
There’s a difference between being in your community and being invested in your community. Some businesses locate in your community because they see an opportunity to make a profit. Cooperatives locate in a community because they see a need.
One of our cooperative principles is Concern for Community. Our co-ops are heavily involved in the never-ending effort to keep industries located in our local communities. The Tennessee Valley Authority, Rural Utilities Service and state and local governments also participate. Sustainable development benefits us today and into the future.
Keeping an eye on our future, the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association knows that the future of our communities is in our youth. Through the Washington Youth Tour program, we send local high school students to Washington, D.C., to learn about their nation. Our Youth Leadership Summit brings the best and brightest to Nashville to learn about state government. And working with the University of Tennessee and the 4-H Foundation, we teach junior-high students about teamwork and safety around electricity. Across the state, electric co-ops are active in your local schools with educational programs throughout the year.
Take the time to look at the countless other ways your local cooperative invests in your community. It could be something as simple as putting the Christmas lights up downtown or donating thousands of dollars through “round-up” programs.
Deciding whether to participate in a community program is easy for cooperatives. Rather than start with the “why,” “what” and “how,” our first question is, “Why not?” And that leads us back to our roots and our purpose for existing — the needs of our community.
If you would like to see how cooperatives in Tennessee and across the nation have participated in large-scale community service projects, go to www.touchstoneenergy.com.