Power and Opportunity

Michael Watson serves as president and CEO of Duck River Electric Membership Corporation in Shelbyville, Tenn., and as the board chairman of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association.

Amazon recently announced that it will build a new operations center in Nashville. This is big news for the entire state as the project will bring more than 5,000 jobs and millions of dollars in investment to the region. Chattanooga, Knoxville and Memphis have recently made headlines for industry announcements as well.

This attention on the state’s urban centers makes it easy to think that you can only find opportunity in a big city. We shouldn’t think that, though, because opportunity is all around us.

Last year, nearly half of all new jobs in Tennessee — more than 9,700 — were created in the state’s rural and suburban counties. These communities may not be growing as fast as Nashville or Knoxville, but you don’t have to look too hard to see good things happening right here.

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives provide energy to rural Tennessee, but our interest in the communities we serve goes far beyond power. We are working to be sure that our part of the state is strong and well prepared to compete in the modern economy.

In November, I attended the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association’s annual meeting in Nashville. The theme for the event was “Power and Opportunity,” and it was a good reminder of the impact our cooperatives have on the communities we serve.

We provide more than power. We provide power and opportunity.

Our economic development efforts help bring new jobs to our service area.

The things that happen in rural areas may not get as much attention as those in Nashville, but what goes on in our service areas matters.

Our youth programs help young people develop important leadership skills. In 2018, Tennessee cooperatives sent more than 130 young people to Washington, D.C., to learn about government and public policy. Each co-op also sent two high school students to Nashville for the Tennessee Electric Co-op Youth Leadership Summit to strengthen their leadership and networking skills.

The things that happen in rural areas may not get as much attention as those in Nashville, but what goes on in our service areas matters. It matters to the people who live there, and it matters to our co-ops.

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives want to see the communities we serve succeed. We want them to be places where businesses thrive, families prosper and opportunities are abundant.

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