[NASHVILLE] – On Friday, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development announced that two electric cooperatives will receive grants to support the deployment of broadband in rural Tennessee. Gibson Electric Membership Corporation in Trenton will receive $1,353,148 million and Tri-County Electric Membership Corporation in Lafayette will receive $1,350,000.

David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, made the following statement:

“We are pleased that the state recognizes the vital role co-ops can play in the expansion of broadband,” said Callis. “Modern healthcare, education and commerce depend on access to fast, reliable internet, and co-ops are uniquely positioned to bring this service to rural and suburban Tennessee. Today, we celebrate with Gibson EMC, Tri-County EMC and the communities they serve.”

In 2017, the Tennessee General Assembly, bolstered by strong support from Gov. Bill Haslam, passed the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act. This landmark legislation removed restrictions that prevented electric cooperatives from providing retail internet access and established a grant fund to encourage broadband expansion.

Tennessee’s electric co-ops serve more than 2.5 million Tennesseans, many of whom do not currently have access to broadband.

 

[NASHVILLE] – For more than 50 years the Washington Youth Tour Creative Writing Competition has honored some of Tennessee’s most talented young writers. Among other incentives, winners receive a trip to Washington, D.C., to learn more about history, government and public policy. Recently the rewards of winning grew when Union University in Jackson, Tenn., announced a new scholarship exclusively for youth tour winners.

The annual competition and trip is coordinated by Tennessee’s consumer-owned electric cooperatives and the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “We take great pride in recognizing the best and brightest from across the state,” said David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “With this commitment from Union University, the Washington Youth Tour creates more opportunities than ever before for Tennessee students.”

Union University will offer 24 $4,000 per year scholarships and one $10,000 per year scholarship to winners of Tennessee’s Washington Youth Tour Creative Writing Competition.

“Strong writing skills and a first-hand knowledge of government and public policy are valuable traits in today’s world,” says Robbie Graves, Assistant Vice President for Undergraduate Admissions. “Union University is honored to be a part of the Washington Youth Tour. We believe the competition offers Tennessee students a unique opportunity to develop their leadership abilities and be equipped to return to their local communities with confidence to make a difference.”

“This is an exciting opportunity for youth tour winners,” says Tina Morris, communications and community outreach specialist and youth tour coordinator for Southwest Tennessee Electric. The university approached Morris with the scholarships after learning about the program at an orientation dinner for youth tour winners held on the university campus. “We want youth tour to motivate students to pursue things they had never before considered, and this scholarship could be just what they need to take the next step. We appreciate Union University for partnering with us to open more doors of opportunity for these young people.”

 

The decisions made in Nashville can have a direct impact on your family or business. That makes it important to stay informed and, at times, reach out to your elected officials. Tennesseans interested in government and politics now have a powerful tool for connecting with state lawmakers.

Fully redesigned for 2018, the 110th Tennessee General Assembly app features a continually updated, searchable database of contact, staff and committee information as well as photos, leadership roles and social media profiles for members of the Tennessee House and Senate.  The app also contains information on the governor and his cabinet and the Tennessee congressional delegation.

The app was developed through a partnership between the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and Bass, Berry & Sims PLC. TECA has published an annual directory of the General Assembly for more than 50 years. “Each year, we collect lots of information on Tennessee legislators, and we want that to be available to as many people as possible,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “The app brings Tennesseans one click closer to their lawmakers, and we think that benefits us all.”

The 99 cent app is available for iPhone, iPad and Android devices and can be found by searching for “Tennessee General Assembly” in the Apple App Store or Google PLAY Marketplace or by clicking here.

State’s electric cooperatives gather in Nashville to explore the impact of co-ops

NASHVILLE – “Build Up” was the theme of the 76th annual meeting of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, held Sunday, Nov. 19, through Tuesday, Nov. 21, in Nashville. More than 350 electric cooperative leaders from across the state attended the event where they explored the impact of co-ops and challenged one another to meet the needs of their communities.

“Co-ops provide safe, reliable and affordable electricity, but our impact goes far beyond energy,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “We recruit jobs and investment; we prepare the next generation of leaders; we give back through charitable donations, taxes and payroll; and we are on the leading edge of a movement that will bring high-speed internet to rural communities. Electric co-ops build up Tennessee – creating opportunities, impacting families and positioning communities to grow and prosper.”

Michael Watson, manager for Duck River Electric Membership Corporation in Shelbyville, was appointed president of the board and Jarrod Brackett, manager of Fort Loudoun Electric Cooperative in Vonore, was appointed vice president. Johnnie Ruth Elrod, director for Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative in Centerville, will continue to serve as board secretary.

Elections were also held for three positions on the association’s board of trustees. Mark Derrick, a director for Holston Electric Cooperative in Rogersville; Michael Jordan, a director for Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative in South Pittsburg; and Kevin Murphy, manager for Southwest Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation in Brownsville, were elected to four-year terms.

“Congratulations to those honored with leadership positions,” says Callis. “Their talents and ideas will be valuable as we continue our mission to serve Tennessee’s electric cooperatives and their members.”

The third annual TECA Top Tenn Communications Awards were presented during the event. Gibson Electric Membership Corporation received an award for Best External Newsletter or Magazine Section; Duck River Electric Membership Corporation, Best Internal Newsletter and Best Website; Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative, Best Use of Social Media; Fayetteville Public Utilities, Best Video. Appalachian Electric Cooperative, Duck River Electric Membership Corporation, Gibson Electric Membership Corporation and Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation each received Awards of Excellence in the Wild Card category, with Duck River Electric Membership Corporation, Volunteer Energy Cooperative, Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative and Appalachian Electric Cooperative earning Awards of Merit.

“It is important for electric cooperative consumer-owners to be educated and informed,” says Robin Conover, TECA’s vice president of communications and editor of The Tennessee Magazine. “We honor these winners for telling the electric cooperative story in a professional way across multiple platforms.”

“I’ll leave you with this challenge,” said Callis during remarks to co-op leaders on Monday, Nov. 20. “Think carefully about your co-op and your co-op members. What are their needs? What are their expectations? What opportunities exist for your co-op to take action to improve everyday life for your members. We have an important role to play, and together co-ops can build up Tennessee.”

 

[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.

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.

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.

 

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.

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.’”

 

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.