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Arkansas Living January 2012 : Page-17

Hardware, REI outdoor gear – they are all cooperatives. In fact, one out of every four Americans claims membership in some type of cooperative, including 91 million served by credit unions and 42 million connected to more than 900 electric cooperatives in 47 states. Although many in number, cooperatives differ from “typical” businesses in one big way: they are organized for the benefi t of their members, not single owners or stock-holders. “Co-ops are established when the for-profi t, investor-owned commercial sector fails to meet a need, either due to price or availability of goods and services,” says Mar-tin Lowery, NRECA executive vice presi-campaign by Sunkist, oranges were only eaten by the slice. By the end of World War I, however, Sunkist’s “Drink an Orange” push had increased the average per capita serving size from one-half an orange to al-most three. This pioneering co-op tradition contin-ues in many ways today: z  Credit unions fought off the de-structive cycle of payday loans by creating salary advance loans with low rates that placed part of the borrowing into a savings account – helping members escape a cycle of debt. z  Marketing cooperatives added food nutrition labels to products long be-fore it was required by federal law. z  Electric cooperatives lead the way in smart grid implementation – close to half have installed advanced me-tering infrastructure (AMI), with 30 percent integrating AMI or au-tomated meter reading devices with various software applications, such as outage management and geo-graphic information systems. Cooperatives Around the World: The cooperative sector boasts nearly 1 billion members in more than 90 countries. »  7KHSURSRUWLRQRIFRRSHUDWLYHPHPEHU
 HG &#1b;&#1a; PLOOLRQ SHRSOH ²  SHUFHQW RI WKHZRUOG·VSRSXODWLRQ dent, external affairs and chairman of the Washington, D.C.-based National Coop-erative Business Association Board of Di-rectors. “The co-op business model works in housing, utilities, and in both rural and ur-ban settings. Co-ops empower people to take control over their own economic destinies.” He continues: “When you’re a member of a co-op, you have a real say in the direc-tion of that business. That’s critical – it helps the co-op rapidly respond to changing con-ditions. As an example, a number of electric co-ops have branched out into other pursuits beyond electricity to meet pressing consumer and community requirements.” Dallas Tonsager, under secretary for rural development with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, points out that co-ops “are only as good as the people running them and only succeed when members support them. But well-managed, democratically run co-ops have proven time and time again that when people unite to achieve a common goal, they can accomplish anything.” On the cutting edge Odds are you have orange juice in your refrigerator. But before a 1916 advertising JANUARY 2012 “Co-ops have made these investments because it makes sense for them and their members,” says English. “It’s an outgrowth »  $SSUR[LPDWHO\ &#1c;&#0f;

 of the co-op commitment to innovation – WULHV&#0f;XQGHUWKHXPEUHOODRIWKH:RUOG the same spirit that allowed co-ops to over-&RXQFLORI&UHGLW8QLRQV come seemingly insurmountable technical, engineering, legal, political and fi nancial »  )LQDQFLDO FRRSHUDWLYHV DUH WKH ODUJHVW hurdles in the late 1930s to bring central SURYLGHUVRIPLFURÀ QDQFHVHUYLFHVWRWKH station electricity to all corners of America. SRRU&#0f; UHDFKLQJ &#1a;&#1b; PLOOLRQ FOLHQWV OLYLQJ Thanks to our consumer orientation, co-ops EHORZWKHSRYHUW\OLQHRISHUGD\ work to ensure that all decisions – technolo-gy-based or otherwise – focus on their core »  &RRSHUDWLYHVJHQHUDWH

PLOOLRQMREV JOREDOO\ mission: providing members with a safe, re-liable and affordable supply of power.” It is hard to conceive of America without Source: International Cooperative Alliance cooperatives, Tonsager notes. “Agricultural co-ops have made our nation the bread-basket of the world. This occurred, in part, through lending from the farmer-owned cooperative Farm Credit System and power supplied by electric co-ops,” he says. “Today, electric and telephone co-ops are playing a vital role in deploying the advanced distri-bution, transmission and telecommunica-tions infrastructure that rural America needs to prosper and stay competitive.” $5.$16$6/,9,1* , 17

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