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Southwest Iowa REC Helps Build Stronger Rural Economy

Southwest Iowa REC is joining with 30,000 other cooperatives nationwide in October to celebrate National Cooperative Month, which recognizes the many ways cooperatives help to build stronger communities and a stronger economy. “Cooperatives Build” is the theme for this year’s celebration, spotlighting the many advantages cooperatives offer to their members and the communities in which they live and work. Nationwide, cooperatives create 2.1 million jobs and generate more than $650 billion in sales and other revenue annually.  “Southwest Iowa REC delivers electricity to 6,000 member-consumer service points in our 11 county service area of Southwest Iowa,” says Phil Kinser, CEO & General Manager of Southwest Iowa REC. “Southwest Iowa REC generated  $12.1 million in revenue last year. Revenue beyond what is required for operating expenses is either returned to members as capital credit refunds or reinvested to make system improvements that enhance the quality of life for our members. Either way, our co-op revenue goes back to Main Street, not Wall Street.”

The co-op is also a large employer in the region, with a fulltime workforce of 27. Through the property, sales and payroll taxes it pays, the co-op is a major contributor to the tax base of local governments, helping to support schools, police and fire protection and other vital community infrastructure. It also donates to a number of local charitable and civic causes every year.  Through a program called Operation Round Up®, over $171,000 has been awarded to individuals and organizations with a demonstrated need in our service area since its inception in 2009.

Through our revolving loan fund we help benefit rural communities and contribute to long-term improvements to local economies through job creation/retention, diversification, upgraded skills of the local workforce, quality jobs in terms of pay scale and benefits package, improvements to the community infrastructure, facilities and/or acquisition of equipment that improves the health, safety, and/or medical care of rural residents.  Loans totaling over $2 million have been made so far.

Each year we provide 12 - $500 scholarships for students attending the college or university of their choice to further their education.  We also offer 2 - $1,000 scholarships for students pursuing a career as a Power Lineman. 

 “We like to talk about ‘the cooperative difference,’ because co-ops offer so many advantages to their members,” says Marilyn Werner, board president of the co-op. “Because our business is owned by the people we serve, all of our efforts are aimed at delivering improved services locally. Members control the co-op through their democratically elected board of directors.”

Rural America is served by a network of about 1,000 electric cooperatives, most of which were formed in the 1930s and 40s to bring electricity to farms and rural communities that large, investor-owned power companies had no interest in serving because of the higher costs involved in serving low-population-density areas. 

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