A unifying voice for Hoosier co-ops

Posted on Jun 03 2015 in Co-op Connection, Commentary

For 80 years, Indiana Electric Cooperatives has been faithfully serving electric cooperatives throughout the Hoosier state. Established in 1935, we were the first organization of its kind in the United States — and over time we’ve grown to serve more than 1.3 million people, families, farms, and businesses in 89 of the state’s 92 counties.

Serving all customers’ needs

Today, IEC represents the second-largest electric power provider in Indiana. We serve a diverse base that not only includes rural homesteads and farms, but also burgeoning residential communities and large industrial customers like Honda and 5-Hour Energy. Despite our expansive customer base, we’re still able to provide a clear, unifying voice for Indiana’s electric cooperatives when and where it’s needed most—and we take into account the needs of all of our customers, big or small.

One of the most important ways we help our member cooperatives is by using our government relations team to represent their best interests through legislation. We don’t just do this at the local and state level, but also at a national level in Washington, D.C. By actively communicating with our local cooperatives about their legislative needs — everything from environmental concerns to keeping overall costs of operation low — we’re able to focus on helping to pass the right measures that best serve their interests.

In addition to being a unified voice for legislation, Indiana Electric Cooperatives is also a unifying voice when it comes to safety and regulatory compliance. We help make sure that all of our cooperatives are up-to-date and on the same page when it comes to operating standards, and we provide educational support when it’s needed. And whenever our cooperatives need innovative ideas on how to meet new requirements or have a situation that requires compromise, these solutions often come through IEC’s boardroom.

Not all electric cooperatives are alike — some are right next to interstates, others are not. Some are in areas where population growth is booming, and others where it is declining. But each of our cooperatives share a great deal of common ground — their core interests and compliance issues are often the same — so having IEC work on their behalf with regulatory agencies and legislative bodies is vital.

Making economic sense

IEC’s unifying voice extends far beyond legislative and regulatory measures, however. One way we help our member cooperatives be the best they can be is by providing them with different professional development groups that work directly with cooperative employees. These groups provide much-needed services that make more economic sense to do collectively, such as safety training, help with human resources, and public relations support.

Electric cooperatives, no matter where they are in the world, are bound together by a desire to help other cooperatives get established, grow, and succeed. IEC believes in this founding spirit, and is actively working to help build electric infrastructure in less-developed parts of the world. One recent example of this has been in Guatemala, where IEC has led the charge in banding together members of various Indiana cooperatives to help bring rural electrification to another country. It’s just one more way IEC is unifying cooperative employees from across the state for the greater good.

Co-op interests at forefront

As the landscape for Indiana’s electric cooperatives continues to evolve, IEC will lead the way in making sure the best interests of the state’s cooperatives are always at the forefront of everything we do. We’ll continue to be progressive in helping our cooperatives tackle their biggest issues, whether that’s making sure they have equal access to broadband Internet, helping them preserve their electric service territories, or finding new ways to operate more efficiently.

At IEC, we have a big job to do. It requires careful coordination, constant communication, and attention to detail. But by embracing our important, expansive, and singular role in Indiana and beyond, we’ll help our member cooperatives grow and thrive for many years to come.

Rick Coons is CEO of indiana Electric Cooperatives.