Electric Co-ops are Engines of Economic Development

Electric Co-ops are Engines of Economic Development

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Cobb EMC is deeply committed to providing affordable and reliable electricity to our members and empowering the communities that we serve. This means being more than just an electricity provider; it means being a partner in economic development and other activities that improve the lives of our members.

But have you ever stopped to wonder what kind of an impact the nation’s roughly 900 electric co-ops have across the United States?

A new report on this very topic shows that electric co-ops supported nearly 612,000 American jobs and contributed $440 billion in U.S. GDP from 2013 to 2017, or $88 billion annually. Those are some big numbers.

The study, “The Economic Impact of America’s Electric Cooperatives,” was conducted by FTI Consulting for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation.

The report quantifies what many rural American families and businesses know well—electric cooperatives are powerful engines of economic development in their local communities. Affordable and reliable electricity is a key ingredient for a successful economy. Because electric co-ops were built by, belong to and are rooted in the communities they serve, they play a vibrant role as economic cornerstones for millions of American families, businesses and workers.

Access to electricity was a vital component of economic development and diversification in the mid-20th century, and that remains true today. Roughly one in eight residents nationwide are served by an electric co-op, meaning direct co-op employment and investments can ripple throughout the economy and create additional economic value for local communities, regions and the country.

From 2013 to 2017, electric co-ops contributed $881 billion in U.S. sales output, $200 billion in labor income and $112 billion in federal, state and local tax revenues.

Nationally, electric co-ops spent $359 billion on goods and services across the economy, including $274 billion on operational expenditures, $60 billion on capital investments, $20 billion on maintenance and $5 billion on credits retired and paid in cash to members under the membership structure of cooperatives.

In conducting its analysis, FTI Consulting used data from 815 distribution cooperatives and 57 generation and transmission cooperatives as inputs into a national model to simulate the economic effects from the direct expenditures by co-ops. The model also calculates the indirect effects throughout the industrial supply chain and the induced effects from consumer spending by the employees of co-ops and their suppliers.

The result of all this effort is a first-of-its-kind study that reveals electric cooperatives to be economic anchors all across rural America. And it demonstrates on a macroeconomic scale one of the seven guiding cooperative principles: Concern for Community.

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