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Editorial: October 2015

Milestone anniversary shows power of co-ops


A 50-year tradition continues this month, as once again, “October is Co-op Month.”

Co-op Month has been a nationally recognized celebration since 1964, when U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman, a former Minnesota governor, proclaimed October is Co-op Month.

This year, as in years past, there is much to celebrate. The U.S. co-op business sector is generating about $650 billion in annual sales and accounts for more than 2 million jobs. In our state, the latest economic impact study conducted by the Quentin Burdick Center for Cooperatives showed the cooperative business sector contributed about $6 billion in economic activity.

That contribution was recognized by Gov. Jack Dalrymple when he, too, declared that October is Co-op Month in North Dakota. His proclamation said this:

•  Cooperatives have a major impact on the state’s economy and are operated for the benefit of their members;

•  Cooperatives engage in diverse activities including providing electricity and telecommunications services to their members;

•  Cooperatives add value to the goods and services produced in rural America, supporting local economic growth and job creation;

•  Cooperatives are committed to community;



 •  North Dakota supports agricultural and utility cooperatives in many ways; and

 • North Dakotans are encouraged to recognize the impact cooperatives have on enhancing our state’s economic opportunity and quality of life.

Still, the cooperative business model remains a “best-kept secret” for far too many people who could be benefitting from membership. When it comes to buying local, cooperative businesses stand out because they are locally owned by people who join together to solve a problem or meet a need.

While many businesses are strictly motivated by profit, cooperatives exist first and foremost to deliver quality goods and services to their members. Revenues are also returned to the co-op’s member-owners in the form of enhanced services or dividend checks.

Members are encouraged to actively participate in their cooperative. From attending an annual meeting to serving on the board of directors, members have a voice in a business they own.

In all, the cooperative business model continues to succeed in the marketplace because cooperatives operate under a common set of principles. They are:

•  Voluntary and open membership;

•  Democratic member control;

•  Members’ economic participation;

•  Autonomy and independence;

•  Education, training and information;

•  Cooperation among cooperatives; and

•  Concern for community.

Those are the reasons we celebrate October is
Co-op Month.



Dennis Hill, editor-in-chief of North Dakota Living, is executive vice president and general manager of the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives, Mandan. Comments can be mailed to Dennis Hill, NDAREC, P.O. Box 727, Mandan, ND 58554-0727 or by email