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Editorial: We are local, we are cooperatives

by Josh Kramer

October is Co-op Month.

In a typical year, we come together to celebrate being cooperatives, being local and being united in a common goal. For electric cooperatives, that goal is providing safe, affordable and reliable electric service to folks like you, the cooperative members, your neighbors and your community.

Your electric cooperative is local – owned, operated and governed by the members of your co-op community. These communities extend beyond those living in or around a single town. While remaining local, cooperative lines span the countryside, connecting those along city streets and county roads. As the membership evolves, the cooperative does, too.

You can see it in western North Dakota, where electric cooperatives have quite extraordinarily adapted to meet the power demands of an evolving energy industry that turned quiet towns into emerging communities.

You can see examples across North Dakota, where cooperatives that serve near and around population centers adapt to balance the needs of a growing membership with the needs of rural members.

You can see it spanning the entire state, and country for that matter, as electric cooperatives keep the power flowing to the heartland of America, where farmers and ranchers work the land and raise the food that feeds the world.

Cooperative communities come in many shapes and sizes; each has its own unique set of challenges and opportunities. In some cases, the challenge may be meeting growing demand. Or it could be just the opposite, with the challenge being serving areas of limited growth, or declining or shifting populations.

Proudly, North Dakota electric cooperatives serve all, delivering safe, reliable power to more than 215,000 North Dakotans via 65,000 miles of distribution line. On a national level, we are 900 electric co-ops strong, serving more than 19 million businesses, homes, schools and farms. Electric cooperatives cover more than half the land in the United States.

Because electric co-ops are so uniquely local, it’s hard to describe a typical co-op. But there is one universal constant – as reliable as the service electric cooperatives provide. Simply put, it’s our commitment to you. It means serving every home, business, well, farm, school or hospital.

In a year where seemingly everything has changed, there is no better time to reaffirm that commitment to our members and the advantages being “local” provides. The world keeps changing, and cooperatives will continue to adapt. Each co-op’s approach may differ, but as they adapt and evolve, they’ll do so in ways that make the most sense for the people in their community. That’s what it means to be a local electric co-op.

While this Co-op Month may be different, there is still much to celebrate. The cooperative spirit is alive and well; it’s in our neighbors, our local organizations and our communities.

Josh Kramer, editor-in-chief of North Dakota Living, is executive vice president and general manager of NDAREC. Contact him at