I recently had the pleasure to teach a group of new and emerging senior rural electrical cooperative leaders. The session for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) is part of their Management Internship Program (MIP). We asked the co-op leaders to respond to a brief online survey and then dug into the findings as part of the class. Here’s what we learned.

RESOURCES ALLOCATED TO ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Cooperatives understand the value and need for maintaining strong internal economic development programs. In fact, most cooperatives have staff and/or budget already allocated. Almost all are planning to either maintain or add resources to economic development.

   

GOALS AND METRICS OF ED EFFORTS

When it came to understanding what the cooperatives wanted to accomplish with the staff and budget allocated to economic development, our research and discussions unearthed several key themes. The top three are shown below.

TOP THREE GOALS AND METRICS

1. Recruit new businesses to the area
2. Improve the quality of life in the communities we serve
3. Increase load

To achieve the ultimate goal of increasing load, they need to recruit new businesses. And what are the site selectors and company decision makers interested in most right now? People, talent, workforce. You can’t read a business section or even drive past a business without the need for workers becoming abundantly clear. When workers can find employment virtually anywhere, quality of life is how businesses will attract them. In turn, it’s how communities will recruit new businesses.

PARTING THOUGHTS

Over the years, I have seen the economic development profession evolve to engage more audiences, reach for more inclusive and interrelated goals, and frankly, achieve more. What we’ve learned from these co-op leaders reinforces all that, as cooperatives confirm their place at the table and affirm the value they bring to leading their communities.