Yellow Warbler, near Salmon Lake

A Celebration Is In Order

Posted: September 30, 2021
Mark Hayden, GM

October is National Co-op Month!

ACE Hardware, State Farm, REI, Land O’Lakes and Missoula Electric Cooperative all share something in common: each organization is a cooperative.

We may span different industries, but we all have a passion for serving our members and helping our communities to thrive. In fact, all cooperatives adhere to the same set of seven principles that reflect our core values of honesty, transparency, equity, inclusiveness and service. October is National Co-Op Month, which makes it the perfect time to reflect on some of these key principles.

Voluntary and Open Membership
Just like all co-ops, MEC was created out of necessity – to meet a need that would have been otherwise unmet in our community. In 1936 a group of neighbors banded together and organized Missoula Electric Cooperative, so everyone in the community had access to affordable electricity. For a modest membership fee, a member could get electricity delivered to their farm or ranch. Neighbors banded together to tackle a problem that they all had, but didn’t have the means to solve alone. They worked together to benefit everyone around them, and the newly established electric lines helped power economic opportunity in our community.

While the history may be forgotten, key parts of that heritage remain – the focus on our mission and serving the greater good. In this, we include everyone to improve the quality of life and economic opportunity for the entire community. Membership is open to everyone in our service territory, regardless of race, religion, age, disability, gender identity, language, political perspective or socioeconomic status.

Democratic Member Control
Our Co-op is well suited to meet the needs of our members because we are locally governed. Each member has a voice and a vote in how the Co-op is run, and each voice and vote are equal. Our Board of Trustees, who help to set long-term priorities for the Co-op, live locally within MEC’s service territory and were elected by you – our members! We know our members have a valuable perspective, and that’s why we are continually seeking your input and encourage you to weigh in on important Co-op issues, and participate in annual elections.

Our close connection to the communities we serve provides us with a first-hand perspective on our members’ priorities. This enables us to make more informed decisions on long-term investments, like our community solar arrays, equipment and technological upgrades and programs we may consider, like an electric vehicle program.

Members’ Economic Participation
As a utility, our mission is to provide safe, reliable and affordable energy to our members. But as a co-op, we are also motivated by service to the community, rather than profits. Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of MEC. At least part of that capital remains the common property of the Cooperative. Members allocate surpluses for Co-op programs, initiatives, capital investments and support other activities approved by the Board or our members. Because we are guided by seven cooperative principles, it’s not about profit – it’s about opportunity for all and fairly engaging with our membership.

The cooperative way is a values-based business model. MEC is a reflection of our local community and its evolving needs. We view our role as a catalyst for good, with a focus on making our corner of the world a better place.

Happy National Co-op Month! Thank you for giving us a reason to celebrate this month (and every month).