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75 Years of ‘the next greatest thing’ “G


ood aſt ernoon and welcome to Grove,


Oklahoma, on this, the 21st day of September 2013. Today we fi nd our- selves celebrating the 75th anniversary of Northeast Oklahoma Electric Coop- erative. It truly is a day to celebrate for all of us who have seen the success of the cooperative business


model fi rst-hand. “When we buy groceries, clothes, gas or automo-


biles, we almost always buy from businesses whose primary goal is to make a profi t for their owners or shareholders. Profi t-based enterprises have served America well, but in some instances another approach has worked, too: the cooperative method. A perfect ex- ample of this approach is taking place every day right here in northeast Oklahoma and celebrates 75 years of doing business this very month. “T e cooperative idea is simple: voluntary, mutual


associations owned and operated by the people they serve, where excess capital is returned to the members. T at’s exactly what we do here at Northeast Oklahoma Electric Cooperative and you’ll fi nd the motto Owned by T ose We Serve on the sign in front of our main offi ce. “Co-ops take many forms. T ey provide housing,


retail and wholesale goods, banking and fi nancial services, agricultural coordination, and yes, electricity. Co-ops began in England in the 1700s, usually provid- ing working folks and merchant groups with groceries and other goods and services at wholesale cost. T e Rochdale Society, established in England in 1844 by a group of craſt smen, was one of the most signifi cant. It established a foundation of principles we still follow to this day. “Today, many businesses that Americans know


and love are cooperatives. In fact, there are over 21,000 co-ops operating in the United States today. “How did co-ops get into the electric business?


4 - Northeast Connection


A crowd gathers for one of the earliest meetings of Northeast Oklahoma Electric Cooperative.


Simply put, it was out of necessity. “Electric utility service in the U.S. began when


young T omas Edison opened the Pearl Street generat- ing station in September 1882 and electrifi ed his New York neighborhood. Electricity quickly demonstrated its usefulness. From then on, electrifi cation of U.S. cities and towns spread like wildfi re. Industrial towns had electricity thanks to companies that had power plants for their own use and extended surplus service to nearby areas. But the countryside remained largely dark. For decades, electricity was a luxury enjoyed exclusively by townsfolk. “Larger utility companies were private for-profi t


corporations called investor-owned utilities, or “IOUs,” for short. T ey remain a dominant supplier of electric- ity today. IOUs did a good job of supplying big cities with electricity. By the mid-1920s, most larger towns had electric service. If you were lucky enough to be on a major road between those towns and villages, where the lines were run, then you probably had electric ser- vice, too. But if you lived on a secondary road or other remote area – sorry, no electricity for you. Availability of service depended on a company’s ability to make a profi t from that area. Population density was the key. T ere was no money to be made from running electric lines where there might be only one or two customers per mile, as was frequently the case on rural back roads of the 1920s. Running poles and lines was expensive.


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