“Horry Electric and our sister electric cooperatives throughout the United States were formed by people who banded together to take care of supplying their homes and businesses with the convenience of electricity,” explains Danny Shelley, chief financial officer for Horry Electric Cooperative. “The power companies that served the towns and cities didn’t offer electric service to the rural areas because there just wasn’t any profit in it for them.”
Shelley’s grandfather, William Hal King, was one of the founding members and trustees of Horry Electric Cooperative. “Grandaddy believed in the cooperative business model and he instilled those values in me,” says Shelley. “I like to think he’d be proud that I’m carrying on the tradition and that the co-op he helped form is still operating under the same guiding principles in 2010 that were established during his service to Horry Electric.”
The spark that ignited Horry Electric Cooperative was the compelling need for electric service and the catalyst was community leaders like Mr. King who had the vision to make it possible.
The cooperative business model isn’t limited to electric or telephone utilities. There are housing co-ops, food co-ops and even farming co-ops. All are formed to help answer an economic need or desire for a service.
Have you ever thought about starting a co-op? Is there something you and your neighbors might need help with that could be accomplished by forming a co-op?
“There are some really creative and successful cooperatives operating out there,” says Penelope Hinson, manager of public relations, marketing and energy management for Horry Electric. “One of the most inventive and unique I’ve heard about is a “Soda Pop Co-op” started by students representing The North Carolina Association of Electric Cooperatives at the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour in Washington in 1985,” she continues. “The high prices of soft drinks in the DC area is what sparked the interest of the students, so they formed a co-op, complete with a board of trustees, a manager and, by the end of their week-long stay in DC, a return of Capital Credits.”
Another unique idea that might interest a segment of the Horry Electric member population is a babysitting co-op. “There is even an online source that includes a start-up kit through the Smart Mom’s Babysitting Co-op, “says Hinson. “I hadn’t thought about it before I saw that, but starting a dog-walking co-op to help neighbors out with taking care of afternoon or morning walks could be an idea that might work in a lot of communities in our service area.”
“If you’ve thought about starting a co-op, National Co-op Month would be an excellent time to launch it,” says Shelley. “We’re celebrating the business model from the perspective of being your electric cooperative, but we’d love to be able to feature an innovative group putting the business model to work for them in their community.”