There is much to celebrate about our unique state — from good food to good people. Every issue of this magazine highlights some of the remarkable things that happen in Tennessee, and there are countless accomplishments worthy of the spotlight. Unfortunately, we know that Tennessee’s rural and suburban areas face significant challenges as well.
From healthcare to education to unemployment, rural and suburban communities lag behind the state’s urban centers in several important measures.
In November, I attended the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association’s annual meeting in Nashville.
The theme for this year’s event was “The Power to Be.” Throughout the meeting, attendees were reminded that, though electric co-ops provide power, they also empower Tennesseans to live rich and full lives.
This focus on people is what sets co-ops apart. We know that our purpose — our very reason for existing — is about something far more profound than merely keeping the lights on. It is about empowering our consumer-members not just to survive, but to thrive.
Our co-ops are uniquely positioned to have a positive impact on the people and communities we serve. From infrastructure to education to communications, co-ops invest more money in rural Tennessee than almost any other group. We know that our communities matter, and we have a vested interest in their success.
We also believe that Tennesseans should not be limited by where they choose to live. Tennessee’s electric cooperatives are committed to closing the gap between opportunities that exist in places like Nashville and Chattanooga and those that exist in Fayette County, New Market, Centerville and hundreds of other rural and suburban communities.
The continued success of co-ops and the communities we serve depends on people choosing to live and raise their families here — not in spite of the limitations but because of the abundant opportunities.
Tennessee certainly faces challenges, but I honestly believe that electric co-ops, more than almost any other group, have the power to be agents for change — to push and lead our communities to a brighter and more abundant future.
I also recognize that we cannot tackle these challenges alone.
As we begin a new year, let me encourage you to find a way to get involved in your community. Whether it is volunteering to read to schoolchildren or participating in a clothing drive at your church, start the new year off with a focus on serving others.
Tennessee is already a fantastic place to live and raise a family, and together we have the power to be more.