How Electric Co-ops Can Lead Smart Growth

Sometimes the obvious bears restating: The communities that electric cooperatives serve must be active participants in creating and managing smart growth.

What is smart growth, and how can co-ops play a part? It starts with a focus on the local community. In most cases, electric co-ops are among the main economic engines in their region. To be in this position and not leverage it for the greater good would essentially be working against our own interests. After all, if the local community does not thrive, what will eventually happen to the co-op?

One key change I would advocate is for rural communities to spend less time and effort chasing out-of-town and out-of-state businesses and more time and effort helping locally owned enterprises. In his book Local Economy Solution, economist Michael Shulman argues that devoting resources to so-called pollinator businesses—local businesses that help grow other local businesses—will achieve a far greater and sustainable impact than wooing national retailers.

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