History of Cherryland
From Lighting the Way, written by Nick Edson, which will be published in the spring of 2013:
Cherryland Electric Cooperative has a rich history in the Grand Traverse area. But for those who aren't familiar with electric utilities, an explanation is in order:
- No. 1 is the difference between a cooperative, a municipal and an investor-owned utlity. In the Traverse City area, we have all three - Cherryland (cooperative), Traverse City Light & Power (municipal) and Consumers Energy (investor-owned). A cooperative is owned by its members, while a municipal is governed by elected officials who represent the city taxpayers. An investor-owned represents the people who have purchased stock in the company.
- No. 2 is why Cherryland and other cooperative are different and why they were created back in the late 1930's.
The cooperatives were created because the municipals and the investor-owned electric utilties had the market on towns and cities. Their poles and lights were easily serviced because the population of the towns and cities were clustered close together.
When farmers approached them about getting electrical service, the other utilities balked. It was expensive to go out into rural America and build poles and lines.
That's when President Franklin Roosevelt stepped up with the New Deal in 1935. In helping America recover from the Great Depression, he created by executive order the Rural Electric Administration on May 1, 1935. A year later, Congress passed the Rural Electrification Act and the lending program that became the REA got underway.
Within three years, Cherryland Electric Cooperative and hundreds of other co-ops around the country were created.
It wasn't easy to build the poles and string the wires across rural Amercian, as you will read in this book, but it was necessary because it brought electricity to everyone. The costs associated with those expenses were passed on to the customers - or members - of these cooperatives.
But as the years have gone by, the costs have become more in line with those of the municipals and the investor-owned utilities. And the cooperatives have captured the loyalty of their members through communication efforts like a monthly magazine (Country Lines), ways to give back to the community and individual members (Touchstone Energy) and volunteerism of employees (Relay for Life, National Cherry Festival and many others.)
Cooperatives are also unique in that they return capital credits, any money left over after bills are paid, to their members. Some loyal members have referred to cooperatives as "the utiities that stuck up for the little guys (farmers) when no one else would."
Since 1938, when Cherryland Electric Cooperative was created, the world has grown by leaps and bounds. We now serve more than 33,000 members. But our goals have remained the same - to serve our members and our communities with our Points of LIght - providing power to homes and businesses and helping people and organizations by volunteering on a community level.