The purpose is to hold the election for the board of directors, share important financial information, occasionally vote on other matters such as articles of incorporation changes—and, of course, give away great door prizes! There’s another purpose, though; it’s not laid out in the co-op’s mission statement, but it’s just as important.
South Plains Electric Cooperative’s annual meeting is a community gathering where neighbors can meet new neighbors or catch up with old acquaintances. This is why we continue to hold membership meetings in Childress and Spur. We know the community importance of these local gatherings and the integral part the cooperative plays in keeping these communities vibrant.
As our lives get busier and more of our interactions with others occur online via social media, we need to renew the value of face-to-face human connections. Very few organizations are as uniquely positioned as your co-op to bring together all the members of our local communities.
South Plains EC’s annual meeting is designed to take care of the important business of your cooperative and the equally important business of building a sense of real community. All cooperatives serve economic and social purposes. Although safe, reliable and affordable electric power is crucial to our mission, improving the quality of life for all members is at the core of what we do.
If you have not attended the annual meeting in the past, or if it has been a few years, we urge you to take the time to be with your fellow co-op members. If you absolutely can’t join us, here are some important facts about your co-op for 2016.
Scott Martin is our newest director and just completed his first year of service. He recently earned his credentialed cooperative director certification from our national association. The certification includes courses on director duties and liabilities, understanding the electric business, board operations and processes, strategic planning and financial decision-making. It’s a great basis for a new director, and many of your directors have this certification.
The cooperative ended 2016 with a 3 percent increase in overall sales. Increased sales, combined with a 4 percent decrease in expenses, allowed us to end 2016 with an operating margin of $3.9 million.
At last month’s board meeting, the board of directors decided to return $4.5 million in capital credits to members! Capital credits checks of $10 or more will mail in September. If your share is less than $10, it will be a credit on your September bill. With this retirement, the cooperative has returned a grand total of $37.2 million in cash to its members.
We constructed over 2,000 new services and ended 2016 with 54,920 meters and 9,917 miles of line. That’s a 3 percent growth rate for us. Thirty-eight percent of revenue came from residential members and 26 percent was from oil.
A statistic we are very proud of is that 71 cents of every dollar we collected from members went straight to the wholesale power bill. We are keeping up with all of the expenses of operating a growing utility system on 29 cents of every dollar collected from members. This is how your cooperative gives you good value for your investment.
The cooperative is celebrating 80 years of member service in 2017. We conducted a member survey in February 2017, and you gave us a score of 92 on the American Customer Satisfaction Index. That’s 17 points higher than the utility industry average. So we know you appreciate the hard work of our employees. Take a look at the special report on pages 12-13 to learn more from the survey.
We talk a lot about the co-op’s finances and growth, but it’s our team of employees that is the heart of South Plains EC. And our heart is getting younger and beating stronger.
There was a day when no one ever quit or retired from the co-op, and when the rare position opened up, you faced tough competition to get hired. While the competition for jobs is still tough, we had 58 employees leave the co-op from 2012 to 2016, with about half retiring and half moving on to another opportunity. The board and staff have been working for the past 10 years on plans to replace a retiring workforce, but the fierce competition for good line workers has added to the challenge.
Every electric utility, not just co-ops, is dealing with an aging workforce and a lower number of replacements being available. This makes it hard to attract and keep line workers. And we have 25 employees age 60 or older who could retire at any time, so the challenge is far from over. We believe South Plains EC offers workers a great combination of good salary and benefits, a family-type atmosphere among co-workers and the ability to serve the membership instead of just doing a job.
We have been in business for 80 years and are building a co-op that will continue to provide safe, reliable electric service at the lowest-possible cost. We are confident that the next generation of people, on the board and in the local offices, will keep South Plains EC viable for another 80 years!
We get out of life what we put into it. South Plains Electric Cooperative is connected to you by more than just power lines. We are your neighbors, and we look forward to seeing you at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 12, at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center for your annual meeting.