Celebrating the Cooperative Spirit in Wisconsin
Oftentimes we use words without really thinking about what they mean. Co-op is one of those words. Many of us shop at a co-op, get our insurance from a co-op, and even depend on a co-op for our electricity and internet access. One in three Americans is a member of a cooperative of some kind. It is easy to take them for granted. We shouldn’t.
I will be in Barron on October 4th helping kick off “October is Cooperative Month” with the members and employees of the Barron Electric Cooperative. I look forward to celebrating and honoring the important role cooperatives play in our daily lives.
Cooperatives build communities, increase value in them through their collaborative efforts, and offer a diverse selection of products and services. Traditional forms like farming and electric cooperatives reduce costs for individuals to maximize services and returns, while new models like senior housing cooperatives present exciting and unique opportunities for members in a community.
Cooperatives are being formed to meet the needs for health care, social services, child care and transportation. Where government services or private enterprise aren’t able to fully meet community needs, cooperatives have arisen to fill those gaps.
The co-ops that we have come to rely on would not be possible without the support of everyone in the community, members and non-members alike. Northern Wisconsin is better for the existence of the cooperatives. They generate local jobs, reinvest profits locally, pay local taxes, and provide maximum benefits to their members, who equally own and control them.
I spent a lot of time thinking about cooperatives this session. The legislature debated and passed a bill updating the primary statutes governing cooperatives. It had been almost 40 years since a comprehensive review of these laws had been completed and I was proud to support it. The bill was the result of many discussions within the Wisconsin Cooperative community, including the Cooperative Network, which is committed to protecting and promoting Wisconsin’s cooperative businesses and their shared principles.
Unlike corporations, co-ops are member owned and operate for the mutual benefit of those members. There are many different types of cooperatives operating in this state and the hope is that by updating our laws, we can encourage even more types to form and thrive. What works for a dairy or farm credit cooperative may not work for a grocery, housing or health care cooperative. The changes will encourage increased cooperative activity in the state by expanding the options available to the many organizations dedicated to operating cooperatively.
In Northern Wisconsin, cooperatives have been a vibrant part of our community for over a hundred years, demonstrating what we can do when we work together. That’s something worth celebrating!