Electric cooperative communications, member services and economic development professionals from six states met Sept. 21-22 in Raleigh, N.C., for the 2022 Member Engagement Summit hosted by Cooperative Insights. A variety of topics were presented and discussed, including the state of the economy, member engagement, changing co-op demographics and expectations of Gen Z for employers and energy providers.

N.C. State University Professor Emeritus Dr. Michael Walden spoke about the economy, employment participation and other trends. “I don’t believe we’re in a recession,” said the author of “Re-Launch: How Families Can Be Renewed and the American Dream Revived in the New Independent Lifestyle of the Post-Pandemic Economy.”

Walden predicts a boom in rural and small-town living over the next several years. This will lead to a growing need for universal high-speed internet to accommodate the increasing demand for telemedicine and remote learning. He also predicts at least half of the workforce will work remotely at least two days a week.

Casey Hollins, managing director of communications and public relations for Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, joined a panel discussion about member engagement during a period of rising costs. Her presentation featured various topics: Power Cost Impacts, Supply Chain Crisis and Future Rate Changes.

“This year has been incredibly challenging,” Hollins said, “mainly because of power cost adjustments.” Introducing a mid-year cost adjustment is unusual, at best. She explained the methods used by REC to inform members of the coming increases. Educating the REC workforce with talking points was critical and successful.

The two-day conference also attracted representatives from A&N Electric Cooperative, Community Electric Cooperative and the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives.

–Report by VMD Association.