Member-owner education continues at New-Mac Electric
It’s not often that a session of night school ends with a round of applause, but on a clear evening in southwest Missouri that’s the sound you’ll likely hear outside the offices of New-Mac Electric Cooperative. And when, above the ovation, a member of the audience cheers, “Let’s hear it for New-Mac!” Mark Rakes doesn’t need to look at the evaluation forms to know that the co-op’s program is making an impact in its community.
“Everywhere you go you can see that, because we work really hard to have that rapport with our members,” New-Mac Electric Cooperative’s manager of marketing and consumer services says. “It’s just one thing we wanted to give back to the people who make up the co-op, and all of the employees help.”
New-Mac University was established in 2016, when Mark and Manager of Billing Services Josh King were searching for a way to keep members in touch with the co-op. With their own kids in college, the pair came up with the idea for a class with an ever-evolving curriculum. Since that time the co-op has hosted free classes three times a year at its offices in Neosho and Anderson. The educational value for members was apparent, and the co-op saw an opportunity for a personal focus group with its members. New course ideas are shared, and co-op staff can answer members’ questions about safety, efficiency and weather preparedness.
Course offerings over the years have included everything from home weatherization tips to live-line training for emergency services and first responders to demonstrations of bucket and service trucks. This fall, New-Mac U students received a version of the electric safety class which Member Services Representative Zane Berner performs at 10 area school districts. Communications Specialist Ashlea Norman also has given attendees a refresher course on how power is restored to members during an outage.
“You tell 12 or 15 people, they go back and tell five or six people apiece, and the next thing you know the membership has a better understanding of that,” Mark adds. “It’s all about the cooperative principles: Concern for Community and Education, Training and Information.”
During the most recent course held in August, New-Mac helped members take control of their electricity through energy efficiency steps such as replacing door and window seals, insulating outlets and filling drafty gaps in frames, baseboards and walls. Zane and Ashlea also showed off useful electric yard tools available at area hardware stores. Co-op staff leave no stone unturned, telling members how much they can expect to spend on basic items (a 5-gallon bucket full of simple home solutions came in at under $100) and where to find them.
Being a member and steward of the community is a full-time role for New-Mac. Although the co-op can coordinate with local emergency management agencies to notify members of outages by text message, the employees still find value in making personal connections. In August, when line maintenance was needed in the border town of Caverna, Mark and his team visited with members to determine when a planned outage would have the least impact on businesses. New-Mac also coordinated with the McDonald County Sheriff’s Office to make sure law enforcement was aware of the situation. Crews returned at midnight and completed the job in time for the morning rush at McDonald’s. Once again, the co-op personally followed up with the banks, hotels and stores in the area to make sure everyone was operational. Call it extra leg work or neighborly courtesy, but to New-Mac Electric it’s simply the right way to treat the membership.
“We want to make sure you know that we work for you. That’s the difference between a co-op and an investor-owned utility; we don’t just treat you like a number,” Mark says to the class. “When you need us, you’re not just getting an email or a text message; you’re getting someone from New-Mac Electric at your door.”
For more information on New-Mac Electric Cooperative, visit www.newmac.com.