Lighting Up the Community in More Ways than One
Cooperative Provides its Community with Not Only Power, but Business and Job Creation
East River, a generation and transmission cooperative serving 24 rural electric distribution cooperatives and one municipal electric system, lives the seventh cooperative principle: “concern for community.” Many of the cooperative’s business decisions are determined by what will have the greatest economic and social benefit on the community.
The REED Fund is a case in point. This non-profit was created by East River’s member cooperatives to offer financing for business, agri-business, infrastructure and community development projects that benefit rural areas. REED’s lending activities have led directly to business creation, job retention and creation, and expanding community development capacity and local services.
As the second largest economic development capital resource in South Dakota, the REED Fund is committed to meet a growing need for capital. Governed by the members of East River Electric Power Cooperative, the REED Fund makes loans to both for-profit and nonprofit entities, including small and medium-sized business in manufacturing, retail, service and tourism, community projects relating to water/wastewater, healthcare, education, telecommunications and public safety, recreation and arts, etc. REED Fund also provides loans to producer-owned businesses that add value to agriculture and multifamily rental housing with strong community support.
The Fund has provided nearly $49 million in loans to date. Of these, 98 percent were to support locally owned projects, and 87 percent were in communities of fewer than 4,000 people. The Fund has been an especially vital resource for local businesses during the recent economic downturn. Commercial lenders cut back dramatically on lending and increased underwriting criteria, making it more difficult for business to obtain and even to maintain financing, making the REED Fund an even more important alternative.