Some eighty years ago, the world continued to suffer through the Great Depression. Brought on by the stock market crash in 1929, it would not be until World War II that America would finally shake the grip of a decade of economic suffering.
Part of the recovery process included the New Deal policies and programs of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Administration, which helped to put people back to work. The New Deal also transformed the American landscape in ways that continue to shape our lives.
Most folks can name Social Security as one New Deal program that remains, and the Blue Ridge Parkway is another, more visual reminder of FDR’s legacy. But did you know that FDR was instrumental in bringing electricity to much of rural America, including the Carolinas, in the 1930s?
In 1935, the Roosevelt Administration created the Rural Electrification Administration (REA). The creation of the REA, though controversial at the time, had a very simple purpose: to bring electricity to rural areas, which typically had little to no electrical service.
Both South and North Carolina at this time were largely farm-based economies, with many people living in rural areas. For-profit electrical companies were not willing to provide service to these areas because the cost was too high. As a result, only 10% of rural residents had electricity.
The REA funded the creation of electrical cooperatives in the Carolinas and elsewhere, allowing people in these rural areas to share the costs of running electrical lines. The impact transformed life on the family farm in the Carolinas.
Today, more than 1.5 million South Carolinians and more than 950,000 North Carolinians rely upon electrical service provided by a cooperative. These member-owned utilities continue to provide excellent service while encouraging conservation of electricity due to their not-for-profit, member-focused business model.