JREC still powering community’s needs, 82 years later
It’s dark when you get home, so you flip a switch and the house is flooded with light. A simple thing, but have you ever wondered where your electricity comes from?
If you live in Holcombe, Jump River or thereabouts, it’s a good chance power to your house is provided by Jump River Electric Cooperative (JREC). With a service area of Chippewa, Rusk, Taylor, Price, Sawyer and Barron counties, JREC was built locally in 1938.
“Life before co-ops saw vast differences in the quality of life of people living in rural areas, from those in the cities,” said current general manager/CEO James Anderson.
While most townspeople had experienced the benefits of electric service since the 1920s, the Agriculture Census in 1935, showed that only 10.9 percent of the 6,812,350 farms or country dwellers in the United States, were receiving electric service.
Then, in May 1935, Pres. Franklin Roosevelt came out with the “New Deal,” which included the creation of REA (Rural Electrification Administration). Within months, it became evident to REA officials that established investorowned utilities were not interested in using federal loans to serve sparsely populated rural areas.
But loan applications from farmer-based cooperatives poured in and the REA realized electric cooperatives would be the entities to make rural electrification a reality.
The Jump River area was no different, as interest in the REA spread and at the April 1938 annual town meeting, town chairman D.C. Boeckler appointed four local residents – Lucian Curtis (farmer), Norbert Scheuer (merchant), Ward Herrick (mail carrier) and Frank Skabroud (cheesemaker) – to see what could be done about providing electric service to the Jump River area.
Trips to Madison followed, and after several months of hard work, the Articles of Incorporation were filed Nov. 10, 1938, by residents of Jump River. The first loan application of $150,000 followed in 1939, and finally, in 1940, the JREC system was energized. Through that, 179 member-owners received power.
Those 179 members averaged 29 kilowatt-hours (kWHs) of usage for a month, much different from today’s monthly average of around 850 kWhs per member.
The JREC offices were moved from Jump River to Ladysmith, in 1944, where the company rented an office downtown until 1953, when they moved to the current location along State Hwy. 27, on the north side of Ladysmith. The cooperative’s headquarters is still located at the same site.
“Nine years after forming as a cooperative, we expanded our service territory and began building lines in Sawyer County,” said Anderson. “Today, the cooperative provides electric service to almost 9,600 meters and has 1,779 miles of distribution line.”
This year also saw a milestone for the company, as in March, they moved into a new, 38,000 square foot co-op headquarters building.
“This new building features additional floor space for a 3,000 square foot community room, that can also serve as the emergency services base for Rusk County,” said Anderson. “There is also a room designated for member consulting off its now handicap accessible lobby.”
JREC has three locations to its credit – the Ladysmith headquarters, a branch office along Highway B in Hayward, and a warehouse at Hannibal – giving employment to 26 people.
Anderson says the cooperative was founded on seven principles: voluntary and open membership; democratic member control; members’ economic participation; autonomy and independence; education, training and information; cooperation among cooperatives; and concern for community.
“Not only do these principles still guide us today,” said Anderson, “but they continue to offer our membership many benefits. As an electric cooperative, our top priority is to always provide safe, reliable, economical electric energy to the over 8,500 rural members we serve.”
JREC also offers scholarships, energy efficiency rebates, Viasat high-speed internet, duel fuel rates, water heaters and Jump River Electric Cooperative (JREC) began in 1938, after a decision was made to provide electric services to the Jump River area. It took two years, but hard work paid off and in 1940, 179 members of the newly-formed JREC saw electricty to their homes and businesses.
electric heat systems, to name a few.
Anderson says any profit the cooperative makes, is returned to members in the form of capital credits. This year, JREC is returning over $509,000 in capital credits to its members, bringing capital credits returned throughout the years, to more than $8.8 million.
“Our goal at JREC, is to provide rate stabilization through innovation and dedication to our member-owners,” said Anderson. “We plan to safely explore options to deliver simple solutions for a changing world and to get ahead of those issues that matter most to our members.”
Included in advancements, are electric vehicles (EV) chargers the cooperative installed at the Ladysmith and Hayward offices, for the public to use.
“These chargers were added as part of an initiative to install more chargers along major highways, helping to provide beneficial electrification to the community and increasing the EV transportation routes,” said Anderson.
As changes continue to come, JREC has pledged to serve their membership, by implementing cutting-edge technology, while maintaining a personal connection as a strong community partner.
For more information on the cooperative’s services and programs, visit jrec.com.
“Because we are a co-op, our mission is to enrich the lives of our members and serve the long-term interests of our local community – and this mission has never been more critical than in recent months,” said Anderson. “We were built by the community, to serve the community, and that is what we’ll continue to do.”