What happens when you mix award-winning content with teams of industry experts and technology innovators? Good chemistry.

Pioneer CEO Michael Shepard leads a team of communications “scientists.”

The theme of Pioneer Utility Resources’ 2021 member meeting, Good Chemistry Together, highlighted the financial and creative benefits of mixing Pioneer’s staff with fellow communications “scientists” from ARC Media, Efficiency Services Group, NewsData, and WordSouth.

Lab coats were in abundance as Pioneer Board Chair and Columbia REA CEO Scott Peters and Pioneer CEO Michael Shepard announced 3 key findings:

  1. Record Patronage Returns
  2. Director Election Results
  3. Expanded Membership to ARC Media Clients

1. Record Patronage Returns

While we love all of the aspects of being a co-op, one of our favorites is returning money to our members.

During May’s member meeting, Shepard announced Pioneer will return $295,536 — a record amount — to utility members this fall.

Patronage checks are based on how much each member invested with the communications co-op in 2020. The 2021 checks represent a return of 8.3% of eligible spending.

“This year’s record patronage return is a testament to how efficient and effective we are becoming, what volume can do for financial performance, and the hidden value of being able to share fixed costs of things like administration and marketing across a larger entity,” Shepard says.

Historically, members get back about 5% of what they spend with Pioneer each year. Last year, Pioneer members received checks for 5.8% of eligible 2019 spending. Once patronage checks are mailed, Pioneer’s members will have received $2.8 million since the communications co-op was founded in 1956.

“We saw this coming, just not quite as quickly as it happened,” Shepard adds.

2. Director Election Results

Pioneer Board Chairperson Scott Peters welcomed new members to the co-op board.

Pioneer is led by our board of directors, a team of utility general managers, and/or board members. Last year Pioneer’s family of service partners supported utilities in 44 states. Spurred by the co-op’s growth, director districts were updated.

Members used Pioneer’s online voting portal to elect 2 newer board members to three-year terms:

David Lock
Crystal Enkvist

Lock and Enkvist replaced two managers who left the board since Pioneer’s 2020 member meeting, former Alaska Village Electric Cooperative President/CEO Meera Kohler and Clatskanie PUD General Manager Marc Farmer. During the meeting, Kohler and Farmer were honored for their tireless support of utility communications.

3. Expanded Membership to ARC Media Clients

Pioneer VP of Business Development and Strategy Andy Neidert encouraged ARC Media clients to take advantage of Pioneer membership.

Pioneer membership is open to community-owned utilities receiving regular support from the communications co-op. In the past, this requirement was often met by partnering with Pioneer on a magazine. After a unanimous decision by Pioneer’s board of directors before May’s member meeting, membership is open to ARC Media clients who subscribe to a regular communications service.

“Membership unlocks a host of benefits and offers the opportunity to have a voice in the governance of the co-op via the board and member voting activity,” Shepard says.

“Everyone who receives regular support through Pioneer Social can join Pioneer, even if the underlying contract and invoicing is with ARC Media,” says Pioneer Utility Resources Vice President of Business Development and Strategy Andy Neidert. “We hope everyone takes this step to access co-op benefits.”

As part of the decision, Shepard announced plans to sunset the ARC Media brand in the coming months.

Connect with Your Co-op!

staff at member meetingMore than 130 utility Pioneers joined our virtual member meeting. In addition to patronage returns, director elections, and expanded membership, attendees learned about a new Ruralite podcast, the hire of our eighth Certified Cooperative Communicator, broadband marketing efforts, and more.

For a copy of PUR’s audited financials or our annual report, members can email us.