Is Co-Op Just A Buzz Word?
By Michael Burke, MTA CEO
With smoke clouds billowing and flames threatening infrastructure around the Mat-Su Valley, the fires that broke out this summer were devastating to our community.
Yet, in the face of this loss and damage, our MTA employees, many of whom are residents of the Mat-Su Valley and the areas hardest hit by fires, were out on the ground, working hard to thoroughly ensure that reliable internet service persisted – despite dangerous conditions.
The widely-recognized rapid response of MTA employees to make sure communities and MTA members around the Mat-Su Valley were able to stay safe and connected was a window into the ongoing work our co-op does to manage interruptions created by natural disasters such as fire, earthquakes and, of course, Alaska’s winter weather systems. But being a co-op is about more than that.
As we enter October, we welcome cooler weather and, hopefully, a respite from any additional fires this season. We also welcome Co-Op Month, a month dedicated to honoring co-ops and the benefits of community-owned and community-led business models.
This year’s theme for Co-Op Month is “By the community, for the community.” This theme is based on the notion that community solutions and improvements are best designed when driven by the people who live in and hail from those communities, and we couldn’t agree more.
But for everyone who knows us at MTA, it’s clear that “by the community, for the community” lasts longer than a month. We’ve seen this again and again, as we did with our employees who were out mitigating the damages from this summer’s fires and last year’s earthquake and whatever Alaskan winters throw our way. But we also see that our members are our community. Being a 100% wholly-owned co-op, MTA is committed to giving back to the communities we serve. Our members live, work and play in the communities we serve, and we do our best to really ensure we live up to what it means to be a co-op.
What It Means To Be a Co-Op
Of course, what it means to be a co-op can vary across place or size and context. Broadly speaking, co-ops are groups of people united to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and goals. There are various kinds of co-ops, but notably, consumer co-ops like MTA are businesses that are operated and managed by the people who use their services. This allows us to use our unique infrastructure and services to help enhance the lives of many residents in a way that best meets their needs and goals in their communities.
There are many benefits of being both member-owned and operated. Without external shareholders, MTA and co-ops like us are able to care about meeting members’ needs. Since our members elect our board of directors, and our board of directors are our members, there’s a great synergy of respect and responsibility to community needs going on throughout our management.
All of these operational nuances and benefits are not without reward. MTA’s co-op model also helps generate jobs in communities around the Mat-Su Valley, and we keep profits local and pay local taxes to help support community services in our region.
Co-ops have grown in both popularity and influence. According to the Cooperative Network and the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Cooperatives, there are more than 40,000 cooperative businesses in the U.S., comprising a membership of 350 million and $514 billion in revenue. Numbers aside, we work to go above and beyond to make sure “co-op” is more than just a trend on Twitter, or a novel idea spotlighted in the news. We make the effort to understand our members who live in and utilize our service areas, since they are ultimately the people who operate our business.
Focused On The Community
MTA does not merely “talk the talk,” when it comes to being a co-op. We are 100% member-owned, and we take our commitment to the communities we serve to heart, ensuring we “walk the walk” at all times to really show up for our members and communities.
And show up we do: if you’re involved in the Mat-Su Valley community, you’ll know that we are too. We host a monthly product showcase aimed at educating our members and the community on the ever-growing list of streaming options available, while hosting standalone tech education for seniors to make sure they are enjoying MTA’s wide variety of tech options as much as anyone else.
We also have an ongoing presence at beloved community events. One of the major events we participate in, the annual summertime Bear Paw Festival in Eagle River, is not to be missed. We have been an ongoing sponsor of the festival for years, and this year’s edition was another rousing good time. Our community events are a highlight for us, and we always love getting to meet and hear from our members in person.
It’s not enough for us to simply be seen out in the community, though. MTA also creates a community. Our role in growing esports throughout the Mat-Su Valley and across Alaska has helped establish the state as hub for all things gaming and esports, and our recent eUnlimited BYTE Gaming Tournament on October 5 surpassed previous events in terms of attendance and awareness.
We could go on, but our message for Co-Op Month is clear – MTA would not be possible without our community, which is why each and every one of our actions is tailored to the needs and goals of our community. We look forward to serving you, and with you, in the months and years to come.
MTA: Life. Technology. Together.
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