People. Power. Progress. 75 Years of Service

The Journey Here

Over the last 75 years, a journey of sorts has taken place.

The course has always remained the same – provide reliable, reasonably priced electricity with quality customer service. But the passage has transformed a small, rural electric cooperative into one of the largest not-for-profit power providers in the entire nation. It involves people. It concerns power. It affects progress.

Along the way, many things have changed with the passage of time and the introduction of new technologies. Other things remain constant, rooting Jackson EMC in its past and providing a foundation not only for today but also for the years ahead.

Read the President's Message »

It involves people.
It concerns power.
It affects progress.


Jackson EMC was formed by local residents to serve rural homeowners, farmers, churches and small businesses in the area.

The vast majority of electric use then was for the farm and home, and the first thing that electricity brought was light – a lone bulb hanging from a drop cord in the center of a room. After lights, the first small appliance purchased was typically an electric iron to replace the heavy wedge of iron heated on wood stoves, then an electric radio to replace the car battery-operated model. The purchase of a water pump made indoor plumbing possible for the first time. Next, refrigerators replaced ice boxes, and electric stoves replaced the wood stove.

The average residential member’s electricity per month Then (1939) 22 kWh - vs - Now (2013) 1,200 kWh

In 1939, the average member used 22 kWh of electricity per month. Today, with the use of electric heating and cooling, televisions, computers and hundreds of other electric appliances and gadgets, the average residential member uses about 1,200 kWh monthly.

For the farmer, electricity offered an “unpaid hired hand” in the form of timesaving, productivity-increasing appliances like electric milkers, pumps, grinders, brooders and milk coolers.

Farmers put electricity to use in new ways – electric hotbeds for plants, electrically operated wagon unloaders, and electric powered hay and grain elevators.

When the lines were first powered, commercial customers were limited to a few small stores, service stations, a mill, a peach shed. The coming of rural electricity revolutionized poultry production, allowing greater numbers of chickens to be raised and eggs laid more efficiently; poultry houses multiplied into large-scale operations.

Things could have remained relatively unchanged but for the construction of I-85, I-985 and Highway 316.

Those transportation corridors would not only make suburban living popular, they would bring a wave of business and industry growth flowing up from Atlanta. The first industrial park was developed in Gwinnett County in 1975, adding names like Kubota, J.I. Case Tractor, Panasonic Corporation, OKI Advanced Communications and Cannon to the cooperative’s roster of members. Today, the cooperative’s energy sales are about 58 percent residential and 42 percent commercial/industrial.


From its birth, Jackson EMC provided its members with information on how to properly and effectively use their new electric service.

Before the first lines were energized, the cooperative ordered literature on electricity usage, including “A Bathroom for Every Farm,” “Lighting Equipment for the Farmer and Farm Home” and “Planning for Farm Wiring,” to educate members new to electrified life on its benefits.

A rich tradition of product demonstrations began in 1940 with traveling demonstrations as well as presentations by area extension and REA specialists on the use of electric appliances in the home and electric-powered equipment on the farm.

Thousands from northeast Georgia attended the 1941 REA Farm Electric Show, staged on a farm just north of Winder.

It was the largest display of its kind to tour the U.S., featuring two circus tents filled with exhibits and a midway with demonstrations of feed grinders, farm elevators, silage cutters, pumps, motors and more. REA home economists conducted “electrified homemaking” demonstrations showing farm wives how to use electric appliances.

A continuing series of home demonstrations over the years taught rural housewives how to use electric ovens, small appliances, freezers, washers and dryers, and microwave ovens. Cooperative employees provided advice and assistance on everything from wiring to lighting, from kitchen design to poultry house equipment.

When electricity became commonplace, the cooperative’s support shifted to efficient energy use.

Energy efficient homes were promoted and incented. Members were educated on the benefits of heat pumps. Tips on energy saving techniques were shared. Commercial and industrial customers were provided with energy and infrared audits, as well as power quality and other support. Today, the cooperative’s website offers members 24/7 support, with information ranging from “how-to” videos to online home energy audits.


Surprisingly, so much of the lineman’s job remains the same today as it was 75 years ago.

Pole structures, breakers and transformers are basically the same. Linemen still use nose bags for tools, ditty bags for nuts and bolts, and glove bags. They still use the same type of gaffs to climb poles. They still go out in storms to get the power back on, replacing wire, transformers and even the poles themselves.

Along the way, safety equipment evolved. Hard hats were introduced in the late ‘50s, safety glasses in the ‘80s, and fire resistant clothing and rubber sleeves in the ‘90s.

Over time the job got bigger and more complex. Wire size increased to handle greater capacity, poles grew from 35 feet to 50 feet, and electric loads became larger, making the job more inherently dangerous. The equipment that goes on the poles now is more complex, as are the trucks themselves. And the huge, heavy books of paper maps showing the more than 13,500 miles of Jackson EMC’s distribution system have been replaced by laptops.


The co-operative’s first vehicles were utility trucks that carried men and wire.

The Rural Electrification Administration (REA) required them to be red, and the trucks’ doors advertised them as belonging to an “REA Co-op.” It wasn’t until the 1960s that the first bucket trucks were added to the cooperative’s fleet, providing access to roadside power lines without having to climb poles. But the last, fiberglass portion of the bucket on those early trucks had to be extended by hand. During the same period, derrick trucks with auger and crane-type appendages mechanized the task of setting poles, which had formerly required a crew of men to set by hand.

Today’s bucket trucks can reach greater heights. Derrick trucks now can set even concrete poles. And while today’s trucks make the physical part of the job easier, they are more technical to operate.

Substations are the heart of the cooperative’s electric distribution system, transmitting current over wires and into homes and businesses.

The first Jackson EMC substation was energized at Jefferson in 1939, less than a mile from where the cooperative’s headquarters now stands.

Early substations were built for economy and utility, constructed like a box, which made them difficult to access for repairs. The fuses they used would later be replaced by reclosers then, later still, today’s circuit breakers. Built of steel, just like today’s substations, they only had a capacity of 3,000kVA, compared to the 50,000kVA to 100,000kVA capacity of today’s substations.

Earlier substation operations were controlled by electromechanical relays. Today’s substations are programmed by a laptop and digitally controlled to feed information on their status back into the cooperative’s supervisory control and data acquisition system (SCADA).


In a sense, the process of gauging how much electricity a customer has used has come full circle over the years.

Beginning in 1939, the cooperative had its members read their own meters. Members received “double postcard” mimeographed cards for them to mark their meter reading on one side of the cards’ blank dials that corresponded to those on their meters. That side of the card was sent back to the co-operative’s office for billing. The second side carried messages about services or events. When the cooperative received the marked up cards, they used them to fill in by hand names, addresses, usage and amount due on pre-printed postcard bills with that were mailed back to members for payment. Members could bring the card and pay at the office in Jefferson, or mail a check or money order.

Jackson EMC stuck with this method until 1985, when the cooperative’s first foray into personal computers accompanied the introduction of a new meter reading program.

With the automated program, 35 field service representatives conducted monthly meter readings using handheld devices that read meters and uploaded the readings electronically to the new computers.

Metering would remain basically the same until the beginning of the three-year, $25 million Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) project in 2009, which eliminated the need to send personnel out to read meters. New “smart meters” would not only monitor monthly power usage, but also automatically alert the co-op when a member’s power was out, pinpoint and display the locations that were out, and even alert the cooperative when a member’s power was restored.


The first Jackson EMC customers were provided with postcards they could mail to the cooperative to report a power outage and request repairs.

Later, a single collect outage call from each area would be accepted by the office in Jefferson, from which all crews were dispatched to make repairs. When the cooperative’s district offices were set up in Lawrenceville in early 1952, Neese in December of the same year, and Gainesville the following January, customers were instructed to first check their fuse and check with their neighbors to see if they were without electricity, then call the district office to report an outage. The district managers’ home phone numbers were published so they could take outage calls after business hours, and radios in their homes let them dispatch district-based repair crews.

Each outage call was written down on a slip of paper. The distribution system was small, and the district managers knew it so well that they could accurately calculate where to dispatch crews.

As the system grew in size and complexity, Jackson EMC went to a mapping system.

Computerization eliminated hand-written outage tickets, but while the computer was faster, the system still produced paper service order tickets that had to be hand sorted and matched to a paper wall map of the distribution system in order to determine where to dispatch crews. When the Integrated Voice Response (IVR) system was introduced in 1990, it automatically sorted service order tickets by map location, but the tickets still needed to be matched to the paper wall map.

A major change took place with the installation of the Outage Management System (OMS) in 2007.

Together with SCADA, the systems often lead to a specific piece of problem equipment. Gathering information from the SCADA monitoring system, Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), Geographical Information System (GIS), Customer Information System (CIS), input from employees in the field, and customer reports, the OMS can efficiently map outages and track the causes for them and, with automated vehicle location, can determine which truck is closest to the outage and to be deployed for repairs.

Today, while many members still use the IVR to report outages, they now can report service interruptions on the cooperative’s website using their desktop computer or mobile device.


Some details of Jackson EMC’s Annual Meeting have changed over the years, but the meeting itself has remained a constant since the first one held February 10, 1939, more than a month before the first lines were powered.

The date moved to May in 1940 to take advantage of better weather, then to August in the early 1950s, and in 1957 to September, where it remains.

Meetings started out in the Jackson County Courthouse, then moved to a large tent behind the first cooperative office on Athens Street, and later still to the present corporate/Jefferson district campus.

At the core is the business portion of the meeting, where the cooperative’s member-owners receive an accounting of how business is faring and elect members of the board of directors.

But it has always been so much more…an opportunity for fellowship, to see and touch new products, and enjoy the show.

Since the early days there have been prize drawings, exhibits of the latest electric appliances and cooperatives services, and a variety of entertainment.

Over the years, Annual Meeting has included beauty contests (1953-1964), cake baking contests (1953-1957), talent contests (1958-1962), and choir contests (1963-1964), all part of an effort to encourage member attendance. From 1957 through 1964, Annual Meeting was a two-day event, with a youth rally and beauty contest on Friday evening, and the remaining events on Saturday morning. The cooperative introduced a barbecue chicken dinner in 1957, a Health Fair in 1991 and a Kid’s Carnival in 1994, all of which survive to this day.

The Constants Along the Way

While many things associated with Jackson EMC have changed over the years, there are some things that have remained constant. They form the purpose, principles and objectives that have guided the cooperative over 75 years.


Five dollars still makes you a member of Jackson EMC, even though the value of that $5 has changed over the years.

Members still elect the board who represent their interests. They still share in the costs of operating the cooperative that brings them electricity. And they still receive, in the form of margin refunds, a portion of the revenues left after the costs of doing business. In 2012, that refund was $5 million, for a total of $90 million returned to members since the cooperative was founded.

Cooperative Principles

Jackson EMC is still guided by five principles – service to the community, customer service, employee development, competition and communication.

Customer Satisfaction

While the cooperative didn’t conduct its first actual Customer Satisfaction Survey until 1992, finding out what members wanted and expected has been part of its business operations from the beginning.

Customer feedback has resulted in everything from changes in Annual Meeting to product and service offerings. While the first Customer Satisfaction Survey netted an overall satisfaction rating of 67, recent surveys have an overall rating in the 90s. And the cooperative has three times been recognized by J.D. Power and Associates for highest in customer satisfaction among midsize utilities in the South.

75 years by the Numbers

1940* 2013
Number Meters Served 1,859 210,213
Miles of Energized Wire 690 13,549
Number Metering Points 2 80
Assets (millions of dollars) .542 859
kWh Sales .581 million 4.9 billion
*First full year of operation.


Financial Statements as of May 31, 2013 and 2012 and Report of Independent Accountants

Download Financial Statements (PDF 73.0 KB)