CEO Message – August 2022

Working to hold down costs in tough times

Theresa Quiroz headshotThe Dog Days of Summer are upon us, and everyone is struggling to stay cool amid one of the worst heatwaves on record. The Dog Days began July 3 and will continue through August 11, but that doesn’t mean we can expect it to be any cooler once this period is over. We have already been asked multiple times to conserve energy, as the high temperatures and statewide growth caused potentially grid-stressing events. There have been multiple energy usage records broken, and broken again within days. I know it’s a delicate balance between staying relatively comfortable and being able to afford your electric bills.

Everyone is feeling financially frazzled these days, as the Consumer Price Index, (used to gauge inflation), hit a whopping 9.1% in June, marking the largest gain in over 40 years. Inflation is skyrocketing out of control, and affecting every aspect of our lives. Here at Rio Grande, we have seen dramatic upticks in the price of our fleet fuel. From February of this year through June, we saw increases of about 30%. The price of poles is up about 25% over this time last year, and the Co-op, like every other business, is, at times, having trouble securing some equipment, due to supply chain issues. Anyone who has gone into a grocery store recently knows the price of nearly everything is up at least 25%, and supplies of some items are limited, or they’re not available at all. Meanwhile, our farmers and ranchers are being forced to sell off their livestock at low market prices because of the ongoing drought. We are all doing the best we can to get through these tough times, with as little upheaval to our families and our businesses as possible.

Though these are indeed tough times, we do have a lot for which we can be thankful. It’s times like these that make me particularly grateful that cooperatives such as ours do realize what members are affected by, and work to maintain manageable rates. This is one reason we have decided that the annual meeting, the emPOWER Summit, will be held virtually again this year. We do truly miss seeing you face-to-face, but the financial savings of holding it virtually are too significant to be ignored. A virtual meeting costs approximately 51% less than an in-person meeting. An additional factor we considered is that the attendance for virtual meetings has been comparable with the most heavily-attended in person meetings. The 2019 (in-person) meeting held in Uvalde was our highest attended meeting, with 247 memberships represented. The 2021 (virtual) annual meeting was attended by exactly the same number -- 247. These members did not incur any travel expenses to attend, and RGEC avoided travel, overtime, food, and a host of other expenses associated with annual meetings. It just makes good business sense to hold these meetings virtually, especially at a time when we are working so fervently to hold down costs.

The director election wheels have been in motion for several months now. The nominating committees selected an excellent slate of candidates to be placed on the ballot, there could be candidates running by petition, and you always have the option of writing-in a candidate of your choice. The election kicks off September 6, and runs through October 5. The results will be announced at the emPOWER Summit Saturday, October 8. It is important to the health and vitality of the Cooperative that members participate in the voting process. I encourage you to review the candidate biographies and participate in selecting those who will represent you on the board of directors. We do hope you’ll attend the emPOWER Summit this year. There are already lots of vendor donations rolling in, and we expect to have over $10,000 worth of prizes again this year, but you can’t win if you don’t log in and participate!

Theresa Quiroz