5 POWER TO THE PEOPLE CHAPTER ONE NISC is a cooperative, which means that it is owned by its customers. In this unique business model, instead of trying to maximize profit for investors or shareholders, NISC works for itsMembers.Cooperativesareguidedbyasetofprinciplesthat create a kind of economic democracy. Members contribute a per-customer fee to support the enterprise, and they have equal voting rights in setting policies or making decisions. NISC serves over 800 utility and telecom Members in all 50 states, American Samoa, Palau and Canada, which range in size from 437 customers to almost 300,000. Each Member can participate in advisory committees, request changes in software, learn from one another and NISC staff at the annual Member Information Conference, hear updates and plans at the Annual Membership Meeting and provide input into NISC’s product direction. Each year, NISC returns 21 percent or more of its net margin — what other companies would consider profit — to its Members. (From 2014 to 2017, that figure reached 30 percent.) thought of the co-op on the river. A few minutes later, his phone rang. Tri-County needed his help. Bringing electricity back online required more than trucks and linemen. To locate and repair outages, Tri-County needed customer records and outage maps — computer databases from servers that were submerged in water and mud. By Sunday afternoon, Weber and Doug Remboldt, NISC Vice President of Member Support, had grabbed 10 servers, 10 computers and wiring switches from the NISC office to rebuild the Tri-County system. They didn’t wait for permission or even think about the cost. They were more concerned about the people of Rushford living without electricity amid one of the region’s worst-ever natural disasters. Weber and Remboldt drove almost eight hours to Rushford, passing homes with mud flowing out the front door and streets warped by the flood- waters. They brought Tri-County back online by Monday evening. On Friday, the co-op was able to cut payroll checks for the folks who had worked so hard to restore power to the town. “It was amazing,” says Bernard. “They really stood up and helped us recover very, very quickly.” Today, NISC offers a Disaster Recovery service, which provides encrypted data that is backed up nightly and can be accessed remotely by as many as (Left) Torrential rain and flash flooding of historic proportions submerged Rushford, Minnesota, in 2007. (Below) Flooding destroyed Tri-County Electric Cooperative vehicles in Minnesota, hampering efforts to restore power. 10 users at a time. NISC employees are still ready and willing to go the extra mile — as Weber and Remboldt did when they played rock-paper-scissors to see who would take the sofa and who would sleep on the floor in Rushford to protect the computers in an unlocked trailer. They came home at the end of the week, pleased they were able to help in a difficult situation but aware that Tri-County and the town of Rushford still had a huge cleanup ahead of them. “The work that our Members do is important, meaningful work,” says Remboldt. “It’s providing a quality-of-life service. We just helped in any way we possibly could.”