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Coast Electric Power Association

Like the customers they serve, Coast Electric knows a thing or two about survival. Based in Kiln, Mississippi, this member-owned electric cooperative recently celebrated its 75th anniversary. But not so long ago, it was facing more than $100 million in damage and the loss of 15,000 customers whose homes and businesses were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Every customer of the cooperative experienced a power outage during the devastating 2005 hurricane and its aftermath.

“We were one of the fastest-growing co-ops in this area,” said Coast Electric’s president and chief executive officer, Bob Occhi. “But we took a direct hit from Katrina, one of the worst storms to hit the United States, and followed that up with a recession. Still, we survived and came back stronger thanks to our employees and our customers.”

Coast Electric became a CoBank customer in 2007 with a $35.5 million loan to help finance the rebuilding of their electric system following Hurricane Katrina. Since then, the co-op has used CoBank to refinance several higher interest rate Rural Utilities Service loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and to lease its large vehicles. “CoBank has introduced us to refinancing opportunities we never knew existed, and it has resulted in millions in savings,” Occhi said.

In addition, Coast Electric has taken advantage of CoBank’s Sharing Success program to invest in the future of its community.

In the program’s first year in 2012, the cooperative used the matching program to support a local community college. In 2013, it made a contribution to a fund managed by the statewide rural electric association that provides scholarships to the children of cooperative employees and assists employees’ families following a death or natural disaster.

Said Occhi: “We appreciate CoBank’s partnership in these efforts to improve our community.”

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