Officials of rural electric coops gathered in Nashville for their annual meeting will award national honors tonight to the Butler County R-E-C in Allison, Iowa. Manager Bob Bauman says eight area co-ops serving some two-dozen counties joined forces to create “Homeward, Incorporated,” a four-part home-loan program. The coops recognize there’s some stress in the rural areas of Iowa, and this is one way to help them with housing, Bauman says. The main part of Homeward is a down-payment and remodeling program to get low-income families into owned housing. Bauman says it offers low-rate interest loans to families that meet income guidelines in those 25 counties, and they don’t have to be electric coop members. The R-E-C’s also have a hand in economic-development, using the same kind of program with employers.They work with fifteen employers and add more all the time, making the same low-interest down-payment and remodeling to workers, so the firms can attract new workers and convince employees to move to town. Now that customers have started asking about putting up their own wind generators, the R-E-C’s have created a program to help them. These are small units, generating enough electricity to serve a house or farm, but when they make extra power, they’ll be paid a premium for it out of a fund that customers contribute to, voluntarily. Bauman plugs “the cooperative way of doing business” in every conversation, saying members support renewable energy so the co-ops offer voluntary programs to give those owner-customers a say in things.