Cobb EMC CEO empowers electrical engineering students

MARIETTA, Ga. (March 18, 2016) — The path to CEO for Chip Nelson came after nearly four…

Georgia (Mar 18, 2016)

MARIETTA, Ga. (March 18, 2016) — The path to CEO for Chip Nelson came after nearly four decades working for Cobb EMC.

The alumnus of Southern Tech, the name of the former Southern Polytechnic State University, which consolidated with Kennesaw State, spoke March 15 to electrical engineering students about the growing field of power distribution services.   

As president and CEO of Cobb EMC, an electric cooperative that distributes power to residential and commercial members in five Georgia counties, Nelson also shared insight on his college days and career path.

Nelson spent eight years working on his electrical engineering degree, taking night classes while he worked fulltime to support his young family.  He was one of Cobb EMC’s first employees in the cooperative’s engineering department, which he landed while working on his college degree.

“They wanted to hire and train us on underground distribution design,” Nelson said.  “It was the new thing. They only had overhead power lines back then.”

Today, Cobb EMC is one of the country’s largest cooperatives, with more than 9,000 miles of power lines serving more than 200,000 consumers. He was hired as CEO in 2011 to clean up a “spending and money use problem” caused by previous administration, he explained.

“There is a future need for engineers at cooperatives like ours. We are the seventh largest in the nation, and with 900 cooperatives throughout the U.S., the need for engineers in the power distribution industry is growing, ” Nelson said.

He advised the KSU electrical engineering students on issues related to personal ethics and understanding business, and what they needed to be successful:

  • Good manners, such as how you dress and how you look.  “I know some companies take their high-potential clients to dinner just to check their manners.”
  • Basic principles in accounting. “As an engineer, it is important to understand cash accrual, cash flow and balance sheets to understand business. It broadens your perspective.”
  • Hard people skills. “One of the toughest things is to be a good listener. So listen twice as much as you talk.” He also added that having someone with experience that you trust and respect can serve as a sounding board.
  • You will be tested. “Know your morals and ethical behavior. Be honest and truthful and set that in concrete so you are not swayed to the other side.”
  • Embrace change. “All will have failures, in companies and partners, but you need to learn from those.”

“In my experience, these are some of the things that are most important in life,” Nelson added.


- Tiffany Capuano; photos by David Caselli 


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit