The National Rural Economic Developers Association (NREDA) was formed to promote rural development opportunities through electric and telephone cooperatives. At the time of the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), cooperatives had been a long time advocate of marketing rural locations as a competitive and low cost alternative for business investment. The creation of a national organization, structured to coordinate recruitment resources would provide all members a greater presence to corporate America.

In 1988, a handful of cooperative members responsible for economic development, met in Platte City, MO, to evaluate this idea and its many benefits. In the spring of 1989, NREDA was formally organized, and later that year held the first member meeting in Washington, DC. The next year, Nashville, TN served as the conference city for the first annual meeting, attracting over 300 attendees. From that small beginning, NREDA had matured into a professional organization providing members valuable assistance with their economic development, key account management, community development, infrastructure development, or other rural development programs.