Converted to Employee OwnershipRuralSolarUniversity of Wisconsin Center for CooperativesWisconsin

North Wind Renewable Energy, Stevens Point WI

At a glance

Location: Stevens Point, WI
Industry: Solar Energy
Number of employees: 12
Conversion date: 2017

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Conversion Story
“North Wind Renewable Energy is a solar power system design and installation company organized in 2007 in Stevens Point, WI. Our mission is to educate people on the numerous benefits of solar power and to deliver clean solar electricity to the utility grid in order to help people take concrete steps to combat climate change, resource depletion, and to enhance energy security in their own lives.

In 2016, the company began the process of transitioning to a worker-owned cooperative. We saw the opportunity to solicit long term commitment from key employees and to build wealth on their behalf, to improve governance, management, and decision-making and to build strong relationships with like-minded businesses and organizations in the communities we serve. We completed the transition in April of 2017.

For us, the structure itself allows for novel and creative ways to take on investment. The shift to governance by a board of directors changed the communication dynamics relatively quickly and provided a more open and honest exchange among members. It allowed us to work through some interpersonal dynamics that had developed that were unhealthy and put systems and review procedures in place to deal with them.

Going forward, shared decision making will take into account a more diverse set of perspectives on how we should grow and what we want to invest in, whether that be better benefits, new asset purchases or new services or offerings. Long term, we can look at North Wind as more than the sum of its parts and members can join and leave with well understood terms and equity can be built and allocated to align with changes in membership as they evolve.

In general, we believe cooperative businesses are better able to weather the ups and downs that small businesses face in challenging markets. We think they provide a unique opportunity for rural communities to maintain vitality and diversity in their small business community and to attract and retain quality employees. With resources available from various excellent organizations like the UW Center for Cooperatives in Madison, the transition isn’t as daunting as you might think. If you’d like to learn more about our experience with transition, we would be happy to talk with you about it. Contact us at”

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