Reflecting growing enthusiasm for worker co-ops, the Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy—held last month in Worcester, Massachusetts—attracted a record 300-plus participants. One item on the agenda: the possibility of creating new worker cooperatives through conversions in which employees buy a business from an exiting owner. The stakes are large—and not just for worker co-op advocates. Indeed, literally millions of businesses will be affected, as the baby boom generation retires at the rate of 10,000 people a day. This means there are going to be a whole lot of business ownership transitions. And how those transitions occur will have very significant consequences for communities everywhere. As the late John Logue, founder of the Ohio Employee Ownership Center, often remarked: “The failure to plan for business succession is the number one cause of preventable job loss in this country.” Logue also used to remind folks that “only 30 percent of family businesses will pass to the 2nd generation,” even though half of exiting owners think they will transfer their business to family members.
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