Rural Small Business Employee Ownership

Here are some resources to learn more about business conversions to worker cooperatives and employee ownership in rural areas. 

Company Stories


Places

Maine

Truthout – Explosion of Interest in Worker Cooperatives Drives Economic Changes

From Truthout: It’s been more than 10 years since the financial crisis of 2008, and working people are still being hammered by its effects — stagnating wages, a widening gap between the rich and the poor, and a rise in the sharing economy to meet basic needs. At the same time, one legacy of the […]

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Owners sell Save-A-Lot, Food City to employees

From the Lewiston Sun Journal: Instead of traditionally selling their grocery chain, CEO Zak Sclar and his father, Stanley, opted to sell seven Food Cities and two Save-A-Lots to employees through an employee stock ownership plan. Through hoped-for annual profits, workers will pay the Sclars back and each year earn shares of the company that […]

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NPQ – Nonprofit Takes Leadership Role to Address Business Succession “Tsunami”

From NPQ: Here at NPQ, we have noted that a business ownership succession wave—often called the “silver tsunami”—is rising. According to the nonprofit Project Equity, nationally “baby boomers own 2.34 million businesses, employ 24.7 million people, and have combined annual sales of $5.14 trillion.” Sadly, 80 percent of these businesses lack succession plans. Slowly, awareness of the looming crisis is […]

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Press Republican – Keeping North Country businesses alive

From the Press Republican: More than 10,000 business owners nearing retirement in the North Country, and new ones are hard to find, but the new Adirondack North Country Center for Businesses in Transition stands ready to help. The unique collaboration of regional organizations and leaders aims to support existing business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs in […]

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Sun Journal – Chamber offers series on leaving a business

From the Sun Journal: The Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the city of Lewiston Department of Economic Development and the Cooperative Development Institute, is offering a workshop series on leaving a business. Planning for Tomorrow is a three-part series on options and strategies for business owners to Exit Their Business and […]

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Portland Press Herald – Bill would help retiring business owners transfer ownership to workers

From Maine’s Portland Press Herald: NORTHPORT — In 1992, Susanne Ward and her husband, Patrick Reilley, founded Second Read Books and Coffee, Maine’s first espresso bar-bookstore. Rockland’s Main Street was a highly unlikely place for the two entrepreneurs to choose at that time, as the city was struggling with a collapsing fishing industry and many […]

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The Co-Op Economy in Maine

From Maine Public Radio: For many people, when they hear the term ‘co-op’ they think of the local food store or maybe one of the lobster co-ops that dot the coast.  But Maine has co-ops of all sizes and types in the retail, agriculture, fisheries, manufacturing, housing, financial services and other sectors.  October is Co-op […]

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Maine solar business pursues conversion to worker­owned co­op to sustain business, create more jobs

From Rural Cooperatives: Much has been made of the oncoming wave of baby boomer retirements — dubbed the “Silver Tsunami” — and the opportunity for retiring business owners to convert to employee ownership as a business succession strategy. Particularly in rural areas, where the population is much older than average, selling any small business is […]

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In these Times – Retirement of Boomer Business Owners Could Leave Millions Jobless – Unless Workers Take Over

From In These Times (pdf): The federal government estimates that more than 10,000 baby boomers retire every day—4 million people every year. Between them, soon-to-retire boomers own 2.34 million businesses, with nearly 25 million employees. Boomer-owned businesses generate $949 billion in payroll, and $5.14 trillion in sales. Yet the vast majority of boomer business owners lack a written […]

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Yes – As Boomers Retire, Mom-and-Pop Businesses Convert to Co-ops to Save Jobs

From Yes Magazine: Five years later, things are better for Rock City, though certainly not perfect. And at age 64, Ward is ready to retire. With help from Rob Brown of the Cooperative Development Institute (CDI) in Maine, she is now working on the details of transitioning Rock City to worker ownership. “I had three […]

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The Next Boom for Worker Co-ops?

From Shelterforce For Ward, Rock City’s employees were family, and even though some kind of employee ownership plan had been in the back of her mind as a “nebulous thing,” she recalls, it never seemed like the right time. “As my husband would say, ‘We have to operate in the black.’”In 2010, in the midst […]

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Entrepreneurs Looking To Exit, Your Employees May Be Your Buyers

From Forbes: Twin threats to economic growth and prosperity can both be addressed by increasing employee ownership, according to Camille Kerr, Co-Director, of Workers to Owners at Democracy at Work Institute. The first problem, she explains, is the aging baby boomer generation of entrepreneurs and business owners. “Right now, the United States is in an ownership crisis. […]

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Going Co-op Employee Ownership Sustains Business Legacy

From the Island Institute: The effort to sustain our communities and their economic and civic life for future generations scored a significant victory recently on Deer Isle. The employees of three retail businesses—Burnt Cove Market, V&S Variety and Pharmacy, and The Galley market—became concerned when word circulated that the owners were thinking about selling the […]

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Augusta Conference Tracks Conversion of Business to Worker-owned Cooperative

From the Kennebec Journal: Last June, 42 employees of four businesses on tiny Deer Isle in Hancock County took ownership into their own hands. They formed Island Employee Cooperative Inc., and bought the two grocery stores, a variety/hardware store and a pharmacy that made up a business that had been owned by the Seile family […]

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Pacific Standard – Buying Out Your Boss: Worker Cooperatives Are the Future of Small Business

From the Pacific Standard:  The recent Market Basket strike — 25,000 employees from 71 stores — was characterized by a Boston Review– and MIT Sloan-sponsored roundtable as The Summer of Market Basket. Unlike the summer’s other labor dispute to gain notoriety, fast food workers protesting for higher wages, the Market Basket strike seemed like a radical departure from a […]

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Business ownership by workers: are worker cooperatives a viable option?

From Iowa State University: One possible strategy for both succession and new business development is employee ownership. New business formation as an employee-owned firm or cooperative may have some advantages over formation as a sole proprietorship or partnership: pooling financial resources, spreading risk and combining the various knowledge and skills of the members involved. In […]

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USDA – Worker-owned / ESOPs can help preserve business in rural America

From the USDA: Employee ownership can help a business prosper by creating financial incentives for performance and by providing more self management of working conditions and policies. These benefits may accrue whether businesses are organized as cooperatives or as Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs) when workers have a majority control. Employee owners in rural communities […]

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North Carolina

Wealth Works – Employee Ownership Pays Off

From Wealth Works: Interest in employee ownership and other bottom-up business strategies has increased in western North Carolina and surrounding areas. Opportunity Threads is a success story that provides a model for employee ownership within the region. Founded in 2008 by a native of Morganton, North Carolina, Molly Hemstreet, Opportunity Threads employs about two dozen […]

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NPQ – Nonprofit Takes Leadership Role to Address Business Succession “Tsunami”

From NPQ: Here at NPQ, we have noted that a business ownership succession wave—often called the “silver tsunami”—is rising. According to the nonprofit Project Equity, nationally “baby boomers own 2.34 million businesses, employ 24.7 million people, and have combined annual sales of $5.14 trillion.” Sadly, 80 percent of these businesses lack succession plans. Slowly, awareness of the looming crisis is […]

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Press Republican – Keeping North Country businesses alive

From the Press Republican: More than 10,000 business owners nearing retirement in the North Country, and new ones are hard to find, but the new Adirondack North Country Center for Businesses in Transition stands ready to help. The unique collaboration of regional organizations and leaders aims to support existing business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs in […]

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NC Budget and Tax Center – Down Home Capital: How Converting Businesses into Employee-Owned Enterprises Can Save Jobs and Empower Communities

From The North Carolina Budget and Tax Center: North Carolina has the potential to turn a grave challenge into a transformative economic opportunity. Thousands of businesses could disappear over the coming years as baby boomer entrepreneurs enter retirement, threatening to deal a heavy blow to communities across the state. However, by helping many of these […]

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NPQ – Durham Considers Employee Ownership as Strategy to Preserve Black Businesses

Read the full article at Nonprofit Quarterly: As Sandra Larson writes in Next City, Durham, North Carolina was once home to many “Black-owned financial institutions and businesses that sprang up around Parrish Street during the Jim Crow era.” This included firms such as Mechanics and Farmers Bank and North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company. But, as […]

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Next City – Can Employee Ownership Preserve Durham’s Legacy of Black Businesses?

From Next  City:  Durham, N.C., was once known nationally for its “Black Wall Street,” a cluster of flourishing black-owned financial institutions and businesses that sprang up around Parrish Street during the Jim Crow era, including some iconic insurance and finance firms such as Mechanics and Farmers Bank and North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company. With […]

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Bull City Today – Durham Participates in SEED Fellowship to Promote Equitable Business Retention

From Bull City Today: Find out how #Durham is continuing to find new ways to support the retention & expansion of local small, minority & women-owned businesses through an @leagueofcities, @Institute_coop & @USFWC SEED Fellowship on #BullCityToday. pic.twitter.com/01MhKTEk5o — CityofDurhamNC (@CityofDurhamNC) November 16, 2018

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City of Durham – Durham Commits to Shared Equity in Economic Development with Local Business Retention via Employee Ownership

From the City of Durham:  DURHAM, N.C. – Thanks to the City of Durham’s inclusion in a recent fellowship, long-standing Durham minority business owners can soon expect outreach for help with succession planning and employeeownership options. Durham is one of four cities recently selected to participate in the Shared Equity in Economic Development (SEED) Fellowship, […]

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Fast Company – Can the Wave of Baby Boomer Entrepreneur Retirements Create a Surge of Worker-Owned Businesses

From Fast Company: If you work at a textile or furniture factory in Western North Carolina, you probably don’t belong to a union; the region usually ranks as the least unionized part of the United States. But a growing number of companies in the area, which includes the city of Asheville and smaller Appalachian towns, […]

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Mountain Xpress – Nonprofit groups to host Aug. 23 session on worker-owned businesses

From Mountain Xpress: Charen’s interest in the idea of cooperative businesses is grounded at home. Her father is 72 years old and has been trying to sell his company for eight years now. The trouble he’s had with selling his business got her wondering: How many local businesses actually sell? From her research of a […]

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IEDC – For Retiring Business Owners, Worker-Owners Can Carry the Torch

From the International Economic Development Council (pdf): For the busy owners of small businesses, short-term pressures often take precedence over long-term planning. That’s why many business owners lack a succession plan to ensure that the enterprise will continue when they’re ready to step down. The stakes are especially high when the firm is a community […]

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Asheville Citizen Times – Employee Ownership could be Asheville’s Key to Prosperity

From the Asheville Citizen Times (pdf): In Western North Carolina the 12,000 retiring small business owners (nearly half of the total according to our latest study) do have options. For example, they could sell their businesses to outside corporations looking to acquire more diverse assets for their portfolios. This often means layoffs, relocation, changes in […]

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Mountain Xpress – Passing the torch: What happens when local business owners retire?

From Mountain Xpress: The imminent mass retirement of baby boomers has both economic advisers and worker advocates worried about the future of small businesses in Western North Carolina and beyond. Boomers, many of whom will retire within the next decade, own roughly half of all American businesses, census data shows. This looming “silver tsunami” is […]

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Electric Violin Shop – Under New Ownership: EVS Converts To A Worker-owned Cooperative

From the Electric Violin Shop: May 16th, 2016 looked like any normal busy Monday at Electric Violin Shop. Our small staff worked in concert to address email inquiries and ship e-commerce orders taken over the weekend in between answering the usual barrage of customer phone calls. This group of employees has the day-to-day of running […]

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Business ownership by workers: are worker cooperatives a viable option?

From Iowa State University: One possible strategy for both succession and new business development is employee ownership. New business formation as an employee-owned firm or cooperative may have some advantages over formation as a sole proprietorship or partnership: pooling financial resources, spreading risk and combining the various knowledge and skills of the members involved. In […]

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USDA – Worker-owned / ESOPs can help preserve business in rural America

From the USDA: Employee ownership can help a business prosper by creating financial incentives for performance and by providing more self management of working conditions and policies. These benefits may accrue whether businesses are organized as cooperatives or as Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs) when workers have a majority control. Employee owners in rural communities […]

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Vermont

Burlington Free Press – Employee Owned Companies Gain Traction

From the Burlington Free Press: For Jason and Shaun, an ESOP was the perfect exit strategy. The brothers did not want to leave the fate of the employees who helped them build Alliance into a powerhouse in the hands of a buyer that might gut the place. They had originally thought of selling it to a […]

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NPQ – Nonprofit Takes Leadership Role to Address Business Succession “Tsunami”

From NPQ: Here at NPQ, we have noted that a business ownership succession wave—often called the “silver tsunami”—is rising. According to the nonprofit Project Equity, nationally “baby boomers own 2.34 million businesses, employ 24.7 million people, and have combined annual sales of $5.14 trillion.” Sadly, 80 percent of these businesses lack succession plans. Slowly, awareness of the looming crisis is […]

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Press Republican – Keeping North Country businesses alive

From the Press Republican: More than 10,000 business owners nearing retirement in the North Country, and new ones are hard to find, but the new Adirondack North Country Center for Businesses in Transition stands ready to help. The unique collaboration of regional organizations and leaders aims to support existing business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs in […]

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How King Arthur Flour’s Unusual Leadership Structure Is Key To Its Success

From Forbes: In 2004, the leadership of King Arthur Flour gathered to formally sign over control from longtime owners Frank and Brinna Sands to the company’s employee stock ownership program (ESOP). The two had been gradually transferring shares in the Norwich, Vermont, flour maker to the ESOP since 1996 as part of a long-planned exit. […]

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Vermont Business Magazine – A year of change for employee-owned Gardener’s Supply

Read the full story at Vermont Business Magazine  “2018 was a transformative year for us,” says Cindy Turcot, one of the original employees and now President of Burlington-based Gardener’s Supply Company. A national retailer, Gardener’s Supply is one of Vermont’s best-known companies, a leader in the socially-responsible business community, and 100 percent employee-owned through an […]

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VT Digger – Employees Purchase The New School Of Montpelier From Founder As A Worker Cooperative

From VT Digger: The employees of The New School of Montpelier (NSM) in Vermont have purchased the school from its founder and will be operating it as the state’s largest worker cooperative. Founded in 2005 by Susan Kimmerly, the NSM serves students ages 6 – 22 with intensive disabilities; primarily children and young adults with autism, cognitive disabilities, and […]

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Business ownership by workers: are worker cooperatives a viable option?

From Iowa State University: One possible strategy for both succession and new business development is employee ownership. New business formation as an employee-owned firm or cooperative may have some advantages over formation as a sole proprietorship or partnership: pooling financial resources, spreading risk and combining the various knowledge and skills of the members involved. In […]

0 comments

USDA – Worker-owned / ESOPs can help preserve business in rural America

From the USDA: Employee ownership can help a business prosper by creating financial incentives for performance and by providing more self management of working conditions and policies. These benefits may accrue whether businesses are organized as cooperatives or as Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs) when workers have a majority control. Employee owners in rural communities […]

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Wisconsin

NPQ – Nonprofit Takes Leadership Role to Address Business Succession “Tsunami”

From NPQ: Here at NPQ, we have noted that a business ownership succession wave—often called the “silver tsunami”—is rising. According to the nonprofit Project Equity, nationally “baby boomers own 2.34 million businesses, employ 24.7 million people, and have combined annual sales of $5.14 trillion.” Sadly, 80 percent of these businesses lack succession plans. Slowly, awareness of the looming crisis is […]

0 comments

Press Republican – Keeping North Country businesses alive

From the Press Republican: More than 10,000 business owners nearing retirement in the North Country, and new ones are hard to find, but the new Adirondack North Country Center for Businesses in Transition stands ready to help. The unique collaboration of regional organizations and leaders aims to support existing business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs in […]

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NPQ – Nonprofits Shift Baby Boomer Businesses to Worker Ownership in Bid for Community Sustainability

Read full article at Nonprofit Quarterly: At NPQ, we have written about the growing prominence of employee ownership, but mostly from the perspective of the value of preserving businesses and jobs in the community. Still, these community benefits will only be realized if business owners agree to sell to their employees. So, what would drive a business […]

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Stevens Point City Times – North Wind Renewable Energy Transitions to Employee-Owned Cooperative

From the Stevens Point City Times:North Wind Renewable Energy has announced the company is now an employee-owned cooperative.  The transition for the 10-year-old company took place April 1.In 2016, North Wind installed over 660 kilowatts of solar power at more than 40 homes and businesses in Wisconsin, helping customers save money on utility bills and transitioning to clean energy […]

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Webinar Recap – Poverty Alleviation and Systems Change with Worker Cooperatives

From Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy: A time-tested approach to community economic development internationally, worker cooperative businesses are making inroads in the United States with regional initiatives in New York City, Madison, the Bay Area, and rural areas in the South. In this webinar, we aim to introduce worker-cooperative development as an innovative approach to poverty […]

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Business ownership by workers: are worker cooperatives a viable option?

From Iowa State University: One possible strategy for both succession and new business development is employee ownership. New business formation as an employee-owned firm or cooperative may have some advantages over formation as a sole proprietorship or partnership: pooling financial resources, spreading risk and combining the various knowledge and skills of the members involved. In […]

0 comments

USDA – Worker-owned / ESOPs can help preserve business in rural America

From the USDA: Employee ownership can help a business prosper by creating financial incentives for performance and by providing more self management of working conditions and policies. These benefits may accrue whether businesses are organized as cooperatives or as Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs) when workers have a majority control. Employee owners in rural communities […]

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Sectors

Solar

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Rural Cooperatives – Solar energy provider converts to worker­owned cooperative

From Rural Cooperatives: The year 2016 was a record­breaking year for solar installations across the nation. Boosted by the decreasing cost of solar panels and the increasing visibility of the impacts of carbon pollution, the solar energy sector is rapidly generating jobs and clean energy capacity. The solar sector now employs over twice as many […]

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Maine solar business pursues conversion to worker­owned co­op to sustain business, create more jobs

From Rural Cooperatives: Much has been made of the oncoming wave of baby boomer retirements — dubbed the “Silver Tsunami” — and the opportunity for retiring business owners to convert to employee ownership as a business succession strategy. Particularly in rural areas, where the population is much older than average, selling any small business is […]

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Stevens Point City Times – North Wind Renewable Energy Transitions to Employee-Owned Cooperative

From the Stevens Point City Times:North Wind Renewable Energy has announced the company is now an employee-owned cooperative.  The transition for the 10-year-old company took place April 1.In 2016, North Wind installed over 660 kilowatts of solar power at more than 40 homes and businesses in Wisconsin, helping customers save money on utility bills and transitioning to clean energy […]

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California Economic Development Journal – Economic Ownership Can Preserve California Businesses and Save Jobs

From the California Economic Development Journal (pdf): Engineer and solar pioneer Gary Gerber founded Sun Light and Power in the 1970s, one of the first wave of renewable energy enterprises. By 2015 the Berkeley-based solar installer was thriving and Gary was considering his retirement options. Always mission-driven, he couldn’t envision selling the business he and […]

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Cal Solar Employees Vote to Explore Becoming Nevada County’s First Worker-owned Co-op

From Briarpatch: BriarPatch is proud to work with locally-owned California Solar Electric Company, or Cal Solar, to build our new photovoltaic solar energy system. They were a great fit for the project for  a variety of reasons, and we can be even more proud of the partnership because California Solar is actively exploring converting to […]

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Construction

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Employee Ownership and The Promise of Quality Jobs

From the Times of San Diego: In California and nationally, historically low unemployment rates are not a sign of prosperity, but indicatethe arrival of an economy that specializes in creating low-paying, temporary jobs with no benefits or job security. According to a Princeton University study, such positions were responsible for 94 percent of American job growth […]

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Forbes – Californian City Looks To Keep Its Factories

From Forbes: Project Equity approached Kline and the City of Fremont with a plan to both understand the threat they faced with ageing business owners and also to help get the word out that there that employee ownership could be a viable succession plan for them. “We talk to a lot of businesses to try […]

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CA FWD – Employee ownership represents a fairer economic development strategy

From CA FWD: A few years ago, the New York Times reported that state governments spend over $80 billion per year on business incentives. States, including California, offer tax reductions and other special subsidies to companies that promise to relocate jobs in state or even just promise not to move them out of state. The cost per […]

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South Bay Pizzeria Slices Up Its Ownership, Cuts Employees In

From San Joe Inside (pdf): With more room, the pizza joint can improve efficiency and build capacity.“If that’s what the employees decide to do,” Vartan clarifies. “That’s their call now.” The physical renovations have set the stage for an existential one at A Slice of New York. Last month, Vartan, who co-founded the business in […]

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San Jose Pizza Shop Deals Employees a Slice of the Action

From KIPX (CBS News): KPIX 5’s Wilson Walker gets a taste of the business model at the South Bay’s first pizza co-op, where the employees finally get a piece of the pie.

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Voice of OC – Santa Ana Officials Endorse Worker-Owned Businesses and Declare Intent to Support Them

From the Voice of OC (pdf): A resolution passed 5-to-0 by the City Council last week said the cooperatives provide local goods and services, stable jobs, and economic opportunities for low-income workers, while also keeping wealth local. At the same time, it added, cooperatives are often limited in their ability to get bank loans.  And […]

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IEDC – For Retiring Business Owners, Worker-Owners Can Carry the Torch

From the International Economic Development Council (pdf): For the busy owners of small businesses, short-term pressures often take precedence over long-term planning. That’s why many business owners lack a succession plan to ensure that the enterprise will continue when they’re ready to step down. The stakes are especially high when the firm is a community […]

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Marketplace – Baby boomer entrepreneurs hope co-op model will keep business going

From Marketplace.org (pdf) Baby boomer entrepreneurs hope co-op model will keep business going Berkeley’s reclaimed trash company Urban Ore has diverted tons of garbage from the dump and into the hands of customers, and the company has become a key part of Berkeley’s recycling ecosystem. But it could disappear. That’s because the owners of the […]

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California Economic Development Journal – Economic Ownership Can Preserve California Businesses and Save Jobs

From the California Economic Development Journal (pdf): Engineer and solar pioneer Gary Gerber founded Sun Light and Power in the 1970s, one of the first wave of renewable energy enterprises. By 2015 the Berkeley-based solar installer was thriving and Gary was considering his retirement options. Always mission-driven, he couldn’t envision selling the business he and […]

0 comments

Cal Solar Employees Vote to Explore Becoming Nevada County’s First Worker-owned Co-op

From Briarpatch: BriarPatch is proud to work with locally-owned California Solar Electric Company, or Cal Solar, to build our new photovoltaic solar energy system. They were a great fit for the project for  a variety of reasons, and we can be even more proud of the partnership because California Solar is actively exploring converting to […]

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Farming

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The Co-Op Economy in Maine

From Maine Public Radio: For many people, when they hear the term ‘co-op’ they think of the local food store or maybe one of the lobster co-ops that dot the coast.  But Maine has co-ops of all sizes and types in the retail, agriculture, fisheries, manufacturing, housing, financial services and other sectors.  October is Co-op […]

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