Cooperatives are familiar to many small town people from the farmer’s co-ops and the rural utility cooperatives. Really, any kind of business can be a cooperative. At the BALLE conference, we heard about worker-owned cooperatives and how they can help develop an area economically. This can work in small towns as well as big cities.
Evergreen Cooperatives is a network of for profit businesses, owned by the workers in Cleveland. They are finding strong markets by attaching businesses to anchor institutions, like Case Western University and area hospitals. They pay much better wages than competitors and offer benefits. Worker-owners buy in 50 cents at a time, over a three year period.
“I have a shot. I’m back in the game. I’m relevant again,” worker-owner Medrick Addison said. “Who would have thought that an ex-con from Cleveland would be quoted in Time Magazine and Newsweek?”
Addison said he is reminded every day that ownership is the key.
Businesses include commercial laundry and linens, solar energy generation, greenhouses and food production. All are market driven and for-profit. The difference is that the wealth that is generated stays in the community.
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.