The rising trend of retiring baby-boomer business owners and collaborative millennial entrepreneurs has long been on the cooperative development radar. CDI is proud and excited about our strategic new initiative to meet the challenge: Business Ownership Solutions (BOS). Under this initiative, we work with business owners to help them consider whether conversion to a co-op would meet their needs. We also help employees and community members facilitate conversions to worker and/or community-owned cooperatives.
With BOS, we’re replicating the successful NEROC model of community organizing, transaction development and execution, and pre- and post-sale technical assistance in cooperative governance and management. We help convert conventionally owned businesses into worker or consumer co-ops and provide comprehensive education and development services to the new owners.
The first BOS conversion scheduled for this spring merges three businesses, two grocery stores and a hardware store, employing 65 workers in Stonington, Maine into one employee-owned cooperative, the Island Employee Cooperative. The two grocery stores are members of the newly-formed Independent Retailers Shared Services Cooperative, which is providing business planning and management support to the new cooperative. We are partnering with Maine-based community development lender Coastal Enterprises, Inc., to organize financing and lenders for the transaction.
Rural areas are seeing another growing trend: an influx of immigrants and refugees from a multitude of developing countries, many of whom would like to transfer their farming skills to their new homeland. The USDA’s Small and Socially Disadvantaged Producer Grant is allowing CDI to launch a new project to help immigrant and refugee farmers in the Northeast develop co-ops. We are partnering with four different groups that are all focused on immigrant economic success:
- Cultivating Community based in Portland, Maine, a community food project dedicated to connecting immigrants with the land, skills, and resources needed to start farm-based enterprises.
- Center for African Heritage in Westbrook, Maine, builds coalitions and economic viability for the growing African diaspora in the Greater Portland area.
- Association for Africans Living in Vermont based in Burlington, Vermont, whose mission is to promote the equal opportunity, dignity, and self-sufficiency of refugee and immigrant individuals and families in Vermont.
- Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success in Manchester, New Hampshire, a nonprofit focused on aiding in the resettlement of refugee and immigrant groups in the state of New Hampshire by providing assistance, training, resources, and opportunities that promote self-sufficiency.