NCBA Members Advocate for Co-ops at White House
During Washington's recent fiscal cliff negotiations, members of the co-op community willingly answered the call when asked to help communicate the needs of cooperative businesses. "It is encouraging that what we do and our advocacy for the cooperative business model is being acknowledged as something that can have some impact on a struggling economy," says Jack Bailey, president and CEO of the purchasing co-op IDC-USA, who attended a recent roundtable discussion for business leaders on President Obama's plan for the budget and fiscal cliff.
National Cooperative Bank President and CEO Charles E. Snyder and Gina Schaefer, owner of seven Ace Hardware stores in the Washington DC metro area, also attended the meeting, held on Dec. 6., 2012. "This meeting continues NCBA's efforts to educate the White House on a host of issues affecting cooperative enterprise," explains Liz Bailey, NCBA's Chief Policy Officer, who accompanied the co-op executives to the meeting, along with R.L. Condra, NCBA's director of public policy.
The invitation to participate in the Business Council meeting came about as a result of deepening Executive Branch relationships, which NCBA has been actively fostering since the cooperative-focused White House Community Leaders Briefing in May 2012. The spring briefing brought 150 leaders from the co-op community to DC to discuss policy issues affecting cooperatives with senior White House officials and federal agency administrators.
Also in December, the White House asked NCBA to make members aware of a conference call with senior White House staff regarding the fiscal cliff and taxes. While other business sectors were also represented on the call, the tele-briefing offered NCBA members another opportunity to discuss ways in which the fiscal cliff was expected to affect their cooperative businesses. Representatives across a variety of co-op industry sectors participated in the call, including credit unions, financial, housing, worker and food co-ops.
Liz Bailey is excited to see members of the cooperative community accept the challenge to engage with national policy and legislative leaders to ensure our cooperative voices are heard. "We have a great story to tell—and it’s crucial that Washington hears that story from as many of us as possible."
And as 2013 begins, there is still much work to be done. The success of community-wide efforts during the International Year of Cooperatives created tremendous momentum, which NCBA plans to continue building through a vigorous 2013 advocacy campaign.
Rural Electric Co-ops to Help Distribute $6 Million in Job Funds
In an ongoing effort to help rural businesses create sustainable, quality jobs, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on Dec. 20 that $6 million in funding will be provided to support rural economic development efforts in seven states in the Midwestern and Southern US. Under the USDA's Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant program, zero-interest loans are first made to rural electric co-ops, which then re-lend the money to initiatives focused on preserving jobs in local communities. The current round of funding is expected to save or create at least 350 jobs.
For example, Tri-County Electric Membership Cooperative in Tennessee will receive a loan of $996,000; these funds will be used to help construct a health clinic in Tomkinsville, Kentucky, which is expected to create over 60 jobs. In Minnesota, a $1 million loan is to be granted to Lake County Power to fund the expansion of a boat lift and dock manufacturing business that is projected to retain over 70 jobs, while creating 30 new positions.
Examples of projects that are eligible for REDLG funding from the USDA include:
- Capitalization of revolving loan funds
- Technical assistance in conjunction with projects funded under a zero interest REDLoan
- Business Incubators
- Community Development Assistance to non-profits and public bodies (particularly job creation or enhancement)
- Facilities and equipment for education and training for rural residents to facilitate economic development
- Facilities and equipment for medical care to rural residents
- Telecommunications/computer networks for distance learning or long distance medical care
Country's First Commercial Real Estate Investment Co-op Launches
Members of the Northeast Investment Cooperative, America's first commercial-property investment co-op, believe that "by investing patient capital together, by actively recruiting local businesses to occupy our property, and by supporting those businesses as they grow and thrive, we can bring transformative change to Northeast Minneapolis, one building at a time."
In late December, the group signed a purchase agreement for its first property—a distressed building on Central Avenue in Northeast Minneapolis, a neighborhood that has experienced decades of disinvestment. While threadbare and vacant properties may be the norm along this corridor, the area still manages to support a number of successful businesses that are eager to see new, thriving neighbors set up shop.
While the somewhat anemic market along Central Avenue hasn't been strong enough to attract many private developers, it also hasn't been weak enough to qualify for nonprofit investment, making the cooperative business model potentially an ideal fit for this neighborhood. For its part, NEIC is committed to providing local investment and keeping eventual profits in the neighborhood.
Once the building is rehabilitated, one successful local business, the Recovery Bike Shop, has committed to buy and occupy half of the new facility, while NEIC searches for other tenants to move into the remaining space.
NEIC has 90 days to raise $300,000 from members to cover building acquisition costs and improvements. It's estimated that the project could funnel as much as $500,000 into the local neighborhood.
Regional Co-op Network Takes Center Stage on Oregon Public TV
On Jan. 11, co-ops took center stage on Southern Oregon Public Television in the weekly TV and Internet program, Immense Possibilities. Hosted by Jeff Golden, Immense Possibilities features guests whose social creations are building vibrant communities and solving challenges that the old systems can't.
The program focused on "the astonishing size and reach of cooperative enterprises" and on the rise of regional cooperative networks in the US. Immense Possibilities highlighted one network in particular, Rogue Co-ops, in rural Jackson County, Oregon. Rogue Co-ops was formed in Nov. 2011 by five local cooperatives (Rogue Federal Credit Union, Grange Co-op, Medford Food Co-op and Ashland Food Co-op) who together, provide 600 jobs and serve a combined 90,000 members.
During the 30-minute program, Emile Amarotico (Medford Food), Darren Davidson (Grange), Annie Hoy (Ashland Food) and Gene Pelham (Rogue Federal Credit Union) are interviewed, along with NCBA's Liz Bailey.
2 Food Co-ops Share the Wealth in Their Communities
On opposite ends of the country, two food co-ops have recently been putting the seventh cooperative principle, "Concern for Community," into action. In Vermont, Hunger Mountain Co-op member-owners and staff packed enough groceries one snowy day in early December to feed 670 families in Washington County.
The groceries, valued at more than $25,000, were purchased with funds generously provided by member-owners and customers—as well as through product donations made by local and regional food vendors. The donated groceries included a wide range of healthy food products such as natural pasta, tomato sauce, organic cereals, fresh loaves of bread and Vermont-grown apples. The food was distributed by area nonprofits, just in time for the holidays.
In Bellingham, Washington, the Community Food Co-op announced in December that it had given away more than $20,000 to local groups through its 2012 Community Shopping Day donation program, which provides local groups with two percent of the co-op's sales from its two stores one Saturday each month.
Each year, the Community Food Co-op board of directors selects as recipients of this program 12 local organizations that focus on food and sustainable agriculture, social justice, peace and human rights, ecological issues, education and community health.
Spotlight on Red Sun Press, Boston, Massachusetts
Tell us about your co-op and its role within the community?
In 2013, Red Sun Press will be celebrating its 40th anniversary as Boston’s Green Commercial Printer. For the bulk of that time, we have been in the same premises, an iconic building in the heart of Jamaica Plain, Boston. We focus on print, design and communication for progressive causes, non-profits, co-ops, trade unions and environmentally conscious businesses. Our motto is "Printing for Peace and Justice Since 1973," and we believe in getting active in the causes our clients are working to advance.
In 2012, we worked on the International Year of Cooperatives, developing a campaign website. In 2013, we are working on a Local First campaign, bringing awareness to the importance of shifting more of our collective spending to locally owned businesses and means of production. We are partnering with groups such as the Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts.
How and why was your co-op founded?
In 1973, Red Sun Press was formed by a group of friends as a print collective to give voice to the ongoing protest movements of the time. Traditional printers were refusing to print for these political causes and across the country co-ops like Red Sun Press sprang up in response.
What is the most innovative thing your co-op has done?
We led the way in developing environmental printing practices, being the first Boston area printer to focus on recycled paper, winning city and state awards for our efforts.
1.17 NCBA Webinar: EPA’s GreenChill Program: A Partnership with Food Co-ops to Curb Refrigerant Emission
Explores how co-ops can save both money and the environment by reducing refrigerant emissions. The GreenChill program offers practical tools and solutions to calculate the cost to your bottom line, best practice guidelines to tackle the problem as well as awards and recognition for progress. More »
1.23 NCBA Webinar: Role of Nonprofits in Developing Worker Cooperatives
Explores how one nonprofit built a network of five worker-owned, women-owned green businesses that bring in over $3.2 million annually—and best practices that other nonprofits can follow to achieve a similar level of success. More »
1.25-26 Austin Cooperative Summit
Leverages a small meeting format to facilitate the exchange of best practices and cross-sector learning among cooperators in the local community surrounding Austin, Texas. More »
1.27 Reward Volunteers 2.0 Grand Prize Announced
Concludes Round 2 of the nation's first mobile and web app that allows volunteers to log hours, post to Facebook and win rewards for themselves and the organizations they serve. More »
1.28-29 California Screenings of Shift Change Documentary
The recently completed documentary, Shift Change, explores the successes of worker-owned firms in the US and in Spain, and the promise they offer for a better life. In January, screenings will be held in California, in Sonoma (1/28) and Point Reyes Station (1/29). To schedule a screening in your area, contact the filmmakers. More »
2.14-21 NRECA 2013 Annual Meeting
Gives members of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association the opportunity to network with co-op peers, learn from industry experts and discuss resolutions crucial to the association's mission. More »
2.24-28 CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference
Brings together more than 4,000 credit union executives and board members to advance the movement’s policy agenda in the nation’s capital. More »
In the Community
Job Opening: Director of Accounting
National Cooperative Business Association, Washington, DC
The Director of Accounting (DA) is expected to understand the international development cooperative programs, the domestic development program, and the membership association. The DA is responsible for the management of the accounting... More »
NCBA New Member: Credit Union Association of New Mexico
The Credit Union Association of New Mexico helps credit unions throughout the state address member needs through services, products, education and advocacy. First established in 1958, CUANM has been helping New Mexico credit unions help their members for more than 50 years. More »
2013 Cooperative Hall of Fame Inductee: Rebecca Dunn
On Wednesday, May 8, 2013, four outstanding leaders will receive the co-op community’s highest honor when they are inducted into the Cooperative Hall of Fame: credit union leader Joy Cousminer, worker cooperative leader Steven Dawson, cooperative financer Rebecca Dunn, and cooperative educator Leland Ruth. In each of the first four issues of eCooperator in 2013, we’ll feature a profile of one of this year’s Hall of Fame recipients. Learn more about the Hall of Fame »
Rebecca Dunn, a former bank examiner and commercial loan officer, has served as Executive Director of the Cooperative Fund of New England since 1986. During her 27 year tenure the Fund has grown from $160,000 to $16 million, expanded from lending mostly to food co-ops to all types of co-ops, and has never lost an investor dollar.
Dunn's skills in banking, communication, and borrower relations and development, her steady recruitment and training of outreach workers, her inclusive decision-making, her ability to innovate to address diverse and multiple needs, and her dedication to the co-op model have been instrumental in starting and growing many co-ops throughout New England.
An economist who is innovative by nature, Rebecca Dunn delights in finding ways to connect cooperatives with the resources they need. Most recently, she was responsible for CFNE’s being selected as one of 20 recipients nationally of the Small Business Administration’s pilot Intermediary Lending Program (ILP), a first use of SBA funds for the benefit of cooperatives.
She has served on numerous boards including her local food cooperative.