Employee Ownership Momentum Continues to Grow
by Karen Kahn
NCEO Annual Conference Educates and Inspires
The National Center for Employee Ownership (NCEO) held its annual meeting in Pittsburgh, April 9–11, with nearly 2000 people in attendance: bankers, attorneys, accountants, CEOs, finance experts, consultants, marketers and frontline workers from employee-owned firms. It was a far cry from the 170 people who showed up at the first NCEO conference in 1982.
Among this year’s presenters was Fifty by Fifty co-founder and director Jessica Rose, who along with Alberto del Pilar, led a session on the future of employee ownership.
The conference offered five educational tracks, giving attendees opportunities to learn about ESOPs through introductory and more advanced tracks or to explore specific professional interests through sessions focused on: Compensation and Benefits, Communications and Culture, or Leadership and Governance.
The ESOP Association Hires New CEO
James J. Bonham has been named president and CEO of The ESOP Association (TEA), the nation’s largest trade association supporting and advancing the ESOP model of employee ownership. Bonham will also serve as president of the Employee Ownership Foundation, an affiliated nonprofit, which supports and disseminates new research in support of employee ownership.
Bonham has a personal connection to employee ownership. In a press statement he said, “My grandfather’s personal and professional relationship with James Cash (J.C.) Penney incubated a shared business philosophy. One of their beliefs was granting a form of ownership to their employees in the small mercantile businesses they ran. It was an excellent model that had great success, and I’m proud to have the privilege of attaching my work today to that legacy.”
Bonham has extensive executive leadership and government relations experience. He served as chairman of public policy and government relations at Manatt, Phelps, & Phillips, LLP, a nationally recognized law and business consulting firm, and as executive director of the Democratic Congressional Committee (DCCC).
“Jim has a long and successful track record of high-level, transformational leadership advising some of the most widely recognized companies and leaders in the nation,” stated chair of the TEA Board David Fitzgerald. “When combined with his deep familiarity with employee ownership, rooted in his family’s history, he was the perfect choice to lead TEA into the future.”
Employee Ownership Expansion Network Poised to Grow State Centers
A few years ago, a taskforce at the National Center for Employee Ownership began looking at how to facilitate growth in the sector. Having concluded that states with employee ownership centers seemed to be growing employee-owned firms more quickly, in July 2018, the group incorporated a new nonprofit, the Employee Ownership Expansion Network (EOX), with the specific goal of expanding state-based centers. They set a goal: to establish state centers that would cover 70 percent of the U.S. population by 2025. By doing so, they hope to add one million more employee owners during the same period.
“Our mission is to provide people in the states who want to start employee-ownership centers with the resources and technical assistance they need to succeed.”— Steve Storkan, Executive Director
EOX passed a new milestone with the hiring of its first executive director, Steve Storkan, at the start of 2019. Storkan has 25 years of experience with ESOPs, most recently as the director of ESOP administration for Alerus Retirement and Benefits. For 11 years, Storkan served on the Minnesota-Dakotas Chapter of The ESOP Association, including as chapter president and vice president of government relations.
Says new Executive Director Storkan, “Our mission is provide people in the states who want to start employee-ownership centers with the resources and technical assistance they need to succeed.” The model the group is promoting is based on the Pennsylvania Center for Employee Ownership, which over the last two years, according to the EOX website, “has engaged over 1300 individuals, 100 partner organizations, and 70 businesses” in conversations about the benefits of, and the process of, becoming employee owned.
EOX sees employee ownership as “a critical tool in reducing poverty, increasing community wealth, and creating a more vibrant, participatory economy.” As noted on the website, 150,000 companies owned by baby boomers could potentially transition to employee ownership, but only 6 percent have considered employee ownership as a succession plan. By establishing state-based Employee Ownership Centers, EOX hopes to build a sustainable infrastructure for educating business owners about the benefits of employee ownership.
Karen Kahn provides communications consulting and editorial support for Fifty by Fifty.
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