DC embraces equity and community wealth building; Missouri receives support from SRC Holdings/Great Game of Business
by Karen Kahn
The Employee Ownership Expansion Network (EOX) has helped launch two additional employee ownership centers this summer: the Missouri Center for Employee Ownership (MOCEO) and the Greater Washington Center for Employee Ownership (GWCEO). That brings the total number of centers launched under EOX’s leadership to ten.
The Greater Washington Center
The new center in Washington, DC, will promote employee ownership throughout the DC metro area, including northern Virginia and Maryland. Launched by the Washington Area Community Investment Fund (Wacif), a CDFI that has served DC since the 1980s, the GWCEO is unique among the growing community of state centers. It is the first launched by a CDFI, with equity at the center of its mission to preserve legacy businesses, increase job quality, and build community wealth.
GWCEO is unique among the growing community of state centers. It is the first launched by a CDFI, with equity at the center of its mission.
The GWCEO grew out of the DC Employee Ownership Initiative first launched by Wacif in 2018. The program supported existing and emerging cooperatives and conversions of legacy businesses, providing technical assistance and training. Additionally, it’s Co-op Impact Grant program infused $80,000 into coops in DC’s low-income neighborhoods. The Employee Ownership Initiative also sought to build a stronger cooperative ecosystem, bringing together stakeholders from municipal government, local CDFIs, and cooperative businesses. The center is the next step in building the infrastructure to grow employee ownership.
“Cooperatives have been important to our community wealth building efforts,” says Jennifer Bryant, Wacif program manager for community wealth building initiatives and the director of the new center. “DC had lots of cooperative activity but it needed more infrastructure to support the whole ecosystem. The center will help amplify work across the ecosystem and bring in the ESOP community as well.”
Multiple stakeholders have come together to make the GWCEO a success. The Advisory Council includes Steve Storkan of the Employee Ownership Expansion Network; Alison Powers from Capital Impact Partners; Blanca Vasquez from Beloved Community Incubator, a cooperative development group; Todd Leverette from Democracy at Work Institute; and Kate Mereand, from the DC Department of Small and Local Business Development.
Like other state centers, GWCEO services include educating and supporting retiring business owners about employee ownership as an exit strategy. But the center plans to provide a broader range of services, including connecting clients to technical assistance and financing for business conversions, start-ups, and growth. National stakeholders, including EOX, Kaiser Permanente, and Citi Community Development, provided funding to launch the center.
“Community wealth building is a gateway to racial and economic justice,” Bryant told the Washington Informer. “Through the DC Employee Ownership Initiative, Wacif demonstrated that investing in and supporting employee-owned businesses makes this vision a reality. The GWCEO expands on this work and builds a resilient community of employee-owned businesses, partner organizations, and supporters.”
Missouri Center for Employee Ownership
In July, EOX announced a three-year commitment from SRC Holdings Corporation and The Great Game of Business to support the launch of a state center in Missouri. That funding was then used to apply for a matching grant of $300,000 from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which has been awarded to the center. The Missouri Center for Employee Ownership is the first of the state centers supported by EOX to launch with such significant financial support.
SRC Holdings Corporation and The Great Game of Business have made a three-year commitment to the new Missouri Center for Employee Ownership.
SRC Holdings Corporation, an employee-owned firm that launched the open-book management model known as The Great Game of Business, is a leader in custom remanufacturing, new assembly, supply chain management, and core and materials management. The firm is based in Springfield, MO.
The Great Game of Business is a tool for building an ownership culture through business and financial education and transparency. Employees learn to think like owners through understanding the economics of the business and their contribution to its success.
“The success of SRC Holdings would not be possible without our employee owners who take pride in their reputation as businesspeople who understand how to impact our bottom line,” said Jack Stack, founder, president and CEO of SRC Holdings Corporation and author of the best-selling book introducing The Great Game of Business. “Their role as employee-owners has helped our companies become leaders in our industries and we are passionate about embracing opportunities to educate other businesses on the rewarding benefits of shared ownership.”
MOCEO will focus on outreach and education to business owners close to retirement who may not have considered exiting to employee ownership. Missouri has 44,000 privately owned businesses with owners over the age of 55. These businesses employ nearly a half-million workers and are vital economic engines for their communities. Outside buyers often shutter or move the businesses they acquire, while an acquisition by employees keeps the business in the community.
Karen Kahn is a communications consultant and the editor of Employee Ownership News.