Talk of the Towns 8/8/14

Host: Ron Beard, University of Maine Cooperative Extension
Studio Engineer: Amy Browne

Program Topic: Employee owned Cooperatives retain local businesses and jobs

Key Discussion Points:
Background on Cooperatives from Rob and Mark
Orient listeners to variety of cooperatives (producers, consumers, employee-ownership)
There are various forms of ownership for businesses… what is different about cooperative ownership and operation? Examples at different scales?
What are key advantages of cooperative ownership… for employee/owners, for the communities in which cooperatives live?
What are some of the challenges to setting up and operating cooperatives, including financing, decision-making?
There is a long history of cooperatives… why aren’t there more of them?
What is the role of the Cooperative Development Institute and your program (Business Ownership Solutions
Introduce the story of Island Employee Cooperative and the role of various partners
Background, status of and vision for Island Employee Cooperative — Alan
Background on the three individual businesses and the employees who came together to explore the ownership option(Burnt Cove Market, V&S Variety and Pharmacy and The Galley) and their place in the communities of Stonington and Deer Isle.
Trace the path from when workers heard the owners wanted to retire, to creating Maine’s largest worker owned cooperative… what were some of the excitements and challenges?
What is the status now, what sorts of decisions have owner/employees made about the day to day operation of the businesses? What changes have been made and what do you envision for the future?
Who are the various organizations that made it all work?
What have been some of the community response/reactions?
What have you learned about owning and operating your businesses?
Looking ahead
What are some factors that tend to make employee owned cooperatives work?
How can individuals and groups support the creation of cooperatives of all sorts?
Where can listeners learn more?
What are your hopes for cooperatives and local communities in Maine?

Guests:
Rob Brown, Director, Business Ownership Solutions, Cooperative Development Institute
Alan White, President Island Employee Cooperative, Deer Isle
Mark Sprackland, Executive Director, Independent Retailers Shared Services Cooperative by phone: 603 642 6911)
Jonah Fertig, one of the founders of Local Sprouts, employee cooperative Portland restaurant and entertainment space, by phone 967 4735

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