Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

Sustainability & ME: What you need to know about Co-Ops

Posted on March 09, 2015 in Perspectives
By USM Free Press

A Cooperative (co-op) business is a business that works for everyone.  A cooperative is a business or organization that is owned and used for the benefit of the individuals that are using its services.  There are many reasons to love cooperatives, but here are my three top reasons why you should shop at locally owned cooperatives in Portland.

1)Local businesses like co ops put more money into the local economy. a study by the Maine Center for Economic Policy measured that, on a dollar by dollar basis, buying locally yields large benefits for Portland’s economy.  For every one hundred dollars spent buying locally, fifty eight dollars will stay in the local economy.  Comparatively, for every one hundred dollars spent at a franchise or national chain, only thirty three dollars will result in direct economic impact for Portland.  This additional money expands the community’s tax base and results in more jobs.

2) Worker owned co ops specifically benefit their workers in a way that conventionally run businesses cannot. If the owner of a business’s goal is to maximize profits, their workers often face shortcomings in the compensation of their labor.  This is because the surplus value (the difference between the workers’ labor and their compensation) yields large profits for the business owners.  However, when a business can be cooperatively owned and self managed by its workers, profits are allocated in a more equitable way.

3) Cooperative owned enterprises address market failures and overcome historic barriers to development in how they obtain resources and capital.  This is because the start up costs of co ops are low because they are eligible for loans and grants from state and federal agencies that are crafted to assist in co op development.  Specifically, in a survey of 162 non agricultural cooperatives by Rutgers University, forty four percent reported that their businesses could hot have opened had they not been organized in a cooperative model.

There are many cooperatives in Portland you can support. Local Sprouts on Congress Street in the West End is a worker owned cooperative that serves some of the best food on the peninsula.  The recently opened Portland Food Cooperative, also on Congress Street on the base of Munjoy Hill, boasts a variety of produce, meats, seafood, and a variety of bulk items (just make sure to bring your own container!).  Additionally, CLEAN (Cooperative Labor and Economic Access Naturally) is a house cleaning cooperative that uses environmentally friendly products and strives to employ individuals who commonly experience barriers to unemployment.  CLEAN can be contacted at cleancooperative@gmail.com.

“Shaun Carland” <shaun.carland@maine.edu>

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