Innovative Community Development Cooperative Holds First Annual Meeting

March 29, 2012 - On March 29, over 40 individuals and families gathered in a local church to celebrate the first Annual Meeting of the North East Investment Cooperative (NEIC), a new urban co-op dedicated to using the democratic and cooperative control of capital to support the re-development of the Central Avenue corridor of Northeast Minneapolis, MN.

Central Avenue is the once-vibrant commercial core of Northeast Minneapolis.  While not poor enough to attract substantial state or federal redevelopment aid, the corridor is also not rich enough to attract investment by major national chain businesses. Changes in transportation patterns, neighborhood demographics, and ownership of key business property by folks outside the community have all resulted in a substantial number of persistently vacant storefronts and run-down properties.

Over the past year, a determined group of neighborhood residents incubated the idea of a cooperative that would purchase and renovate commercial properties, and then patiently work with selectively chosen young businesses to structure rents and facilities that can be successful in the long run. 

The model is somewhat unique; only a couple other such co-ops could be found in North America. The investor class of owners will likely not be patrons of the business; their rewards will come from limited returns on invested capital, plus the satisfaction of seeing a renewed neighborhood resulting from cooperative action. (The patron member class will be the renters of the renovated properties; their patronage will result from net income generated over time from rents paid by prospering businesses like themselves).

Leadership for the effort came from many places, but particular cooperative contributions came from board members and staff of Eastside Food Co-op, an eight year old food co-op with over 4000 members in the community.  Every spring, the co-op hosts their “Cooperative Ponder”, a community meeting to identify needs that can be met through cooperative action. The success of Eastside, after many years of hard work, has shown the value of individuals working together to achieve shared success and to build community capital.

Assistance also came from Cooperative Development Services (CDS). CDS staff helped the group think through issues of organizational structure and patronage, provided referrals to skilled attorneys, and made multiple community presentations to educate about the cooperative model.

To date, articles and bylaws have been filed; almost 50 members have paid or pledged $1000 each to be a founding NEIC member ; a 9-member board of directors has been elected; active committees have been established, including one to identify the first property for acquisition and renovation.  Cooperative economy is growing on Central Avenue!