On August 25, 2020 we presented in a University of Minnesota Extension Service webinar on Retaining Rural Businesses Through Conversion to Employee Ownership.
A generation of American business owners is retiring, yet many lack a plan to transition their business to new ownership and leadership. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2016, more than 110,000 Minnesota and Wisconsin businesses with employees were owned by people 55 years or older. If these businesses are not retained, local economies are threatened by a loss of jobs, income and quality of life. Rural communities are especially at risk because retaining home-grown businesses is the most practical approach for rural economic development.
The webinar describes the five stages of transition for business conversions to employee ownership and designed for business owners, economic developers, business support professionals and workers interested in learning more about worker cooperatives.
Employee ownership, particularly in the form of worker cooperatives, offers a solution for some business transitions. Shifting to employee ownership can keep business doors open, save jobs and maintain the business as a valued part of the community — a triple-win solution for the owner, the employees and the community. Surprisingly, few companies take advantage of this option. There are fewer than 7,500 employee-owned companies in the U.S. (out of millions of employer firms). While most of these are Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs), worker cooperatives are a more viable and practical option for businesses with fewer than 100 employees.
Webinar presenters: Courtney Berner, of the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives, will provide practical information, case studies and resource ideas. She will be joined by her colleague Esther West, as well as Kevin Edberg of Cooperative Development Services, and Michael Darger of University of Minnesota Extension.