University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives

o Western Areas Cities and Counties Cooperative Case Study

A report for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Fund for Rural America in support for the Fund for Rural America Center for Cooperative Enterprise. March 1998

By Beth Honadle (University of Minnesota), Gary Goreham and Frayne Olson (North Dakota State University), Anne Reynolds (University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives), and David Trechter and Linda Jacobson (University of Wisconsin -- River Falls).


Summary

The Western Areas City and County Cooperative (WACCO) is headquarters in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and serves the needs of the 7 counties and 18 cities that are its members.  WACCO is designed to reduce the cost and improve the services of local governments in western Minnesota.  This innovative collaborative effort achieves its goals by jointly purchasing supplies and services for its members at reduced prices, facilitating the sharing or leasing of equipment between member governments, being a clearinghouse of information on regulatory and other matters, providing a forum for networking by local government employees within a given department (law enforcement, public works, emergency medical services, etc.), and by providing local training opportunities for government employees.  It is estimated that WACCO saved its members over $500,000 on training costs alone during calendar year 1997. Members involved in this case study included:  Dr. Beth Honadle (University of Minnesota), Drs. Gary Goreham and Frayne Olson (North Dakota State University), Anne Reynolds (University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives), and Dr. David Trechter and Linda Jacobson (University of Wisconsin -- River Falls).  Key lessons learned from this case study were that local government collaboration can pay significant dividends, management's decision to include line staff in the early stages of the cooperative's development and her outstanding communications efforts were critical to its success, and that the evolution from a start-up, highly entrepreneurial cooperative to one that is more mature can be challenging.



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