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Madison Cooperative Business Conference a Success

What role can cooperatives play in creating and sustaining economically healthy communities? That question was explored at the Madison Cooperative Business Conference, held June 6-7, 2012 on the UW-Madison campus. Co-sponsored by the City of Madison, the UWCC, and many area cooperatives, the focus was on job creation through cooperatives. The conference attracted over 150 participants from southern Wisconsin.

Speakers highlighted the impact of successful area cooperatives, cooperative best practices, and policy initiatives that would advance business cooperatives. The conference was preceded by a one-day workshop on small business succession planning and the use of employee ownership to maintain thriving local businesses.

In that workshop, Roy Messing, of the Ohio Employee Ownership Center, described how jobs that are an important part of a local economy can be suddenly threatened when a business owner thinks about selling the business.  Succession planning by the business owner that includes the employee ownership option may provide win-win opportunities. Selling to employees may provide tax advantages to the owner, as well as an opportunity to create a positive business legacy. Employees retain their jobs, and gain control of their employment. And communities benefit from the continued economic stability that is key to their long-term health. Business situations that are particularly suitable for worker cooperative conversion are ones with a more open, participatory culture, are profitable with a sustainable business model, and with employees that desire to continue and grow with the company.

Videos and presentations from the conference are available at:

Since the conference, a group has been meeting to explore next steps for city support for cooperatives as a component of larger economic development strategies, and how local cooperative connections might be fostered.

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