Evergreen Cooperatives this week announced the creation of a fund to purchase existing businesses in Northeast Ohio and convert them to employee-owned operations.
The Fund for Employee Ownership, as it's called, is part of Evergreen Business Services, which is just one segment of the nine-year-old Evergreen Cooperatives that currently operates three co-op divisions — Evergreen Laundry, Evergreen Growers and Evergreen Energy Solutions. All told, there are more than 220 employees across the company.
The goal here is simple: Identify businesses with retiring owners looking to get out, purchase those businesses for a fair market price, and in doing so not only retain jobs in Northeast Ohio but then convert them to being employee-owned. The benefits are hard to overstate. Instead of jobs disappearing, or new owners cutting back of moving positions out of state or overseas, they'll stay right here, and employees will have a stake and share in the profits and success.
“The work of The Fund for Employee Ownership will be a vital way to keep quality jobs in the communities that depend on them, especially when so many business owners facing retirement lack a clear plan for succession that can preserve their legacy and protect their employees," Brett Jones, Executive Vice President at Evergreen and director of the new fund, said in a release. "Helping these companies go employee-owned is a win-win-win solution for business owners, workers, and our communities.”
Jones has been working to make the fund a reality since last year when we talked
to him about Evergreen's mission to create a new ownership class in America, to close that income inequality gap, to improve lives.
"You have these places where a current owner wants to retire, and they're not private-equity sized companies, but maybe they're attractive to offshoring," Jones said last year. "So you're converting them to worker-owned, to stay here. There are a lot of baby boomers who are ready to retire and business that may move or close. That devastates local economies, when you lose 10 or 20 jobs in aggregate. That industrial base in Cleveland is still strong and we want to keep that here."
New acquisitions will benefit from Evergreen's experience and voluminous offerings. Employees, many of whom are refugees or ex-convicts, get access to financial training and affordable mortgages; members attend quarterly board meetings and vote on issues affecting the business and share in the profits.
The new fund is looking to make its first purchase and conversion in 2019. They're actively seeking owners of small and medium-sized businesses who would be a good fit right now. For more information on Evergreen or for contact info, click here.