Austin looks at cooperatives for business development
For four years, Minnesota 2020 has been studying the economy of cooperative businesses, and Wednesday it showed how that works right in Austin.
Village Cooperative in Austin is just one of several businesses outside of agriculture that succeed as co-ops. Minnesota 2020’s communications director, Joe Sheeran, and former journalist and author Lee Egerstrom both want to promote the business style as a way to help Minnesota’s economy. So Wednesday, they and residents of the cooperative housing units in north Austin explained how the housing sector of the industry succeeds.
Members of Village Cooperative can visit with their neighbors whenever they want to, or they can enjoy their privacy. But as they pay for their homes, they contribute to the services that take care of the community, like trash removal, grocery carrying and other benefits. For many, it’s become easier to maintain their homes with the help of others and much more affordable. Residents don’t have to hire outside companies to provide services. The people all contribute to the well-being of the business, and they can all consider themselves as part owners.
Egerstrom described a cooperative, no matter what kind, as a group that has come to together to overcome a problem. Village Cooperative has done that, but many other industries are doing that as well. Ace Hardware is just another example of how businesses can gain strength in numbers.
According to Minnesota 2020, a nonprofit think tank organization, more than a dozen areas of industry, including media, entertainment, education, healthcare, insurance and transportation have benefited from cooperative models. Although the model may not be the best for high-risk, high-reward business, it works well for companies that want to slowly grow and become more stable.
“We’re not going to put back in place the 20th century economy,” Egerstrom said. …”We need to think in the 21st Century how we build (cooperative) industry.”
According to Minnesota 2020, Minnesota leads the nation in cooperative business with at least 1,016 co-ops, which support 42,000 jobs and $1.5 billion in wages.
Sheeran and Egerstrom will be making a few more stops in Minnesota and Iowa to foster more support for co-ops.