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Celebrating Year of the Co-op: Serious Economic Engines

Co-Ops: Serious Economic Engines

Trip to White House Tells Story

By Diane Reynolds,  from Green Energy Times, June 15, 2012, p. 28

Imagine being invited to the White House….that you are a co-op and they want to hear what you do. Well, the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) received such an invite, along with 150 other co-op leaders. The focus was on co-ops and the White House was there to listen.

The Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) is a network of 30 food co-ops and start-up initiatives in New England with more than 90,000 individual members.

The particular event was the weekly White House Community Leaders Briefing, a way for policy officials to glimpse the issues affecting communities and for invitees to learn about government policies and programs and how to maximize these resources.

Erbin Crowell, executive director of the NFCA participated in the meetings.

“Our food co-ops tell an important story about our impact on jobs, community ownership and local food systems. It was exciting – we were there to tell them that our story is just one of thousands across the country.”

Organized by the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA), the event included a briefing by senior Obama Administration officials and breakout sessions to discuss small business development, job creation, agricultural programs and financial co-operatives.

The NFCA include 30 food co-ops and initiatives across Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. Ranging in size from large retailers to small grocery stores, which have combined revenues of more than $200 million and employ over 1,400 people. Taken together, member food co-ops in Vermont would be among the top 25 employers. An independent study reports co-ops purchased $33 million in local products in 2007, demonstrating their commitment to the regional economy. To Crowell, we are living in a time when people are looking for alternatives.

“We have a business model that puts people before profit, that builds local economies, and reinforces community ownership and wealth. And, most important, it is a model that works.”

Nationwide, there are an estimated 29,000 co-operative businesses spanning most industries, including agriculture, energy, financial services, food distribution, healthcare, housing, retail and telecommunications. Co-ops in the U.S. provide 2 million jobs, account for more than $3 trillion in assets, generate over $500 billion in total revenue and $25 billion in wages and benefits.

Together, the members of the NFCA work toward the vision of a thriving regional economy. Visit

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