City of Baltimore commits funding to help BRED accelerate business conversions to worker cooperatives

City of Baltimore commits funding to help BRED accelerate business conversions to worker cooperatives

The Baltimore Roundtable for Economic Democracy (BRED) is thrilled to announce that Baltimore has joined other leading cities in committing public support for worker cooperative development. With the award of a $47,000 Community Catalyst Grant, the City of Baltimore is enabling BRED to launch a new initiative designed to pilot the creation of a worker cooperative conversion pipeline.

Too many jobs are at risk of disappearing from Baltmore’s communities because too many small and medium-sized business owners lack a good plan for what happens when they retire or step back from their companies. With the proper support and training, the workers at these businesses can be ideal candidates to take over and preserve their own jobs, running them as worker cooperatives in which both decision-making and profits are shared democratically across the enterprise. One national 2018 study identified significant opportunities for cooperative conversions that could preserve thousands of jobs in the mid-Atlantic region across five economic sectors.

Our goal is to prototype and develop a functional pipeline connecting retiring business owners to the technical, financial, and educational resources necessary for successful transitions to worker ownership. with a focus on preserving jobs and building democratic workplaces in historically disinvested communities. By converting independently-owned, small and medium-scale businesses that are deeply rooted in Baltimore’s economy and neighborhoods into worker cooperatives, we can democratize wealth and retain it in the communities that need it.

The Baltimore Roundtable for Economic Democracy (BRED) is a coalition of Maryland-based worker cooperatives, advocates, and technical assistance providers committed to building a robust cooperative ecosystem. BRED supports democratically-controlled enterprises with loans and technical assistance, prioritizing coop development that directs educational and financial resources to the communities of color that have been excluded from the current economic system. To date, BRED has made over $650,000 in patient capital available to Baltimore City worker-cooperatives. BRED is one of the founding members of Seed Commons (formerly The Financial Cooperative), an emerging national network of non-extractive loan funds building a shared financial platform to move capital into the democratic economy.

In recent years, cities including New York; Madison, WI; Newark, NJ; and Berkeley, CA have begun to integrate worker cooperative support into their economic development priorities. For Kate Khatib, Executive Director of BRED and National Director of Seed Commons, “Over the past decade, Baltimore has built a vibrant and inclusive ecosystem of cooperative businesses and technical support entirely from the grassroots. It is exciting to now see the city government recognizing this accomplishment and helping provide the tools needed to take this work to the next level.”

BRED’s new worker cooperative conversion pilot, which will launch later in 2019, will work hand in hand with city agencies to identify opportunities and gaps in existing business support infrastructure for democratic enterprises. “BDC is proud to partner with BRED on a worker ownership training program,” said William H. Cole, president and CEO of the Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC).  “Employee ownership conversions have the potential to play an integral part in retaining and preserving jobs needed in Baltimore’s communities.”

More information about BRED: https://baltimoreroundtable.org

For more information about this new initiative, email Kate Khatib, kate@theworkingworld.org.

Image: Yianni Mathioudakis via Flickr