As cities around the country look for ways to stimulate and strengthen their local economies, they are finding the co-op model delivers on jobs and local dollars, and more. By now, most city leaders know that independent business generates up to three times as much local economic activity as big box chains. In communities that contain a cooperative, you will find thriving neighborhoods and greater civic pride. Natural food co-ops in particular also provide healthy foods and necessary services that address the scourge of food deserts. Additionally, these same co-ops model sustainability, environmental responsibility, and care for community.
Smart city planners and leaders understand that livable communities are not based solely on economic drivers, but on access to human-scale business and ways for people to contribute to where they live in positive ways. Co-ops are win-win on so many levels that cities are proactively supporting and funding cooperative projects because of all the economic and social good they do.
Co-ops and cities are promoting these strong relationships in their outreach in communities. A popular way of doing this is for civic leaders to speak to constituents about co-ops in videos, and talk about co-ops in their city development speeches. People are really responding to these messages, and co-op leaders continue to look for ways to engage in more civic partnerships. If your co-op doesn’t have a relationship with its city leaders, now’s the time to develop one that could be mutually beneficial.
Dave Hoffman-Dachelet is a board member of Seward Co-op Grocery & Deli in Minneapolis, MN, located in a metropolitan area with 12 food co-ops and a population of 2 million people. Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak was instrumental in helping Seward Co-op secure city funding for its most recent expansion, had recommended the co-op for numerous awards, uses the co-op as place for press conferences about community events, and spoke about the co-op in his annual State of the City address.
“As an asset manager for a community development corporation, I see first-hand every day the positive benefits and value that comes when our civic organizations participate in community development,” Hoffman-Dachelet said. “I’m excited to see that across the country our mayors, commissioners, and other civic leaders are recognizing cooperatives as effective allies in building community. We are a democratic, effective, responsive, community-controlled force for improving our communities and those civic leaders should not only support, but embrace our efforts and realize we are doing their job for them.”
Check out these videos of leaders from around the country touting their local co-ops!
Civic Involvement in Co-op Development
Madeline Rogero, Mayor
City of Knoxville, Tenn.
The Opportunities of Cooperation
Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy-Secretary
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Cooperatives are Good for Cities
Russ Wille, Community Development Director
City of St. Peter, Minn.