​​CEED and Co-ops in the News ​​​​​

Florida CEED
offers empowerment through co-ops and community building
BY J.A. JONES, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG – Corporate CEOs and leaders can boast that the economy has rebounded, but for most of the working citizenry, making ends meet — paying rent and keeping meals on the table – is still a day-in, day-out struggle. Recently economists have worried that workers are still struggling under lagging wages that aren’t keeping up with inflation.

While communities in Florida and around the country are struggling with a lack of affordable housing and steadily increasing rents and food prices, one organization in Pinellas County is joining an international movement focused on community-driven solutions to some of these issues.
Enter Judith Turner and Florida Ceed (Cooperative Empowered Economic Development Corp).

“Everybody knows co-ops are good. We don’t even know why – but we know they’re good,” Turner shared recently from her office at Pinellas Technical College’s newly established Food Systems Technology Center (FSC).

The International Co-operative Alliance defined a co-op as “an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.”
Florida CEED’s website lists the seven cooperative international principles:

1. Voluntary and open membership
2. Democratic member control
3. Member economic participation
4. Autonomy & Independence
5. Education, Training, Information
6. Cooperation among co-ops
7. Concern for community

Florida CEED — along with the FSC’s resident organization, and Sustainable Urban Agriculture Coalition (SUAC) — will soon be holding courses in Pinellas Technical College’s (PTC) newly developing Food Systems Center.

“Pinellas Technical College is consistent in our plans to advance workforce and build a strong local economy, said Managing Officer of Workforce Innovation Carl Lavender, Jr. Florida CEED has a similar mission, with a vision for strongentrepreneurship for the city. Our collaboration is seamless.”

He added that both organizations have well-thought-out strategies to help develop the future of St. Pete.

CEED will be offering workshops and classes at PTC including  Co-op Garage (Oct. 8) and on Sept. 3, CEED begins an eight-week course called Cooperative Entrepreneurship, which will help people already thinking about starting a business form a co-op .

The organization also offers stand-alone classes at St. Pete Greenhouse, including Introduction to Youth-Owned Cooperatives, Introduction to the Cooperative Business Model (July 31), and Steps to Starting a Grocery Co-op (Aug. 30). Housing Co-ops are Corporations Too (Sept 20).

Turner herself has a background in construction and holds four state licenses as a contractor. “I got into construction and fell in love with it.”

Her construction management company took first place in Tampa Bay Business Journal’s 2013 Fast 50, and she won the Small Business Development Center’s first place award for 2014 Veteran Small Business of the Year.

But after 12 years, the building where her office was located since 2005 was torn down, she found herself ready for a new passion.
Co-operative business development was the answer.

“I’ve always been interested in co-operative economics but didn’t know how
tofind information on it.” She went searching on Google and read everything she could on the topic. She found a training program designed and created for the U.S.D.A. — which is itself a huge advocate for cooperatives and offers grants for agricultural co-op programs. “Thirty percent of all our agriculture is delivered through cooperatives,” she noted.

She enrolled in the program and immediately knew it was what she wanted to do. After the first leg of training, it really changed her life. She began to petition St. Pete Greenhouse to allow her to set up trainings to share what she was learning; they agreed.

Councilmember Steve Kornell’s early interest and support also encouraged her.
“He called me on the phone and talked to me for over an hour about how co-ops worked, just wanting to know more and more,” said Turner, adding that she believed Kornell’s interest was indicative of St. Pete’s interest in co-ops.
The community’s interest also let her know she was on the right track.

“I had been familiar with Brother John’s work with the New Deal, and I knew that they were talking a lot about a grocery co-op and cooperative economics — and in their surveys they found people really wanted cooperative development.”

Realizing she could assist with the “transactional aspect of how you do this,” she joined on the journey toward creating the grocery co-op.
Turner acknowledged there is a lot that makes setting up a co-op a challenging task. St. Pete’s grocery co-op is still in stage one of development, but moving forward, having incorporated, adopted bylaws, established their mission and vision statements, and settled on a name: The One Community Grocery Co-op.

Florida Ceed will also soon be giving the city a presentation on the benefits of cooperative business development and how cooperatives could help in creating an affordable housing model. Turner is excited about the city’s growing interest in co-ops, and believes St. Pete is the perfect city for doing more cooperative business.

“This is the right place to be if you love co-ops and want to develop co-ops – in a responsive city, with people that want cooperative economics.”
If the current economic climate indicates the new status quo for a majority of Americans, co-ops may be our only way forward.

To reach J.A. Jones, email [email protected]
Florida Cooperative Empowered Economic Development Corp.
(727) 418 6121

Historic Federal Law Gives Employee-Owned Businesses Access to SBA Loans
August 13, 2018
Sustainable Economies Law Center
As we noted in NPQ last fall, nearly half of US small business owners are baby boomers, aged 53 to 71. Collectively, they own 2.34 million businesses, employ 24.7 million people, and have combined sales of $5.14 trillion. It is estimated that 80 percent of these businesses lack a plan for what they are going to do when their owners retire or, if misfortune falls, die unexpectedly.
In short, people’s livelihoods across the nation are at stake, as hundreds of thousands of companies are likely to shut down in the coming decade due to the failure to develop adequate business succession plans. Some have labeled this pending crisis a silver tsunami.
One step to address this situation is to make it easier for the people who work at these companies to buy the businesses where they work. Already, as of 2015, through pension-financed employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs), 10.8 million employees own all or part of 6,669 companies nationwide. Why not make sales of existing business to their own workers easier, thereby preserving jobs while garnering workers a share of company ownership (and profits) at the same time?
Still, the odds of passing federal legislation seemed low. Congress hadn’t passed a law to support employee ownership since the last century—1997, to be exact. Yet now, for the first time in 21 years, a new employee ownership bill is the law of the land.
The bill, called the Main Street Employee Ownership Act of 2018 (S 2786 and HR 5236), has been advancing since NPQ wrote about it passing in committee last March. It was tucked inside the $717-billion, Fiscal Year 2019 John McCain National Defense Authorization Act, which was signed into law yesterday. Nestled in that law is Section 866, which makes employee-owned businesses eligible for Small Business Administration (SBA) section 7(a) loans for the first time.
As Loren Rodgers of the Oakland-based nonprofit National Center on Employee Ownership (NCEO) explains, the new law does a few things, including the following:
Updates SBA’s lending practices to better serve employee-owned businesses.
Empowers the SBA to assist small business owners in converting their companies to employee ownership through outreach and training programs.
Directs the SBA to coordinate with funds licensed as SBA Small Business Investment Companies and its microloan program to consider employee ownership as an area for investment and lending.
But access to the Small Business Administration (SBA) section 7(a) guaranteed loans is surely the bill’s most important provision. For the uninitiated, section 7(a) enables banks to issue loans for up to $5 million, of which the government insures 85 percent of the loan, to help finance small business expansion. With the new law now in place, these loans can help finance the transition of family-owned companies to worker ownership as business owners retire and sell their businesses to their employees.
On an annual basis, the amount of lending that occurs through the 7(a) program is significant. According to a US Comptroller of the Currency report, in 2013 alone the 7(a) program helped 46,399 businesses obtain about $17.9 billion in loans. In short, while the law provides no new public funds to employee-owned firms, it could facilitate billions of dollars of loans to finance the transition of firms to employee ownership.
The bill, notes the American Sustainable Business Council, also mandates that the SBA work with the nation’s network of 900 Small Business Development Centers “to provide transition-related technical training, executive education, and one-on-one consulting.” The legislation also requires the “SBA to coordinate and chair an interagency working group that would develop recommendations and issue reports on employee-owned businesses.”
The cost of the bill for the federal government is miniscule. A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate written in June suggests that over five years, the bill’s cost will be $6 million, a tiny portion of the multi-trillion-dollar federal budget. According to CBO, the $6 million includes “about $4 million for the SBA to provide funding for small business development centers (SBDCs) to provide employee ownership training and services to small businesses and $2 million for the SBA and federal agencies to update SBA program rules and issue a report, develop outreach materials, and to convene an interagency working group and issue reports.”
The CBO expects the bill will increase the volume and gross cost of SBA 7(a) loan guarantees, since employee-owned businesses will now be a new clientele base for these loans, but the estimated net subsidy cost is expected to be negligible because the SBA can raise fees on the loans if necessary without any new government authorization to cover any added costs.
Earlier this year, in the House of Representatives, Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), the bill’s lead sponsor, said, “As baby boomers near retirement, the country faces a substantial dilemma: Roughly half of privately held companies are owned by baby boomers, and fewer than 15 percent have a formal exit plan in place. And while it is wonderful to think that family members will take over the business, this is a relatively rare occurrence. Some will be bought out; others will close. This will have significant secondary economic impacts that will ripple through our local communities.”
Also speaking on the legislation’s behalf on the House floor, Rep. Jared Polis (R-CO) remarked that, “The SBA Loan Guarantee Program is often the only financing that many small businesses can get early on to get off the ground… This bill also creates a small business employee ownership and cooperative program, which helps employers and employees understand how to create employee-owned businesses, providing some of the help for succession planning, coordinating with other programs to help employee-owned business succeed.”
In the Senate, Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) was the lead author. There were six Senate cosponsors. Democratic cosponsors were Ben Cardin (Maryland), Cory Booker (New Jersey), and Jeanne Shaheen (New Hampshire). Republican cosponsors were Todd Young (Indiana), James Risch (Idaho), and Susan Collins (Maine). Gillibrand has been a vocal advocate, visiting employee-owned businesses in her state even before submitting legislation to drum up support.
The law’s supporters also included a broad cross-section of the worker co-op and employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) world. In addition to ASBC and NCEO, this includes the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives, the Democracy at Work Institute, the ESOP Association, the Employee-Owned S Corporations of America (ESCA), the National Cooperative Bank, regional nonprofit employee ownership centers in Colorado and New Jersey, and advocacy nonprofits.
In a press release issued from Gillibrand’s office in June, the senator notes that companies whose owners who are at or near retirement employ one-in-six workers nationwide. In New York alone, this includes an estimated 181,370 businesses employing 1.6 million workers. As Gillibrand’s office writes, “As these business owners retire, local economies will experience a massive shift that could trigger the closure of small businesses and loss of jobs and investment. This looming crisis can be turned into a unique opportunity to strengthen small businesses, reward workers, and invest in our Main Street economy by helping these companies transfer ownership to employees.”
Of course, no single loan program—no matter how helpful it may be in preserving businesses, saving jobs, and helping more employees become company co-owners—will be sufficient by itself to meet all the needs the generational shift in business ownership will require. Additional legislation being advocated by the employee ownership community includes the Worker Ownership, Readiness, and Knowledge (WORK) Act (S 1081, HR 2387), which, among other things, would providing funding for state-based technical assistance centers to help shepherd conversions, and the Employee Ownership Bank Act (S 1082, HR 2357), which, in addition to creating a dedicated lending facility for employee ownership conversions would also provide employees of facilities being offshored a “right of first refusal” to purchase the operation via an ESOP or worker co-op and would provide Community Reinvestment Act credit to banks for participating in employee ownership conversion deals.
Still, the passage of the legislation, by putting the federal government back in the game of promoting employee ownership, marks an important step. As Hammad Atassi, CEO of the American Sustainable Business Council, notes, “Giving worker-owned companies better access to funding and educational programs will both strengthen existing businesses and create more jobs. Crucially, it will drive local economic activity and generate more wealth and retirement savings across all income levels.”

ABOUT STEVE DUBB Steve Dubb is a senior editor at NPQ. Steve has worked with cooperatives and nonprofits for over two decades, including twelve years at The Democracy Collaborative and three years as executive director of NASCO (North American Students of Cooperation).  Steve is the lead author of Building Wealth: The Asset-Based Approach to Solving Social and Economic Problems (Aspen 2005). In 2016, Steve curated and authored Conversations on Community Wealth Building, a collection of interviews of community builders that Steve had conducted over the previous decade.

The audience listens to Jonathan Rodriguez (center) who serves as managing director and Youth Co-op developer of Florida CEED. (Photo: Andrea Perez)

Florida Co-Op training organization sees potential in St. Pete youth-owned

co-op businesses
Written By: Andra Perez 06/29/18

“I know that all of you want to earn money and not only work, right?” asked Jonathan Rodriguez, a cooperative business developer, to a crowd of children, teenagers, and adults who were listening attentively and taking notes at the Enoch Davis Center on Thursday.
“Think about a service that needs to be provided here in South St. Pete. That could be turned into a business,” he added. A young mother raised her hand and said, “Early childcare services maybe. I know many young single mothers trying to go to school, but can’t because they have to care for their young children.”
The crowd was receptive as Rodriguez discussed the process of coming up with a co-op, a business owned and operated by the people who use and create its services.
Rodriguez works with Florida Cooperative Empowered Economic Development (CEED), a nonprofit that operates as a business development resource center by providing education, training and technical assistance.
His recent move from Puerto Rico to Florida, after Hurricane María, offered him the opportunity to meet CEED’s Executive Director Judith Turner, and work alongside her to empower children to think about startups to develop in their own communities.
“Successful youth-owned business are possible,” Rodriguez said. “You just need to identify a real need in your community, show a committed interest to the cause and analyze the economic potential.”
Rodriguez, who served as administrator for the Cooperative Development Commission in Puerto Rico, explained that there is potential for the growth of cooperative businesses in South St. Petersburg. “This is a really progressive city. The area has a great timing to work with. The city is receptive. The people are receptive. Everyone’s waiting to work.”
According to the latest People’s Budget Review survey poll, an initiative launched by residents and various organizations that monitor city spending, cooperative businesses development should receive more funding. CEED saw this as an opportunity to help launch its most recent food initiative.
Turner, who serves as one of the founding members of One Community Grocery Co-op, helped in the creation of St. Petersburg’s first cooperatively-owned grocery store. The co-op is currently in the process of building memberships and hopes to enroll 300 members.
The career business owner is also overlooking a current item on the city council agenda that requests a presentation to the Budget, Finance, and Taxation (BFT) Committee on the potential of cooperative business development.
For Turner, cooperatives are mainstream businesses that make an impact on everyone, especially young children. She’s determined to educate as many local communities as she can about the benefits and long-term economic potential that co-ops can bring.
“There is a lack of understanding of what they are, so we do a lot of education such as this event that Greenhouse planned and we sponsored,” Turner said.
Turner, who’s been attending The Greenhouse – the city’s business assistance center for more than 20 years – explained that after children are taught fundamental skills like gardening, another opportunity can grow out of that process.
“Kids are taught how to grow plants, act and perform but what they don’t know is how to make money with it,” she added. “So this really helps them bring an understanding of how to bring business in. And if they do it all together, it’s more likely to succeed. These trainings demystify the business.”
CEED currently offers micro-courses that cover topics from legal definitions of cooperatives to state statutes and IRS accounting rules, followed by workshops to help teams develop their business models. The organization also gives updates on One Community’s Grocery Co-op project.
“Next quarter we’re going to teach steps to starting a housing co-op corporation to target housing poverty,” said Turner. “We keep changing the topics to show the value.”
To learn more about CEED, visit www.floridaceed.org or call (727)418-6121. They have offices located at Pinellas Technical College, 901 34th St. S, St. Petersburg Fla., 33755.
The Weekly Challenger 
Posted on May 31, 2018  
St. Pete First Grocery Co-op Announces incorporation
ST PETERSBURG – A group of founding members announced the incorporation of St. Petersburg’s first cooperatively owned grocery store. This group of citizens arose and formed out of the New Deal for St Pete, a locally based community group that reflects the actual needs and wishes of city residents.
The New Deal for St Pete grew out of the People’s Budget Review that surveyed 1,400 residents on how they would like to see our city’s resources used. One of four points revealed was for funding cooperative business development, emphasizing the need for a community-owned grocery co-op.
A small group interested in the idea of a grocery co-op came together and attended the “Up and Coming Grocery Co-op Conference” in Milwaukee in March. This once a year conference, attended by 60 grocery co-ops, is a high energy, one-stop-shop for forming, opening and running food co-ops.
This loosely formed group, now identified as the One Community Grocery Co-op and includes Erica Harding, Judith Turner and Leigh Davis, returned home with a new mission and with one of the four $1,100 scholarships given out to attend next year’s conference.
These new founding members returned home to start the process, which on average takes three years to open the doors.
Florida has two other grocery co-ops, New Leaf in Tallahassee and Ever ‘man’s in Pensacola. The One Community Grocery Co-op is the third known grocery co-op in Florida and the first in St. Petersburg.
Forming a grocery co-op can be a complicated process; the Food Co-op Initiative, specializing in grocery co-op development, provides their consulting service at no charge and has been invited by the group to help with the process.
About One Community Grocery Co-op
Founding members have grown to include leader Erica Hardison, Royce Wheeler, Rick Coleman, Judith Turner, Winnie Foster, and Sheral Redwood-Adams. They meet weekly at Pinellas Technical College in the newly formed Food System Center to plan the next steps for building membership.
There is a well-defined process to form a grocery co-op, with an initial milestone of enrolling 300 members that is expected to cost $225.
Florida Cooperative Empowered Economic Development teaches classes monthly at the city’s business assistance center known as the Greenhouse, 440 Second Ave. N and their satellite location at the Enoch Davis Center, 1118 18th Ave. S.
One class per quarter offered is “Steps to Starting a Grocery Co-op” from 6-8 p.m. This class reviews the process that needs to be followed, along with examples of food co-ops and updates on One Community Grocery Co-op.
To learn more about joining the grocery co-op, as a member, board member or a committee to help the process, please contact Judith Turner at

(727) 418-6121or [email protected]

​​​After a two-decade hiatus, cooperatives will once again be part of the US Economic Census.

A question about cooperatives will be in the 2017 Economic Census, two decades after it was dropped. 
The Office of Management and Budget on May 5 signed off on a package of questions for the 2017 survey that includes one on cooperative businesses.
It’s the first time since 1997 that co-ops will be part of the Economic Census, which is conducted every five years to provide a comprehensive look at economic activity in the United States. Data collection is expected to begin in 2018.
“This is a breakthrough moment for cooperatives nationwide,” said Judy Ziewacz, president and CEO of the National Cooperative Business Association-CLUSA. “The data gathered by the 2017 Economic Survey will fill a critical gap within the cooperative sector, allowing us to tell the story of cooperative economic impact in a more compelling way.”
NCBA had worked hard along with other cooperatives, including NRECA, to revive the cooperative portion of the Economic Census after it was eliminated in 1997.
The Census dropped a checkbox for “cooperative” in its Legal Form of Organization question in response to an agreement with the Internal Revenue Service that was supposed to provide information about co-ops.
The question approved for the current survey brings that back. It applies to single-unit cooperative businesses, though a question for multi-unit companies will be submitted later in the year, according to Andrew Baer, assistant division chief for the Economy-Wide Statistics Division of the Census Bureau.
“OMB had no questions or concerns about the cooperative portion of the single-unit survey, so we are hopeful that it will flow through smoothly for the multi-unit companies as well,” Baer told NCBA.
A single-unit co-op is a local co-op staffed by a handful of people with a small economic footprint, Multi-unit refers to a co-op with multiple stores and significant sales.
The Congressional Cooperative Business Caucus also urged reinstatement of the cooperative question, with its co-chairmen asking the Commerce Department in 2016 to side with the co-op position.
A 2007 study shows that 29,000 co-ops accounted for more than $3 trillion in assets, but NCBA said the number of co-ops is now closer to 40,000.
“We look forward to following this process and really quantifying the scope and impact of the cooperative economy,” said Alan Knapp, vice president of advocacy for NCBA CLUSA. “Having concrete data about cooperatives is crucial to advance the sector.”
​Steven Johnson is a staff writer for NRECA.
The Weekly Challenger 
Sept 7, 2017
Assistance & cooperative education available
ST. PETERSBURG  –  Florida Cooperative Empowered Economic Development Corp. (Florida-CEED), a newly formed 501(c)(3) nonprofit, with the support of Workforce Innovation and Community Strategy, has announced the launch of a cooperative development center located on the St. Pete campus of Pinellas Technical College (PTC).
“The engagement of these organizations with the development center creates a significant presence in our area for teaching and learning the skills needed to establish a larger, sustainable, cooperative economy,” said Florida-CEED’s Executive Director Judith Turner.
Florida-CEED operates as a Cooperative Business Development and Resource Center by providing education, training, and technical assistance to develop cooperative businesses through:
  • Community events that educate participants of all ages
  • Classroom and online technical and business education
  • One-on-one cooperative business technical assistance that allows access to specific resources available to cooperatives
  • To achieve these goals, Florida Ceed will closely collaborate with PTC and programs in the community, including:
  • Workforce Innovation & Community Strategy at PTC
  • Local Food Project
  • Urban Agriculture
  • Local Time Banks

CEED has planned classes at PTC and the St. Pete Green House, which provides counseling for local businesses, for fall 2017 and spring 2018 including a two-hour Introduction to Cooperatives and a six-week micro-course to help participants decide whether the cooperative business model is right for them. Micro-course topics will cover what legally defines a business as a cooperative, the different types of cooperatives, State statutes, IRS and accounting rules, bylaws and governance.
Follow-up workshops will help teams develop their cooperative business model and connect them to the necessary resources for their specific type of co-op.
Upcoming events offered at the Saint Petersburg Greenhouse, and at PTC will begin in September 2017 and include a variety of formats ranging from co-op cafe with discussions about co-op history, book club, readings about co-ops and how-tos of creating a cooperative eco-system. For event information, dates and times, check our Facebook page, sign up for emails or visit our website.
For groups or individuals who wish to volunteer, assist, or intern for college credit, contact Judith Turner at [email protected]