Developing new community businesses to meet the growing demand from universities and hospitals

This initiative by the Evergreen Co-operatives Initiative, Ohio, aims to maximise the expenditure of local hospitals and universities to help disadvantaged communities through employment, investment and business development. The scheme focused on organisations which were specifically tied to the local economy and wouldn’t ‘get up and leave’ any time soon, including local hospitals and universities. In time, a group of co-operative businesses were formed which were designed to deliver specific services. These co-operative businesses included:

  • The Evergreen Co-operative laundry – providing environmentally friendly laundry services to local healthcare organisations
  • Ohio Co-operative Solar – providing renewable energy provision to local hospitals and universities
  • Green City Growers – growing and selling a range of fresh fruit and vegetables

Important questions that Evergreen seeks to address:

  • How do we create good quality jobs at a time of growing job dislocation and disinvestment in our urban areas?
  • How do we anchor capital, particularly in underserved, low-income neighbourhoods, so that it doesn’t get up and leave, as so many corporations have?
  • Where do we find financing for job creation at a time of ever more-constrained resources for urban economic development?
  • How do we address the lack of economic opportunity that is endemic in many urban neighbourhoods where unemployment is at double-digit levels even in the best of times, and where as many as 30% of residents live below the poverty line?
  • How do we turn the vision and promise of green jobs into real employment opportunities that are available to urban workers today?
  • Most important of all, how do we rebuild the economies of our inner cities in order to stabilise and revitalise disinvested neighbourhoods

Key features of this approach

This is an example of a mainstreamed community economic development which:

  • Re-engagement with the economy – aims to re-engage local people in the economy to support local employment, investment and increase the circulation of money Cleveland, an area that has suffered extensively from large scale industrial change.
  • Targets the most vulnerable groups – the project reaches out to those who are most disadvantaged and aims to make the economy work for them. This is about ensuring that the benefits of growth are equitable.
  • Business growth – about the development of successful local businesses which can re-invest in the community
  • Local employment – about creating new job opportunities in the communities, particularly for those who are furthest from the job market.

To learn more

More information is available from the Evergreen Co-operatives website

Newstart Magazine recently featured the Evergreen initiative

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