October is co-op month!
Cooperatives are businesses that:
- are owned and democratically controlled by their members—the people who use the co-op’s services or buy its goods—not by investors.
- return surplus revenues (income over expenses and investment) to members proportionate to their use of the cooperative, not proportionate to their ownership share.
- are motivated by service to their members, not by profit.
- value of self-help, self-responsibility, social-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity.
Because of the focus on member interest, many co-ops also employ many sustainable business practices, including purchasing fair-trade and/or locally produced goods.
There are several kinds of co-ops: consumer-owned, producer-owned, worker-owned, and purchasing “clubs”.
Here are some examples of local cooperatives (follow the links for more info!):
- REI – Pittsburgh, PA – A large-scale outdoor recreation outfitter deeply committed to community and environmental stewardship. Members receive yearly dividend based on how much they spent.
- East End Food Co-op, Pittsburgh, PA – Pittsburgh’s only consumer-owned natural food store.
- The Artist’s Co-op, Washington, PA – With all kinds of art and craft forms represented, the co-op also offers attractive prices because artists sell directly to the consumer.
- The Table Coffee Shop, Scottdale, PA – A great community-oriented, locally-owned coffee shop featuring drinks and food from around the world. They will also offer a food co-op where members can buy natural foods and grains at bulk prices.
- Ace Hardware – Spotto’s, Connellsville, PA – Ace Hardware is a centralized hardware purchasing entity that supplies to its member stores and offers cooperative marketing.
For more information on co-ops in general visit the websites of the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Cooperatives and the National Cooperative Business Association that are full of great resources.
How could a co-op work in the Trail Towns? Post your thoughts in the comment section!