March 11, 2021

Aspen Institute Urges More Support for Employee Ownership

NCEO founder and senior staff member

In its report "A Job Quality Agenda for the Next Administration," the Aspen Institute, a leading nonpartisan think tank, joined the Center for American Progress, Council of Economic Advisors member Jared Bernstein, and others to “Promote employee ownership and worker cooperative models, which have been shown to have a positive association with quality jobs, by offering technical assistance and access to appropriate financing to support transitions to employee ownership, as well as new business development that includes some form of employee ownership. Funds could be made available to state employee ownership centers, experienced nonprofit organizations, and interested Small Business Development Centers to raise awareness about different employee ownership models among small- to medium-sized businesses and to extend technical assistance and facilitate financing.”

The NCEO was the first organization to promote the idea of funding for state and federal outreach programs, going back to a bill we developed for Sen. James Sasser (D-TN) in 1986, the Employee Ownership and Participation Act (S 2720). That bill did not make it to the committee hearing stage, however.

Now is a great time for people who want to see this concept grow to become more engaged. Mike Hart, who led his company EEA toward becoming 100% ESOP-owned, for instance, has been leading an effort in Texas to create a state center and to qualify ESOPs for set-aside contracts. Dick Peterson, a retired business owner who shared ownership with his employees, headed a small group of activists in an effort that ultimately resulted in the Rocky Mountain Employee Ownership Center and, later, a state program to support employee ownership. Advocates in Massachusetts worked to create a state center there. State representatives are usually very accessible, and if you can find the right champion or champions, this is the kind of idea that has a good chance of success. For more information on state program ideas, contact Tim Garbinsky or Corey Rosen at the NCEO.