Co-ops meeting modern needs

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A new member cooperative in Northeast Minneapolis plans to turn neighbors into small-business investors. Northeast Minneapolis, particularly Central Avenue, is home to a diverse range of shops, restaurants, and other businesses. Several vacant buildings present the opportunity for neighbors to take an active role in shaping the area. The fledgling NorthEast Investment Cooperative hopes to do just that by recruiting 100 member-owners to invest $1,000 each. The money may be used to purchase commercial buildings, support new businesses, or even rehab rental housing.

The NorthEast Investment Cooperative will serve a community not struggling so much that it attracts public investment, but also not wealthy enough to draw upscale developers. Investors will get to choose the enterprises that best fit local needs and create jobs. In turn, businesses will receive the support and resources they need to increase their chances of success in these tough times.

Co-ops are nothing new, but they can play a unique role in our economic recovery. The dramatic growth in credit union membership is just one example of consumers seeking alternatives to big businesses that they may no longer trust. People burned out on bailouts, the one percent, and Ponzi schemes are drawn to the “we’re all in this together,” “people before profits” mentality (and reality) co-ops offer. Co-ops like the NEIC can take a long-range approach to their work: their shareholders won’t dump them after one bad quarter. This is essential to ventures like community development and small-business growth.

Member co-ops offer all of us the opportunity to vote with our dollars and shape our community. The ideas of shared risk, shared profit, and shared decision-making aren’t novel; it’s how humans have been surviving tough times for ages. We can learn from old ways how to meet our modern needs.