An inner-city cooperative is inviting the general public to buy investment shares as a way of promoting “economic healing”. Today Neechi Foods Co-Op launched its first Investment Share Offering. The purpose of the share offering is to help raise capital needed to complete the development of Neechi Commons Community Business Complex at 865 Main St. The Investment Shares are being sold to the general public, marking the first time that any cooperative in Manitoba has offered shares to non-members as well as to members. Residents of Manitoba will be eligible for the Province’s 30 % Community Enterprise Development Tax Credit on share purchases of up to $30,000. These Class A Shares are modestly priced at $100 per share to encourage broad public participation. Class B shares, which sell for $1,000 each, are geared to organizations and to individuals who do not qualify for the provincial tax credit.
Neechi is hoping to tap into the growing public interest in socially responsible investment (SRI), whereby monetary returns are balanced with social and environmental benefits. Neechi’s president, Louise Champagne, emphasized that, “investing in Neechi Commons is not about chasing speculative cash gains”. “Instead, it is about investing in a down-to-earth business that projects large community benefits alongside relatively modest financial returns. It is hoped that Neechi Commons will open in June, helping to bring badly needed revitalization to Main Street north of the CPR tracks and to adjoining north-end neighbourhoods. It will feature a neighbourhood supermarket, a fruit and vegetable courtyard and farmers’ market, cafeteria restaurant, specialty boutiques, a bakery and an Aboriginal arts centre. About 60 jobs will be created, drawing heavily on local area residents in a part of town that has one of the highest urban unemployment rates in Canada. Many of the jobs will go to youth. “It is high time that dignified and meaningful jobs start replacing street gangs”, says Champagne. “Economic balance and self-reliance in Aboriginal communities have been undermined for a very long time. We hope that Neechi Commons will be part of the economic healing that is needed to support personal and social healing.”
The Neechi Commons facility is a make-over and expansion of the old California Fruit Market premises. Now close to 90 per cent complete, it includes geo-thermal heating and cooling and already has been awarded Green Globes certification for its high environmental standards. Project costs for Neechi Commons include property acquisition, construction and opening costs totaling over $7 million. Neechi’s business plan projects $1.5 million in share capital. Both the provincial and federal governments have provided substantial capital grants to help cover construction costs and Assiniboine Credit Union, The Jubilee fund, the Canadian Worker Co-op Federation, co-op members and other individuals have provided credit to advance the construction. “Now we need public support to complete the long-term financing required to make the Commons a success”, says Champagne. “Neechi” (often spelled “Nijii”) is an Ojibwa and Cree term for friend, or sister or brother.
The components of the Investment Share Offering Package can be opened in the following pfd files:
A worker co-operative is an employee-owned business which is run according to theco-operative principles, such as democratic member control and concern for community. There are tens, even hundreds of thousands of people employed in worker co-ops in places including Mondragon (Spain), northern Italy, Argentina and Quebec. Jobs tend to be stable with less income inequality and more job satisfaction than in other business forms. Unfortunately, in most of Canada the model is not well known – yet! (This is true even in places where the other co-op models are very common, which includes most of Canada.) The Canadian Worker Co-op Federation seeks to change that. We have chosen 2012, the UN International Year of Co-ops, as the right moment to launch this Resource Guide as part of our efforts to promote worker co-ops.
At a time when people from the Occupiers to the leadership of the Davos World Economic Forum point out that there are serious flaws in the dominant economic model, we believe that it is time for the worker co-operative approach to be more frequently used by individuals and organizations seeking to build a stronger and more sustainable economy. We believe it is the approach that many people are looking for: one based not on greed but on meeting human need - for sustainable and fair employment. It is very effective in cases of succession for small business where an owner is retiring yet has no appropriate family members or others, besides employees, who might wish to take over or buy the business.
This Guide, in the form of web links to practical documents, is designed to be used as a reference guide by people considering the start-up of a worker co-op and organizations that support business development of various types, as well as by worker co-ops that are operating.
Topics included range from worker co-op basics, financing a worker co-op, governance including model worker co-op bylaws, employment law, where to turn for support when needed, and also some information on the movement – in Canada and in selected other parts of the world. The sections which cover new worker co-op development are divided into a general section on start-up / basics, and a section on conversion from other business forms, “Successions and Worker Buy-outs”. Lastly, there is a section called “special topics” for those resource materials which did not naturally group with any others: worker co-ops in immigrant communities, our “Quebec Declaration” regarding worker co-op public policy, and a brief history of CWCF. The documents have been written by CWCF, except as noted.