Welcome to our latest www.Community-Wealth.org e-newsletter. Once again, we have added dozens of new links, articles, reports, and other materials to the site. Look for this symbol to find the most recent additions.
Our updated home page features the sixth in our continuing series of profiles ofCommunity Wealth-Building Cities. The citizens of Durham, North Carolinahave implemented a wide variety of methods to build community wealth, including community development groups, co-ops, employee-owned companies, and university-community partnerships.
This quarter’s newsletter also includes the first of a continuing series of conversations with community wealth building leaders. Our inaugural interview is with Ron Phillips, CEO of Coastal Enterprises, Inc., a Maine-based community development corporation and community development financial institution. This year, Coastal Enterprises celebrates its 30th anniversary.
We also feature a report on a Community Wealth Building Roundtable held this past December in Cleveland, Ohio. The Roundtable is one in a series of innovative community-based wealth building summits The Democracy Collaborative is organizing around the country.
Finally, for those of you interested in the growing movement to “reclaim the commons” by creating and protecting various types of assets as a public “good,” you may want to visit the website www.onthecommons.org. Throughout January, I will be blogging on that site about a broad range of community wealth building issues.
Executive Director, The Democracy Collaborative
NEW & RECOMMENDED:
Law Journal Paper Proposes Giving Citizens an Equity Stake in Businesses That Receive Government Subsidies
In a paper published in the Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy, attorney Deborah Olson, Executive Director of the Capital Ownership Group, notes that in cases ranging from the 1979 bail-out of Chrysler to the post 9-11 airline stabilization loans, Congress has insisted on receiving an equity interest in the corporations it bailed out. Olson argues that such arrangements, if generalized, could protect communities from companies that renege on commitments to create local jobs in exchange for tax abatements. A system of fair exchange would enable communities to hold valuable stock warrants that could finance public services and support the development of local jobs. paper-olson.pdf (636KB). For more information, see also:
Retaining Community Wealth in a ‘Big Box’ Economy
What does it mean for our economy when Wal-Mart is the nation’s largest private sector employer? In Big Box Swindle, Institute for Local Self-Reliance Senior Researcher Stacy Mitchell addresses both the impact of big-box retailing on American communities and the responses the industry’s growth has prompted. From land-use policies to cooperative small-business initiatives, Mitchell illustrates concrete strategies that can support local enterprise and help create a more prosperous and sustainable future.
For more information, see:
Facing the Challenges of Socially Responsible Business
Ben & Jerry’s, Stonyfield Farm, The Body Shop, and Tom’s of Maine helped create the socially responsible business movement, yet all were sold to mega-corporations. Can socially responsible businesses grow and compete with more conventional ones? Are their only choices to stay small, sell off, or sell out?
Based on interviews with over 30 mission-oriented business leaders, Jill Bamburg, MBA Program Dean at Bainbridge Graduate Institute (near Seattle), shows how business can grow while keeping a social mission in Getting to Scale: Growing Your Business Without Selling Out. For more information, seewww.bkconnection.com/ProdDetails.asp?ID=9781576754160.
IN THE NEWS:
Guide Supports Worker Co-op Formation and Expansion
Developed by the Northcountry Cooperative Foundation, the Worker Co-op Toolbox provides a new set of resources to assist potential worker co-op members and their partners in choosing, planning, organizing, and supporting new and existing employee-owned cooperatives. report-lund-et-al.pdf (492KB)
Thanks to Northcountry for granting permission to republish. For more information or to purchase a printed copy (cost: $15), visit
Minimum Wage Debate Illustrates Shift in Power to State Governments
While Congress debates the minimum wage, it is notable that presently 29 states with 70 percent of the nation’s work force have minimum wages exceeding the federal level. Even if Congress fails to raise the minimum to $7.25 this year, a dozen states are already slated to have wages of at least that level by 2009. As Gar Alperovitz, the Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland and a founding principal of The Democracy Collaborative, notes in a recent article by New York Times business columnist Louis Uchitelle, “to go beyond the present modest effort in Congress, you have to build support state by state.”
California Approves Split-Tax Refunds to Encourage Savings
Inspired by research from the New America Foundation and the Asset Policy Initiative of California, and thanks to the unanimous support of the state legislature this past summer, California will be the first state to allow residents to split their state income tax refunds into separate accounts. The goal is to encourage filers to put at least part of their refund into savings. At the federal level, the IRS has announced that it will allow splitting of federal income tax refunds beginning in the 2007 tax season.
Report Documents Growing Payday Lending Debt Trap
In the past five years, payday lending (short-term cash advances on paychecks) has more than doubled from an estimated $8-14 billion in 2000 to $28 billion in 2005. According to a November 2006 report from the Center for Responsible Lending, due to frequent loan rollovers and annual interest rates as high as 400 percent, the typical payday loan borrower pays $793 for a $325 loan.
Community Development Venture Capital Yields Results
In 2001, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) launched the New Markets Venture Capital program to drive capital into distressed and underserved communities. To date, six funds have been licensed to receive New Markets funding. As Michael Gurau of CEI Community Ventures Fund, a for-profit subsidiary of Coastal Enterprises Inc. of Maine, reports, proactive outreach and education are critical to achieving positive results in the area of community development venture capital finance.
San Francisco Community Works to Develop Broad Community Wealth Initiative
In February 2005, Levi Strauss announced its intent to sell a former garment factory in and earmark a portion of the sale proceeds for the Levi Strauss Foundation to support economic development programs in San Francisco’s Mission District, a heavily Latino neighborhood. Community leaders asked the foundation to use the money to establish a sustainable neighborhood fund that can assist low-income individuals, families, and local institutions to build financial security and obtain an ownership stake in the community.
C-W.org Interviews with Community Builders
Interview with Ron Phillips on Community Wealth Building Trends
For nearly 30 years, Ron Phillips has been CEO of Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI), a Maine-based community development corporation (CDC) and community development financial institution (CDFI). Founded in 1977, CEI provides financing and technical assistance to job-creating small businesses, natural resources industries, community facilities, and affordable housing. CEI’s primary market is Maine, but, in recent years, it has expanded several programs to northern New England, upstate New York, and beyond. C-W.org interviews Phillips to get his perspective on CDCs, CDFIs, and overall trends affecting community wealth building nationwide.
Fed Chair Bernacke Addresses Community Development Finance conference
More than 600 people gathered at the 22nd annual conference of the Opportunity Finance Network, held October 30-November 2, 2006, in Washington, D.C. Highlights included a plenary speech delivered by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernacke, the first time that the head of the Federal Reserve had ever addressed the conference. As the remarks by the group’s CEO, Mark Pinsky, detail, the Fed’s official recognition of the importance of community development finance is just one of many signs of the movement’s growing maturity and impact.
Community Wealth Building Roundtables
Cleveland Roundtable on Building Community Wealth
In the fall of 2006, The Democracy Collaborative began organizing a series of Community Wealth Building Roundtables in cities across the country. One of the first of these conferences was held in Cleveland, Ohio. The Roundtable – “Building Community Wealth: New Asset-Based Approaches to Solving Social and Economic Problems in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio” – brought together local economic development practitioners and advocates, policy makers from the city and county, labor, business leaders, and anchor institutions. The day-long dialogue focused on the local situation, created linkages across sectors and organizations, and helped identify opportunities with in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio to expand the field and to build greater support for a comprehensive strategy of community wealth building innovations and policies.
participant-list.pdf (52KB) | cleve-asset-map.pdf (88KB) | c-w-principles.pdf (64KB)
Located in New York City and started by surviving former employees of the Windows on the World restaurant at the World Trade Center, COLORS is a worker cooperative where each of the worker-owners receives a share of the profits and supervises the running of the restaurant through an elected board. Each worker-owner earns a minimum of $13.50 an hour, far above the industry average.
Link no longer active
Grameen Family of Enterprises
In 2006, the Grameen Bank, and its founder Muhammad Yunus, became the first community development financial institution ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize. But Grameen does much more than micro-lending. Today, Grameen social enterprises exist in many sectors, including clothing production, cellular telephone service, information technology services, rural education, and energy production.
National Community Land Trust Network
Backed by the Cambridge, MA-based Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, the National Community Land Trust Network’s founding conference, held in Boulder, Colorado in July 2006, was attended by over 300 housing leaders. Already more than 50 community land trusts have joined the network. The group aims to develop a strong system of education and training for the growing community land trust sector.
Poverty & Race Research Action Council
Founded in 1990, the Poverty & Race Research Action Council generates, gathers, and disseminates research on the relationship between race and poverty, and promotes policies and practices that alleviate conditions caused by the interaction of race and poverty.