NCBA CLUSA press conference demonstrates impact of cooperative sector

Last week’s press conference, which kicked off NCBA CLUSA’s 100th anniversary and marked the launch of the newly-formed bipartisan Congressional Cooperative Business Caucus, was a key opportunity to demonstrate the economic and social impact of the cooperative sector to lawmakers and journalists.

Top co-op executives including Charles Snyder, president and CEO of National Cooperative Bank, were on hand to demonstrate that cooperatives not only represent a viable business model that injects $3 trillion into the U.S. economy every year, but also give back to their communities. NCB alone disbursed $250 million to low-income communities in 2015.

“The co-op model has proven successful to combat many issues facing the country today,” Snyder said. “We have seen it firsthand in the work we do to provide affordable housing through the development of limited equity housing cooperatives, access to healthy food via food co-ops and wealth creation and ownership through worker cooperatives.”

“Co-ops are good for America,” he added.

Bruce Carrozzi, divisional vice president for Retail Growth at True Value, also spoke, highlighting the sense of ownership that comes with coops. “Co-ops shift the power to the individual,” Carrozzi said. “Only in a co-op is a member an owner, investor and customer.”

Local entrepreneur Gina Schaefer, who owns 11 Ace Hardware co-ops in the greater Washington, D.C. area, spoke about the power that comes when co-ops unite around common goals. “The big guys have no reason to talk to me—I’m just a small entrepreneur in Washington, D.C., but as a member of a co-op, those doors are open for me,” she said.

The cooperative business model is also helping to preserve the family farm in the U.S., said Terry Ingram, a Culpeper, Virginia-based farmer with Organic Valley, which last month surpassed $1 billion in sales, making it the first billion-dollar organic-only food company in the U.S.

Mollie Moison attended the January 13 press conference to launch a special anniversary roast of organic, co-op grown coffee roasted by NCBA CLUSA member Pachamama Coffee Cooperative, the only U.S. coffee brand 100 percent owned by farmers. Moisan, who serves as director of Outreach for Pachamama, also worked as a Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer, demonstrating Pachamama’s deep commitment to ethical sourcing.

During his comments, Dan Arnett, general manager of Seattle-based Central Co-op, said co-ops are addressing income inequality in the U.S. “Our starting wage at Central Co-op is $16 an hour. The co-op model enables that,” he said.

Arnett added that NCBA CLUSA’s 100th anniversary could serve as a great launching pad to propel the cooperative sector forward. “Let’s get this movement really going!” he said.

NCBA CLUSA is thrilled to spend 2016 highlighting the scope and impact of the cooperative economy in the U.S. For all our 100th anniversary coverage, visit www.ncbaclusa100.coop.