Vision & Broad Goals
The Evergreen Cooperative Initiative seeks to respond to a set of difficult economic questions facing Cleveland (and, indeed, many of America’s other great cities):
How do we create good quality jobs at a time of growing job dislocation and disinvestment in our urban areas?
How do we anchor capital, particularly in underserved, low-income neighborhoods, so that it doesn’t get up and leave, as so many corporations have?
Where do we find financing for job creation at a time of ever more-constrained resources for urban economic development?
How do we address the lack of economic opportunity that is endemic in many urban neighborhoods where unemployment is at double-digit levels even in the best of times, and where as many as 30% of residents live below the poverty line?
How do we turn the vision and promise of green jobs into real employment opportunities that are available to urban workers today?
Most important of all, how do we rebuild the economies of our inner cities in order to stabilize and revitalize disinvested neighborhoods
The Evergreen Cooperative Initiative is based on a vision of “community wealth building.” Community wealth strategies aim at improving the ability of communities and individuals to increase asset ownership, anchor jobs locally, strengthen the municipal tax base, prevent financial resources from “leaking out” of the area, and ensure local economic stability.
The strategic pillars on which the Initiative is built are: (1) leveraging a portion of the multi-billion dollar annual business expenditures of anchor institutions into the surrounding neighborhoods; (2) establishing a robust network of Evergreen Cooperative enterprises based on community wealth building and ownership models designed to service these institutional needs; (3) building on the growing momentum to create environmentally sustainable energy and green collar jobs (and, concurrently, support area anchor institutions in achieving their own environmental goals to shrink their carbon footprints); (4) linking the entire effort to expanding sectors of the economy (e.g., health care, our aging population, local food, and sustainable energy), many of which are recipients of large-scale public investment; and (5) developing the financing and management capacities that can take this effort to scale (that is, to move beyond a few boutique projects or models to have significant municipal impact).
The near-term goal (over the next 3 to 5 years) of the Evergreen Cooperative Initiative is to catalyze the creation of up to 10 new for-profit, worker-owned cooperatives based in the Greater University Circle area of Cleveland. Together, these 10 businesses will employ approximately 500 residents of six low-income neighborhoods. Each business will be designed as the greenest within its sector in NE Ohio. Our financial projections indicate that after approximately 8 years, a typical Evergreen worker-owner will possess an equity stake in their company of about $65,000.
The longer-term objective is to produce 5,000 new direct jobs for Clevelanders over the next 10 to 15 years. The ultimate goal is to stabilize and revitalize Greater University Circle’s neighborhoods.