COOS BAY — Northwest Cooperative Development Center has received three grants from the United States Department of Agriculture for its Legacy Project, which aims to assist in educating aging rural business owners in the benefits of selling their business to their employees.

The USDA grants will be used by NWCDC to educate cities throughout Oregon, Washington and Idaho about converting to a co-op business model. Coos Bay happens to be on the list of cities where NWCDC will be holding presentations.

NWCDC is a 501c3 based in Olympia, Wash., with the mission to promote community economic development through the cooperative business model. They provides technical assistance to new and existing cooperatives in the Pacific Northwest.

 “We’re launching the project now. We thought that this would be a good time to launch with Labor Day right around the corner. Over the next eight weeks, we’re going to try and visit all the communities we’ve listed, and hopefully have one-on-one interviews with folks in the community,” John McNamara, a cooperative development specialist with NWCDC said.

By the year 2024, everyone from the Baby Boomer generation will be over 60-years-old. NWCDC hopes to talk with business owners who will be looking to retire soon and inform them how they can transition their business into a co-op.

“Rather than have these business disappear and the jobs disappear with them, one option is selling to their employees as a worker co-op,” McNamara said.

Funding for the Legacy Project comes alongside the passing of the Main Street Employee Ownership Act in the house, which amends the Small Business Act to expand the authority of the Small Business Administration to guarantee loans for qualified employee trusts of a small business to purchase the stock of that business.

The bill will also provide outreach and educational materials to licensed small business investment companies to increase investment in transitions to employee-owned businesses.

“Recently Congress added to the mandate of the Small Business Administration to start promoting and supporting worker co-op conversion,” McNamara said.

Now that NWCDC’s project has funding they have begun reaching out to the communities in the Northwest they plan to visit and educate about co-op business models.

“We start by reaching out to the communities to see what these professionals need to be able to consider becoming a co-op.” McNamara said.

McNamara said that So far NWCDC has reached out to the South Coast Development Council to discuss how the project might be able to help Coos Bay. Final dates for NWCDC’s visit have not yet been confirmed, but they hope to be in Coos Bay the first week in October.

“Small business advisers are the target audience for their potential to establish a continuing education pathway,” NWCDC executive director Diane Gasaway said.

According to Gasaway, The Legacy Project will help support small business success, build an entrepreneurial ecosystem, and maintain good jobs in rural communities.

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Nicholas A. Johnson can be reached at 541-266-6049, or by email at nicholas.johnson@theworldlink.com.