Where can we go?

Maine can make choices today that will shape its economic future for decades to come.  Consider three possible futures for Maine’s economy . . .

Building a cooperative ecosystem can create the economy we all want for ourselves, our children and our communities.   What is a cooperative ecosystem?  Why are they so critical for building broadly shared prosperity? 

What lessons should we learn from our examples if we want to build a Cooperative Ecosystem in Maine?

To answer these questions, it is useful to examine a few places where cooperatives do have a significant impact on the economy. We chose these six examples because each of them, in their own way, offers fitting and inspirational lessons for addressing a number of the biggest challenges we face here in Maine.

Values and Structure Matter: Understanding Cooperation in Emilia-Romagna

Emilia-Romagna, in northern Italy, was historically a mostly poor and agricultural region. In the aftermath of WWII, the region was utterly devastated. And yet today, the region has over 8,000 worker, consumer, housing, producer and other cooperatives and boasts the largest concentration of worker cooperatives in the world. They also happen to be one of the most prosperous, entrepreneurial and equitable regional economies in all of Europe. How did they do it?  Read the fullprofile.

Globalization Insurance: Finland’s Leap of Caution

Finland is a nation similar to Maine, with its peripheral and rugged geography, long winters, historical economic reliance on natural resources and agriculture, and a small, sparse and homogeneous population. In the early 90’s, they faced the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the choice of joining the European Union and international trade agreements, all in rapid succession. Today, they have the greatest concentration of cooperatives of any country in the world and are among the top ten nations on every measure of economic and social progress. How did they use cooperatives to create widespread, equitable prosperity?  Read the full profile

Maine is struggling to create more affordable housing, integrate New Mainers into our economy and communities, and rebuild our manufacturing sector.

Below are examples in North America where nascent cooperative ecosystems are emerging and successfully addressing these same challenges.

Boisaco, Inc.

Boisaco, Inc. is a company that owns a sawmill, a forestry operation, and several related natural resource manufacturing businesses in northern Quebec.  After its third bankruptcy in ten years, the workers and community members organized themselves and the necessary financing to take over the operations as a cooperatively owned corporation.  Since 1984, this remote mill town has sustained and grown this company and it’s 600 jobs, diversified it’s operations, and weathered the boom-and-bust cycle of the industry. What lessons can Maine and its rural mill towns learn from their success? Read the full profile.

Resident Owned Communities

ROC USA® is a national network bringing a highly innovative and cost-effective model of affordable housing development to scale. They help mobile home park residents form cooperatives and buy out their communities (hence, Resident Owned Communities, or ROCs). Maine has over 500 mobile home parks that are home to many thousands of Mainers, including many young families, senior citizens, and disabled residents. What can Maine learn from ROC USA® as we seek to secure and expand affordable housing options in communities throughout the state? Read the full profile.

Prospera

Prospera (formerly WAGES) is a cooperative development group in California that has assisted immigrant women form successful worker owned businesses and sustainably create good-paying jobs with benefits for themselves. As new cooperative business owners, these New Americans are getting their feet under them and securing the American Dream for their families. As Maine struggles to attract and integrate immigrants and refugees from around the world, what lessons can we learn?  Read the full profile.

Carolina Textile District

The Carolina Textile District in rural, western North Carolina is a cooperative network of small – medium size textile manufacturers that is successfully pushing back against serious economic headwinds caused by free trade agreements, mechanization and de-industrialization. The CTD is helping these manufacturers sustain and create jobs, coordinate production, access new markets, and share services. Additionally, some businesses in the Network are or are considering conversion to worker cooperatives as their owners plan for retirement. What lessons can Maine learn from this effort to help manufacturers compete in the global economy and preserve a heritage industry? Read the full profile.