Bringing Employee Ownership Awareness to the Golden State
By Michael Taylor and Michael Bruner
The California Center for Employee Ownership (CCEO), a joint initiative by the Beyster Institute and the National Center for Employee Ownership, is now live on the web at ownershipcalifornia.org. The CCEO's objective is to advocate for and promote employee ownership within the state of California, and to serve as a destination where employee-owned companies can share information and resources.
California joins a number of other states with organizations advocating state-level employee ownership advocacy. The Ohio Employee Ownership Center (OEOC) and Vermont Employee Ownership Center (VEOC) support employee ownership transactions to benefit small-business founders and employees as well as the local economies where they operate.
These institutions' outreach and educational initiatives have contributed to public policy initiatives that encourage employee ownership. In 2012, the OEOC has been participating alongside other organizations in efforts connected with Ohio Governor John Kasich's state-level economic development programs. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has credited the VEOC as inspiration for his sponsorship of the 2012 Worker Ownership, Readiness and Knowledge (WORK) Act. The WORK Act authorizes the Department of Labor to promote employee ownership and provide educational resources to employee-owned companies. Senator Sanders has also introduced the U.S. Employee Ownership Bank Act, which would provide or guarantees loans to help finance ESOP transactions.
The California Center for Employee Ownership aims to provide similar educational resources for private companies looking for employee ownership opportunities. Its four-fold mission aims to:
- Serve as a contact point for California companies
- Reach out to potential candidates to discuss the features and benefits of employee ownership
- Encourage state and local agencies in California to offer employee ownership resources
- Discuss employee ownership with local representatives
The CCEO also plans to maintain an assertive social media presence to communicate its message. The organization has already tapped in to LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. It will be providing regular updates and forging new connections on those platforms to stay on top of the ever changing social media space.
The Golden State offers fertile ground for these initiatives. Of California's roughly 3.5 million businesses (according to 2010 Census Bureau data), just over 1,700 are employee owned. Among California's approximately 12.5 million workers, one in twelve is an employee owner. According to the NCEO, 14 of the nation's 100 largest employee-owned companies by number of employees reside in California.
The California Center for Employee Ownership believes there is room to further increase California's employee ownership rate. Through concerted effort with private organizations, nonprofits and other institutions, the California Center for Employee Ownership can bring the benefits of employee ownership to new firms while strengthening the ties among long-time ESOP companies.
Encouragement of state-level policies that support employee ownership can improve outcomes for private businesses, workers and consumers alike. By forming a coalition of actual and potential employee-owned companies, the CCEO can more effectively encourage such policies. We hope to see this state-level model for employee ownership advocacy and education extend beyond California, Ohio and Vermont to create greater public and private support for employee ownership.
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