Conference explores cooperative businesses

The University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives has partnered with the city of Madison and the area’s cooperative business community to host the Madison Cooperative Business Conference on June 6-7.

The conference grew out of a conversation during Madison’s mayoral race in 2011. Union Cab, the local worker-owned taxi company, approached then-candidate Paul Soglin about the role cooperatives play in the city’s economy, and the possible benefits that the city might gain from supporting cooperative development.

Once Soglin was elected, a steering committee, which included UW Center for Cooperatives assistant director Anne Reynolds, was established to explore the idea. As a first step, the city has funded this conference to educate city staff, local businesses and the public about the cooperative model.

The Wednesday, June 6 pre-conference session will focus on small business succession planning and the use of cooperative conversions as a way to maintain thriving businesses under employee ownership upon the retirement of the owners.

This session will be led by Roy Messing, business succession planning program coordinator, Ohio Employee Ownership Center, Kent State University. Topics will include: creating a successful decision-making process; the various succession options; and the tax, legal and financial environment of selling to employees. Messing has significant experience working with small business owners to develop transition plans to employee ownership, and he’ll bring a variety of case studies and best practices to the discussion.

Speakers on Thursday, June 7 will include cooperative development experts, representatives from area cooperative businesses, and economic development staff who are leading cooperative development initiatives in the city of Richmond, Calif., and in the province of Quebec. Topics will include the role of cooperatives in our community, with a focus on health and food systems; an introduction to cooperative finance and successful cooperative start-ups; and how cities and cooperatives can work together to support job creation and local ownership.

The conference is targeted to existing business owners and cooperatives, entrepreneurs exploring a cooperative model, business service providers, and planning and economic development professionals.

All conference sessions will be at the Pyle Center, 702 Langdon St., on the UW-Madison campus. Registration is $25 for one day, or $40 for both. Complete program and registration information is available here.