The Co-op and the Local Economy

On a larger level, co-ops around our region are beginning to look at the effect they have on local economies.

Members who have been following the Board’s work on governance over the past few years are aware that the Board has created Ends Policies that explain their thinking on why the organization exists. The Board’s primary statement on the matter is “The Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society exists to provide cooperative commerce for the greater good of our members and community.” Within that policy, and in other Ends statements that define the good the Co-op should do in the world, is a charge to staff to work toward making our community a better place.

One area in which staff attempt to actualize community benefit through our business is in support for local producers. Our purchasers have a long-standing history of cultivating good business relations with the vendors who grow our local tomatoes, provide local milk, bake bread and cookies in nearby kitchens, and produce maple syrup from sugarbushes in the surrounding area. Fresh, high-quality local food is also highly popular with Co-op shoppers.

Studies have consistently shown that money spent locally will put more dollars back into the local and regional economy.

Support for the local economy can go far beyond support for the local farmer or baker, however, and while the Ends Policy adopted by the Hanover Co-op Board of Directors addresses local vendors, it does not limit the Co-op’s benefit to only those who produce food. The Co-op buys millions of dollars’ worth of goods and services to run the business. By making substantial purchases within our community, we help create a more vibrant local economy.

 

LocalProducers#Studies have consistently shown that money spent by consumers and businesses at the locally owned bookstore, music store, or grocery will put more dollars back into the local economy than if those dollars are spent at a business owned by an outside entity. Simply stated, the locally owned bookstore will tend to have a local accountant, a local attorney, and employ local management. They are likely to purchase supplies, computers, and services locally. Many of those dollars are then used locally in a cycle of benefit for the community.

What are the implications and benefits of developing a vibrant local economy? The Co-op’s Management Team and the Board are beginning to think about that question and to attempt to quantify an answer.

On a larger level, co-ops around our region, being locally owned businesses themselves, are also beginning to look at the effect they (or I should say we) have on local economies on a consolidated basis. Like the Hanover Co-op, neighboring cooperatives as a group are attempting to initiate a process that will lead to better methods of quantifying the benefits our locally owned businesses provide for our regional community. We will be looking for ways to determine the value of what we currently do, but even more importantly, we will be studying what we (both as individual co-ops and collaboratively) can do to help create a more vibrant, more cooperative, and more locally owned regional economy. I look forward to sharing the results of that work with you in the months and years to come!

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Ken Davis

Ken Davis

Ken is a writer in the Co-op Outreach Department. Email him at kdavis@coopfoodstore.com.