The Legacy Project Continues

I’ve already written about The Legacy Project a while ago, but it is always worth mentioning!

We are living through the greatest generational transfer of wealth that has ever occurred. As the Baby Boomers retire and pass, there wealth will go somewhere. In the case of small business owners, that wealth (and the jobs connected to it) may simply disappear.

It is estimated by Project Equity that there are approximately 2.4 million business owned by people born in the Baby Boom era (1946-1964). That accounts for 24.7 million workers and almost a Trillion dollars of payroll! (Check out there map to see your community)

It is also expected that only 20% of these businesses will transfer to a new generation of ownership. Of course, that doesn’t mean massive unemployment and not all the businesses are salvageable (for a number of reasons). However, it does suggest that we are living in a ripe opportunity for converting businesses to worker-ownership.

Not every business is available for this. They need to be financially viable. There needs to be enough time to make the transition (6 months to 18 months). The workers have to want to take it over.

There are roughly 400-500 worker co-ops operating today and they do make a difference in their industries at the local level. If even 1 percent of those small businesses  owned by baby boomers (24,000) become worker co-ops, our national and local economies would look dramatically different.

I remember getting a survey from a Canadian academic about worker co-ops in the US. The study was abandoned because they could not find enough co-ops to make the study work. That was in the early-to-mid 1990s. Today, worker co-ops are highly visible and have even been mentioned on the campaign trail of a couple presidential candidates. In is conceivable to me that in my lifetime, we might have communities for which worker co-ops comprise a significant portion of the economy (over 30%). The social benefits from such a world would be amazing–an engaged citizenry, meaningful work with real living wage compensation, resilient local economies that don’t have to make deals with the devil to attract jobs.

1 percent.


About John McNamara

John spent 26 years with Union Cab of Madison Cooperative and currently helps develop co-ops in the Pacific Northwest. He holds a Ph.D. in Business Administration and Masters in Management: Co-operatives and Credit Unions from Saint Mary's University.
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