New Hampshire Business Review published an interesting article on co-ops in the state which I thought our readers might appreciate. As the article suggests, there are more co-ops operating than most of us realize.
Cooperatives are corporations that are owned by their members. Members can be locally owned businesses, like ACE Hardware store owners or farmers, or consumers, like food co-ops or resident-owned communities. In all the range of examples, one thing is true: The co-op operates for the benefit of its members, plain and simply.
ACE Hardware store owners are co-op members for group buying power, a strong national brand and business systems that help them succeed. How else could a locally owned store compete against the big box corporate stores like The Home Depot?
Consumers come together for a similar reason. In food co-ops, the motivation is generally about ensuring access to certain types of food, perhaps in bulk as well as price and for many, community.
Resident-owned communities (ROCs) are either co-ops by law or are effectively set-up to operate as co-ops under an appropriate state law. Members of the co-op in the case of ROCs are homeowners in the community. The co-op owns the land and the members own and control the co-op.
In the end, ROC members are “consumers” joining together for mutual benefit, and carrying on the proud tradition of co-ops serving members. And, joining with a growing number of enterprises that are organized to spread the benefits of ownership.