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How Community Companies Can Smash Monopolies
Back in the early 2000s, I worked with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and a group of poultry farmers to create a community-friendly poultry processing company called Bay Friendly Chicken. It was an effort to break the monopoly of Tyson, Perdue, and Mountaire on Maryland’s Eastern Shore — the heart of chicken country. Our mission was to challenge the abysmal behavior of these companies toward their workers and producers — not to mention the local environment. Corporate control in the region was so clucked that we were banned from meeting in a local church because a poultry executive sat on the church board. It was a challenge to raise the grassroots capital for that venture, and in the end, we only reached $250,000 of our $2 million goal. The real fox in the henhouse, we realized, was the outdated securities law that enabled corporate monopolists to squelch competition and shortchange consumers with higher prices, fewer products, and less innovation.
Fast forward twenty years, and we are finally seeing upstart companies use the cutting-edge tools of community capital to break meat-processing monopolies. Our first story is about a new company in Nebraska called Sustainable Beef, organized by local ranchers and feedlots fed up with the four giant companies that control the nation’s beef market. Similar efforts are happening in Iowa, Missouri, and South Dakota.
Our other stories also showcase local capital challenging corporate giants. Several worker-owned healthcare cooperatives are challenging the dominance of increasingly powerful hospital groups and private-equity-run healthcare networks. Navajo Power is helping Native American communities break their dependence on large investor-owned utilities. And Walden Bank in New Hampshire, a new member-owned mutual fund, is helping local farmers and food processors who are consistently dissed by large banks find the capital they need to grow their operations.
Most Americans haven’t considered that when they invest their life savings and do their banking in Fortune 500 companies, they are effectively starving the companies that provide the jobs, taxes, and quality of life essential for their communities. As my grandmother might have said, “Local chicken stock is good for you!”
- Michael H. Shuman, Publisher
Ranchers Got Tired of Big Beef Taking Their Profits. So They Started Their Own Processing Plant, Illinois Public Media (July 31)
Worker Co-ops in Health Care: Lessons From the Field, Nonprofit Quarterly (August 7)
How to Build a Bank to Scale Up Local Food Ecosystems, Next City (July 5)
How Can We Build Hope in Midtown?, Neighborhood Economics (August 9)
Natural Investments Becomes the First Perpetual Purpose Trust in Financial Services, Natural Investments (July 4)
Eugene-Based Hummingbird Wholesale Announces Transition to Employee-Owned Purpose Trust, Oregon Business (June 5)
Moose’s Corner: Innovations in Local Business Networks - Virtual Event. Join Michael Shuman (aka “the Moose”) and AMIBA for a monthly deep dive with the best local business networks in the United States. This month’s event—August 24, at 1 pm ET—focuses on Spokane Independent Metro Business Alliance.
Oxford Symposium on Employee Ownership - In-Person Event. August 30-31. A global gathering of decision-makers in the field of employee ownership. This year will focus on government policies to grow these business models. By invitation only: Fill out an Interest Form here.
Reimage Main Street: America's Small Business Development Center Annual Conference - In-Person Event. September 6 - 9. Over 200 professional development workshops for SBDC professionals. Register here.
Inspiring Change With As You Sow and Impactphl - In-Person Event. September 13. Learn about shareholder advocacy, aligning your investments with your values, and inspiring change through corporate action. Register here.
Neighborhood Economics - In-Person Event. February 26-28, 2024. Event facilitating ongoing conversations across geographies that help people build economic architecture so everyone will thrive. Register here.
Food Systems Finance Resource Center, Council of Development Finance Agencies
Creating a Community Investment Fund: A Local Food Approach, Cutting Edge Capital
Common Future is hiring for multiple positions
Mission Driven Finance is hiring an Investment Analyst, a Senior Investment Analyst, a Senior Director of Real Estate Asset Management, a Construction Project Manager, and an Executive Assistant/Coordinator
FREE SHORT VIDEOS ON LOCAL INVESTMENT
If you want to short answers to your most pressing questions about local investment, we have prepared a series of 5-10 minute videos. Find them posted on our website under the “Local Investing Videos” page. Or click on the links below to be directed to videos based on the topic:
BECOME A MAIN STREET CHAMPION
Have you always wanted to start a local investment club? A website of local investment offerings in your community? A local investment study group? Whatever your interest or ambition, we invite you to “go public” to help others in your region find you, scheme with you, and start a local investment movement in your community. We aim to identify dozens, then hundreds, then thousands of Main Street Champions like you across America. We already have Main Street Champions across the U.S., from San Luis Obispo, CA, to Providence, RI, and even Australia! Together, we can move our hard-earned savings from Wall Street back into our communities. Fill out the intake survey below to join this growing cohort!
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About The Main Street Journal
The Main Street Journal aims to catalyze the movement of $50 trillion from Wall Street to Main Street to facilitate economic development and economic justice. It’s sponsored by the National Coalition for Community Capital, with a grant from the Heron Foundation. We welcome feedback about everything, from our design to content. And we welcome suggestions of other groups to involve as partners and additional information to include. Please send ideas to Jen Risley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
American Independent Business Alliance | Candide Group | Community-Vision Solutions, Benefit LLC | Council Fire | Crowdfund Better | Cutting Edge Capital | Democracy Collaborative | Fair Food Network | Impact Finance Center | ImpactPHL | Initiative for Local Capital | The Kassan Group | Mission Driven Finance | National Coalition for Community Capital | Natural Investments | Neighborhood Economics | New Majority Capital |. Next Egg | Nonprofit Quarterly | Ownership America | Ownership Matters | Project Equity | Project for Public Spaces | Prospera Partners | Raise Green | Revalue | Schumacher Center for a New Economics | Shelterforce | Slow Money | SOCAP | Sun Valley Institute for Resilience | The Super Crowd Inc. | Transform Finance | Uwharrie Bank | Village Well
We welcome any nonprofit or for-profit committed to local investment as a partner. If your organization is interested, please contact Jen Risley at email@example.com.