Looking for Urban Investment and Green Jobs? Try Cleveland
This week's issue of the Nation includes an engrossing feature article about Cleveland's newly launched Evergreen Cooperatives, worker-owned "green" enterprises based in some the city's lowest-income neighborhoods. The initial coops include an industrial laundry, a solar panel installer, and a hydroponic greenhouse.
The idea is that these for-profit businesses will provide living wage jobs, give their local employees a chance to build wealth through a meaningful worker ownership plan, and promote environmental sustainability. The coops leveraged seed capital from the city, foundations, and local banks, and have secured procurement agreements with local institutions such as the Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University so that their core customer base is secure (no small thing at a time when weak consumer demand is decimating both startups and established businesses). As Nation writers Gar Alperovitz, Ted Howard and Thad Williamson note, the model "could be applied in hard-hit industries and working-class communities around the nation," and is already being considered in a range of American cities in search of new models for urban reinvestment.
While people have long talked about businesses adopting a "triple bottom line" of fairness to workers, environmental responsibility, and profitability, Cleveland's coop model puts it into practice in a way few others have done. As a Cleveland native, I'm proud to see this growing in my hometown.