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More than 26,000 Kentucky businesses, employing more than 300,000 people, are owned by baby boomers, many of whom have not identified the next generation of ownership and could be at risk of closing their businesses when they retire. Transitioning to a worker-owned cooperative or other form of employee ownership could keep these businesses thriving and locally-owned.

The Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED) and Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (KCARD) are partnering to offer training about this critical challenge. There will be two separate trainings: One in Hazard on March 27, and in Morehead on April 30. Presented by Project Equity, the workshop will explore worker-owned cooperatives and other employee-owned models, as well as best practices in helping businesses transition to employee ownership.

The day-long trainings aim to raise awareness, share practical knowledge and inspire innovation in Eastern Kentucky. Stakeholders representing economic development and community organizations, as well as business owners interested in developing succession plans for their businesses, will gather for a robust day of learning, networking and skill building. They will also hear directly about employee ownership from Wayne Hunt of H&R Agri-Power in Western Kentucky, and Molly Hemstreet of Opportunity Threads in rural North Carolina, whose businesses are cooperatives.

“The worker cooperative is a growing business model that provides opportunity for local ownership and control of businesses in our communities through employee ownership,” says KCARD Business Development Specialist, Brent Lackey. He hopes the training will bring awareness to these types of business models that are relatively rare in Kentucky.

The first workshop will be Wednesday, March 27 from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. at the Perry County Public Library. The second training will be Tuesday, April 30 in Morehead at the Morehead Conference Center. The events are free and lunch is provided, though participants must register in advance.

For more information about the workshops, please contact Leslie Ferguson-Oles at leslie@maced.org or (859) 986-2373.

Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED) has worked for over 40 years with people in eastern Kentucky and Central Appalachia to create economic opportunity, strengthen democracy and support the sustainable use of natural resources. Our four primary strategies are investing capital in enterprises and communities, building entrepreneurship and leadership, demonstrating development ideas, and conducting research and communications for policy change.

The Kentucky Center for Agriculture & Rural Development (KCARD) was established 18 years ago to facilitate agricultural and rural development in Kentucky. KCARD provides business advisory services, technical assistance, and educational opportunities to agriculture businesses. Additionally, KCARD is a cooperative development center providing assistance to new and existing cooperatives.

Based in Oakland, California, Project Equity works with businesses and communities around the country to foster economic resiliency for frontline workers. They specialize in generating awareness of broad-based employee ownership and helping companies assess and implement transitions to worker cooperatives and other kinds of employee- and stakeholder-owned companies. Project Equity has worked with organizations and companies around the country, including in the rural areas of Western North Carolina and Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Editor, The Manchester Enterprise

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