Cooperatives are integral to Colorado’s economic revitalization program, Governor Jared Polis said at a learning event last week hosted by the Center for Community Wealth Building and attended by NCBA CLUSA’s Board of Directors, in town for their quarterly meeting at CoBank headquarters.
The center works to transform the current economic development system to a more inclusive and equitable model that prioritizes democratically-owned businesses, preserves local businesses and ensures social, environmental and institutional sustainability.
Those values, shared by cooperatives everywhere, align with Governor Polis’ vision for Colorado.
“We want to support business models that are consistent with our values here in Colorado,” he said, pledging to continue working to amplify co-ops as a model that “builds wealth, builds value, provides access to opportunity and entrepreneurship, and supports our shared economic prosperity.”
As governor, Polis has centered cooperatives as a tool to drive economic growth. In 2019, his administration established the Colorado Employee Ownership Office, which provides tax credits, grants, peer support and access to technical assistance and service providers for cooperatives and other employee-owned businesses.
One recent bill passed by the Colorado General Assembly provides a tax rebate of $2,500 for new businesses that transition to employee-ownership; another creates a revolving loan and grant program to help mobile homeowners transition to resident-owned communities.
“We want to make sure that the people who work in our communities can afford to live in those communities,” Governor Polis said. “It’s critical that the people who create the value can share in the value that’s created.”
One way that cooperatives support this goal is by helping their members achieve financial stability and build intergenerational wealth. A great local example is Mujeres Emprendedoras Cooperative, which catered last week’s event. Established in 2017 with five member-owners, the co-op fights involuntary displacement in Denver’s Westwood neighborhood by creating economic opportunity for women who otherwise have limited job opportunities.
Mujeres Emprendedoras and other local co-ops illustrate how building solidarity within communities benefits everyone, said Yessica X. Holguin, Executive Director of the Center for Community Wealth Building, where she works to create community wealth by strengthening entrepreneurship opportunities for people of color.
“When my neighbor is doing well, I’m doing well; when my family is doing well, I’m doing well,” she said. “I truly believe that when we all do better, we all do better,” Holguin added. Hear more from Holguin in this video.