Cleveland Green Jobs Using a Cooperative

What are the programs Goals?

Greater University Circle is a four-square-mile area in Cleveland that is home to Case Western Reserve University, the Cleveland Clinic, and University Hospitals.  Together these neighborhood anchor institutions purchase billions of dollars annually in goods and services. 

The nonprofit Cleveland Foundation approached these institutions in 2005 with the suggestion that they direct a portion of their purchases into neighborhood businesses.  Together the neighborhood partners, along with the City of Cleveland, developed ideas for environmentally friendly worker-owned businesses that they could help launch in the neighborhood to serve these institutions and others in the region. 

The central objectives behind what became the Evergreen Cooperatives (the coordinating holding company is the Evergreen Cooperative Corporation) are to create living wage jobs, anchor capital in neighborhoods and nurture employee-owned businesses. The model draws heavily on the experience of the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation in the Basque region of Spain, the world's most successful large-scale cooperative effort now employing 100,000 workers in an integrated network of more than 120 high-tech, industrial, service, construction, and financial businesses. 

What has been created under this initiative?

Each business venture aims to get a commitment of about half of its revenue from the anchor institutions at the outset. The first of these, Evergreen Cooperative Laundry, opened in October 2009.  The business was capitalized with $5.8 million in funds from the city of Cleveland, bank loans, and contributions from the Evergreen Cooperative.  

The worker co-op model helps employees build long-term wealth through equity in the company.  Partner agencies work with the Cooperative to build the job skills of the area residents, some of whom have criminal records, which make up the neighborhood labor pool. The "green" aspects of the businesses appeal to client interest in sustainability. 

The second and third ventures include Evergreen Energy Solutions and Green City Growers Cooperative. Green City Growers opened a 3.25-acre hydroponic greenhouse of leafy greens and herbs in the heart of the city during February 2013. The main clients continue to be the large hospital and university institutional kitchens. However, Cleveland restaurants looking to source locally are target markets as well. 

Evergreen Energy Solutions designs, installs and develops photovoltaic (PV) solar panel arrays for institutional, governmental and commercial markets. Created in 2008, EES also provides energy efficiency performance audits and weatherization services.

Resources

Evergreen Cooperatives:  http://evergreencooperatives.com/