Gov. DeWine Declares October Ohio Employee Ownership Month With Proclamation Recognizing OEOC at Kent State
October is officially Ohio Employee Ownership Month here in Ohio (and in several other states as well).
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Governor Jon Husted recently issued a joint proclamation recognizing the impact employee-owned companies have on Ohio’s economy as well as the work of the Ohio Employee Ownership Center (OEOC) based at Kent State University, which requested the proclamation. The OEOC has served as a nonprofit outreach center providing support, resources and assistance to businesses since 1987.
The proclamation also recognized the 36th Annual Ohio Employee Ownership Conference, organized by the OEOC, which was held in Akron on April 7, 2022, and attended by 420 people.
The proclamation also states:
- Whereas, in 1974, the Employee Retirement Security Act was passed and created an official definition of employee stock ownership plans, which made employee ownership easier to achieve; and
- Whereas, employee ownership is a business model in which the employees have an equity stake in the business, meaning the employees are full or part owners of the business; and
- Whereas, October is observed as Employee Ownership Month, a celebration of the benefits that employee ownership provides to employees, companies, communities, the state, and the nation; and
- Whereas, employee-owned businesses tend to grow faster than their traditional counterparts, have employees who are more satisfied, and help their communities retain local businesses; and
- Whereas, Ohio is home to more than 300 employee-owned businesses, which employ more than 100,000 Ohioans; and
- Whereas, these Ohio businesses retain jobs at a more than 4-to-1 ratio
The OEOC is an outreach center, in the Department of Political Science in the College of Arts and Sciences, founded by the late political science professor John Logue, who sought to combat the negative impacts of de-industrialization in the region and the state. Since then, the OEOC has helped more than 750 companies explore employee ownership, with 110 of those companies becoming partly or wholly employee owned.
In addition to its advocacy and research efforts, the OEOC, led by its director, Chris Cooper, offers exit planning assistance for business owners, and yearlong training and education programs for existing employee-owned companies.
“We work with employee-owned businesses and business owners looking to sell their companies to their employees; this is a strategy that provides the selling owner a fair price for the business, as well as an opportunity to reward the people who helped build the business,” said Michael Palmieri, research associate and director of special projects at the OEOC. “We focus a lot on how transitions to employee ownership are a win-win-win economic development strategy. Good for workers, good for owners and good for the community.”
The OEOC works closely with the Employee Ownership Expansion Network (EOX), an organization working to open an employee ownership center in every state in the U.S. EOX also convenes existing state employee ownership centers from across the country to work on shared projects.
“This proclamation is the fruit of one of the more recent projects, which was to highlight the positive impact that employee-owned companies have for their employees and communities by having our respective state officials recognize its impact,” Palmieri said.
These companies can be found in all sizes and industries. Some have over 10,000 employees, like Davey Tree, a tree service and environmental consultant company in Kent. Others are smaller, like Phoenix Coffee, a wholesale and retail coffee roaster located in Cleveland. What all employee-owned companies have in common is that they provide their employees a financial stake in the business – so when the company grows, workers benefit too.
“Research shows that employee ownership has numerous benefits,” Palmieri said. “Employee-owners earn higher wages, have better benefits, and because they have a stake in the business, build wealth at much higher rates than typical workers. One study found that employee owners have on average 2.6 times more in retirement savings than non-employee owners.”
Palmieri also explained that employee-owned companies are also less likely to lay off workers or go out of business during difficult times – during the coronavirus pandemic, employee-owned companies retained jobs at a 4-to-1 ratio compared to conventional firms. And employee ownership provides a way to keep legacy businesses rooted in the community. For many business owners who do not want to sell to an outside buyer or do not have family to pass the business on to, employee ownership provides a way for them to sell the business while protecting their legacy.
Since 1987, the OEOC has worked with more than 700 business owners, 100 of which have transitioned their business to some form of employee ownership.
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