The 31st Annual Ohio Employee Ownership Conference Receives Welcome from Senators Brown and Portman
The 31st Annual Ohio Employee Ownership Conference, hosted by Kent State University’s Ohio Employee Ownership Center (OEOC), drew more than 330 participants from 15 states to the Akron/Fairlawn Hilton on April 28. Ohio Senators Robert Portman and Sherrod Brown welcomed them to the conference via recorded video, with representatives from both senators adding their own comments in support of employee ownership in Ohio and across the U.S.
Following the welcome from the senators, participants were treated to a morning keynote speech from Cindy Turcot, COO of Gardener Supply Company, an employee-owned company in Burlington, Vermont, and current chair of the national ESOP Association, an employee-ownership advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.
Turcot’s keynote address stressed the benefits of employee ownership on the business, its employees and their communities. Turcot also noted the opportunity that the impending wave of baby boomer business-owner retirements had for the creation of additional employee-owned businesses, most of which are created via a succession event within the ownership of the business.
In addition to the keynote session, two employee-owned enterprises received awards for their activities and engaging their employees within the business operations. The Ruhlin Company of Sharon Center, Ohio, received the John Logue Employee Ownership Excellence Award, named for OEOC founder and Kent State political science professor John Logue); and Robin Industries of Independence, Ohio, received the ESOP Impact Award. In addition to the individual awards, 20 companies celebrated milestone anniversaries of being employee owned in 2017, with the Ruhlin Company hitting 40 years under its Employee Stock Ownership Plan.
More than 150 employee owners – both managerial and non-managerial – from 53 employee-owned companies, representing both Employee Stock Ownership Plans, or ESOPs, as well as worker-owned cooperatives from Ohio and neighboring states, took part in the conference activities. In addition, the conference hosted a broad base of attendees from a number of companies exploring a sale to the employees, multiple nonprofit support organizations, economic development and labor groups, academics and private-sector consultants to the industry.
Sixteen breakout sessions focused on a variety of employee ownership topics including: Succession/Exit Planning for selling owners to employee ownership options (ESOPs/Worker-Owned Cooperatives/Employee Ownership Trusts); employee education, communication, and engagement; ESOP administrative, managerial and technical issues; and financing trends and options.
The Ohio Employee Ownership Center is a Kent State outreach center dedicated to expanding employee ownership across the state and beyond. Thanks, in part, to the efforts of the OEOC, Ohio has one of the highest per-capita concentrations of employee ownership in the country. The center’s work is focused on three major areas: the creation of additional employee-owned businesses (via ownership conversions of existing businesses as well as new business startups); provision of training and education programs for existing employee-owned businesses; and research and advocacy for employee ownership business models.