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Babylon IDA awards $50,000 to help grow worker-owned businesses

Long Island Progressive Coalition officials, from left, Dan

Long Island Progressive Coalition officials, from left, Dan Fingas, Lisa Tyson and John Delaney in the group's Massapequa headquarters on Thursday, May 25, 2017. The Babylon Industrial Development Agency has awarded $50,000 to the group to help create worker cooperatives in town, officials said. Photo Credit: Johnny Milano

The Babylon Industrial Development Agency will award $50,000 to the Long Island Progressive Coalition for its plan to help create worker cooperatives in Babylon Town, officials said.

The initiative reflects a growing interest nationwide in collectively owned and run companies, experts said, and could help Babylon and other local communities retain existing businesses and foster new ones as well.

“This is really an opportunity to keep these jobs on Long Island,” agency CEO Matthew T. McDonough said. “When a workers cooperative is established, the workers own the business, and it’s staying here.”

The Babylon agency is the first on Long Island to provide funding for the initiative, which the coalition, a nonprofit based in Massapequa, hopes to later expand to the rest of Long Island, according to its director Lisa Tyson.

With the funding, the coalition will seek to help existing businesses transition to collective ownership and budding entrepreneurs start new cooperatives as well, Tyson said.

Workers pooling resources to buy businesses from their owners could help prevent the local economy from contracting in the coming decades as baby boomers retire, Tyson said.

The collective model, in which workers share management responsibilities and profits, may also make it easier for entrepreneurs lacking the credit profiles required for business loans to gain a foothold in the economy, McDonough said.

And “it’s not just about the individual worker-owners that are benefiting, it’s also the community,” said Carmen Huertas-Noble, a professor at the CUNY School of Law who has studied cooperatives.

Co-ops struggle when they lack sufficient startup funding, Huertas-Noble said. But once they clear that hurdle, their profits tend to circulate more locally than those of private businesses, creating “community wealth,” said Huertas-Noble, citing examples in New York City.

The New York City Council devoted $1.2 million in fiscal year 2015 to create the Worker Cooperative Business Development Initiative, which helps existing and would-be co-ops in the five boroughs craft business plans and conduct market research, among other support services, according to a city report.

The Long Island initiative will be led by coalition staffers with help from faculty at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University and Long Island University, Tyson said.

McDonough said the co-op model could appeal to a range of businesses in Babylon, from commercial bakers to millwork companies and small-scale manufacturers.

The agency and the coalition are finalizing the funding contract, McDonough said. The coalition hopes to begin consulting with local businesses and entrepreneurs on co-ops this summer, Tyson said.

WHERE THE MONEY GOES

Babylon IDA funding breakdown for the Long Island Progressive Coalition worker co-op project:

  • $15,000 for startup costs
  • $5,000 for market research
  • $12,500 to consult with five clients
  • $12,500 to consult with ten more clients
  • $5,000 to help establish one cooperative

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