Conference for small, emerging cooperatives takes place March 19, 2013
A cooperative is a unique business structure designed to meet the needs of its members.
Cooperatives provide a dynamic business model of people working together to solve common problems and seize exciting opportunities. The first cooperative in the United States was organized by Benjamin Franklin in 1752 and is still in business today. It is the Philadelphia Contributionship, a mutual fire insurance company. Modern cooperatives operate throughout the country and provide food, fiber, financing, insurance, electricity, housing and many other goods and services.
The Michigan Cooperative Development Program, part of the Michigan State University Product Center Food-Ag-Bio, is co-sponsoring a conference for small and emerging cooperatives on March 19, 2013 at the Pierce Cedar Creek Institute, 701 West Cloverdale Road, Hastings, Mich. Other sponsors are CoBank, the Mid America Cooperative Council and the Food System Economic Partnership.
The concept of this conference grew out of input from attendees of an annual executive directors and managers conference, according to Tom Kalchik, Director of the Michigan Cooperative Development Program. “The Executive Conference provides essential information for the directors and managers of all types of cooperatives. However, many small and newly launched cooperatives that attended it found the topics useful but wanted more basic operational information.” Working with the Food System Economic Partnership from SE Michigan and the Mid America Cooperative Council which provides educational programming for cooperatives in a five state area in the upper Midwest, the concept of a conference for small cooperatives was developed. CoBank, the national bank for cooperatives, agreed to provide economic resources as well as help in the planning process.
Small cooperative organizers, board members and directors need to know about basic cooperative operation including types of cooperatives, the role of directors, managers, members and customers. Additionally, knowledge of other topics such as financing, legal issues, and business planning will help to make an informed choice of business structures. Networking among fellow business people is helpful to explore issues and opportunities for cooperatives in Michigan. The Michigan Small Cooperative Conference is for directors and members of small and emerging cooperatives and people who are contemplating starting a cooperative.