AUSTIN, TX - The City of Austin Economic Development Department has made a first-in-Texas, citywide investment in cooperatively owned businesses (co-ops) as a tool to build a more robust and equitable economy. In December 2020, Austin City Council approved a contract with the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) to provide training, coaching, and "How To" information to anyone interested in starting a co-op business or residence. A co-op is an independent group of people who join to meet common work or housing needs through shared ownership and democratic control of a business or residence.
"The Austin community is a welcoming environment for cooperatives, like Wheatsville, Black Star Co-op, ATX Taxi Co-op, or the U.T. bookstore. We want to educate our residents and business owners of the benefits of co-ops and encourage the creation of more co-ops in Austin," explains Veronica Briseño, Austin's Chief Economic Recovery Officer.
Co-ops can strengthen local neighborhoods by preserving jobs and providing affordable housing alternatives. For example, employees can form a co-op to buy a business from an outgoing owner, providing a path to ownership that first seemed impossible. Co-ops have management and financial nuances that are different from conventional business ownership structures. Knowing what steps to take in forming a co-op business or housing project can determine the degree of success for a new co-op.
The City of Austin, through the contract with UTRGV, is offering a series of six courses designed and taught by experts on the cooperative business model. Topics include:
- Introduction to Worker-owned Cooperatives is for groups and individuals at the early stages of learning about or forming a worker-owned cooperative.
- Housing Cooperative Formation and Governance is designed to give participants the knowledge and tools they need to create cooperative housing.
- Convert your Small Business to a Cooperative Format is appropriate for business owners as well as prospective employee-owners. Class will detail the conversion process from the perspective of both owner-sellers and employee-buyers.
- Cooperative Governance will address key concepts in governance, and participants will have an opportunity to work through sample governance scenarios in small groups.
- Finances and Accounting for Cooperatives provides an overview for groups and individuals forming or running cooperatives of the financial and accounting nuances specific to this business type.
- Worker Co-op Management is for groups at the early to intermediate stages of forming a worker-owned business to identify which structure makes sense for their cooperative project and guidance for how to turn their management plans into action.
About the City of Austin Economic Development Department
The City of Austin Economic Development Department supports business growth, creative industries, and local communities. These programs build an equitable, sustainable economy to improve the lives of all Austin residents. To learn more about helpful resources, visit www.austintexas.gov/edd or or like us on Facebook @AustinEconDev and follow @AustinEconDev on Twitter.