Milwaukee Alderman Bob Donovan proposes co-op program

The proposal is modeled after program in Cleveland
Posted at 7:01 PM, May 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-17 20:18:53-04

A city leader’s idea that could help close the housing and unemployment gap is gaining steam, as Alderman Bob Donovan has proposed a resolution to copy the success of a cooperative program in Cleveland.

"We certainly have more than our fair share of minorities unemployed," Donovan said.

Donovan said this would require large businesses in the area to come together to form a co-op.

Rather than outsourcing for things such as laundry or produce the proposal suggests they hire local crews to take care of those needs.

"We certainly have all of the ingredients," Donovan said. "We have, first of all businesses, that are good corporate citizens that want to help the community."

Donovan says Miller Brewing, Harley Davidson, local hospitals and colleges could be the answer.

"They're purchasing many things, millions of dollars that are spent every year," he said. "We could manufacture those things right here in Milwaukee.”

Donovan said the idea came from a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report about a similar program.

"What I wanted to do was find the best practices for a lot of things we could do here," said columnist James Causey.

Causey’s research took him to Cleveland where several businesses collaborated to create a cooperative. Since 2009, they’ve created three small businesses including a laundromat, greenhouse and green energy.

"I want to see something like this come to fruition," Causey said.

The program employs one hundred low income residents and allows them to become shareholders and on the path of homeownership.

Now the city is calling on Will Allen to get things going in Milwaukee. Allen is the founder and CEO of Growing Power, a greenhouse and urban farming cooperative with a similar mission. He's hoping Milwaukee’s biggest employers join in.

"They can help create businesses within their businesses so people can make a living wage and we can end poverty," he said.

Since the resolution received overwhelming support in the Community and Economic Development Committee, it will go before the full council at the end of the month.

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