A little over two years ago, the local philanthropic community led an effort to adapt a cooperative ownership model of wealth building to our region. Meetings were held with leaders across the region. Ultimately the opportunity ripest for this approach was deemed to be stormwater management in Prince George’s County. A company is now being assembled in which the employees will also hold part ownership. While there are many efforts in our region and across the country to employ low income people, very few focus on enabling these employees to be business owners. It is this entrepreneurial component that makes the Community Wealth Building Initiative so important for our region.
In Cleveland, Ohio, the Cleveland Community Foundation led a similar effort. Now, we have the same opportunity to be transformative in our region. Getting the right complement of staff is key. CWBI is collaborating with local workforce development partners to identify and support harder-to-employ individuals through a tailored process that will address both hard and soft skills, and provide the education necessary for employees to assume management and control of the businesses themselves. CWBI is also forming partnerships with local and community-based support service organizations to ensure that worker-owners have access to programs and resources that will allow them to take full advantage of the opportunity to persist and be successful in the workplace, and, ultimately, to build wealth.