Creating wealth, building democracy: What does it take

It is easy to get stuck on how we think about job creation. Often we hear that our community simply has to offer tax incentives to encourage businesses to move here and create jobs. What we know is that businesses lured in with financial promises can as easily move out when the economic climate changes. Instead, we need more jobs that are created by local people, building on our own assets, and motivated by a desire to strengthen our community. Many have found that owning a business provides a level of autonomy that can be rewarding and sustainable. Bennington, with its long history of entrepreneurship, is poised for this change. Developing entrepreneurial support systems and leveraging local assets is one part of this change. Building an economic model that increases the overall wealth of the community and creates a more democratic workplace is another goal for many of us.

In Bennington a group interested in these goals has been meeting since last summer. As part of our research into increasing entrepreneurship, wealth and democracy, we have been looking at worker-owner and consumer-owner cooperative businesses. What we have discovered is that there are thousands of companies working to create what is known as the social and solidarity economy.

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