Local News & National News 

St Petersburg FL 


The audience listens to Jonathan Rodriguez (center) who serves as managing director and Youth Co-op developer of Florida CEED. (Photo: Andrea Perez)

Florida Co-Op training organization sees potential in St. Pete youth-owned

co-op businesses
Written By: Andra Perez

“I know that all of you want to earn money and not only work, right?” asked Jonathan Rodriguez, a cooperative business developer, to a crowd of children, teenagers, and adults who were listening attentively and taking notes at the Enoch Davis Center on Thursday.
“Think about a service that needs to be provided here in South St. Pete. That could be turned into a business,” he added. A young mother raised her hand and said, “Early childcare services maybe. I know many young single mothers trying to go to school, but can’t because they have to care for their young children.”
The crowd was receptive as Rodriguez discussed the process of coming up with a co-op, a business owned and operated by the people who use and create its services.
Rodriguez works with Florida Cooperative Empowered Economic Development (CEED), a nonprofit that operates as a business development resource center by providing education, training and technical assistance.
His recent move from Puerto Rico to Florida, after Hurricane María, offered him the opportunity to meet CEED’s Executive Director Judith Turner, and work alongside her to empower children to think about startups to develop in their own communities.
“Successful youth-owned business are possible,” Rodriguez said. “You just need to identify a real need in your community, show a committed interest to the cause and analyze the economic potential.”
Rodriguez, who served as administrator for the Cooperative Development Commission in Puerto Rico, explained that there is potential for the growth of cooperative businesses in South St. Petersburg. “This is a really progressive city. The area has a great timing to work with. The city is receptive. The people are receptive. Everyone’s waiting to work.”
According to the latest People’s Budget Review survey poll, an initiative launched by residents and various organizations that monitor city spending, cooperative businesses development should receive more funding. CEED saw this as an opportunity to help launch its most recent food initiative.
Turner, who serves as one of the founding members of One Community Grocery Co-op, helped in the creation of St. Petersburg’s first cooperatively-owned grocery store. The co-op is currently in the process of building memberships and hopes to enroll 300 members.
The career business owner is also overlooking a current item on the city council agenda that requests a presentation to the Budget, Finance, and Taxation (BFT) Committee on the potential of cooperative business development.
For Turner, cooperatives are mainstream businesses that make an impact on everyone, especially young children. She’s determined to educate as many local communities as she can about the benefits and long-term economic potential that co-ops can bring.
“There is a lack of understanding of what they are, so we do a lot of education such as this event that Greenhouse planned and we sponsored,” Turner said.
Turner, who’s been attending The Greenhouse – the city’s business assistance center for more than 20 years – explained that after children are taught fundamental skills like gardening, another opportunity can grow out of that process.
“Kids are taught how to grow plants, act and perform but what they don’t know is how to make money with it,” she added. “So this really helps them bring an understanding of how to bring business in. And if they do it all together, it’s more likely to succeed. These trainings demystify the business.”
CEED currently offers micro-courses that cover topics from legal definitions of cooperatives to state statutes and IRS accounting rules, followed by workshops to help teams develop their business models. The organization also gives updates on One Community’s Grocery Co-op project.
“Next quarter we’re going to teach steps to starting a housing co-op corporation to target housing poverty,” said Turner. “We keep changing the topics to show the value.”
To learn more about CEED, visit www.floridaceed.org or call (727)418-6121. They have offices located at Pinellas Technical College, 901 34th St. S, St. Petersburg Fla., 33755.
Florida Cooperative Empowered Economic Development corp.
(727) 418 6121

The U.S. House of Representatives yesterday passed a bipartisan bill set to curb barriers facing America’s small businesses and increase access to financing for a new crop of employee-owned businesses and worker cooperatives.
Co-sponsored by Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) and Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), the Main Street Employee Ownership Act of 2018 (H.R. 5236) seeks to amend longstanding inequities in how the Small Business Administration (SBA) administers loans to Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs) and worker cooperatives.
“Small businesses are at the heart of stable, sustainable communities and worker co-op conversions are a proven strategy to strengthen and preserve local businesses nationwide,” said Doug O’Brien, president and CEO of NCBA CLUSA. “We applaud this bill and stand ready to support local economic development through employee ownership.”
The Main Street Employee Ownership Act comes at a pivotal moment as a generation of Baby Boomer small business owners prepares for retirement, seeking viable options that preserve the values and principles of their family businesses and ensure the employees continue to have decent jobs.
As a group, Baby Boomers own close to half of the nation’s privately-held businesses, employing one in six workers nationwide. “This legislation seeks to fill an important gap, allowing many of these firms to transition to an employee-owned structure, keeping the businesses intact and retaining jobs in the local community,” Velazquez said in a May 8 statement.
Velazquez noted that a recent surge in employee-owned food cooperatives in New York City is fueling local economic development. “This success ought to be replicated throughout the country and expanded into other economic sectors,” she said, adding that this week’s legislation will make it more affordable for local businesses to adopt an employee-owned structure. The costs associated with such a transition can exceed $80,000, the statement said.
Beyond improving the lending landscape for ESOPs and worker cooperatives, the Main Street Employee Ownership Act creates viable retirement opportunities for entrepreneurs, provides more employees a stake in the businesses they work for and expands technical assistance nationwide.
Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced a companion bill to Velazquez’s legislation on Monday.
“Employee-owned businesses have a strong track record of better pay and retirement benefits for workers and a commitment to creating local jobs,” Gillibrand said in yesterday’s statement. “I will continue to fight as hard as I can to pass this bipartisan legislation in the Senate so we can make the investments needed to support employee ownership around… the country.”
O’Brien called Gillibrand’s bill a “lifeline” for thousands of firms facing an uncertain future and said NCBA CLUSA and the broader cooperative business community the organization represents are poised to work toward passage of the legislation.

History of HR 5236 Main Street Employee Ownership Act.

MAR 8, 2018
Bills and resolutions are referred to committees which debate the bill before possibly sending it on to the whole chamber.

MAR 14, 2018
Ordered Reported
A committee has voted to issue a report to the full chamber recommending that the bill be considered further. Only about 1 in 4 bills are reported out of committee.

APR 24, 2018
Reported by House Committee on Small Business
A committee issued a report on the bill, which often provides helpful explanatory background on the issue addressed by the bill and the bill's intentions.

MAY 4, 2018
On House Schedule
The House indicated that this bill would be considered in the week ahead.
MAY 8, 2018
Passed House (Senate next)
The bill was passed in a vote in the House. It goes to the Senate next. The vote was by voice vote so no record of individual votes was made.

Passed SenatePENDING
Signed by the President
The Weekly Challenger 
Posted on May 31, 2018  
St. Pete First Grocery Co-op Announces incorporationST PETERSBURG – A group of founding members announced the incorporation of St. Petersburg’s first cooperatively owned grocery store. This group of citizens arose and formed out of the New Deal for St Pete, a locally based community group that reflects the actual needs and wishes of city residents.
The New Deal for St Pete grew out of the People’s Budget Review that surveyed 1,400 residents on how they would like to see our city’s resources used. One of four points revealed was for funding cooperative business development, emphasizing the need for a community-owned grocery co-op.
A small group interested in the idea of a grocery co-op came together and attended the “Up and Coming Grocery Co-op Conference” in Milwaukee in March. This once a year conference, attended by 60 grocery co-ops, is a high energy, one-stop-shop for forming, opening and running food co-ops.
This loosely formed group, now identified as the One Community Grocery Co-op and includes Erica Harding, Judith Turner and Leigh Davis, returned home with a new mission and with one of the four $1,100 scholarships given out to attend next year’s conference.
These new founding members returned home to start the process, which on average takes three years to open the doors.
Florida has two other grocery co-ops, New Leaf in Tallahassee and Ever ‘man’s in Pensacola. The One Community Grocery Co-op is the third known grocery co-op in Florida and the first in St. Petersburg.
Forming a grocery co-op can be a complicated process; the Food Co-op Initiative, specializing in grocery co-op development, provides their consulting service at no charge and has been invited by the group to help with the process.
About One Community Grocery Co-op
Founding members have grown to include leader Erica Hardison, Royce Wheeler, Rick Coleman, Judith Turner, Winnie Foster, and Sheral Redwood-Adams. They meet weekly at Pinellas Technical College in the newly formed Food System Center to plan the next steps for building membership.
There is a well-defined process to form a grocery co-op, with an initial milestone of enrolling 300 members that is expected to cost $225.
Florida Cooperative Empowered Economic Development teaches classes monthly at the city’s business assistance center known as the Greenhouse, 440 Second Ave. N and their satellite location at the Enoch Davis Center, 1118 18th Ave. S.
One class per quarter offered is “Steps to Starting a Grocery Co-op” from 6-8 p.m. This class reviews the process that needs to be followed, along with examples of food co-ops and updates on One Community Grocery Co-op.
To learn more about joining the grocery co-op, as a member, board member or a committee to help the process, please contact Judith Turner at

(727) 418-6121or Floridaceed@gmail.com

​​​After a two-decade hiatus, cooperatives will once again be part of the US Economic Census.

A question about cooperatives will be in the 2017 Economic Census, two decades after it was dropped. 
The Office of Management and Budget on May 5 signed off on a package of questions for the 2017 survey that includes one on cooperative businesses.
It’s the first time since 1997 that co-ops will be part of the Economic Census, which is conducted every five years to provide a comprehensive look at economic activity in the United States. Data collection is expected to begin in 2018.
“This is a breakthrough moment for cooperatives nationwide,” said Judy Ziewacz, president and CEO of the National Cooperative Business Association-CLUSA. “The data gathered by the 2017 Economic Survey will fill a critical gap within the cooperative sector, allowing us to tell the story of cooperative economic impact in a more compelling way.”
NCBA had worked hard along with other cooperatives, including NRECA, to revive the cooperative portion of the Economic Census after it was eliminated in 1997.
The Census dropped a checkbox for “cooperative” in its Legal Form of Organization question in response to an agreement with the Internal Revenue Service that was supposed to provide information about co-ops.
The question approved for the current survey brings that back. It applies to single-unit cooperative businesses, though a question for multi-unit companies will be submitted later in the year, according to Andrew Baer, assistant division chief for the Economy-Wide Statistics Division of the Census Bureau.
“OMB had no questions or concerns about the cooperative portion of the single-unit survey, so we are hopeful that it will flow through smoothly for the multi-unit companies as well,” Baer told NCBA.
A single-unit co-op is a local co-op staffed by a handful of people with a small economic footprint, Multi-unit refers to a co-op with multiple stores and significant sales.
The Congressional Cooperative Business Caucus also urged reinstatement of the cooperative question, with its co-chairmen asking the Commerce Department in 2016 to side with the co-op position.
A 2007 study shows that 29,000 co-ops accounted for more than $3 trillion in assets, but NCBA said the number of co-ops is now closer to 40,000.
“We look forward to following this process and really quantifying the scope and impact of the cooperative economy,” said Alan Knapp, vice president of advocacy for NCBA CLUSA. “Having concrete data about cooperatives is crucial to advance the sector.”
​Steven Johnson is a staff writer for NRECA.
The Weekly Challenger 
Sept 7th 2017
Assistance & cooperative education available
ST. PETERSBURG  –  Florida Cooperative Empowered Economic Development Corp. (Florida Ceed), a newly formed 501(c)(3) nonprofit, with the support of Workforce Innovation and Community Strategy, has announced the launch of a cooperative development center located on the St. Pete campus of Pinellas Technical College (PTC).
“The engagement of these organizations with the development center creates a significant presence in our area for teaching and learning the skills needed to establish a larger, sustainable, cooperative economy,” said Florida Ceed’s Executive Director Judith Turner.
Florida Ceed operates as a Cooperative Business Development and Resource Center by providing education, training, and technical assistance to develop cooperative businesses through:
Community events that educate participants of all ages
Classroom and online technical and business education
One-on-one cooperative business technical assistance that allows access to specific resources available to cooperatives
To achieve these goals, Florida Ceed will closely collaborate with PTC and programs in the community, including:
Workforce Innovation & Community Strategy at PTC
Local Food Project
Urban Agriculture
Local Time Banks
Planned classes at PTC and he St. Pete Green House, which provides counseling for local businesses, for fall 2017 and spring 2018 include a two-hour Introduction to Cooperatives and a six-week micro-course to help participants decide whether the cooperative business model is right for them. Micro-course topics will cover what legally defines a business as a cooperative, the different types of cooperatives, State statutes, IRS and accounting rules, bylaws and governance.
Follow-up workshops will help teams develop their cooperative business model and connect them to the necessary resources for their specific type of co-op.
Upcoming events offered at the Saint Petersburg Greenhouse, and at PTC will begin in September 2017 and include a variety of formats ranging from co-op cafe with  discussions about co-op history, book club, readings about co-ops and how-to’s of creating a cooperative eco-system. For event information, dates and times, check our Facebook page, sign up for emails or visit our website.
For groups or individuals who wish to volunteer, assist, or intern for college credit, contact Judith Turner at floridaceed@gmail.com