December 12, 2016

North Carolina has the potential to turn a grave challenge into a transformative economic opportunity. Thousands of businesses could disappear over the coming years as baby boomer entrepreneurs enter retirement, threatening to deal a heavy blow to communities across the state. However, by helping many of these firms convert into employee-owned companies, we can keep their doors open, give workers an ownership stake into their economic future, and buttress local economies.

Employee ownership has an underappreciated track record of success in North Carolina. Employee-owned cooperatives and employee stock ownership plans have proliferated over the last several decades, and these firms now form part of the economic backbone of the state. Employee ownership has quietly emerged as one of the most cost-effective economic development strategies our state has ever seen. This report outlines the scope of the opportunity in front of us and the dire consequences if we let it slip by. Happily, there are ways for state and local governments to partner with the private sector and nonprofit organizations to build a more resilient, equitable, and locally-controlled economy in North Carolina.