Ontario Provincial Funding Boost to Help 60 New Co-operatives

May 9, 2016

Trillium funding; Photo by Jessica Lovell

Ontario Co-operative Association executive director Erin Morgan, centre, poses for a photo with the Ontario Trillium Foundation’s David Murray, left, and local MPP Liz Sandals, right, at a funding announcement Thursday. The association is getting $486,500 over two years to enhance and expand its services to co-op businesses and entrepreneurs.

Guelph co-operatives The Co-operators, Gay Lea Foods, The Boardroom among those set to benefit

The Ontario Co-operative Association will be enhancing the services it provides thanks to a grant of $486,500 from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

“This is going to go a long way to developing co-ops in Ontario,” association executive director Erin Morgan said Thursday following the funding announcement at the association’s Guelph office.

The two-year grant will fund a project that will allow the association to scale up and expand its system of regional co-operative networks, a news release said.

In making the funding announcement, local MPP Liz Sandals explained what this will mean.

Some of the things that will be happening with the grant include a regional training conference, providing training and support directly to co-operative businesses, she said.

The funding will also support the start of up to 60 new co-operatives, and will be used to promote the conversion of other types of businesses to co-operative businesses, Sandals said.

It will also see the number of regional co-op networks increase from six to nine regions in the province, she said.

Sandals listed some of the local co-op businesses in Guelph, including The Co-operators and Gay Lea Foods, as well as local credit unions and mutual insurance companies. “We’ve got lots of non-profit co-ops that are located in Guelph,” she said.

The funding will help promote the co-op business model, which Sandal’s called a “really community-friendly business structure.”

“Co-ops are a business structure that people don’t necessarily think about,” she said. “Even though it’s a really effective model for engaging the community.”

Kevin Bowman, who is soon to open his board-game café, The Boardroom, in Guelph, is one of the people who will benefit from support from the co-op association.

The association helped him when he wanted to convert from a standard corporation to a co-op. It was not an easy process, but ultimately the hope is that it will benefit the workers.

One of the reasons for converting to a worker co-op was to allow the business to share profits with its workers, he explained.

Working in the service industry “can be quite a tough living, and we didn’t want to contribute to that situation,” Bowman said.

The business will start off paying workers a “living wage,” which is Guelph has been calculated to be $16.50 per hour, he said. At the end of the year, if the business has turned a profit, the employees will get an additional payout based on how much they have worked.

Written by Jessica Lovell and originally published by the Guelph Mercury on May 3, 2016