We have to do more.

Community Wealth Building

Community Wealth Building is an approach to municipal level economic development described by the Democracy Collaborative. It involves solving local problems by fostering alternative institutions.

Instead of giving tax abatements to developers to hold some units affordable for a set period of time, we'd work to foster housing cooperatives and Community Land Trusts that would continue to pursue affordable housing of their own volition. Instead of giving incentives to major corporations, in competition with other cities, to get them to come or stay, we foster local worker owned cooperatives and B corporations. Instead of relying on the big commerical banks for financing, we foster local CDCs, CDFIs, Credit Unions, and public banks.

One particular community wealth building strategy involves identifying the community's anchor institutions, those institutions which are non-profit and unlikely to leave, and the fostering alternative institutions around them. This strategy was pioneered by Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland, Ohio.


How can we do this in Bloomington?

We can provide financing and knowledge, training and incentives to those looking to form alternative institutions to tackle our problems and improve our community. And we can work to support and grow those institutions we already have. We may not be able to do all of this. We have limited resources, after all, and massive problems to tackle. But in many cases, a little help from the city could go a long way.

We should follow the Cleveland Model, and support the formation of worker cooperatives around our anchors.

We should identify the needs of our anchor institutions - Indiana University and IU Health Bloomington Hospital - and facilitate the formation of worker cooperatives to sustainably serve those needs. We can form a fund that provides startup funding to those interested in forming worker cooperatives. We can work with IU SPEA and the the City's Department of Economic and Sustainable Development to provide knowledge and support.

We should encourage local business owners to form worker cooperatives.

Worker cooperatives don't just need to be centered on the anchor institutions. Any business could theoretically be a worker cooperative. And selling a business to its employees is a fantastic option for local business owners who want to retire, or even just take a step back, but don't want to see the business die.

We should provide those who might be interested with resources, training, and incentives. We should offer knowledge and resources to any local business owners curious about the option, and we should offer tax incentives to encourage those who are interested in pursuing it.