When we talk about the economy and business development, so often we only think of two types of business: nonprofit and for-profit. But there is another way to do business: cooperatives, also known as co-ops. Co-ops are businesses where the workers own and run the business democratically. Think of a barbershop where the barbers own it together, instead of one person owning everything and profiting by renting to each individual barber. The owners make decisions and profit together.
Co-ops are for all of the workers' benefit. They build community wealth, not just individual wealth. They create ownership opportunities for people and communities that have been historically shut out.
Our economy and the “business community” are so much more than large corporations. We, the people, are the economy. Our government needs to prioritize economic development that supports and increases our collective wealth, and that intentionally builds wealth for Black and brown communities. The city can incentivize and finance a business ecosystem that builds prosperity, shaped and shared by all.
Investing in an Ecosystem of Entrepreneurship
Transform our city’s grant-making by giving larger shared budgets (instead of tiny, individualized grants) for coalitions to work on projects together. This gives everyone a seat at the table instead of the status quo: performatively “competitive” bidding and corrupt single-winner bids.
Develop a resource office to assist small and cooperative businesses in sharing and combining access to working capital and back office needs
Give cooperative businesses CBE (Certified Business Enterprise) status to give them priority in bidding for DC contracts
Support workers in the cash economy, including DC’s undocumented neighbors, by funding grant programs for workers excluded from unemployment and other benefit programs.
Exempt taxes on manufacturing machinery for small businesses like most states
Regulating, Taxing, and Financing Small Businesses and Co-ops
Support long-standing neighborhood based-businesses, many Black-owned, by helping owners sell their store to their employees or community when they retire
Reduce bureaucracy & overregulation on small food businesses by reforming the 2013 Cottage Food Law
Advocate to reduce barriers for equity crowdfunding so small dollar donors can pool their money to startup local businesses
Give low-cost and non-extractive financing to Black-owned, cooperative, small, and local businesses like grocery stores in food deserts through Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFIs), credit unions, and collateral support programs (like DC BizCAP)
Exempt corporate taxes on official cooperative organizations, also called Domestic Limited Cooperative Associations (DLCAs)
Reparative Investments for Racial Equity
Refocus and improve the efficiency of DC’s unemployment system so workers get benefits easily and quickly. Provide coaching and help neighbors without jobs find purpose and careers.
Explore innovative financing options that can create reparations and guaranteed income to descendants of American slavery and subsidies for Native Washingtonians
Give homeowners and renters a real voice in the decisions, grant-making, and actions of BIDs and Main Streets programs
Design a marijuana industry that centers racial equity and formerly incarcerated citizens:
Create an independent regulating body
Develop a reparatory licensing program
Support those with marijuana-related offenses to lead the industry
Use marijuana tax revenue to support Black residents who’ve been disproportionately targeted and criminalized
Give clear legal and regulatory guidance to I-71- and I-81-compliant businesses (marijuana and plant medicine)
Expunge prior cannabis criminal convictions for actions that are now legal