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What is a Co-op?

What is a Co-op?

Co-ops are an everyday part of American life. Wherever you live, work or shop, it’s likely a cooperative is involved. You’ll see a co-op in action at the credit union where you bank. In the brand names in your grocery aisles. In the morning paper. 

Co-ops operate for the benefit of their member-owners. They take advantage of economies of scale, combined buying power and strength in numbers to save money and return profits to their members. In the process, co-ops provide jobs, support business and personal needs, and enhance their quality of life. 

What they all share is a single fundamental goal- uniting to meet a common need. A cornerstone of America’s economy, co-ops have been empowering people, developing communities and supporting innovation in this country since Benjamin Franklin founded the first co-op in 1752. 

The impact that cooperatives have on the American economy is substantial. There are more than 40,000 cooperative businesses in the United States serving more than 350 million members, generating more than $650 billion in annual revenues and employ 2.1 million Americans.

1.) At Work: Worker-owned cooperatives give employees an ownership stake in the company in which they work. Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) companies also offer the benefits of employee ownership. 
2.) At the Store: Consumers gladly pay a membership fee to join co-ops, such as REI, that allow them to buy food and other products at better prices. Likewise, neighborhood grocery and hardware stores survive and thrive as members of retail-owned wholesaler cooperatives. These provide strengthened buying power, distribution and warehousing efficiencies, and shared business services. 
3.) At School: Teachers, administrators, and parents cooperatively structure schools, including charter schools, share their resources to help students achieve higher standards and enriched learning experiences. 
4.) On the Farm: Farmer-owned co-ops-and their well-known brands such as Sunkist, Ocean Spray, and Cabot Creamery are part of a widely diversified agricultural system, and help guarantee a better food source for our nation. 
5.) At Home: From high-rise buildings and garden-style apartments, to student and senior housing, cooperative homeownership allows people of all income levels across the country to own the homes the live in. 
6.) In Child Care: Co-ops provide safe, creative child care, with parents as member-owners who are actually involved in helping their children learn and grow. 
7.) Pooling for Power: Consumer-owned, locally managed energy and communications cooperatives provide electricity, phone, Internet, and cable services to tens of millions of Americans. 
8.) At Your Credit Union: Credit unions are cooperatives that provide affordable financial services to people from all walks of life. Other financial institutions, such as NCB, are co-ops that provide financial services and solutions to cooperative businesses across the nation. 
9.) In the News: Co-ops like The Associated Press and C-SPAN bring the news to more than one billion people every day. 
10.) At the Doctor’s Office: By combining members’ buying power, cooperative HMOs, non-profit community health centers, and health care purchasing networks provide millions of people with quality and affordable healthcare. 

In 2017, the top 100 Cooperative in the United States generated $214.4 billion in revenue.  Can you name a top co-op?  Learn more by reading NCB's Co-op 100 report. 

NCB's 2018 Co-op 100 Report 

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