How Can Salisbury Do Economic Development Despite Monumental Barriers? One Powerful Answer Remains Loud and Clear: Cooperatives

Posted on September 16, 2017

Steve Mensing, Editor

♦ Back on November 2nd, 2014 I wrote an article “Creative Ways to Do Major Economic Development Despite Salisbury’s Overwhelming Barriers: Cooperatives”. Since that article was printed in Rowan Free Press, the City of Salisbury, N.C. has become even more uninviting for economic development.

Few if any industries or retailers would consider setting up shop in a city besieged by violent crime, runaway property crime, people of means leaving Salisbury in droves, the city’s moribund public schools getting 3 Ds and an F on the State report card, somewhere in the vicinity of 25% of our population lives at the poverty line or below it, over 2,000 vacant or abandoned houses (not even mentioning vacant and abandoned buildings), A Downtown blighted with empty storefronts and a bat-habitat hotel, unopened to the public since 1963, in dire need of killdozing, low stats for spendable income, the Fibrant Debacle that has crimped an understaffed police department and core city services. When restaurants and bars open others turn off their lights. Take a look:

Salisbury, N.C. Statistics–The Hard Cold Facts

How City Raters Look at Salisbury, N.C.::

When Salisbury, N.C. stares into the mirror and honestly self-assesses their abilities to do economic development they will note their extremely limited options in attracting and maintaining traditional businesses, retail, industries, and entrapaneurs.

Challenges concerning little spendable income make prospective retailers wince and look elsewhere.  Other key obstacles are Salisbury’s exceptionally high downtown taxes, the city’s ordinances and codes (often arbitrarily applied) which serve as a barrier to anyone desiring to set up shop in the 469th rated city/town in North Carolina according to

Okay an honest assessment will warn us that economic development in Salisbury will need to be creative.  Dozens of possibilities immediately leap off the screen, but among the foremost are “cooperatives” or sometimes known as “employee owned businesses”.  Any kind of business: retail, industry–you name it can begin as a cooperative or under employee ownership. Many such businesses exist across the United States and have a high success rate. Ownership in a business serves as a major motivation for an employee who is part of the game.


Cooperative Startups

Groups of people from any economic status either poor or working class (wealthy too) can band together to fire up community “cooperative” businesses. In cooperative ventures all share in the work and the profits. Basically your stakeholders are the workers. These grassroots cooperatives can grow, eventually prosper, and add to a city’s tax base. The more cooperatives, the more jobs. Inch by inch the city’s poverty statistics can be lowered, more jobs become available, and the city may once again attract traditional business and retail.

Madison, Wisconsin is a major stronghold of the cooperative movement in the United States. Here when they say “shop local” they have actual worthwhile cooperative supermarkets and fooderies where you can find food in quantity, quality, and price equal to and frequently superior to corporate supermarkets. Located in Madison are two major cooperatives “Hi-Vee” and “P.D.Q.” and a small co-op called “Willy Street Co-op”. The cooperative model for supermarkets may be worth checking out.

Willy Street Co-Op

Visit Hi-Vee Supermarkets:

Check out P.D.Q. Gas Stations/Convenience Stores:

Willy Street Co-0p:

Excellent sources of information about cooperatives here:

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