Wacif Launches Greater Washington Center for Employee Ownership

Center will offer advisory services, financial capital, and small business resources to advance employee ownership and build community wealth

Washington, D.C. (July 14, 2021) — The Washington Area Community Investment Fund (Wacif) today announced the official launch of the Greater Washington Center for Employee Ownership (GWCEO). Led by Jennifer Bryant, Wacif Program Manager for Community Wealth Building Initiatives, the Center will promote and support employee ownership throughout the District of Columbia and surrounding counties in Maryland and Northern Virginia by preserving legacy businesses, increasing job quality, and building community wealth.

“Economic democracy was at the core of Wacif’s founding in 1987, with our very first loans supporting cooperatives across the region,” said Wacif CEO Harold B. Pettigrew, Jr. “Employee ownership builds community wealth and health, and by launching the Greater Washington Center for Employee Ownership, Wacif is proud to not only embrace its legacy, but also create new pathways to entrepreneurship and economic opportunity.”

“Community wealth building is a gateway to racial and economic justice, and through the D.C. Employee Ownership Initiative, Wacif demonstrated that investing in and supporting employee-owned businesses makes this vision a reality,” said Jennifer Bryant, Wacif Program Manager for Community Wealth Building Initiatives. “The Greater Washington Center for Employee ownership expands on this work and builds a resilient community of employee-owned businesses, partner organizations, and supporters.”

The GWCEO is a deepening of Wacif’s commitment to employee ownership. To sustain businesses and strengthen the region’s local employee ownership ecosystem, in 2018, with the support of Citi Community Development, Wacif launched the D.C. Employee Ownership Initiative to drive community wealth building, retain jobs, preserve legacy businesses. Through the initiative, Wacif deployed more than $80,000 last year to local cooperative businesses. The GWCEO, launched with support from Kaiser Permanente and the Employee Ownership Expansion Network, will serve all forms of employee-owned businesses, and will provide technical assistance, resources, and access to capital. By delivering tailored programmatic services and financial products to entrepreneurs interested in selling their company to their employees, employee groups interested in purchasing a business, and startup companies with shared ownership, the GWCEO will widen the accessibility of employee ownership for the region’s entrepreneurs.

Employee ownership is increasingly important given that 83% of business owners do not have written succession plans1, and baby boomers, who make up 41% of U.S. small business or franchise owners2, are facing retirement. In the District of Columbia alone, nearly 40% of African American business owners are nearing retirement age3; employee ownership creates a valuable succession strategy, ensuring those businesses remain as wealth-building assets in underserved communities.

The wealth-creating effects of employee ownership are significant and well-documented. Worker cooperatives in the United States generate a total revenue of $550 million, according to the Democracy at Work Institute. Research has shown that workers in employee-owned companies enjoyed 92% higher median household wealth and 53% longer median job tenure than those without4.

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About the Washington Area Community Investment Fund 
The Washington Area Community Investment Fund, Inc. (Wacif) is one of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area’s leading Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) focused on small business development. Wacif’s mission is to increase equity and economic opportunity in underserved communities in the Washington, D.C. area by investing knowledge, social, and financial capital in low-and-moderate-income entrepreneurs. To learn more about Wacif’s mission, visit www.wacif.org.

About the Greater Washington Center for Employee Ownership 
The Greater Washington Center for Employee Ownership (GWCEO) promotes and supports employee ownership throughout the District of Columbia and surrounding counties in Maryland and Northern Virginia by preserving legacy businesses, increasing job quality, and building community wealth. GWCEO serves as the central hub for information, technical assistance, resources, and access to capital to owners interested in selling their business to their employees; employee groups interested in purchasing a business; and entrepreneurs who wish to start up a company with shared ownership. Learn more here: https://gwceo.wacif.org.