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Cornell University Cooperative Enterprise Program

Bob Hall

"The relationship between the board of directors and the manager should be dynamic in nature with both seeking out new opportunities and excellence. Ethics and integrity are important in leading a cooperative business. Honesty in business benefits customers and customer service, which is key to the sustainability of the business." - Bob Hall, retired CEO, O-AT-KA Milk Products, Inc.

Start A Cooperative

Starting a cooperative or other group action-based association requires people with an interest to solve a common economic problem or to secure a service that is not otherwise available. Early organizers are necessary as ‘cheerleaders’ to build interest for the organization. They promote the new organization to other like-minded people. They work to raise the necessary funds to start the association or cooperative. As the process to form the new organization moves forward, it is important to consult legal advisors to develop the necessary legal documents, conduct a feasibility analysis, develop a business plan, and create a record keeping system. These are useful tools to make good management decisions and to be in compliance with Internal Revenue Service requirements.

Considering Cooperation, A Guide for New Cooperative Development addresses the 6 phases of cooperative development, pitfalls to be avoided, and questions to be asked when forming a cooperative. Download (344k pdf)

Vital Steps: A Cooperative Feasibility Study Guide suggests the process to undertake and the components of a feasibility analysis. Download (340k pdf)

Sample Legal Documents for Cooperatives provides guidance in the compliance with the laws that apply to forming a business. It is important to consult legal and financial experts to develop governance documents and equity plans along with accounting mechanisms that provide information for good management decisions and meet Internal Revenue Service requirements. Download (2.9MB pdf)

Growing Rural America

CoBank, ACB will assist new cooperatives through innovative financing, business mentorship and training by partnering with Cooperative Development Centers.

Cooperative Development Centers

The Cooperative Enterprise Program works with two Cooperative Development Centers and the Cooperative Development Network. For more information about forming a cooperative or group-action, based business, contact:

Cooperative Development Institute is the Northeast’s center for cooperative business education, training, and technical assistance. The organization provides information to existing and start-up cooperatively-structured enterprises in all business sectors: food, housing, energy, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, the arts, health, retail service, and more. The Institute is located in Shelburne Falls, MA.

Keystone Development Center works with emerging , start-up and established cooperatives and businesses throughout the Mid-Atlantic Region. The Center provides quality research and business development support. The Center is located in York, PA.

USDA Rural Development

The United States Department of Agriculture, Rural Development has resources that can be useful in starting a cooperative.