The Rocky Mountain Employee Ownership Center initiated a unique opportunity to share information and increase awareness of the importance of succession planning and employee ownership in the Denver community. As a consequence of a meeting with Kelly Brough, CEO of the Denver Chamber of Commerce, we were offered the chance to present a program for the “gold” members of the Chamber. This was, for us, a major accomplishment in terms of advancing our cause of spreading the employee ownership message. It also provided us with other occasions to connect with representatives of the larger economic and political community. In response to Kelly’s proposal, we invited the best possible presenter on the subject, Corey Rosen of the National Center on Employee Ownership. A flurry of activities resulted from our contact with the Chamber and Rosen’s visit.
Monday, June 24
On Monday we met with State Representative Angela Williams, Chair of the Business, Labor, Economic & Workforce Development Committee of the Colorado House. Corey encouraged her to begin a program to distribute information about succession planning and employee ownership across the state. Representative Williams indicated that she will introduce legislation in the 2014 legislative session to promote a state role in spreading the word about employee ownership through the state’s economic development function, including allocating a specific amount to fund it. She also agreed to allow RMEOC to do a presentation before her entire committee.
Later that morning, we had a conversation with Chris Martinez of the Denver Office of Economic Development. He agreed that the office should set up some kind of outreach program on succession planning and employee ownership. He was enthused about proceeding. Later, we enjoyed lunch at a Mexican restaurant in Southwest Denver with Jose Esparza of BuCu West in regard to potential Morrison Road employee ownership projects. Although Rosen’s primary interest and expertise is in ESOPs, he expressed support for worker cooperatives. The cooperative model would be the most applicable to the Morrison Road economic environment.
An event at the Denver Bar Association was held in the late afternoon and included a panel presentation by Corey Rosen, cooperative attorney Linda Phillips, and financial expert, Greg Weiss. Jenny Briggs and the New Belgium Brewing Company provided beer and snacks. Those present expressed interest and participated in follow-up discussions and conversations with Rosen.
Tuesday, June 25
The Chamber of Commerce “gold” membership event included a panel presentation by Rosen, Phillips, Weis and Amanda Bybee of Namaste Solar, with Dick Peterson as moderator. Corey and other members of the panel provided information and employee ownership stories. Following that event, we traveled to the Mi Casa Resource Center for a conversation with representatives of Mi Casa and the Mile High Business Alliance. Mi Casa helps Latino and other working families become economically self- sufficient through career development, after-school programs and community service. MHBA is a group of business owners dedicated to making local business work in Denver. The attendees indicated a high degree of interest in employee ownership.
Miller Hudson, a local “politico” and writer, joined us for lunch. Hudson indicated that he will write a story for in the Colorado Statesman Newspaper on succession planning. Later, we participated in an open meeting at the Denver Foundation. Those in attendance, including several from the Foundation, expressed interest and asked a variety of questions during and after Rosen’s presentation.
Prior to his departure on Tuesday afternoon, Corey met with Deborah Ortega of the Denver City Council to encourage her to “spread the word” in regard to the emerging glut of baby-boomer businesses that will be on the market, succession planning and the employee ownership option.
Summary and Follow-up
More than 80 individuals participated in the two-day event. Rosen has committed to providing information to Williams, Ortega and Martinez. RMEOC will need to follow-up with these individuals to encourage their continued participation. The event was a significant step forward for extending the mission of RMEOC. Special thanks to all the RMEOC Board of Directors members that helped: Larry Dunn, Bill Kirton, Linda Phillips, Greg Weiss, and Jenny Briggs. Special thanks to the New Belgium Brewing Company for providing their delicious beer and to Kelly Brough and Sara Horle of the Denver Chamber of Commerce. Had it not been for the support of the Chamber, this event would not have taken place.