The Ohio Employee Ownership Center (OEOC) is a non-profit, university-based program established at Kent State University in 1987 to provide outreach, information, and preliminary technical assistance to Ohio employees and business owners interested in exploring employee ownership. The OEOC provides ownership training on a single and multi-company basis to existing employee-owned firms and is funded by grants from a range of public and private agencies and foundations, program income, and fee-for-service work.
The origins of the OEOC lie in a series of research projects conducted between 1984 and 1986 by Dr. John Logue of Kent State University’s Political Science Department. This research explored the impact of employee ownership on Ohio’s economy and concluded that it did have a positive effect on the local economy. However, it was also found that the utilization of employee ownership was limited, especially in cases where job loss was threatened by the lack of timely and accurate information on how to successfully pursue an employee buyout of the facility. Since that time, the OEOC has expanded its services to include assistance for business owners planning for succession (and help with selling to their employees); training and education programs for all levels in employee-owned companies; new employee-owned business development services, and more.
The OEOC’s information and outreach activities are designed to promote the possible uses of employee ownership under a variety of circumstances, ranging from succession planning to employee buyouts. The OEOC provides preliminary technical assistance to companies, community groups, and unions that are interested in exploring the possibility of employee ownership for their particular situation. Although the Center does not provide professional legal, accounting or valuation services, it does maintain a database of lawyers, investment bankers, valuators and other professionals who specialize in providing ESOP services.
The Network provides a forum for those working within employee-owned companies to learn from each other how to make employee ownership work more effectively at their firms. Coordinated by the OEOC since 1989, the Network facilitates communication among employee owners through year-round programming to help them climb the learning curve about how to run an employee-owned company. A second goal is to assist individuals and companies to experience the cultural change from conventional to employee ownership, where everyone feels the risk of ownership as well as sharing in the profits. With joint planning and financial support of member companies, the Network sponsors conferences, roundtables, forums, and training workshops which address the unique challenges of ESOPs.
While ownership is a necessary condition for company performance improvement, it is insufficient by itself. A number of studies have demonstrated that it is the combination of employee ownership with structures for employee participation, training to understand those structures, and open communication about the business that lead to high performance in employee-owned firms. As a consequence, the OEOC provides advice to individual companies on structuring employee participation systems and conducts ownership education programs on a single and multi-company basis. The OEOC also provides specially tailored training programs to employee-owned companies on a fee-for-service basis.
Closely held businesses are the backbone of the American economy. Despite the attention paid to the stock market, the 8500 public companies traded there provide only 24% of private sector employment; by contrast, 4.6 million closely held companies provide 76% of employment in the private sector. Practically all the job generation in the country is in the closely held sector. What is the most cost-effective means of retaining these businesses and the jobs they provide in our communities? Timely and effective succession planning. The Succession Planning Program at Kent State University is designed to provide business owners with the information they need to get started with their business transition; and to provide Economic Development Professionals with the information and resources to help them retain businesses and jobs in their communities.
Established in September of 2009, with an initial grant from the USDA Rural Development Cooperative Services Program, the Cooperative Development Center at Kent State University has initiated several projects that focus on the support and development of a variety of cooperatives. Working in tandem with the long-established Ohio Employee Ownership Center (OEOC), the main initiatives of the Center include: