Employee ownership gains popularity in Ohio, world

Heather Bing

As chandeliers sparkled overhead in the Hilton Hotel’s banquet room, the Ohio Employee Ownership Center welcomed guests to its 20th annual conference Friday.

John Logue, director of the center, said it’s impressive how the center’s work has grown over the years – the first conference had 60 guests compared to this year’s 317, who represented 48 employee-owned companies.

“Employee ownership has come a long way,” Logue said. “I’m very proud to be a part of this community.”

Logue spoke about the importance of employee ownership and the benefits it can bring not only to the company, but to the surrounding community. He said this year’s theme, “Creating Companies Worth Keeping,” looks forward to the future and out into the communities.

Corey Rosen, director of the National Center for Employee Ownership, said story-telling has been the dominant means of passing on companies’ success at employee ownership, but recently he’s been working to compile facts to support those stories.

“I’ve spent the last 25 years gathering that information,” he said. But the stories are what touch us and are behind the numbers.”

In the 1970s, companies became employee owned for the tax breaks, but now the idea has gained wide-spread acceptance, he said.

“Now the question isn’t should we do it, it’s how do we do it? Why aren’t we there yet?” Rosen said.

The idea is even gaining popularity overseas in countries like England, Northern Ireland, France, China and parts of South Africa, Rosen said.

“What’s always inspired me about the employee-owned community is that it doesn’t grow because it is good for the business enterprise,” he said. “It’s also good for the human enterprise.”

Steve Sheppard, former chair and CEO of the Foldcraft Company, finished with tips for creating companies worth keeping. Participation, wellness, giving and achievements outside the comfort zone all help employee ownership become an opportunity greater than imagined, he said.

Contact College of Arts and Sciences reporter Heather Bing at [email protected].