By Oscar Perry Abello.
Roughly 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day in the United States. They don’t all own small businesses, but their aging presents an opportunity for more workers to get the chance to own businesses and even build some wealth.
Baby Boomers own the majority of small businesses, but only 17 percent of them have a formal exit plan for when they want to retire. Shutting down is the first option, even in cases where the business might be doing well. The consequences can include the disappearance of the lifeblood of any neighborhood or the soul of any street and a significant loss of jobs. Such changes would most negatively affect those who earn and own the least. While each business may employ a small number of people, small businesses provide the vast majority of employment within low-income urban areas.
Selling to investors, or to a competitor, provides another common option for retiring business owners, especially if they’re successful. That may preserve some jobs, but a sale to a larger competitor or someone outside the community comes with the threat of downsizing or maybe a total overhaul of the business. Firing longtime workers and hiring all new employees may mean losing the connection between that commercial space and neighborhood residents.
A report published today, “Co-Op Conversions at Scale,” takes a deep dive into another option: retiring small-business owners selling to their employees.
Using data from the National Establishment Time Series (NETS) database — the same database that many banks use to predict lending risk for businesses — the report’s authors make a case that significant potential exists to finance the conversion of businesses with 20 to 100 employees into worker cooperatives.