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Grants help cooperatives grow

May 20, 2022
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Affordable housing, food access and veterinary care efforts get boost

MADISON, WI. MAY 20, 2022–Seven Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) grants will allow cooperatives or groups considering the model to set themselves up for success by studying all aspects of their businesses before making major investments.

“Cooperatives can be an especially valuable tool for rural Wisconsin allowing residents to get the goods and services they need but that the market doesn’t otherwise supply,” said Missy Hughes, WEDC secretary and CEO. “The cooperative model also allows producers and workers to band together to create new opportunities for their businesses. These grants will allow businesses and communities, both rural and urban, to thoroughly research and plan so that these cooperatives thrive.”

The Targeted Industry Project grants will be assisting cooperatives aiming to provide affordable housing, build a grocery store, help farmers with meat processing and more. The grants, made in consultation with the Cooperative Network, pay for things such as consultant fees and feasibility studies that can help cooperatives decide future plans.

“Cooperative Network applauds the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s recognition of the success the cooperative business model has long demonstrated in advancing economic opportunities,” said Daniel Smith, President and CEO, Cooperative Network. “These grants reflect the broad impact cooperatives have in our state. Cooperative Network is proud to assist groups to study, create, and manage cooperatives as a response to emerging economic and social needs.”

The grant recipients include:

Whitewater Grocery Cooperative Whitewater–$46,300
The cooperative was formed in 2017 in response to the city’s only full-service grocery store closing. City and business leaders worked to try to persuade other grocers to locate in the city but the city’s median income was too low for other grocers to invest. The cooperative has done significant work to determine what kind of grocery store can thrive in Whitewater. This grant will help the cooperative work with experts to find an appropriate store site and gear up for a capital campaign with the aim of creating a sustainable brick-and-mortar grocery store in the city.

Northcountry Cooperative Foundation Green and Rock counties–$30,000
The foundation was awarded $30,000 to pay for a study looking at the demand for housing developed under a cooperative ownership model. Northcountry plans to develop a 25-50 unit manufactured or mobile home community in Green or Rock county.

Southern Wisconsin Meat Cooperative Blanchardville–$23,800
Southern Wisconsin Meat Cooperative was formed in 2021 with the goal of being the first worker/producer-owned meat processing cooperative in the state. The grant will help pay for a feasibility study looking at the possibility of converting a former Argyle grocery store into a meat processing plant and using a modified truck as a mobile processing site. The co-op aims to increase meat processing capacity for small and medium sized farmers and provide excellent jobs in rural areas.

Spring Green Animal Hospital Spring Green–$21,300
The owners of the Spring Green Animal Hospital and its partner Mazomanie Animal Hospital have begun looking at a cooperative ownership structure as a way to retain and reward staff. The cooperative structure would also help ensure the hospitals’ survival if one of the current partners had to leave the business. The grant will help the animal hospitals work with a consultant to determine the feasibility of becoming a co-op.

Bender Family Farms Cambria–$14,500
Bender Family Farms is working to create The Five Star Harvest Cooperative, in an effort to reduce the time farmers must wait to process their animals. The group will use the grant to study whether it makes sense to form a cooperative and if the co-op should move forward with plans for a meat processing facility in the town of Kingston.

Menomonie Food Co-op Menomonie–$11,500
The Menomonie Food Co-op will use its grant to evaluate whether and how the Co-op should expand into a new location in Eau Claire to serve a low-income neighborhood with limited grocery access.

Madison Cannabis Community Cooperative Madison–$5,200
The Madison Cannabis Community Cooperative was started in 2020 with a goal of developing a hemp processing facility in southern Wisconsin. The grant will be used to complete a market analysis to allow the cooperative to begin considering the location and equipment needed for a facility to process cannabidiol (CBD) and other hemp products.

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