Over the life of the center we have assisted over 100 clients and worked on at least 29 different feasibility studies. Our best estimates are that KDC has helped to create 25 cooperatives that sustained operations for five years or more. Of these we estimate that 65 full-time or part-time jobs were created. The aggregate annual gross sales of these cooperatives are estimated to be greater than $25,000,000. In addition, we have impacted over 70 other cooperatives or startup groups. Our collective qualifications include meeting facilitation, co-op education, bylaws and incorporation, member equity drives, feasibility analysis, market research, business planning, financial modeling, board development, management development, organizational analysis, administrative systems, cooperative law and cooperative taxes.
Neil Stauffer, General Manager of Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance, which has worked with KDC since 1999, says he considers KDC “an essential partner” to his thriving business. Jack Barnett, President of the Clean Energy Cooperative, which recently made their successful solar installation, says KDC’s assistance has been “crucial” for his co-op’s progress. Testaments like these speak to KDC’s ability to deliver technical assistance that is timely, effective, and tailored to the needs of the client.
KDC immerses our development efforts into new cooperative approaches for our region. KDC is working with our third shellfish grower’s cooperative to establish a hatchery in Maryland to support this growing industry. We are supporting our second taxi cooperative, one where 100% of the cabs will be handicap-accessible. Additionally, we are responding to a growth in natural resources cooperatives with multiple and diverse projects including a community solar energy cooperative, a forestry cooperative and continued support to a cooperative of farmers to accept and compost food and organic waste from local municipal areas.
Our development strategy is cooperation among cooperatives. We focus on building regional food systems that are deeply inclusive of people living in economically distressed areas, especially rural farmers. For example, we linked the Heritage Shellfish Cooperative and Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative with food cooperatives in the Philadelphia region. We help farmers extract the “local and organic premium” by assisting them to organize among themselves to lower per farm transportation and marketing costs. Then we help them open-up marketing channels to retail outlets where consumers are willing to pay a premium for local food.
The work plan being proposed is divided into five primary areas of activity: 1) Supporting the formation and sustainability of a cooperative regional food system; 2) Delivering technical assistance to environmentally sustainable cooperative enterprises in the Mid-Atlantic region ; 3) Supporting the significantly increased interest in worker cooperatives and business conversions to employee ownership; 4) Providing education and outreach about cooperative solutions through collaboration with partner organizations; and 5) Maintaining a sustainable regional cooperative development center.
Local and community support for the Keystone Development Center’s mission is widespread and strong. All of our projects have local collaborators and partners. Our diverse community partners include industry and business partners such as United Producers, Inc., and the AFL-CIO; associations such as Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) and the Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance; educational institutions such as Rutgers University, Penn State University, and Morgan State University; and governmental agencies such as the New Jersey Department of Agriculture and the Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection. We have successfully raised sources of support for KDC to supplement Rural Cooperative Development Grant program resources and will continue to do so, building a broadly experienced, healthy and financially sustainable organization.
Our Board of Directors adds an additional dimension to KDC’s ability to provide assistance to cooperative groups. Board members bring extensive experience in rural development and organizational development. Several have direct experience in cooperative development and management. Our Directors have a deep commitment to cooperative development and bring a wealth of experience in running a nonprofit doing economic development.