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Luckily, the groups that were developing the Evergreen Cooperative Initiative had a successful role model to turn to for inspiration as they went through various stages of project development: the Mondragon Corporation of Spain. Mondragon is the world's largest industrial workers cooperative with annual sales of more than $21.7 billion. Key leaders and partners in the Evergreen Cooperative Initiative as well as allies such as Cleveland's economic development director have visited Mondragon twice and are planning a third visit. Mondragon has also attracted the attention of the United Steelworkers, which announced in October 2009 that it plans to collaborate with Mondragon to establish manufacturing cooperatives in the U.S. and Canada.
"What's really impressive about the Mondragon Corporation is that 50 years ago that region was poorer than Cleveland-it had lower education rates and a really high unemployment rate," said Lillian Kuri, program director for architecture, urban design and sustainable development at the Cleveland Foundation. "By creating this network of cooperatives-they now have more than 100 co-ops and 120,000 employee owners-they really stabilized this region of Spain. It's built on innovation, it's built on democratic principles, and it's built on real market forces. It's sustainable."
First Cooperatives Offer Laundry and Solar Panel Installation Services Photo credit: Janet Century
The first two Evergreen Cooperative businesses, Evergreen Cooperative Laundry and
Ohio Cooperative Solar, opened their doors in October 2009.