Group aims to grow jobs in Lompoc

Group aims to grow jobs in Lompoc – Donations sought to launch worker-owned co-op business

Mike Devich, Lompoc Record, August 24, 2012

A do-it-yourself group aiming to bring jobs to Lompoc in the form of worker-owned co-ops is raising “incubation” money to start the first business.

“If we can get $25 each from only 300 people, we can proceed with our first project,” said John McReynolds, a local author who has now written three books about the Lompoc area.

He is a member of the Lompoc Co-op Development Project, a group of about 18 local people.

“We all just wanted to see if we could get a job co-op going here like they have in other cities,” he said, referring to such successful efforts as Cleveland’s Evergreen Cooperative and the Arizmendi Bakeries in the Bay Area.

LCDP will start up worker-owned co-ops by lending seed money to a group of workers/owners who want to start a business. The seed money is then used as a revolving fund to get another co-op going, and so on. A cluster effect is the goal.

The group figures that the minimum amount of money needed for the seed fund is $7,500. They are already up to more than $4,100, or 54 percent of the goal, said McReynolds, but they need more — and in a hurry.

They want to get started on their first project as soon as possible, so that the new business can take advantage of the lucrative holiday season. A cleaning company has been mentioned by the group as their first business, one that uses “green” methods.

To get people to donate the seed money right away, the group is offering “perks” for certain amounts people give, items that have been donated to the cause. For $1,000, you will have the opportunity to claim a unique metal sculpture of the iconic Rosie the Riveter (the group’s unofficial “get it done” mascot), made by Lompoc artist Marti Lacey. The first $250 donation gets co-op-inspired poster art by Tamara Cribley. A donation of $100 brings a chance to meet the project’s steering committee at a wine and cheese get-together in Lompoc. Four of those have already been claimed.

Perks are also available at the $50, $35 and $25 levels. See the group’s interactive website at www.indiegogo.com/lompocco-opjobs for details.

The co-op idea began 18 months ago when a small group of like-minded people assembled to find a solution to Lompoc’s high unemployment rate. They included Bill Mullins, a former Lompoc city councilman; Gary Keefe, a former Lompoc city manager; and Chuck Arnold, Valley of the Flowers Church pastor.

More than a dozen other citizens — professionals, students and retirees — attended as well.

The learning process for starting co-ops took a jump start when McReynolds was in Livermore, last year and decided to visit the California Center for Cooperatives in nearby Davis, a nonprofit organization that supports cooperatives of all kinds with start-up, management and other technical assistance.

It was a very good idea, said McReynolds. The CCCD’s executive director, Kim Coontz, immediately came on board with invaluable knowledge and even has been to Lompoc to share that knowledge about co-ops.

Organizers also are excited they received some interest from a bank when Wells Fargo’s Central California community development officer traveled from Fresno to check out the plan, McReynolds said.

Local businesses are helping the cause as well.

“Graphics Systems did our fliers for free,” McReynolds said. He and former city manager Keefe were at Lompoc’s Olde Towne Market street fair on a recent Friday evening, handing out the fliers and gently cajoling passersby to help them out.

“Go to the website and donate!” McReynolds called out as they went by, while inviting others into their booth to learn about co-ops.

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