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Central Co-op Reports Outsized Local Economic Impact


In celebration of National Co-op Month, Central Co-op today released the results of an economic impact report conducted by Civic Economics, a financial analysis agency, showing the cooperative returns more than 52 percent of its revenue back to the local economy. By comparison, the average US cooperative grocery recirculates 36 percent of its revenue in the local economy and a conventional grocery chain store only sends 23 percent of revenue back to the community.

Civic Economics determined that, per square foot, the co-op circulates nearly four times as much money in the local economy compared to a typical co-op grocery store and more than seven times that of a conventional grocery chain – making it a small but powerful economic engine in the region.

“Our workers, our shoppers and our neighbors are central to all we do here at Central Co-op, and we wanted a way to measure how well our actions prove our values,” said Central Co-op CEO Garland McQueen. “The results from this study put tangible numbers to what we’ve suspected all along – our small co-op store has an outsized impact on the Washington economy.”

In line with the co-op’s mission to support the local community, the report found 20 percent of revenue was spent on goods purchased in Washington State. This compares to 12 percent of goods from the region for a traditional co-op and 4 percent of goods from a grocery chain. This recirculation creates revenues that are used to build and support the roads, schools, bridges, and libraries that make Seattle the vibrant community that it is today.

Central Co-op first opened its doors in 1978, and concern for community has been an important part of the organization’s decision-making process for the past 39 years. The organization will extend the same mission to its new store in Tacoma, scheduled to open in early 2018.

The results of this study demonstrate that businesses like Central Co-op make Seattle a better place to live, and that Central Co-op leadership is dedicated to making the region a better place to work as well.

In 2015, the passing of two propositions by owner vote made Central Co-op a rare instance of a single class cooperative grocery converting to a solidarity model by creating a separate but equal class of worker owners. As another commitment to its workers, Central Co-op doubles the percentage spent on wages and benefits relative to a conventional grocery store chain, with 92 percent of employees eligible for benefits.

A strong supporter of community organizations, Central Co-op is a founding partner of Seattle Made, and sponsor of the Taste of Seattle Made event on October 6. In 2016, the co-op gave nearly $26,000 in need-based discounts to customers, and donated over 78,000 pounds of food to local food distribution agencies. In addition, Central Co-op customers “Rounded Up” over $15,000 last year – and have already doubled that number in 2017.

About Central Co-op

Originally founded on Seattle’s Capitol Hill in 1978, Central Co-op is a community-owned natural foods cooperative. A complete grocery store dedicated to sustainable practices and the Washington food economy, Central Co-op features organic produce, humanely raised meat and wild seafood, a large selection of bulk goods and herbs, an extensive health and wellness section and unique gifts. Through their Co-op Basics program, the Co-op offers over 250 everyday items at especially low prices, and offers 10% off to those receiving government assistance twice a week, through their Healthy Community Program. Central Co-op follows a solidarity model with both worker and consumer ownership. Open to everyone, seven days a week, Central Co-op has more than 14,500 active owners, and in January of 2015 became the first grocery store in the nation to pay better than $15/hour at entry level with full benefits for full time workers. Merged with the Tacoma Food Co-op in fiscal year 2016, Central Co-op is opening a new Tacoma location in early 2018. More information is available at www.centralcoop.coop.

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