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Success Stories

Worker Cooperative Model: Empowering Workers & Creating Community

USDA Rural Development
Common Enterprise Staff

Thomas Beckett and his team are passionate about what they do. Beckett’s resilience and persistence broke ground in North Carolina in 2012 when they opened Carolina Common Enterprise. Opening the center was a culmination of Beckett’s work as an attorney which exposed him to people in dire situations – oftentimes working excessive hours to barely make ends meet. Through outreach and organizing, one model emerged as a possible solution to give workers collective economic power: the Worker-Owner Cooperative Model.

“Cooperatives help people organize to exercise greater control over their economic circumstances,” Beckett said. “Through my work, I found out that there wasn’t any state-wide support for cooperatives in North Carolina. Carolina Common Enterprise is a cooperative development center that helps people trying to do something positive with their lives.”

Since 2017, Carolina Common Enterprise has utilized Rural Development’s Rural Cooperative Development Grant (RCDG), a program that gives grant funding to cooperative development centers. With a cooperative business model, a group of people work together and share the earnings equitably. It can bolster economic development because the owners have a vested interest in the development of the community their business operates in.

RD’s RCDG grant has helped Carolina Common Enterprise, and 28 other cooperative development centers across the country annually, cover the costs associated with hosting trainings, outreach, hiring staff, and supporting communities looking to convert or sustain a cooperative business model.

Looking forward, Beckett has more work to do, and hopes to educate local state and federal officials about the cooperative model and its impact in community development. He wants to equip more local officials with the knowledge and skillset to determine when a cooperative model could be the solution for some of the community’s most pressing problems.

“We want everyone in this state to know what a cooperative is and to know that there is support statewide for doing [cooperative development].”

To read more about Rural Development’s Cooperative Services, visit RD's Cooperative Services Website.

Obligation Amount:
Year(s) of Obligation:
Congressional District:
  • North Carolina: District 4