April 1, 2019; New Haven Independent

As NPQ has reported, more and more city administrations are looking at making policies and investments that facilitate worker-owned businesses in an attempt to build local wealth.

In New Haven, Mayor Toni Harp has announced that a building that used to be a local welfare office is set to be repurposed, with the support of the city, into a worker-owned laundry. The city bought the building for $900,000 with a combination of dollars from federal community block grants and the city’s Economic Development Administration.

Harp says the laundry jobs would begin at a “living wage.” The idea is to promote “wealth generation” for the residents of Newhallville. A nonprofit will be charged with building the entity, she says, with the explicit intention of having it transition to worker-ownership.

The mayor said that she was struck by a similar project run by the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland that serves a few of the large hospital systems in that city. New Haven offers a similar opportunity, in that it has a similarly high concentration of health care delivery systems, with Yale New Haven Health being easily the largest. The hope is to start with 28 employees but build to 140.

The Livable City Initiative (LCI) has taken leadership on the project. Director Serena Neal-Sanjurjo says the project has taken years to get to this point, since the building was originally appraised at $2.9 million. She also says that the financing and structuring of the co-op have yet to be established.

Meanwhile, Harp has also expressed interest in another Cleveland Evergreen idea: starting a hydroponic facility to grow veggies for local restaurants.—Ruth McCambridge