Many employee-owned companies strive for a culture of ownership, giving workers not just a share of the profits, but a hand in decision making. Consequently, these companies often have greater resilience, employee productivity, and job quality than traditionally owned ones. It’s no surprise, then, that nearly three in four Americans would opt to work at an employee-owned company if they were given the choice. But growth in employee ownership has plateaued in recent years. The Worker Ownership, Readiness, and Knowledge Act, passed in 2022, legislated funding for states to establish centers to promote employee ownership.
For more than two decades, the Vermont Employee Ownership Center (VEOC) has worked to raise awareness and grow employee ownership in the state, including by providing technical and financial assistance to firms looking to transfer ownership to their workers. Vermont is home to several notable employee-owned companies, like Gardener’s Supply Company and King Arthur Flour, boasting one of the highest rates of employee ownership in the country, and the benefits of this shared prosperity are measurable. The state’s 55 employee-owned companies tend to have higher employee retention rates and narrower pay gaps between leadership and workers when compared to conventionally owned companies. And Vermont’s employee-owned companies report that employee ownership has improved their resiliency. The history of employee ownership in Vermont and the work of VEOC provide useful guidance and insight to those seeking to grow employee ownership and develop new state centers.