Employment and Jobs

Growing Economic Freedom and Prosperity: The Case for Employee Ownership

July 6, 2023  • Economic Opportunities Program & Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing at Rutgers University



Employee ownership empowers workers to have greater freedom over their economic future and provides them with a greater return on their hard work. By giving workers a stake in the business, workers in employee-owned firms become more invested in the business’s success, which in turn helps drive productivity, innovation, and profitability. In this conversation, speakers highlight the benefits of employee ownership and the experiences and important contributions of employee-owned businesses to workers and the US economy.

This discussion features special remarks from the Honorable Ben Cardin (US Senator for the State of Maryland) and the Honorable Chrissy Houlahan (US Representative for the State of Pennsylvania). It begins with opening remarks from Maureen Conway (Vice President, The Aspen Institute; Executive Director, Economic Opportunities Program), Joseph Blasi (J. Robert Beyster Distinguished Professor, Rutgers University; Director, Rutgers Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing), and Elliot Gerson (Executive Vice President, The Aspen Institute). We conclude with a panel discussion featuring Joseph Blasi, Heather Braimbridge-Cox (President and CEO, Windings, Inc.), Jen Briggs (Founding Partner, GRITT Business Coaching; Member, Colorado Employee Ownership Commission), Alex Brill (Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute), and moderator Zach Warmbrodt (Financial Services Editor, Politico).

This discussion was held on June 14, 2023, as part of the Employee Ownership Ideas Forum, co-hosted by the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program and the Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing at Rutgers University. This two-day convening brought together leading policymakers, practitioners, experts, and the media for a robust discussion on how we can grow employee ownership for the shared benefit of American workers and businesses.  Learn more: https://www.aspeninstitute.org/events/employee-ownership-ideas-forum/


Video: Hear @AlexBrill_DC, Heather Braimbridge-Cox @WindingsInc, @J_B_Briggs, @JosephBlasi, and @Zachary make the case for #EmployeeOwnership.


Conversations from the Employee Ownership Ideas Forum



photo of Ben Cardin

The Honorable Ben Cardin

US Senator for the state of Maryland

Link to biography




The Honorable Chrissy Houlahan

US Congresswoman for the State of Pennsylvania 

Link to biography




Joseph Blasi

Robert Beyster Distinguished Professor at Rutgers University and
Director of the Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing at Rutgers University.

Joseph Blasi is the J. Robert Beyster Distinguished Professor at Rutgers University and Director of the Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing at Rutgers University. The Institute is the world’s largest academic institute addressing all forms of capital shares for employees and citizens, including broad-based equity compensation plans, ESOPs, worker cooperatives, citizen dividend programs, profit sharing, and gain sharing. It sponsors empirical research, a competitive fellowship program, academic conferences, a Shares Laboratory, a curriculum library, and a policy analysis unit. Blasi is author of The Citizens Share (Yale University Press, 2014), Shared Capitalism at Work (NBER and University of Chicago Press, 2010), In the Company of Owners (2003, Basic Books), and The New Owners: Employee Ownership in Publicly-traded Companies (1990, HarperCollins), with colleagues, among other books and articles. He was Visiting Professor at Princeton University (2014-2015), Yale University (1997-1998), and a member of the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study. He is a faculty member in the School of Management and Labor Relations and is an economic sociologist with an Ed.D. from Harvard University.



headshot of Heather Braimbridge-Cox
Heather Braimbridge-Cox

President and CEO, Windings, Inc.

Respected as a credible voice in Employee Ownership and as a decision maker adept at establishing governance boundaries. Heather earns a seat at the table wherever she serves. She is currently the President and CEO of Windings, Inc. and a member of the company’s Board of Directors. Heather joined Windings, Inc. in late 2015 as Chief Financial Officer and rapidly progressed to the President and CEO in 2016. In a short time, Heather continues to lead this 100% employee-owned (ESOP) company in New Ulm, Minnesota to a heightened sense of ownership, self-direction, and accountability. She is now spearheading major strategic shifts to growing market share through innovation and acquisitions.

Heather is a Fellow Chartered Certified Accountant (FCCA) and holds an MBA (International Finance) from Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, England. She has over twenty-five years of senior leadership experience and a proven track record of results driven leadership and effective team management.  Heather currently serves on the boards of Ever-Green Energy of St. Paul, MN and Braun Intertec Corporation (100% ESOP in MN) and Loftness Equipment (100% ESOP in Hector MN). Heather recently completed her term as director with Second Harvest Heartland (MN) and the New Ulm Chamber of Commerce (MN).  Heather continues to be very active in the ESOP community and with several business industry councils in Southern Minnesota.



Photo of Jennifer Briggs
Jen Briggs

Founding Partner of GRITT Business Coaching
Member of the Colorado Commission of the Office of Employee Ownership

Jennifer is a contract executive working on boards and as a strategic advisor focusing on change and brand. Jennifer has been involved in multiple industries including tech, construction, engineering with a primary focus on food and alcohol. Jennifer is a founding partner of GRITT Business Coaching and her work proves that business can be done differently – purpose-centered, mission-driven, and values-powered using tenants of inclusive capitalism to attain success. She is a Rutgers University Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing Executive Fellow and Commissioner and former Chair of the Colorado Commission of the Office of Employee Ownership in the Office of Economic Development. She holds a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership, graduate studies in Enterprise Project Management, studies in behavioral economics and a Bachelor of Science in Community Health. She was a member of the New Belgium Brewing executive leadership team for over a decade as VP of Organizational Development, a turnaround CEO in the brewing industry, board member to PFS Brands, EEI, Brinkman Construction and served as Chairperson of the Board for GISinc. She was named person of the year in the bev-alc industry by Brewbound and a Signifier by Good Beer Hunting in 2022.



photo of Alex BrillAlex Brill

Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute

Alex Brill is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he studies the impact of tax policy on the US economy as well as the fiscal, economic, and political consequences of tax, budget, health care, retirement security, and trade policies. He also works on health care reform, pharmaceutical spending and drug innovation, and unemployment insurance reform. Brill is the editor of Carbon Tax Policy: A Conservative Dialogue on Pro-Growth Opportunities (2017) and the coauthor, with Alan D. Viard, of The Real Tax Burden: More Than Dollars and Cents (2011). He has testified numerous times before Congress on tax policy, labor markets and unemployment insurance, Social Security reform, fiscal stimulus, the manufacturing sector, and biologic drug competition. Before joining AEI, Brill served as the policy director and chief economist of the House Ways and Means Committee. Previously, he served on the staff of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. He has also served on the staff of the President’s Fiscal Commission (Simpson-Bowles) and the Republican Platform Committee (2008). Brill has an MA in mathematical finance from Boston University and a BA in economics from Tufts University.




Zach Warmbrodt (Moderator)

Financial Services Editor, Politico

Zach Warmbrodt has covered financial services for POLITICO since 2012. His reporting focuses on Washington’s relationship with Wall Street and the broader finance industry, including banks, insurers and asset managers. Zach is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin.