Government has played a critical role throughout the history of the US in launching and supporting employee ownership. Today, the US Departments of Treasury, Commerce, Agriculture, and Labor and the Small Business Administration support employee ownership through financing and lending, regulatory reform, technical assistance, market development, and more, as they help business owners, workers, and local governments across red and blue states to grow worker ownership.
In this conversation, speakers discuss what the executive branch is currently doing to support employee ownership and how those efforts can be improved to offer more workers a shot at the American dream through ownership. It features a panel discussion with Rajesh Nayak (Assistant Secretary for Policy, US Department of Labor), Dr. Karama Neal (Administrator, Rural Business-Cooperative Service, US Department of Agriculture), Melissa Hoover (Senior Fellow, Rutgers Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing; Founder and Co-Executive Director, Democracy at Work Institute), David Hincapie (Economic Development Specialist, Veteran Business Development Officer, Washington Metropolitan Area District Office, US Small Business Administration), and moderator Maureen Conway (Vice President, The Aspen Institute; Executive Director, Economic Opportunities Program).
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/
Conversations from the Employee Ownership Ideas Forum
- Growing Economic Freedom and Prosperity: The Case for Employee Ownership
- Ownership on the March: Recent Progress in Supporting Employee Ownership
- Unleashing an Ownership Economy: The Role of Government Agencies
- Owning the Future: Creating the Next Generation of Employee Owners
- Rebuilding the Middle Class through Employee Ownership
- Ownership for Equity: Building an Inclusive Economy through Employee Ownership
- Employee Ownership and the Company of the Future
- American Values and the Competitive Advantage of Employee Ownership
Assistant Secretary for Policy, US Department of Labor
Rajesh D. Nayak is the Assistant Secretary for Policy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy (OASP) at the United States Department of Labor. Raj previously served in a range of senior roles at the Department during the Obama-Biden Administration, including as the Secretary’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, and Senior Counsel to the Solicitor. Outside of government, Raj has worked in nonprofit organizations both as an attorney and a senior leader, as a Fellow at the Labor & Worklife Program at Harvard Law School, and a consultant. He earned an undergraduate degree in public policy from the University of Chicago and a law degree from Yale.
Administrator, Rural Business-Cooperative Service, US Department of Agriculture
Prior to joining USDA Rural Development, Karama Neal served as president of Southern Bancorp Community Partners, a nonprofit community development loan fund and financial development organization promoting economic mobility in rural Arkansas and Mississippi. She spent twelve years at Southern and led their small business, consumer and other development lending, consumer and savings focused public policy work, and a variety of financial development services to help low and moderate wealth families and communities build wealth. In 2013, Dr. Neal started a statewide grassroots organization promoting passage of the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act in Arkansas which was passed in 2015. This work was inspired by her family’s ownership of rural heirs’ property in the state. Before joining Southern, she had a career in the biosciences and worked for a period in biofuels informatics with a focus on feedstocks and balancing food and fuel priorities. For six years, Dr. Neal served on the board of the Little Rock Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. After completing her undergraduate degree in biology at Swarthmore College, Dr. Neal later earned a doctorate in genetics from Emory University and a master’s in bioethics and health policy from Loyola University Chicago. She also completed executive education in impact investing at the University of Oxford Said School of Business.
Senior Fellow at the Rutgers Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing, and Founder and Co-Executive Director, Democracy at Work Institute
Melissa is the founder and Co-Executive Director of the Democracy at Work Institute, which expands worker ownership as a strategy for people locked out of good jobs and business ownership. Under Melissa’s leadership, DAWI helped incubate the $58 million Legacy Fund, and partners with A&H Capital to provide organizational development consulting and impact metrics support to employee-owned portfolio companies. Melissa is an Executive Fellow of the Rutgers Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing, and she advises nonprofits, investors, foundations and policymakers on effective interventions to support employee ownership as a tool for racial and social equity. Melissa helped start and grow the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives, the national grassroots membership organization for worker-owned businesses; she got her start as a cooperative business developer in the Bay Area, helping launch and grow several successful cooperative businesses. She holds a B.A. in History from Stanford University.
Economic Development Specialist, Veteran Business Development Officer
Washington Metropolitan Area District Office
U.S. Small Business Administration
Maureen Conway (Moderator)
Vice President, The Aspen Institute;
Executive Director, Economic Opportunities Program
Maureen Conway serves as vice president at the Aspen Institute and as executive director of the Institute’s Economic Opportunities Program (EOP). EOP works to expand individuals’ opportunities to connect to quality work, start businesses, and build economic stability that provides the freedom to pursue opportunity. Link to Maureen’s full biography