Kent State’s Ohio Employee Ownership Center has received a $500,000 grant to help prevent job loss and keep Ohio businesses in tact.

The OEOC received the grant because of its work in transitioning corporate and family owned companies to employee ownership. The center applied for the grant last semester.

The organization is a nonprofit outreach center and part of the political science department at Kent State. The center’s business succession planning program provides technical assistance to business owners who are looking to retire or sell their companies — often encouraging the owners to sell to their own employees.

“It’s to anchor jobs in Ohio,” said Chris Cooper, program coordinator of OEOC. Cooper said by selling company ownership to the company’s current employees, businesses avert layoffs and total reorganization.

Since 1987, the program has saved approximately 14,000 jobs, according to the OEOC records.

“Business owner succession planning is the number one program to avoid preventable job loss,” said Bill McIntyre, OEOC program director. “It’s a very cost-effective economic development program.”

OEOC provides information and conducts consultations with clients to determine if employee ownership is right for their particular business, McIntyre said. He said $75,000 of the grant will go toward the Prefeasibility Study Grant Program, which funds the third-party analyses used to determine whether companies qualify for employee ownership. All qualified applicants are then referred to service providers, such as accountants and lawyers, to help make the transition to employee ownership.

According to the OEOC records, employee-owned companies have a 4.5 percent increase in employee productivity, and average wages are 12 percent higher.

“It’s simply more fun when you’re working at a company where the people next to you actually care about what they’re doing,” McIntyre said.

Cooper compared employee ownership to the difference between renting and owning a home.

“Which one are you going to take better care of?” He said. “Which one are you going to make improvements to?”

McIntyre said employee-owned businesses are also more likely to keep jobs in their communities rather than moving overseas.

The grant also funds training sessions for the new employee owners, seminars and workshops, literature to advertise and promote OEOC services and other administrative expenses.

Lisa Hager, a political science post-graduate student, said she has enjoyed her time working with the program as a research assistant. She researches the activities of the center that can be used to obtain future grants and demonstrates the effectiveness of the organization to future clients.

Jay Simecek, OEOC program coordinator, said he expects many more clients as the baby-boomers get closer to retirement and become more active in learning how to sell their businesses.

Contact Amanda Crumm at acrumm@kent.edu.

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