International news: The listening co-op

A Hamilton-based farmer co-operative has come up trumps in NZ Marketing magazine&#039s National Marketing Awards, because it listened to customers. Livestock Improvement won the award for best marketing...

A Hamilton-based farmer co-operative has come up trumps in NZ Marketing magazine&#039s National Marketing Awards, because it listened to customers.
Livestock Improvement won the award for best marketing campaign in the Business to Business category of the 2003 NZ Marketing National Awards.
Judges said the co-op&#039s successful campaign to market a newly developed array of electronic herd recording packages was a "classic example of good listening."
"Livestock Improvement heard customers&#039 complaints and reacted clearly, calmly and completely.
"Listening to customers goes a long way towards success and tremendous results were achieved on a relatively small budget," the judges said.
? Stuff, New Zealand

Australian growth

They attract little attention unless they fail, but co-ops are far from a dying breed as their turnover has grown by 81 per cent in the past decade.
That figure and 70 per cent asset growth over the decade emerge from the first detailed study of co-operatives in Australia conducted by University of Technology Sydney and Charles Stuart University for the Australian Centre for Co-operative Research and Development.
Over the decade to 2000 the co-operative&#039s assets grew by almost 70 per cent and 440,000 people became new members taking total membership to 1.3 million.
The figures exclude organisations such as the 2 million-member NRMA which are mutuals but operate under a corporate structure.
The co-ops subject to the ACCORD report include agricultural marketing groups, credit unions and housing and health organisations.
? Sydney Morning Herald, Australia

Co-op&#039s power struggle

The Montana Electric Co-operatives&#039 Association is closely following what may happen to NorthWestern Energy as its parent company struggles financially, and the group is considering its options, its general manager said.
It&#039s premature to say what options are being examined by the association, said Dave Wheelihan of Great Falls, the association&#039s general manager.
He was asked to respond to a suggestion made earlier this week by Billings investment adviser Gary Buchanan, a former state commerce director.
Buchanan proposed that a statewide rural electric co-op ? possibly working with cities ? buy and operate NorthWestern Energy&#039s electricity and natural gas business in Montana. NorthWestern&#039s parent company, NorthWestern Corp, is having financial problems, and Buchanan believes that it near bankruptcy.
"As co-ops, we&#039re watching what&#039s happening with NorthWestern," Wheelihan said in a telephone interview. "Obviously, it&#039s a little preliminary because nobody knows what&#039s going to happen with NorthWestern, but we&#039re trying to read the signals."
? Billings Gazette, Montana, USA

Workers&#039 co-op plan

The Ashley-Colter mill in Boiestown has started scaling down operations. It has been for sale for a few years but with no buyer it could close by December.
But one group is determined the closure won&#039t happen. Employees at the mill have known for a few years that the mill would either be sold or shut down.
The town has organised a committee to find a way to keep the mill open. It would like to turn the mill into a producer-run co-op, or get funding to diversify and make it more competitive.

? CBC New Brunswick, Canada

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