Historical meeting for US co-operative leaders

US co-operators made history last week as 150 co-operative leaders from across the country attended a national briefing at the White House on Friday May 4.

US co-operators made history last week as 150 co-operative leaders from across the country attended a national briefing at the White House on Friday May 4.

The briefing gave the co-op leaders the opportunity to discuss how co-operatives could spur on economic recovery through job creation and investment into the community with top level policy makers at the White House.

The leaders were greeted by the White House Chief of Staff, Jack Lew, on behalf of the President. A member of a credit union himself, he said: “It is an honor to have so many of you here, that as part of the cooperative community you are building our American economy and creating jobs.”

This was followed by opening remarks from White House staff and Liz Bailey, the Interim President for National Cooperative Business Association who organised the event.

The co-op leaders then took part in a listening session run by Jon Carson, the Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, followed by a number of breakout sessions with officials from the Treasury, Domestic Policy Council, the USDA and the SBA.

Many of the leaders were impressed with the reaction from the White House staff and enjoyed the chance to network with other co-op leaders.

Vernon Oakes, President, National Association of Housing Cooperatives (NAHC) said: “I felt that they heard us and they will do what they can. The responsibility for promoting the cooperative business is ours. We have to create our own database and promote with and through them. I met some new friends in the coop world.”

Paul Hazen, Executive Director, OCDC said: “The White House is looking for actions that will spur the economy.  We offered a number of changes to Federal policy that will allow cooperatives to create jobs and increase incomes.”

It was the first-time such a wide ranging number of co-op leaders had attended an event of its kind.

Liz Bailey, the Interim President of the NCBA said: “When we assembled the delegation we intentionally invited a group that would include the widest possible swath of cooperators, as well as advocates for cooperatives. 

“In addition to assembling a group that would demonstrate the diversity of the co-operative community to the White House, our goal was to have the event foster some new conversations and collaborations among our own cooperative community.  I think we succeeded in meeting and exceeding both of those goals.”

The event ended with a group picture of all the leaders who took part to capture this important moment in US co-op history.

Members of the President’s policy team making formal presentations in the opening remarks were in order of appearance: Greg, Nelson, Deputy Director for Private Sector Outreach; Judy Canales, Deputy Under Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA); Danielle Gray, Deputy Assistant to the President, National Economic Council and Carlos Monje, Chief of Staff, Domestic Policy Council.

The briefing was organised in celebration of the United Nations’ 2012 International Year of Co-operatives.

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