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Cooperative fall into four categories: consumer, producer, worker and purchasing/shared services.

Consumer Cooperatives

Consumer cooperatives are owned by the people who buy the goods or use the services of the cooperative. They sell consumer goods such as food and outdoors equipment. They provide housing, electricity and telecommunications. And they offer financial (credit unions), healthcare, childcare and funeral services. Almost any consumer needs can be met by a cooperative. Some examples include:

  • Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Seattle, WA – a consumer owned HMO with more than 560,000 members. www.ghc.org
  • Indiana Credit Union League, Indianapolis, IN – Indiana’s 215 credit unions have more than 2.2 million member and hold $15.4 billion in assets. www.icul.org
  • Lost River Market & Deli, Paoli, IN – a consumer owned association dedicated to serving the needs of local growers, producers, and consumers by providing goods, services, and healthy food choices at fair value. www.lostrivercoop.com
  • Touchstone Energy, Arlington, VA. – national alliance of more than 640 local, consumer-owned electric cooperatives in 46 states. Electric cooperatives distribute power for 75 percent of the U.S. land mass over 2.4 million miles of power lines. touchstoneenergy.cooperative.com

Producer Cooperatives

Producer cooperatives are owned by farmers who grow crops, raise cattle, milk cows, or by craftsmen and artisans. By banding together, they leverage greater bargaining power with buyers. They also combine resources to more effectively market and brand their products, thereby improving the incomes of their members. Some examples include:

  • Land O’Lakes, Inc., Arden Hills, MN – a food and agricultural cooperative owned by 7,000 farmer-members and 1,300 local community cooperatives. www.landolakesinc.coop
  • Florida’s Natural Growers, New Wales, FL – a grower-owned cooperative that has built a nationally recognized, leading juice brand. www.floridasnatural.coop
  • Other well-known farmer-owned cooperatives include SunKist, SunMaid, Blue Diamond, Ocean Spray and Riceland.

Worker Cooperatives

Worker cooperatives are owned and governed by the employees of the business. They operate in all sectors of the economy and provide workers with both employment and ownership opportunities. Examples include employee-owned food stores, processing companies, restaurants, taxicab companies, sewing companies, timber processors and light and heavy industry. Some examples include:

  • Cooperative Home Care Associates, Bronx, NY – a worker-owned home health care agency that provides home care providers with livable wages and benefits. www.chcany.org
  • Equal Exchange, Boston, MA – a worker-owned, fair trade products buying and distribution cooperative that pioneered fair trade in the U.S. www.equalexchange.com
  • Union Cab, Madison, WI – a worker owned and operated taxicab company serving UW-Madison and south-central Wisconsin by providing safe, quality transportation. www.unioncab.com

Purchasing/Shared Services Cooperatives

Purchasing and shared services cooperatives are owned and governed by independent business owners, small municipalities and, in some cases, state governments that band together to enhance their purchasing power, lowering their costs and improving their competitiveness and ability to provide quality services. They operate in all sectors of the economy. Some examples include:

  • Carpet One, St. Louis, MO – a national cooperative of 1,000 independent floor covering retailers that is the largest floor covering retailer in the world. www.carpetone.com
  • Independent Distributors Cooperative-USA, Indianapolis, IN – a cooperative of independent distributors who have joined forces to purchase, market and sell in the rapidly changing and dynamic industrial marketplace. www.idc-usa.com
  • Do It Best Corp., Ft. Wayne, IN – the only full-service member-owned distributor of hardware and building materials products in the industry, serving 4,100 members in all 50 states and 45 countries. www.doitbestcorp.com

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