Annual Conference Gives Inspiration, Advances Cooperative Associations

 

Over three hundred co-op directors, managers, staff and consultants gathered in Cleveland June 10-13 at the Consumer Cooperative Management Association (CCMA) conference. Well over half were attending CCMA for the first time, while most of the other participants and trainers were veterans of several past annual CCMA conferences. They created an intense environment, busy with networking, training, and an inspiring mix of shared values and difficult challenges.

Under a conference theme from a Japanese modern word translated as "striving to be the best ofthe best," speakers and workshop trainers strove to challenge and inform co-op attendees and to identify barriers to maintaining or achieving a leadership position in co-ops' communities and markets.

CCMA has for over forty years brought together co-op managers, presidents and others for professional training, networking and fun. Sponsored by the National Cooperative Business Association and organized by Ann Hoyt and staff at the UW Center for Cooperatives in Madison, this year's CCMA included many of the leaders in today's food co-ops, both wholesalers and retailers. An upbeat yet serious tone prevailed, reflecting the magnitude of co-ops' external and internal challenges as well as the depth of our vision and commitment -- but not so serious as to exclude a lot of socializing and laughing, great food, and a wind-up dance party at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Local co-ops and natural food stores were visited by conference bus excursions, which stopped at the Cleveland Food Co-op's three sites and at the Akron Cooperative Market and two local competitors.

Trainers and consultants led sessions in a wide variety of operational and governance subjects, including staff training and in-store teams, retail expansion financing, customer service, hiring a manager, understanding the competition, strategic planning, and more. Full day tracks were available for board members, produce managers and human resource managers.

Outside and inside many of the program sessions, co-ops were exploring ways to initiate or strengthen ties with each other. These efforts went beyond networking and informal exchanges among colleagues. This year saw an impressive level of activity in the vein of cooperation among co-ops. Through organized, scheduled sharing of data and materials, as well as through joint brokering and buying, retail associations in particular are aggressively strengthening their mutual efforts and commitments. Representatives of eight different Cooperative Grocers' Associations (CGAs) were present to review their activities (updating the reports in the May-June edition of Cooperative Grocer). For the first time, these regional groups explored national commitments and protocols, and they chose a small group to develop proposals toward that end.

In a related effort, the Cooperative Grocers' Information Network (CGIN) contributed an additional new element to the conference scene. This organization has been launched in recent months and at CCMA held its first annual membership meeting. CGIN, whose primary members are retail co-ops, has established an Internet site that will promote sharing among its members of a wide variety of internal documents, from deli recipes to personnel policies or openings and much more. The website (www.cgin.org) has been operating since spring and is still in the early stages of design and use. The association has contracted with Karen Zimbelman to provide staff services and help develop the website.

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CCMA Award Winners

Congratulations to these recipients of awards presented at the 1998 Consumer Cooperative Management Association:

Cooperative Service: Nick Masullo

The long-time manager of Ozark Co-op Warehouse (OCW), Nick Masullo has led OCW through steady, profitable growth and expansion of services throughout the South. When Community Mercantile in Lawrence KS was struggling after Wild Oats opened a store in town, Nick gave the co-op extended terms, increased discounts, and tremendous moral support, helping the OCW member retail to survive and beat the competition.

Retail Excellence: Puget Consumers Co-op

Operating seven stores in the Seattle area, Puget Consumers Co-op is an inspiring example of a co-op that continues to change and to lead its market while building cooperative ownership. In its fourth decade, PCC continues to improve and expand its stores and services, while maintaining a very extensive education program and a high degree of supportive involvement with community organizations, sustainable agriculture, and other cooperatives. PCC has over 40,000 members and yearly sales of over $50,000,000. Jeff Voltz is general manager of PCC.

Milestone: Building Cooperation for Twenty-five Years

Each year in the 1970s saw many cooperatives started. Now celebrating 25 years, the following co-ops have been providing services ans reaching for their founders' dreams since 1973:

  • Amazing Grains (Grand Forks, ND)
  • East Dakota Food Co-op (Sioux Falls, SD)
  • Hampden Park Food Co-op (St. Paul, MN)
  • Keweenaw Food Co-op (Hancock, MI)
  • North Buffalo Food Co-op (Buffalo, NY)
  • North Coast Cooperative (Arcata, CA)
  • Oryana Food Co-op (Traverse City, MI)
  • Park Slope Food Co-op (Brooklyn, NY)
  • Potsdam Consumer Co-op (NY)
  • Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op (CA)
  • Syracuse Real Food Co-op (NY)
  • Weavers Way Co-op (Philadelphia, PA)
  • Whole Earth Co-op (River Falls, WI)
  • Williamson Street Co-op (Madison, WI)
See other articles from this issue: #077 July - August - 1998