C: MONTANA’S RURAL RENAISSANCE
Moderated by Marilyn Besich, MCDC Program Director, and Julie Foster, Ravalli County Economic Development Authority
Session I: Housing Cooperative Resources and Riverside Crossing Case Study
Montana’s need for quality, affordable housing has never been more apparent. Our state has many high-amenity cities where escalating housing prices have put home ownership out of reach for the average worker or retiree. In some resort towns, conversion of residential rental properties to weekly, vacation rentals have reduced housing options for seasonal employees. In older rural communities, limited housing stock often is in poor repair and not sufficiently attractive to lure either retirees or young entrepreneurs. Guest speaker Ricardo Nuñez will reflect on how Montana’s housing situation compares with that of other western states as he sets the stage for the overall housing cooperative discussion.
One emerging alternative is the housing cooperative model that is now being piloted in the Bitterroot Valley. The Riverside Crossing Adult Cottage Cooperative is a 51-unit development in Hamilton designed for seniors over the age of 55. Cottages are clustered into “pockets” of 8 to 10 homes that surround an aesthetically-pleasing open space, gardens and walking trails to provide a sense of community, ease of sociability and built-in security. Paul Travitz and Julie Foster will trace the origins of this project and discuss the legal underpinnings, financing approaches and operational features of this innovative housing project, now under construction.
Session II: Worker Cooperative Resources and Crucible Case Study
One of the best-kept secrets in this country is the growing economy of worker cooperatives and democratic workplaces. They are a growing and hopeful part of a movement to go beyond the traditional corporate model to create an economic alternative for those seeking good, stable employment and a respectful working environment. A worker cooperative is a business owned and controlled by the actual people who work in it. At the end of each year, worker-owners are paid a portion of the profit (also known as the surplus) that can be distributed based on a combination of hours worked, seniority or other factors.
Ricardo Nuñez of the Sustainable Economies Law Center will lead off the session by providing a global perspective on worker cooperatives and why this kind of democratic workplace is increasingly popular in the U.S. Crucible, the first worker cooperative to incorporate under Montana’s cooperative association statute, will be the featured case study. This Belgrade-based design and fabrication studio formed in June 2017, and has since become well-known for its wood & metal furniture pieces and custom-designed “T-Rex Rotisserie Rack”.