CCMA Highlights Needs and Spirit
At the Consumer Cooperative Management Association (CCMA) conference held in May, the theme was "two-stepping between evolution and extinction" -- highlighting food co-ops' need to keep up with changes in a very competitive business environment. Some three hundred managers, staff, and directors participated in over three days of professional training, networking, local tours, and fun.
CCMA is sponsored by the National Cooperative Business Association and organized by Ann Hoyt and staff at the UW Center for Cooperatives in Madison. Held in a new location each year, the 1997 CCMA was in Alexandria, Virginia. Bus tours on the first day included visits to food co-ops in northern Virginia and the District of Columbia, as well as the Food Marketing Institute, private food stores, and D.C. monuments.
An excellent program offered solid training options, including: evaluating and compensating management; sustainable energy co-op development; web sites; instilling strategic thinking at the board level; negotiating with unions; marketing our co-op advantage; member appreciation days; resolving conflicts with difficult staff; category management; and day-long sessions on finance and board of directors training.
CCMA is a vital event for food co-op leaders, providing inspiration and information in equally strong doses. This year more than ever, the conference manifested passionate dedication and awareness that co-ops can have an important impact by working together. Some examples:
- A retailer-led group held a workshop in which plans were laid for a new national co-op organization, generating over $5,000 in contributions from those present. (See report elsewhere in this edition.)
- Responding to a lunch-time appeal for a flooded co-op in North Dakota, attendees raised over $8,000 on the spot.
- Through an on-site auction of donated co-op items, over $8,000 was contributed to the Howard Bowers Fund, raising the total moneys for this source of co-op training scholarships to over $100,000.
- Finally, at the traditional closing party (held in a torpedo factory converted to an artists' co-op!), I saw Jesse Braverman of Blooming Prairie Co-op dancing with Mel Singerman of North Farm Co-op. The two long-time managers are purported to be secretly married.
Congratulation to these recipients of awards presented at the 1997 Consumer Cooperative Management Association:
• Cooperative Service: Karl Kruger
Karl Kruger has worked as a co-op manager for thirty-five years, starting at Berkeley Co-op. He has been general manager since 1991 at Davis Food Co-op, which is undertaking a remodel increasing its retail space to over 18,000 sq. ft.
• Cooperative Innovation: Northeast Cooperatives
CEO George Southworth and staff at Northeast are strengthening its produce and grocery distributor services. Learning from Atlantic Canada co-ops, Northeast introduced management on contract, providing stronger support for retail mamnagers through a wholesaler program.
• Cooperative Milestones: Co-ops begun in 1970-72
Cleveland Food Co-op
Community Food Co-op / Bellingham
First Alternative Co-op
Good Day Market
Good Earth Co-op / St. Cloud
Kokua Co-op Market
Outpost Natural Foods
Whole Foods Co-op / Duluth
Eastown Food Co-op
Fort Collins Food Co-op
GreenStar Co-op (Ithaca Real Food Co-op)
Harvest Co-op Supermarkets
Marquette Organic Food Co-op
New Pioneer Cooperative Society
North Country Co-op / Minneapolis
North Farm Co-op
People's Food Co-op / Ann Arbor
Ashland Community Store
Bluff Country Co-op
Davis Food Coo-op
Good Foods Co-op / Lexington, KY
Grain Train / Petosky, MI
Lexington Real Food Co-op / Buffalo
Onion River Food Co-op
Ozark Natural Foods Co-op
Port Townsend Food Co-op
Stevens Point Co-op
• Cooperative Excellence: Outpost Natural Foods Co-op
Outpost is its eighth year of operating an 8,000 sq. ft. retail retail space, recently expanded to nearly 10,000 sq. ft. Under general manager Pam Mehnert, Outpost has continually improved services and also has been a leader in the Midwest Cooperative Grocers Association.
• Distinguished Cooperators: Bill Gessner and David Thompson
David Thompson, author of the Rochdale Co-op history, Weavers of Dreams, has long been active in California and U.S. cooperatives, most recently with Twin Pines Foundation and on the board of Davis Food Co-op. Bill Gessner, formerly with Roots and Fruits Cooperative Produce, is a trainer and consultant with Cooperative Development Services and has worked over the years with many co-ops in the Midwest and across the U.S.