Co-op Voices

To Help Boost Economy, Shop Co-op

By Share Brandt Published: January 17th, 2012

It takes only one person to start a movement. One person using social media networks can start a revolution. Just this past year, governments were overthrown by revolutions started on Facebook and spurred by Twitter.

Share Brandt

Share Brandt

A Saturday in November marked the first “Bank Transfer Day,” an effort fueled by discontent with big banks and large corporations. When Bank of America announced the new—and since rescinded—fee to use its BOA debit card, it was like adding gasoline to a smoldering fire. It takes only one person to post an idea on his or her social media site, but then friends pick it up. Those friends have more friends and the social buzz begins to spin out of control.

The “Bank Transfer Day” was driven by a social media campaign asking people who are fed up with bank fees to leave their banks for credit unions. In the four weeks leading up to “Bank Transfer Day,” 14,700 Wisconsin residents had already joined credit unions, bringing in $102 million in new deposits. Nationwide, 650,000 new members were added, with $4.5 billion in deposits.

I like this story because a credit union is a cooperative. Cooperatives offer an alternative to doing business with for-profit entities. Cooperatives are local, not-for-profit businesses where decisions are made by people locally.

In Wisconsin, with 650 co-ops, residents are likely to find several to provide the goods and services they need, from electricity to a home for their money. When money is spent locally, it grows local jobs and generates more local spending. Wisconsin co-ops employ about 19,000 people, paying nearly $780 million in wages and benefits.

I don’t know about you, but my patience is wearing thin with excuses and finger-pointing coming out of Washington, D.C., and little being done to jump-start the economy. Yes, there are myriad problems to solve and a wide variety of opinions as to the best way to proceed, but so far the folks tasked with finding solutions are locked in a partisan battle over political wills.

Maybe the best way to help the U.S. economy is for each one of us to make an effort to shop locally for American-made products and do business with local co-ops. I was surprised when an Internet search turned up hundreds of products made in America. One link led to ABC World News anchor Diane Sawyer’s site, which identifies American products state by state. I counted 28 manufacturers in Wisconsin, featuring everything from Kleenex tissues to Sub-Zero refrigerators.

And in Wisconsin, of course, it’s easy to find local American-made products in the co-op creamery or the daily aisle at the grocery store.

The Buy American campaign has been around a long time. It just needs a little fuel to restart the revolution. Let your 2012 New Year’s resolutions include “buy American” and do business with a cooperative. Tell all your friends on your Facebook page. See how one person can made a difference.

Let’s get the U.S. economy going!

Share Brandt is general manager of the Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association.

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