City of Saint Paul Engages Nexus Community Partners on LOCAL Fund 


Nexus Community Partners’ Shared Ownership Center will administer $2.5 million in funding to grow cooperative ownership in Saint Paul


March 15, 2024

SAINT PAUL, MN—Today, Mayor Melvin Carter announced that the Shared Ownership Center at Nexus Community Partners will administer the LOCAL Fund, in partnership with the City of Saint Paul Office of Financial Empowerment.

“Helping frontline workers buy the business and facilitating group ownership of real estate is exactly the kind of practical, everyday improvement to our residents’ lives that our work from City Hall must aspire to achieve,” said Mayor Carter. “I am thrilled to have Nexus as a partner to facilitate these programs.”

Comprised of two programs – Worker Ownership and Community Ownership – the LOCAL Fund will leverage $2.5 million dedicated to supporting worker cooperatives and real estate investment cooperatives.

“The Shared Ownership Center at Nexus brings expertise in cooperative development with a long history of building community-led coalitions that center equity,” said Ikram Koliso, Interim Director of the Saint Paul Office of Financial Empowerment. “Nexus brings the right combination of technical skills, administrative capacity, and equity-centered leadership for the LOCAL Fund.”

The LOCAL Fund will build community wealth, anchor jobs locally, grow the local economy and tax base, and center an ownership culture that uplifts residents of Saint Paul now and for generations to come.

According to a 2018 study from National Center for Employee Ownership, employee-owned businesses, such as co-ops, have been shown to create a 92% increase in household net worth, a 33% higher hourly wage, and 53% longer job tenure. Real estate co-ops have been shown to revitalize commercial corridors by offering stable and affordable properties to businesses, while giving community members a voice in development decisions and a share of the profits.

The LOCAL Fund: Worker Ownership offers grants and technical assistance for worker co-op startups, conversions of existing businesses, and existing co-ops. The LOCAL Fund: Community Ownership supports shared-ownership entities with grants and technical assistance for predevelopment, acquisition, demolition, and rehabilitation of commercial properties.

Patty Viafara, Direcotr of the Worker Ownership Inititiave at Nexus said, “The Shared Ownership Center at Nexus is excited to build on our seven-plus years of supporting cooperative development with Black, Indigenous, and people of color at the forefront.”

Both the Worker Ownership and Community Ownership programs are open today! Schedule a consultation to learn how you can apply or visit

This project is being supported, in whole or in part, by federal award number SLFRP1612 awarded to Nexus Community Partners by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.


Nexus Community Partners (Nexus) is a nonprofit organization based in Saint Paul, MN, with a 20-year history of building more engaged and powerful communities of color through innovative initiatives and community-centered programming. For more information, visit

Since 2019, the Shared Ownership Center at Nexus, formerly called the Worker Ownership Initiative, has worked with 50-plus companies to explore models of shared ownership and supported the development of eight cooperatives across the Twin Cities. From assessing fit and feasibility to becoming cooperatively-owned and operated, SOC@N brings expertise and an equity lens in all steps of cooperative development.



Kamal Baker

In February, a group of Nexus staff and Minnesota community wealth builders headed out west to sunny Oakland, CA for Project Equity’s Employee Ownership Equity Summit. Our Minnesota delegation appreciated the opportunity to map out our national shared ownership ecosystem and the cross-sector learnings shared between policy makers, financial institutions and regional cooperators. Big thank you to Project Equity for hosting an energizing, connecting, and informative summit!

From Christina Nicholson, Cooperative Finance Developer at Nexus:

“The trip to Oakland was fantastic, and spending time with all the amazing folks from the Twin Cities was very work—and life—affirming. Mayor Carter’s keynote powerfully kicked off the conference, opening up rich discussion about the definition of Equity. What inspired me most was the amount of genuine commitment to financial and social equity, and ingenious ways people build it in the Twin Cities and beyond.

Nexus Worker Ownership Initiative is excited to be featured in a new report from the Brookings Institute. Read the Saint Paul Case Study here.

“Institutionalizing inclusive growth: Rewiring systems to rebuild local economies,” is a playbook of innovative economic development strategies. Through in-depth case studies, it profiles the wide variety of local public, private, and civic institutions stewarding their communities through the four pillars that drive inclusive growth: economic development, talent development, spatial development, and asset development.



Nexus Worker Ownership Initiative is excited to announce that The People’s Canvass has transitioned into a worker-owned cooperative. Through this conversion, they combine highly-skilled, community-based organizing power with a democratic, sustainable workplace. Congratulations!

Transitioning a business to employee-ownership is a triple win—business owners secure the future legacy of their business; employees get a voice in their workplace and are able to share in the wealth they help create; and communities retain important local businesses.

Nexus Worker Ownership Initiative has been working closely with workers at The People’s Canvass to make their vision a reality. Laura Kiernan, lead trainer at TPC, said, “Nexus has been such an invaluable companion on our journey towards workplace democracy. You could not ask for a better knowledge base and network to have on hand during a legal transition…I’m so grateful we were able to partner with them.”

Are you interested in practical resources to rebuild, reestablish, and reignite your businesses through worker-ownership? Contact us for a free consultation!

On this Worker Ownership Wednesday, we’re celebrating Christina Nicholson’s 1 year anniversary at Nexus.

Christina came to Nexus last year with so much fire, humor, and warmth—and 25 years of cooperative experience! She’s one third of the talented Worker Ownership Initiative team, and a lovingly curious and supportive co-worker.

After one year at Nexus, Christina shared with me one big thing she learned: “Over the past year, I’m really learning how much of Nexus’ work is building strong root systems. These root systems connect us deeply to each other, as individuals, organizations, and communities. But we don’t always see them there under the ground. Strengthening our connections to each other is a huge part of building alternatives to unjust and extractive systems. I am so humbled and grateful to be a part of organization that is dreaming a better world into existence by working hard everyday to love the hell out of it”.

Are you interested in learning more about Christina’s work? Visit us at to explore how worker ownership can transform small businesses and communities.

Did you hear that the People’s Canvass (formerly Knock Knock LLC) has become a worker-owned cooperative?

The Minneapolis team that built the nation’s largest deep canvassing team in November, and collected 16,000 signatures to put the Yes ‘4’ Minneapolis public safety initiative on the ballot, has broken new ground as the United States’ first political canvassing worker cooperative. Nexus Worker Ownership is proud to have supported them through this process.

“I’ll be the first to say it — I knew nothing about how any of this co-op stuff worked. I’m a canvasser. I go to the door and I talk to people about issues in their community,” said Charlie Bartlett, a lead trainer at The People’s Canvass and a member of the co-op transition team. “But working with Nexus gave us a vision and a pathway to achieve that vision. In the same way we feel called to do the work to improve our communities, the folks at Nexus are called to make that work itself more equitable.”

Are you interested in practical resources to rebuild, reestablish, and reignite your businesses through worker-ownership? Contact Nexus Worker Ownership Initiative for a free consultation at

Six out of ten Minnesota business owners plan to sell in the next decade

Minnesota —Today, the Minnesota Center for Employee Ownership (MNCEO) released new data that reveals twin crises from the Silver Tsunami coupled with COVID-19 for businesses across Minnesota. Developed by Project Equity, the study shows that approximately 50% of all job-creating businesses in Minnesota (53,000) are owned by baby boomers. It is estimated that 60% of these businesses plan to transfer ownership in the next decade and COVID-19 has accelerated this timeline for many. The study results are presented on a county by county basis at

Affecting approximately 600,000 Minnesota employees and with nearly $124 billion in generated revenue at stake, the Minnesota Center for Employee Ownership, Project Equity and Twin Cities-based Nexus Community Partners are joining together in an effort to greatly expand the number of employee owned businesses in the state to stem the tide of the Silver Tsunami and the fall out from COVID-19.  MNCEO aims to engage community leaders and state and local government officials about employee ownership as a way to preserve these at-risk businesses, provide local quality jobs, strengthen the community’s economic resiliency, and create equity and wealth for all employees regardless of their race, ethnicity or education.

“The timing is crucial to educate business owners across Minnesota and to provide resources to help them navigate their options,” said Sue Crockett, Executive Director of the MNCEO, a nonprofit that serves as the central hub for information on employee ownership in Minnesota. “Each year, Minnesota ranks in the top ten in the number of employee-owned companies across the country. We’re on a mission to continue the momentum by turning the entire state of Minnesota into a place where every working person can also be an employee-owner.”

Roger Ryberg, former owner of Windings, Inc. in New Ulm, Minnesota, identified employee ownership as a pathway to retirement by choosing an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) model. His daughters were not interested in assuming management responsibility in the 100-person manufacturing company, and he did not want to walk away. Employee ownership allowed him to sell the business on his own timeline, preserve jobs and keep the company rooted in the community.

“Transitioning a business you have grown from scratch is not only a financial transaction, but an emotional experience. Employee ownership kept my company anchored in New Ulm, retained valued employees, and provided opportunity for growth, not to mention the financial benefits the employees have gained over the years,” states Roger Ryberg. Due to the strong culture of employee ownership, Windings, Inc. was better able to weather the COVID-19 economic downturn.

“What businesses are experiencing in Minnesota is reflected across the country. As half of all business owners near retirement age, most do not have an exit strategy for what will happen to their business and employees once they retire. Employee ownership creates a roadmap for resiliency,” stated Alison Lingane, co-founder of Project Equity.

“This moment is an opportunity to grow and perpetuate community wealth by teaming up with government and community leaders to expand opportunities for business ownership,” said Benjamin Tsai, Director of Community Wealth Building at Nexus Community Partners, a nonprofit that helps businesses transition to employee ownership, with an expertise in worker-owned cooperatives.


Minnesota Center for Employee Ownership

The Minnesota Employee Ownership Center (MNCEO), a member of the Employee Ownership Expansion Network of state centers,  serves the entire state of Minnesota as the central hub for free, unbiased information on employee-ownership. Its primary mission is to educate business owners and their advisors on the benefits of employee ownership. MNCEO provides resources, case studies, articles, and a list of service providers who can assist with employee ownership transitions.

Project Equity

Project Equity is a national leader in the movement to harness employee ownership to maintain thriving local business communities, honor selling owners’ legacies and address income and wealth inequality. Project Equity works with partners around the country to raise awareness about employee ownership as an exit strategy for business owners, and provides hands-on consulting and support to companies that want to transition to employee ownership.

Nexus Community Partners

Nexus Community Partners, based in the Twin Cities, works to build a more inclusive economy for communities of color. The Nexus Worker Ownership Initiative helps business owners with succession planning and specializes in exploring the benefits of incorporating employee ownership into their transition plans.

For Immediate Release

Sue Crockett
Mobile: 612-590-1191

Since Christina Nicholson joined the team last November, her energy, humor, and deep knowledge of cooperative economics have already made an impression. Christina is the Worker Ownership Initiative Program Manager, an Aquarius, and a talented quick-bread maker. We sat down over zoom to talk about her role, her journey to Nexus, and her hopes for the future.

Interview edited for length and clarity

What do you do at Nexus?

Everyday for me in the Worker Owner Initiative is a new learning experience! For example, through our role as a Minneapolis C-TAP provider (Cooperative Technical Assistance Program), I’m working with a small language-learning cooperative. We meet weekly to develop their new bylaws and articles, as well as helping them build their internal culture and their ecosystem of outside resources. Together, this foundation will help the cooperative grow and thrive once it’s established. I am also doing work as a financial analyst – looking at another business who is considering converting to a cooperative, and helping them understand how to create a fair sale price for the worker owners who are considering purchasing the business.

In general, I have found in business that people are disinvited from their own agency when it comes to the language of finance. In my new role, I have found that helping teams understand the technical side of things can help build a cooperative’s culture— this is exciting because it becomes a more empowering relationship. The goal for me is for the teams I serve to be able to say “We understand this model, we’re taking this model, and moving beyond it.”

What did you do before Nexus?

In my 25 year cooperative career I’ve done every job from front line bagging to leading whole organizations as a general manager. In 2019, I got my MBA to understand how current capital systems move, at a more technical level, to help people build the bridge between their work and their ability to claim their own agency.

I’ve learned that you are always a better leader if you are doing the work with people. Successful leaders aren’t only thinking about the work, or visioning, but they are IN it. My work has been about leading on the ground and being influenced by those around me. Cooperatives help foster that environment and give you a sense that you are truly interdependent in the work you do.

What do you hope to learn next year?

I want to learn how to support people’s health, agency and wellbeing while seeing them move away from conventional, white supremacist, capitalist models of business. As more people from historically marginalized communities continue to grow in their power, I am energized to see how their cultural and individual gifts will shape the future of cooperatives!

What do you like to do outside of work?

I love to cook, and I always overplant kale in my garden. We have a LOT of recipes for raw kale salads. Thankfully, my daughter appreciates the earthiness. I also love to travel—I love oceans and mountains, but I am the happiest when I get to spend time with my wife and a good book!

This November, the Worker Owner Initiative, a part of Nexus Community Partners, officially became a technical assistance provider with the City of Minneapolis’ Cooperative Technical Assistance Program (C-TAP).

In this role, we help business owners with succession planning, share information on forming a cooperative business or refining a cooperative business model, and more. The Nexus Worker Ownership Initiative (WOI) team specializes in exploring the benefits of employee-owned business models for restructuring or as an exit strategy.

This information and training is provided free of charge, with costs covered by the City of Minneapolis. For more information on ways that WOI can support your organization, please reach out to the WOI at or

Learn more about C-TAP below (excerpted from City of Minneapolis):

City of Minneapolis B-TAP | C-TAP Program

In 2016, the City of Minneapolis expanded its Business Technical Assistance Program (B-TAP) to include services aimed at supporting the development of new Minneapolis co-operatives by launching the Co-operative Technical Assistance Program (C-TAP).

The City desires to leverage the co-op model for maximum community benefit to:

    • Act as an economic development tool to reduce poverty and promote social cohesion.­
    • Increase racial and ethnic diversity, and community ownership.
    • Support innovation, community building, and local investment by encouraging a more collaborative business model.


At Nexus, we recognize the difficult choices many business owners face right now. We have expanded our business services and created our new Business Legacy Program, which implements a  3-pronged strategy to help keep local legacy businesses stabilized in our community.

  • Consulting on succession planning: helping businesses explore succession planning and restructuring options provided by employee-ownership.
  • Technical assistance for emergency funds: assisting in finding and applying for emergency loans and grants.
  • Grants for businesses: limited funding is available to clients that are exploring employee-ownership options.

Many local businesses are considering their liquidity, exit, and succession planning options. Selling all or part of a business to the employees is a viable option for owners looking to exit or revitalize their business and can be an opportunity to access new capital, gain tax benefits, motivate employees, and secure the legacy of the business. Owners can opt to stay with the business as a co-owner, or transition out at their own pace.

The Nexus Worker Ownership Initiative offers free consultations for business owners to learn about transitioning to employee ownership. Our full suite of services includes:

  • Learn about succession planning and restructuring via employee ownership models
  • Feasibility studies to assess a fair sales price and tax benefits for the seller
  • structuring the sale
  • Lining up financing with our CDFI and philanthropic partners
  • Training employees on governance (management structures often stay the same)

Find out if employee ownership is a fit for your business. For many business owners, it is the ideal way to receive fair market value, gain tax benefits, and to ensure that it will live on as an asset for your employees and your community.

Contact us for a free consultation. We keep all private information confidential, and never share with 3rd parties without written permission.

A summary of different response and recovery resources for businesses during the COVID-19 crisis

In conversation with businesses and experts in the field, we have been gathering information on resources for small businesses and co-ops (emergency loans, grants, and etc). The situation is constantly changing and we are working to keep this document updated regularly. It also includes specific advice that can help co-ops navigate some of the application processes. You can access it here.

In addition to assisting with immediate economic impacts, The Nexus Worker Ownership Initiative is  still available to talk with businesses about succession planning and exit strategies. We specialize in working with owners and employees who are interested in exploring employee-owned business models. Please contact us if we can be of assistance.

The Nexus Worker-Ownership Initiative is proud to announce the completion of its first cooperative conversion! Starting in 2020, Happy Earth Cleaning Cooperative is now in business. 

Nexus, in partnership with Project Equity, helped provide technical assistance for Happy Earth Cleaning LLC to become an employee-owned co-op.  Over a period of 10 months the previous business owners and employees were guided through a proven conversion process that included feasibility studies, structuring the deal, and training employees to become owners of their own business.

MPR rounds out the story with their article, “Supporters see worker co-ops as way to spread the wealth. How one housecleaning business joined the workers’ cooperative movement”. An excerpt of the story is below. You can listen to the audio and read the full article here.

“With the support of the cleaning company’s founders, employees in January officially transitioned the company into the Happy Earth Cleaning Co-op — a cooperative owned and run by workers. Employees at worker cooperatives get a say in how their business is run and a cut of the profits. As wealth disparities continue to increase in the country, some are hoping co-ops can make the economy more equitable and democratic.”

Thanks also go out to The City of Minneapolis Co-op Technical Assistance Program (C-TAP), Neighborhood Development Center (NDC), The Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers (MCCD). Project Equity, and Erin Heelan Consulting.