As baby boomer business owners retire

our local business landscape is poised to go through a dramatic shift. Employee ownership keeps these businesses rooted for the long term.

Baby boomers own almost HALF

of all privately-held businesses with employees nationwide

6 out of 10 U.S. business owners

plan to sell their company over the next decade

Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy.

They make up 99.7% of all firms and provide 48% of all jobs in the United States.

Employee ownership deepens the impact

of local businesses and keeps them locally-owned for the long term.

Benefits to the selling owner

– Preserve your legacy
– Take care of your employees
– Realize market rate for your business
– Enjoy tax advantages

For cities & regional planners

– Track the impact in your region
– Engage with businesses & help them plan for succession
– Employee ownership education

Updates in progress: new data coming in summer 2021

Baby boomers

own nearly half of all privately-held businesses with employees nationwide.

The problem

As baby boomer business owners retire, our local business landscape is poised to go through a dramatic shift. With boomers owning about half of all privately-held businesses in the United States we will see a massive ownership changeover of locally-held businesses as the ‘Silver Tsunami’ of retirements approaches.

The vast majority (over 85%) of business owners do not have a succession plan in place, and increasingly, many are finding it hard to find a buyer when they are ready to sell.

As a result, some of these companies will quietly close down, a very small percent will be passed on to family members, others will sell to another local owner, and some will be sold to a larger company or out of area buyer. Those in this last category will likely lay off employees and will further concentrate ownership and wealth.

We have the opportunity to keep many of these businesses locally-owned for the long term and to deepen their positive impact on our local economy.

How? By helping them transition to broad-based employee ownership.


Why does this matter?

Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy, making up 99.7% of all firms and providing 48% of jobs nationally. Locally owned businesses circulate three times more money back into the local economy than absentee-owned firms or chain businesses. And local businesses are based on local relationships, fostering trust and civic engagement.

Employee ownership extends the legacy of these businesses while deepening their impact in our community. By selling businesses to the employees businesses remain anchored in the region while continuing to provide good jobs, enhance access to wealth and promote entrepreneurship.

What can we do about it?

We can all play a role in keeping businesses local and promoting employee ownership.

Raise awareness of the problem

We hear about the impact of baby boomer retirements on health care and on employment, but there is low awareness of the impact on local business ownership. Please share this information with your city government and others who can help.

  • Local governments can measure the impact on their tax base by using business license data to track how many businesses are over 15, 20 or 25 years old.
  • City and regional planners can convene local officials, business networks, lenders and others to determine how they are assessing and addressing this issue.
Engage businesses about employee ownership transitions

The benefits of broad-based employee ownership are clear, but most business owners do not know that selling their business to their employees is a great way to preserve its legacy.

  • Business service providers can add succession planning to their service offerings and include employee ownership as an option
  • Cities can add succession planning into their economic development goals and partner with organizations that provide education and expertise on employee ownership
  • Regional planners can integrate the stabilization of local business ownership into their goals
Explore below to gain insight into the effects of the small business closure crisis in the following regions

Fremont, California

Highlighting the manufacturing sector

Learn about

our community Ecosystem mapping

Contact us

to learn about business retention risk due to the small business closure crisis in your community

Learn more

about our services for businesses

Learn about

our community Ecosystem mapping

Contact us

to learn about business retention risk due to the small business closure crisis in your community

Learn more

about our services for businesses

Project Equity and our partners

As a national organization, Project Equity advocates for and raises awareness of broad-based, democratic employee ownership, and we support businesses in transitioning to this highly beneficial business model. We are based in the San Francisco Bay Area, and through amazing local partners, we also support this work in regions across the country.

ASSETS, our outreach partner in Central Pennsylvania, is a non-profit organization focused on transforming our community through business. They provide training, 1-on-1 coaching, and financing to entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs looking to start or grow their businesses.

The Center for Community-Based Enterprise (C2BE), our outreach partner in Michigan, provides legal, financial, product development, marketing and self-management expertise to create living-wage jobs through employee ownership in any of its forms—particularly among historically under-served populations in the Detroit region.

​LA LISC is one of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation offices. LISC is a national non-profit organization supporting community development in cities and rural areas throughout the country. They serve as an intermediary, building bridges between our local non-profit partners and the resources they need to transform underserved neighborhoods into thriving communities of opportunity and choice.

The Minnesota Center for Employee Ownership serves as the central hub for information and resources around employee ownership in Minnesota.

The Missouri Center for Employee Ownership’s mission is to educate business owners and their advisors on the benefits of employee ownership via Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs), worker cooperatives, and Employee Ownership Trusts (EOTs). MOCEO provides resources, case studies and articles, and a list of service providers who can assist with employee ownership transitions. MOCEO serves the entire state of Missouri.

Nexus, our partner in the Twin Cities region works with community-based organizations in low-wealth areas to support them in creating communities that reflect the vision and creativity of the people who live and work there.

The North Carolina Employee Ownership Center, (NCEOC) is on a mission to preserve and protect the job and community impacts of small and medium sized businesses throughout the state of North Carolina by helping to transition many to employee ownership. NCEOC has a particular focus on increasing these opportunities to BIPOC-owned businesses and businesses with majority-BIPOC workforces.

Santa Cruz Community Ventures, our outreach partner in the Central Coast Region of California, is a nonprofit organization focused on building an inclusive economy. They are committed to doing their work in ways that remove systemic barriers to economic equity in a variety of family-centered, culturally appropriate ways.


The Texas Center for Employee Ownership is on a mission to turn the state of Texas into a place where every working person can also be an employee-owner. The TCEO serves as the central hub for information and resources around employee ownership in Texas.


The Industrial Commons, our partner with offices across Western North Carolina, formed in 2015 in response to a need to provide resources and support to firms and networks in a way that improves livelihoods and roots wealth in communities in Western North Carolina.

Whatcom Community Foundation, our outreach partner in Washington State, is a nonprofit organization focused on amplifying the force of philanthropy by connecting people, ideas and resources so that communities across Whatcom County flourish.

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