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 in the Bay Area

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% of all firms and provide 49% of all jobs in California.

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 in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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 Bay Area, 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.

Learn about Fremont, CA’s proactive approach >

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% of all firms and providing 49% of jobs in California. 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. Read how the City of Fremont, CA tackled this issue >
  • 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

Project Equity clients:

A Slice of New York

Nile’s Pie

Download the infographic

Small Business Closure Crisis Infographic

What Project Equity does

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 support this work in regions across the country.

We partner with business networks, cities and regional organizations to provide information about the Silver Tsunami of business owner retirements and how employee ownership works as a succession planning strategy.

We help selling business owners assess the fit between their business goals and this approach, and, for those who move forward, we work with the owner and employees to structure and operationalize a successful transition to employee ownership and an effective ownership culture.

Wealthy communities start with healthy local businesses!

Free consultation

for businesses interested in employee ownership.

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our community Ecosystem mapping

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about our community engagement work

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about our services for businesses