Employee Ownership gains momentum in WA state

The Washington Center for Employee Ownership (WACEO) is an initiative to catalyze EO across the state by raising awareness, building on existing practitioner capacity and expanding access to capital. The WACEO is being developed by the longtime EO champion Whatcom Community Foundation, with support from Project Equity. This center will join a growing number of nonprofit statewide EO centers across the country. The WACEO plans to launch in the summer of 2024.

Washington passes ambitious state legislation

Last year, Project Equity joined a wide range of stakeholders to support S.B. 5096, the most comprehensive state EO bill to date. It passed unanimously and was signed into law in May 2023 by Governor Inslee. Complementing the planned work of the WACEO and building on legislation passed previously in Colorado (in 2017, 2019, two bills in 2021, and 2023), California (in 2022), and Massachusetts (in 2022), Washington’s bill establishes:

  • An Employee Ownership program within the Department of Commerce. Commerce will coordinate across all state agencies to ensure that existing programs and regulations support EO and don’t create unintended barriers. This includes:
    • Working with the Department of Financial Institutions and lenders to create lending guidelines for EO businesses maintaining a registry of EO businesses across the state creating a referral network of technical assistance providers for EO businesses
    • An annual $2 million tax credit to offset up to 50% of feasibility study and transition costs up to $100,000 for ESOPs and $25,000 for worker cooperatives and Employee Ownership Trusts
    • A revolving loan fund for EO transitions (if federal funds are secured)
    • A state commission representing a range of key stakeholders to advise the program
We look forward to seeing the impact of these policies and initiatives for communities across the state of Washington in the years ahead.
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