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18,920 Central Coast Small Businesses Threatened by Aging

Project Equity Data Shows Potential Losses and Opportunities with Employee Ownership

Project Equity, an organization advancing economic resiliency in communities across the country, today released new data for the Central Coast region of California showing that 18,920 businesses in this area are owned by baby boomers who are likely to retire and close or consolidate their businesses in the next 5-15 years. The data was collected in partnership with Santa Cruz Community Ventures, a nonprofit focused on building compassionate and equitable local economies.

“What’s important to know about these 18,920 businesses is that they represent the best opportunities for Central Coast communities to build wealth for working people, through employee ownership transitions,” said Alison Lingane, co-founder of Project Equity, based in Oakland, California. “But, if these businesses close altogether, it could mean thousands of jobs lost and severe impacts to the local tax base.”

Project Equity’s objective is to help small businesses thrive, even well after owners have retired. In the Central Coast, timing is key, as retiring business owners consider dissolving their businesses, or selling to others with no ties to the region. “Either outcome would be unfortunate. This area has a distinct California culture and prominent history, and small businesses are core to its identity,” Lingane added.

In terms of work equity, the stakes are just as great. Small business ownership is vital for providing opportunities for a diverse workforce. According to Maria Cadenas, the Executive Director of Santa Cruz Community Ventures, “Latinas earned less than 43 cents for every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men.” She continues, “Eight men have as much wealth as 50 percent of the world’s population. These disparities threaten our community’s diversity, identity and ability to thrive.” As a result, her organization is developing a loan fund to support employee-owned businesses. Learn More.

To help paint the picture of the true impact of potential business closures, the Central Coast data highlights 18,920 privately-held businesses with employees – 45 percent of the total – spread across the Central Coast region and segmented by industry and the six counties (Santa Cruz, San Benito, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura). The data presentation, searchable by county and industry, also shows 156,690 employees, $29.46B in total sales and $5.79B in the payroll of these companies. The data are drawn from the most recent U.S. Census Survey of Small Business Owners (2012) and was part of a joint project with the Democracy At Work Institute.

Lingane concludes, “Now, is the time to work to keep Central Coast businesses active, to create positive outcomes for employees and the region’s local communities, by transitioning them to employee-owned businesses.”

About Project Equity: Project Equity supports companies across the country to transition to employee ownership, and has partnered with communities as diverse as Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Detroit, Michigan, rural Western North Carolina and the Twin Cities in Minnesota. Visit

About Santa Cruz Community Ventures: Santa Cruz Community Ventures is a nonprofit organization focused on building an inclusive economy. Visit

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