man in black jacket wearing yellow hard hat
Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

Last week in Doncaster, I hosted a session to explore the benefits of employee ownership and worker co-operatives.  These different approaches to business ownership have the potential to transform South Yorkshire’s economy, a central pillar of our move to a co-operative model where more wealth is created here, and more wealth stays here.

South Yorkshire has been leading the way.  We are proud to host the country’s first Ownership Hub; a symbol of our ambition to create an economy that works for everyone in South Yorkshire.

Our businesses are already showing what that could look like.  Last Thursday, I was joined by Karen Mosley, Manager Director of HLM Architects.  HLM Architects recently transitioned to an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT). By placing 100% of the shareholding into a Trust, they placed the practice’s future firmly in the hands of its employees.  Since then, they’ve won numerous awards for being one of the best firms in the region to work for.

HLM Architects have put employees at the heart of their business structure.  We will continue to support them all the way. Our Ownership Hub has already trained seventy business advisers on co-operative models of business, so they can recognise the opportunities whenever and wherever they appear. We’re pulling together a regular development training programme, too, and looking at what more we can do to expand access to co-working spaces and innovative forms of financing.

But, ultimately, this goes beyond ownership.  The Ownership Hub is a pillar of the community wealth building approach we are adopting across South Yorkshire.  When the Ownership Hub operates alongside an improved skills system, focused on inclusion; new municipally-backed financial mechanisms; socially conscious procurement; and a growth strategy focused on nourishing our assets, we can deliver a future our communities can be proud of.

The rest of the world is waking up to this opportunity, too.  In the last month, the US state of California passed its employee ownership law, paving the way for them to create their own Employee Ownership Hub.  My colleagues in Wales, London and Greater Manchester are joining us in the UK, showing what co-operators in power look like.

With economic insecurity rising as productivity and wellbeing flatline, employee-ownership as an alternative way of doing business will only become more popular and mainstream. I was proud, as I took to the stage last week as our region’s Co-operative Mayor, to be able to say we did it here first in South Yorkshire.