Posted by: in Regional Thinking on Sep 24, 2009
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Bad news this morning when we came to set up for Providence and Beyond with John Abrams - South Mountain Company offices were burglarized last night, and John must stay on Martha's Vineyard to deal with the police, insurance, etc.
We are soldiering on in his absence and with Robert, a longtime colleague, playing both roles in what was to have been an In the Actors Studio type interview. We'll shorten this portion considerably and add the time to the cafe.
John and Robert worked together on the Martha's Vineyard 50-year plan. The Island sought to diversify its economy from just tourism. But the planners recognized the need to look at the ecology, the economy and the Island's culture _before_ examining the built environment.
We also hoped John would talk more about the cooperative structure of South Mountain. Rather than an ESOP (employee stock ownership plan), it's a true cooperative where a finite number of people are both employees and owners. At least two factors are driving an increasing popularity of this model:
- Baby Boomers who have started businesses want to get out, but don't want to sell out
- Many entrepreneurs want to stay connected to their companies after they step away from full time management
We were going to talk some about the counterintuitive business approach at SoMoCo. They insist on building high levels of affordable housing, and it is very difficult to determine which units are affordable and which are "market rate".
Lastly, we were going to ask him about how SoMoCo is dealing with the current economic downturn, especially in the housing sector. They list six steps they will take, and none of them is layoffs. Never was it suggested that the newest employees be more vulnerable, nor was it suggested that they take the opportunity to "cull" the workforce, eliminating the least effective workers.
Instead, the crisis has served to unite the company even more strongly.
Our current plan would reschedule John sometime in January or February 2010. We hope to announce it in a few days.