The Alberta Community & Cooperative Association’s Unleashing Local Capital project empowers communities to invest locally, direct their own economic development and reduce dependency on government supports by directing outward-bound investments toward local businesses, keeping local capital flowing through local communities. This project also educates rural communities on how to establish an Opportunity Development Co-operative – a co-op that pools and manages capital raised from local investors, which is then invested in local businesses.
Unleashing Local Capital is a unique and innovative local financing program that empowers groups to mobilize resources in their community to finance local business development and foster community ownership. It is based on the premise that there are the resources, the leadership, and the know-how in local communities to make them vibrant places based on a strong local economy.
The Alberta Community and Co-operative Association, along with a host of partners has helped numerous Albertan communities establish Opportunity Development Co-operatives. These are for-profit co-operatives that pool money within the community to finance business development. Opportunity Development Co-operatives are also RRSP eligible, meaning that millions of dollars can easily be accessed and taken out of Wall Street and Bay Street to be used to build a better Main Street.
Unleashing Local Capital started as a two-year pilot project (2012/13) funded by the Rural Alberta Development Fund. It was led by the Alberta Community and Co-operative Association in conjunction with the following strategic partners:
- Alberta Business Family Institute
- Alberta Rural Development Network
- Athabasca University
- Community Futures Network of Alberta
- Conseil de développement économique de l’Alberta
Unleashing Local Capital is based on of a variety of successful community investment programs across Canada (in particular Nova Scotia’s Community Economic Development Investment Fund (CEDIF). Most recently, community investing has been applied in three rural Albertan communities, all of which were facing the loss of major economic infrastructure. Using this model, these communities were able to purchase bedrock assets in their community, make them more profitable, and create jobs.
Why Invest Locally?
Every year Albertans put over $4 billion of their savings in RRSPs. And billions more are put in non-registered funds (stocks, bonds, mutual funds). Most of that money is invested outside their communities, typically to finance large corporations that create jobs and wealth outside their community, and often outside the country
Yet many rural communities are in serious need of investment. Strong, locally–owned businesses are scarce. This scarcity reinforces other troubling developments, like outmigration and the decay of infrastructure. Stores on the main street are boarded up. Schools close down. Some communities are booming, of course, but the main beneficiaries of this boom are not local. They are the owners of big-box stores, who typically live elsewhere. Once again, communities are left out of the equation. Their needs do not get met. Opportunities for turning things around get missed.
Investing Locally is a way to stop missing those opportunities.