Investment Co-op Lets You Bank on Your Community

Investment co-ops are coming to the Kootenays, as reported in this recent article by Claire Paradis, appearing in the December 13, 2018 edition of the Valley Voice.


If you’re putting your money into GICs, term deposits and other investments, you probably have little or no idea where your investment funds are going. Even though responsible investments may stop your money being invested in tobacco or weapons, or may funnel your money into renewable energy, it’s still taking capital far away from your community. Community investment co-ops (CICs) keep wealth local and enrich where you live by investing in local ventures.

As of December 5, the date when CIC consultant Eden Yesh gave his presentation in Silverton and Nakusp, the West Kootenay Boundary Community Investment Co-operative had 57 of the 60 minimum founding members it needed to start the incorporation process. By the time this article was written two days later, the number of founding investors was closer to 70. The founding members come from all four sub-regions: Grand Forks-Boundary; Trail-Rossland; Nelson-Castlegar; and Arrow, Slocan and Upper Kootenay Lakes. Directors on the co-op board representing the Arrow, Slocan and Upper Kootenay Lakes are Jonathan Buttle, Joanne Cowan, and Aidan McLaren-Caux.

When Yesh initially toured the Kootenay regions in January and February to see if there was interest in setting up a CIC, the response was overwhelmingly positive. So much so that two investment areas were formed: the East Kootenay Columbia Community Investment Co-op, and the Investment co-op lets you bank on your community West Kootenay Boundary Community Investment Co-op.

Community investment coops swim against the global trend of urbanization and concentration of wealth and money in cities. Putting your money into a CIC keeps funds local, and can direct them into investments with social and environmental benefits, as well as financial gains. Some CICs have invested in renewable energy, housing, agriculture, and small/ medium investments – as determined by the priorities set by the CIC. What this means is that people will be able to invest in local ventures, know where their investment dollars are going, and take pleasure in growing both their money and their community.

The CIC is not a get-rich-quick scheme. The West Kootenay Boundary Community Investment Co-operative has a five-year redemption period, which means you must keep your money invested for a minimum of five years. Investors can come from anywhere in BC or Canada, but at least 75% of CIC members must reside in the West Kootenay-Boundary area.

Member shares are $1,000 each, and you can buy a maximum of $5,000 worth, unless you’re an accredited investor. But no matter how much you have invested, there is one vote per member. The shares have a non-par value, which means their value fluctuates depending on the CIC’s gains and losses, with the share value being set each year. And shares are non-transferrable.

Because of their partnerships with other local organizations like Community Futures and credit unions, Yesh said the community investment coop won’t cost a lot to run. With expertise such as loan application analysis being available through financing partners, the CIC’s expenses will be mainly administrative, and will be covered by returns on investments.

Partnerships with business-savvy members and organizations will allow the CIC to offer mentoring to borrowers. Members are notified when a loan is awarded and they can then choose to support the new local business, which will in turn help their investments succeed and keep money circulating locally. Yesh said the default rate associated with community investment co-op loans is less than 2%, thanks to the mentoring offered, community support, and an increased sense of responsibility people have when borrowing money from their neighbours.

You can become a member anytime, but if you’d like your name on the incorporation documents, become a member before December 14, 2018. Your money will be held in a trust account until incorporation and you’ll be in at the very beginning. Becoming a member means being part of a cooperative that will strengthen your local economy.

The 2018 Mobilizing Local Capital (MLC) project is a joint initiative between Kootenay Employment Services, BC Rural Centre, the Province of BC, and dozens of West Kootenay Boundary (WKB) economic development organizations. Over 30 economic development stakeholders formed an advisory committee and participated in four months of business planning activities. During July and August 2018, the CIC consultant, along with a co-op developer and a lawyer, compiled the WKB Investment Co-op’s founding documents.


For more on community investing, visit the Community Investment area on our website.