Neechi Foods in Manitoba Offering Non-member Investment Shares to Aid Expansion

From Neechi Foods Co-op

 

An inner-city cooperative is inviting the general public to buy investment shares as a way of promoting “economic healing”. Today Neechi Foods Co-Op launched its first Investment Share Offering. The purpose of the share offering is to help raise capital needed to complete the development of Neechi Commons Community Business Complex at 865 Main St. The Investment Shares are being sold to the general public, marking the first time that any cooperative in Manitoba has offered shares to non-members as well as to members. Residents of Manitoba will be eligible for the Province’s 30 % Community Enterprise Development Tax Credit on share purchases of up to $30,000. These Class A Shares are modestly priced at $100 per share to encourage broad public participation. Class B shares, which sell for $1,000 each, are geared to organizations and to individuals who do not qualify for the provincial tax credit.

 

Neechi is hoping to tap into the growing public interest in socially responsible investment (SRI), whereby monetary returns are balanced with social and environmental benefits. Neechi’s president, Louise Champagne, emphasized that, “investing in Neechi Commons is not about chasing speculative cash gains”. “Instead, it is about investing in a down-to-earth business that projects large community benefits alongside relatively modest financial returns. It is hoped that Neechi Commons will open in June, helping to bring badly needed revitalization to Main Street north of the CPR tracks and to adjoining north-end neighbourhoods. It will feature a neighbourhood supermarket, a fruit and vegetable courtyard and farmers’ market, cafeteria restaurant, specialty boutiques, a bakery and an Aboriginal arts centre. About 60 jobs will be created, drawing heavily on local area residents in a part of town that has one of the highest urban unemployment rates in Canada. Many of the jobs will go to youth. “It is high time that dignified and meaningful jobs start replacing street gangs”, says Champagne. “Economic balance and self-reliance in Aboriginal communities have been undermined for a very long time. We hope that Neechi Commons will be part of the economic healing that is needed to support personal and social healing.”

 

Neechi Foods Co-op is incorporated as a worker cooperative, owned and operated by its staff.  A cooperative business model is in line with the primary values of sharing and community that anchored Aboriginal economies for thousands of years. The worker coop model gives people the opportunity to be in charge of their economic destinies as business owners, as well as employees. Because it is the workers who make up the membership in the co-op, the number of members is small compared to most consumer co-ops, where the membership consists of customers. This is one of the main reasons that Neechi’s shares are being offered to non-members as well as to members. Neechi’s existing store at 325 Dufferin Avenue has been in operation for over 22 years. It is particularly renowned for its bannock, wild blueberries and smiles.

 

The Neechi Commons facility is a make-over and expansion of the old California Fruit Market premises. Now close to 90 per cent complete, it includes geo-thermal heating and cooling and already has been awarded Green Globes certification for its high environmental standards. Project costs for Neechi Commons include property acquisition, construction and opening costs totaling over $7 million. Neechi’s business plan projects $1.5 million in share capital. Both the provincial and federal governments have provided substantial capital grants to help cover construction costs and Assiniboine Credit Union, The Jubilee fund, the Canadian Worker Co-op Federation, co-op members and other individuals have provided credit to advance the construction. “Now we need public support to complete the long-term financing required to make the Commons a success”, says Champagne. “Neechi” (often spelled “Nijii”) is an Ojibwa and Cree term for friend, or sister or brother.

 

The components of the Investment Share Offering Package can be opened in the following pfd files:

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