Education is a key component of Montana Cooperatives, and MCDC is releasing a new online education program that is designed to specifically reach our High School and College age residents. The goal of this new program is to showcase not only the cooperative business model but also the impacts and history of Cooperatives in the State of Montana. Many of our cooperatives have shared frustrations with connecting with the next generations and we hope that through this education program we can reach more youth and share the importance of being involved in your local cooperatives. The program, which was developed under the guidance and approval of the Office of Public Instruction (OPI) is a one-week online curriculum that can be modified to meet the individual teachers goals.
Workforce is critical within all sectors and all communities; really in all states. Though we cannot solve all aspects of this issue we do recognize that we can provide assistance with the utilization of Rural Housing Cooperatives and Childcare Cooperatives. We have our first rural Housing Cooperative in Hamilton; Riverside Crossing. This is a senior structured housing development but we also have an investing cooperative forming by employers in Gardiner Montana to address workforce housing needs. We are also in process of developing our Childcare Cooperative guide which we are working with our friends and partners at Bear Paw Development in Havre, the DPHHS, and the Department of Commerce. Stay tuned on that as we will have a lot coming out on childcare cooperatives within the year.
Food & Agriculture
Food and Agriculture has been and continues to be one of our key components to MCDC. From Raw Milk to Meat Processing, young producers coming together to purchase/lease land for grassbanks, conversion of a family owned ranch to a cooperative to preserve the land while allowing for the next generation to be engaged, and more, we are expanding our agriculture cooperative work all across Montana. Our studious program specialist, Eric Bergman, specifically works on Food and Agriculture projects as well as assist with the ever-growing demand of food related cooperatives which includes developing grocery stores in remote communities, food distribution chains, and recently we were awarded a new grant from Rural Development to specifically work in Indian Country.
Utilizing the Rural Investing Cooperative model, MCDC is working in communities to create the opportunity for members to invest in their own. The first one is the Musselshell Rural Investing Cooperative in Roundup where members of the community have come together to invest in the Roundup School which is being developed into a multi-use housing and retail/business facility. Rural Investing Cooperatives have huge potential in Montana.
In 2018 the Main Street Employee Ownership Act was passed through Congress which was focused on improving the access to capital and technical assistance to transition small businesses to employee ownership and save thousands of companies and jobs. On a National level the discussion continues to focus on the SBA programs being modified for Cooperatives to access, and here in Montana we are working with our colleagues at the State SBA and SBDC office to jointly provide services especially to businesses where the owner would like to retire.
Infrastructure is also a major issue within the State, and though we haven’t figured out how to address water, sewer and roads (YET), we do believe we can be part of the broadband discussions/activity. At MCDC we are now in the process of determining a fee for service program to help rural utility cooperatives, that do not have the capacity in house, access funding through grant writing and grant management. This is still in the development phase but we know that there is a need and we also want to promote the cooperation between telecons and electric cooperatives to work together to bring broadband to communities.