About 50 Murray Harbour and area residents, along with several Cardigan Riding candidates and PEI Finance Minister Darlene Compton, gathered at the Murray Harbour Community Centre Wednesday evening to hear the basics involved in forming a co-op.
The objective was clear: a handful of area residents are interested in recruiting investors to form a co-op to potentially purchase Butler’s Clover Farm, a local general merchandise and foods business on the village’s Main Street.
Otis and Linda Butler currently own the Clover Farm and are looking at retirement although no date has been set for that. The cost of the business has not yet been determined either.
Guest speaker for the evening was David Daughton, a co-op guru and principal co-op developer in PEI and New Brunswick. Mr Daughton’s credentials are lengthy but he started natural food co-ops in the UK, Quebec and Ontario among a host of related accomplishments.
The consensus around the room focused on the need to keep businesses in small communities to serve those who live there. Otherwise they are forced to travel distances to purchase merchandise that was once available locally.
Emcee Jackie MacNeill Doiron told the group: “We know we want to do something, we know something needs to be done, something needs to happen.”
Mr Daughton said one key element is (co-op) member loyalty and there is value for everyone in a successful co-operative.
In his presentation he touched on the steps necessary to form a co-op and fielded questions such as required numbers, whether funding might be available from both levels of government to address start-up costs, the availability of training for directors, liability and so on.
Murray Harbour councillor Gary MacKay received a round of applause when he said, “Our need is to protect what we have” and appreciate what we have.
Ms Compton added her thoughts as well.
“You need champions in the community to make it happen, it’s not easy to find those people but they are out there,” she said.
Ms Compton directed the group to business development services available locally and provincially.
“There are a number of sources for help,” she said.
Ms MacNeill Doiron said one of the things people might be wondering is how establishing a co-op would affect them personally.
“We need the store and we need people to step up and let us know their opinions. There has to be a point of where to go from here. Everybody has to be on the same page.”
“You need to decide what the ask is,” Mr Daughton interjected.