Business & Economy
Cooperatives Provide Valuable Lessons for Young Entrepreneurs PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Joy Venhorst   
Wednesday, 22 June 2011 14:58

AMES, Iowa -- Some people see cooperatives as the way electricity gets to their rural home, or how local crops get from grain bins to the market, or the way to buy fresh, locally grown foods. Some people call cooperatives a business model,but college students and graduates who have had experiences with cooperatives see them as a way to gain valuable work experiences, scholarships and the means to addressing community needs.

Members benefit
Mingwei Huang, Director of Education and Training at North American Students of Cooperation (NASCO), lived in a housing co-op as a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The housing co-op was not only a beneficial living situation, it was also an educational experience.

“My co-op was in the heart of campus, but was not entirely a student co-op,” Huang said. “In fact, it was about half student and half community and workers. This was very grounding for me since it's easy for students to live in a bubble. I learned a lot and developed many great relationships while living with so many great, interesting people.”
In fact, skills like basic budgeting, communication, handling conflict, minor maintenance and accountability were skills she learned while living in the housing co-op that remain valuable to her today.

Member ownership and control
A housing co-op is significantly different from an apartment building, rental house or sorority or fraternity. As a member-owner, each resident contributes to the house labor and has a say in how it’s run and managed. Huang used her time in a housing co-op to become involved on its board as vice president and in member education. These responsibilities gave her leadership experience, in addition to teaching her about collaboration, democracy and accountability.

“In our society, we are taught to think and act independently or in our own interests,” she said. “We tend to organize our relations with others as sole independent people rather than interdependent groups and networks.”

The ability for any cooperative to succeed depends on a collective effort, which Huang says is accomplished through healthy communication and navigation of power dynamics. These skills can carry over into the personal and professional realms.

Huang’s experience with her housing co-op demonstrate three principles that are widely recognized and practiced by cooperatives: member benefits, member ownership and member control. According to, an educational partnership of 74 land-grant universities, these principles distinguish a cooperative from other kinds of businesses. The member-benefits principle is carried out when members unite to produce services otherwise not available, gain access to markets, or other mutually beneficial reasons. The member-owner principle is simple; members own the cooperative and have the financial and operational obligations and rewards of an owner. The member-control principle is exercised when members vote at membership meetings and serve on the board of directors.

Jesse Martin applies cooperative principles to the daily operations of Martin’s Native Lumber of Dayton, Va., even though the business is a private, fourth-generation, family-owned business.

Communicating through one-on-one employee meetings and offering profit-sharing retirement portfolios are two practices Martin applies that reflect the cooperative business model.

“Cooperative education has allowed me to consider the world of business with a far more open mind,” Martinsaid. “Often, I approach items in my own business with principles learned through the co-op education programs. I have found that if we think of our customers as owners and having a vested interest in our company, that we provide higher quality service.”

Martin became involved with cooperatives after attending a conference during college and later becoming selected as the National Institute of Cooperative Education’s chairman. The National Institute on Cooperative Education (NICE) is a youth scholar program that provides educational and social activities. The goals of the institute include increasing the understanding of basic cooperative principles, the challenges faced by cooperatives and the opportunities provided by cooperatives.

Expanding cooperative education
A leadership team made up of university faculty and researchers has created the eXtension Cooperative Community of Practice to increase the visibility of the cooperative business model with information they contribute to the website.

Leah Henkes, an Iowa State University senior in dairy science, contributed to the development of the cooperatives one Xtension website during her initial involvement with cooperatives.

“I think it is extremely beneficial for young people to learn about the cooperative business model because it gives them the chance to help network their abilities and resources,” Henkes said. “By working with others to accomplish a goal it is easier to reach that goal.”

Three Iowa State University students from Ron Deiter’s Cooperatives class had the opportunity to attend the 2011 College Conference on Cooperatives (CCOC), a three-day program offered by the National Farmers Union (NFU) and the cooperative community of the upper Midwest on Feb. 19-21. The conference helps college students gain a more thorough understanding of cooperatives and the career opportunities available. It exposes attendees to the many areas of the economy stimulated by cooperatives – beyond agriculture.

Students wanting to be more engaged with local cooperatives, thinking of starting a cooperative, or wanting a better understanding of the responsibilities of a board member, can explore the resources available at the eXtension Cooperatives Community of Practice website. Leadership programs, local job opportunities, scholarships and careers offered by cooperatives are featured on the site.


Governor Quinn Kicks-Off Illinois Export Week PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Andrew Mason   
Tuesday, 21 June 2011 13:29

Reaffirms Commitment to Doubling State’s Exports by 2015;

Presents 2011 Illinois Export Awards

CHICAGO – June 21, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn today reaffirmed his commitment to doubling Illinois’ exports by 2015 during an address to kick off Illinois Export Week, a five-day event that helps Illinois businesses expand into the global marketplace. The Governor also presented the 2011 Illinois Export Awards.

"More than half a million Illinois jobs are supported by exports, but we cannot stop now. Our state’s continued economic vitality depends on our ability to build key global partnerships," said Governor Quinn. "To continue to grow and lead in the 21st century, we must continue to take every step necessary to increase our exports, ultimately doubling them by 2015.”

Expanding global trade partnerships is critical to Illinois' continued economic recovery. Illinois ranks first in the Midwest for exports and foreign direct investment. The state’s exports totaled nearly $49.8 billion in 2010, a 19.6 percent increase over 2009. In the first quarter of 2011, Illinois exported more than $14.74 billion worth of non-agriculture goods - an increase of 30.43 percent compared to the same period in 2010.

Illinois Export Week, which runs June 20-24, features a series of seminars designed to help educate business owners on export opportunities. The Illinois Export Awards recognize companies that have achieved excellence in exporting and organizations that have provided substantial export assistance to Illinois companies. Governor Quinn presented 17 companies and organizations with awards at a luncheon on Tuesday. A list of 2011 Illinois Export Award winners is attached.

Illinois Export Week events feature top leaders from Illinois’s export business community. Caterpillar Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Doug Oberhelman was the keynote speaker.

"Last year Caterpillar exported more than $13.4 billion in products from the United States—more than a third of that is from Illinois — two figures that would have no doubt been higher had the U.S. fully embraced trade liberalization," Oberhelman said. "Simply put, many of our 47,000 employees in the U.S. and 23,000 employees in Illinois depend on trade.”

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is partnering with local Small Business Development Centers this week to provide businesses with insight into export opportunities around the world. Information is available at


Braley Stands Up for Working Families at Congressional Hearing in South Carolina PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Alexandra Krasov   
Monday, 20 June 2011 12:34

Charleston, SC – Today, Congressman Bruce Braley (IA-01) stood up for the rights of working families at a field hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform (OGR) Committee in Charleston, South Carolina. The Republican-controlled OGR Committee held the hearing despite objections that it interferes with an on-going case before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Rep. Braley defended the rights of working families in his opening remarks and throughout the hearing:

“We’re facing a manufacturing crisis in this country – 15 factories are shutting down every day – but instead of addressing this issue and working to create new jobs, the Republican leadership has chosen to try and score political points. This hearing was a blatant attempt to interfere in an on-going judicial process – a process that should be free of tampering and interference to make it fair to both parties involved. By coming to a conservative region and calling conservative witnesses, the Republican members of the Oversight Committee are playing politics with the legally-protected rights of millions of working families across this country. Americans spokeloud and clear in November, they want us to create jobs and get our deficitunder control. That should be our focus, not attacking working families andtheir rights to organize and fight for fair wages.”

 A video of Rep. Braley’s remarks at the hearing is available here:



In Iowa’s Interest: New White House Rural Council Means Stronger Focus on Initiatives for Rural Iowa PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Harkin Press Office   
Thursday, 16 June 2011 13:12

Building a brighter future for our country starts here, at home, in the small and rural communities that are the foundation of America.  Without them, we would not be the great nation we are today.

Having grown up in Cumming, Iowa, which is still my home, I know firsthand the significant challenges facing rural communities.  But I also deeply appreciate their strengths and contributions – very notably in agriculture -- and their tremendous potential and promise.

That is why I am very pleased and encouraged by the executive order President Obama issued earlier this month to create a White House Rural Council.  This council will draw together departments, agencies and offices across the federal government to concentrate their focus on growing the economy, creating jobs and enhancing the quality of life in rural communities.

It is especially encouraging that President Obama has named to chair the White House Rural Council someone who knows what it means to be from a small town and who is closely attuned to the challenges and aspirations of the families, farms, and businesses that make up rural America.  That, of course, is my long-time friend and colleague, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

To achieve these goals of economic growth, more jobs and a better quality of life in rural communities, the White House Rural Council will help rural Americans obtain better job training and education.  It will help expand markets for agricultural products in local, domestic and international markets.  The council will push to increase biofuels production and rural renewable energy projects and investments.  And to enhance health and the quality of life in rural areas, the council will help improve access to quality health care and support initiatives and opportunities in outdoor recreation and conservation of soil, water and wildlife.

The White House Rural Council holds significant promise for increasing opportunities in states like Iowa.  It has strong potential for reinvigorating these rural communities and their economies and, in turn, revitalizing our nation.  As a senior member and former Chairman of the United States Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, I applaud this new White House initiative and I look forward to the ideas it generates, the action it spurs and the opportunities it engenders.

For more information, please feel free to contact any of my offices or visit my website at

Ten Years of Bush-Era Tax Cuts – A Legacy of Deficits PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Harkin Press Office   
Thursday, 16 June 2011 13:05

In considering stories or editorials about the federal deficit or current deficit reduction negotiations, I hope you find the following information on the tenth anniversary of the Bush tax cuts helpful.  Should you need any further information, do not hesitate to contact me at (202) 224-3254.

“The most recent projections from the Office of Management and Budget indicate that, if current policies remain in place, the total unified surplus will reach $800 billion in fiscal year 2011. . . . [We can expect surpluses] “well past 2030 despite budgetary pressures from the aging baby boom generation, especially in major health programs. . . . The most recent projections make clear that the highly desirable goal of paying off the federal debt is in reach before the end of the decade.” – Federal Reserve Board, Alan Greenspan, in testimony to Congress five days after George W. Bush took office as President.

“Tax relief will create new jobs, tax relief will generate new wealth, and tax relief will open new opportunities,”President George Bush, April 16, 2001.

Ten years ago – on June 7, 2001 – President George Bush signed into law the first in a series of tax cuts that disproportionately benefited the highest earners, with claims the tax cuts would stimulate the economy and that the government would still be expected to completely play off the national debt.

The opposite occurred.  In the years following passage of these tax breaks, the rhetoric of economic growth did not match the reality, and the fundamental legacy of the Bush tax cuts is debt.  In fact, during the decade after the Bush tax cuts were passed, “growth in investment, GDP, and employment all posted their worst performance of any post-war expansion.”[1]

By contrast, the legacy of the Bush tax cuts is very different from the decade prior to Bush taking office, which resulted in large surpluses.  With the passage of the 1993 reconciliation bill through 2000, the size of deficits steadily declined, turning into growing surpluses in 1998 that steadily grew to a peak in 2000.

Similarly, compared to the economy under Clinton, the Bush tax cuts of 2001 did not result in employment growth.  In the three years after the passage of the 2001 measure, the U.S. actually averaged a 17,000 per month job loss.  In contrast, in the three years following passage of the 1993 Reconciliation Act, the U.S. gained 327,000 jobs per month.

The following charts illustrate how the Bush tax cuts have affected the deficit, the economy, and people’s incomes.

During a 2001 address to Congress, Bush said, “At the end of those 10 years [in the 2001 budget], we will have paid down all the debt that is available to retire. That is more debt repaid more quickly than has ever been repaid by any nation at any time in history.”[2] However, thanks in large part to the Bush tax cuts, the debt ballooned under Bush, with debt held by the public increasing from $3.5 trillion to nearly $6 trillion and gross federal debt going from $5.6 trillion to nearly $10 trillion.[3] As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found, “the tax cuts account for $1.7 trillion in extra deficits in 2001 through 2008, and is estimated to cost $3.7 trillion over the 2009-2019 period.”[4] In addition, the extra debt-service costs caused by the Bush-era tax cuts, amounts “to more than $200 billion through 2008 and another $1.7 trillion over the 2009-2019 period — nearly $330 billion in 2019 alone.”[5]

Very simply, during the Bush years, spending rose as revenues dropped precipitously.  Over the last decade, government revenues fell from 20.6% of GDP in 2000 to 19.5% in the year of the 2001 tax cuts, and as the tax cuts phased in, continuing to fall in to 17.5% in 2008 before crashing, as a result of the recession, to 14.9% in 2009 and 2010.  Concurrently, spending rose from 18.2% of GDP in 2000 to 20.7% in 2008, and then, with the costs of the recession, escalating sharply to 23.8% in 2010, much of this increase due to the higher costs of existing programs and lower tax receipts.

Having already burdened the American taxpayer with this legacy of debt over the past 10 years, now both the House Republican budget and the House Republican “jobs plan” released in May include further reductions in the top tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. This plan ignores the facts of the past 10 years and asks middle class Americans to sacrifice so that the wealthy can benefit further.   As the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein noted, “You could read [the GOP jobs plan] without knowing the past decade ever happened.”[6]

Despite the performance of the economy in the 1990s, in the last 10 year, most Congressional Republicans have clung to an increasingly rigid ideology that any tax increase is bad and that sharp reductions in spending reductions do not cause economic harm.  This stance is in sharp contrast to that of Republicans of the past, who recognized that balancing the budget required a combination of spending reductions and revenue increases.   For example, after the 1981 tax cut, Reagan and many Congressional Republicans agreed to tax increases in both 1982 and 1984 because of deficit concerns.

Senator Harkin believes that Alan Greenspan’s testimony over ten years ago reminds us that very good things can happen when our national leaders make tough fact-based decisions to both cut spending and raise revenue.  He believes there is no question that the time has come for tough budget decisions, but the smart way to bring down the deficit is for Congress to pursue a balanced approach of major spending cuts and necessary revenue increases, while continuing to make investmentsin areas that are important for maximizing job growth over the long term.  These include education, infrastructure and research for innovation, so crucial in our competitive world economy.

For more information, please visit

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