COG Board Initiates Dissolution – Special Member Meeting On April 9
The full Willmar Community-Owned Grocery Board of Directors recently met to review the results of the COG’s post-investment campaign member-owner survey. After serious discussion, the Board unanimously decided to initiate dissolution of the COG subject to membership approval on April 9, 2015.
The COG has nearly 700 members, with 668 community residents now a part of the co-op, demonstrating strong community support for local foods, food education, and healthy eating. The Board of Directors is proud of this group of dedicated people. Unfortunately, even with this support, a number of circumstances have resulted in the Board voting to dissolve the COG.
The Willmar Community-Owned Grocery formed in 2010, at which time a business plan was completed, followed by the formation of a Board of Directors in 2011. Over the next three years the board hired an outreach coordinator, contracted with consultants, and signed a lease for a grocery store site, located at the Westside Liquor complex on US Hwy 12. In the opinion of the Board of Directors, and based on feasibility and marketing studies, the selected location was and remains the best option for the COG in Willmar, were it to succeed.
For a COG store to open at the selected location, $1,000,000 was required to start the project, with $600,000 needed at the outset from member-owner investments as financial leverage for the co-op. Through the COG’s investment campaign only $141,000 was secured from member-owners, with an additional $16,000 pledged through the recent survey. Though the Board is grateful for this support, it is $443,000 short of the $600,000 start-up requirement to move the store project forward. This low survey pledge amount of $16,000 also indicates that a second investment campaign would not be successful enough to enable the COG to meet that $600,000 goal.
In the meantime, the COG’s lease has expired on the Hwy 12 location. Continuing to pay for a lease would not show fiscal responsibility, in the opinion of the Board.
From the beginning, COG member-owners have envisioned a full-service grocery store concept, as opposed to a smaller natural foods store. Our membership and investment documents describe the COG as such. Although a portion of the membership indicated interest in a smaller natural foods store concept at a different location instead of a full-service grocery store at the current location, in the opinion of the Board this strays too far off of the COG’s original vision and mission. We are hopeful that interested members of the community will pursue this option as a future endeavor.
Unfortunately, it costs money and time to recruit members and with its current prospects the Board made the decision to not continue to grow the COG’s membership and open a store at another time. The costs involved in determining the feasibility of another store site would continue to drain the COG’s existing financial resources until they are depleted. Instead, the Board decided in the membership’s best interest to return as much initial membership investment equity as possible to COG’s member-owners.
At this time, the COG Board of Directors is calling for a special meeting on April 9, 2015 at 630 PM at the First Presbyterian Church located at 312 SW 6th St Willmar, MN 56201 to discuss and vote on the board’s recommendation to dissolve the COG as a business. This saddens the Board and undoubtedly will disappoint the COG’s membership, but this is in the best interest of the COG’s member-owners, given the circumstances outlined above.
All COG employment agreements have been satisfied, and all current outstanding invoices have been received and paid in full. The Board anticipates that members will receive distributions that will amount to a partial refund for this stock.
In closing, the COG Board of Directors would like to extend thanks to member-owners, volunteers, and supporters for all the assistance we received as we work through this difficult decision. The final decision to dissolve is in the hands of the membership. At this meeting a vote will be taken and must be approved by a majority vote of at least 50 members. We look forward to your comments at our meeting in April. Many thanks, as well, to the Willmar community at large for its interest in supporting local food initiatives.
Member Contact Info Updates Wanted
Current Willmar Community-Owned Grocery member-owners are asked to submit mailing address and email changes to the COG Board. It is important for the Board to have current contact information for member-owners. Member-owners may send this information to the Board at firstname.lastname@example.org