The Board of Directors (Board) and the Long Term Planning Committee (LTPC) have received many comments over the last few days regarding the nature of Member-Owner involvement in considering any specific expansion plan and the long term sustainability of the Co-op. In an unprecedented action, the Board and the LTPC convened a special Board meeting on Tuesday, August 8th. Nearly all Board members and the full LTPC were in attendance, and were joined by three Member-Owners, who were able to participate in a portion of the meeting and share their concerns.
This letter is one of the results of the special Board meeting and its purpose is to provide an overview of why we are planning for the Co-op’s future, what that process has looked like thus far, and what it will look like going forward.
The Co-op has been in a long-term planning process for over three years. This work began at the urging of the Board in 2014, when it was clear that the Co-op needed a directive for how to stay resilient in a changing Portland. Sales were flat, in 2014 patronage wasn’t paid out for the first time since the Co-op adopted the patronage system, and competition in the natural foods industry was only increasing, as it still is today. However, despite being a Co-op-mandated policy-governance reporting requirement, the Collective Management (CM) did not have a strategic plan for the Co-op’s future at that time. And that’s where this whole process originated -- from a clear need to address the growth and sustainability of People’s to ensure that our Co-op has a future.
Over the past two years, the LTPC has been creating that strategic, long-term plan. They held community events engaging Member-Owners around our collective vision for the future, did research into different growth possibilities, and engaged experts to gather market data and other information that will help ensure that any decisions we make will be fiscally sound, as well as reflective of our Ends. Throughout this process, the LTPC reported to both the CM and the Board to keep the planning process in check.
We’ve come to the place where we’ve narrowed the possibilities to a couple clear options: (1) relocate to a larger location in inner SE - while keeping our current building and doing something in pursuit of our Ends here, or (2) open a second store in Lents, Milwaukie, or Montavilla. These options inadvertently became public as a result of a market study conducted in July, and were discussed with Member-Owners at our Annual Meeting on July 15th. (You can read more about that here.)
Now it’s time for us to discuss how to make a decision so that we can move forward, and stay competitive and responsive to our community’s needs. This will include outreach to the membership to inform our options and get more feedback. Events and surveys will happen in the next few months, after which a decision will be made.
The Board and the CM have already heard from a lot of Member-Owners about these plans. Some are excited about the ways that the Co-op might grow and some are very concerned that our current store might close. Many are concerned about how these decisions will be made.
It became clear to members of the Board and the LTPC that a special meeting was necessary in order to answer questions, gain clarity on the input that’s been received, and to hold space for the feelings alive in our community. Unfortunately, we were not able to broadcast this meeting to the entire Member-Ownership because of its last-minute nature. This is the first time that a special meeting has been called on such short notice in as long as anyone can remember.
We understand that the Co-op is on the precipice of something really big, and that we collectively need to be looking closely at this decision and the process from a wide variety of perspectives.
Stay tuned for more ways to lend your input as we move into the fall. The LTPC will be holding info and feedback sessions, possibly conducting an electronic survey, as well as holding other special informational and engagement events as part of the decision-making process. Please be in touch with the LTPC if you would like to be involved. For more details about overall the planning process, see peoples.coop/vision.
If you have any questions or concerns, please be in touch with the Board at firstname.lastname@example.org and the LTPC at email@example.com. We look forward to talking more with you as things move forward, and hope to see you at upcoming Board meetings and events!
The Board of Directors